Information on Chile’s Cost of Living, Infrastructure, Climate, Residency, Health Care and Real Estate
Chile is modern, fully-developed, First World country boasting Latin America’s highest quality of living. In fact, throughout the Americas, only the United States and Canada are ranked higher. The country also boasts an incredible geographic diversity, running 2,650 miles from north to south and offering an astonishing array of climates and settings. From seaside resorts and small beach villages to mountains, lakes and forests, from wildlife to nightlife, the affordable lifestyle in Chile is hard to beat.
Chile is economically strong, politically stable, and loaded with opportunity. For anyone who wants to achieve individual sovereignty through international diversification, Chile should be high on your list.
Chile also offers an amazing lifestyle. Whether you’re seeking sophisticated city life; a home on the beach with a view of magnificent Pacific sunsets, mountains, lakes, and wildlife; or a skiing vacation in July—Chile will deliver.
Living in a central Santiago neighborhood, you could walk to everything you need—fine dining, international-standard shopping, cafes and galleries are all just blocks away from any center-city spot. On the other hand, you could escape the bustling, sophisticated city life and enjoy a high standard of living in any number of breathtaking locations around the country.
Cost Of Living In Chile
Live and Invest Overseas offers a monthly cost of living budget for our favorite destination in Chile:
Infrastructure In Chile
With its modern, four-lane highways, reliable communications, and high standard of living, Chile is one of the easiest transitions for North American expats in Latin America. If not completely First World, it is not far off.
Chile feels efficient, well-run, and safe. In Chile, utilities work, water is drinkable, buses leave on time, phone and Internet are fast and reliable (the systems are the most advanced in Latin America), highways are modern, fast, and well-maintained, you can enjoy modern and efficient public-transit, and you can stroll the streets without danger.
Chile is also well-served for flights with seven international airports receiving almost four million visitors each year.
In these key ways, Chile differs from the cliché of the Latin American nation that struggles with corruption, political instability and poverty. And apparently Chile has stood out in this respect for much of its history as a nation.
It’s also worth noting that as of May 1, 2014, Chileans can enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. This is a big deal. It means that, in the eyes of the U.S. government, Chile is sufficiently strong and economically successful, such that its citizens have no need to overstay their visa in order to eke out a living in the United States illegally.
Climate In Chile
Chile stretches across 38 degrees of latitude with climates ranging from desert to ice cap, making generalizations here impossible. Climates of Chile include Mediterranean, Alpine, tundra, desert, temperate, sub-tropical, and semi-arid.
Chile has a regional climate to suit any taste… The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth; Easter Island and Central Chile are balmy and comfortably warm year round; Zona Sur and northern Zona Austral are wet, windy, and cold year round; southern Zona Austral is the coldest part of South America and is known for its seasonal stability, it rains and snows quite a bit here, but average temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
Most regions of Chile do experience seasonal variation. Summer weather in most regions of Chile is generally great, with warm sunny days and cool nights, making this a good place to ride out the North American winter. If you’re looking for a retirement locale with four seasons, this is one of your best options.
Chile lies on the Ring of Fire, an area that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The horseshoe-shaped Ring of Fire runs up the Pacific coasts of North and South America, across the Bering Strait, and down the coast of Asia into the Pacific basin. Nearly all the world’s major earthquakes occur in this area. Most of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes are also here. The strongest earthquake in history struck in Valdivia, Chile in 1960.
The largest quakes in Chile since 1900 (which is as far back as accurate measurements go) have all occurred in southern Chile. There is at least one earthquake per year In Chile, on average. The last destructive tsunami was in 2010 and the last time an earthquake disrupted services was 2007.
If you are considering Chile, keep in mind that earthquakes are a fact of life here, just as they are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Alaska, or anyplace else on the Ring of Fire. And Chile’s construction standards offer you as much protection against quakes as you’re likely to find anywhere in the world.
As in any country weather depends on your region, perhaps more so in Chile than anywhere—and it pays to keep an eye on the forecast.
Chilean Summer: December to February
Chilean Fall: March to May
Chilean Winter: June to August
Residency In Chile
U.S. citizens may enter Chile without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip. If you wish to stay for longer than 90 days, you need to seek permission to remain in the country.
Chile offers one of the easiest residencies you’ll find; you can even apply by mail and no background check is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens.
It’s one of several countries where you need to hold a temporary residency first, before applying for permanent residency. The temporary residency visas are fairly easy to obtain because in the long run, their main purpose is to establish your track record before applying for permanent residency.
A temporary resident visa is issued for a period of one year, and it can only be renewed one time. (You can’t have been out of the country for more than 180 days.) After this two-year period, you must become a permanent resident or hit the road.
Chile offers two visas that are commonly used by expats:
Jubilados y rentistas: This visa is for retirees (jubilados) and those with income from abroad (rentistas). There is no specified requirement for income, although you must show that you can support yourself while in Chile.
Inversionistas y comerciantes: This visa is for investors, business people, and entrepreneurs. There are two sets of requirements: one for businesses that are still in the idea stage and the other for businesses that are up and running.
Visa-holders may work in Chile, although there will be specific registration requirements if you work in a regulated profession, such as a doctor, professional engineer, teacher, etc.
Dependents may come with the visa-holder if they are part of his or her immediate family, but they may not work for wages.
Both residency and tax obligations can be complex issues in Chile. Some of the rules are very detailed, with many exceptions. If you’re serious about living full- or part-time in Chile, you should consult a Chilean tax and immigration specialist; in the long run, it will be time and money well spent. And, be patient, especially with immigration issues. Chile has the advantage of being an honest rather than a corrupt country, but the down side is that the wheels of bureaucracy often move slowly.
Health Care In Chile
Health care in Chile is provided by the government and private insurers. Both sectors provide affordable, quality services. Public hospitals tend to have longer wait times and for this reason many expats opt to go private.
Patients do not need a referral to see a specialist and expats may find that the concept of a local family doctor in Chile is not that common, as most doctors specialize in a particular aspect of medicine. It’s therefore possible to visit a specialist without a referral first.
Real Estate In Chile
In Chile, real estate prices may be quoted in Chilean pesos, but more commonly you’ll see prices quoted in UFs. The UF—Unidad de Fomento—is a unit of account Chile originally created for pricing international secured loans. The exchange rate between the Chilean peso and the UF is adjusted to inflation so that the value of the UF remains constant. Today the UF is used in bank loans and other financing, construction, housing values and the like.
There are two property tax systems in Chile: agricultural and urban. Most residential properties fall under the urban system. However, if you buy a home in a rural area, it may fall under the agricultural system, which has slightly lower property taxes. Second, property taxes are based on the legal value of a property, which in many cases is lower than the market value.
Be aware than Chilean houses tend to be smaller—both overall, and also with more rooms packed into the square footage—than American homes are. You’ll need to be flexible on this point, too. If you need large rooms, you’ll probably have to trade off on some of your other criteria.
Real estate investors have enjoyed dependable capital gains in Chile’s major markets, such as Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaíso. Agricultural investors tend to focus on the Zona Central, which includes rural land both north and south of Santiago. This is Chile’s agricultural heartland. The region grows mostly berry and orchard fruits for the export market and grapes for wine. Fruit production is the fourth-place industry in Chile, with much of the output being grown for the North American market during the winter months.
Chile has no restriction on foreigners owning property.