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Moving to Santiago

Santiago is politically, financially and geographically central to Chile. Home to the regional headquarters of many multinational organisations, Chile has attracted a growing number of expats, particularly in the mining, agricultural and financial sectors. Many expats also move to the city to teach English.

Chile is not the cheapest country in the region and Santiago definitely incurs a higher cost of living for expats than its regional counterparts. However, this is still lower than most North American and Western European cities, and with a range of modern conveniences at one's doorstep, the slightly higher cost of living is completely understandable.

With its effective transport network, Santiago is one of South America's most modern cities. It has an expanding metro network, cheap public bus transport and an inner-city highway network that links the eastern and western parts of the city in a short half-hour drive. With a range of shopping malls and an impressive array of international cuisine and local restaurants, Santiago is an exciting city for expats to get to know. Further adding to the long list of attributes that this city has to offer expats is a number of quality international schools and a range of hospital and medical facilities.

Chile is considered by many to be the safest country in Latin America, and that reputation extends to Santiago. However, expats have reported some safety concerns, especially with regard to pickpocketing and residential break-ins. Provided expats aren't careless with their belongings, the risk of crime is relatively low.

One of the charms of Santiago is the ease with which people can take a break from the city. Andes ski slopes and hiking trails are a short drive east of the city and some of Chile's beautiful beaches are just an hour to the west. Longer trips out of Santiago allow expats to explore glaciers in the south or the eerie moonscapes of the Atacama Desert in the north. With cheap flights throughout the region, it's equally easy for expats to spend a weekend away watching tango dancing or shopping in Buenos Aires.

Overall, expats moving to Santiago will find a bustling city with plenty of activities, events and natural attractions to keep them entertained throughout their stay in Chile. 

Accommodation in Santiago

Like most large cities, the range of accommodation available in Santiago will suit most pockets. Finding a property to rent in Santiago may be the biggest hurdle in the whole renting process due to high demand. However, the dollar holds formidable acquisition power in the city, so earning it makes finding a suitable place to rent considerably easier.


Types of housing in Santiago

Most of the accommodation in Santiago comes in the form of 'piezas' or apartments. It is also possible to find houses for rent, especially in the more expensive areas of the city. Some popular areas in Santiago are Ñuñoa and the tree-lined Providencia.

Las Condes is a relatively wealthy area and has a significant expat population as is obvious from its nickname 'gringolandia'. Within Las Condes, El Golf is a very well-regarded area but is typically expensive. Those looking for something a bit friendlier on the wallet but still a good neighbourhood may find La Reina to be a good fit.

Unfurnished apartments will generally come with no furniture or appliances, so expats should try to negotiate to include major appliances like a refrigerator and oven in the apartment. Furnished apartments are available, but will usually cost more.


Finding accommodation in Santiago

Using personal connections is the most popular way to find accommodation in Santiago. One of the best ways for expats to find good accommodation fast is to talk to people about it - anyone from a colleague to a friendly shopkeeper in the desired neighbourhood might be able to lend a hand.

If this doesn't pan out, there are also a number of rental agencies that specifically cater to the expat community. These service providers make finding accommodation much simpler but far more costly. The good news is that the final fee for the agent will typically be split between the tenant and landlord. 

It's important to note that a fluency in Chilean Spanish will be of great help during the initial property search and later negotiations. It might be useful to bring along a friend who is a local – this way expats are far likelier to get a better deal.

Santiago’s daily newspapers have extensive properties listing sections. Expats can also search online for property listings.


Renting property in Santiago

Rental agreements in Santiago are generally for a 12-month period. Shorter terms are easily negotiated, though usually at a higher price. Landlords generally require a deposit amount of at least one month’s rent.

Depending on the landlord, expats may be required to have a Chilean guarantor in order to secure a rental contract. In most cases, an expat's employer will act as guarantor but this is not always possible. In instances where a guarantor is required but expats are unable to find one, they can negotiate to pay a larger security deposit.

In either case, expats should be sure to get a full and detailed inventory taken of the apartment and its contents, as they will be liable for any damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Utilities are usually not included in the price of the rental, so expats will need to budget extra for this. Utility bills in Chile can soar quite high so it may be worthwhile to ask the landlord for an approximation of the typical utility bill for the accommodation. This should only be taken as a very rough figure as usage will differ from person to person.

