ESO Travel Guidelines for Visiting Astronomers : your observing mission in Chile

You have been granted observing time at an ESO telescope in Visitor Mode: congratulations! In order to prepare your trip in the best possible way and receive adequate support for your journey to Chile, please take a moment to read the following guidelines and instructions.

The “VATravel” office ( located at the ESO Headquarters in Garching is your partner for all the logistical aspects related to your trip to Chile. If you have a question about the preparation for your trip, please feel free to contact us and we will guide you.

When you plan your trip to Chile, the following general rules apply:

  • Only the PI or one of the CO-Is of an observing proposal can conduct the observations.
  • Only one observer per run is accepted in Paranal and La Silla.
  • You have to follow the requirements specified in the tab below entitled "Your journey to the observatory".

Any changes from the points above require a prior approval by the observatories, for example if you wish to have more than one observer for your run. Please contact us ( for further information.

When getting ready for your trip, here is what you should do first.

1. Fill out the Travel Form

Two months before your observing run: as a Visiting Astronomer traveling to one of the ESO Observatory sites, your first task is to fill out our online Travel Form.

In order to guarantee that all the required arrangements can be made in due time, it is very important that you send your Travel Form at least two months before the start of your observing run.

Depending on your citizenship, you may require a visa to enter Chile (if you are unsure, please contact the administration of your country). In such a case, you can specify this information on your travel form, and we will send you an official letter certifying your status as Visiting Astronomer at ESO for the time of the stay related to the run.

2. Confirm your flights to/from Chile (if you are not based in Chile)

If your flights to/from Chile are financially funded by ESO, we will book the most economical international flight for you OR you can book your own international flights, and ESO will reimburse you up to an amount based on the best rates available to/from Chile and according to the run schedule. 

We will only issue your international tickets after your approval. Please confirm your flights rapidly when you receive our notification while your Travel Form is being processed.

If your mission is not funded by ESO, please book your flights to Chile and let us know of your travel details in the Travel Form.

Generally, the international flight should land in Chile 72 hours before the observing run starts since it allows one night of rest at the ESO Guesthouse in Santiago. Usually, the departure from Chile is one day after the end of your observing run, which allows you to spend one night of rest at the Guesthouse.

Note: Talks at ESO Santiago

If you can stay an extra day in Santiago and give a talk at our Headquarters to meet ESO Chile staff astronomers, please contact the ESO Colloquium coordinators in Santiago at Your talk would be very welcome!

IMPORTANT: Remember to arrange your talk before you submit your travel form. Your international flights can be affected, and we will not pay any fee to change your itinerary!

Here is how your journey will typically take place. If you are flying from overseas you will likely need to spend one night in Santiago on your way to the Observatory and on your way back.

Accommodation and transportation in Santiago

VATravel Office will book accommodation for you in Santiago (ESO Guesthouse or hotel) and your taxis from/to the airport according to your flight schedules. The choice between accommodation at a hotel or at the ESO Guesthouse must be discussed with the VA Travel Office and financial coverage will vary depending on your financial condition.

Taxi services to/from the Santiago airport are provided by the TransVIP company. Do not take any other taxi company at the airport. Read carefully our "Taxi information" page.

Flights within Chile

VATravel Office will book your flights to/from the Observatory independently of your funding situation to ensure that the flights are coordinated with the ESO shuttle to the site. If you are going to Paranal, you will land in Antofagasta. If you are going to La Silla, you will land in La Serena.

If you prefer to organise your domestic flights, you must inform the VA Travel Office through the comments field in the travel form and provide detailed flight information (please check “ESO Travel Guidelines for Visiting Astronomers”)

In case you are going to both sites during your visit, you should return to Santiago and travel to the other observatory from there. Alternatively, there are buses going overnight from La Serena to Antofagasta and vice versa.

Additional Itinerary Information

If your travel to the Observatory includes sections using other kind of transportation not foreseen by ESO; if it includes pauses or leave periods of any kind or that you have not conveyed within your travel form, please inform the VA Travel Office of your specific plans via e-mail.

Your Health and Safety during your observing run - Insurance

Visiting Astronomers carrying out scientific work at the ESO observatories in Chile will be insured for Accidental Death, Accidental Permanent Disability, and Urgent Medical Care. The guarantees shall apply during the journey from the usual residence of the Visitor to the place where the mission has to be fulfilled, upon arrival on this place until the moment the Visitor leaves after fulfilment of the mission and during the return journey, from the place where the mission has been fulfilled to the usual residence of the insured person.

