It was exciting for us to finally make it to Chile, the southern most country on the Pacific ocean side of this trip.
This is a country with great infrastructure, a friendly general aviation atmosphere and lots of diverse countryside to explore. But, Chile is also expensive when compared to the other South American countries we have visited so far.
The budget is something that we think about and talk about daily. It’s not often covered in our blog write ups because we are focused on talking about the nice places you see in the pictures and our experiences, but we’ll touch on it here for a bit.
Long term travel requires a totally different strategy when planning your daily, weekly and monthly expenses. It’s not the same as a 10 day trip to the Bahamas where you can live it up in nice hotels, eat like kings and spend money on excursions doing all of the touristy stuff. We have to watch the budget when we know we are going to travel for 7 or 8 months.
It was a shock to find the prices in Chile so much higher than Peru. We had read about it so we knew that things would cost more but had no idea how much. Ecuador and Peru had pretty good value in terms of accommodation, food, ground transport and tourist tickets, etc. ( aside from some fixed prices during the Machu Picchu trip ) In ALL the countries we have visited aside from Chile, we were usually able to find a place to stay for between $20 and $30 a night. AirBnB has worked well for us so far as have the usual hostels, small hotels and ‘hospedaje’ type places. Prices in Chile for even simple hostels rooms ( a queen or twin beds with a shared bathroom, not dormitory rooms) were almost always above $50 and were often closer to $70!
We try to camp wherever possible but if we are not camping close to the plane, then lugging all of our camping stuff around in a taxi is not practical at all. We could end up spending more on taxi rides than what we would save by camping. Unfortunately our camping stuff stayed in the back of the plane for what seemed like months, until Chile. So, when we were able to camp without cost, it was a boon for the budget, but camping in established campgrounds in some of the Parks was even expensive. We paid $12 per person per night in Parque Pumalin, but most places charged about $8 bucks per person per night. We were so grateful to Aeroclubs in Chile that let us camp for free, often in beautiful locations with lots of grass.
Even laundry is expensive. At one point we paid the equivalent of $22 for a big load of laundry in southern Chile. Another load is pictured above. For reference, my purse is small, about 8 x 12 inches, the laundry cost $15. (!)
Food…….you have to eat! Usually everyday! Sometimes you eat strange things that you can’t identify!
Most accommodation will include a basic breakfast that is usually enough to get you started. This is true for all of the countries we have visited. Breakfasts vary widely. Just when you think you cannot eat another plate of scrambled eggs, then you will encounter cereal. Fruit was provided with many breakfasts in many countries, but as we got to the southern part of Chile, it disappeared. ( too cold to grow, very expensive to buy because of transport costs and poor quality ) It is often impossible to find whole wheat bread in little towns in Chile. A standard breakfast in Chile consists of Nescafe instant coffee (yikes) sandwich meat and cheese, avocado and white bread. In southern Chile, the german influence on breakfast manifests itself with the addition of Kuchen, a breakfast cake topped with fruit and sweet cream. The coffee thing was a problem for me (Sara) and I resorted to a type of cowboy coffee made in whatever vessel I could find. We always carry around a small supply of tea and real coffee in case there is nothing on offer.
Cheap and agreeable lunches and dinners can be found in most countries. In Mexico we could eat great street food for $4. There is little ‘street food’ to be found in Chile and we often spent $20 for a restaurant lunch. Buying food in markets can be a pretty cheap option. Things like empanadas ( fried or baked meat pies) are affordable, but hard to eat day after day. We have often saved money by eating a large lunch and just having a small snack for dinner. Sometimes we buy the ingredients to make sandwiches, not very exciting but it helps the budget. Other days the budget gets blown out of the water completely because we couldn’t find good food options at affordable prices or because we splurged on something really yummy and added a few drinks into the mix!
Christmas dinner was one of those do it yourself events because only a few restaurants were open, and the set menus were really expensive. Wine, cheese, bread, a tomato, an avocado, tapenade and chacolate. Luxury!
Speaking of drinks, one area that Chile has really excelled is the availability of cheap wine. Good wine too! The grocery stores are always offering wine on sale and we have had pretty good wines for $2-$3 a bottle.
A little context here, Chile is still cheaper than compared to the United States or Europe, but compared to the really good values found in other central and south countries, prices were hard to get used to. In Cuzco, we splurged on a wonderful b & b just a few blocks from the historic plaza with a great breakfast for $55.
The general aviation system in Chile is fantastic compared to the over bureaucratic countries to the north. For about $47 you get a 30 day permit which allows you to fly, land, park anywhere in the country without extra charges being applied. Try that in Peru where they charge you per hour for parking and per mile for airspace fees.
So we love Chile, but we don’t like the higher prices. Maybe the easy and established infrastructure is worth paying extra for. Things function pretty well here. The prices are usually fixed and nobody seems to be trying to rip you off or extract the maximum out of you like they did in Peru. The people are incredibly friendly and will try to help you out if you need it.
Stay tuned for entries describing our amazing experiences here.