Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 02/16/16
Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, cities in different African countries and Europe.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
The US. Between 8 - 15 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments and houses located in Lo Barnechea, Las Condes and Vitacura. Unless you have several school age kids or a large dog, you should try to be in an apartment as it is closer to more activities in the city if you are a social person. Lo Barnecha is a 20 minute drive (best) when it is early in the morning or late at night. Otherwise during peak times you should expect to spend an hour. Vitacura can take 5 - 10 minutes by car, unless there's a traffic pattern change due to the construction which happensor 30 to 45 minutes walking. Las Condes is about 2 - 5 minutes by car or 5 - 30 minutes walking to the Embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are expensive. Just to stock up initially will cost you about 200,000 pesos. A kilo of ground beef is about 3,000 pesos. A loaf of bread can start at 2,500 pesos this is not purchasing the maraquetta or one of the chilean bread staples that are produced fresh everyday.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Lots and lots of beverages and items that are considered a specialty like chocolate chips and tortillas.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's basically everything, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Denny's etc. Everything costs from 3500 pesos to 25,000 from the chain restaurants. There are also fantastic non-chain restaurants in Bella vista, Providencia, Las condes, Independencia among others.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
During the summer sometimes there will be ants looking for water. Once outside the city, there are mosquitos. Otherwise there aren't many pests. Moths show up at a specific time of the summer, just keep doors and windows closed. Other little insects will creep in if you leave the doors open for hours and there's a light to attract them during the summer as well.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
There's FEDEX, UPS and DHL or through the regular chilean mail system.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There's lots of bad domestic help of available. I've tried several people who were recommended and it didn't work out. Not many employers tells or shows them how to do things or what to do. And when you do tell them, they will still do whatever they want. The cost is (20,000-25,000) not very expensive and I would like to say if you paid more that it would change things, but I don't think that it would.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes there are a lot of them all over the place. The cost can be from US$80 - 150 depending on the type of gym and services provided.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
At times there are places (grocery stores, gas stations) that will not accept international credit cards so you should always be prepared for that by having cash. Some banks there's no problem using your ATM and others you can't. Also beware of ATM skimmers attached to the machines to steal information. Always check your card balance.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are some but I don't know anything about them.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to know a functional amount of Spanish especially if you're going to be out and about and checking things out around the city.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
With the exception of a few places, I've seen someone with a disability would have a medium difficult time as some places only have stairs, no ramp or elevator. Buses aren't always the most modern to accommodate someone in a wheelchair or someone with a leg or arm issue to make the distance from the group to the step easier to navigate. There are some hills and steep areas that someone walking or driving might not notice, but a person on crutches or manually moving a wheelchair would notice right away.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes they are all safe and they are affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I've seen almost every type of vehicle here. Toyotas are the majority on the road but honestly there's a dealership for everything, Jeep, Ford, Chevy, high-end and economy. Unless you plan to go to places off the beaten track a car is fine and you don't need an SUV. Parts are mas o menos, because there's difficulty for everyone to get parts needs as they aren't always readily available like in other places. It is easy to find service for your vehicle. You can't bring a car in that is more than 5 years old so a lot of people bring in new vehicles. Unless you're going to drive like a granny or rarely drive, I recommend buying a used vehicle in country because at some point your vehicle will get scratches and scrapes. As of late there have been portonazos (carjackings at the house gate) around the city, so be aware of your surroundings and know if people are watching you or your family. The more high-end and expensive the car, the more desirable to steal.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, I pay 20,000 pesos for internet. It is rare that you ever get the tops speeds they claim to have. I stayed at 12mps which is sufficient for streaming.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Entel service ins good. Claro sometimes has issues. I have heard of anyone using WOM. Several people use Virgin as they are the easiest to provide a sim card until you have your RUT.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No; travel with your pet as excess baggage. On American you can do it and on United it can be a touch and go situation. If your dog travels as cargo expect to spend several hours to get your pet from customs. There are vets located everywhere. Do not completely trust what a vet says if they say they have handled international pet shipping paperwork before. You must know your stuff, as I have known people who ended up having problems even though the vet was said to know what was needed.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Depending on your education and what you want to do there are opportunities as long as you speak decent Spanish.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
You can volunteer for any and everything in the city and outside. Some have vetting requirements before you can participate.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
