Living in Chile

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Relocating to a completely new place is a task easier said than done, especially when a family is involved. Moving to a different country and settling into a new life is a period of emotional and physical upheaval that needs to be tackled intelligently with the right help and guidance from friends, family, companies offering relocation services.

A new lifestyle indicates starting everything from a scratch, especially the travel costs, visa procedures, health and medical tests, accommodation, getting accustomed to the culture, new home & workplace, new friends, arranging for a driver’s license, setting up telephone and satellite connections, searching for the best school for your child and much more. All this has to be often sorted out with little knowledge about the new location. Employers do offer help by funding the travel costs or arranging for a new home, but all this is unreliable since it differs for employers and employees.

Chile is easily one of the most corruption free and stable countries in the Americas, and also one of the most amicable to foreigners looking to relocate or retire. Chile is by most measures the richest country in Latin America with a booming economy that is free of any significant national debts.

Whatever your reason are for relocating, Chile has much to offer to families, individuals, expats and students.

For anyone interested in living in Chile, we’ve tried to provide some useful information to help you prepare for your new life abroad.

How to Get A Drivers License in Chile

Although there are many public modes of transport in Santiago, traveling in a car is the most preferred option which, of course, requires a drivers license.

Driving in Chile as a foreigner in your first years is fairly easy under a foreign drivers license either as a tourist or temporary resident. However, once you receive your permanent residency (Residencia Definitiva), under Chilean law you must have a Chilean license to drive.

Drivers license exams are administrated by local city governments in Chile, usually at your local municipality. How they administer the exam may be slightly different from city to city, but there are some basic requirements they all must comply with across Chile.

Read more on How to Get a Drivers License in Chile

Driving in Chile

As compared to other South American countries, Chile’s main roads are well maintained. Highways connecting towns and cities are called Rutas Nacionales (National Routes) and are identified by their numbers (e.g.Ruta 7 or Ruta 64).

Read more on Driving in Chile

TV, Cable & Satellite in Chile

Chile is an online country. Cable Television is widely available and the phone service is a prime example of the joys of privatization. Internet service is quite good but expensive.

A ‘triple pack’ of extensive cable TV, phone line with free local calls and 2MB internet service costs around US$100/month. It is highly recommended that you use VOIP for phone calls (e.g. Skype or Vonage) to make long distance and international calls as the costs are dramatically lower.

TV and Satellite companies include Cable Central, DIRECTV Chile Ltda., PACIFICO CABLE S.A., Telefónica del Sur , Telefónica Multimedia, Claro, TU VES S.A. and VTR which is Chile’s state-owned channel. There is plenty of diversity in the choice of programs and language. HBO, Cinemax, Sony, CNN International, BBC, MGM, Starz, FX (just to name a few).

Some of the more popular Spanish tv channels include:
-ARTV (culture)
-Canal 13 Cable (culture) (owned by Canal 13)
-CNN Chile, 24-hour news channel (owned by Time Warner)
-TV Senado (Chamber of Congress TV signal)
-TVN 24 Horas (24-hour news channel) (owned by TVN)
-Via X, (MTV-like music channel)
-Vive! Deportes (local amateur sports)
-Vive! HD (HD content)
-Zona Latina (Latin music)

Phone System in Chile

Chile’s telephone system is efficient. You can find public telephone booths in every city, and they all work for national and international calls. However, public phones located on streets are very likely to be tampered or vandalized, so it’s better to use a phone located inside a place of business or a station. There are also special stores that offer private telephone booths, internet access and selling of telephone cards for public phones or cellphones.

Mobile phones are very common and there is a variety of ‘plans’ to choose from, including ‘Pay As You Go’ services.

This section also covers

— How to Place Calls Inside and Outside of Chile

— Chile Area Codes

— Call Centers

Read more about Phone Systems in Chile Communication and Media in Chile

Internet in Chile

Broadband in Chile is called ‘banda ancha’ and Mobile Broadband is called ‘banda ancha mobil’ or ‘BAM’

Internet service in Chile is quite good but expensive. The cost is more than double what you would pay in Northern America or Europe.

