Are you thinking about moving to Chile from the UK?
Stretching down along the South American west coast from Peru to Argentina, Chile may seem like a mere sliver of a country, but it is overflowing with awe inspiring landscapes, from the wilds of the dusty northern desert, through fertile valleys and verdant forests to the snow dusted mountain peaks and glittering glaciers in the south.
Aside from being an astounding natural wonderland, Chile is also an up and coming country with vibrant cities, safe streets and a stable economy that is attracting expats in increasing numbers.
Read on to discover more about what makes this breathtaking country so special, and how you can live there as a UK expat…
- 1 Chile Visa Requirements for Brits
- 2 Way of Life in Chile
- 3 Cost of Living in Chile
- 4 Popular Areas for Brits
- 5 Jobs in Chile for British Expats
Chile Visa Requirements for Brits
As things currently stand, Brits do not require a visa to enter Chile for a period of up to 90 days.
On arrival, UK citizens will be presented with a Tarjeta de Turismo tourist card which should be carried at all times.
Should you wish to prolong your stay after the 90 days is up it is necessary to apply for a temporary resident visa which allows you to stay in the country for up to 2 years. This can be done online.
Brits can live and work in Chile for up to 1 year on a temporary residence visa.
If working for a Chilean company for a duration of more than 1 year, it’s time to apply for the Chile work visa. You will first need to secure a job offer and an employment contract from a Chilean employer who fits the government requirements.
This employer is needs to then provide an adequate letter detailing the reasons why they’re hiring you instead of a Chilean national, plus a Spanish language version of your employment contract. This, along with other documentation, can then be used to apply for the Chile work visa online, with the procedure to be finalised at the Chilean embassy or consulate.
The work visa is viable for up to 2 years, after which time it can be extended for a further 2 years.
Obtaining permanent residency in Chile is surprisingly easy for expats.
In order to apply you must have either held a work visa for 2 years, or held a temporary resident visa for 1 year.
Students can apply provided that they have held a student visa for 2 years and have completed their professional or secondary studies.
An additional requirement is that you must not have left Chile more than 180 days during the validity of your current visa.
Expats must also prove that they can financially support themselves without relying on state benefits.
Alternatively, if you have lived in Chile with a work visa for at least five years, you may be eligible for Chilean citizenship.
Way of Life in Chile
Chile’s turbulent history has resulted in an intriguing mix of cultures and traditions, from the indigenous Asian and South American populations, and also European — notably Spanish who once colonised the country — and Spanish is the country’s official language.
Chileans are friendly and the pace of life is relaxed — even in the cities which are home to more than 90% of the population — and although Chileans are very work orientated they are also extremely social, so expats can expect to work hard and play hard.
Big city life is cosmopolitan with a thriving arts scene, great nightlife, and glorious gastronomy.
Chileans are also proud of their heritage and culture, and food, dance, music, and fabulous fiestas have great importance in their lifestyle, along with a strong sense of family, community, and national pride.
Life in rural areas is peaceful and heavily reliant on farming, as well as Chile’s world renowned wine industry.
Chile’s incredible natural diversity lends itself to abundant adventures and outdoor activities, and Chileans tend to lead very active lifestyles, from beach and water sports to skiing, hiking, football, rodeo, and much more.
Take a look at this video to see more of what you can expect from the life of an expat in Chile:
Chile boasts an excellent transport infrastructure.
Air travel is the quickest and most convenient way to cover long distances, and is competitively priced. Sky and LATAM are Chile’s two major domestic airlines, with Sky providing the cheapest services. Chartered flights are also available to reach some of Chile’s more remote areas.
As the Chilean rail network is in disrepair and rarely used for domestic passengers, the alternative to flying by plane for longer journeys is to take the bus.
Coaches are efficient and comfortable, with different bus companies offering different prices and different levels of comfort, but the majority have toilets on board and serve beverages and snacks.
Major roads in Chile are well maintained, which contributes to the punctuality and reliability of bus services. Pullman and Turbus are the two main bus companies, covering extensive routes across the country at very affordable prices.
