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Moving to Chile

Most expats find moving to Chile an easy transition. Not only is it a modern, stable and relatively wealthy country that offers expats a great quality of life, it also has plenty to offer culturally speaking.

With significant amounts of foreign trade and a dynamic market-orientated economy, moving to Chile is a logical choice for many expats. Chile's government has sound economic policies and a keen interest in adhering to Free Trade Agreements, making it a country which is eager to welcome more foreigners and foreign businesses.

Santiago, Chile's vibrant capital, is an incredibly picturesque city. High-rise buildings, shopping centres and sprawling urban developments are set against the spectacular backdrop of the Andes Mountains. The city is a regional business hub. It generates a large portion of the country's GDP and is home to the regional headquarters for many multinational companies. Santiago also has an extensive transport network with a great subway and bus system connecting all parts of the city, including its airport, city parks, bicycle tracks, sports parks, museums and the Central Railway Station.

Chile has both public and private healthcare available for expats. The healthcare standards are relatively high throughout the country, although the private medical facilities in the larger cities are slightly more advanced and refined.

Expats moving to Chile will find accommodation pretty easily, as there are many options at reasonable rates. Those with children will be pleased to know that there is a multitude of international schools, offering quality education.

Banking in Chile can sometimes take time, particularly if one doesn't speak basic Spanish. Some banks have better reputations than others, and several large international banks operate in the country. It is possible to make international transfers but these can also take time.

While Chile doesn't have a distinctive cuisine, it boasts an incredible variety of dishes of various meats and vegetables. With over 3,900 miles (6,400km) of coastline including its islands, Chile is seafood heaven. In fact, it's among the world's largest producers of salmon, while oysters and shellfish are also common. Chile is also a large fruit producer and avocado is a staple. Chilean wines hold their own on the world markets against those from France, Australia, California and South Africa.

Expat life in Chile is vibrant and fun-filled. With great living standards, beautiful surroundings and a welcoming local population, many expats choose to extend their time in the country, a sure sign that Chile is an ideal choice for a home away from home.


Fast facts

Population: About 19 million

Capital city: Santiago 

Neighbouring countries: Chile is bordered by Bolivia and Argentina to the east, and Peru to the north.

Geography: Chile's geography is varied and diverse. The country is home to a significant portion of the Andes mountain region as well as the Atacama desert. Chilean territory encompasses South America's southernmost points and an extensive coastline with many islands, including Easter Island.

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Major religion: Roman Catholic and Protestant

Main language: Spanish

Money: Chile's currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP). ATMs are abundant and expats should be able to use their credit cards in all major urban centres. 

Tipping: Standard 10 percent in restaurants, usually less for other services

Time: GMT-4 (GMT-3 from September to April). Easter Island is GMT-6 (GMT-5 from September to April).

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins are used.

Internet domain: .cl

International dialling code: +56

Emergency numbers: 131 (ambulance), 132 (fire), 133 (police)

Transport and Driving: Cars in Chile drive on the right-hand side of the road. Most major urban centres have efficient and reliable transport systems, and there is an extensive network of buses and trains throughout the country.

Weather in Chile

Due to the country's immense length, Chile's climate is hard to sum up in a broad description. Generally, spring (September to November) welcomes a beautiful array of flowers and summer (December to February) is perfect for those wishing to acquaint themselves with Chile's beautiful beaches or its range of vineyards.

From March through to May the changing colours in the leaves offer perfect postcard pictures. Winter (June to August) is a time when many Chileans hit the ski slopes, which is often an easy excursion to plan as many ski resorts are only a short bus trip away from major cities.

Climatic conditions vary quite a bit from region to region. The northern part of Chile is home to the beautiful Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world. Central regions around Santiago have a Mediterranean climate, while glaciers and alpine tundras are found in the east and southeast of the country.

 

Embassy contacts for Chile


Chilean embassies 

Embassy of Chile, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 785 1746

Embassy of Chile, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7222 2361

Embassy of Chile, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 4402

Embassy of Chile, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 2430

Embassy of Chile, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 8090

Embassy of Chile, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 667 5094

Embassy of Chile, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 471 6270


Foreign embassies in Chile

United States Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2330 3000

British Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2370 4100

Canadian Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2652 3800

Australian Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2550 3500

South African Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2820 0300

New Zealand Embassy, Santiago: +56 2 2616 3000

Public Holidays in Chile

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Holy Saturday

3 April

16 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Navy Day

21 May

21 May

Feast of St Peter and St Paul

5 July

4 July

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

16 July

16 July

Assumption Day

15 August

15 August

Independence Day

18 September

18 September

Army Day

19 September

19 September

Race Day

12 October

12 October

Reformation Day

31 October

31 October

All Saints' Day

1 November

1 November

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

8 December

8 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. 

Working in Chile

Chile's economy – one of the largest in South America and well known for its stability – is attracting expats from far and wide.

It does have a few challenges, including the diversification of its copper-dependent economy and eliminating a glaring wealth inequality. The mineral-rich mines have long been the bedrock of the country's economy, but as the market continues to contract it has begun to make moves to support other sectors.


Job market in Chile

Santiago, the country's capital and commercial hub, has a few thriving industries, particularly its financial-, computer technology- and electronics sectors, and the city is continuously asserting itself as an important South American trade centre.

A selection of Iarge multinationals has set up shop in the country. Expats planning on working in Chile may find that a company transfer to one of these business giants, or a similar institution, is the easiest way to find employment. 

While agriculture and mining are important primary sector industries, the financial and tourism sectors also provide opportunities to eager expats.

New arrivals with an entrepreneurial spirit can set up a business in Chile, but they must do their research into the types of business possibilities and the demand for it. 

Freelance work is another option. In today’s ever-changing technological world, more and more people are working online, doing jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world. Luckily, internet access and speeds are relatively good in Chile, allowing for freelance work.

Many people move to Chile and South America doing odd jobs, either before finding a more permanent role or before moving elsewhere. These don’t necessarily pay well but are perfect for those backpackers and travellers who need only food, accommodation and a bit of pocket money for travelling. Websites such as Workaway are a good bet to find these sorts of opportunities.

The job market is restricted in a few ways, though. Employers value qualifications over experience, especially degrees from the US and the UK. Some types of work are also limited to Chilean nationals and have strict requirements for foreign degrees such as in medicine. These types of jobs require certain Chilean accreditation, which could be a lengthy process – expats should seek the advice of a relocation company and legal professional to help with this.