Read more about the Internet in Chile Communication and Media in Chile

Banks in Chile

The major Chilean banks include Banco de Chile, Banco Santander Chile, Banco Estado, and Banco Santiago. Of the foreign commercial banks, HSBC and Scotiabank have the largest presence in Chile.

Chilean banks are generally open from 9am – 2pm, Monday to Friday. Lines are generally long because most Chileans prefer doing their banking at the branch versus online.

Opening a Bank Account in Chile

Opening a bank account in Chile is extremely difficult. You must be over the age of 21 to open a bank account and they ask that you have a stable job with a minimum income. Most banks will only let you open an account with them if you have had Chilean residency for two years – and even then, it’s not a straightforward process.

First of all, expats must have a RUT (Rol Único Tributario) Number, which is essentially your Tax ID Number and your National ID number while in Chile. RUT numbers can be applied for by filling in the tax administration (SII) form F4415. The Servicio de Registro Civil (similar to the IRS) issues these ID’s – check them out at www.registrocivil.cl. This process can be lengthy, and doesn’t always end in success. It helps to have stable employment and confirmed residency in Chile before applying for your RUT number.

Even if you are fortunate enough to have obtained your RUT number, it does not necessarily follow that you will be able to open a bank account in Chile. Most Chilean banks will insist on proof of two years’ residency in the country, proof of Chilean income, and a substantial amount of credit (as much as USD 30,000) before issuing a bank account to a foreigner – and even then, it will take an inordinate amount of paperwork and legwork to accomplish.

Other required documents might include:
– A copy of your passport
– A copy of your residence visa
– A copy of your contract of employment
– If you work in Chile, you must to give documents about tax’s (liquidaciones)
– AFP Report Copy
– Job ID

If all fails, you might opt for one of the following alternatives:

1) With a RUT Number, it is possible to open a Fondos Mutuos (Mutual Funds) account at a Chilean bank. These are basically savings accounts set up on a fixed-term, fixed-rate basis. You will earn interest on your money, but you will not be allowed immediate access the account – and if you request a withdrawal before the investment term is up, you will forfeit the interest earned, and incur penalty fees.

2) Alternatively, expats might try to set up a Cuenta RUT account through Banco Estado. This is basically a very simple savings account, that comes with an ATM card (for domestic use only). You will still need a RUT Number and there are restrictions on the amount of money you can have in this account along with how much you are allowed to deposit into it each month. They also charge a few hundred pesos for each withdrawal.The Cuenta RUT option is not as versatile or convenient as a full-on current account – but it’s better than lining your mattress with peso bills.

3) If both of these options fail, expats might simply choose to have their salaries paid into their overseas bank accounts (or to be paid in cash, which they can then send home themselves) – and then access their money using foreign debit or credit cards. Note that if you are planning on this approach, you must inform your bank of your intention to travel before leaving home, and that you take at least two or three working ATM cards with you to Chile (and keep them in separate places). If these precautions aren’t heeded, you could find yourself stuck in Chile without any access to your hard-earned money.

Once you have your bank account set up

Chilean banks will charge you a monthly fee/commission for having your money with them (which they use to invest for their own benefit). You won’t receive any interest on it unless you have a specific savings account with withdrawal restrictions.

If you are fortunate enough to get a check book/account, NEVER bounce check in Chile. It is a serious offense that can land you in jail for something along the line of fraud.

Filing Taxes in Chile

Personal Income Taxes in Chile
— During the first three years of residence in Chile, foreigners are subject to tax only on their Chilean-source income. This period may be extended.

Foreigners are considered residents if they reside in Chile for more than six months in one calendar year, or for more than six months within two consecutive assessment years.

Thereafter, resident foreigners are taxed on all income and tax rates.

Personal allowances and deductions are minimal. Spouses are taxed separately on their personal income, while married couples without separate incomes are taxed jointly.

Employers withhold taxes from the salaries of employees. In March of each year, taxpayers must submit to the SII/Servicio de Impuestos Internos, a detailed list of all taxes withheld. Yearly returns must be filed by April 30 of each year for income of the preceding calendar year. A single form is provided by the SII. All supporting documents should be retained by the taxpayer for possible future review.

