The cost of living in Chile was 30.27% lower than in United States and rents were 61.41% lower, according to July 2019 data from cost-of-living comparison website Numbeo.com. Though you could spend less, most retirees will find that they can live reasonably well on $1,500-$2,000 a month.
Low cost is just one reason why Chile is popular with retirees looking for an upscale, cosmopolitan lifestyle on a budget. While not the most affordable country in South America, Chile is a peaceful nation of friendly locals, stunning scenery, a modern infrastructure and plenty of adventure – plus established communities of expats.
Where to Settle
Even though it is one of the highest-priced areas in the country, Santiago – Chile’s capital and largest city – is a popular retiree destination. The city blends the old with the new, and cobblestone streets with colonial architecture can be found next to modern structures throughout the city. Other popular cities include La Serena, one of the country’s most widely visited seaside destinations; Pucón, Chile’s adventure tourism capital on the shores of Lake Villarrica; and Valparaíso, a quirky city known for its bohemian, artsy vibe and maze of cobblestone alleys.
Rent or Buy?
According to Numbeo.com, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center as of July 2019 was $468; outside the city center, the rent drops to an average of $389 per month. Move up to a three-bedroom apartment and the average rent is $800 inside the city and $669 elsewhere. If you live in a very rural area, you can expect to pay even less.
With the exception of land in border areas (which you’ll have trouble buying), there are no restrictions on foreign property ownership in Chile. While many expats choose to rent because it’s often easier and it allows a bit more flexibility, some decide to purchase. As far as costs are concerned, Numbeo.com shows the average cost to buy an apartment in the city center is $214 per square foot; outside the city center it drops to $184 per square foot. Again, if you look in a rural area, you may get more house for your money.
Setting a Budget
In addition to housing costs, you'll want to set a budget that includes food and other essentials. Depending on where you live in the United States, eating in Santiago could be a bargain or could be in line with what you are used to paying. A meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs $80 in New York City. The same meal costs about $44 in Santiago, making Santiago about 50% less expensive than New York City. But, the same meal would cost about the same in Lubbock, Texas. Entertainment tends to cost less in Santiago, although you'll pay similar amounts for clothing and utilities as you would in New York City.
What does this mean for your budget? You can retire in Chile for about $1,000 a month, according to 2018 figures from InternationalLiving.com, a publishing group that covers living and retiring overseas. While this amount is certainly feasible, it probably won’t be enough to cover all your expenses, especially once you add in trips home to visit friends and family, plus attractions and travel. For most retirees, a budget closer to $2,000 is more realistic.
The Bottom Line
Expats enjoy life in Chile because of the welcoming locals, stunning scenery, rich culture, cosmopolitan cities, modern infrastructure and affordable cost of living.
Rules and regulations vary by country, including visa and residency requirements. In addition, taxes for those retiring abroad can be quite complicated. It’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified attorney and/or tax specialist if you’re making plans to retire abroad.
Note: U.S. citizens traveling to or residing abroad are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your family in case of an emergency.