Language Barriers

Expats in certain industries and with senior-level positions in large companies are likely to get by with just speaking English, while many others find work in the English language sector. Having CELTA or TEFL accreditation is always helpful to teach English as a foreign language, and those interested in teaching in the formal education sector will need a teaching degree.

Otherwise, the job market often favours those who speak Spanish – good news for those expats relocating from other South- and Central American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Haiti. There are conflicting views towards people from foreign countries but the job market remains competitive.

Learning Spanish is not too difficult for new arrivals who put in the effort: there are many opportunities to take up classes and private lessons, while expat children may easily absorb the language at school.


Finding a job in Chile

Expats can find a job before moving to Chile or once they arrive. Some may say it’s better to have a job in place before moving, mainly because the employing company often helps process visas and work permits, as well as allows for negotiations of expat contracts. It’s also a sense of security to those moving that they will be able to afford the cost of living in Chile. Many expenses are quite high, especially for a Western standard, and a normal Chilean wage is unlikely to support many expat needs.

That said, others argue that searching for a job after arriving in Chile makes finding employment not only feasible but significantly easier. One reason is that many jobs may require employees to begin work as soon as possible, and only starting the relocation process amid this slows things down.

What’s more, is that in Chile, personal relationships are crucial. Knowing people, having connections and networking are key in doing business and finding work. In fact, job opportunities are often not even published because the hiring party would rather recruit through personal recommendations. One’s network, also known as pituto in Chile, is fundamental. So, being in Chile, meeting people and making connections ease the job-seeking process, especially for those who are extroverted, social and ready to meet and make business acquaintances.

Nevertheless, online portals, such as LinkedIn and Trabajando, are worth a look for job-hunting expats.


Work culture in Chile

Spanish is the official language in Chile, but many skilled workers and mid-level managers speak English. Knowledge of the local language can open doors to work opportunities, and even those fluent in European Spanish may need to take a few Chilean Spanish lessons to learn some of the regional nuances. Not only does speaking Spanish help expats communicate and do business, but it also shows their respect for local Chileans and their efforts to get to know the people and culture.

Above all else, though, expats working in Chile may be most taken aback by the long working hours. Although office hours on paper seem standard, from around 8.30am to 6pm, they are often extended. The Latin American lust for life doesn't stop locals from putting in well above the 45-hour workweek required by law, one of the highest in the world. The long working hours and commute home afterwards may be something to get used to.

Doing Business in Chile

Expats looking to do business in Chile will find that it's one of the least bureaucratic states in South America. The country is among the best-managed economies in the region and is known for being open to foreign investment. 

Many international companies have looked at Chile as the starting point for expanding their business in South America and have chosen Santiago as the headquarters for their regional operations.

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020 ranked Chile 59th out of 190 countries surveyed, better than Saudi Arabia, Greece and Brazil. The World Bank labels Chile a High-Income Country and shows that it performed reasonably well in terms of the availability of electricity (39th) and dealing with construction permits (41st), although they fell short on getting credit (94th).

It's important to understand business culture when working in Chile; here are some useful facts.


Fast facts

Business hours

The business day usually runs from 8.30am or 9am to 6pm or 7pm, Monday to Friday, though hours are often extended. There is a one- or two-hour lunch break between 1pm and 3pm. Banking hours are weekdays from 9am to 2pm and expats must plan their time accordingly.

Annual leave

The summer months of January and February are when most people go on holiday. It’s important to keep this in mind when scheduling meetings in Chile as it may be difficult to conduct business during these months.

Business language

The language of business in Chile is Spanish, although many executives will also speak English.

Business dress

Business dress in Chile is formal and conservative. Men should wear a suit and tie for formal business meetings. Women tend to wear business suits and generally avoid wearing bright colours or excessive jewellery.

Gifts

Gifts are not expected until a relationship is formed and are not usually exchanged at a first meeting. If invited to a Chilean’s house, flowers, wine or chocolates are appropriate. Gifts are normally opened straight away.

Gender equality

Women have made strides in achieving gender equality in Chilean business and politics, more so than in many South American countries. However, there is still an element of machismo evident in the business culture.

Greetings

A firm handshake and direct eye contact are appropriate when greeting Chilean business associates. Expats should use a person’s title and last name when greeting them. If unfamiliar with their title, it's best to use "Señor" or "Señora". 

Business cards

When exchanged, business people should take a moment to look at a business card rather than simply pocketing it.


Business culture in Chile

Chile has a well-educated population with a high literacy rate. As such, expats doing business in Chile will likely be working with highly qualified individuals, many of whom would have been educated abroad, travel internationally and can speak English.

Hierarchy

Business culture in Chile is formal and conservative. Appearance is important, as are status and respect. Business structures are hierarchical and decisions are made at the top, so it’s helpful to hold meetings with top-level executives first. When speaking Spanish, formal language and pronouns should be used when addressing colleagues and superiors.

Time

It often takes time to get down to business and start working, so Chileans have been known to extend their work hours. Expats should also be patient if they ask for something to be done and when waiting for email responses – it may be better to discuss certain things in person.

Communication style

Chileans prefer to conduct business face to face and build long-lasting trustworthy personal relationships. Meetings will often start with polite social talk, asking about an associate’s personal life and family. Business is done between people rather than companies and, as such, concluding business in Chile could take some time. Expats should exercise patience and be prepared to invest time in building business relationships. 

Networking

Because building relationships is so important in Chile, it can be beneficial to have a pituto, a network or a connection. Pitutos can help people get connected with others and share information.


Dos and don’ts of business in Chile

  • Do be on time for meetings
     
  • Do attempt to build personal relationships and be prepared for small talk before getting down to business with Chilean associates
     
  • Do maintain eye contact when conversing with Chilean business associates
     
  • Do always greet the most senior person first
     
  • Don't talk about politics or human rights during business meetings
     
  • Don't be offended if interrupted while talking in meetings; this is not considered rude but rather shows enthusiasm and interest in the conversation
     
  • Don't use too many hand gestures when speaking to Chilean associates as many may be considered rude. In particular, don’t hit the left palm with the right fist, as this is considered an offensive gesture in Chile.

Visas for Chile

Expats who are looking to settle or work in Chile must do extensive research and consider the various visas to decide which would suit their purposes best, whether for a temporary stay or permanent residence. 


Tourist visas for Chile

Tourist visas allow stays in Chile for 90 days as long as visitors are not undertaking paid work activities. A Tourist Card (Tarjeta de Turismo), issued on arrival, should always be carried. A fine must be paid if visitors overstay the time permitted by their visa or tourist card.