Ferries are the way to go if you want to explore Chile’s rugged coastline, islands, lakes, and fjords, and there are some fantastic tourist routes available, although these are mostly concentrated in the south of the country.
When it comes to urban travel there are local buses that connect cities, suburbs, and villages. These tend to be packed to the gills but are very cheap and convenient.
Another option is to take a taxi or collectivo. Taxis are metered but be sure to check that the meter is up and running before you set off as unwary foreigners are often taken advantage of. Taxis can be flagged down in the street. Taxi collectivos look like taxis except for the fact that they are entirely black in colour, but they travel set routes with fixed fares and act as a shared taxi carrying multiple passengers. Taxi collectivos offer good value for money, being priced only slightly higher than local buses.
Santiago has a top notch metro system, but be aware that ticket prices get bumped up at peak times.
Driving in Chile
As previously mentioned, major roads and highways in Chile are well maintained and in good condition, although you can expect to pay tolls if you travel the Panamericana highway. Dogs and pedestrians frequently stray onto the roads and highways, so keep your wits about you to avoid any accidents.
The biggest reason for driving in Chile however is to reach out of the way destinations where public transport cannot go. This usually means travelling on dirt roads or desert, so you’ll need to hire a well equipped 4WD vehicle if you really want to go exploring.
Driving in cities and towns is relatively straightforward, but urban drivers are known for failing to indicate and running red lights.
Avoid drinking and driving under any circumstances, as Chile’s zero tolerance policy means that even drinking one drink will put you over the limit, and you can face severe consequences.
Brits can drive on a UK license, but if possible it is recommended to have an international driving license as well as this is much more readily accepted by the police should you happen to be pulled over, and it also makes hiring a car much easier.
To hire a rental vehicle you must be aged from 21 to 25 depending on the company, and have a valid major credit card.
Weather in Chile
As you can imagine, being 2500 miles long, only 150 miles wide at the widest point, and with such varied natural landscapes, Chile’s climate changes significantly from place to place and very unpredictable, although it is generally warm all year round.
Patagonia and the south tend to be generally cool and damp, with the summer months of December to March being the warmest and driest with temperatures reaching highs of 25˚C, and the rest of the year bringing lots of rain, icy winds, and heavy snow in winter.
In the northern desert it rarely rains and temperatures are extreme, ranging from 30˚C to 50˚C in the daytime, and to a bone chilling -15˚C at night, depending on the season.
Central Chile has a pleasant, Mediterranean style climate, with cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers that stretch on for months.
The Andes mountains which hug Chile’s northwest side are permanently snow covered and from June through to August offer excellent skiing.
On the coast temperatures stay warm and comfortable all year round, with plenty of sunshine, making it an ideal beach holiday destination.
The country’s capital city Santiago experiences hot summers with daytime temperatures reaching to around 30˚C, falling to around 8˚C in the winter and bringing increased rainfall.
Cost of Living in Chile
While Chile is not the most inexpensive expat destination, it is still relatively affordable when compared to the UK, although living in Santiago can be fairly expensive.
Many expats secure employment contracts which cover fees such as medical insurance, schooling and housing, which can free up a lot of income.
Groceries can be very affordable if you shop wisely and avoid costly imported goods and buy seasonal fruit and vegetables at local markets rather than supermarkets.
A three course meal for two people at a decent restaurant will set you back roughly half what it would cost in the UK. Public transport is very cheap, and running a vehicle is inexpensive compared to the UK, with fuel prices being more than halved in Chile.
Basic utilities such as water, gas, and electricity are very affordable too, although currently mobile phone tariffs are a generally a little pricier than back home.
Away from the city centres and in smaller towns prices drop significantly, so think carefully about where you want to be based if you’re keeping a close eye on your expenses.
Wherever you live in the world, rent is probably always going to be your biggest monthly expense.
That said, in general rental costs in Chile are vastly cheaper than those in the UK, being on average 50% cheaper, and even high quality housing is affordable for many UK expats.
Santiago undoubtedly commands the highest property prices, but even then a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre in Santiago will still cost you up to a whopping 5 times less than in London.
