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How much does it cost to travel in Chile (and tips for traveling Chile on a shoestring)

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The short answer to this question is that it’s not cheap to travel in Chile – or Argentina or Uruguay for that matter.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to Chile. We can’t tell you how often we heard budget travelers using the higher prices as the reason not to travel through Chile. But this is a mistake. This over 4,000km long country is so diverse, plus the higher living standards make it much easier to travel here. If you want to limit your time here, check out our top five places to visit in Chile, and use this post as a budget guide to independent travel in Chile.

ChileFirst we share our tips for getting the most bang for your buck in Chile, then we share our own budget for the 3.5 months we spent in the country.

CLP indicates Chilean Pesos and $ is the US dollar conversion at the time of publication. Chile is much more stable than neighboring Argentina, so expect normal inflation and rise in prices – no dramatic ups or downs.

How to get more for your pesos in Chile

Especially when coming from Bolivia, Chilean prices will come quite as a shock. Prices are on par with the US, Canada or Argentina – yet without that Blue Dollar rate the Argentines enjoy next door.

Knowing these key money-saving tips in advance will help your budget while traveling in Chile.

1 Drink the water

No need for bottled water here, water is clean and fine to drink throughout the country. Get yourself a water bottle and fill it up straight from the tap. The only place where we didn’t drink the water was San Pedro De Atacama (close to Bolivia) and Iquique due to the city being close to several mines. But La Serena to Santiago, the Lake District, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego – you can drink tap water all the way.

Bottled water in Chile can cost $1.50-$2 a piece, so this is a great way to save money.

2 Buy bus tickets in advance

For frequent travelers, it’s easy to be laidback about buying tickets on the day of travel – and it often makes no difference at all to do so. But in Chile you can save over 50 per cent on the price of a ticket by purchasing your ticket in advance.

Turbus.cl is a great website and you can easily find prices for anywhere you want to go. Unfortunately, you need a RUT number- a Chilean ID number – to actually make the purchase online so we did always have to make an extra trip to the bus station or buy our departure tickets at the same time we arrived to a city.

bus to valparaiso
Turbus was our favorite bus company in Chile

It was definitely worth it.

  • Same-day bus ticket for Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama = CLP48,900 (roughly $100)
  • Advance bus ticket for Santiago to San Pedro = CLP36,900 (roughly $72)
  • Savings: $28
  • Same-day ticket for Puerto Montt to Santiago = CLP23,000 ($46)
  • Advance ticket for Puerto Montt to Santiago = CLP17,900 ($36)
  • Savings: $10

We recommend both Turbus and Pullman for bus travel in Chile.

Note:
Prices for bus tickets rise significantly during holidays like Christmas and New Years. Book well in advance if you are traveling during this time.

3 Avoid traveling between December and March

Traveling between December and March means traveling in high season in Chile. Like in most developed countries, the locals travel, too, during high season, which means hotels and hostels are heavily booked in advance, plus prices rise – especially in popular destinations like the Lake District or Patagonia. If your travels fall into this period, booking in advance will improve your experience. Not only do prices rise, but the hotels that are available at short notice are crap – often makeshift and cold.

bosque nativo valdivia dorm room
Dorm room in Chile

We traveled during high season and when we didn’t book a private room in advance, we had to stay in dorms, which we really don’t like. Luckily, double rooms are usually only a smidge more anyway. What made matters worse was that these were dorms in low-quality hostels at much higher prices than normal. A dorm bed is usually CLP8000 ($16) in Chile, but during high season, we paid up to CLP11000 ($22) for a dorm bed.

Check hotel booking websites like Booking.com for special deals – we found some great last-minute deals on there.chile hostels

4 Get lunch deals and eat in for dinner

Most places in Chile offer a special set lunch menu, including a starter, main course, dessert and a drink for as little as CLP2500 ($5) and usually ranging from CLP3000 to CLP5000.

Fill up at lunch and cook in your hostel kitchen at night. Always opt for a hostel with a kitchen, as this will save you loads of money. Unless you are always eating snack foods and fried chicken, dinner can easily cost you around CLP7000 ($14), or even more, depending on where you’re traveling.