In most companies the dress code is business casual to casual for everyone. You will at times see men in suits but they are in a particular industry.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Just the normal things if you lived in a large city. Do not think that because Chile is deemed "safe" by people that you can be careless or become complacent.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is spot around the country; if you're in Santiago or a large city like Valparaiso you can expect the same standard of care you'd get in the U.S. Outside large cities it is touch and go what type of service you will get.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
There is air pollution, not as bad as China, but sometimes you can see the haze. There are several people who developed respiratory infections and sinus infections. In 2015, there were the most days of driving restriction anyone can remember. Even if you don't have allergies, if you're out and about during the day in the city you might find your skin and eyes become a little irritated. I liken it to the dust of the Haramattan.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Bring your meds and you will need to ask how they make everything. There are peanuts all over the place and you never know what they put in something.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There weather is good. It can get very warm during the summer which is expected. It doesn't get very cold at night but like in most places when you add in some wind you do need something like a fleece or slightly heavier. You definitely want your heavier winter clothes if you want to go into the mountains or down south where it is much cooler even during the summer than in the city or up north. Also keep in mind the location of Chile is very close to that of Australia which has the whole in the ozone. Always wear your sunscreen.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a few schools parents can choose from.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are a few preschools and several people opt to have a nanny as daycare.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are various sports programs through the schools and the municipalidads.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Several thousands. No sure about the morale. I would guess generally good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There's lots of restaurant, bars, discos, concerts of all kinds, movies, plays, ballet, art exhibits. Every year there are a ton of ferias during the summer from food/beer to clothing/shoes. Tons of social things, there's the hash if you know what that is and tons of other activities that you can just join to learn.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a good city for everyone as long as expectations are managed and people don't arrive thinking that Chile isn't a developing country. There are plenty of options for families, singles and couples to do and experience.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It seems to be more moderate here as there are gay/lesbian clubs, drag shows and even a rally for gay marriage and other rights. The people generally don't seem to outwardly express violent or derogatory attitudes towards gays/lesbians.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Sometimes people will assume certain people are nanas or when you look different you will get stares. That's fairly normal anywhere in the word. You take anything not see often and people stare. So far I haven't heard of prejudices openly expressed except when it was directed towards all people from Columbia in a news story. All religions are openly practices as are political views. There are some gender prejudices as well.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting a lot of the beautiful views and places. I definitely recommend going to some of the smaller town outside the city and big tourist locations. There have been some interesting finds, like Bahia Inglesa, San Antonio, Melipilla and Frutillar. The wine route will feel a bit been there done that, if you've lived in California, South Africa, Italy etc. The real bonus are the vineyards and wineries that have good restaurants included. There are lots of outdoor activities during the summer. Many times even though it is still warm a lot of places are not about making money; once the kids go back to school they close.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Anything that isn't a normal tourist find is a secret or hidden gem. There are places art galleries and restaurants in bella vista and bella artes that most expats in a bubble don't know exist. There are places for ropes courses if you like that kind of thing as well as paint ball located in the city.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
If you like alpaca and ponchos there's an abundance. There's lots of local art and pottery as well.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lots of beautiful scenery and pueblos to visit. As far as culture compared to other places there isn't much. You can learn about the Mapuche and the development of the country but that's about it. The weather is nice, never gets too cold. The people in the city are nice, but the people outside the city are very friendly.
10. Can you save money?
You can save money as long as you don't eat out often and don't travel. Travel has been surprisingly expensive in country.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The toll system and to sign up quickly.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I would come to visit.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Leave behind any expectations. No matter what anyone has told you ... leave behind any thought or idea of things being systematic, functioning in an orderly fashion or working in a manner that makes sense to you. The police will not respond in 5 minutes more like an hour depending on the issue. Remember this is a developing country that looks modern. Have games and movies for your children as you will spend anywhere from 2 - 8 weeks without internet or tv until you receive your RUT. Leave any thought of good wait service behind, you have to ask for the bill and it may be 15 minutes before you get it after asking for it. Leave behind the belief of good drivers because people can legally buy their drivers license here. Leave behind any thought that you wouldn't have to deal with issues from a developing country.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor and patience.