The cost of living in Chile is more than 40% lower than in the United States as of April 2020, according to cost-of-living comparison website Numbeo. Rents were significantly lower by about 68%. Although you could spend less, most retirees will find that they can live reasonably well on $1,500 to $2,000 a month.

Key Takeaways:

  • The cost of living in Chile is more than 40% lower than in the United States.
  • Most retirees will find that they can live reasonably well on $1,500 to $2,000 a month.
  • The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center was just under $400.

Understanding Chile as a Retiree Destination

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, modern infrastructure, and plenty of adventure—plus established expat communities.

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 the following:

  • La Serena, one of the country’s most widely visited seaside destinations
  • Pucón, Chile’s adventure tourism capital on the shores of Lake Villarrica
  • Valparaíso, a quirky city known for its bohemian, artsy vibe and maze of cobblestone alleys

Rent or Buy?

According to Numbeo, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center as of April 2020 was just under $400. Outside the city center, the rent drops to about $350 per month. Move up to a three-bedroom apartment and the average rent is about $700 inside the city and roughly $590 elsewhere. If you live in a 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 shows the average cost to buy an apartment in the city center is under $200 per square foot. Outside the city center, the price drops to about $170 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, your budget should include food and other essentials. Depending on where you live in the United States, eating in Santiago could be a bargain, or it could be in line with what you are used to paying. A meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs nearly $100 in New York City.

The same meal costs about $40 in Santiago, making Santiago more than 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? According to International Living Magazine, a publishing group that covers living and retiring overseas, "a budget of $2,500 to $3,000 per month would provide a good quality urban lifestyle for an average couple." For most retirees, a budget closer to $2,000 is certainly doable.

Special Considerations

Regulations vary by country, including visa and residency requirements. In addition, taxes for those retiring abroad can be complicated. It’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified attorney and/or tax specialist if you are making plans to retire abroad.

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.