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Moving to Santiago

The buzzing metropolis of Santiago, situated at the heart of Chile, is the country's political and financial centre. The city is attracting expats in their droves due to its cosmopolitan and fun vibe, but also because of its multitude of job opportunities, particularly in the mining, agricultural and financial sectors. There's also a gap for those wanting to teach English in the city, which expats are taking full advantage of.

A slight downside is that Chile isn't the most affordable country in the region and Santiago definitely incurs a higher cost of living for expats than its regional counterparts. It can be compared to many North American and Western European cities in this regard, with some aspects of life being more expensive than others. While accommodation at decent rental prices can be found in several areas and suburbs, some of the more centrally located neighbourhoods will naturally be more expensive, but with a range of modern conveniences at one's doorstep, the slightly higher cost of living is 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, and that makes it such an attractive expat destination, are its many quality international schools and a range of hospitals and medical facilities.

Chile is considered by many to be the safest country in Latin America and that reputation extends to Santiago. That said, expats have reported some safety concerns, especially regarding pickpocketing and residential break-ins but, 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 or so to the west. Longer trips out of Santiago allow expats to explore glaciers in the south or the eerie moon-like scapes 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 lifestyle 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. More and more people are moving to Santiago and the housing stock must meet this need. Luckily, the dollar holds formidable acquisition power in the city, so earning it makes finding a suitable place to rent considerably easier.


Types of accommodation 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, and some expats prefer those in gated complexes, especially in the more expensive areas of the city. 

When considering the location of accommodation, expats should think about proximity to schools as well as work and other amenities.

Some popular areas in Santiago are Ñuñoa and the tree-lined Providencia. Las Condes is a relatively wealthy area with a significant expat population, but those looking for something a bit gentler on the wallet but still a good neighbourhood may find La Reina to be a good fit.

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation are available, though apartments that are fully stocked usually cost more. Unfurnished apartments will generally come with no furniture or appliances, so expats should try to negotiate to include major appliances such as a refrigerator and oven. 


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 quickly is to talk to fellow expats or locals – 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 and relocation companies 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, or at least a basic command of, 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.

Expats can find accommodation in newspaper property listing sections, online portals such as CompartoDepto, Vivastreet and ACOP, and on Facebook groups.


Renting accommodation in Santiago

Leases

Rental agreements in Santiago are generally for a 12-month period, but shorter terms can be negotiated, though usually at a higher price.

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.

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.

Deposits

Landlords generally require a deposit amount of at least one month’s rent.

Utilities

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 rough figure as usage will differ from person to person. Some complexes may charge additional maintenance fees and so potential tenants should ask about this.

Areas and suburbs in Santiago

Santiago is a big city with a huge range of neighbourhoods and suburbs, some of which are more popular with expats than others. What works for some expats won't for others, and it largely depends on an expat's budget, lifestyles and priorities. Some foreigners prefer family-friendly suburbs with quiet parks and plenty of green space, and others opt for a bohemian vibe or a youthful and lively nightlife.

Communes and suburbs in southern areas of Greater Santiago including Puente Alto and San Bernardo, and western areas such as Pudahuel are well-served by public transport. The more affluent areas often favoured by expats are towards the northern and northeastern parts of the city.

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.


Family-friendly areas in Santiago

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 the most exclusive in the city.

Here, expats will find silence, tranquillity and low pollution levels. Accessible hiking trails around Cerro del Medio Park give relief from Santiago’s developed city lifestyle. There are also shopping malls, social clubs, a golf club and international schools in the area, perfect for families with kids

Las Condes District

Santiago

Las Condes is a wealthy district bordering Lo Barnechea and surrounded by parks, great shopping malls, gyms, restaurants and coffee shops. This area is a hub for commercial activity and many expats work and enjoy drinks in cocktail bars in this area, aptly referred to as ‘Sanhattan’. Expats are not short of things to see and do in Las Condes.