Chile food
The set lunches are definitely the cheapest option. The Indian curry (u.r.) was CLP8000 ($16), and the macchiato CLP1450 ($2.90) – coffee is not cheap in Chile!

5 Take advantage of Couchsurfing

Since accommodation costs are so high in Chile, a good way to stay within your budget – and meet friendly locals – is to try couchsurfing. Chile has a very active couchsurfing community and you’ll be able to find a host in most places. You can cook at home (a great way to thank your host) plus get first hand recommendations and possibly meet many more people than you would on your own.

How much we spent traveling in Chile

We spent 103 days traveling in Chile and spent a total of 3,191,910 Chilean pesos, which is as much as it sounds. In US Dollars, that’s about $6,705. This comes to $65 a day between the two of us, or US$32.50 per person.

So why is this number inaccurate for you? We housesat for 51 of those 103 days, saving us well over $1000 in accommodation, plus food we cooked for ourselves. Our fabulous housesit in Santiago allowed us to get a real feel for the city rather than just rushing through like most travelers do, and we were able to still splurge on luxuries like decadent French breakfasts or the occasional Starbucks.

santiago breakfast le fournil
Splurging on a CLP5000 breakfast at Le Fournil in Santiago. So worth it!

During our time in Santiago, we spent $2166 between the two of us – roughly $42.50 a day, or $21 per person.

The real per-day budget breakdown in Chile

Once we left the comfort of our free and luxurious housesit, our costs shot up as we traveled, in high season, through the Lake District and Patagonia. How high? More than double.

Our daily budget per person in Chile: $44

Over the next 52 days we traveled through Chile, we spent a total of $4,540, which comes to a daily spending of $87, or roughly $44 per person per day – but this is always based on two sharing.

At any rate, $44 per person per day is a more accurate estimate of costs of traveling in Chile and includes meals, accommodation, transportation and activities.

Normally we are not shoestring backpackers, but it is hard to see how we could have cut our costs any lower. We stayed in budget hotels and hostels throughout the country, tried to cook for ourselves whenever possible, chose our adventure activities carefully and booked our buses in advance to get better deals on tickets.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of what to expect for accommodation, transportation, entertainment, food and drinks in Chile:

Accommodation

Private rooms are always our preference and usually paid around CLP20,000 for a private room ($40). Dorm beds ran as high as $22 per person, or $44, but in low season you should be able to get a dorm bed for CLP8,000 ($16) and the cheapest private room we found was CLP17,000 ($34).

Chilean hostels
Hostels in Chile

Transportation

Purchase bus tickets in advance and you will usually pay CLP4,500 ($9) for a 3-4 hour ride in the Lake District or up to CLP36,000 ($72) for a 24-hour bus ride – a more common distance in this long country. On average, we paid around CLP10,0000 ($20) for long-distance bus rides that weren’t overnight buses.

Transportation in Santiago itself is affordable for the quality. The subway in Santiago is clean, fast and efficient and tickets range from CLP560 to 620 ($1.10 – 1.20), depending on the time of day of your journey.

You can take private taxis in Santiago and other cities, but a much smarter option is to take the colectivos, or shared taxis. In some cities these work on a similar route system as buses while in others you just hop in, say your destination and you’ll get dropped there as it fits in with other passengers’ stops. This option is easier than buses and equally as cheap: CLP250 – 300 ($0.50 – 0.60) per ride.

Private taxis cost between CLP2,000 – 4,500 ($4-$9) depending on the size of the city.

Food

Lunch usually cost us between CLP1,800 ($3.60) and CLP4,000 ($8) each, but when we went out for dinner, we easily spent between CLP17,000 ($34) and CLP20,000 ($40) for the two of us. Grocery stores and hostel cooking reduced the cost to between CLP2,500 ($5) and CLP7,000 ($14) for a complete meal for two depending on the ingredients.

san pedro de atacama gourmet food
A CLP6000 ($12) set lunch in San Pedro De Atacama

Entertainment and tours

Chile has incredible landscapes, but often times it takes joining a tour to see them.
Average tour price per person = CLP20,000 ($40)

We opted to do a full-day tour of the Atacama Desert in the north and Torres del Paine in the south at that cost. If you’re planning to hike the W Trek, check out this great breakdown of costs on BeyondBlighty.com.