Areas and suburbs in Santiago

Santiago has a diverse range of areas in which expats tend to settle. What constitutes the best area for each expat depends entirely on what features one values. Some expats prefer family-friendly suburbs with quiet parks and plenty of green space, and others opt for the centres with a Bohemian vibe or a youthful and lively nightlife.

Much like any large world-class city, Santiago has it all. Here is a snapshot guide of expat-friendly areas and suburbs in the Chilean capital.


Lo Barnechea District

Located in the east of Santiago, this district is divided into three main areas: El Arrayán, Los Trapenses and La Dehesa. Characterised by luxury houses and mansions, beautiful green areas, and private security, this residential space is considered to be the most exclusive in the city.

Here, expats will find silence, tranquillity and low pollution levels. There are shopping malls, social clubs and international schools in the area, but residents may find themselves rather isolated. Therefore, having a car is an essential part of living here as the distances are significant and the area is not well served by public transportation.


Las Condes District

Las Condes is a wealthy district surrounded by parks, great shopping malls, gyms, restaurants, and coffee shops.

San Damian and San Carlos de Apoquindo

These are the most exclusive residential areas of Las Condes and, again, it is vital to have a car to get around this section of town. From this neighbourhood, the Andes mountains and ski resorts are almost close enough to touch.

Nueva Las Condes

Comprised of modern and spacious apartments as well as luxury offices, Nuevas Las Condes also includes one of the largest shopping centres in the country. There are excellent parks, specifically Parque Arauco and Parque Araucano. Stores and restaurants abound and also create a pleasant ambience. The closest metro stations are Escuela Militar and Manquehue.

El Golf

This space is far quieter than the other Santiago districts and claims a completely different style of coffee shops, restaurants and bars. It should be noted that it is also definitively more expensive, but most expats consider it worth the extra price. The closest metro stations to this residential area are El Golf and Alcántara.


Vitacura District

Vitacura is a family-oriented district reputed for offering its residents an excellent quality of life in Chile. It is divided into residential areas such as Santa María de Manquehue, Lo Curro and Jardín del Este.

Santa María de Manquehue and Lo Curro

These areas are both beautiful and luxurious. Embassies often choose to place their representatives in the area, and as such property can be quite expensive. Each house tends to be completely different to the next one but they all offer plenty of space to exercise and they each boast unique architecture. A car is needed to live in this area, as distances to the city centre and other areas are great.

Jardín del Este

This is an area favoured by local Chilean families. Expats will find brand new apartments, but houses are old, usually built across only one floor. The area has great boutique stores and amazing restaurants. Public transportation is accessible and it is easy to get around with buses and taxis.


Providencia District

Orrego Luco

A cosmopolitan and popular neighbourhood, Orrego Luco is just as packed with stores, bars and restaurants as it is with traffic. Although the area is extremely busy during the day, expats who live here can still find some peace inside their own homes. Orrego Luco attracts plenty of young expats from around the world, giving the area a unique atmosphere. The closest metro station is the Pedro de Valdivia.

Salvador and Manuel Montt

Although these are quieter residential areas, they are still busy during rush hours. Expats will find beautiful parks and small squares throughout. As a predominantly residential area, there are fewer stores, bars or restaurants than one would find in other neighbourhoods in Santiago. 


Santiago District

Bellas Artes

In this neighbourhood that is full of life, expats will find lots of cosy coffee shops, restaurants and bars and many local designer boutiques and handicraft stores. Expats choosing accommodation in Santiago should note that this is a cosmopolitan area with great architecture, but it is very noisy during weekdays because of the surrounding offices and street traffic.

Lastarria

An artistic district at heart, Lastarria and is home to many theatres, art galleries and restaurants. It is characterised by French Neo-Classical architecture. Nearby is Cerro Santa Lucia hill, an elegant park prime for exercise or just a simple escape from daily stress. Like Bellas Artes, this area is very noisy during the daytime.


