Visitor Guidelines OLD

Please read this document carefully as it contains important information pertaining to your visit to LCO.

1. Prior to Your Run

  • Filling in the necessary forms (see below) is the most reliable way of communicating with the Observatory's administration and technical staff. If in doubt, please contact ( for details on your travel and other doubts.
  • With the exception of observers belonging to a Chilean institution and allocated time by the Chilean TAC, everybody is required to pay for Room and Board, and Transportation. Note that Chilean collaborators who observe on time NOT allocated by the Chilean TAC are expected to pay for Room and Board, and Transportation. All observers, including those who belong to a Chilean institution and were allocated time by the Chilean TAC, are responsible for paying other expenses incurred in Chile (e.g., slit masks for IMACS, LDSS3, and GISMO). Before departure, you will receive a detailed invoice of your charges. Payment can be made with cash, check, credit card or charge card, either on LCO or in La Serena. Partner institutions will NOT be invoiced any more.
  • If more than two observers are planning to come to LCO, permission has to be obtained from the LCO Director, Leopoldo Infante ( While we will try to accommodate all observers, keep in mind that lodging facilities are limited, and you may be requested to share a room.
  • Room & Board and Transportation charges are adjusted every year. Click here to see current charges.
  • Make sure that you are in possession of a valid passport for the duration of your trip.
  • Observers of some nationalities require a visitor's visa (China and India, among others). In most cases these can be obtained at the closest Chilean consulate, but an invitation letter from the Observatory is required. Write to Dr. Leopoldo Infante, LCO Director (; with a copy to Assistants ( indicating: Full name, Nationality, Passport number, dates of travel, consulate where the visa will be requested (please provide fax number of this consulate and your own fax number). Please allow at least 30 days for the process of requesting and receiving the visa. It seems that the procedures have changed for some nationalities and different consulates have different procedures. 
  • Check the Observatory's web page ( for manuals, safety information, and instrument set-up and travel forms. Your instrument set up form is the only indication we have that you will, actually, be using the observing time assigned to you. Ideally you should send in your set up form 30 days in advance. Your travel form HAS to be with us at least one week before your arrival. Failure to submit your travel form in advance may end up with you not getting to the Observatory when you plan, or not having lodging reserved for you.
  • Very occasionally, we have not received travel forms due to web/DNS /disk failures. We strongly recommend that you check the Transport Schedule on our web page. If you don't see your name on the date you are supposed to go up to the mountain, contact Assistants (, ASAP.
  • The Observatory does not provide winter clothing or flashlights so make sure to bring your own. Typical nighttime temperatures in winter are between 3 and 10 °C and a parka is recommended.
  • Most power plugs on Las Campanas are US-standard, 110 volts. Bring an adaptor if you need one.
  • Special dietary requirements should be specified in your travel form.
  • Carry a copy of your passport with you in your suitcase, as well as the numbers of your credit cards.
  • It is absolute forbidden to download pirated material (movies, etc.). Please do not impact our bandwidth by excessive streaming of internet content.

Currently it is no longer necessary to register your laptop to access the Internet or another resource in our network.

2. Arriving in Santiago

  • You will arrive at the International Terminal. If you are from Australia or Mexico and arriving in Chile for the first time (or carrying a new passport), you will be required to pay a "reciprocity fee" or "entry tax". The fee equals the amount a Chilean national has to pay to obtain a visa or to enter any of the mentioned countries. That is the "reciprocity!" Fortunately, credit cards are now accepted! Although these fees may vary, these are approximately, the current charges:
Country Fee
Australia $95
Mexico $23
  • If you have to pay the fee, save yourself some time: As you come down the stairs into Immigration, look to your left and you will see the payment area. Settle your payment there, before continuing to the line of International Police. The fee has to be paid before passing through the International Police.
  • Please keep the stamped copy of your tourist form with your passport, as it will be required when you leave.
  • After going through International Police, pick up your luggage even if it has been checked all the way to La Serena. If you carry forbidden items (produce, seeds, etc.) you will be asked to open your luggage. Unless declared, this is an offense and implies serious fines. Non-produce items are generally OK. If you are carrying equipment, make sure to let us know in advance.


Like in most countries, vegetables, dairy products and, in general, food, seeds, etc. are restricted in Chile. Avoid steep fines and an unpleasant experience by writing "YES" in the declaration form. The customs agent will tell you if what you are carrying is legal or not.