Half-day tours usually ran much cheaper. One of our favorite tours in San Pedro was the Valle de la Luna, salt caves and sunset in the Atacama Desert, which cost a reasonable CLP7,000 ($14). We paid CLP10,000 ($20) to visit a penguin colony on Chiloe.

Museums ranged from free to CLP3,000 ($6).

Take advantage of free walking tours offered in Santiago and Valparaiso. They give you great insight to the city and you only pay your guide a tip at the end.

Touring Chile
Touring Chile: Visiting a penguin colony on Chiloe, the Atacama Desert, Torres Del Paine and doing a photography tour in Santiago

Drinks

Drinking is not cheap in Chile. Keep your eyes out for happy hours to save you loads of money on alcohol. The best option is to drink local Chilean wine at around CLP1,500 ($3) for a glass of decent red or white.

Locally brewed beers range from CLP1,500 ($3) for a half-liter bottle to CLP2,500 ($5) for a one-liter bottle. Cocktails are usually around CLP4,000 (US$8) and bars will often offer 2×1 pisco sours for CLP3,000 ($6) during happy hour. Bottles of wine in the supermarket can be as little as CLP2,000 ($4).

Drinks in ChileHave you traveled in Chile? If you have any money saving tips, please share them in the comments below!

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55 Comments

  1. Thanks for this! We have been in Santiago for nearly a week and have been having the lunch deals and eating in at night. We really like it here. Although some things may be more expensive, we still think it is good value to the pound. The quality and quantity of food in the supermarkets has been much better than in Argentina, where we just came from.

    We are in an apartment, so although a bit more expensive than in a hostal, we have more privacy, it is very clean and safe, and generally quiet. We save money on cooking our own food and walking everywhere. 🙂

    Hope you two are feeling better!
    Arlene recently posted..Highlights of Bariloche

    1. Arlene – I totally agree with the quality of the supermarket food compared to Argentina! We felt the same way. We even found lots of imported goodies in the bigger ones, which was nice. We also stayed in an apartment when we returned to Santiago last month and loved having a kitchen and being able to make some meals for ourselves 🙂

  2. I would especially encourage potential visitors to Chile to consider Couchsurfing, as it seems to be pretty well known; we even found a host in (northern) Patagonia! One tip you left off was hitchhiking, which I know you did to get to Tierra del Fuego. We tried once in Patagonia, but gave up because it was getting dark and started raining, but we heard from other travellers that it was a pretty good, reliable and safe way to travel around.
    Sam recently posted..Natalie’s Christmas Treats

    1. Sam, you’re absolutely right! I should’ve mentioned hitchhiking. Even though our hitchhiking adventure wasn’t quite voluntarily, I would hitchhike anywhere in Chile! I have to say though that we never came across any hitchhikers anywhere in Chile, even though it didn’t feel unsafe to do it. I guess it’s just not very common down there 🙂

  3. This, like so many others you wrote, is getting the bookmark stamp of approval 🙂 Thanks a lot, it will come in handy whenever we finally reach Chile (looking at those prices, we might have to find work at some point along the way). Good luck and happy holidays!
    Lunaguava recently posted..Portraits of Panajachel

  4. I found that camping also is a great way to save money while traveling in Chile and Argentina. If you have a tent or even find one to rent, hike in one of the national parks for a few days to really experience the nature and beauty of these countries. Campsites are cheap compared to hostels and hotels!
    Angela recently posted..Dublin – Pubs and Beyond!

  5. Great tips!
    As you say, Chile might be more expensive than what some travelers would expect from South America, but it should not be missed. It is an incredible country, with astounding variety from the desert up north to the antarctic region in the south.
    I am glad to read you made the most of it, keeping it smart! 🙂
    Zara @ Backpack ME recently posted..Top 13 Travel Experiences of 2013

  6. Great tips. My partner and I will be travelling around Chile for a month before moving onto Boliva and Peru. is it safe to camp in Chile? Im a bit concerned about safety as we are two girls.

