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 !
I’ve never been to Chile but it looks beautiful. You really did a lot for the money you spent. I’m glad to see it’s affordable, and I’d love to see those art murals in person. So cool!
Yeah, it’s really possible to travel on a budget and still do lots of nice things. Chile is a very diverse country, so you def can find something you will like.
Very helpful to see the breakdown of costs against the different categories of spending (accommodation, travel, food etc) and see how much you managed to do on a pretty tight budget, really impressed. I hadn’t come across Servas homestays before and googled from your post, really like the sound of making international connections in this way, am bookmarking that for future. Thank you!
Yep, really check out Servas. We are a member now since a couple of years, it’s a very nice concept to meet locals, do stuff with them and help them out as well.
That is a good breakdown of the budget. I often forget to include the toll charges. And yes splurging on laundry is okay after this long drive. Looks like the trip is doable and I intend to plan something similar.
Loved that picture of the beautiful mural in Valparaiso. Nice low down on Chile budget travel. Would be handy when I eventually get down there!
Chile is definitely on my bucket list and this is a great post for figuring out typical costs. Thanks for sharing. I cannot wait to visit and have saved this to Flipboard for when I eventually do
What about renting a car for the whole trip? Was that not possible? Would the cost have been so prohibitive? Perhaps because you cannot return the car to the same town/city?
We checked this for example in Argentina, to travel from Bariloche (mid Argentina) towards the south, but the one way fees would easily be 500 USD…
I think renting a car, actually buying one, is interesting and budget friendly if you are able to travel much longer around this area, like 1-2 months. Some people do this with an SUV (which you def need once heading to Patagonia), then also use it as a camping car.
We did not have the time for this, and the (overnight) bus system is very easy to use in South America. Fair prices, quality is good and fast 🙂
This sounds super affordable! I would love to explore the street art in Valparaiso and a wine tour would be a necessity!
Fantastic break down on prices here. Haven’t been to Chile yet but hope to get down there soon and I hope to check out the mountains. 🙂
Yep, it’s a great area to explore. Hope you can make it there one day !
I’ve never been to Chile, but your trip looks amazing. We’re both a little wimpy about camping, so I don’t know if our costs could ever be as low as yours, but it sounds like a trip like this is really, really doable. Plus, your writeup was so thorough! Even though it’s a cost breakdown, it reads more like a travel diary, which is super cool.
Thanks a lot !
Yeah, by making a small overview of our costs, it also turns into a small diary. Always nice to write up these posts, because it gives us and our readers a general overview of our time in a country.
The activity / inspiration posts tend to be much more detailed, or more pictures 😉
Luckily there are many options besides camping. It will be a bit more pricey, but the hiking and views are still astonishing. You can check our post on How to prepare for Torres Del Paine, lots of info on that aspect !
So glad you had a wonderful time in Chile – definitely more European than its neighboring South American counterparts, which I think does weigh into the equation, btu averaging $100 USD a day is awesome.
Thanks for such a detailed breakdown – nice one on cooking your own dinners – we do this as well, saves so much cost buying food from grocery stores than when you’re eating out. I would love to Hiking the W-trek in Torres del Paine Park, and it’s nice to know that youcan make it as cheap or expensive as you want – we would definitely go the free camping route.
You got some awesome adventures in during your time in Chile – going to try and replicate to make a similar trip! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Yep, It’s a great country to visit, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time. We love to cook during a trip, going out for food is nice, but not all the time 😀 Using local ingredients a nice way to explore a place as well.
If you need more info on the W-trek, we made a detailed post about it on How to prepare for Torres Del Paine. It’s really detailed, enjoy 🙂 Probably one of the best multi-day treks I ever did.
I’ve never been to Chile and it’s refreshing to know a fellow budget traveler enjoyed it! I love how you break down the budget and share what you have done per item. Some people think that they need loads of money to travel and enjoy so let’s encourage them! And I love your photos! For the mode of travel that you do, for sure, you’ll go to places you’ve never been. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks a lot !
