What to do about Money in Chile
The offical currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso (pronunced "pay-so") and unlike in some other South American countries, you won't find the US dollar used in day-to-day life, although it is easily exchanged in the many bureaux de change you'll find here in Chile.
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Backed by its rich mineral reserves, Chile is generally reckoned to be one of South America's most stable economies and boasts some of the continent's biggest companies, from airlines such as LAN to shopping giants like Saga Falabella. The success and stability of the economy means that the Chilean Peso is also one of South America's most stable currencies.
How many Chilean Pesos will you need?
Using Cash and Cashpoints in Chile
Chilean currency can easily be ordered online here in the UK, and many bureaux de change, banks and Post Offices also carry them, so if you'd prefer to carry actual money in Chile this is probably easier than taking US dollars and exchanging them once in Chile.
Alternatively, rather than bringing Chilean Pesos with you on your holiday to Chile, you could just rely on your usual bank card during your time here. We'd usually sugegst bringing a small amount of cash in any case, just so that you have some on arrival, but after that you'll find that cashpoints are widespread throughout the country although before travelling to more remote areas (think Torres del Paine, it pays to take cash with you.
Using Debit and Credit Cards in Chile
You can also use your usual bank or credit card to pay for things directly, and this is increasingly common throughout Chile. Again in more remote areas it's best not to rely on this, but in restaurants and cafes in major towns and cities in Chile paying on your card shouldn't present any problems.
If you plan to use your card either in cash machines or to pay directly for something, we'd recommend contacting your bank before travel so that they know you will be overseas, and when.
Haggling and Tipping in Chile
None of our drivers or guides in Chile will expect tips so please don't feel you have to tip them unless you think they've really gone above and beyond the call of duty. As a rule, Chile is similar to the UK or Europe in its tipping culture, so meals are usually tipped at 10%, but a few coins for a coffee or a beer will be fine.
The main exceptions to this rule are hotel porters, who expect a small gratuity for carrying your bags up to your room. This is obviously discretionary and you don't have to do this, but they tend to receive next to no wages, so the tips are effectively their salary. A tip of £5 (around $5000 pesos) is reasonable, but you'll need to up that if you're staying at one of Santiago's swisher hotels.
Haggling isn't common practice in Chile and generally items outside of markets are price-tagged and that's what you should expect to pay.
Setting a budget for your holiday in Chile
Prices are fairly stable in Chile, and you certainly don't see the rapid inflation of some of its neighbours - yes, we're talking about you, Argentina! What you will find is that prices in more out of the way places can be surprisingly high, reflecting the higher costs of transport in this country of epic distances. Here's a rough guide to the kinds of prices you can expect on your holiday to Chile:
|Lunch (set menu - mid-range)
|Lunch/Dinner (a la carte - mid-range)
|Lunch/Dinner (a la carte - high-end)
|Bottle of water
|Bottle of beer
||£1.50 (Baltica/Cristal) / £2 (Heineken)
|Glass of wine
|Coffee / Tea
As you'd hope from one of South America's leading wine producers, the wine is particularly good value!