This card can sometimes be renewed at an additional fee for an additional 90 days when it nears its expiration date, and this can be arranged through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration (Departamento de Extranjería y Migración). Extending the visa is not a guarantee and is decided on a discretionary basis and shouldn't be relied upon. Expats should also be prepared for long queues and waiting times.

Citizens of many countries, including South Africa, the US, Canada and most of Europe are unlikely to need to apply for a visa for stays in Chile of up to 90 days. These visitors will need their passports on arrival, and they may need to show proof of funds for the duration of their stay and evidence of their scheduled departure date. Expats should note that some nationals, such as Australians, will need to pay a reciprocity fee in cash on arrival in Chile.

Nationals of many South American countries need only their national identity documents to enter Chile. Citizens of countries that are not visa-exempt should contact the Chilean embassy in their home country for visa application requirements.

Visitors who are not from visa-exempt countries will have to apply for a tourist visa, at least 30 days in advance. The required documents for obtaining a visa for Chile vary, but normally include a detailed travel itinerary of flights and accommodation as well as proof of funds to sustain the traveller during their stay. Minors travelling require additional documents.

It can take up to 20 days to process the application, after which the visa must be collected and paid for at the designated Chilean embassy. 

Up-to-date information on visas and visa fees can be found on the official Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration websites, Extranjeria in Spanish or Minrel in English, and contacting the nearest Chilean embassy is necessary.


Study visas for Chile

Foreign citizens who wish to study in Chile and are already enrolled in an educational institution must obtain a student resident visa.

Student visas are usually valid for one year, unless the duration of the course is shorter than that, though it can be renewed. Students with scholarships for Chile often get their visa validated for the duration that the scholarship allows. 

It is sometimes possible to work on a student visa if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration deems that the work is necessary to complete or fund the course.

Obtaining a student visa is usually done outside the country through the official Minrel website and at the nearest Chilean consulate. Those who reside in Chile, specifically in Santiago and Antofagasta, can usually apply via mail.

Foreigners on a student visa may be entitled to bring their spouse or dependent children, although they must apply for a separate visa, including additional documents and proof that all applicants will be financially covered during their stay and will not take up work.

The process can take some time although it does vary. Those hoping to study in Chile must contact the Chilean embassy and plan well in advance.


Residence visas for Chile

Foreigners who wish to stay in Chile for longer than 90 days must normally get a temporary residence permit. This applies to most applicants from visa-free countries.

Temporary Resident Visa

The Visa de Residencia Temporaria is intended for those who wish to travel the country to settle in Chile to seek work or to visit family members. This visa is valid for a year though it may be renewed. After that, expats should consider applying for permanent residence or leaving Chile.

There is an associated dependent visa for family members of the Temporary Resident Visa holder, but dependents on this visa are not allowed to work in Chile.

Permanent residence 

Getting Permanencia Definitiva allows foreigners to permanently settle in Chile and live and work with full rights of a Chilean citizen. This is normally for foreign citizens who have lived in Chile for some time and have held previous visas and work permits. Expats should review the official Extranjeria and Minrel websites as well as visit the Registro Civil or any ChileAtiende office to start the process and obtain a unique key to continue an online application.

Visa Subject to Contract

The Visa Sujeta a Contrato de Trabajo is a resident visa and type of work permit granted to foreign workers who have been hired from overseas and intend to live and work in Chile. It is usually valid for the length of an expat’s contract. 

The dependent visa linked to this is for the immediate family of the contract worker and holders of this type of dependent visa are not allowed to work while they live in Chile.

Working Holiday Visa

This visa is another type of work permit which allows nationals of certain countries to travel and study or work in Chile for a year or less. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Chile

Expats wishing to work in Chile will need a work permit. Getting a work permit for Chile is relatively straightforward and generally organised and sponsored through the hiring company. A work permit is therefore usually tied to an offer of employment and an official contract.

However, there are a few options for expats wanting to work in Chile without securing employment before their arrival.

They can enter Chile on a tourist visa and then look for employment and apply for a temporary residence permit. In some cases, those on a student visa may be authorised to work, provided they apply through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration. This is normally under a discretionary basis if the student needs funds to study or if the type of work is required by the course. 

Applications and all supporting documents for a work permit should be submitted to the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security if applying from within Chile, or to the relevant Chilean consulate if from outside the country. The hiring company must also meet certain requirements and show that the foreigner has skills that are indispensable to the development of the country.


Types of work permits in Chile

There are two main types of work permits available: a Visa Subject to Contract and a Work Holiday Visa. 

Visa Subject to Contract

This work permit hinges entirely on a contract with a Chilean employer. The permit is normally valid for up to two years, depending on the agreement between employer and employee as stipulated in the contract. After two years, the visa can then be renewed.

If living in Chile on a Visa Subject to Contract, the expat may bring dependants such as children or a spouse into the country, but these dependants will not automatically have the right to work in Chile. Dependants must go through the same visa application process, providing supporting documents to prove they are dependants. Chilean consulates help give the most up-to-date information on this.

If a contract ends or the employer changes, expats must obtain a new visa to remain in Chile. There is a 30-day allowance period in which to get a new visa.

Working Holiday Visa

This visa allows nationals of certain countries to travel and study or work in Chile for a year or less. These countries include Germany, Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. Nationals from countries that are part of the Pacific Alliance may apply for a similar visa. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 35.

This visa cannot normally be renewed and has several conditions attached. There are no simple allowances for dependants on this type of visa and Chilean authorities do not assist in the job search.


Registering work permits in Chile

When applying from outside the country, expats usually have 90 days to enter Chile once the work permit has been approved.

On arrival in Chile, these work permits must be registered with the Policía de Investigaciones (PDI) and a Chilean ID must be obtained and registered at the Civil Registry and Identification Service of Chile (Servicio de Registro Civil e Identificación de Chile).

Recently, an opportunity for a temporary electronic stamp (Estampado Provisorio Electrónico, EPE) has been introduced. This applies to expats in Chile with a residence permit but who did not receive a stamp in their passport or an ID document. They can follow online procedures through the official Minrel website to receive this temporary stamp.

*Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult the respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Chile

Expats will likely find the cost of living in Chile relatively affordable, and remarkably improved from just a year ago. That said, its political and economic stability still makes it one of the more expensive South American expat destinations, although prices fluctuate and vary around the country.

Expats moving to Chile's capital, Santiago, will find that the cost of living is reasonable. In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2020, Santiago had a ranking of 134 out of 209 countries, a big jump from its previous ranking of 79th. 

Attractive executive salaries are certainly a lure for many expats, but top management positions in multinational firms are highly coveted and competition steep. In some cases, expat packages are not as lucrative as they once were so those making the move should ensure that their salary is high enough to accommodate life in Chile.

