A perfectly new asphalt road, lots of white,blue and red coloured flags, up end hostels with higher end prices: the moment we crossed the Bolivian border after our great adventure at Salar de Uyuni, we knew we had arrived in Chile.
Chile was the second country I visited in South America during the Big Trip. One of the longest yet also most narrow countries in the world, we knew Chile would lead us to many kilometers on the road. From all the way up north with the hot and dry Atacama desert, via the Pisco distilleries, we followed the coast line. After a pit stop in the capital, we continued to middle Chile, with lots of lakes, (active) volcanoes, outdoor activities and a special island called Chiloe.
We ended our 3.5 weeks of total travel time in Chile with a blast: hiking the W-trek in what’s maybe the most beautiful (or one of 🙂 ) national parks in the world: Torres del Paine.
Chile is much more European then its northern neighbours Peru and Boliva, so let’s see what this means for your budget !
Travel budget: important facts and figures
- I traveled around Chile with Ms. Rice, all expenses mentioned are for the two of us (unless per person is specified).
- We spent 23 days in Chile, entering the country by bus over land at the Bolivian border south of Salar De Uyuni. We exited the first time through the Andes at the entrance of Northern Patagonia in Argentina. We exited a second time all the way south, from Puerto Natales to Ushuaia (again, Argentina)
- I quote prices in Chilean Pesos (CLP) as this is the currency of Chile. I’ve also added prices in EUR and USD. At the time of traveling (October/Nov. 2016), the exchange rate was 1 EUR = 725 CLP or 1 USD = 650 CLP. Yes, this meant dealing with large numbers :).
- In total we spent 1,418,866 CLP / 1,957 EUR / 2,270 USD in 23 days, which comes down to an average of 61,689 CLP / 85 EUR / 98 USD a day as a couple. Pretty nice given that we still did a lot of activities in a more expensive country (especially Patagonia) !
- All expenses are included, also the bus journey to cross the border from Chile to Argentina (part 1 – Bariloche) ( 42,000 CLP / 58 EUR / 65 USD) and the second one to Ushuaia (82,000 CLP / 115 EUR / 128 USD ) which both technically are partially a cost in Argentina.
Our five Expense categories
1. Accommodation: 24% of daily costs
2. Transportation: 33% of daily costs
3. Food & Drinks: 22% of daily costs
4. Activities: 13% of daily costs
5. Other: 9% of daily costs
You can immediately tell the difference with Peru/Bolivia. Transport and food tend to be more expensive, even though we cooked quite often. Yet, you can’t escape the long distances in Chile. We did a lot of free activities / hiking, so that’s one of the reasons of lower activity expenses. Up next: details !
1. Cost of accommodation
We had a very nice mix of lodging in Chile: hostels, airbnbs, a Servas homestay and even camping ! We had a great Servas Homestay in Valparaiso. . Even though we got them some groceries to cook dinner together, it still saved us some money for those 2 nights. We also took several overnight buses, decreasing some of our accommodation costs.
To round up, our accommodation costs for Chile are quite in line with expectations. All of this for a total of 333,850 CLP / 460 EUR / 513 USD. There are always cheaper possibilities, but as a couple, you can estimate the nightly cost (private room in hostel with shower or Airbnb room) roughly at around 20-30 EUR/USD (sometimes including breakfast).
There are some free campsites at Torres Del Paine, but we preferred the paid ones (and did not regret). Those prices are quite fixed, depending on the company. More details on that in our great post on How to prepare for hiking in Torres Del Paine!
2. Transportation costs
When you travel in South America, you’re bound to spend a lot of time (and money) on long-distance buses. Chile was not different from our previous journeys in Peru and Bolivia. The conditions of the roads are extremely well, and most of the highways follow the coastline. This was are largest expense in Chile, mainly due to the high amount of terrain we covered.
Total transportation costs were 462,480 CLP / 637 EUR / 711 USD, on average 20,107 CLP / 28 EUR / 30 USD a day as a travel couple. This includes several long distance overnight buses (San Pedro de Atacama-Elqui-Valparaiso, Santiago-Pucon) and pricy day buses (onwards to Bariloche, 12h bus to Ushuaia). We must admit: even though the buses are faster than in Peru, the level of luxury decreased. Most of times, it’s only a 140 recline seat, no food. Pretty standard though. (Turbus being the bigger provider)
Beyond that, there are several smaller city buses, subway tickets and our return bus transfer to Torres Del Paine (costly bus).
We even experienced our very first (and only) rental car adventure in South America, around Puerto Varas and towards Chiloe island. For Chiloe, you also need to take into account a ferry crossing (higher cost if with rental car).
3. Cost of food & drinks
Food, we really love to eat. Chile was a change to our eating pattern: we started cooking a lot of dinners ourselves. Yep, Chile is more European, thus also with more European prices. In total we spent 313,546 CLP / 432 EUR / 482 USD on food and drinks, on average 13,632 CLP / 19 EUR / 21 USD a day as a travel couple. Not bad at all!
Breakfast and dinner, we usually bought in supermarket. For lunch, we chose for some smaller snacks for local food stalls: Chilean style hotdogs, fried sushi rolls (no kidding, fried 🙂 ), tasty ice cream in Santiago, … You can find a lot of ingredients in Chile, thus cooking is quite nice to do.
Quite a part of our food budget went to our 5 day hiking adventure in Torres Del Paine. Not only did we have to buy and carry all our food for 5 days, on the way, we had some small splurges with a cola, small wine or beer. To celebrate that day’s hike!
