Chile has long held the status as the most expensive country to live in South America. As a result, the cost of living in Chile is higher in comparison to the likes of Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina.
This article is going to run through the cost of living in Chile as an expat or digital nomad.
If you are considering moving abroad, you can have a full look at the best countries to move abroad here.
Cost of Living in Chile – What to Expect
First of all, the cost of living in Chile fluctuates based on where in the country you live. Secondly, the season impacts short and long-term rentals in key cities and towns.
When you break down where your money goes, you’ll notice discrepancies where certain expenses are disproportionately high while others are low.
The cost of living in Santiago, Chile, is high in comparison with smaller towns beyond the capital. However, food and groceries are a little pricier in remote areas and you’re more likely to require a car.
Naturally, the cost is also subject to your preferences on how you prefer to live and what kind of lifestyle you want in Chile. Renting a room in a flatshare is much cheaper than renting your own apartment or house. Moving to Chile as a couple will spread the costs and make rent and utilities more affordable.
Overall, the cost of living in Chile as an expat can feel reasonable to those on a decent North American or European salary (or self-employment income). But, there’s one major hurdle to talk about first.
Cost of Apartments in Chile
If you intend on living in Chile as an expat for six months or less, you’ll likely have to book accommodation with Airbnb or VRBO.
While it is sometimes possible to rent traditionally for shorter periods, it’s a difficult process if you are a foreigner without a Chilean bank account, a RUT (Chilean tax ID number), or a RUN (Civil Register ID number). This is useful reading if you are planning on acquiring a RUT or RUN as part of your move to Chile.
In addition, many landlords ask to see employment contracts, credit checks, and other paperwork that temporary expats and digital nomads are unlikely to have. Even if you find a landlord who’ll rent to you without all these elements, you’ll still have to address how to pay utilities and fees without a Chilean bank account.
If you can supply the various documents and rent via traditional means, you can find one/two-bed apartments for 200,000 CLP ($250) per month at the lower end. Monthly rentals can creep upwards of 600,000 CLP (around $750) subject to building amenities, luxury, and additional space. This refers to the general cost of apartments in Chile outside of Santiago. However, Airbnbs and VRBOs tend to be significantly more expensive.
On top of the rent, you’ll pay for your utilities and – in most cases – a gastos comunes fee. This is a monthly contribution toward the building’s upkeep costs. In some cases, water or electricity is included in the gastos comunes.
These fees will vary based on the specifics but you can anticipate the amount to be in the region of 60,000 CLP ($75) for utilities and 80,000-120,000 CLP ($100-150) for gastos comunes. The numbers will change subject to the facilities at the residence and how utilities are split. Work with the idea of a combined average of 100,000 CLP ($124) – divided in half if you’re a couple.
Where to Find Apartment Rentals in Chile
The website Portal Inmobiliario is the principal site for starting a search for apartments in Chile. Note that rental listings on this site are not always furnished.
Another option is to join Facebook groups geared toward foreigners in Chile. Private landlords and people looking to temporarily sublet their place sometimes post on the groups “Expats in Chile Network” and “Discover Chile”. Of course, exercise caution and be wary of being asked to pay multiple months of rent upfront.
Cost of Apartments in Santiago
The cost of living in Santiago, Chile, is the highest in the country. In fact, Santiago was recently revealed as the third most expensive city for foreigners to live in South America. Therefore, you’ll need to budget carefully for your rent and associated costs.
Rentals are higher in the sought-after Providencia district. This is a calm, leafy area east of the city center bounded by the Metropolitan Park of Santiago and Tobalaba Street. Popular with young professionals, housing consists of one, two, and three-bedroom units in low-slung apartment blocks.
In general, flats rent for 380,000-850,000 CLP ($475-1,060) subject to the size. It’s also typical to ask for a security deposit anywhere in Chile.
By contrast, comparable apartments in Providencia on Airbnb or VRBO start at $1,000 USD per month and rise to $3,000 for an upscale pad. It’s definitely worth messaging the hosts of properties that catch your eye and seeing if they’re open to negotiation to spare platform fees.
A number of neighborhoods in Santiago are not considered particularly safe. Although the costs of living in Providencia (and its eastern neighbor, Los Condes), are higher, you’ll benefit from being in the capital’s safest areas. Actually, it’s worth noting that the cheapest places to live in Chile are often synonymous with lower safety ratings.
