Note: This post is not my best writing. But it is informational and straightforward. Enjoy.
D and I recently spent the entire month of April in Santiago, Chile (sigh..seems like so long ago already, and we really miss it). We chose to stay for a month mainly because the living costs were much more affordable for a longer stay (I’ll explain more below), and also to have a more in depth experience of the culture. I know you guys are all dying to know how much it costs to live for a month in Chile’s capital city, so here is a rough idea.
This guide summarizes all the costs for 2 people to live pretty comfortably in Santiago, Chile. Nothing is left out of here. We did not actively restrain our spending, though we did try to be budget conscious. We ate out just about every single meal, used the metro extensively, and took one small weekend trip to a nearby city. We did not take any big, more costly trips such as to Patagonia or Easter Island.
Ready? Let’s break it down!
We stayed in an airBnB rental only a couple of blocks from Plaza de Armas. I can’t recommend getting a vacation rental enough. It allows you the privacy of your own your space, while giving you the sense of a home. Many will also have a kitchen where you can cook meals, and thus save on eating out.
Our rental in this working class neighborhood was on the cheaper end. There were some problems with it, like the shower hot water only lasting a few minutes and no hot water at all in the kitchen (yeah, I know…#firstworldproblems). But the location couldn’t be any better (I also highly recommend staying in Santiago Centro for a short term visit), and it had set of gorgeous French doors opening out to a small patio overlooking the city.
Anyway, we got a good price on it mainly because it had a monthly discount. Without the deal, the rental was US$50/night, which should have been $1500/mo. But because the host offered a discount for staying for a longer period of time, our rental cost was only US$750 for one month, including a maid that came every Wednesday to clean up*. For reference, other comparable rentals in the area were around $1000. And even going up to $1500+ in the Providencia neighborhood.
$750 for one month comes out to be about $25 per day, for both of us. Compare this with about $40/night for a private room in a hostel.
Tip: If you’re booking through airBnB, make sure to look around a bit because a lot of renters will have a weekly or monthly price. But a lot also don’t offer any discounts.
*AirBnB requires that the host provide cleaning service for any stay over 7 days.
Apart from living, food always accounts for the largest expense while traveling, because well, you’ve gotta eat. And one of the most enjoyable things about travel is experiencing the local cuisine. We kept lunch pretty budget after discovering the little food stalls at the market (I talked about the dishes and prices here). There, we were able to have lunch for both of us for around US$10, including a jugo natural (or fresh juice).
We did have a few splurge meals in the more upscale neighborhoods, where a meal would cost between $30 – $40 for both of us. Mainly, those were in the pricier Bellavista or Providencia areas, where there are more international food choices. Anytime you vary from the local Chilean cuisine, the price goes up significantly.
We kept dinner pretty inexpensive most days. If we had a big lunch, we would just share one dish for dinner or grab empanadas from the corner store ($3 for both of us). We also cooked dinner a few times (see the groceries category below). But honestly, after we realized that we weren’t spending all that money on food, we weren’t as motivated to cook anymore.
We also treated ourselves to little daily splurges, like coffee, hot chocolate, ice cream, and cakes. As you can see, we did not really hold back in this department.
In general, here is what you can expect (on average, in $USD prices):
- Local food from fast food, stalls, and hole-in-the-wall type eateries: $5/person
- Trendy restaurants, international cuisine: $12-$18/person
- Coffee/tea/hot chocolate/juices in small cafes: $2
- Coffee/tea/hot chocolate/juices in restaurants: $3-$6
- Alcoholic drinks (like pisco sour) in restaurants: $7-$10
- Ice cream/gelato: $3
- Cakes/desserts: $3
In total, we spent $872 on dining out.
We did use the kitchen several times to cook, although not as much as we thought we would. And most of our groceries money went to fruits, as the local market had a lot of incredibly fresh fruits for sell. We made sure to eat something healthy by making a fruit salad everyday (D especially liked the pineapples, which are about $1.80 each).
The fruit is very inexpensive (like US$1 for a kilo). But be prepared to buy 1 kilo at a time. Fruits are sold by the kilo, and a lot of the vendors at the markets won’t let you buy any quantity less.
In total, we spent US$80 on groceries. Had we spent a little more here, the dining out expenses could have been significantly less. But no regrets at all.
Most of our transportation costs went to using the metro, which cost $620CLP each way each per person (or US$1.10).
A large chunk of this also went to the taxi rides to and from the airport. Upon landing at the Santiago airport (tired and confused), we foolishly went with one of the many men offering taxi rides, at, of course, inflated prices. The price from the airport to our rental was $30,000CLP (US$53). When it was time to go back to the airport on our last day, we arranged for a private cab to take us to the airport for only $20,000CLP (US$34).
Tip: You can book your airline transfer before even setting foot in Chile. That will save some money and guarantee that you get where you’re going safely. We used the private car service TransVIP.
In total, we spent US$177 on transportation costs.
The biggest expense in this category was a mini three-day trip to Valparaiso. Again, we stayed in an airBnB rental costing us $142US for the 2 nights.
Other expenses under this category include:
- Viña Concha y Toro winery tour: US$36 for both
- Local SIM cards: US$50, which ended up being a waste of money. We bought 2 nano-SIMs for our new iPhone’s, only to find out that the technology was too new for Chile and the SIMs were not compatible with our phones.
- Souvenirs and gifts: about US$100
- New pair of GAP jeans for D: US$55
- Misc. items like scissors, tweezers, toilet paper, etc.
In total, we spent US$404 in this category. Hmm… I would say that if we were really aiming for budget travel, then this area had the most room for improvement.
How we track our spendings:
We use the awesome app Trail Wallet (created by travel bloggers Never Ending Voyage). It’s seriously amazing. You can set categories, daily budgets, and make specific notes for each expense. The app will convert the currencies for you, and even update with the current exchange rate. It’s an extremely effective (and easy!) way of keeping track of your expenses and analyzing your budget. If you’re a traveler and are not currently using any budget tracking program, seriously go check it out!
For an entire month in Santiago, Chile, we spent US$2,283 (or CLP$1.26M), which roughly equals US$76/day for 2 people. If we were really traveling cheap and dirty, I think we could have cooked more and saved more on the dining out costs. We also spent a bit on shopping and the useless SIM cards. But all in all, I think we did pretty good considering that we weren’t actively restricting our spending.
If that sounds high, to put it into perspective a little: we come from Southern California, where it is not unusual for rent alone to be near the $2k mark. By traveling, we were able to experience a new country, stuff our faces, eat ice cream and cake almost everyday, and take a short trip… all for the price of a one-month rent in our old lives.
If we were to go back to Chile and stay long-term, we would love to stay in the Providencia neighborhood. The cost of rent will be higher, but it’s an area we both really loved. It was away from the noise, crowds, and cigarette smoke of Santiago Centro, and had the most inspiring food options (which, unfortunately also comes with a higher price tag… but we love food! And options!). For an introduction to Santiago and/or a short stay, I would recommend Santiago Centro, as it truly provides the best experience of Chilean culture and history.
I hope this guide was helpful for those of you planning a trip to Santiago. If you have any questions at all, free feel to ask below!