Cost of Living in Chile

By 03 November, 2011

Chile is certainly not one of the cheapest countries to live in South America, but it is definitely more affordable than many parts of Brazil. Over the last decade Chile’s economy has grown faster than South American on average, and with economic growth comes raised living standards and inevitably a rise in the cost of living.

In recent years economic growth has been driven by its rapidly expanding exports market and the output of the economy per person (GDP per capita) has risen by over a third since 2000.

During the last 5 years the Chilean peso has remained roughly at the same level against the dollar having risen sharply in 2008 and fallen back again throughout 2009. However, the appreciation of the Chilean peso has had a significant impact on the cost of living for ex-pats and tourists from the UK, especially over the last couple of years. In 2007, £1 would get you around 1,050 Chilean Pesos, but now will get you about 800 Chilean Pesos.

Food and Drink

One of the areas where there has been a big increase in prices is food and drink. This is illustrated in The Economist’s Big Mac Index, which compares the price of Big Mac’s across the world. The index rebases all prices to dollars making it easy to compare the price of a Big Mac in Chile (which is $4.00) to say the US ($4.07). When you account for GDP per capita, Chile has the fourth most expensive Big Mac in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.

Of course, you’re not going to Chile to eat Big Macs! Typical meals consist of lots of chicken and beef, rice and potatoes, fresh vegetables – which are mostly grown domestically. You may expect seafood to be common in Chile considering its long coast line but this is not the case. When restaurants serve fish it’s most likely to have been frozen.

Some Chilean specialities include:
Pastel de Choclo – corn casserole with meat stuffing
Empanadas – pastry filled with meat, cheese or mussels
Cazuela – homemade stew with beef, chicken, corn, rice and potatoes
Asado – barbecue of beef, pork or chicken
Reineta, Congrio, Corvina – the most typical fish
Locos – a rare type of mollusk
Jaiva – shrimp, crab
Centolla – king crab with tender meat of reddish color

Fruit and vegetables from markets and supermarkets are generally quite cheap (if grown locally) but the imported stuff – such as a can of coke – is just as expensive as in Europe and the US. A sandwich from a café is in the region of 1,500 pesos (£1.80, €2, $2.70) while a beer (0.5 ltr) is about the same cost. A meal at a restaurant – average quality – will be about 8,000 pesos (£9, €10, $15), so reasonable compared with Europe, although not cheap if you’re on a tight budget. As with all destinations in South America you will find the capital (Santiago) to the most expensive place to eat, and can always find good street food if you’re looking to cut down on costs.

Housing and Utilities

Renting a place is not cheap but cheaper than Brazil and Argentina on average. A budget/cheap room will set you back about 130,000 pesos, while if you’re intent on Western standards then it’s more likely to be about 200,000 pesos (£250, €270, $380) per month.

Xxtras like internet connection, cable TV and a new cell phone will also set you back. Internet connection will cost around 20,000 pesos (£25, €28, $40) per month with electricity around the same.

Entertainment / Going Out

Santiago is without doubt Chile’s cultural hub, with many theatres, art galleries and cinemas. Teatro Municipal even has an Opera season. Some of the best happenings take place in small cultural centers, off-theaters and clubs. Pubs present famous national musicians and on the whole, beer is reasonably priced – around 800 pesos.

Sounds and Colours have compiled a comprehensive guide to the cost of living in Chile to give you an idea of how far your money can stretch and guide you on average costs across the country:

Other articles in our Cost of Living series include Cost of Living in Argentina, Cost of Living in Bolivia and Cost of Living in Brazil

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