Moving to a foreign country often means using a new currency and getting familiar with banking, money and taxes in that country. Here is a breakdown of costs in Chile.


Cost of accommodation in Chile

Chile boasts a range of accommodation options for expats, and even top-quality housing tends to be affordable when compared to other major destinations. Buying and renting prices in the country are among the cheapest in Latin America, and a construction boom yielding sleek skyscrapers and an array of housing developments mean that standards aren't sacrificed even in the face of lower costs.

There's also plenty of opportunities for young, single expats to negotiate incredibly cheap shared housing, either with a Chilean family or in a furnished space with other expats.


Cost of groceries in Chile

The cost of food in Chile registers as cheap on a global scale but more expensive than in neighbouring South American countries such as Peru and Argentina. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables from the large central markets is a great way to save money and to sample the local flavours. Supermarket prices are slightly higher, and eating out and buying imported food items can be costly.


Cost of transport in Chile

Chile prides itself on its urban infrastructure and its systems of public transport are well connected and affordable. The country's main modes of transit are buses and the metro, both of which are efficient, safe and economical. Taxis are more expensive and the drivers are notorious for overcharging foreigners, so expats should do their best to negotiate a reasonable fee or use a ride-hailing service that charges standardised rates.


Cost of schooling in Chile

Expats with children have a range of options for education and schools in Chile. Public schools in Chile tend to provide a lower standard of education than expats might be used to, and the curriculum is usually taught entirely in Spanish. Some parents prefer to send their children to Chilean private schools but fees for these institutions can be very expensive. Furthermore, they don't always live up to the promise of providing better standards of education than public schools. 

For many expats, international schools in Chile are the answer to this dilemma. These fees can also be astronomical, but it's often possible to negotiate an education allowance as part of an employment contract. 


Cost of living in Chile chart

Prices may vary across Chile, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Santiago in March 2021.

Accommodation

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CLP 340,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

CLP 305,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CLP 650,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

CLP 560,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

CLP 2,140

Milk (1 litre)

CLP 825

Rice (1kg)

CLP 1,020

Loaf of white bread

CLP 990

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CLP 3,800

Pack of cigarettes 

CLP 4,000

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CLP 5,000

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CLP 970

Cappuccino

CLP 2,260

Bottle of local beer

CLP 3,000

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

CLP 35,000

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

CLP 113

Internet (per month)

CLP 24,400

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CLP 113,000

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

CLP 1,000

Bus/train fare in the city centre

CLP 800

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

CLP 820

Culture Shock in Chile

Arguably one of the most developed countries in South America, Chile won't entail a tremendous degree of culture shock for expats. Most Chileans are welcoming and friendly, and familiar Western brands and food items are readily available for purchase, although prices may be unusually high due to import taxes.

That said, expats in Chile will need to familiarise themselves with several minor differences. Some of these nuances include the lack of concern with punctuality and the countrywide fascination with football. 


Meeting and greeting in Chile

Expat women in Chile may unexpectedly find themselves on the receiving end of many a kiss on the cheek. In Chile, this is a common way to greet a friend or acquaintance, meanwhile, men will generally shake hands. 


Language barrier in Chile

Spanish is the official language of Chile, with a few indigenous languages also spoken by small percentages of the population. The easiest way to adopt a Chilean lifestyle and overcome culture shock is to learn the language. Being able to converse in Spanish enriches everyday encounters and being fluent also attracts a greater range of employment opportunities within Chile and the surrounding region.

Chilean Spanish can be quite different from traditional European Spanish and this can easily throw off expats. The most noticeable differences are the heavy use of slang, the fast pace of talking, and the tendency to drop the letters "d" and "s" from words. These differences can often make a conversation hard to follow for new learners. Expats learning Spanish in preparation for moving to Chile can get a headstart by specifically learning Chilean Spanish rather than the global Spanish usually taught in language schools. 


Transport in Chile

While Chile's transport infrastructure is advanced relative to South American standards, using the country's roads requires a working knowledge of Spanish as all signs are in the local language. It's also important to brush up on Chilean road sign symbols as some are different from those in Europe and North America.


People and lifestyle in Chile

Latin Americans are often stereotyped as loud, vivacious, passionate and energetic people, and there is some truth to this perception. Chileans tend to lead very active lifestyles, which isn't surprising in a country with kilometres of beaches and plentiful ski slopes. 

Learning to balance an active social life with a busy work week is key to making the most of Chile as an expat. Meals are central to forming connections and, as such, they are quite big social events that often last into the early hours of the morning. With this potential for late nights, work tends to start later in the morning and the "lunch hour" is often on the long side.


Food and drinks in Chile

While mealtimes are important for social gatherings, what is eaten is also central to Chilean culture. Chilean cuisine will likely excite expats, ranging from hearty stews such as a cazuela – a stew with chicken, beef, corn, rice and potatoes – to more simplistic meals. Humitas are another typical Chilean dish of corn, often with onion and basil, wrapped in a corn husk and slowly cooked in a pot of boiling water. Expats who enjoy wine will have a grand old time in Chile as it is known for its world-class vineyards and wine varietals.

In general, new arrivals should prepare themselves for the sometimes copious amounts of food, whether at dinner parties or Chilean asados (barbecues).


Time in Chile

The pace of life in Chile can seem slower than in many Western countries. It is not uncommon for a Chilean business associate to arrive late for an appointment or meeting. Locals tend to spend their time interacting with people and family, rather than at a desk in front of a computer screen. This may mean Chilean colleagues take a while to get down to work and often put in overtime to finish their tasks. However, many expats moving to Chile adapt quickly and even find their new lifestyle a refreshing and exciting one.

Accommodation in Chile

Those hunting for a home in Chile have a wide variety of locations to consider. Being the world’s longest country stretching north to south, Chile’s climate and its topography are incredibly diverse, giving expats quite a bit of thinking to do before settling on an area of this beautiful South American country.

Chile boasts a broad array of accommodation options for expats, and even top-quality housing tends to be affordable when compared to other global expat hotspots. Unfortunately, as the country’s strong economy is attracting more and more people, housing demand is increasing – and prices along with it.

There is much debate over Chile’s real estate, with housing prices in some areas far exceeding many budgets, especially those of young people. New housing developments are constantly under construction, though, even if the size of these dwellings tend to be quite small.

That said, expats can easily navigate their accommodation searches, find the right home for them, and finalise a lease with the right guidance.


