Kiwi describes protest scenes after arriving in Santiago to state of emergency

Smoke in the distance.
Smoke in the distance. Photo credit: Supplied/Mike Heard

A Kiwi in Santiago says people are marching in the streets banging on kitchen utensils as they protest changes to the fare system on the public transport system.

Civil unrest overwhelmed Chile's capital on Saturday over price hikes to the city's underground metro system.

The price rise has been suspended but protesters remain. Demonstrators have erected barricades, set buses on fire and faced police tear gas and water cannons, the BBC reports.

New Zealander Mike Heard is in the city and said he only found out about the state of emergency when he arrived on Saturday morning (local time).

"It appears that most of the people that are upset and protesting are students, and they're currently walking the streets with pots and pans and wooden spoons and they're tapping out a well-known protester chant," he told Newshub.

Heard said he could see evidence of the unrest but he hadn't come into contact with any violence yet.

"Just after we arrived we found out in the early hours of this morning that the buses and some of the subway trains were set on fire.

"We checked into our accommodation, our apartment in town here, and we could see billows of smoke coming from buildings a couple of blocks down from us."

More than 300 people have been arrested and 167 people have been injured, 156 of them police officers, the BBC reports.

A curfew is being enforced across the city and outlying areas between 10pm and 7am.