The Autopista del Maipo near Angostura, south of Santiago.
As the wealthiest country in South America, Chile also has a modern road network. According to wholevehicles, the road network covers 82,134 kilometers, of which 20,319 kilometers is paved with asphalt or concrete. In northern Chile, 12,843 kilometers of road are paved with the mineral Bischofita, a magnesium salt used to pave roads. 32,837 kilometers of road consists of gravel and 16,134 kilometers of sand. Chile has more than 2,000 kilometers of autopista, most of which is formed by the Ruta 5 in the central zone, from La Serena via Santiago to Puerto Montt. Most of the other autopistas are also in the central zone, especially between the Ruta 5 and the coast and an urban highway network of about 200 kilometers in Santiago. The Chilean autopistas are among the most modern on the continent.
Although about half of the Chilean road network is unpaved, almost all through roads are asphalted and most larger villages can be reached via paved roads. Most of the dirt roads are in the Atacama Desert, where it is mostly gravel, as well as in the Zona Austral, the southernmost zone where the Ruta 7 is only partially paved. In the hills of the western half of the Zona Central is a dense network of dirt roads that are unpaved. However, the through roads here are paved.
As a tourist route, the Carretera Austral is gaining popularity, the route from Puerto Montt south through the Patagonian mountain landscape. This route, part of Ruta 7, is largely unpaved and is interrupted in a number of places by water. The area’s fjords can only be crossed using ferries. The route was not completed until the 1990s and ends at the village of Villa O’Higgins.
More generally, a distinction can be made between national routes (Rutas Nacionales) and regional routes (Rutas Regionales). The region is the administrative layer directly below the national government, but above the provinces.
The autopistas in Chile are among the most modern in Latin America, are well maintained and have optimal alignment, unlike in some other Latin American countries. A distinction is made between the “Autopistas Urbanas” in urban regions (especially Santiago) and the “Autopistas Interurbanas”, which are mainly part of the Ruta 5. The Ruta 5 is constructed as a motorway between La Serena and Puerto Montt over a distance of 1,495 kilometers. The highway has various names and various concession holders.
- According to Abbreviationfinder, Santiago is the capital of Chile.
Most autopistas are located in the central part of Chile. In addition to the approximately 200 kilometers of urban autopista in and around Santiago, there are also east-west connections in this region, from Santiago to Valparaíso, from San Felipe to Valparaíso and from Santiago to San Antonio. Further south there is also an autopista from Chillán to Concepción. The Ruta 5 near Puerto Montt is the southernmost autopista in South America.
The autopistas in Chile were built later than in many other Latin American countries, largely from the 1990s. However, this has the advantage that the autopistas have fewer substandard elements. Many urban autopistas have toll-free frontage roads.
Chile’s main road network is formed by rutas nacionales. Almost all rutas nacionales are asphalted and connect all larger cities. The rutas nacionales may have been executed as autopista, this is especially the case with the Ruta 5 in central Chile, as well as some branches of Ruta 5 in this region.
Rutas nacionales are divided into three classes;
- Rutas de tipo longitudinal: the north-south routes. Especially the Ruta 5, plus the Ruta 1, 7 and 9.
- Rutas de tipo nacional: the other rutas nacionales.
- Rutas de tipo internacional: rutas nacionales leading to border crossings
|Autopistas and rutas nacionales in Chile|
|Autopista Rutas del Desierto
Autopista del Elqui • Autopista del Aconcagua • Autopista Central • Autopista del Maipo • Autopista Talca-Chillán • Autopista del Bosque • Autopista de la Araucanía • Autopista de los Ríos • Autopista de los Lagos
: Autopista Los Libertadores •: Autopista Los Andes •: Autopista Troncal Sur •: Autopista del Pacífico •: Autopista del Sol •: Autopista del Itata
Santiago: Costanera Norte • Autopista Nororiente • Vespucio Norte • Vespucio Oriente • Vespucio Sur • Acceso Sur • Orbital Sur de Santiago
Other Autopista Valles del Biobío
Chile’s secondary road network is made up of the rutas regioes, which have regional importance but are under national management. The rutas regionals are numbered per region with an alphanumeric number, with the prefix A to Y. The numbers of rutas regionals are sometimes cross-border, they are then given a different prefix. A large part of the rutas regios are unpaved roads, both dirt roads and gravel roads. The gravel roads are mainly in the mountains, the dirt roads more in the lower parts.
The rutas regionals are divided into two classes;
- Ruta regional primaria: the primary routes numbered in the series 10 to 99. West of Ruta 5 they have an even number, east of Ruta 5 an odd number.
- Ruta regional secundaria: the secondary routes numbered in the series 100 to 999. The numbering increases from north to south in a national system, but the prefix is per region.