Comprised of modern and spacious apartments as well as luxury offices, Las Condes includes one of the largest shopping centres in the country and some excellent parks, specifically Parque Arauco and Parque Araucano, that create a pleasant ambience.

San Damian and San Carlos de Apoquindo

These are the most exclusive residential areas of Las Condes and expats may find it easier to get around by car. From this neighbourhood, the Andes mountains and ski resorts are a stone's throw away.

El Golf

This space is far quieter than the other Santiago districts and claims a completely different style of coffee shops, bars and restaurants serving international cuisine, and there are always performances and exhibits to watch at the Municipal Theatre and the Museo Interactivo. It should be noted that it is also definitively more expensive, but most expats consider it worth the higher price. The closest metro stations to this residential area are El Golf and Alcántara.

Vitacura District

Vitacura, a family-oriented district with international schools close by, is 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 from the next, and they all present plenty of space to exercise and each boasts 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, with both old and new houses and apartments. The area has great boutique stores, amazing restaurants and the popular Club de Polo y Equitación San Cristóbal. Public transport is accessible, and it is easy to get around with buses and taxis. 


City-living in Santiago

santiago

Bellas Artes

Being in Santiago’s city centre, Bellas Artes is full of life with the National Museum of Fine Arts within walking distance. Expats will find cosy coffee shops, restaurants, 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 noisy during weekdays because of the surrounding offices and street traffic.

Lastarria

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


Areas for young expats in Santiago

santiago

Providencia District

A cosmopolitan and popular neighbourhood, Orrego Luco in Providencia is just as packed with stores, bars and restaurants as it is with traffic. Although the area is bustling during the day, expats who live here can still find some peace inside their own homes. Providencia attracts plenty of young expats from around the world, giving the area a unique atmosphere. If expats are looking for entertainment then the Teatro Oriente with its classical feel is recommended.

Although Salvador and Manuel Montt are quieter residential areas of Providencia, 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. Public transport is easily accessed in these areas, both by bus and metro.

Ñuñoa

For a more chilled and relaxed atmosphere, Ñuñoa’s neighbourhood is one to look at. For the football fans, matches can be watched at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, while those looking for Italian and Peruvian restaurants don’t have to look far. 

Recoleta District

The bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista in Recoleta 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. Its bohemian vibe flows through Pío Nono where the local market sells lapis lazuli craftwork. At the end of Bellavista street are the city zoo and the entrance to Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill that offers magnificent views of the city. Cerro San Cristóbal 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, and expats can find several ecological communities, mainly in Peñalolen. Both areas have middle-income inhabitants, and 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 at private healthcare clinics. Doctors are professional and hospitals tend to be run like businesses to keep the standard of treatment as high as possible.

Private clinics are relatively expensive and expats should make sure they are covered by comprehensive medical insurance. Nevertheless, private healthcare in Chile still costs less than in the US and some European countries, a fact that attracts some people for medical tourism.

There are several 24-hour pharmacies in Santiago, most with English-speaking staff available. Expats can generally find an array of over-the-counter and non-prescription medication at pharmacies, although it is possible that the medication expats use in their home countries may not always be available.

Prescription medical supplies can be brought into the country, but this generally requires a certificate and prescription signed by a doctor, and for the medicine to be clearly labelled and in the original packaging where possible.

Several top private clinics are internationally recognised for their quality and have medical professionals who speak English, though their websites are mainly in Spanish. Some of Santiago's hospitals are listed below.


Hospitals in Santiago

Clinica Alemana

Website:  en.alemana.cl 
Address: Av Vitacura 5951

Clinica Las Condes

Website: www.clinicalascondes.cl
Address: Estoril 450, Las Condes

Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile

Website: www.redclinica.cl
Address: Santos Dumont 999, Independencia

Military Hospital of Santiago

Website: www.hms.cl
Address: Alcalde Fernando Castillo Velasco 9100, La Reina

Education and Schools in Santiago

Families with kids have plenty to consider when moving to Santiago, and taking the time to explore schooling options is also on the list. 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 one of the city's many international schools.