    1. Hi ladies, great to hear that you’ll be traveling around Chile! And Bolivia and Peru of course 🙂 I think Chile is the safest place for camping (in comparison to Peru and Bolivia). Are you planning to camp just anywhere or at regular camp sites? We’d definitely recommend the latter. Enjoy your trip and let us know if we can help out with anything more specific 🙂 We’ll be posting about Bolivia and Peru soon!

    2. I agree with the girls’ comment that Chile is safe for camping. I initially came to Chile as a solo female traveler, largely due to research that told me Chile is the safest for women among South American countries. I really don’t have a basis of comparison to other countries as I’ve spent the majority of my time in Chile, but I feel completely safe here. People – men, women, children – will stare at anyone who isn’t obviously Chilean, and there is A LOT of street harassment, but it never goes beyond words. The biggest danger is petty theft via pickpocketing but I think that is easily avoided. I’ve camped up and down the country and always felt safe and secure. Happy travels.

  7. si no les gusta la comida aca no vengan, que los completos son mejores en otros paises, fuck off, no saben ni tienen idea de nada, go home yankis , quedense alla, no tienen idea de nada

  8. Hi, I’m Chilean and I want to ask you: How do you see us compared to countries like Peru, Bolivia or Argentina? thanks for replying

  9. Now I understand why you talk so bad meal in Chile. With $ 65, you can not eat, sleep and walk daily!!!!. Should make that clarification in his blog on “WHY FOOD IN CHILE IS A SHIT” …. It is shameful what they wrote about the food, I traveled more than 10 years around the world and I can say that we have nothing to envy Europe let alone the U.S.. I saw pictures of the delicious seafood, or fish, or Patagonian barbecues, or a plate of salad, I see fruits like strawberries, which is really delicious and sweet, or peaches, an ordinary dish all of a restaurant seedy … if they’ll comment haganlo with actual knowledge of the facts!!! You can not say do not come from December to March … that bad advice is the best season of the year in Chile, for its fruits, vegetables, seafood

    1. son vegetarianas… es súper difícil comer rico y nutritivo aquí en chile si no comes proteinas animales… lo digo porque yo soy vegetariana y chilena y para alguien que es de acá es difícil cachar la variedad de lugares que hay para comer, para extranjeros debe ser casi imposible…

  10. Creo que mejor opinen de su continente antes que venir a criticar el nuestro o nuestro país , nuestra cultura es propia aunque nos basemos es su maldita herencia de subyugacion, en vez de criticar debieran ser constructivas y demostrar que al menos tienen algo de educación ( no capacitación , ya que lo mas probable es que confundan los términos) CHILE es un país y no un condimento, culturicen-ce antes de emitir opiniones de lo que no conocen y obviamente jamas conocieron.

  11. Hola he leído su Basura QUE HAN COMENTADO SOBRE NUESTRA COMIDA EN CHILE………….PRIMERO TENGAN CULTURA ABIERTA, CADA PAÍS TIENE SUS COSTUMBRES Y TRADICIONES, Y NO SE SALE HABLANDO MAL DEL PAÍS QUE LE HA ABIERTO LAS PUERTAS…..ESTE ES NUESTRO PALADAR Y GASTRONOMIA SI NO LES GUSTA NO SE LA TRAGUEN….PORQUE NO HABLAN DE CUANTOS HOMBRE SE COMIERON EN CHILE????????????????? PERRAS…O SON LESBIANA??????????????????

  12. Hi, I am chilean. I wanted to let you know that a local newspaper “Las Últimas Noticias” published an article about your blog entry “Here’s why chilean food sucks”. As you can see, there are a few comments above in spanish, but please do not mind them. We are happy to receive people from all over the world. I have lived abroad and I can say Chile is a beautiful, safe and fun country to visit. For what I have read, I can tell you loved it here and I thank you for sharing that!

  13. nice… i live in chile but i still belive that chile is a very expensive country if you like to travel, i’m not a rich person, but to get a good lunch it cost al least 30 dolars per persons. In my recomendation, if you like to travel the best that chile can do is show ta beatifull coutry… aventure sport

  14. This is great advice, this will be handy when I go to South America next year.. I don’t like it when people say it’s stupid to go to expensive countries – anyone can travel with a low budget in Bolivia, but I want to know how to spend less in expensive countries. And the prices you named are similar to European standards.
    Jana recently posted..When is The Cheapest Time to Travel to Germany?