Recoleta District

Bellavista

The bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista is packed with restaurants, bars, dance clubs, theatres and art galleries. It is a lively area in which to live, ideal for the young and adventurous expat. At the end of Bellavista street is the city zoo and the entrance to Cerro San Cristobal, a hill that offers magnificent views of the city. Cerro San Cristobal also boasts cable car rides and is a great spot for running, biking, picnicking and more.

La Reina and Peñalolen

These areas are famous for their image as low-population-density residential areas with plenty of parks and green spaces. Both have a combination of economic classes, and expats can find a number of ecological communities, mainly in Peñalolen. For those who want calm in their life and can't afford to live in Lo Barnechea, this could be a suitable option.

Healthcare in Santiago

Chile’s healthcare system is advanced and the standards of care in Santiago are high. The government has implemented a national healthcare system that covers its entire population, though expats tend to prefer the service and quality at private healthcare clinics. By Chilean standards, these clinics are relatively expensive and expats should make sure they are covered by comprehensive medical insurance. Nevertheless, private healthcare in Chile still costs significantly less than in Europe or the US, a fact that attracts a significant number of medical tourists.

Doctors are professional and hospitals tend to be run like businesses in order to keep the quality of treatment as high as possible. There are a number of 24-hour pharmacies in Santiago, most with English-speaking staff available. Expats will be able to get a wide array of drugs without a prescription, but these should be used responsibly and with appropriate medical advice. Prescription medical supplies for up to three months may be brought into the country as long as they are accompanied by a signed doctors' certificate stating that they have been legally prescribed and are for personal use only.


Hospitals in Santiago

 

Clinica Alemana

en.alemana.cl

Address: Av Vitacura 5951

 

Clinica Las Condes

www.clc.cl

Address: Estoril 450

 

Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile

www.redclinica.cl

Address: Santos Dumont 999

Education and Schools in Santiago

When considering a move to Santiago, parents have a variety of schools to choose from. Although the idea of exposing their children to Spanish teaching in the public sector may seem appealing at first, most parents ultimately opt for the assurance of quality education that comes with sending their children to one of the city's many international schools.


Public schools in Santiago

The standards of public education in Chile are generally adequate but, accompanied by the fact that classes are taught in Spanish, this means that the majority of expats living in the capital send their children to an international school in Santiago.

Twelve years of schooling is compulsory for all Chilean children. The majority of local children attend public schools in Santiago. There are also a number of private schooling options, but these schools are usually expensive.


Private schools in Santiago

Private schools in Santiago generally have a religious foundation. In some cases, families applying to the school will need to practice the relevant faith for their children to be considered for admission.

Like public schools, private schools follow the local government curriculum, although they have more freedom to make adjustments and additions to the curriculum. Unlike public schools, they are more likely to teach in a combination of Spanish and other languages. However, parents should be warned that the quality of non-Spanish teaching can vary greatly.

Costs in Chilean private schools can quickly add up. In addition to soaring school fees, parents may also have to budget for other expenses such as incorporation fees, annual enrollment fees, books, transport, uniforms and more. 


International schools in Santiago

Santiago has a range of international schools catering to its expat community. In general, the standard of education at these schools is quite high and the majority of them follow the International Baccalaureate system, while others focus on an American or British curriculum.

Space at international schools is usually limited and parents are advised to make arrangements for their children’s schooling as early as possible. Standard documents required for application include the child's birth certificate and academic reports for previous years of schooling. Often the family will need to come in for an interview and sometimes they will be asked to provide letters of recommendation from previous teachers or personality reports from the child's previous school.

Fees can also be exorbitant at these schools, so expats moving to Chile as part of a corporate relocation should try to factor tuition costs into their contract negotiations.

International Schools in Santiago

There are a few international schools in Santiago for expats to choose from. A number of private Chilean schools in the city also offer the International Baccalaureate programme, but parents should bear in mind that it will most likely be taught in Spanish.

Here is a list of international schools in the city.

