Arrival to Santiago via the Airport


Herewith below we will describe, firstly, what the transport options are around the airport, followed by an historical account of the airport development. For information about immigration and customs please refer to the separate page on that or follow the link here: Santiago Airport Immigration and Customs.

For direct information about the airport please use these links:

Transport at Santiago Airport

Private Transfer Pre-Arranged
This is what we do. We can have a driver and private transfer waiting to meet you at in the arrival hall ready to take you away to your hotel. No fuss, no hassle.

The best way to get a taxi is to get your ticket BEFORE entering the airport arrival hall.

There will be some “official” taxi companies selling tickets. You pay there and then when coming into the arrival hall a representative will escort you to the taxi. This is by far the least stressful and more secure way to get a taxi.

However, there are several people constantly crowding around the arrival sector (where friends and family wait) touting for business. They often do not respect personal space and can be very irritating and, potentially, out to scam you, or worse, rob you, so be very careful if you opt for these guys.

Next to the taxi service BEFORE exiting into the arrival hall, so this is the space just after customs, there are also minibus transfer companies in the same area as the official taxi companies, selling tickets.

The minibus companies offer either a shared transfer with other passengers or a private transfer. The shared transfer means you need to be patient whilst the bus drops off other passengers before they drop you off, unless you are, of course, the first to be dropped off. They will visit many hotels or private homes, for example, dropping people off at each location. The private option means you pay a premium for the entire bus, but you get door-to-door service.

Regular Bus
For those on a budget, there is large regular bus that shuttles regularly from the airport to the bus terminal in downtown Santiago. Tickets on sale at any of the regular bus counters in the terminal.

Rent a Car
If we have arranged a rent a car for you, you will need to go to the respective car rental desk in the arrival hall and sign the paperwork. You will likely have to walk a fair distance, unless you take the shuttle bus, to where the rent a car is waiting for you. Once you have familiarised yourself with the car and set off on the drive be careful of Santiago traffic. There will be a road toll to pay, but this is automatically charged to a device in the car called a Tag. See below.

The airport is located about 30km from the centre and other suburbs of Santiago and the drive time takes about 30min via modern automatic-pay toll roads but can take a lot longer when there is lots of traffic on the roads.

All rental cars will have on the interior of the car windscreen a small device called a TAG that is automatically charged when passing under infrared beams at set intervals on the highway. You will hear a “beep” each time it is charged. To cover this cost the car rental company will add an extra charge for the Tag, unless we have included that for you.

About Santiago Airport

The international airport serving Santiago de Chile is called Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez (who founded the Chilean air force), however, it is often also called Pudahuel. For all intents and purposes, it is better known to the arriving visitor as Santiago Airport, so we will stick with that.

Santiago airport has seen exponential growth since 1992, both in terms of passenger numbers passing through, and physical expansion of infrastructure. It has undergone two radical infrastructure changes since its original inauguration in 1967. The original terminal being a very modest one building room about the size of three tennis courts.

First Expansion 1994
Since the original, rather simplistic terminal was opened in 1967 there was a fresh impetus after Chile returned to democracy, to make Santiago Airport more in line with other world, international airports in order to cope with the large planes now descending on Santiago and increasing passenger numbers.

Therefore, in 1994 began the construction of a new, large, single building terminal under one, wide-span roof. This offered 90,000sqm of space and was positioned at a perpendicular angle to the original terminal. The new terminal was clean, spacious with shops and cafes “air side” – in other words after passing through immigration to leave the country, but also with some cafes and restaurants in the check-in side too. After the opening of the new terminal, suddenly Santiago airport “looked” like a “real” international airport.

Accompanying this new terminal came new car parking, and overall modernity as well as a new airport hotel in front of the building. The now old terminal continued to be used, initially, for domestic passengers only and the new one for international arrivals and departures. However, in 2001 all passenger traffic passed through the new terminal, and it was not long before everyone realised that the building and facilities were not going to be big enough to cope with the ever-increasing increase in passenger numbers.

This terminal, mentioned above, is now the domestic passenger terminal and has four floors and on each floor are these services:

Level 1 (Ground Floor)
Arrivals and Transport.

Level 2

Level 3
Departures, Check-in, Boarding Gates and Immigration.

Level 4

Useful Numbers
Airport General: +56 2 2690 1796

Lost and Found: +56 2 690 1707

Continued Passenger Growth

Due to incredible growth in air traffic and visitors coming to Chile the new terminal reached its projected capacity of 9.5million passengers earlier than forecast (2008) and it was very clear that further expansion was required. However, this time those in control felt that an overall strategic plan was required for the entire airport and not just build another terminal, or only expand the existing one.

This strategic, master plan was to consider growth of passenger demand to 14 million annually before 2034 (almost 5 million more than in 2008) and up to 50 million by 2045 – a massive increase.

At the end of 2019, pre Covid-19, the passenger numbers passing through Santiago airport had reached 24,654,705.

Second Expansion 2015

With a consortium in place the next phase of expansion started in October 2015, with continuous development to take 20 years. Included in this plan was a new terminal covering 175,000m2, allowing for passenger number capacity to increase to 30 million annually, but with enough flexibility to handle 45 million passengers.

The objective was for the new terminal to be able to process all international flights by the end of 2021, whereupon the older terminal will be used for domestic passengers only.

The Terminal Buildings
As previously mentioned, one, large terminal developed in the first expansion is still operational and perfectly good, but now for domestic use since 2021.

The new terminal is joined to the “phase one new terminal” at right angles and has been in use since 2018. It is very large and almost the twin, in style, to the international airport terminals at Madrid, Spain.

This new terminal is incredibly spacious with a high, arching, one span roof supported by cement-angled bases upon which are bolted painted steel pillars; modern seating, shops and cafes at key locations and generally pleasing.

In line with the main terminal there are also “break off” terminal “arms” that lead to the gates for embarkation or disembarkation.

With the expansion of the Santiago Airport passenger terminals, car parking and general facilities arriving or departing can now be an arduous process, therefore we advise allowing extra time to navigate the journey through immigration and on to your gate waiting area.

Also, during the high season holiday months of January and February, for both Chileans and foreign tourists, immigration and customs control can, on occasion, be under severe stress because the authorities find it difficult to cope with the flow of passengers. Therefore, depending on the situation when you arrive, or depart, you may need some patience!

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