Chile is notoriously known to be the most expensive country, along with Argentina, in South America. The strong power of the Chilean peso makes prices above the average of some European countries. Fool me that I thought Chile was kinda cheap. Fortunately, I came up with 5 effective ways to save money in Chile. I mean, a lot of money.
As soon as I arrived I had to deal with absurdly high bills. I would like to recall I’m a strict budget backpacker. Paying more than 15 bucks for a hostel is a crime, in my humble opinion. At the beginning, I thought that 7000 CLP for a lunch was a good deal. It was just because everyone told me that South America was cheap! I did some research before leaving, anyway. I expected Chile to be above the average, but I had to reconsider, or at least quantify, the word above. Furthermore, I was pissed of because extranjeros have to pay much more – a prime example is the entrance fee at Torres del Paine: 7000 CLP for Chileans, 21000 CLP for foreigners…
So here’s what I did to avoid being ripped off.
A Classic: Go and Find Your own Food
Even though it’s expensive, supermarkets might have good offers from time to time. Hostels usually have kitchens (more or less well-equipped), so put two and two together and cook your own meals. Unimarc and Santa Isabel are two of the supermarket chains I was constantly visiting looking for deals. Unimarc is a bit more expensive than the latter.
If you really want to eat out, the city’s markets usually have picadas. These are little, but good, place to eat and much cheaper than a restaurant or a fast food. Typically served are some Chilean traditional dish, like the pastel de choclo and the lomo a lo pobre. When you understand how poor can be a dish with eggs, meat, french fries, and onions you let me know. 🙂
An example of picadas can be found on the second floor of Santiago’s bustling market Tirso de Molina. La Piojera is another famous one among both tourists and santiaguinos. Here the best (I can’t swear because it’s the only one I tried, but this is what everyone says) terremoto, a cocktail made of pineapple ice cream, grenadine, and pipeño wine.
Get an ISIC card
In the whole continent, ISIC card owners can benefit of many discounts. Other student cards are not accepted unless you bother the poor museum guy or girl for hours. The card costs between 10 and 25 $ depending on your country, but you get the money back in one go. For example, the four Pablo Neruda’s houses have a cost of 7000 CLP. With the ISIC card, the cost is 2500 CLP. The card has its advantages in all South America: in Perù, the entrance to Machu Picchu (49 $) gets a 50% off. If you are Chilean, the prices for you are already reduced.
Withdrawing: Banks without Fees
In Chile, a number of banks without fees is present. I have Mastercard and I have profited of ScotiaBank, BBVA, Banco Security. Try to avoid the RedBanc as you will be surely charged 5000 CLP for every withdrawal. Also, you have to know that the maximum amount you can take is 200000 CLP. Do keep in mind that your bank might charge the foreign transaction fee. Inquiry your bank before leaving to clarify this point.
Given that the price of a hostel is no less than 8000 CLP, and many times going over 12000 CLP, it might be very convenient to buy a tent or bring your own. In the big cities, it might be a bit difficult. Santiago is surely not a place where pitching your tent is easy. In other parts of the country, though, it’s plenty of spots where to pitch your tent undisturbed. The perfect example is the Carretera Austral, beaten by thousands of backpackers and campers every year. The same is true for Patagonia. When there’s no option for wild camping, you can pitch your tent in one of the many campings – price is indicatively 3000 CLP per tent.
Transports: Time to Book Offline
Unless you are in a hurry or you need to take a particular bus, when it comes to transport (and with transport, I’m referring to buses. There are practically no trains and the plane is pretty expensive) it is convenient to go directly to the bus terminal. Here you can bargain the price, getting a better fare. For instance, the price on recorrido.cl for a ride La Serena – San Pedro de Atacama was more than 40000 CLP. I went directly to the La Serena bus terminal and got it for 22500 CLP. It is quite a big difference, isn’t it? Another time I had to go from Punta Arenas to Osorno. The price online was 38000 and I got the ticket for 35000 – I saved a lunch!
I hope these tricks will help you to save some bucks. See you in South America! 🙂
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