 

Chartwell International School

www.chartwell.cl

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: British

Ages: 2 to 5

 

The Grange School

www.grange.cl

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: IGCSE and Chilean

Ages: 2.5 to 18

 

The International Preparatory School

www.tipschile.com

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: IGCSE

Ages: 2 to 18

 

Nido de Aquilas International School

www.nido.cl

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Chilean

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Santiago College

www.scollege.cl

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Santiago

Santiago is a vibrant city with an active social scene and a number of world-class shopping malls and rustic markets. The city offers expats a multitude of entertainment options and is conveniently situated close to vineyards, the beach and the Andes ski slopes.

Santiago is also making its mark on the international scene. This is clear from the number of musicians that choose to perform there, as well as the variety of art exhibitions in the city.

Expats moving to Santiago can expect a range of activities to be available, ranging from pottery classes and photography groups through to shopping, snowboarding and sun tanning.


Shopping in Santiago

Santiago is Chile’s shopping capital and most of the shopping malls in Santiago have a range of international stores and brands available. Most malls are air-conditioned, open until late, and offer free entertainment and a range of eating options.

Shopping enthusiasts will be delighted to know that Santiago is home to one of Latin America's largest shopping malls, Costanera Center. Other highlights include Alto Las Condes and Parque Arauco, both on Kennedy Avenue. Many of the high fashion stores, as well as great restaurants and art galleries, can be found in Alonso de Cordova and Nueva Costanera streets.

Expats looking for something special to send home might just find what they're looking for at Los Dominicos Handicraft Village, right next to the Los Dominicos metro station. Jewellery and other unique handmade items are available here at bargain prices. Other places to shop for gifts include Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, Patio Bellavista and Constitucion 8 in Barrio Bellavista.


Eating out in Santiago

While Chilean cuisine might not be as exciting as that of some of its regional neighbours, there is certainly something to suit everyone’s tastes in Santiago. With a long coastline, it goes without saying that seafood is popular and of an excellent quality. Chile is also known for its excellent wines, and expats can enjoy exploring the various vineyards around Santiago.

Barrio Bellavista and Providencia have a number of great drinking and eating out options for Santiago’s expats. Many expats also enjoy making the hour-long journey to the coastal town of Valparaíso for the cheap and delicious seafood on offer there.


Nightlife in Santiago

Santiago has a vibrant nightlife. Chileans generally start the party late so it’s not unusual to only have dinner at 10pm, then go to a bar or club afterwards and carry on until the early hours of the morning. 

Bellavista and Providencia are areas frequented by Santiago’s partygoing crowd due to their many restaurants and bars. The Vitacura and Suecia neighbourhoods are also popular nightlife spots with plenty of bars and clubs. Expats should be careful in these areas at night.


Sports and outdoor activities in Santiago

Expats living in Santiago will be perfectly placed to make the most of a diverse range of outdoor and sporting activities. Beautiful beaches lie just an hour drive away from the city. Those who prefer the cold will also be just a stone's throw away from the Andes mountain range and its many snow and ski lodges. 

Santiago also boasts an extensive network of bicycle and pedestrian paths along the Mapocho river, and there are a number of beautiful parks and green spaces scattered around the city for expats to enjoy. 

Kids and Family in Santiago

Expats with kids in Santiago will find that the city has quite a lot to offer families, and activities for kids are organised on a regular basis. 

Santiago can be a lot of fun for children if parents research well enough beforehand. From beautiful parks to museums, art galleries, zoos, indoor play centres, nature reserves and various arts and craft classes for toddlers, expat families in Santiago will not struggle for entertainment. 


Outdoor activities for kids in Santiago

One of the drawbacks to living in Santiago with children is the lack of public green areas. Much of the countryside in Chile is privatised and seemingly cut off from the public. The only available green areas are parks and special nature reserves, which usually have an entrance fee and aren’t always particularly easy to get to. The following are some of the best places to visit if looking to stretch one's legs a bit with the little ones on the weekend.

Parques Natural Aguas de Ramon

This is a beautiful nature reserve in Santiago situated in the leafy district of La Reina Alta. It’s a large park with various trails for trekking and hiking. Parents can take their children on an easier route and those who don’t yet walk can be carried. There are waterfalls, streams and mountainous areas to be explored.