Types of accommodation in Chile

Expats will find accommodation in Chile in the form of apartments or houses (casas). Houses and cabins are more common in small towns and the countryside, whereas those living in urban areas tend to rent apartments. City dwellers also sometimes rent rooms in shared apartments, which is a bit easier on the pocket. Students, especially, often choose this option or, alternatively, they arrange for a home-stay through a university exchange programme, which allows them to reside in the home of a local Chilean.

To find the right home at the right price will require expats to do thorough research, especially if they're looking for accommodation during peak season in tourist areas and large cities. That said, rent is often negotiable.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Both furnished (amoblado) and unfurnished (sin muebles) options are available in Chilean cities. In either case, a full itinerary of the condition of furniture is important when agreeing on the lease.

Unfurnished apartments will come with limited furniture or appliances (usually ovens and hobs, sometimes light fittings and a couch or bed). It is often possible to negotiate for other appliances as well. Furnished apartments come fully stocked, often with necessary cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery, and even if they're charged at a higher rate, expats must consider that buying new furniture can be expensive, especially for a temporary stay.


Finding accommodation in Chile

Finding an apartment or house in Chile can be complicated if expats don’t speak Spanish and are conducting their search from abroad. It's therefore a good idea to solicit the services of a friend who already lives in Chile, a realtor or relocation company who can translate and assist in the house-hunt. 

Several rental agencies cater specifically to the expat community in Chile’s major cities, while relocation companies take it a step further, offering a comprehensive range of services that covers the whole moving process. These service providers make finding accommodation and moving much simpler, but far more costly.

Santiago’s daily newspapers generally have a property listing section, while many supermarkets have bulletin boards where properties for rent are advertised. Several online property portals such as CompartoDepto, Vivastreet and ACOP can be useful to get an idea of the property market and narrow one’s search based on the preference of price, location and property type. Social media networking via Facebook is also common.

It can be beneficial to search for accommodation after arriving in Chile. Many expats initially find temporary accommodation or a hotel before finding a more permanent option. Being in Chile means expats can also take a drive through areas that they like, looking for “se arrienda” signs.

Expats should do further research into locations, like in popular expat and tourist cities such as Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and, of course, areas and suburbs in Santiago. It’s important to consider the area where one chooses to live in Chile and its proximity to schools, shops, work and public transport links. Traffic congestion can be heavy in Santiago and other cities, so being close to certain amenities is an important factor to consider.


Renting accommodation in Chile

Leases

Rental agreements in Chile are either for an indefinite or a definite period. The more flexible leases allow tenants to leave after giving one month's notice. Leases with a definite period are generally for 12 months. Overall, expats may be able to negotiate shorter or longer rents with a flexible landlord. 

Depending on the landlord, expats may be required to have a Chilean guarantor to secure a rental contract. In most cases, an expat's employer will act as a guarantor, otherwise, a lawyer or relocation company can assist in explaining the contract. When a guarantor is required but expats are unable to find one, they can usually negotiate to pay a larger security deposit instead. 

Deposits

Rental agreements generally require a deposit of at least one month’s rent. A higher deposit may be required in some cases. Expats should always ensure the condition of the accommodation when securing the deposit and signing a lease.

Utilities

Utilities aren't often included in the rent and should be factored into the monthly budget. Water, gas and electricity are relatively expensive and as Chilean accommodation can lack insulation, heating can become costly during winter. In some complexes, water and other utilities may be included in the rent, although there may be additional fees such as maintenance costs if the complex has a swimming pool, and storage and parking spaces.

Healthcare in Chile

Under Chile’s Ministry of Health, the Superintendencia de Salud largely manages the country’s healthcare options. Healthcare in Chile consists of a mix of a public and private systems, including FONASA (Fondo Nacional de Salud), private insurance called ISAPRES and alternative specialised insurance programmes such as those for the Armed Forces. 

Expats can expect affordable and high-quality medical treatment from both sectors. That said, the quality of healthcare in Chile tends to vary regionally, with modern equipment and facilities available in Santiago and other major cities, but significantly less so in smaller towns and rural areas.


Public healthcare in Chile

Chilean nationals and legal residents have access to free and subsidised public healthcare. This is managed through the government-run FONASA scheme with additional cover via privately run health insurers. 

FONASA is publicly funded through a deduction from employees’ monthly income and those who are unemployed may be eligible to a grant. There are also several other government offices providing niche services to the healthcare market, such as Primary Health Organisations. 

Government hospitals are required to provide free healthcare to members of the population who do not have healthcare coverage. However, the facilities available are not usually as sophisticated as those found in private healthcare facilities. 

State hospitals can be crowded, and while they do offer an acceptable quality of care, private hospitals are more likely to offer the standard of care that expats will be accustomed to. 


Private healthcare in Chile

Most expats won’t have access to free public healthcare benefits unless they have residency and pay taxes in Chile. 

Most doctors in the private and public sectors alike are well trained, many of them educated overseas and able to speak English. Patients do not need a referral to see a specialist and expats may find that the concept of a local General Practitioner in Chile is not that common, as most doctors specialise in a particular aspect of medicine.

Chile has one of the best healthcare systems in South America, offering especially high-quality private care. Several hospitals in Santiago are recognised internationally.


Health insurance in Chile

Public health insurance is administered by the Chilean government and is available through the FONASA.

Various private health insurance companies in Chile allow members access to private healthcare. These are popular among expats who don’t qualify for FONASA and are called ISAPRE (Instituciones de Salud Previsional).

Because each ISAPRE covers different plans, families, single individuals and couples are likely to choose different ones and should do their research. Banmédica, Colmena Golden Cross and Ferrosalud are some of these ISAPRES.

There are also large foreign-owned health insurance providers that operate internationally such as Cigna and Bupa who can be consulted.


Pharmacies in Chile

It is not difficult to find pharmacies in Chile, and many of them are open 24 hours a day. Pharmacists are usually well trained and speak English. 

Many drugs that may require a prescription elsewhere are available over the counter in Chile, but these should only be taken with proper medical advice.

Expats should be sure to note down the generic names of any prescription medication they may be taking, as brand names tend to vary from country to country. When travelling with prescription medication, especially in large quantities, it’s better to be safe than sorry: clearly label all medication and carry a signed doctor’s certificate and prescription.


Health hazards in Chile

Expats can rest assured that Chile has few health hazards and those that are present are generally well controlled. 

Tap water is generally safe to drink, but expats should exercise caution in very remote or rural areas. On arrival, expats may experience a bout of travellers’ sickness but this is quite normal and is simply the body adjusting to unfamiliar food and water.

When travelling around Chile, necessary precautions should also be taken against mosquitoes.

