So, after a rather quick encounter with Ms. Argentina, I blitzed through Chile to check things out on the ground. I ended up spending the majority of my time in Santiago, with stops in Viña del Mar, Valparaiso, and Arica.
I had heard a lot about Chile before going, especially about the growing economy, business friendly environment, and strong investment climate.
Here are some quick notes:
This is the center of life in Chile. It’s by far the largest city, with 6 million of Chile’s 18 million residents. If you’re anybody in Chile, you’ll be here.
The city itself I felt was somewhat unremarkable. I was not attracted. It was not particularly beautiful, it has poor air quality with pollution, it has little eye-catching architecture. It has decent public transport / metro, some nice parks, cheap taxis, and what I felt was the safest centro in all of South America, though.
The upscale neighborhood to be in is Los Condes, which is to the east / north east of the centro. It’s more expensive there, though. I ended up staying in the rather Bohemian district of Bellavista. Not bad, but I’m not into the artsy / graffiti vibe.
Summer (Nov-March) is sunny during the day, but definitely jacket weather at night.
2. Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
At 1.5 hrs away from Santiago on the Pacific ocean, these are definitely worth a visit if you ever travel to Chile.
Valparaiso is an old coastal port designated as a Unesco World Heritage site and has a really unique feel to it. Viña del Mar is more modern, with some beaches and great views. If I would ever live in Chile, it might be in Viña.
3. Cost of Living
Chile is not cheap, and thus is not a good choice for base-lining entrepreneurs. This is a big reason why I wouldn’t live there any time soon.
In fact, I’d put it up there with Brazil (excluding Rio + Sao Paulo) in terms of costs. I was spending $19 for a dorm room in a hostel, and routinely spending $10+ for a simple meal.
A small coke with no refills from taco bell was $2 (see pic).
Don’t go to Chile expecting cheap.
This was by far the best internet speeds I’ve experienced in South America.
My hostel had 8 Mbps download velocity. (And you know why internet speed is important.) It was great to have a reliably fast connection. Word on the street was that you could get some faster connections in apartments as well.
Also, Regus has several offices in Santiago (Los Condes), but I didn’t get around to visiting them. They are always my plan B if I can’t find good internet.
There are loads of opportunities for legit startups (i.e. who are seeking funding) in Santiago. I went to the Common Pitch Chile competition which was $35k for the winning startup, with loads of interested folks and genuine excitement.
One exec of a startup told me you can get grants (even $100k+) just by knocking on the right door (you might have to match 25%). Chile is a place where folks have a lot of money and are looking to invest, but it’s for on-the-ground startups, and it’s slanted towards those that will benefit Chile in some way.
Because they invite people to bring their startups to Chile, there is a community of young entrepreneurs from all over the world there building their startups. Pretty cool scene.
7. Real Estate
Big opportunity for smart RE investors as Chile gets wealthier and more people move to Santiago (away from Argentina) for opportunities. I came across apartments were selling for $40-60k but were renting out for $1200 / mo.
… Even I can do the math on that!
Of course, you will need to speak Spanish in order to really find your RE niche here.
8. Dating / Girls
On this front, I can’t say Chile would be a preferred destination for me in any way… The most fun I had in Chile was when I found some Brazilian girls. #yeahbuddy
9. Random Fact
Northern Chile is a complete and utter desert with sand as far as the eye can see, which leads to incredibly boring bus rides, and Arica is the driest city on the planet. It has perfect weather everyday (no a/c needed), but it’s so completely surrounded by desert that you feel like one day a sandstorm will blow in and bury the whole thing.
Lesson: Don’t take a bus over northern Chile. Take a plane, even if it costs $300 extra.
If you’ve got a startup seeking funding, or you’ve got a large amount of capital to invest in real estate or farmland, check out Chile to seek favorable returns.
However, if you are a younger laptop-bootstrapper who wants pretty girls and low to medium-low cost of living, forget it.