  • In case of Accidental Death - a lump sum of € 64.000,- shall be paid.
  • In case of Accidental Permanent Disability - a lump sum of € 128.000,- shall be paid, if the degree of permanent disability is more than 2/3 as a result of an accident that occurred during insurance period. If the degree is below 2/3, but higher than 1/3 the above amount shall be adapted according to the medically recognized degree of disability. If the degree of disability is less than 1/3, no payment shall be due.
  • Medical Care - Expenses for urgent medical care are reimbursable in conformity with Article 16 - 19 of the ESO Group Insurance contract, with a maximum of € 5.200,-. In case of accident, these amounts will be doubled. Reimbursement of medical expenses is only possible on presentation of the relevant certificate issued by the attending physician. Reimbursement should be requested through VAtravel at ESO Garching.

The insurance coverage through ESO does NOT apply to:

  • Any stay or travel outside to the Observatory (e.g. private activities, holidays, etc.). The Visitor is advised to take out an adequate travel insurance for these activities.
  • Any stopover/additional trip during the international flight considered a deviation of the standard request (see section II. 2.) (e.g. night/s spent in a place requested by traveler)
  • International observers going to 2.2m telescope at La Silla. These travelers are insured by The Max Planck Gesellschaft.
  • Chilean astronomers with Observing Programmes allocated as “ Non Chilean time” going to 2.2m telescope at La Silla. These travelers are insured by The Max Planck Gesellschaft.

In case Visiting Astronomers carry in their hand-luggage any equipment of substantial value to be used, they should inform VAtravel at ESO Garching before the journey so that the appropriate customs formalities can be arranged.

Observing at

You are likely wondering about the costs of the trip to the Observatory. This section is here to outline what is and what is not covered by ESO, depending on your observing run and your affiliation.

Choose the situation that applies to you (click on the matching paragraph below):

Travelers fully funded by ESO

If you are an astronomer affiliated with an ESO Member State institution (or your salary is directly paid by such an institution), and you are the first or only observer of an ESO observing proposal at the time of the observations, your trip is paid by ESO.

ESO will organize and pay for your:

  • International flights (not applicable for astronomers based in Chile)
  • Domestic flights inside Chile (from/to ESO sites)
  • Taxis in Santiago
  • Accommodation and boarding in Santiago
  • ESO bus from/to the observatory
  • Accommodation and boarding at the observatory.
  • Some additional travel costs. Please check “ Travel and Expense procedure for Visiting Astronomers.5. Expense categories” for details.

Expenses incurring to ESO due to unexcused no-show of a Visiting Astronomer shall be charged.


Apart from the main cases listed above, we may partially support your trip financially in some other situations, to be decided on a case by case basis. For example:

A. You are part of a team that has been granted Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO). ESO will fully support one Visiting Astronomer for every 8 nights of the total GTO time allocation per Period for the concerned team. Under exceptional circumstances, we may contribute to the travel and/or board and lodging costs of additional observers on your team. Besides, upon request, ESO may financially support some students participating to a GTO run – see below.

B. You are a student: In order to encourage the participation of students during ESO observing runs in La Silla / Paranal, we may support the travel and/or board and lodging for a student as a second observer provided that:

  • You are directly involved in the observing program
  • The length of your observing run is 3 continuous nights or longer
  • You are affliliated with a Chilean or ESO Member State institution.

Any request for additional observers fitting one of the above categories requires prior approval by the observatory. Please contact the VATravel Office ( for further information.

You are back from the Observatory but there may be a few closing steps you need to take.

Reimbursements: How to claim your travel expenses

If your trip is covered by ESO, you should submit your travel claim expense via email to VAtravel at ESO Garching within six months after the end of your observing run. Claims submitted after this period will not be reimbursed. Travel claims must be supported by the ticket stubs and receipts. Not all travel expenses are covered by ESO. All the details are available in the document " ESO Travel Guidelines for Visiting Astronomers".


If your trip is not paid by ESO, we will ask you to provide us with the information below in order to prepare your invoice.

  • Contact person who is going to pay the invoice name and email address at Institute/University
  • Institute/University address
  • VAT registration number (if any)
  • Purchase Order number from the financial services of your institution
  • Other information to be added onto the invoice (if needed)

See also the section "Travel Funding: who is paying for your trip?" in the present guidelines.