  • If you interrupt your trip in Santiago and you have requested it, a driver will be waiting for you at the exit area. Avoid offers for other means of transportation. If you make your own arrangements, or if you find that for some accidental reason nobody is there to pick you up, use the "TAXI OFICIAL" counter. Purchase a ticket inside the terminal.
  • Arrangements can be made for reservations at a hotel in the Providencia area of Santiago by requesting this in your travel form. We recommend that such arrangements be made in advance.  The default hotel is called "El Vergel" (El Vergel 2223, corner of Lyon and El Vergel in Providencia).  Tel. (56) 2 2343 0852 ( A hotel close to the airport can also be arranged.
  • If you want to change money, avoid the exchange place inside the customs area or in the exit hall. Use one of several ATM distributed throughout the terminal. You will obtain Chilean currency at the best exchange rate with your regular bank debit card. Use the ATM machine as you would normally and look for an option "CLIENTE EXTRANJERO" or "FOREIGN CUSTOMER" on the lower left side on the first set of options that you get. From then on, you can chose the language.
  • If you are continuing to La Serena and you have checked luggage, pick it up on the corresponding belt, go through customs and proceed to the National Section of the Terminal. You don't need to leave the main building, just go to the 3rd floor, and look for the LATAM sign, get into the line, and drop you bags at the first available counter. From there, proceed to the security and the gate of your flight. Note that gates can be changed without notice, so if you are waiting for your flight, check regularly on the monitors that the gate has not been changed.
  • There is Wi-Fi (free!) at the airport, also at the STARBUCKS shop (ask for the daily password) in the lower level of the National terminal, and at a cafeteria called "Tamarugo" in the upper floor of the Terminal.
  • Computer carrying cases seem to be a hot target for thieves. While in the Terminal, keep it always with you, don't leave it unattended on the floor, even for a very short time.
  • Your flight will be on LATAM. If you lose or miss a connection in any direction and your national trip has been purchased in conjunction with you international ticket, the airline will take care of you. Passengers arriving in La Serena after the last transport leaves for the mountain will have to spend the night in La Serena.
  • If you encounter difficulties and require assistance in either Santiago or La Serena, call the La Serena office. Dial +56-51-2207301 (or 0-51-2207301 from a public phone) during working hours. Public phones use Chilean 100 peso coins. There are offices to make calls in the national as well as international Main Terminal. Calling cards are available in many places in the terminal.
  • If your flight from the U.S. gets delayed or canceled so that you won't be able to arrive in La Serena as scheduled, and specially if this happens during a weekend, you should e-mail (with a copy to ) to inform us of your estimated time of arrival in La Serena (if you know it) and we will make our best effort to re-arrange your pick up at the airport and, if necessary, reserve accommodations for you.

3. Arriving in La Serena

  • Someone will be waiting for you at the La Serena airport with a sign indicating "CARNEGIE SCIENCE, LAS CAMPANAS OBSERVATORY" to take you to the El Pino offices. Due to flight delays or miscommunications of one sort or another, it has happened (very infrequently) that nobody is there to take you to the offices or the Observatory. In that case, take one of the blue taxis to the Las Campanas office at Colina el Pino (a 10 minute drive).
  • Depending on the arrangements, you will either stay at the El Pino "Motel" or go to the mountain. Assistants ( is the contact person regarding transportation, flights, confirmations, etc.
  • If at any time during your visit you plan to stay in La Serena, make sure that a room has been reserved for you. There are only 5 bedrooms at the La Serena premises and they are often booked.  A reservation at a La Serena hotel can be made for you, if preferred.

4. Arriving on the Mountain

  • Upon arrival your name will be on a screen in the lodge indicating your room number. Remember that we don't lock the rooms at Las Campanas.  If you lock the door when inside, don't forget to unlock it when you leave the room. If you do manage to lock yourself out, ask the kitchen personnel to help if they are on duty. Otherwise, ask your telescope operator or a member of the technical staff to help you.
  • Check that your room is properly equipped (towels, soap, toilet paper, etc.).  Check that all the plumbing is functioning well. Check the black-out curtains.
  • Problems with your room should be informed to anyone on the technical staff or resident astronomers who can also help.
  • We try to keep day-sleepers as far as possible from noisy activity. We can provide you with ear-plugs if necessary. Use the ''Do Not Disturb'' sign while you plan to sleep.
  • Please note that lodging is frequently at critical level. Below are some things to remember:
    • Nobody has a guaranteed individual room. Rooms may not be in one of the 12 rooms at the lodge level, and may be rooms used by personnel who are off shift.
    • Observers have the highest priority, especially if the number of observers per telescope is kept to a minimum.
    • Engineering groups have a better chance to get individual rooms if they are kept small.
    • We will try to take into consideration a "first come-first serve" criterion, but sending a travel form for a run 6 months down the road doesn't necessary help.
  • Tap water on the mountain is treated and regularly tested. However, we recommend that visitors use the bottled water dispensers for drinking water.
  • Upon your arrival, you will be handed an aluminum bottle with the LCO and Carnegie logos. It is for your personal use. Bottled water dispensers have been placed at various locations on the mountain. You are welcome to take the bottle home with you, but please bring it with you when you return to LCO.
  • A vehicle for each telescope is provided on the day of your first observing night (at noon). Driving on the mountain should be limited to necessary trips only. Driving rules can be found in the SAFETY section. All observers' cars have signs indicating who should use them. PLEASE always drive slowly and carefully. All drivers must hold a current drivers license.  Automatic transmission vehicles are available for those not comfortable driving manual transmission.
  •  If there is snow on the ground or there is risk of a storm, be extra careful and avoid driving as much as possible. NEVER drive your car outside the paved roads at the summit.
  • Meals are served "cafeteria style" in the lodge at the following times:
  1. Breakfast:  7:30 - 8:00 a.m.
  2. Lunch:  12:30 - 1:00 p.m.
  3. Dinner:  6:30 - 7:00 pm (Observers can have dinner earlier, as desired. In winter this is usually 5:30 pm but if you wish anything different let the cooks know)
  • Please help our staff by delivering your tray as soon as you have finished your meal. You can stay in the dining room as long as you want, but our personnel has to finish their daily work at a certain time.
  • You will find forms with alternatives for your night lunch on the counter in the dinning room. Try to fill out your form shortly after lunch. The default is a sandwich that will be taken to the dome by the Telescope Operator. Fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies, coffee, tea and soft drinks are available at the telescopes.
  • We will try to accommodate your dietary needs as much as possible. If you are vegetarian or have strict dietary needs, please indicate this in the Travel Form. An assortment of salads at every meal.

