Santiago on $50 a Day

Travel Tips — By Bearshapedsphere (Eileen Smith) on July 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm

So, you’re thinking about visiting Santiago, but want to keep it reasonable? You’re thinking $50 a day should do it. But does that mean you’re sleeping under a bridge or eating in the finest restaurants? Here are some ballpark estimates of how much it’s going to cost you to eat, drink, be merry and of course, have a place to lay your head at the end of the day.

First things first: your guidebook probably doesn’t have up-to-date information on the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Chilean Peso. My go-to spot for finding out today’s rate is either the local newspaper (El Mercurio), or .xe currency exchange. The dollar is hovering around the 465 mark at the moment, though fluctuations will raise and lower your budget accordingly.

So, $50. Here’s what you’ve got: 23,250. (Veinti tres mil, doscientos cinuenta pesos). I’ll be honest. It’s not much! You’re probably going to want to stay in a youth hostel, so you can live to eat the next day. A few good options are in Barrio Brasil or Bellavista, where the cheapest (recommendable) hostel is probably going to run you about 6500 CLP a day, most of the time without breakfast.

That leaves you with 16,750 for the rest of your day, food, drinks and transportation included. One money-saver is to arrange to be in Santiago on a Sunday, when most of the museums are free. That will free up a few thousand pesos if you were planning on visiting the PreColumbino, Bellas Artes or the MAC, three downtown favorites. The Museo de La Memoria is always free, and will give you a good introduction to the dictatorship.

Okay, so we’ve gotten sleep taken care of (for a price), and culture taken care of for free. You’re probably going to want to get around Santiago, and for that you might want to go read this blog entry on taking the metro. The easiest way to get around is to spend 1300 on a BIP card (explained more fully in the post), and load it up with as much money as you think you’re going to need. If you want to take just a short trip somewhere, you’ll spend only one fare if you do your ida y vuelta (round trip) within two hours. If you’re not going to be in Santiago for long, or don’t plan on transferring from metro to bus, you might prefer the single-fare entries, which vary in price by the time of day.

Now, what’s really important: how to get the most bang for your buck in terms of food. And if your hostel didn’t serve you breakfast (and even if it did, and you just need to top up with some real coffee), you’ll probably want to head to Bellas Artes, to the street José Miguel de La Barra to have a coffee and some breakfast. A small cappucino and a pastry will probably set you back around 3,000 pesos, or 1,500 for the coffee alone.

There’s lots of long walks to take for free, and you can either pay $1400 pesos roundtrip to go up and down Cerro San Cristobal (the large, iconic hill with the statue of the Virgin Mary on top), or hoof it up and down to save that cash. (Take the sendero de Zorro Vidal to hike to the top, rather than following the road, it starts about 800 meters from the Pio Nono entrance to the park).

The best way to get a gigantic, hearty (though not necessarily healthy) lunch is to go to the Vega. Not the Mercado Central, where tourists go, but where locals chow down on fried fish (pescado frito), blood sausage (prietas), and even completos (hotdogs piled high with avocados, mayonnaise and tomatoes). You can easily get out of the Vega’s foodstalls (in the second conglomeration of buildings/stalls) for 2500 pesos, with a bowl of consomme, a main dish and fries, mashed potatoes or a salad costing just 1800 pesos.

After lunch, you’ll have about 9,000 pesos left, and you’ll have to prioritize. If you’d like a typically Chilean meal, and want to have some drinks to go with it, you’ll probably want to choose someplace in Bellavista, so you can be freer with the libations. If you’re willing to foregoe some alcohol for fancier food, you’ll probably stick to Providencia. And if you want to really go full-on Chilean, make some pasta and sauce in hostel, and use your 7500 pesos for good (or evil) at bars and clubs (entry usually no more than 3,000 if you go early) in Bellavista, or several giant beers around the plaza in Ñuñoa (you’ll have to take the bus here). And remember the metro closes early, and you’re almost out of money. Figure our your bus route home before you head out, take a very long walk or borrow from tomorrow for a taxi.

Total: 23250

  • lodging: 6500
  • breakfast 3000 (or economize with breakfast at the hostel, and use 1500 of this to try some of Chile’s fabulous ice cream)
  • transportation 2000
  • lunch 2500
  • Remaining: 9,000 for dinner and entertainment, spend it how you choose

Photo by patrickcoe on Flickr.


Tags: $50, Budget, Chile, hostel, Santiago