Earthquakes

Expats should be aware of the risk of earthquakes in Chile and research recommended safety procedures in case of one. Information on this is given by national and local authorities as well as large international organisations. Fortunately, building regulations mean that structures are well-designed to withstand seismic activity.

Air pollution

Santiago is known to have major pollution issues, especially in the winter months of June through September. This can cause both eye irritation and respiratory problems, and expats are strongly advised to seek medical care if issues arise.


Pre-travel vaccinations for Chile

Expats should consult a doctor or travel clinic before relocating to Chile for the most up-to-date information regarding possible health risks. 

While there aren't any specifically required vaccines, some are still recommended. Apart from routine vaccinations such as polio and measles-mumps-rubella, new arrivals are advised to be vaccinated for hepatitis A, B, rabies and typhoid. 


Emergency services in Chile

Most hospitals in Chile have emergency facilities and ambulances available. Expats should be aware that not all emergency facilities are operational 24 hours a day. 

Upon arrival at a medical facility, the ISAPRE and insurance provider should be contacted.

Medical air evacuation within and from Chile is possible but can be expensive. It is recommended that new arrivals have additional travel and health insurance to cover the cost of air evacuation from Chile in the event of any serious emergency.

In the case of a medical emergency, dial 131.

Education and Schools in Chile

Expat parents have a multitude of decisions to make during the relocation process, not least of which is the crucial decision regarding schools. There is no ‘one size fits all’ school that can meet all the needs of every child and family so it is worth exploring various options.


Public schools in Chile

There are several levels of schooling in Chile:

  • Preschool: 85 days old to age five
  • Primary school (enseñanza básica): from age six to 14
  • Secondary school (enseñanza media): from age 15 to 18

Children entering secondary school in Chile choose from two main options. One possibility is technical/professional-based education that prepares students directly for the working world with practical studies. The alternative is scientific/humanities-based studies where students select either subjects of physical science (such as physics, chemistry and biology) or humanities (such as language and history). These schools prepare students for further tertiary education.

Public primary schools are free though secondary schools may charge a small fee for the admission process and monthly tuition. Some parents may voluntarily contribute to their child’s tuition and school as part of a specific programme. There are movements to reduce fees and recent years have also seen public universities with free tuition.

Unfortunately, public schools cannot guarantee quality, which means many expats, especially those who are staying short-term or do not speak Spanish, go a different route. Expats face a language barrier as public schooling is in Spanish and often teachers will have a poor grasp of English. Young students who speak second-language Spanish may still find integrating into public schools a challenge, which means parents are drawn to private and international schools.


Private schools in Chile

A large disparity exists between the quality of public and private education in Chile. As a country that prides itself on growth and development, the low standard of state-sponsored education remains a sore point. Many private schools receive a state subsidy as well as privately funding and they normally offer better quality resources and teaching facilities. 

Many Chilean locals and foreign families lean toward private schools which are a good option for expat families who anticipate a long-term stay in the country or can't afford the hefty price tag attached to international schools

Private institutions tend to have some form of a religious foundation, so expats will need to keep this in mind. Some of these schools also require that students and their families practise the delegated faith to be granted admission.

While there are some bilingual private schools, the teaching language in secondary schools is Spanish. If students are planning to attend university outside of Chile, it may be worth considering one of the country's reputable international schools. 


International schools in Chile

International schools in Chile offer an assortment of home-country curricula and teaching languages. Many of these schools boast bilingual programmes and expats from all over the world can take their pick. These schools tend to have a multicultural student body, a broader selection of extra-curricular activities and better facilities than public schools. Most international schools are located in Santiago, but expats can find a few options scattered outside of this commercial centre such as in Coquimbo, Antofagasta and Puerto Montt.

International schools tend to be expensive, so expats must try their best to negotiate some sort of education allowance into their contract before agreeing to relocate. Fees vary depending on the school and the age of the child, with the most expensive bodies costing more than some university tuitions.

Space can be scarce in the more prestigious international schools in Chile (such as Nido de Aguilas, Santiago College and The Grange School), so the further in advance parents start the admission process, the better. The enrolment process can be intense, even for younger students who may have admittance tests and interviews. Often, parents need proof of their child's academic results, notarised and legalised at the Chilean consulate. Schools should be contacted directly to find out their specific criteria.


Special needs education in Chile

Special needs education is pushing to become inclusive in both public and private sectors. Many schools can support learning disabilities, psychological and behavioural problems. Headteachers hire specialists to provide 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 present varying levels of learning support to children with disabilities. Some support minor learning disabilities, helping with reading, maths and language. However, parents should contact and meet with the school body to find out how much support can be given.


Homeschooling in Chile

Homeschooling is legal in Chile and a fair number of parents prefer this route. Parents may find that their children don’t work well at school, facing long days, few extra-curricular activities and little specialised attention. Many parents cannot afford international school fees or do not have employment packages that allow for tuition, and so there is much pressure on them to provide an education for their children. Homeschooling is a great alternative to mainstream instruction and many middle and upper-class families do so, guided by Chile’s national curriculum and textbooks, online resources or international curricula.

There are no specific laws that guide homeschooling, although parents may need to take a validation test to prove they are capable of educating their children and they 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 Chile

In Chile, children can attend preschool from as young as 85 days old. Enrolment and attendance in Chilean nurseries are high as many parents seek help with care during the day and wish to stimulate their child’s early development, allowing them to socialise and prepare for primary school. There are many options for bilingual nurseries, especially in large cities, and several international schools also cater to daycare and preschool opportunities.


Tutors in Chile

Expats who want some extra classes to help with schoolwork or learn some Spanish to better integrate into their new homes can easily find tutors to help them. Networking is one easy way to do this, talking with other parents, families and schools is an easy way to make connections. Online portals can also be useful, such as Apprentus.

Tutors are a great benefit alongside traditional schooling, for extra guidance when homeschooling, or during exam time, and expat parents should discuss this opportunity with their children if it seems necessary.

Transport and Driving in Chile

With a reliable and developed transport system, getting around Chile is easy and inexpensive. Santiago and Valparaíso have efficient metro systems while buses and trains link all major towns and cities. Seeing as Chile is a thin but quite long strip of land, air travel is also a popular means of transport.


Public transport in Chile

Prices for public transport are relatively low and those who make use of regular public transport in Santiago use a bip! card, which makes purchasing tickets and travelling by bus, metro and Metrotren Nos exceptionally convenient. The website, Red, is a useful reference for up-to-date information, although expats should note that the website itself is only in Spanish.

