Making My Way Through the Santiago Subway Crowds

Mira Diamond-Berman headshot
Mira Diamond-Berman
October 6, 2023

The Santiago bus and train system is quite impressive. Compared to the metro system in Washington D.C. that I’m most accustomed to, the Santiago public transportation is cheaper, more efficient, and extensive. The public transportation consists of the metro (train) and micros (buses). I have found the buses to be less consistent, but this is only normal for buses that endure road traffic. However, there are some dedicated bus lanes in Chile, so the buses move somewhat faster than the cars during rush hour.

Rush hour is from about 7 to 9 a.m. in the morning and then 6 to 8 p.m. in the evening, which can be extremely chaotic on the buses when all the riders are crammed together. Sometimes a bus may not even stop to pick up more passengers because there simply isn’t enough space.

Meanwhile, during rush hour on the metro, there are often train workers yelling “detrás de la línea” (behind the line) to the massive crowds of commuters ready to push forward for the next arriving train, so that they don’t get too close to the edge of the platform. One tip my host mom taught me for rush hour is to stand where the tail of the train will arrive since there are usually fewer people. Nonetheless, one still needs to be assertive to board the train during rush hour: some pushing will be necessary.

Don’t expect any elbow room on the metro during rush hour or even the space to turn around, especially when it’s raining. I once had to wait for three trains to go by, only to be smushed against a glass door when I finally got on. Then once I made it on the train new riders slowly pushed me to the back. The next problem was finding my way through the crowd to get off at my stop. Permiso (excuse me) doesn’t work when there is no room to make space for you to pass by on the train. I found that to get off at my stop I had to make my way towards the door one stop before. 

Luckily, during the off hours, the metro is quite calm and sometimes I could find a seat. Best of all there tends to be entertainment by street performers on the trains—dancers, rappers, and musicians. However, this all comes to an end when the metro closes every night at 11 p.m. I was shocked by the early closing of the metro in a city known for its nightlife, which can sometimes be a hassle when returning home at night. Even the Washington D.C. metro—a city known for early government working mornings, not a vibrant nightlife—closes at midnight during weekdays and at 1 a.m. on the weekends. I am still unsure why the Santiago metro closes so early, but I’ve heard it’s to prevent mugging on an empty, dark metro. Although it is not advisable, it is still possible to take public transportation past 11 p.m. as there are buses that run all night. Despite the crowds and the early closing, the metro and buses took me all over Santiago from the university to the IES Abroad center, home, bars, and my favorite empanada shop.

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Mira Diamond-Berman headshot

Mira Diamond-Berman

Hi! I'm Mira and I'm a Chemistry major at Grinnell College! love taking my dog on long walks and binging a good book. When traveling, I love going on runs to explore new places.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Grinnell College
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