Alas, there’s some movement from the craft beer scene. It was not as huge as in Argentina, but still, I was able to find nice stuff. I did some research, this helped me quite a bit. Eventually, the beers of of Kross (especially the Kross 5 Strong Ale) and Rothhammer Rebel of Handwerk Brewers had some pretty neat characteristics. There’s nice things going on, with Chilean brewers trying to add their own characteristics by using local ingredients. It’s craft, so be prepared to pay around 3-5 EUR/USD for a bottle 🙂
Beyond craft beer, don’t forget to try one of the tasty pisco liquor and, of course, superb red / white wines. Best buy ever: a 1.5L red wine and white wine (so 3L) in Puerto Natales for only 3 EUR/ USD a bottle. And it tasted great !
4. Cost of activities
Total costs for activities came to 177,500 CLP / 245 EUR / 273 USD, a daily average of 7,718 CLP / 11 EUR / 12 USD. Yes, really, that’s not a lot as a travel couple!
Which activities did we do for 245 EUR / 273 USD as a travel couple?
The moment we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, which is a very small town in the midst of a huge desert, we really felt the price difference for activities. Therefore, we became a little bit more picky on choosing what we would do. Here goes !
- Hiking the W-trek in Torres del Paine Park (5 days). You can make this adventure as expensive as you want: hike one, 5 or even 8 days. Choose to camp for free, pay for camping or choose the fancy guesthouses + food. We choose to camp, which for sure decreased our costs a lot! Check out our post on how to prepare for this trek.
Some fixed costs: entrance to the Torres Del Paine National Park (mandatory): 21,000 CLP / 29 EUR / 31 USD per person. Camping equipment for 2 persons, 4 nights: tent, 2 sleeping mats, gas cooker, cooking utensils: 40,000 CLP / 55 EUR / 60 USD.
- Atacama desert stargazing tour. There are really a lot of (pricey) activities surrounding the Atacama desert. We did a 2h stargazing tour, i.e. using telescopes to look at the galaxy. It was nice, but maybe a little bit too much money for what you get. We enjoyed free stargazing (and Venus/Mars spotting) during our Uyuni tour!
Cost: 15,000 CLP / 20 EUR / 22 USD per person
- Visiting Los Nichos Pisco distillery. Small family owned pisco distillery just outside of town of Elqui valley. The tour is only in Spanish, but you’ll understand the basics. Showing the vineyards, cellars, production process and of course, taster included. Only 1,000 CLP / 1,5 EUR / 1,5USD per person !
- Santa Rita wine tour. While you’re in Santiago, don’t miss out on a Chilean wine visit. We took the public bus out of the city and visited this wine house. Nice English 2h tour of the large area, production sites and of course, the caves with barrels. Enjoyable tasting of 3 different wines. 12,000 CLP / 16 EUR / 19 USD per person.
- White water rafting in Pucon. Both Pucon and Puerto Varas are known for their outdoor activities. We opted for rafting in Pucon, and did not regret. It’s a fun adventure with 6 people on the raft, passing by several white water rapids. You will get wet! 15,000 CLP / 21 EUR / 25 USD per person.
- Hiking in Huerquehue Park. Since the Villarrica volcano trek did not take place due to bad weather conditions, I only had a chance to do some hiking in one of the parks. Huerquehue Park is pretty interesting, easy walking tracks through lush forests and small lakes. Entrance fee: 2,500 CLP / 3 EUR / 4 USD per person.
- Finally, while driving around on Chiloe Island (2-day rental car), we stopped by what is quite an interesting spot: Muelle de las Almas. It’s a dead end road at one of the outer points of the island. After hiking for 1h, you will find this bridge leading off the cliff in the sea, which suddenly stops. We had epic bad weather, so it made it a very cool experience. Entrance: 1,500 CLP / 2 EUR / 2 USD per person.
5. Other costs
Other costs typically holds the stuff I can’t really categorise in any of the 4 mentioned above. Some souvenirs, post cards, crap, …, you know, those kind of things. Specifically for Chile, I also added the gas and parking fees for our rental car (yes, this could also be with transport). In total, these topped at 131,490 CLP / 181 EUR / 202 USD. The main ones were:
- post cards, stamps, magnets: 8,500 CLP / 12 EUR / 14 USD
- Gas rental car: 3 days driving cost us 49,000 CLP / 67 EUR / 75 USD
- Toll fee for certain high ways: 7,000 CLP / 9 EUR / 11 USD
- Some extra sun protection cream: 12,000 CLP / 17 EUR / 18 USD
- Laundry: 2 times * 10,000 CLP / 14 EUR / 16 USD. Bye bye to cheap laundry. We did some ourselves, but after a 5 day hike, you just wanna relax and be served 🙂
So that’s pretty much it! We had an amazing time in Chile, which truly is a very diverse country. The more South you go, the colder it gets, but the warmer the locals turn to be. We could not do one major activity (hiking Villarrica Volcano), but we really enjoyed all the rest. You could lower the budget a bit on rooms, food or more free camping in Torres del Paine. Don’t forget how rural Patagonia can be, prices tend to be very European/USA alike for some stuff. Yet, 40 to 45 USD per day per person is definitely possible !
So go to Chile, say Chao or probably you don’t understand their Chilean slang. Go from very hot, to mild warm, to rainy, to flying away windy with snow, and then again sunshine. It holds, in our humble opinion, one of the world’s greatest national park. So don’t miss out on it !