The roads are governed by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas (MOP, Ministry of Public Works), the executive agency for road management is the Dirección de Vialidad. The ministry has its origins in a merger of five ministries in 1887 to form the Ministerio de Industria y Obras Públicas. In 1925 the Departamento de Caminos was founded, which was given the task of road construction. The ministry was given its current name in 1974. In addition, the Ministerio de Transportes y Telecommunicaciones was also established, which, contrary to the name suggests, has no function in the development of road transport, other than public transport.
At the time of the Incas, the first “roads” were developed, the main ones were about 6 meters wide and suitable for pack mules to transport cargo. An important transport route was the Camino del Inca, which ran for 6,400 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador to central Chile. This route was also used by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. Postal routes were developed in Spanish colonial times. The main road at that time ran from Santiago to Valparaíso. The original route was 185 kilometers long, at the end of the 18th century an improved route of 140 kilometers was put into use, the so-called “Camino de O’Higgins”. This was a toll road.
After Chile’s independence, the road network became a government task. In 1887 the Ministerio de Industrias y Obras Públicas was founded. However, it was not until the 1920s that the road network started to improve, with the advent of the automobile. In 1920, the road network in Chile was established as being 35,000 kilometers long. In 1925 the Departamento de Caminos was founded, in that year also the Carretera Panamericanaintroduced as a north-south route through the Americas. In 1953, the Dirección de Vialidad was founded, with the task of developing the road network. Until the 1950s there were hardly any paved roads in Chile. In 1960 there were 63,000 kilometers of road in Chile, of which only 5,500 kilometers were paved. Work began in 1964 to asphalt the entire north-south route from Arica to Puerto Montt. In 1969 road numbering was introduced in Chile, including the famous Ruta 5 as a north-south route through most of Chile. The road network was further paved during the 1970s and 1980s, but unlike many other Latin American countries, there was no major upgrade. However, the first part of the Autopista del Pacífico between Santiago and Valparaíso opened in 1971, but for a long time this was also the only improved stretch of road in Chile. Elsewhere in South America, motorways and double-lane roads were already built from the 1950s, this was virtually not the case in Chile, only in the 1990s did the construction of motorways begin.
The Chilean highway network is relatively young, and built in a short time, a large part of the highways were opened between 1999 and 2005, as toll roads under concession. The first highway was the Ruta 5 between Santiago and Talca, which was completed on September 12, 1999. Between 2004 and 2006, 210 kilometers of highway were built in the capital Santiago, and are considered one of the most modern in the world. The Costanera Norte, in particular, is a technological feat with the highway running under the bottom of the river in Santiago for almost 4 kilometers. The highways outside Santiago all have 2×2 lanes. Few new highway projects have been started after 2006.
Electronic toll collection in Chile.
The toll booth of the Ruta 68 on the west side of Santiago.
Most autopistas in Chile are toll roads under concession. The toll in the Santiago region is fully electronic with electronic toll collection. The Autopista Central in Santiago was the first highway in Latin America with fully electronic toll collection. Other toll roads in Chile are tolled with traditional toll stations. Electronic toll collection is offered here, with a TAG.
Despite its very long borders, Chile has relatively few border crossings, even fewer of which are part of paved roads. Since the Andes make up most of the country’s borders, Chile has numerous very high-altitude border crossings, some of which are more than 4,000 meters above sea level. South of Santiago, the border crossings are lower but have an increasing secondary importance due to the lack of paved roads and larger towns connecting them. In southern Chile, the density of border crossings is higher, but the majority of these are very secondary connections via unpaved roads.
The list below shows all border crossings from north to south.
|Paso Concordia||74 m||Peru||Arica – Tacna, main border crossing with Peru|
|Paso Visciri||4095 m||Bolivia||A-22||Visviri – Charaña, secondary route|
|Paso Chungará-Tambo Quemado||4680 m||Bolivia||Arica – Oruro / La Paz, main border crossing with Bolivia|
|Paso Colchane-Pisiga||3695 m||Bolivia||Huara – Oruro|
|Paso Apacheta de Irpa o Cancosa||4010 m||Bolivia||A-557||unpaved|
|Paso Abra Oriente de Napa||3785 m||Bolivia||A-663||unpaved|
|Paso Salar de Ollague||3695 m||Bolivia||Calama – Uyunic|
|Paso Portezuelo del Cajon||4480 m||Bolivia||B-243||unpaved|
|Paso Jama||4200 m||Argentina||Calama – Susques / Jujuy|
|Paso Sico||4090 m||Argentina||San Pedro de Atacama – San Antonio de los Cobres|
|Paso Socompa||3875 m||Argentina||B-55||unpaved|
|Paso de San Francisco||4745 m||Argentina||Copiapo – Tinogasta|
|Paso Pircas Negras||4164 m||Argentina||C-33||unpaved|
|Paso Pasco Lama||5100 m||Argentina||C-501||unpaved|
|Paso Agua Negra||4780 m||Argentina||La Serena – San Jose de Jachal / San Juan|
|Tunel Cristo Redentor||3200 m||Argentina||Los Andes – Uspallata / Mendoza, main border crossing with Argentina|
|Paso Vergara||2505 m||Argentina||J-55||unpaved|