Buin Zoo

Located in the Buin area, south of Santiago, the Buin Zoo is one of six zoos in Santiago and one of the nicest outside the city. Big enough to include the favourites but not so huge as to be overwhelming for parents, the zoo includes a reptile centre, an aquarium and mini jungle.  

Parque Intercomunal La Reina

This is one of the most spacious parks in Santiago. It contains designated picnic areas, swings and slide sets and many more activities for kids, including pony rides, mini golf and train rides around the park. There is also a small lagoon where families can watch and feed the ducks. This park is perfect for a Sunday afternoon outing. It's possible to enter by foot or drive in by car, although it is more expensive to enter with a vehicle. 


Play centres for kids in Santiago

Indoor spaces for energetic children are definitely becoming more popular in Santiago and new soft play centres have been opening up around malls in the city. They are perfect for an outing on a rainy day.

City Toys and Yukids are the better soft play centres in Santiago. City Toys is located in Mall La Florida and is one gigantic spacious area with an array of entertainment for toddlers, ranging from reading rooms and toy areas to a pretend supermarket, fire station and theatre. Little ones can play in the different areas and ride around on the push toys.

Yukids is in Alto Las Condes and is a colourful little soft play centre with flying balloons, ball pools, soft slides and merry-go-rounds.

See and Do in Santiago

Santiago is a cultural treasure trove and expats will be in a prime position to enjoy a number of attractions. Although Santiago is a metropolis through and through, it is nonetheless home to abundant natural beauty. There are plenty of things to see and do for expat families and the young solo adventurer alike.

Expats will find museums and galleries around almost every corner in the city. Chile’s rich history and cultural heritage provide ample fascinating material for expats to get lost in. Santiago is also home to some beautiful architecture, and there are a number of plazas and statues throughout the city.

The beautiful Andes mountains are just a short trip away. Expats can go skiing, soak in the mountain’s natural hot springs, and camp out in this famous mountain range.


Attractions in Santiago

Sky Costanera

For breathtaking views of the Santiago cityscape, there are few better vantage points than the 64-storey-tall Gran Torre Santiago. Part of the city’s landmark Costanera Center, the tower is the tallest building in Latin America. The observation deck offers stunning panoramic views of the city.

La Chascona Casa Museo

Curious expats can get a glimpse into the life of one of Chile’s most beloved poets, Pablo Neruda, at his home in Santiago. Inspired by his secret lover, the house has an air of mystery and contains beautiful artwork from all around the world. Included in the entry price is an informative audio tour full of fascinating facts about Neruda.

Museum of Memory and Human Rights

A sobering experience, this museum is dedicated to all who suffered human rights violations under Chile’s military regime in the late 20th century. Background knowledge of the pieces displayed is necessary for full understanding and impact, but the exhibits in the museum are in Spanish only. However, English audio guides are usually also available for purchase.

Santiago Metropolitan Park

At over 700 hectares, the Santiago Metropolitan Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world, making it a perfect place to spend the day exploring. The park is packed with attractions including pools, cable cars and a botanical garden, as well as the Chilean National Zoo. The popular San Cristóbal Hill is also a part of the park, and at its summit visitors can view Santiago’s iconic statue of the Virgin Mary up close.

Fantasialandia

The whole family will find delight at Santiago’s amusement park, Fantasialandia, which is suited to all ages. Although relatively compact in size, Fantasialandia has dozens of rides to choose from – each of which is rated as “thrilling”, “gentle” or “childish”. The ticket price is considered to be good value for money, compounded by the fact that the park is a manageable size so that a full day is more than enough time to go on each ride at least once.

Parque Araucano

One of Santiago’s many green spaces, Parque Araucano is a massive park perfect for a peaceful afternoon out. Parents can relax and enjoy the view of the Andes while their children play in one of the many playgrounds. Conveniently, the park is just across the road from Parque Araucano Mall should visitors be in the mood for a bit of retail therapy.

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

A wide range of artefacts can be seen at this museum, some dating from up to 10,000 years ago. This huge collection of Pre-Columbian art is grouped by six distinct cultural areas: Mesoamerica, Caribbean, Amazonian, Central Andes, Southern Andes, and the Intermediate Area. Apart from its permanent exhibitions the museum also has exciting temporary exhibitions, so there is often something new to be found in the museum even for those who have visited before.