Buses

The most popular way to travel between cities in Chile is by bus. Long-distance buses connect all major destinations, from cities to small villages. Several bus companies offer efficient, clean and comfortable services across the country, and a selection of international bus services connect Chile to its South American neighbours. Turbus and Pullman Bus are coach services that cover much of Chile.

Fares for bus travel differ depending on the class of the bus. Because bus travel is the norm, companies have competitive rates and promotions. Many offer air-conditioning, comfortable seats and amenities such as on-board screens to watch films, WiFi and meal services. Others offer regular stops for restaurant- and restroom breaks.

Most Chilean towns have a central bus terminal and Santiago is the main bus hub with several bus terminals.

For travelling domestically and around cities and towns, buses are convenient and often can be flagged from the street. For new arrivals who are lost or unsure of the bus direction, don’t be shy to ask the driver if it’s the right bus.

Trains

Trains used to play an important role in Chile’s transport system, but services are limited nowadays and no longer the most popular means of travel around the country. Chile’s railways are operated by the state-owned Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE). 

Train travel is generally limited to the central regions of the country although there are some routes to neighbouring countries, offering transport for tourists and travellers. 

In Santiago, the Metrotren Nos, a subsidiary of EFE, is a combination of the metro and train. It is part of the city’s integrated public transport network and makes getting around easier.

Metro

Santiago and Valparaíso have metro systems. The metro in Santiago is the most convenient and cost-effective way of getting around the city but congestion is common at peak times. The price for a trip on the metro is low and includes transfers.

Although the subway is relatively safe, it's important to stay vigilant as pickpocketing may occur, especially when the metro is packed with people. 


Ride-sharing services and taxis in Chile

Taxis are plentiful in Chile’s major cities. They can be identified by their black exterior and yellow roof and can be hailed on the street or called ahead. Most taxis have a meter but passengers must make sure that the driver uses it, otherwise, it’s best to agree on a fare beforehand.

Colectivos, a combination of a microbus and a taxi, offer shared taxi services in towns and cities in Chile. These taxis 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 and mobile applications are readily available in most urban centres. These are a good option for expats who cannot speak the local language as they provide a convenient means of directing the driver without risk of miscommunication. 


Driving in Chile

Cars give greater freedom for travel, especially for those who like to explore or need to travel outside of main cities.

Chile has a good road network although some of the more remote roads and mountain passes may be in disrepair. Highways connecting towns and cities are called rutas nacionales and are identified by numbers. The Pan-American Highway is a fantastic route that spans across the Americas. Route 5, or Ruta 5, is part of this highway and is Chile’s longest route.

Cars in Chile drive on the right-hand side of the road. Chilean roads are relatively easy to navigate, although road signs are in Spanish. Several inter-city roads are tolled, mainly along Ruta 5. Tolls may not take credit cards, so it’s best to have cash on hand when driving across the country.

On top of traffic and difficulty finding parking in large cities, vehicle safety is a concern and drivers must not leave valuables in their cars.

Foreigners intending to drive in Chile must have an international driver's permit as well as a valid driver's licence from their home country. After obtaining residency, expats are required to apply for a Chilean driver's licence.

Renting, shipping or buying a car

Short-term rental cars can be worthwhile and come with insurance, although many rental agencies have a minimum age limit, restricting those under 25 years of age or charging them a higher fee. Well-known international car rental services including Hertz and Avis operate in Chile but local agencies may offer cheaper rates.

Expats can also ship their car or motorcycle to Chile, although this is an expensive option.

Alternatively, many individuals who stay for several months purchase a cheap, used vehicle, if it is in a suitable condition and is possible to resell afterwards. This option is generally affordable but can be risky and the bureaucracy involved is time-consuming.


Cycling in Chile

In the past, cycling has been unpopular in Chile as the rising economic prosperity of the country saw a sharp increase in Chileans buying cars. Recently, locals have developed an enthusiasm for cycling and many cycle locally on a day-to-day basis. 

Transport infrastructure in Chile hasn't been able to keep up with this trend, though, and dedicated cycle lanes are few and far between – and those that do exist often end abruptly or are interrupted by lampposts or pedestrian sidewalks.

However, large cities are extending and developing their cycle paths to encourage this healthier way of getting around and reduce traffic. Because of the increased support and demand, bikes can also be rented from private companies in the city centres.

Many people cycle as part of their lifestyle for leisure, sport and adventure rather than for getting to and from work. Some cities, including Antofagasta, Santiago and Temuco, are involved in a project called CicloRecreoVía. Every Sunday, certain streets are closed off to cars allowing people to walk and cycle the streets as they wish. It has become quite popular and thousands of people get involved.


Air travel in Chile

Given the length of the country, long-distance travel in Chile is often easiest by air, particularly if travelling to the far south of the country. 

While air travel saves time, it does not save money. Extra fees are often hidden and overlooked. Airports are located outside of city centres and transport to and from them by taxi can be pricey, while baggage fees also add up. That said, budget airlines frequently offer promotions.

Several domestic airlines operate in Chile, including LATAM Airlines and Sky Airline. The main air hub in Chile is Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago.

It’s not advised to book domestic and international connection flights with little time in-between as flights may be delayed.


Boats in Chile

It’s possible to travel by ferry or cruise operators in Chile, and many are concentrated in the southern region of the country.

Travelling by boat is generally for tourist reasons to explore and experience something new. Boats can be slow so those choosing this option need to do their research on the company they choose to go with and their particular routes and look up reviews.


Walking in Chile

Walking around towns and cities in Chile is perfectly feasible and, of course, it’s free. Keep in mind that Santiago is like any other major city and so carrying valuables and walking alone especially at night should best be avoided. Booking a taxi in advance is the safest option to get around at night.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is a relatively common way of getting around, used by both locals or backpackers. Although this is free or relatively cheap, safety is never guaranteed when asking for a lift from strangers. Still, many travellers find lifts waiting on the side of the road and at large truck stops and petrol stations.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Chile

Although there are many pros of relocating to Chile, ease of banking and convenient financial services are unlikely to feature on that list. Expats are warned that banking in Chile is a complicated and often frustrating proposition. Expats may wish to seek advice from large accounting firms, tax specialists and relocation companies when starting to do business and dealing with money in Chile.


Money in Chile

The currency used in Chile is the Chilean Peso (CLP) which is subdivided into 100 centavos. However, centavo coins are no longer in circulation and prices are often rounded up to the nearest peso. CLP 1 and CLP 5 coins, although still in circulation, are no longer in production.