Taxes are payable in local currency at the time the tax form is submitted.

-Other Taxes in Chile

VAT Tax
Chile imposes a VAT or Impuesto al Valor Agregado (IVA) of 18 percent on most goods and services.

Fuel and Tobacco Tax
Gasoline, diesel oil, cigarettes and cigars are all taxed at the time of purchase.

Automobile Tax
Used cars are subject to a 0.5 percent sales tax. Imported cars and locally assembled cars are subject to the customary 18 percent VAT Tax, plus a sales tax which is a percentage of the customs value based on the size of the engine.

Real Estate Tax
A 2% tax is assessed on the fiscal valuation of real estate each year on January 1st, and adjusted on July 1st, according to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. Real estate taxes are payable in four installments: April, June, September, and November.

Post Offices in Chile

The postal service is good for letters but important letters and packages should be sent via registered mail (certificado) in order to ensure they don’t get ‘lost’. Correos de Chile is the main post company in the country. The service sends cards, letters and packages up to 30 kilograms. Local deliveries arrive in about a day, while international deliveries arrive in two-weeks time, depending on the country you’re sending the package to.

International mail is usually sent by airmail automatically (vía aérea), and it takes 4-8 days to Central Europe or North America; which can be sped up for a fee (expreso). If you want to have someone send you mail in Chile, ask them to mark it ‘Lista de Correos’ (poste restante). The post offices will save this mail for 30 days.

Nice postcards can be found at the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo Precolombino in Santiago.

Website to  Chile’s Post Offices Services: www.correos.cl

Utilities in Chile – Water, Gas and Electricity

Utilities in Chile are generally expensive. The country has no oil or gas reserves of its own and has to import all that it needs. Electricity is generated from coal-fired thermal power stations and hydro-electric plants in the south of the country.

A typical gas bill for a 100m2 (1076.4 sq feet) apartment with central heating (radiators) would be around $70 USD in winter and vastly cheaper in the summer. An electricity bill would be around $40 USD and a water bill would be in the region of $20 USD.

Outside the major cities in Chile, you will need a gas tank. You can spend money on a good inline water heater if you want to avoid having to go light a pilot light however. Nothing worse than a cold shower, or having to go light a pilot light. There are some nice electrical ignition ones available in Chile. Make sure they wrap your hot water pipes with insulation (not commonly done in Chile). It will likely pay for the hot water heater in a year or two.

Cost of Living in Chile

Compared to other Latin American countries Chile is not a cheap country. The nation’s consistent political and economic stability has landed it a position as one of the more expensive South American countries. Expats will find the cost of living in Chile on par with that of a medium-sized American city. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables from the large central markets is a great way to save money and to sample some local flavors. Supermarket prices are slightly higher, and purchasing imported food items can be costly. Electronic products, clothes and home products can also be expensive (and generally lack the same quality as the same products in the US or Europe). Industrial goods are mostly imported and therefore more expensive than in Europe or North America and again lack the same quality.

Education in Chile

Chile continues to grow as a preferred destination for studies abroad. Santiago is home to numerous universities, colleges, research institutions and libraries. It is not uncommon to find groups of European or North American students taking interdisciplinary studies in Spanish language or Latin American culture and history at one of its many reputed universities.

Here is a list of universities you may want to check into if you are considering studying abroad.

Santiago Metropolitan Region
-Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Considered one of the best universities in Chile with several courses taught in English; current president Sebastián Piñera, minister Ricardo Raineri, and minister Hernán de Solminihac all attended PUC as students and worked in PUC as professors.)
-Universidad de Chile (Another top university in Chile; the largest university and one of the oldest on the American continent )
-Universidad de Santiago de Chile
-Universidad Central de Chile

Valparaíso and Viña del Mar Region
-Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
-Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María
-Universidad de Viña del Mar – International Office
-Universidad Diego Portales – International Relations
-Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
-Universidad de Valparaíso

In Southern Chile
-Universidad de Concepcion
-Universidad Austral de Chile
-Universidad de Los Lagos
-Universidad de Magallanes