Museo Interactivo Mirador

Although technically a museum, the Museo Interactivo Mirador goes far beyond anything a traditional museum can offer. Visitors to the museum are free to touch, push or even climb on the displays and exhibits. Children will love this museum as it gives them plenty to see and do but adults (especially the young at heart) will also enjoy this novel experience. Highlights include the bubble area and the earthquake room.

What's On in Santiago

Chileans celebrate and enjoy life with great gusto and they love nothing more than to share this love of life with others. As the heart of Chile, Santiago has something to appeal to everyone – from rich cultural experiences to wild fiestas and everything in between. Expats living in this bustling and cosmopolitan city will find that there is never a shortage of fun and interesting events.


Annual events in Santiago

Santiago International Book Fair 

Since its inception more than three decades ago, the Santiago International Book Fair has grown from a humble celebration of reading and creativity to an immensely popular event featuring prestigious figures in the field and attended by thousands each year. There is an entrance fee but on certain days some groups may enter for free. At the fair, literature enthusiasts can attend events such as readings, debates, book signings, workshops, and more – all at no additional cost.

Santiago a Mil International Theatre Festival (January)

With hundreds of performances in all sorts of venues, attendees of this festival will be spoilt for choice. Founded in 1994 and still going strong, the festival was born of the conviction that everyone should have access to theatre. The festival’s name refers implicitly to 1,000 pesos – the starting price of tickets in the festival’s early years. This figure is higher now because of inflation but tickets are still far below the traditionally high prices of theatre, and some shows at the festival can even be attended for free.

Lollapalooza Chile (March)

The Chilean edition of this famous music festival has its roots in the original Lollapalooza festival held annually in the USA. Chile’s Lollapalooza definitely holds its own, attracting hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers each year and playing host to the best music acts from Chile and beyond. A wide range of musical genres is represented at the festival, including rock, pop, dance and rap.

Santiago Marathon (April)

Fitness buffs in Santiago will relish the opportunity to flex their muscles both literally and figuratively during the annual Santiago Marathon. With plenty of spectators to cheer them on at all stages of the race, participants can choose to take part in the full marathon of 26 miles (42km), the half marathon of 13 miles (21km) or a short marathon of 6 miles (10km).

Santiago International Film Festival (August)

Film enthusiasts will be enthralled by the Santiago International Film Festival’s line-up of screenings, talks, exhibitions and lectures. This festival draws filmmakers, screenwriters and actors from around the world, not to mention the best local talent, and is one of the most prestigious film festivals in South America. The festival is divided into two portions, local and international, and films in each category are judged by experts in the industry and awarded in various categories.

Fiestas Patrias (September)

A countrywide celebration, the festivities of Fiestas Patrias are particularly spectacular in Santiago. This includes a religious ceremony on the first day of the holiday followed by military and civil school parades. As nighttime draws closer, markets selling traditional Chilean food and drink begin to pop up around the city. Apart from the copious food and drink to be had, there is also plenty of dancing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Santiago

New arrivals to Chile will undoubtedly have questions about their new home. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Santiago.

Is it easy to ship goods and household contents to Chile?

While it is easy to ship goods worldwide, some expats have complained that shipping to Chile is a long and tedious procedure and goods sometimes don’t arrive intact or at all. While this has been the experience of a lot of people, there are hopeful stories too. Usually, it is best to hire a reputable company that will offer some sort of insurance on the goods you are shipping. It is also useful to ask people at your company or on expat forums for recommendations of companies that others have found trustworthy. 

Is Santiago safe?

Santiago is one of the safest cities in Latin America. Like most big cities anywhere in the world, there is some crime. However, this is minimal and Santiago does not share the reputation for crime that some countries and cities in the region have.

Is it useful to buy a car in Santiago?

Owning a car is not necessary. Santiago has a well-developed and easy to use public transportation network. However, cars do become useful when travelling outside of Santiago. It is important to learn the meanings of Chilean road signs and to know that the road signs are all in Spanish. 

What should I do if there is an earthquake?

