GETTING THERE:

From LAX, direct service (stop, no change of planes) to Santiago is available on LanChile, and connecting service (change of planes) is available on American, Delta, Varig and Copa. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $849.

GETTING AROUND:

Santiago's metro system is clean, easy to use and efficient, so it is an attractive alternative to taxis and buses, which frequently get stuck in traffic. A one-way ticket costs 50-90 cents, depending on distance and time of day. One drawback: The three lines (numbered 1, 2 and 5) run in different directions, and there are only three transfer stations.

TELEPHONES:

To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 56 (country code for Chile), 2 (city code for Santiago) and the local number.

WHERE TO STAY:

Santiago has a shortage of charming hotels. As a result, most people end up staying at one of the high-priced international business hotels in the Las Condes area. Instead try one of the Chilean establishments closer in, such as:

Hotel Majestic, 1526 Santo Domingo; 695-8366, fax 697-4051, http://www.hotel-majestic.co.cl. Doubles begin at $80 a night.

Hotel Bonaparte, 2171 Mar del Plata, Providencia; 274-0621, fax 204-8907, http://www.hotelbonaparte.com. Doubles begin at $65.

Hotel Orly, 027 Pedro de Valdivia, Providencia; telephone/fax 231-8947 or 252-0051, http://www.orlyhotel.com. Doubles begin at $77.

WHERE TO EAT:

Astrid y Gastón, 201 Antonio Bellet, 650-9125, was the site of our dinner the first night. We had delicious Patagonian lamb shanks. Entrees $8.50-$17.

Donde Augusto, 166-162 Mercado Central, 672-2829, is for traditional Chilean fare inside the Victorian central market. Expect to pay $4-$8 for entrees.

TO LEARN MORE:

Chilean Embassy, 1732 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; (202) 785-1746, http://www.chile-usa.org.