Uber Santiago: You’d be great if you’d just fix this one wee little thing

Posted by - April 14, 2017 | Category: Chile, Escapes, South America

Getting from Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) to downtown Santiago with Uber

Okay, it’s beef time. I’m looking at you Uber Santiago.

First off, I love Uber. I might get their logo for my next tattoo if I could milk it for a few free rides. I’ve used the company’s ride-sharing service in Thailand, Australia, Bali, the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, and recently, in Chile. And it’s the Chile experience that’s the meat of this particular beef.

I don’t want to say that Uber has changed the way I travel, but it has most certainly enhanced it. Instead of haggling with crusty taxi drivers over turning on the meter, or hearing the inevitable “I don’t have any change” when you hand them a larger note, Uber’s app gives you a range of exactly how much you can expect to pay, and it’s charged directly to your credit card.

No fuss, no hassle, no rip-offs.

You can even text or send a link to friends or family detailing your route and expected arrival time. If you’ve ever been at the mercy of a shifty cabbie late at night in a strange land, or travelled solo not exactly sure where you’re going, you’ll appreciate just how comforting that can be.


finger pointing rightUber does offer a promo for new riders — sign up for Uber service and receive up to $15 (or 2000 CLP if you’re in Chile) off your first ride using the promo code RAYMONDW62


So no amount of inconvenience is going to dampen my Uber crush anytime soon.

But enough gushing filler, let’s get on with that beef.

When I touched down in Santiago, Chile back in January, I knew that Uber was operating in the city, but there was little information online about getting from Santiago airport to downtown Santiago. (It has since been updated, albeit with incorrect information.)

I am a man of questions. Where do I pick up my Uber at the airport? The arrivals level? The departures level? Will I have to schlep over to a local hotel via shuttle (a reality in some locales where Uber is banned from airport pickups) to catch my ride?

So imagine my delight when I connected to the free WiFi at Santiago’s airport, fired up the Uber app and was greeted with this…

Uber pickup point location Santiago Chile airport6

Then I clicked on “Learn more” (because I’m committed to lifelong learning.)

Uber pickup point location Santiago Chile airport5

Not sure why it’s asking me to download Uber while I’m in the Uber app, but let’s go with it.

Uber pickup point location Santiago Chile airport4

Scroll with me…

Uber pickup point location Santiago Chile airport2

Sounds civilized enough.

But here’s the thing, it was probably the most frustrating Uber experience I’ve ever had. I made 5 attempts to meet 4 different drivers. In the end, after just over an hour of missed connections (no one can say I’m not a patient man) I broke down and begrudgingly took a taxi.

But I also made it a point to find out what the heck was up with Uber pickups at Santiago’s airport. If there is one thing I’m usually good at, it’s shaking down people to find answers dammit. To come away empty-handed would, as we say in Newfoundland, “rot the bag right off me.” (Yep, it pretty much means exactly how it reads.)

Here’s what your screen will look like when you order an Uber from within the app…

Uber pickup point location Santiago Chile airport

Even within the app it states that the pickup point is in front of the hotel entrance.

In case you’re counting, that’s four times during the booking process that Uber tells you to meet your driver on the sidewalk outside the front of hotel on the arrivals level. FOUR TIMES.

Before I get to my white man’s indignation, to be clear, you need to have data on your smartphone, or at least some sort of internet connection to order your ride (all my app screenshots are from when I came back from Easter Island and successfully met my airport Uber).

The good news is, Santiago’s airport does offer unlimited free WiFi (well, you do need to reconnect after every 30 minutes, but free is free). The bad news is that it only works within the terminal building and slightly outside the main arrival or departure levels doors. The free airport WiFi won’t work across the road where “supposedly” you’re to meet your Uber Santiago driver. So what’s the workaround? Order the ride with the airport’s free WiFi, take a screen shot with the driver’s name, make of car, and license plate, and then…well, hope for the best.

Why? The driver will NOT be waiting across the street in front of the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel on the arrivals level. That’s worth mentioning again since I saw a few folks standing about looking for errant Ubers. Let’s be bold, and go all caps even with this round.