  • Notes: CLP 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 
     
  • Coins: CLP 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500

Money matters can be tricky, especially when dealing with a foreign currency. The Chilean Peso has a floating exchange rate and so the currency fluctuates daily. This can complicate currency conversions but luckily there are many ways and places to do this. Money can be exchanged at the airports, large hotels, ATMs and foreign exchange bureaux (casas de cambio). Expats should never exchange money with strangers on the street as this could lead to scams.

As Chile’s peso is not a major currency, banks are unlikely to supply it and if they do, the rate is likely to be high. Expats will probably find the best rates for getting the local currency in Chile at ATMs or casas de cambio.

Travellers’ cheques are often accepted at the casas de cambio although the exchange rate is not in favour of the person exchanging money.

Expats are advised to carry cash with them, especially in smaller denominations as change is hard to come by outside of large cities and tourist areas.


Banking in Chile

The banking system and economy of Chile are relatively stable. Many Chilean banks operate internationally and large foreign-owned international banks operate in the country. Major Chilean banks include Banco Santander-Chile, Banco Central de Chile, Banco del Estado de Chile and Itaú CorpBanca.

Of the foreign commercial banks, HSBC and Scotiabank have the largest presence in Chile along with JP Morgan Chase. Expats can open an account with one of these before leaving home and then open a linked local account after arriving in Chile.

Banking hours are short as Chilean banks are generally open from 9am to 2pm on week days only.

Opening a bank account

Opening a local bank account in Chile is extremely difficult. Many banks will only allow expats to open a local account once they've had Chilean residency for some time and even then, it isn't a straightforward process.

What complicates opening a checking account (cuenta corriente) is all the requirements: a large income, a good credit history to prove that debts can be repaid, and a permanent contract proving that the person has worked and lived in Chile for several months. 

An alternative is getting a CuentaRUT through Banco del Estado de Chile which is a debit account allowing all basic payments and withdrawals. Setting it up is fairly simple and can be done online. However, the account is limited and doesn't allow for online services, which require credit cards. Expats also need to have a valid Chilean ID card number and tax number (RUT).

Expats should seek the help of banking relationship managers and advisors, although finding a good advisor may prove difficult and best acquired through networking. However, this may be the best route, as many expats are hesitant to go through the bureaucratic nightmare of opening a local bank account alone, and the help of an experienced local advisor could ease the process considerably.

Alternatively, expats could have their salaries paid into their overseas bank accounts and access their money using foreign debit or credit cards. Expats who want to take this approach must ensure that they inform their bank before leaving home, and that they take at least two or three working ATM cards with them to Chile in case of loss or damage. 

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are widely available with multiple language options, even in the smallest Chilean towns. These typically operate on a 24-hour basis and accept all major bank cards. Credit cards are also widely accepted throughout Chile.

Although Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are accepted, especially in large cities, fees for card payments can be charged at high rates. Expats should contact their bank to check their rates on ATM withdrawals and card payments as there may be reduced rates.


Taxes in Chile

When moving to Chile, expats must get a Chilean tax number, the RUT (Rol Único Tributario). They do this when registering with Chile’s internal tax service, the Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII). The process will be challenging for expats who do not speak Spanish as the website and administration is largely in Spanish. 

However, networking and finding a suitable advisor and translator is helpful. Expats can also seek advice from large accounting firms such as KPMG for specific information.

In terms of tax, a foreigner is considered a resident if they have been living in Chile either for six consecutive months or six months over two consecutive financial years.

Expats will not usually be taxed on their worldwide income for the first three years that they are residents of Chile, but they will be taxed on the income they earn from Chilean sources on a progressive scale from zero to 35 percent.

After three years of residency in Chile, expats are taxed on their worldwide income. However, Chile has double-taxation avoidance agreements in place with many countries, so expats from these places will not be taxed on the same income twice.

When leaving Chile, expats do not have any formal requirements for tax compliance and so those staying short term are unlikely to face setbacks.

*Tax regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to seek the assistance and advice of a professional tax consultant.

Expat Experiences in Chile

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Chile and would like to share your story. 


Nina grew up in the UK and has lived in many countries before moving to Chile. She's mother to three young children and writes about expat life for magazines and on her blog. Read her interview for more information on safety and what schools are like in Santiago.

The Expater

Karim Coumine is a British expat living in Santiago, Chile. He has been living in the city since 2012, and shares his insights into how best to adapt to expat life in Chile. Read his interview for more information on the local business culture and how best to meet people and make friends in Santiago.

Karim

A native of Brittany, France, Jérémie quickly realized that working abroad could bring him a lot more opportunities. He's been living and working in cities like Stockholm, Belfast, London, New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai, to name a few. Right now he's in Santiago, Chile, where Expat Arrivals caught up with him for an interview about expat life in Chile.

jeremie

Sarah is from New Jersey, USA, and was a volunteer English teacher when she first arrived in Chile. Now she teaches English at a language school in La Serena. She loves yoga and cats and writes about coming to terms with Chile on her blog. Read about her experiences as an expat in Chile.

Sarah

Anna Nowak is a psychologist and avid traveller originally from Poland and currently living in Chile. Having lived as an expat in various countries over the last 12 years, she is a true global citizen. Read more about her expat life in Chile.

Vanessa Munro followed her boyfriend to his home country of Chile and has only been there for a few months. She tells us about the challenges of adjusting to a new country, especially when you don't really know the language. Read more about her expat life in Chile.

Noëlle has lived in Santiago with her Chilean husband for more than a decade. She loves her expat life in Chile, and busies herself with teaching private English classes and doing market research on a freelance basis. Noëlle says that the job market in Chile is tough for foreigners to break into, and adds that a crucial part of enjoying living in the country is to learn the language. Read more about her expat life in Santiago.

Jenny is an American expat living in Chile’s capital, Santiago. Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Chile to take up a position as an ESL/EFL instructor in 2010. Besides the long work hours and the absence of family, Jenny is enjoying her expat experience in Chile and offers some great advice to other expats considering a move to this South American country. Read more about her expat life in Santiago.

Phoenix Zerin is an American expat living in Chile. He initially moved to Santiago as part of a five-year plan to experience life abroad. For now, he calls this South American county his home, but over the next few years, he also plans to explore life in Asia and Eastern Europe. Read more about his expat experience in Chile.

Sarai is an American expat who is married to a Chilean man and living in Puente Alto, at the foot of the Andes, with their five children. Sarai absolutely loves Chile, is excited about the future, and believes she has found her heart and home here. Read about her expat experience in Chile.

Annje, an American expat living in Chile, left home with her husband to resettle in the slender land of sea and mountains. Having spent four years in Santiago prior to this relocation, she shares some valuable insight based on her expat experience in Chile.