How I Got Scammed in Chile

Santiago, Chile |

My initial experience upon landing in Santiago was not very positive, but after a week in the city I absolutely fell in love with it and it became one of the most romantic cities I’ve ever been to.


I landed in Santiago on Sunday morning. My hotel offered to schedule a car pick-up from airport for about $28. Even though this was a work trip, I like being frugal and upon checking Uber, the fee estimated to be $15. So I walk outside the airport and schedule an Uber pick up. Driver accepts the request and then drops it. Hm… I try again. Same thing. Third time? Yes! The driver accepted and didn’t drop the request.

I’m waiting and checking the map, but it doesn’t look like the car is moving. Then he calls me. I knew enough Spanish to understand that he told me to go across the street to the parking lot on the right. I did. Didn’t find him. So I went back to the main entrance. In broken Spanish I explained that I am wearing a green jacket! Hallelujah!!! He found me! Turns out the parking lot is on his right – my left! Now I am following this strange man, hoping it’s actually my Uber driver. Next, he can’t remember where he parked. That’s encouraging, but he seems friendly enough, so I stick with it. Finally we find his little Centurion. I get in the back, but he tells me to sit in the front. Off we go.

He paid for parking and we exited the airport grounds. Not even 20 feet outside, the police pulls us over. They asked the driver to get out. After talking to him for 10 minutes, the policeman, who did not speak English, asked me for my passport. I thought, that’s it, I’m being Taken and never seeing my passport again. The policeman spoke too fast for me to understand what he was saying. Finally he asked, Uber? I nodded in response. He pointed back in the direction of the airport and said, Taxi. 

Santiago, Chile |

With the tail between my legs, I looked at my should’ve been Uber driver. My heart sank. I understood that Uber was not welcomed in Santiago that’s why other drivers kept dropping me when they saw a gringo on my Uber profile. This man took a chance on me to make the mere $15 minus Uber fees. He went out of his way to find me, helped me with luggage, and now his driver license could potentially be suspended or he had to pay a large fee.

I felt crappy, not only did I not sleep during the overnight flight from Houston, but now I was a cause for someone’s troubles.

Walking back to the airport, my spirits were down. Another man came up to me quickly asking if I needed a taxi, I said yes. I knew better than to enter into business with someone so eager to help, but at this point I didn’t care too much, I just wanted to get to my hotel.

I asked if the taxi will take a credit card, he said no. He walked me over to the ATM, told me to take out $300, bc ATM wouldn’t give me less. I did. I obviously knew I wasn’t in a life threatening situation, but I knew the taxi driver would scam me eventually. Which is exactly what happened next. He walked me over to a taxi, put my luggage in the trunk and said the fee to my hotel was $100. OUTRAGEOUS! Of course I started arguing and saying that was ridiculous. We went back and forth a bit and I got him down to $60. At this point I was just worn out. I decided to cut my losses short and just accept it (I had comfort in the fact that I could expense it with work).

Santiago, Chile |

My taxi driver was someone else, a woman. A youngish man rode next to her in the front. She had a half eaten sandwich in the back, which, when I got in, she casually put on her dashboard. Dios mio! At this point I realized that I didn’t know who these people are and I didn’t know the license plate on the car. I opened my google maps to see if we were at least going towards the hotel. When she pulled up to the address, I didn’t see the hotel, everything around was gray and there were no people. This was at about 10 AM. My heart sank and I accepted whatever was going to come next.

Imagine how relieved I was when she backed up 15 feet and said, Ah, aqui! At this point I wasn’t going to lose my $60 either, so I asked her to write me a receipt for work, which she did (not without questioning why I needed one first)!

Looking back, my advice would be to book the car service through your hotel or go to the official “Taxi Service” desk on the first floor at the airport. You can pay by credit card and avoid the headache. I am just glad I lived to tell the story. 🙂

Santiago, Chile |

In the next post I will write about how Santiago turned it around and how I safely wandered some shady neighborhoods. Alone. At night. (Hope my mom doesn’t read this, cause she’ll never let me go anywhere :P).



  1. by Love Z on February 13, 2018  6:38 am Reply

    Holy moly. Crazy story, and a good reminder to stick with the tried and true methods of transportation in other countries. I've had close calls overseas, too. I can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip. Thanks for sharing!

    • by Iryna on February 13, 2018  10:53 pm Reply

      I want to hear your stories!

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