THE DRIVER WILL NOT BE WAITING IN FRONT OF THE HOLIDAY INN AIRPORT HOTEL.

As I was wandering the arrivals level wondering where the actual fuck I was supposed to be, I was even approached by two separate Uber drivers asking if was #1 Malcolm, or #2 Johann. Good news is that I can apparently pass for dudes named Malcolm and Johann. Bad news is I never ran into a driver looking for a Raymond.

Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) Uber Pickup Point

So what’s the deal with Uber Santiago at the airport?

I spoke with a few Uber drivers in Santiago to get the lowdown, and here’s the consensus: taxis do not want Uber around, and Uber is not allowed to pick up at the airport itself. So they discretly pick up from the short-term parking lot — not in front of the Holiday Inn entrance as the app mentioned four separate times.

Although most of the Uber drivers I spoke with conceded that Uber was technically illegal in the country, the company itself says that Uber operates in a legal gray area in Chile. And while I never had a problem catching an Uber anywhere else within Santiago, the initial airport experience might throw a lot of people off. It certainly wasn’t the pleasant intro to Chile I was hoping for. But since I believe most taxi drivers in Chile are assholes (Exhibit A: this video of a taxi driver destroying an Uber vehicle with a baseball bat), I’m rooting for Uber in the country even more.

Now I’m not saying YOUR taxi driver from the airport has a baseball bat as well, but I’m not saying he doesn’t either. So let me do my little bit to help you get from the airport to downtown in an Uber instead.

You’re welcome.

Holiday Inn Uber pickup Santiago Chile Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport SCL

The Santiago Holiday Inn Airport Hotel (Uber does not pick up in front in front of it.)

Here are the steps to successfully meet your Uber driver at Santiago’s airport.

  1. Order your ride using the airport’s free WiFi (or smartphone data if you have it.)
  2. If you don’t have smartphone data, take a screenshot of the app with the driver’s name, model of car, and license plate.
  3. On the arrivals level, head across the street in the direction of the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel.
  4. Walk far left until you see the ramp pictured below.
  5. Walk down the ramp to the short-term parking area.
  6. Wait for your Uber near the parking pay machines.
Uber Santiago Chile Airport Pickup Arrivals Level

Take this ramp down to the short-term parking area.

Uber Santiago pickup location Santiago Chile airport parking lot near Holiday Inn

One driver told me that Uber drivers were only allowed to drop off here as well (and one actually did), but on my final trip to the airport, I was dropped off right on the Departures level in front of the airport entrance. Which begs the question, if the drivers don’t know the actual pick-up and drop-off points, where does that leave Uber’s riders?

In the meantime, if are attempting to grab and Uber at Santiago’s airport, just be prepared to play the waiting game. Or you can take your chances with the bat.


finger pointing rightLooking for an Uber Santiago Promo Code? Uber Chile does offer a discount coupon code for new riders — sign up for Uber and get up to 2000 CLP off your first ride using code RAYMONDW62


 Have you ever had a frustrating Uber experience like mine with Uber Santiago?

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24 comments - add one
  1. Great post, very detailed however this makes it sound like taking UBER from the airport can be a bit risky. If you arrive from an intl flight, your only chance to book an official taxi is inside. You’ll have to leave in order to take UBER and if you can’t find the driver, you are stuck taking your chances with a random taxi. Not exactly the best thing if you’re arriving late at night

    1. Thanks for your comment EN, I was hoping to make it appear that the taxi drivers are the ones with the violent streak, but you do bring up a good point. If you are unable to meet your Uber driver, there are plenty of the official airport taxi drivers milling around outside the terminal building. I think I was asked about 15 times if I need a taxi. 🙂

    2. Thanks for the reminder about “official taxis” that can be booked from within inside the airport. That is just a smart backup plan no matter what part of the world you are visiting unless there is a well developed transit system in the city that you arrived in that can take you straight downtown.

  2. This is really not something one would expect, that too with a company like UBER. But then neither can one think of the petty games going on behind to survive in a competitive market.