Big earthquakes seem to hit Chile every 15 to 20 years but obviously, natural disasters cannot be scheduled or predicted. The safest place to be during an earthquake is outside. However, if one is indoors it is best to either try to make it outside (using the stairs) or to position oneself in a doorway, or beneath a table or desk. Not panicking is also key. Gauge the quake and if it lasts longer than 10 to 20 seconds, then it would be time to move to a safer location.

Getting Around in Santiago

With a public transport system consisting of a metro, buses and taxis, getting around in Santiago is relatively easy. Buses and the metro are operated under the Transantiago system, which was implemented to centralise public transport in the city, standardise bus routes and introduce an integrated fare system. 

Transantiago combines local bus lines, main bus lines and the metro network. It allows passengers to make transfers across these networks using a single contactless smart card. However, the implementation of Transantiago has been problematic and met with much criticism, with the system leading to occasional overcrowding of public transport in Santiago, particularly the metro.


Public transport in Santiago

Tickets

Ticketing for public transport in Santiago is done through the bip! card, a contactless smart card. The bip! card is valid for travel on buses as well as the metro and allows for free transfers between these two modes of transport within a two-hour period. Bip! cards can be purchased at metro stations, banks, some shops and Punto bip! centres throughout Santiago.

Metro

Santiago’s metro system is the easiest and fastest way of getting around the city. The trains are clean and reliable, but the metro can become extremely congested during rush hour and expats should keep a close eye on their belongings as pickpockets are known to operate on metro trains and at the stations.

Buses

Santiago has a developed bus system which underwent a complete overhaul with the introduction of the Transantiago system. Old yellow buses have been replaced with modern green-and-white buses, which run around the clock on the main lines. Different-coloured feeder buses operate in each area of the city, connecting with the green-and-white buses on major routes and at metro stations. There are also express buses, identified by an E next to the bus number, which run non-stop routes between outlying suburbs and the city during rush hour times. Payment for buses is through the bip! card. 


Ride-sharing services and taxis in Santiago

Taxis are plentiful in Santiago and are identified by their black exterior and yellow roof. Taxis can be hailed on the street or called ahead, although this option sometimes costs more. Expats should always keep an eye on what route the driver is taking, as they have been known to take passengers on unnecessarily long and winding routes in order to run up the meter. Drivers have also been known to quickly palm notes when being paid and then insist that they've been underpaid. Expats can avoid this by concentrating when paying drivers and being careful not to be distracted. 

Ride-sharing services are readily available throughout the city. These can be a good option for expats who cannot speak the local language, as they lower the risk of miscommunication with drivers and allow passengers to track the vehicle's route. 


Driving in Santiago

Driving in Santiago can be quite a stressful experience, and with the city’s public transport options it may be possible for expats living in Santiago to get away with not owning a car. Traffic congestion is a constant plague and parking is expensive. Another concern is crime. Car theft is common in Santiago and car break-ins a frequent occurrence. Expats should not leave any valuables visible in their car when parking on the street.


Cycling in Santiago

In recent years Santiago has made leaps and bounds in becoming easier and safer for cyclists to navigate. A gradual increase in cycle lanes throughout the city has assisted in this, but there are two main initiatives responsible for the biggest advancements.

The Mapocho 42k cycle path is still expanding. It is a 26-mile (42km) cycle path running alongside the Mapocho river in Santiago, which flows through all of the city's major neighbourhoods. A continually evolving project, parts of the path are opened to the public as they are completed.

The second major force behind the cycling boom in Santiago is CicloRecreoVía. Every Sunday, certain streets in the city are closed to all motor vehicles. Anyone wanting to use these roads must go on foot or another form of non-motorised transport. Cycling is the most popular way to join in the fun, with tens of thousands of cyclists attending weekly.

Despite the overall progress, the cycle paths in the city remain poorly connected and expats should keep their eyes open while cycling for sudden changes or obstructions in their path.


Walking in Santiago

As a relatively flat and rather large city, Santiago is ideal for walking short distances. The roads don't follow a grid structure as such but are still relatively easy to navigate. As with cycling, walking alongside the Mapocho river is an ideal way to travel from suburb to suburb on foot without being subject to the dangers of traffic.