Yeah, by making a small overview of our costs, it also turns into a small diary. Always nice to write up these posts, because it gives us and our readers a general overview of our time in a country. I’m working on our Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina budget breakdowns, then we have completed the South American part of our world trip 😉
Wow, that’s a well documented budget. We always try to keep track of our expenses during our travels but at some point we always breakdown and give up. Ha!
The W is one of the best hikes in the world! We absolutely loved it when we hiked it. And it looks like you had great weather as well. Sorry the weather didn’t cooperate for your Volcano Villarica!
The wine is definitely the best deal going in Chile! We drank loads of it and we still buy some of the same brands back in the US — including Casillero del Diablo (which I see you enjoyed).
Yeah, those wines, price quality, it was really superb 🙂 I think we had several per week haha.
I’m a number cruncher, so I always try to keep up with it. Maybe a small tip: just do it every day in the evening before bed time? Then you’re sure you won’t forget.
Yeah, we actually had pretty good weather for hiking it in late Spring (Mid November). Only the first day consisted of snow, rain, wind, sunshine, but all the others were nice sunny, with sometimes some clouds.
Thanks a lot !
I spent about a month in Chile four years ago, so this proved an interesting comparison with my experience. I traveled overland over much of the continent –from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to Cartagena, Colombia– and found Chile to be the most expensive of the countries I passed through. I spent a majority of that time in Patagonia, and I regret not having gone to Torres del Paine. Skipped Valparaiso as well, choosing a couple extra winery visits instead. Glad you managed a wine experience, too.
Yep, but since a couple years, Argentina became extremely expensive. Inflation is 40%, and you don’t have the advantage anymore of the blue dollar. You will see in our next budget post 🙂
Thanks for the comment, and hopefully you can make it to Torres del Paine one day !
Chile sounds so exotic. Never been there but would love to. The places looks like the stuff travel dreams are made of. Your price break down is so useful and informative. In most cases travel and accommodation take up the bulk of the travel budget, but in Chile I can see that the proportion is more. Your analysis is a good guide for planning and budgeting for a trip to Chile.
Yep, and we kept transport even within budget, because we never took a flight, always overland buses. Flights are quite expensive in South America.
Hope you can make it to Chile !
Hope you had a great time in Chile. That is an amazingly well-documented break up of your expenses in Chile. It looks reasonable for 23 days and doable to us too now. Accommodation usually takes away 40-50 % of your total expense but her it is just 24%. Loved your pictures and will need the help of this post once planning a trip to chile.
Yes, the fact that we did some camping, some overnight buses and mostly chosen hostels or Airbnb, makes it possible to decrease accommodation costs 🙂
My goal is to write a big post about activities and accommodation all across Chile and Argentina!
I have never been to Chile and that actually sounds like a great idea- buying groceries and cooking while travel. Seems like you had a great time! Thank you for this review and please have more of this. We need more reviews that really show breakdown of expenses.
Yes, our plan is to do this for every country we visited, then finally we make one big post about travelling the world for 5 months 🙂
This is a great cost break down. Even with the more European prices, you still didn’t break the bank in Chile and yet still hit most of the highlights of the trip.
Torres del Paine is probably number 1 on my must visit national park list after I finish all the parks the US. I suspect I could spend months hiking in this region and exploring it. I would really love to see a puma in the mountains up there.
Yep, go for it. TDP park is worth the trip, and you can hike even 9 days route !
I’ve been wanting to visit Chile for so long! Looks like such an amazing country filled with a ton of great spots. Love that mural in Valparaiso—so pretty! Hiking the W-trek is at the top of our list, so thanks for breaking down your budget. Will be really helpful when planning our adventure there. The Los Nichos Pisco distillery sounds like a fun stop that I hadn’t heard of before, especially for that price! Looks like I’ll need to study some Spanish though! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!
Yes, knowing some Spanish is always useful, because not everyone will be able to speak some English. Especially if you arrive in the less touristy places 🙂
We wrote a nice post about how to prepare for hiking in Torres Del Paine, you can check this out !
Wow, that’s really an extensive post. Chile is a place I really want to visit some day. Really glad that you have given all those breakdowns of your costs. That goes a long way to help one plan a trip. I am never that organized and I don’t think I could have given such clear accounts but nevertheless I really appreciate teh effort you have put in it.
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