5. Observer Support and Technical Assistance

  • You will be contacted by an Instrument Specialist upon arrival or in the afternoon. If you sent in your set-up form, the instrument(s) will be ready for you to start calibrations, set-ups, etc. on the afternoon of your first night.
  • The telescope operator will get to the telescope by sunset and will be waiting for you. If you want to contact the her/him prior to your first night, leave word in the kitchen or ask anyone on the technical staff or resident astronomers to do so. Telescope operators have their meals around 5:30 pm.
  • The telescope operators have defined working hours which run from sunset to dawn including one hour for their meals and some rest. This should be transparent for observers, in general.
  • If a problem occurs during the night, the telescope operator will request the necessary technical assistance. Astronomers and operators should use their judgment to determine if the technical assistance should be requested, depending of the hour and the complexity of the problem. Neither the astronomer or the telescope operator should attempt to fix an instrument unless it's something totally obvious.

6. Getting Help

  • The Astronomers Support Building (ASB) houses the library, staff offices, and electronic and mechanical shops.
  • Your best bet for getting help are the people on the technical staff and the resident astronomers. All of them are bilingual and are there to assist you.
  • Technical staff can be located either at one of the telescopes, or in the ASB. They can help you with dome flats, checking out the equipment, computers, e-mail, etc.

NOTE ON REPORTING PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED DURING THE NIGHT or DURING YOUR RUN: This is an important issue. When you encounter a problem that needs to be reported to the day-time crew make sure that it gets clearly written into the daily report. Don't assume that the Telescope Operator is always aware of your difficulties. Make it explicit. Daily reports are web-based and can be edited and re-submitted if more information needs to be provided. A section has been included in the daily reports for astronomers to write their comments. Please use this to report problems, needs, requirements, etc.

7. Departing the Mountain

  • Transport at LCO operates to a fixed schedule. Check the LCO Transport Schedule web page to confirm when you are scheduled to depart from the mountain. The vehicle schedule is also usually posted on the bulletin board at the entrance to the lodge.
  • If you wish to change the time of your departure, or need help confirming your airline ticket, etc., contact Assistants (+56-51-2207304) in La Serena between 8:30 am - 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

8. Telephone system

  • A list of the mountain extensions and instructions for the use of the telephone system is placed by every telephone. Dial "0" or "9" to get an outside line.
  • There are Vonage phones in every dome (except the Swope telescope). Calls within the U.S. and Canada are free; simply dial AREA CODE + NUMBER.

9. Useful Telephone Numbers and Addresses

  • The Country Code for Chile is 56; Area Code for La Serena is 51; Area Code for Santiago is 2.
  • La Serena Office (El Pino Office): Colina El Pino, across from the University and the AURA compound. The tall pine tree (El Pino) is a landmark in town.
  • Telephone numbers: +56-51-2207301
    • Fax: +56-51-2207308
  • Mountain:
    • Telephone: +56-51-2203626 or  2203639
    • Fax: +56-51-2203627
  • United States Consulate in Santiago, emergency numbers: +56-2-2330-3716 (M-F, 8:30 am-5 pm); +56-2-2330-3000 (after hours)
  • Canadian Consulate in Santiago: +56-2-2362-9660
  • If you have your credit cards stolen or if you lose them, call:
    • Visa International: +1-303-967-1096
    • Master Card International: +1-800-627-8372
    • American Express: +1-800-333-2639

 10. Charges

Fees for Services at LCO Facilities are updated on a yearly basis. Click here for the latest rates.