Is it expensive to live in Santiago de Chile? In a word: yes. OK, so prices aren’t anything like Switzerland, Angola or Japan, but salaries aren’t either.
We love it here in Santiago de Chile. It’s great for small kids, the climate is fantastic and I adore the laid back vibe. But the quality of life doesn’t match other expat destinations in terms of finances alone.
Working out your cost of living
Sure, the cost of living is very personal and depends on many factors. Does your employment offer free, fully comprehensive healthcare for you and your family? Would your children be happy at a Spanish speaking school or do they need bilingual education? Does your employer cover rental costs in a typical expat neighbourhood? What about your transport? Do you have a company car at your disposal?
For anyone considering the move, here is a (very) rough breakdown of some of costs we’ve come across here in Santiago de Chile.
Living costs vary according to the amenities on offer, the neighbourhood and the quality of the furnishings, but as a rough guide: if you’re a professional couple, expect to pay at least 1,000,000 CLP per month to rent an apartment in the expat friendly districts of Las Condes, El Golf or Vitacura as well as in the suburban hangs outs of Los Trapenses and Lo Barnechea. For a three or four bedroom apartment in the same areas, you can reckon with a monthly cost of around 1,500,000 – 2,000,000 CLP. For a house in Vitacura, you can expect to pay more.
On top of this you’ll need to add on monthly maintenance costs from around 200,000 to 500,000 CLP.
Even if you go for a house, you can still reckon with local taxes. You might also want to add on the cost of a pool guy, gardening help and security maintenance, depending on your situation.
For more on apartment hunting, see here.
A lot of groceries, even some quite basic produce, are imported from afar, so you can expect to pay more than in the US and Europe. Whether you’re shopping in the expat fave supermarket, Jumbo, or at your local market, you can still expect to pay a decent chunk of your salary in food.
We’re a family of five (with three kids under four) and we spend about $80,000 CLP per week on groceries, and an additional $30,000 CLP on fruit and vegetables.
We have a son who suffers from allergies and I don’t eat dairy, so we do spend more than ‘normal’ on specialist groceries (fortified oat milk, dairy free cheese etc). For more on where I get my groceries, see here.
Education and childcare
The typical salary of a live in or live out nana (maid cum nanny) is around $400,000 – 600,000 CLP per month based on a five day, maximum 40 hour week. Then you need to add onto this social security (around 25% of salary, additional) and transport costs (around $50,000 CLP).
As for nurseries, we spend around $780,000 CLP per month for our two children to attend full time. While we drop our kids off later and pick them up much earlier, they are entitled to stay from 7.30am to 6pm.
As for schools… expect to pay an initial sign up fee of around $4-10,000 USD then on top of this monthly fees from around 350,000 to around 500,000 CLP depending on the school and the child’s age. Some schools, such as the infamously pricey Nido de Aguilas charge more.
(When I last checked the Nido charged a $200 USD annual admission fee, a $14,450 USD one off incorporation fee, a $1,000 USD annual registration fee, along with the $10 – 20,000 USD annual fees depending on the age of the child).
On top of this there are parent association fees, compulsory activity fees, class fees, uniforms… Education in Chile might not be the best, but it is certainly one of the most expensive!
For more on schools in Santiago, see here.
We have a gas guzzling monster of a family station wagon and we pay around $70,000 CLP every ten days to get us around Santiago. Petrol is currently around 800 -850 CLP per litre.
Dinner and drinks
There’s a fantastic expat community here in Santiago, and it’s really easy to meet locals too, so you can expect a lot of dinner parties, barbecues and going out.
To be honest, I’ve often been rather disappointed with the dining out options in Santiago. Sure we’ve had some great meals (040 Restaurante was a highlight), but you really need to do your research. Expect to pay around $30,000 – $50,000 for an average dinner for two with house wine.
Flight costs jump around Christmas time but a round trip from Santiago to Europe will set you back around $700- 1,000 USD per economy class ticket. Expect to pay around $3,000 – 4,500 USD to fly business.
I’d strongly warn against relocating to Chile without a really comprehensive health insurance package.
The Fondo Nacional de Salud, also known as FONASA, is the state health system. It is funded by the public (7% of employees’ monthly income). Private insurers go by the name Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPREs).
All expats I know have ISAPRE plans, not only because they wouldn’t qualify for public insurance, but also because the quality of care in private clinics tends to be better.
There are 12 ISAPREs, some of which are dedicated to specific companies (e.g. for mining company employees only). The cost of the plans depends on your age, the size of your family and where you live. Here is a handy tool for comparing plans.
As for clothing, I find prices roughly the same as in Europe, albeit with more limited choice. I’d say electronics work out a little more expensive and furniture a lot more expensive compared to Europe. Don’t even get me started on the price on books (shockingly, even children’s books are taxed).
Thankfully, there is however a thriving second hand market within the Santiago expat community which is especially useful for the stuff which you just can’t find on the shelves here.
And finally, beauty essentials are on a par with European prices. A decent manicure will set you back around $10,000 – 15,000 CLP; eyebrow threading and waxing around the same price.