Cost of Apartments in Chile Beyond Santiago
Clean air, amazing seafood, and an outdoorsy culture make the coastal town of Viña del Mars one of the most popular places for expats to live. Less than two hours from Santiago, “The Vineyard of the Sea” is a short bus or subway ride to the colorful port town of Valparaíso.
It’s generally cheaper than the capital although costs spike in the summer months of December, January, and February. In fact, many landlords rent properties from March to November and then hike the prices up and charge by the night. Therefore, it’s best to plan your move right at the end of summer and consider moving on before the tourism boom.
The walkable beach district runs between Uno Norte and Benidorm streets. The cost of apartments in Chile’s seaside town is around 300,000-500,000 ($375-625) for a one or two-bed.
On top of this, you’ll again have to budget for utilities and gastos comunes. Again, Airbnb rentals are pricier so it’s wise to reach out and see about taking things off the platform. Apartment rentals in the city center near Quinta Vergara and Plaza Vergara are cheaper than the beach zone.
Other places to check out in Chile include the coastal towns of La Serena and Concepción, laid-back Valdivia, and the Lake District towns of Pucón and Puerto Montt. Just bear in mind that all of these cities are far from Chile’s main international airport in Santiago.
Cost of Food and Groceries in Chile
Of the main supermarkets in Chile, Jumbo is the most expensive, Santa Isabel is mid-range, and Lider is the cheapest.
As a basic guideline, this is what you’ll pay for essentials in Santa Isabel.
- 1 liter of milk = 1,099 CLP ($1.36 USD)
- 1 liter of olive oil = 9,500 CLP ($11.78 USD)
- 250 g of ground coffee = 4,650 CLP ($5.77 USD)
- Loaf of bread = 2,090-2,800 CLP ($2.59-3.47 USD)
- 400 g of pasta = 979 CLP ($1.21 USD)
- 750 g of porridge oats = 1,900 CLP ($2.36 USD)
- 250g of butter = 2,300-2,800 CLP ($2.85-3.47 USD)
- 1 kg of honey = 8,650 CLP ($10.73 USD)
- Bottle of wine = from 3,500 CLP ($4.34 USD)
Imported items are more expensive and the cost of good-quality shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste is high in Chile.
Purchasing fruit, vegetables, pulses, and seeds at local ferias (fresh produce markets) will save you a packet. Plus, the quality is superior and you’ll be supporting Chilean farmers and independent suppliers.
You can also buy cheese, olives, honey, seafood, and meat at ferias. Prices fluctuate from week to week but the quality is significantly higher. The same goes for buying your bread (marraqueta, hallulla, and pan amasado!) fresh from your nearest panaderia.
As a couple with a large appetite living off a predominantly vegetarian diet, we spend a combined total of around 50-80,000 CLP ($62-100) every 7/10 days on groceries and 20,000 CLP ($25) at the weekly feria. This rises when we stock up on pantry items or pick up fresh fish.
As an aside, the quality of the produce and seafood in Chile is out of this world. If you enjoy cooking, you’ll love making your own meals with Chilean with a glass of Chilean wine on the go.
Cost of Travel and Transportation in Chile
Public transport in Chile is reasonable for expats earning a foreign income.
Santiago has an excellent subway system with rides costing a flat fee of 600-700 CLP ($0.70-0.90) subject to the time of day. You need to pick up a reloadable Bip! card in order to use the subway and bus service in Santiago.
Local buses (micros) outside Santiago are a bit tricky to navigate if you’re not fluent in Spanish. However, they’re really economical so it’s good to get acquainted with the routes. Short rides cost in the region of 500 CLP ($0.60).
Uber works in Chile and is widely used, exactly like in other countries. Drivers accept payment via cash (Chilean pesos only) and credit cards via the app. Short to medium-length rides generally cost 3,000-10,000 CLP ($3.70-12.50) out of surge times.
Although, the Spanish-owned Cabify is a better option. There are far more cars available and rides cost a little less. However, getting an account authorized without a RUT/RUN is nigh impossible.