Public schools in Santiago

Chilean schooling covers preschool up to age five, primary school from age six to 14 and secondary school from age 15 to 18. When starting high school, students must decide if they want to attend a technical school based around several distinct and practical courses to prepare the student for the working world. Alternatively, to prepare their children for university and further education, secondary schools that specialise in scientific subjects and humanities are selected.

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

Most local children attend public schools in Santiago and there are also several private schooling options, some of which receive a state subsidy.


Private schools in Santiago

Private schools in Santiago generally have a religious foundation. In some cases, families applying to the school will need to practise 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 up until secondary school where the preparation for school-leaving exams is done in Spanish. That said, 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 enrolment fees, books, transport, uniforms, field trips and more. 


International schools in Santiago

Fortunately, parents have a wide array of international schools in Santiago catering to expats. The standard of education is generally high and there are facilities for various curricula and languages, including the International Baccalaureate and American, British and German curricula.

Space at international schools is usually limited and parents are advised to plan well in advance. Parents must prepare necessary documents, academic reports and birth certificates, while children may be required to take a short test and sit for an interview.

Fees are undeniably exorbitant at these schools and no ordinary salary can afford them. Luckily, expats moving to Chile as part of a corporate relocation can negotiate for tuition expenses.


Special needs education in Santiago

Special needs education is pushing to become inclusive in both public and private education sectors. Many schools provide support for learning disabilities, psychological and behavioural problems. Headteachers hire specialists to give the necessary assistance with the help of government subsidies when needed. However, finding certain services in English is not always possible and expat families may have to turn to more expensive international school options. 

International schools in Chile provide varying levels of learning support to children with disabilities. Some support minor learning disabilities, helping with reading, maths and language. Parents should contact the school directly to find out how much support can be given.


Homeschooling in Santiago

Although fewer parents choose homeschooling than mainstream schools, it is a viable opportunity. Negative aspects of mainstream schooling like longer school days, not enough specialised attention and the hefty price tag of international schools mean that many families look for alternatives. 

Homeschooling one’s children is not a decision to take lightly as parents must be up for the challenge. It requires a great degree of empathy and understanding, and expats should research the curriculum they choose to follow. They can be guided by Chile’s national curriculum and textbooks, online resources or international curricula.

There are no specific laws for homeschooling, although parents may need to take a validation test to prove they can educate their children. Parents can find more information on this process from homeschooling families that network on social media platforms like Facebook and through Chile’s Ministry of Education.


Nurseries in Santiago

Parents with young children in Santiago have many nurseries to choose from. There are bilingual daycares in Santiago and several international schools also provide preschool opportunities. When choosing a nursery, expats should consider the teaching- and caring style and activities available, whether it’s flexible and fun or gives special attention to kids’ early development. Parents must also consider their accommodation and find a nursery in the same area or suburb where they live.


Tutors in Santiago

Expat families looking for a tutor are unlikely to have many problems. Online portals such as Apprentus and networking with other families and on social media are great ways to find a tutor in Santiago. 

Tutors are great for students of all ages, including children looking to study for a test or even adults interested in learning Spanish. This may be part of a language exchange or on a more formal tutoring basis. Tutoring can be flexible, allowing for face-to-face or online classes on a schedule that suits the tutors and the tutees.

International Schools in Santiago

Choosing the right education for one's child in a foreign country can be a difficult and daunting decision. Fortunately, there are many international schools in Santiago for expats to choose from. The schools listed below follow various curricula and in several languages, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American, Chilean, French and German curricula. Several private Chilean schools also offer the IB programme, but parents should bear in mind that it will most likely be taught in Spanish.

Here is a list of some of the international schools in the city.


