Cost of Living in Santiago, Chile
Chile uses the Chilean Peso (CLP) as its currency. All prices have been converted into U.S. dollars. At the time of conversion (August, 2012) one U.S. dollar equaled 432 CLP. For real-time rates use our Currency Calculator.
Cabs: Cabs are easy to find and pretty cheap. They start at 250 CLP (51 cents) and go up in 100 CLP (20 cents) increments, but do make sure the meter’s on, especially at night and if you’re obviously foreign as they may try to overcharge you.
The metro is modern, easy to use and covers Santiago’s main tourist areas. You can buy single tickets – prices vary from 560 CLP ($1 USD) to 670 CLP ($1.38 USD) based on time of day (rush hour being the most expensive) – or a prepaid card.
This card is also good for local buses, known as micros, which go everywhere in the city. Bus rides cost $590 and within a two hour timeframe transfers between two buses or bus and metro are included in the cost of a single ride.
Bus: There are two main bus stations right next to each other outside the Universidad de Santiago metro stop. Buses in Chile go just about everywhere and range from perfectly comfortable charter buses to full-on luxury buses that look like business class on wheels.
Long rides usually include food, although packing your own is never a bad idea. Buses also go to international destinations like nearby Mendoza, Argentina (6 hours) and even places as far-flung as cities in Peru and Brazil.
Rental Cars: Santiago has outposts of the main international rental car agencies, but I wouldn’t suggest renting a car unless you’re heading out of the city. Traffic and hard-to-find parking make cabs a better bet.
Editor’s Note: The prices below are not ‘budget travelers’ prices but normal, comfortable couple/family budgets. A single person living on the outskirts of town could find lower cost accomodation.
House Rental: Rents are on the rise in Santiago as the economy is booming. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of 700.000 CLP ($1,450 USD) per month for a 2-bedroom house in the residential yet central neighborhood of Providencia.
You can cut your costs by living in Santiago Centro, the busier downtown area, or Ñuñoa, a residential area that’s still close but just a bit farther from the action. Prices increase as you head toward the mountains in the neighborhoods of Las Condes and Vitacura.
Apartment Rental: Apartments are significantly less expensive, with a 2-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood running around 300.000 CLP ($622 USD) per month.
Furnished apartments are available, but that same 2-bedroom in Providencia will run you more like 450.000 CLP ($900 USD) per month if it’s furnished.
Aparthotel style rentals run around 60.000 CLP ($140 USD) per day, although many offer discounts for longer stays. Again, downtown Santiago will offer lower prices – along the lines of 300.00 CLP ($630 USD) per month or 30.000 CLP ($70 USD) per day.
Food Costs & Grocery Store Items
Santiago’s main supermarket chains are Lider, Santa Isabel and Jumbo. The latter two are owned by the same company, with Santa Isabel being the normal sized grocery store and Jumbo being a giant warehouse with just about everything you could imagine.
Jumbo is your spot for imported products. Not to be outdone, Lider offers both the normal sized Express version and Hiper Lider, its version of the massive warehouse.
The imported product selection is increasing at Lider as well. Other competitors include Tottus and Unimarc grocery stores. Neighborhood mini-markets abound, although prices are often higher than at supermarkets due to the convenience factor.
Prices of Grocery Store Items:
|liter of milk = $1.35 USD||12 eggs = $3.10 USD|
|chicken breast (per kilo) = $8.30||toilet paper (4 rolls) = $3.31|
|rice (per kilo) = $1.50 USD||butter = $2.53|
|beef steak (per kilo) = $20.70||local cheese (per kilo) = $4.70|
|cheese (mantecoso per kilo) = $14.50||bottled water (2 litres) = 88 cents|
|ground beef (per kilo) = $10.36||Coca Cola (1.5 liter) = $1.97|
A Note about Cheese: Nicer/larger grocery stores carry “fancy” cheese like brie, camembert, chevre-style goat cheese, but in general cheeses in Chile are pretty mild without a huge selection.
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink here in Santiago. Produce is often better and always cheaper at ferias (outdoor markets in English). Find your nearest feria and the days of the week it runs by checking out www.feriaslibresdechile.cl.
Beer, Wine & Spirits
Beer: Heineken and Stella Artois are probably the most popular imported beers. Chile has some decent microbreweries including Kunstmann, Kross, Die M and Szot, among others.
For 6.000 CLP ($12.44 USD), you can get a 6 pack of quality microbrew or imported beer, 2.000 CLP ($4.15 USD) for the cheap stuff, 2.700 CLP ($5.60 USD) for something midrange.
Wine: Wine is cheap! A perfectly drinkable bottle can cost around 2.500 CLP ($5.18 USD).
Spirits: A liter of Stolichnaya costs 7.000 CLP ($14.51 USD), while the same of Absolut will set you back about 11.000 CLP ($22.50 USD) 750 mL of Bacardi Gold costs 5.500 CLP ($11.40 USD).
A “menú” at La Vega Central, the central fruit and vegetable market downtown, costs around 2.000 CLP ($4.15 USD). Can’t beat that price!
Many restaurants in Santiago Centro and Providencia offer fixed multi-course lunches for 3.000-5.000 CLP ($6.22-$10.36 USD). A nice dinner out for two with a drink each can cost around 20.000-25.000 CLP ($41-51 USD).
Despite Chile’s long coastline, seafood can be expensive. There are deals to be had at the Mercado Central, the central fish market, but focus on the restaurants around the outside rather than the overpriced Donde Augusto in the center.
Internet or T.V.
Cable and Internet are relatively expensive. The company VTR offers a TV/cable/phone bundle – cheaper than a no-phone plan – which costs 28.000 CLP ($58 USD) per month and includes Internet of up to 2Mbps.
If you want the English cable channels, however, you’ll have to spring for the 41.000 CLP ($85 USD) per month package which does up your Internet to 10Mbps and include unlimited local phone calls. Or you could go with Movistar for 35.000 CLP ($73 USD) per month but drop your Internet speed to 4Mbps.
Medical care in Chile is very good at private clinics like Santa María, Indisa, Las Condes and Alemana. Public healthcare is underfunded and often involves long waits.
The cost of a doctor’s visit ranges widely depending on where you go, but plan to spend 25.000 CLP ($52 USD) or more before insurance at a private clinic.
Many medications including birth control pills are available over the counter. Be aware that the morning after pill, although recently legalized in Chile, is often hard to find, and abortions are illegal. All medicines, even common OTC meds like aspirin, are sold only at pharmacies.
Expats should look into an Isapre (private health insurance) plan. Health care costs in Chile can be quite high, so good coverage can really help in the event of an emergency. Many private clinics also offer clinic-specific complementary insurance which can further reduce costs.
The cost of dental care in Chile varies widely depending on where you go. Many dentists require a free evaluation before all appointments, even if you only want a cleaning.
At that evaluation, you will be presented with a quote for all services to be performed, from x-rays to fluoride to the cleaning. Once you’ve paid for that, you can schedule your appointment. The appointment itself usually does not have a separate charge.
A cleaning can cost from 15.000-50.000 CLP ($32-100 USD), so it pays to shop around and ask for recommendations.
Montly Cost of Living
A single person living in a one-bedroom apartment in Santiago Centro, primarily shopping at ferias/buying local products, taking public transportation and generally being budget-conscious but still enjoying Santiago could live on $900 USD per month.
Emily is a Californian Brit living in Santiago with her Chilean husband and their former street dog. She shares her adventures in expat life and her travels at Don’t Call Me Gringa. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.