    1. Jana – glad that you agree! Yes, the prices in Chile are definitely compared to European standards. I hope you’ll enjoy your trip next year!

  15. I’m Argentinian, and i traveled with my partner, We ate, drank and went everywhere for one full week with $1.400 ARGENTINAN PESOS. that isn’t even $200U.S Just research before you go never step in a supermarket, but local, or from a distributor, also, the cheapest booze is in the botillerias,and couchsurf always.or sleep in mixed dorms!

    1. Hi Federica, thanks for sharing! That’s amazing!! I think that’s the cheapest I’ve heard anyone manage to travel in Chile! 🙂

  16. Hi

    I will be travelling solo in Chile in March.

    It always costs more when solo

    Do you think I will average around 60$ a day?

    Sara

    1. Yes, it’s definitely more expensive than you’d think.. I remember the second time we went we came straight from the U.S. and prices were pretty much the same!

    1. I haven’t really come across a lot of homestays, to be honest. Pensiones are en par with a private room in a hostel. We sometimes stayed in pensiones.

  17. [email protected] says:

    The three of us will be travelling to Chile after visiting Peru and Argentina. Please let us know it is safe and economical to hire a car and drive around Chile. We intent to be in Patagonia first and work our way to Punta Arenas and finally fly off from Santiago.

    1. I think it is safe but not economical. Prices in Chile are pretty much en par with the U.S. – the buses are safe though and the bus network is very extensive. You can book your tickets online in advance on Turbus.cl and get some great deals. If you’re going really far (from Santiago to the Atacama Desert for example), I’d recommend flying – check LAN and Sky Airlines for that. There are buses and tourist shuttles in Patagonia which you don’t need to book in advance, just walk into a local travel agency when you get there. You could fly straight from Punta Arenas to Santiago but I’d recommend stopping in the Lake District. There it’s very easy to drive, btw, if you don’t mind driving in a foreign country. I wish I’d rented a car in Puerto Montt to visit Chiloe (wrote about it here). Please let me know if I can help out with anything else and have a wonderful trip, Nancy 🙂

  18. [email protected] says:

    Appreciate your information, thanks

  19. Thanks for an incredibly useful article! I am planning my next travel to Chile – Bolivia – Peru and was wondering whether it is difficult and time consuming to get to the Southern part of Chile? Obviously, I would love to go there but my time is limited and Bolivia is a totally different direction 🙂 Will I miss out a lot if I do not cover the South? Also, do you think October would be a good time to visit? Thanks!
    Lena recently posted..PANAMA-COSTA RICA TRIP WRAP UP

    1. It is not difficult -there are buses from Santiago every day, and flights (incl. budget flights on Sky, for example), and you could take a night bus. Because the south (Patagonia!) is soooo different than the north, I’d say yes, you’d be missing out on a huge part of the country, but just keep in mind how long Chile stretches from North to South. It’s like wanting to see all of the US in one visit. If you don’t mind the extra flights or long hours on the bus, I say go for it. If you do, then fit in a couple of more stops in the north instead, and around Santiago, like Valparaiso, the Elqui Valley and of course the Atacama Desert. October is great, btw, just in time for spring 🙂

  20. I realize this is a site for the female traveler, however your feedback and info is the best! My question as a single man who is dreaming of traveling in Chile is this: Do you know of a website or group where singles like myself can arrange to travel with others? This would help me manage $$ better and allow me to share my experience with others!

    1. Well the site is just as much for male travelers as it is for female travelers 😉 The only tours I know in Chile are Intrepid Travel – but they’re usually doing multi-country trips – G Adventures for younger travelers and Cox & Kings on the more luxury side. If you end up going with one of them, I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it 🙂

  21. Great job, I really like your post!
    Chile is a great country with many places to visit and things to do, since the desert, valleys, parks and patagonia.
    If you want to travel on your own, you can save money, but you can lose time. Chile is a thin and long country, the distance from Atacama desert and altioplano to Patagonia is really much time if you are traveling for two weeks, in this case I recommend you take a plane, and more than save money, guarantee a great journey full of experiences.

    So, care about your time, there´s many thing to do! plan everything before go.

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