International schools in Santiago

Chartwell International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Ages: 2 to 11
Website: www.chartwell.cl

Craighouse School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.craighouse.cl

Deutsche Schule Santiago (Colegio Alemán de Santiago)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.dsstgo.cl

The Grange School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British and Chilean
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.grange.cl

The International Preparatory School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.tipschile.com

Lincoln International Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Chilean
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: lintac.cl

Lycée Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French and Chilean
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: lafase.cl

Nido de Aguilas International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Chilean
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.nido.cl

Santiago College

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.scollege.cl

Lifestyle in Santiago

Santiago is a vibrant city with an active social scene, 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 a slew of ski slopes in the Andes.

Santiago is 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.

Expats move to Santiago not only for its great vibe but also for the massive range of events and activities on offer, from pottery classes and photography groups to shopping, snowboarding and suntanning.


Shopping in Santiago

Santiago is Chile’s shopping capital. Most shopping malls house international stores and brands as well as eating and entertainment options, and they remain open until late, making it convenient for those who prefer shopping after work.

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 at this artisanal centre at bargain prices. Other places to shop for gifts include Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda and Patio 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, quality seafood is a popular choice. Chile is also known for its excellent wines, and expats often enjoy exploring the various vineyards around Santiago.

Barrio Bellavista and nearby areas have great drinking and eating-out options for Santiago’s expats. Many 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 and carry on until the early hours of the morning. 

Providencia, Vitacura and Suecia are neighbourhoods frequented by Santiago’s party-going crowd due to their many restaurants, clubs and bars. It's important to always take care when partying and 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's drive away from the city, and those who prefer the snow will be happy to know the Andes Mountain range and its many ski lodges is a stone's throw away. 

Santiago also boasts an extensive network of bicycle and pedestrian paths along the Mapocho river. The numerous beautiful parks and green spaces scattered provide relief from the urban environment and are great for families and young people to enjoy.

Kids and Family in Santiago

Those moving to Santiago worried about what they'll keep their kids busy with can rest assured that the city has plenty to offer families, and activities for kids are organised regularly. International schools present various extracurricular activities and opportunities, while family-, social- and friendship groups often meet up.

Santiago can be a lot of fun for children if parents do their research beforehand. From beautiful parks, museums and art galleries to 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 of living in Santiago with children is the lack of public green areas. Much of the countryside in Chile is seemingly cut off from the public and 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 for those expats looking to stretch their legs a bit with the little ones on the weekend.

Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón Park

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 Padre Hurtado

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 by car.


Indoor activities 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

City Toys is located in Mall Florida Center and is one massive area and soft play centre 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 spacious areas and ride around on toys as if they were in a mini-city.

Yukids

Yukids is another colourful little soft play centre with flying balloons, ball pools, soft slides and merry-go-rounds. There are trampoline spaces and opportunities for birthday parties to be held here.

Museo Interactivo Mirador

This interactive space pushes the limits of a traditional museum. With no signs staying "Don't Touch", visitors are free to push, climb and play on the displays and exhibits. Children and adults will love this museum as there is plenty to see and do and learn at the same time.

See and Do in Santiago

Santiago is a cultural treasure trove and expats will be in a prime position to enjoy countless attractions. Although it 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 innumerable plazas and statues in areas throughout the city.

The beautiful Andes Mountains are just a short trip away where 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 62-storey-tall Gran Torre Santiago. Part of the city’s landmark in 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. The museum holds historical oral and written testimonies, photos, exhibitions and public artwork. Visitors can take a tour and listen to audio guides for a full understanding.

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 “child rides”. The ticket price is considered to be good value for money and the park is a manageable size so a full day is more than enough time to go on each ride.

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 Arauco 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 (consisting of Columbia and Ecuador). 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 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, while adults (especially the young at heart) will also enjoy this novel interactive 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 it with others. Santiago, the vibrant capital at the heart of the South American country, 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 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 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 US. Chile’s Lollapalooza definitely holds its own, attracting hundreds of thousands of festival goers each year and playing host to the best music acts from Chile and beyond. A wide spectrum 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 test themselves 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. It's 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 it falls around the public holiday of Army Day. 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, there is also plenty of dancing to be had.