Chile has one of the best healthcare systems in South America — particularly in Santiago.
Both public and private healthcare are affordable and to a high standard. Public healthcare is provided by a national health insurance scheme much like in the UK, which relies on taxation on income, therefore in order to qualify for public health care, you must be a legal resident paying taxes in Chile.
Private health insurance isn’t a requirement for expats living in Chile, but it is certainly an advantage as private clinics have the best facilities and resources, and English speaking doctors.
Chile’s public school system relies on voluntary payments by parents, but these are not a requirement.
However most expat families find that the language barrier in Chilean schools proves too complicated, and prefer to enrol their children in international schools. The standard of education in international schools is very high, but prices can be very expensive, with annual fees ranging anywhere between the equivalent of £10000 to £20000.
The highest number of international schools can be found in Santiago, each of which has their own unique qualities.
Popular Areas for Brits
Welcome to Santiago.
Sunny Santiago is an inspiring, beautiful, and dynamic metropolis which is fast becoming a rival to better known glamorous South American cities such as Rio and Buenos Aires.
Surrounded by a stunning vista of mountains and vineyards, and rich with culture, regal architecture, exotic gardens, and fascinating museums, this is a city of continual rebirth and opportunity.
The arts and food scenes are exploding, and the bars, cafés, and clubs are vibrant and buzzing to the beat of the thriving social scene.
Each neighbourhood has a different, colourful flavour, the streets are clean, the vibe is fresh and exciting, and the setting is enchanting.
Situated on the southern shores of majestic Lake Llanquihue and watched over by the snowy peaks of two volcanoes, is the delightful, tranquil city of Puerto Varas.
Featuring picturesque German influenced architecture dating back centuries, museums, a casino, pretty plazas overflowing with roses, cosy coffee shops, great restaurants, and more, Puerto Varas is a popular tourist spot.
Aside from its other charms, the city is perfectly located for outdoor adventures of all kinds, from hiking and riding on horseback through the national parks, skiing or ziplining down mountains, to kayaking or sailing around the serene lake.
Vina del Mar
Best known for its opulent gardens and parks, as well as its far reaching beach, Vina del Mar is the perfect upscale beach resort.
Sumptuous palaces and villas are dotted along the elegant streets, and there are numerous music festivals and events held here each year in the Quinta Vergara Amphitheatre.
The city’s long promenade sets the scene for watersports and beach activities, as well as a host of high class restaurants, hotels, and bars.
Known as the adventure capital of Chile, Pucon is a booming tourist town with all the bells and whistles.
With a blissful setting on sublime Lago Villarrica in the heart of Chile’s lake district, this is the epicentre for all kinds of nature excursions, outdoor sports, and adrenaline filled fun.
Pucon overflows with visitors during the summer months, who come here not just for the opportunities for adventure, but also for the top notch restaurants, fabulous shopping, trendy bars, and crazy nightlife.
With a history going back to medieval times, La Serena has seen it all and lived to tell the tale – from pirate raids to the birth of Chile’s silver mining boom.
This attractive town in the north of the country boasts outstanding churches, colonial style architecture, bustling markets, and a bang up to date beachfront lined with luxurious hotels and restaurants.
The sprawling seaside town of Valparaiso is a colourful labyrinth of steep winding alleyways and faded yet glorious mansions perched on leafy hillsides, with a gritty, quirky, and utterly captivating ambience that has attracted creative types for centuries.
Street art is everywhere you look, there are galleries, cool cafés, and artisan boutiques on every corner.
Jobs in Chile for British Expats
Thanks to its flourishing economy, Chile has plenty of work opportunities for British expats.
A good knowledge of Spanish will help you get ahead of the competition, and be prepared to work hard for long hours and you will do well.
Tourism and the wine industry offer up good employment prospects for UK expats, as well as the IT, finance, and electronics sectors, and more and more multinational companies are choosing to have a base in the country.
Teaching English is nearly always a good career path for Brits moving abroad, and Chile is no exception.
Are you still considering a move to Chile from the UK?