  3. I just wanted to thank you for the detailed instructions and photos on how to get uber in the airport in Santiago. I used it today and knew exactly where to go so there was no confusion. Even though the driver called me to let me know where he was it was still great knowing what to expect. It went really smooth and I got an uber in minutes. Thank you!!

  4. Raymond, thanks for your post! I am in Brazil now and heading to Santiago tomorrow. Last time I went, this is exactly what happened to me. I had almost exactly the same experience, the only difference was my driver walked around to the front of the Holiday Inn and found me. When we went to his car, it was in the parking lot you show in the photos. Again, your post with pictures in helpful and accurate.

  5. Thank you for the detailed review with pictures!

    After reading some terrible reviews about the rental car companies at the Santiago airport I cancelled my rental car reservation.

    I’m hoping this information is still accurate as I will be trying this in a couple weeks.

  6. Looks like Uber has changed their instructions, the site now mentions the following: pickup location at the Elevator’s Exit in front of Door 5. Look for the “Meeting Point,” where all Uber driver-partners at SCL meet travelers for pickup

    Does this sound like a different location than you describe?

    1. Hi Gareth — it sounds like exactly the same place. It’s a stand-alone elevator just across the street from Door 5, take it to the bottom and that’s where the Uber meeting point at the airport is. All Uber drivers have to go into the parking lot to pick up passengers. Here’s a photo of the elevator to give you an idea. Hope this helps! 🙂

      Santiago, Chile airport elevator in front of Door 5 -- Uber pickup location

  7. Using Uber has been a nightmare in Santiago. We’ve now taken about five Uber rides across four days, and we’ve had DOZENS of drivers cancel on us, many after making us wait 10-15 minutes. On average it’s taken half an hour and five drivers to successfully get an Uber downtown. We just spent 40 minutes waiting for one to the airport. Six cancellations later, we’ve gone to an ATM for cash and are taking a taxi.

    1. Yikes! That sounds horrible. I wonder why that is? Did you call or message Uber to complain. Normally their customer service department is really good and addressing issues like this. I know there was a slight problem with taxi driver protests in Santiago in early 2017, but as far as I heard taking Uber in Santiago in 2018 has been pretty uneventful. I also wonder if the Santiago taxi drivers were intimidating the Santiago Uber drivers. Some of those taxi drivers were just plain vicious.

  8. Great Info. I went on to Google maps and the satellite view and print the overhead picture so I would have another point of view when I arrive. The problem is likely no Wi Fi near Holiday Inn (will use app from curb at airport) and I will not have SIM card for Chile – and do not speak Spanish. But think this will work.

    1. Hey Mike, the Wifi will work just right at the curb. Just a heads-up, a few airports have started to block the Uber app if you use the airport’s free WiFi to access it. A workaround is to use the WiFi of one of the coffee shops within the airport. Might have to buy a drink, but I’m sure you’ll need one after a long flight. 🙂

      Also, take a screenshot of the Uber app once the driver is near, then head across the street and down to the parking level. That way you have the make and model of car and the driver’s name handy, even though you don’t have Wifi. Good luck and let me know how it goes! 🙂

  9. Good info. When we arrived the uber app directed us to the other side of the holiday inn. After we ordered, a man walked up and said Steven? I knew it had to be Uber to know my name. He also spoke English, my blessed day. He said the police were on the look out for Uber s so he parked in a far lot and took the shuttle. He took us on the free shuttle to the far lot where he paid for the park and we were off. I didn’t worry because he knew who I was. I also texted him through uber unbeknownst to him and he got it. Also at the parking lot his car was right. I liked it because the location was entered by me and money online. Uber rocks. Coming back my uber driver dropped off in front. I hugged him to make it look like he was not Uber. These guys take risks and will tell you it is illegal. They always want you in the front seat. Taxis beat up uber cars all the time with impunity. We were even pointed out one getting beat up by a driver as we drove by downtown. Not sure what the odds of that was. If they are brave enough to drive me, I am brave enough to ride. Nobody wants to hurt riders anyway.

    1. That is so sad that these guys are risking their vehicles and their own safety in order to make a living. Some of those taxi drivers in Santiago are ruthless. Thanks for taking the time to share your story Steve — very much appreciated. Happy Ubering! 🙂

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