Santiago International Book Fair (October to December)

Since its inception about four 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.

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 look into relocation companies that offer a full suite of services and hire a reputable shipping company that covers insurance on your goods. It's also useful to ask future coworkers or post on expat forums asking  for recommendations of shipping companies that others have found trustworthy. 

Is Santiago safe?

Santiago is one of the safest cities in Latin America and it does not share the reputation for crime that some countries and cities in the region have. This is not to say it is completely crime-free. Pickpocketing is an issue in popular tourist areas and some violent muggings have been reported. The city has also seen recent protests in response to a rise in the cost of public transport. Like anywhere else, it's not recommended to carry large amounts of cash, walk around alone at night or leave valuables in the car.

Is it useful to buy a car in Santiago?

This depends on the person. It is simple get by without a car as Santiago has a well-developed and accessible public transport network. Many people, though, find that driving a car makes life easier travelling in the city and around the country. 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 and if possible, it's best to try to make it outside (using the stairs). Indoors, it's advised 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.

How complicated is the visa process for Chile?

Getting a visa for most countries can seem daunting, but Chilean embassies are helpful and the official Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs website gives the most uptodate info. There are different types of visas and residence and work permits, and expats should research which would suit their needs best.

Getting Around in Santiago

With a public transport system consisting of a metro, metro-train, buses and taxis, getting around in Santiago is relatively easy. The city has an integrated public transport system that standardises routes and has an integrated fare system allowing for transfers from one form of transport to another.

The bus, metro and Metrotren Nos are all integrated services in Santiago. This allows passengers to make transfers across these networks using a single contactless smart card called a Bip! card. It's not perfect, though, and peak hours occasionally lead to 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. It allows free transfers between the different modes of public transport. Bip! cards can be purchased at metro stations, banks, some shops and Punto Bip! centres throughout Santiago. A visit to the city's official public transport website will show the nearest station for Bip! cards as well as provide updated information on maps and timetables.

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 stations.

Buses

Santiago has a developed bus system which underwent a complete overhaul with its integration with other means of transport. 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. Payment for buses is through the Bip! card. 

Metrotren Nos

This is a subsidiary of EFE, Chile's state-owned railway services. Again, the Metrotren Nos is part of the integrated services, allowing use of the bip! card, and offering alternative routes to buses and metros. These can be found on their website Red which, unfortunately for expats, is only officially available in Spanish. For expats that speak and understand Spanish, this is no problem, while those that don't will have to use online translations for help.


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 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. 

Colectivos are another common option. These are normal sedan-type vehicles that offer shared taxi services. Colectivos normally offer set prices and run regular fixed routes that are displayed on signs on their roofs, although, at night, for an extra fee, they may drive to a specific location.

Ride-sharing and ride-hailing 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 but, with the city’s extensive public transport options, it may be possible, and even preferable, for expats to get by without using a car.

Traffic congestion is a constant plague and parking is expensive. Another concern is crime – car theft and car break-ins are common in Santiago. Expats should never leave any valuables visible in their car when parking on the street.

Expats staying short-term may prefer to rent a car while others may buy a used car to sell on afterwards. When buying a car, expats should always ensure it's in good condition and think about investing in car insurance.

Foreigners must have an international driver's permit and a valid driver's licence from their home country. This is fairly easy and can be done at any traffic department before leaving the country. After obtaining residency, expats are required to apply for a Chilean driver's licence.


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 patch and CicloRecreoVía.

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. It is a continually evolving project that already provides an opportunity for avid cyclists, families and anyone wanting to get out and about on two wheels.

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. Anyone cycling can join in the fun with tens of thousands of cyclists attending weekly. The open streets also create a joyful and safe atmosphere for pedestrians, skaters, runners, children and dog walkers.

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. Walking the streets is a great way for new arrivals to get familiar with their surroundings and to explore attractions, shops, facilities, restaurants and amenities.

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.

That being said, Santiago is like any other major city and pedestrians should be vigilant, and it's best not to walk alone at night.