Santiago de Chile

Living in Santiago de Chile?

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Living in Santiago de Chile

Living in Santiago will put you at the heart of one of the southernmost countries in the world. But the beautiful scenery is not all you will discover while living there. Find out about the city’s general culture, safety, and transportation network here.
Santiago's panoramic skyline is beautifully framed by the Andes.

At a Glance:

  • Speaking Spanish is an essential skill for living in Chile. Unlike other countries, you cannot rely on people speaking English to get by.
  • Earthquakes are a fairly common occurrence in Santiago, but are generally small, and the city is well prepared to minimize damage.
  • Santiago is not a dangerous city, but it is recommended that you use your common sense and keep a close eye on your personal belongings when out and about.
  • Santiago has an extensive and modern public transportation system of buses and the metro, operated by Transantiago.

Santiago de Chile is the most modern city in Latin America. More than six-and-a-half million inhabitants living in the Metropolitan Region of Chile’s capital city enjoy a relatively high quality of life. As an expat, though, it might take you some time to accustom yourself to the slower pace of life in Santiago.

Communication Is Key

Many of the local people living in Santiago have never left their home country. This means that they like tradition and are not very used to foreigners imposing a new and different way of life on them. This can be most clearly seen in the importance that they attach to their national language, Spanish.

After Chile gained independence from Spain in 1817, the Spanish language and culture was well ingrained into everyday life. As a result, knowledge of the Spanish language is a necessity for life in the city, particularly if you want to be accepted by the local population.

Speaking Spanish is not only a means of being accepted: a lot of Chileans do not speak English. Given that you are living in Santiago, the country’s largest city, it is relatively likely that you will be able to communicate in English in certain pockets of the city, but do not by any means count on it being understood everywhere.

Through the Smog of Santiago de Chile

Santiago is beautifully situated in Chile’s central valley, and is encircled by mountains. The most prominent of these are the Andes, situated to the north and the east of the city. While these provide amazing landscapes and backdrops to the city, they can often be difficult to see.

Unfortunately, Santiago’s valley location means the city has to deal with substantial amounts of air pollution, which often gets trapped and forms smog which hangs over the city. Don’t let this ruin your first impressions of Santiago though, especially if you are arriving in winter when the humidity increases the smog.

You should also be aware that living in Santiago will mean experiencing earthquakes, or tremors, on a fairly frequent basis. The country is used to this threat, and Chileans don’t tend to worry about weaker tremors which might shock someone who has not experienced them before.

Santiago and the Surrounding Area

Founded in 1541, the city has developed a lot in recent decades. Some colonial Spanish buildings can be seen scattered around Santiago, but they are interspersed with more modern architecture, reminding visitors that the city is determined to make a name for itself as a viable center for business.

While you are living in Santiago be sure to take the time to journey away from the colonial plazas, and spend some time exploring the great outdoors. Santiago’s unique location should not be taken for granted — it is possible to enjoy trekking, skiing, climbing, and wine tours throughout the surrounding countryside.

The Local Currency

The currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso (CLP). Beware: Despite its name, the currency uses the same symbol as USD ($). Although Chile can be relatively expensive compared to other Latin American countries, it is still rather cheap when compared to many Western countries.

Safety in Santiago

Living in Santiago should not be dangerous. In fact, Chile prides itself on being one of the safest countries in South America. However, it is always a good idea to be aware and possibly be more careful with personal belongings than you would back home. For example, when sitting in restaurants and cafés, don’t leave bags on the backs of chairs and always beware of pickpockets.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Mathias Döringer

"Before moving to Santiago de Chile I joined the InterNations community and got useful hints regarding housing and business."

Emma Willems

"When I first came to Santiago de Chile I didn´t know one anyone. On InterNations I found many expat friends in the same situation."

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