If you drive a car in Chile, you’ll need to visit a gas station. Here’s what you need to know to make that first visit to a Chilean gas station as smooth as possible.
Gas Station Options
Gas stations in Chile aren’t on every corner so if you need gas, you should stop when the opportunity presents itself.
Chile has many different brands of gas stations. The most common you’ll see are Copec (Chilean company), Petrobras (from Brazil), Shell (a Dutch company), and Terpel (Columbian company).
Gas Station Attendants
Each station will have attendants in brightly colored uniforms that match the company’s logo. At first glance, the workers look like they belong in the pit crew of an auto race.
These attendants are called bomberos, not to be confused with a Chilean firefighter, even though they share the same name.
Most gas stations are full-service stations unless you see a sign for auto servicio and even then, a bombero may come over to help fill up your tank.
How to Get Gas
When you pull into the station, the bombero will ask how much gas you want. You can tell him in liters, pesos amount, or say lleno to fill up your tank.
Next he will ask what type of gas. Most of the time this choice is between 93/95 octane unleaded fuel or diesel. It seemed that diesel fuel is always cheaper than unleaded. Make sure you know what your car needs and ask for the appropriate type.
Once the bombero knows how much you need and what type, he will point to the pump so you can verify it reads all zeros before he starts filling it up. This is so you can verify that you’re not getting ripped off.
The bombero may ask to wash your windows, check the oil, etc. If you don’t want any of those services just say no, gracias. Some bomberos will wash your windows without asking.
How to Pay for Gas
Cash is always accepted at gas stations. Be sure you have Chilean pesos on hand to pay if you want to use cash.
You can use your foreign credit card at major gas stations in Chile. Look for the tell-tale signs that credit cards are accepted, like the RedCompra sign. I’ve found that the attendants are often more comfortable with credit cards than cashiers at some retail stores.
It is customary to tip the attendant a few monedas or coins for helping you with the gas or cleaning your windows. So even if you pay with credit card, have a few coins in your pocket for tips.