Long-distance travel in Chile is expensive and requires a lot of number crunching. Inter-city buses with Turbus and Pullman (bookable via Recorrido) are the cheapest means of going on a trip but journeys are time-consuming. However, if time is on your side, these services are exemplary and far more comfortable than planes.
Cost of Entertainment and Leisure in Chile
In terms of leisure, the cost of living in Chile is where your personal needs will dictate how much you want to spend. But, these are some of the typical costs for entertainment and dining out in Chile.
Cost of Dining Out in Chile
Going out for frothy coffee and a light breakfast/tea and cake in an independent cafe in Chile costs 10,000-15,000 CLP per person ($12.40-18.60 USD). Although, many places offer wonderful promos on breakfast sets or once (basically a hot drink and cake, sometimes with a light sandwich or pastry) combinations.
On the other hand, a mid-range dinner for two where you share a starter/dessert, order two mains, and add wine will cost 40,000-60,000 CLP on average ($50-75 USD).
A decent bottle of wine in a bar costs from 12,000 CLP ($14.88 USD) upwards while a schop (large glass of draught beer) is usually around 4,000 CLP ($5 USD). Cocktails generally range from 5,000-10,000 CLP ($6.20-12.40 USD)subject to the type of venue.
Cost of Recreation in Chile
Tickets to see theater and music performances can cost anything from 5,000 CLP to upwards of 50,000 CLP ($6.20-62 USD) for a big name or concert. Books are expensive but you can sometimes spot second-hand tomes for sale on the street in Santiago and other Chilean cities. Usually, they’re in Spanish but occasionally you’ll spot an English-language book for a couple of pesos.
The cost to see a film at the cinema is around 7,000 CLP ($8.68 USD) for an adult. Although, it’s cheaper at independent cinemas, such as Cine Arte in Viña del Mar.
A one-hour massage generally costs around 30,000 CLP ($37.20 USD) at a mid-range salon while gym memberships are around 40,000 CLP per month ($50 USD). A simple wash and haircut for women is around 20,000 CLP ($25 USD). These things generally will cost more in Santiago.
Another perk of living in Viña del Mar is that Playa del Deporte hosts a number of free and low-cost exercise sessions on the sand.
Overall, the cost of living in Santiago, Chile, is higher for entertainment but it’s still possible to get your fill of culture and treats if you’re frugal.
Cost of Home Furnishings in Chile
Unless you’re planning a Big Move, you’ll probably not need to worry about factoring appliances and furniture into your cost of living in Chile as an expat. Which is good because these items are crazy expensive in Chile.
On the other hand, you might want to personalize your rental pad with some home furnishings.
Artisanal markets are typical throughout Chile. Most cities and towns have regular markets where you can buy homeware, clothing, and gifts. In Santiago, there is a wonderful craft market right next to Los Dominicos Subway Station in Los Condes where you can blow your savings.
You can also follow the social media accounts of your local municipality for details of pop-up markets. The quality of the goods is high and your money goes to the artisans and independent businesses so it’s a great way to support the economy.
Tipping Culture in Chile
Tipping in Chile is more comparable with Europe than the United States. It is customary to tip servers 10% in restaurants, cafes, and bars.
If relevant, there are service workers who will refuel your car at petrol stations. It’s customary to tip them a token amount in cash.
However, it’s not customary to tip taxi drivers or housekeeping while in a hotel. Of course, tips are always appreciated if you do want to leave a token of appreciation.
Cost of Living in Chile
In conclusion, the cost of living in Chile as an expat is pretty variable.
Choosing to live in the country as a temporary expat while working for an overseas company all but rules out renting via traditional methods. However, subject to your income, renting an Airbnb or VRBO might not cause an issue. It’s also an option to rent an Airbnb Room or check out flatshare listings on Facebook.
Opting to live outside Santiago de Chile will make a huge difference to your outgoings. All in all, you should expect to spend at least $2,000 USD per person on rent, essentials, and treats while living in Santiago. This will reduce if you manage to rent outside of Airbnb or VRBO.
Choosing to live in one of the cheapest places to live in Chile means that you can probably get by on $1,000-1,500 USD. Although you might see that grocery prices rise the further out into the countryside you go.
Bear in mind that the cost of living in Chile will rise based on how much traveling you intend to do.