|Paso Pehuende||2553 m||Argentina||Talca – Malargue|
|Paso Picachen||2060 m||Argentina||Q-45||unpaved|
|Paso Copahue||2015 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Pino Hachado||1885 m||Argentina||Temuco – Las Lajas / Zapala|
|Paso Icalma||1300 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso de Reigolil||1120 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Mamuil Malal||1210 m||Argentina||Temuco – Junin de los Andes|
|Paso Huahum||635 m||Argentina||unpaved|
|Paso Cardenal Antonio Samore||1305 m||Argentina||Osorno – San Carlos de Bariloche|
|Paso Perez Rosales||1020 m||Argentina||unpaved|
|Paso Vuriloche||1390 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Manso||480 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Puelo||220 m||Argentina||?||Border crossing via ferry service|
|Paso Futaleufú||335 m||Argentina||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Encuentro||425 m||Argentina||Palena – Corcovado|
|Paso Rio Frias-Appeleg||925 m||Argentina||X-25||unpaved|
|Paso Pampa Alta||865 m||Argentina||X-445||unpaved|
|Paso Coyhaique||795 m||Argentina||Coyhaique – Río Mayo (unpaved)|
|Paso Ingeniero Ibanez-Pallavinci||327 m||Argentina||X-65||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Jeinemenic||255 m||Argentina||Chile Chico – Perito Moreno|
|Paso Roballos||715 m||Argentina||X-83||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Mayer, Ribera Norte||450 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Mosco||270 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Don Guillermo||260 m||Argentina||unpaved|
|Paso Dorotea||605 m||Argentina||Puerto Natales – Rio Gallegos|
|Paso Laurita – Casas Viejas||240 m||Argentina||?||unpaved|
|Paso Integracion Austral||164 m||Argentina||Punta Arenas – Rio Gallegos|
|Paso San Sebastian||10 m||Argentina||unpaved|
|Paso Rio Bellavista||111 m||Argentina||Y-769||unpaved, southernmost road border crossing from Chile|
Signage and signage in Chile is more focused on the European style of signage than in other South American countries. The signage in the country has many similarities with that of Spain. For example, exceptionally for the American continent, a color distinction is made between motorways and non-motorways. The latter are signposted on green signs with white letters; motorways are signposted with blue signs with white letters. There is exit numbering on some motorways. A system of exit numbering by distance is used.
The road numbers in Chile have a road number shield very reminiscent of that of the US Highways. The road number shield is green with white letters, except if the road in question is a motorway, then the road number shield is blue with white letters. In the top of the shield is the region in which you are located, with the number without a prefix below it. The road number does not always appear on the direction signs. Separate mounting boards are usually used.
A road number of a ruta nacional which is an autopista.
National road numbering
Chile’s national road network consists of rutas nacionales. They do not have a signposted prefix, but in written language “CH” is sometimes added to the number, analogous to the regional roads, which have an alphanumeric road number. The current road numbering was introduced in 1969.
The rutas nacionales are divided into longitudinals with a 1-digit odd number, the regular rutas nacionales, which have a two- or three-digit number, and the rutas internacionales, which also have a two- or three-digit number, but the suffix “CH” to get. The ruta 5 forms the main route from north to south through Chile, almost all other roads connect to it. The ruta 1, ruta 7 and ruta 9 form shorter north-south routes in Chile.
The other rutas nacionales have a numbering that increases from north to south. This also applies to the rutas internacionales, these are distinguished from the regular rutas nacionales because they run up to a border crossing, but are numbered in the same system. The transition from two to three digit numbers is just south of Santiago. So a three-digit number is just as important as a two-digit number. The road numbering runs from 1 to 259.
The road number plates of a ruta nacional are normally green, but turn blue if it is an autopista. In addition, the number of the region in which you are located is indicated in the road number shield. Some road numbers only run in one region, but several routes cross regions, especially the north-south routes.
Regions of Chile
|XV||Arica y Parinacota||arica|
|RM||Region Metropolitana de Santiago||Santiago|
|VI||Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins||Rancagua|
|X||Los Lagos||Puerto Montt|
|XI||Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo||Coyhaique|
|XII||Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena||Punta Arenas|
Regional road numbering
The regions have their own road numbering, also called the “caminos regios”. This road numbering was adopted at the same time as the national numbering in 1969. The road numbers are alphanumeric, with a letter as prefix and a one, two or three digit number. The letters run from north to south. The letters are established according to the regions that existed in 1969. In the 1980s, a number of regions were merged and renamed so that current regions can have multiple letters in their road numbers.
|No.||Region (1969)||Region (contemporary)|
|G||Santiago||Region Metropolitana de Santiago|
|Huh||O’Higgins||Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins|
|I||Colchagua||Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins|
|X||Aysen||Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo|
|Y||Magallanes||Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena|