What should I pack when moving to Chile?

Lots of people moving to Chile ask what to stock up on before their big move. While it’s silly to go overboard and it’s always wise to check the country’s import regulations, there are still items my friends and I wish we’d packed before we came.

I did compile a list of items to pack before any expat move, but Chile is a world unto its own so I thought to add a post specifically relating to my new host country.

Don’t panic though – Chile is a very, very developed place compared to many others I’ve lived in; you won’t go short for any essentials here.

Santiago, Chile

English language books – books are readily available here of course, but alas Chile charges one of the highest VAT rates on books in world. I’d recommend stocking up on English language books for kids, and especially hard back versions for toddlers.

Medicines – again Chile is a developed country so don’t panic, but if you use any specialist meds, you might like to check the expiry date and invest before you fly. Calpol should be top of the list of any English parent making the move.

Vitamins and supplements – these come at a ridiculous price here in Chile so I stocked up on calcium, multi vitamins and vitamin C beforehand.

Specialist skincare and cosmetics – MAC, YSL, Urban Decay and all the other big names are here. For anything vegan or specialist (anti-pollution, free from animal testing…) you’ll have to search a lot, lot harder. Doterra essential oils are not yet available in Chile.

Specialist or foreign foods – while most products are available here, they’re generally priced at a premium. Some items, like really good aged balsamic vinegar, real vanilla pods and proper cinnamon are near impossible to find, and every week that I get through a pot of tahini, peanut butter or Indian spices I nearly have a heart attack when I see the price. Thankfully, Latin American goodies such as chia seeds, quinoa and acai berries are roughly the same price or cheaper than in other parts of the world. In any case Chile has very strict import regulations so check here for more info on food items you can and cannot bring into the country.

Air purifiers – pollution sure is a problem here in Santiago, with many Expaters listing smog as the main motivation for their move away. The air is infamously dry too, with many friends investing in humidifiers. Good quality, HEPA certified purifiers can be tricky to find or very expensive in comparison to US or European prices.

Sanitary wear – I seem to have been pregnant for most of my life so I’m a little out of touch, but all my girlfriends moan just how ridiculous the prices for tampons and sanitary towels are.

Nappies – why oh why do nappies cost so much here I’ll never know. A 40 pack of good quality branded nappies will set you back nearly £10 GBP / $13 USD. Potty training suddenly seems more of a priority here in Chile.

Bed linen and other bedding – bedding comes in all sizes in every different country. I resort to Laura Ashley which is the only brand I know of which sells good quality bedding in UK sizes. Here in Chile a loose sheet is always used under the duvet, but without a duvet cover. Single duvets are wider than standard UK width, duvets are often printed hideous colours and Scandinavian style mattress toppers used to firm up the bed simply do not exist.

Children’s toys – Chileans sure do spoil their kids so you can expect to find all sorts of toys and games for children, but at a premium. You may have to forego your next holiday if you want to buy your kid some Lego here.

Christmas trees – I’m not a fan of stocking up on holiday decorations out of season, but I have been warned that artificial Christmas trees are stupidly expensive here in Santiago. Bah humbug!

Baking extras – I’m a terrible cook, but my domestic goddess buddies tell me that the baking paper and cling film here in Chile suck. (Or rather the cling film doesn’t suck at all, it just goes limp).

Pregnancy and maternity wear – mummy to be clothing seems rather limited to the main chain stores such as Zara. I did find a couple of boutiques here but boy were they frumpy! Thankfully I’d splurged on some Isabelle Oliver beforehand.

Are you moving to Chile? Leave a comment below if you have any more queries. If you’re a US citizen moving to Chile, read this top tips from a US liaison officer. Moving to Santiago? You can download my directory of all the places I love here

Santiago directory for expats


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