The Terrasur or Tren Chillán train is the largest medium-long-distance train service in Chile, covering the route between Santiago and Chillán along with intermediate stations. It is operated by the Empresa de Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE, State Railway Company) through the subsidiary Tren Central.
Update: 27 October 2020
What is the route made by the Terrasur Train / Chillán Train and its stops?
There is only 1 route:
Santiago – San Bernardo – Rancagua – San Fernando – Curicó – Molina – Talca – San Javier – Linares – Parral – San Carlos – Chillán (4 hours and 30-50 minutes end-to-end travel; 397.5 km trip)
Obviously this may change at the time of travel, but at least in my experience and what I have seen on the website for years, there are 2 daily services.
Santiago to Chillán: Tomorrow (08:00 AM) and Afternoon (16:30 hours)
Chillán to Santiago: Tomorrow (07:25 AM) and Afternoon (16:30 hours)
Santiago to Chillán: Tomorrow (09:30 AM)
Chillán to Santiago: Tomorrow (10:00 AM)
Santiago to Chillán: Tomorrow (09:30 AM) and Afternoon (16:30 hours)
Chillán to Santiago: Noon (13:30 hours) and Afternoon (16:30 hours)
Maybe you’d better confirm it online because it can change. Below is the website.
Regions running through the train
Reg. de Ñuble
How to buy Terrasur / Tren Chillán train tickets?
In ticket office of some station of the State Railway Company that serves this service (i.e. from the Santiago to Chillán section). Cash and credit card payments enabled associated with Redcompra (Redbanc)
If you can’t buy them from abroad or it complicates you, contact email@example.com. We here can buy it for you (obviously you pay us first) and we give it to you when you’re traveling here.
Inside cars and seat categories
In total, the train has a capacity for 181 passengers (35 passengers in Preferente class, 146 in Salon class). They are only 3 cars and occasionally can gather 2 trains on very high demand dates (it happens very rarely).
It is the most economical category to make the trip. They are simple plush seats that have a basic recline. The train has heating and air conditioning, in addition to the possibility of closing the curtain so as not to receive the sun directly. Within the Salon category, there is a super economical category that are the Windowless Salon seats, in case you want to travel in rat mode.
It is the most expensive and also most comfortable travel category. There are double seats and single seats, it has a larger recline, has an ottoman and has a conventional plug to be able to charge devices, in addition to the amenities that already exist in the other cars.
Terrasur Train / Chillán Train Prices
Obviously it is best to check it on the internet and convert Chilean pesos to dollars (1 dollar is usually changed between $650 and $800 Chilean pesos). For reference, if you’re putting together budgets, consider the following prices:
Santiago to Chillán, category Salon windowless $7,000 – 10,000 CLP
Santiago to Chillán, Salon category $12,000 – $14,000 CLP
Santiago to Chillán, Preferente category $20,000 – $24,000 CLP
It doesn’t look the same if you buy an intermediate stretch, the price is the same (don’t do like me I bought 2 intermediate sections thinking I could change cars…).
Debate: When should I take the Terrasur / Tren Chillán train?
The train has a pretty good service. It is comfortable in both categories, it is usually punctual, has good attention from the crew. You can go to the cafeteria to buy things to eat (not so elaborate yes, but quite a few options), there is bathroom, air conditioning, heating. It’s pretty quiet and scenically it’s nice.
The only “but” is the price and they are only 2 services per day. Not a bad price if you are a foreign tourist looking for a good travel experience, but there are other much cheaper ways to travel by bus without sacrificing comfort. For example, on the Santiago – Talca route, the companies Buses Altas Cumbres and Talca Paris & Londres offer Salon Cama buses with entertainment screens (the equivalent of the Preferente) for approximately $7,500 pesos, almost 35% of what the ticket is worth in Preferente (about $22,000) and cheaper than the Windowless Salon (about $10,000), in addition to having many departures at different times.
In Chillán there are also not many bus companies to get around and continue the journey around the rest of the country. If that’s your idea, you’ll need to take a bus from Chillán to Concepción which is a much bigger city and in that city you’ll have more companies and time alternatives to travel to Temuco, Pucón, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt, Ancud and Castro, among other smaller cities. You can quote on Recorrido.cl to see companies, schedules and prices.
In return, it can be quite convenient in case you go to Chillán itself. It gives the same price situation, but in travel time it is competitive and comfortable. Buses to Chillán take 4 hours and 30 minutes (a little less), but almost all “good” buses leave at night and in that time you can’t sleep so well. Day buses (except exceptions) stop in many cities making the journey not so comfortable.
Combinable panoramas with Terrasur / Tren Chillán
Chillán Hot Springs
A wonderful panorama for winter and early spring is to visit the Chillán hot springs, in the heart of the Andes Mountains. This place has sectors with thermal baths for all kinds of budgets, being able to go by day or to stay there and do many activities (including skiing).
Although we will see it in another guide, an interesting panorama is to travel to Constitution in the search. This service goes along the banks of the Maule River, has very nice landscapes and is a journey that every railroad lover should ever make in life.