Article updated April 2016
Rent an apartment in Santiago! Renting is a great alternative to staying in hotels and hostels, even for shorter vacations. There is an abundance of furnished apartments in many neighborhoods throughout Santiago complete with kitchens and balconies, and often in buildings with pools, gyms, and outdoor grills.
Let the length of your stay help guide your apartment search. Roomorama is a great English-language resource for finding apartments and houses with nightly rates, which can easily be adjusted to display weekly or monthly rates. Homeurbano, Portalinmobiliario, and the classified website Vivastreet also provide good starting points, although they tend to list prices by the month more frequently. Craigslist is a good resource particularly for classifieds aimed at North Americans, and Booking.com and Airbnb both offer short and long-term options.
Renting a room in a shared apartment or house is economical and often times fun. CompartoDepto is a prominent resource for finding shared apartments, and it is primarily in Spanish. The experience of shared apartments in Santiago ranges from two-bedroom apartments with a single roommate, all the way up to colonial houses in Bella Vista with ten or more bedrooms. For the adventurous and avid travelers, it never hurts to start building a profile within the Couchsurfing community. This service is not only free, but connects you to a great network of hosts and friends for your future traveling needs. Participation does not even require you to stay with a host or to host somebody else. You can participate in forums, go to planned events, and make new friends who can help show you around new places.
Establish a budget as a precursor to your apartment search. The rent for most one-bedroom apartments falls into the range of $200.000 to $450.000 Chilean Pesos (CLP) per month. Proximity to the Metro, other means of transportation, and central Santiago often drives prices up. Daily and weekly rates for apartments are similar to those for hotel rooms in Santiago: around $35.000 CLP and up per night, or $400.000 CLP and up per week. Rentals by the month typically involve a deposit of one month’s rent.
For help with currency exchange rates, you can visit xe.com, among other resources. Do note that a common term for a $1,000 CLP note is a luka. You may also come across housing prices listed as UF, or Unidad de Fomento, which is a Chilean accounting unit. A conversion calculator for Chilean UF can be found at coinmill.com.
Real Estate agents may help ease the process of searching and negotiating, but come with quite a price tag. However, in Santiago, clients do not normally pay real estate agents until after they have helped find and secure a home. Some resources that apparently do not include this service will try to add on real estate agency fees, but these can be negotiated. In particular, if you rent an apartment for several months and are not sure if you will be renewing after that initial period, make it clear that you would rather not pay the same fee to renew. This fee can be reduced, and many owners will appreciate the opportunity to keep low-maintenance and polite tenants long-term. If you use an agent make sure you get direct contact information for your landlord prior to signing a lease in case you have problems and your agent isn’t being as helpful as needed. Also note that there’s no central listings of property so each agent will only be ale to show you their own properties so you may need to contact several to find your perfect long term rental!
The prices of utilities, or gastos, can be surprising in an unpleasant way. Make sure you ask if the price of utilities is included in the rental price or if is a separate fee. If it is separate, try to ascertain how much it will normally be. Ask the real estate agents or landlords to show you the current gastos bill for the property. Some accommodations have utilities rates as low as $10.000 CLP per month, but others can skyrocket to $50.000 CLP or above. Typical gastos costs include gas, electricity, and water. Gastos comunes (common) are building dues, or fees, and cover part of the utilities for the entire building. If there are gastos comunes charges for your rental, there may be a down payment for them when you initially lease your apartment, or they may be charged monthly along with the rent. Some other factors that effect utilities at a glance are whether the building has a pool, which can add up to $15.000 CLP to your monthly bill; or whether the building is older and requires you buy your own tanks of gas as you need them (these cost closer to $20.000 CLP for less than a month’s worth of gas).
Gas is used for stoves/ovens, heating water, and additional heat in the winter. You typically buy it by the fifteen-kilo can, or balón, although there are a variety of sizes available. After you have bought all the cans you need for comfortable use (usually one to three), you exchange empty cans for full ones of the same size at a lower rate. Gas is ordered by phone and delivered to your home. Some companies that provide this service include Lipigas, Gasco, and Metrogas. You will need a Chilean RUT, or identification number, in order to access these. Many newer buildings include gas as part of the gastos, so tenants do not have to worry about this chore, however if you have portable heaters they would typically not be included.
Two final considerations for your budget are parking and storage. Those in Chile long-term may find themselves needing one or both of these, so inquire into it while searching. Many buildings have a limited number of such spaces, but expect storage space to go at a rate of at least $30.000 CLP per month. A parking space downtown can cost upward of $60.000 CLP per month, while street parking is abundant in some suburban neighborhoods. You need permission from the municipality of your comuna (neighborhood) if you want to park on the street regularly, and overnight parking is included in this permit. However, car break-ins are very common and regularly parking on the street overnight is not recommended. Building policies for guest parking vary, and overnight guest parking is not always available. Public parking garages are useful for this, especially in downtown neighborhoods. They usually cost approximately $10.000 CLP per night.
While looking for an apartment, bear in mind that not all are furnished (amueblado). Furnished apartments are not difficult to find, but those visiting Santiago for longer periods of time often choose unfurnished ones. There are several large Facebook groups and pages who provide multilingual and inexpensive forums for finding used furniture in Chile, such as Find In Santiago and Gringo Garage Sale. The classified websites Mercadolibre and Yapo are also great resources, especially for items that are hard to find in stores, and occasionally for finding apartments themselves as well.
For those who want to buy new furniture, superstores such as Paris, Easy, and Falabella all have wide selections. The flea market district of Santiago, Bío Bío, has some enormous discount furniture stores with inexpensive delivery fees. Moderate Spanish skills and a keen eye on your belongings are necessary for shopping in Bío Bío, as this crowded street market is a haven for pickpockets. Although furniture may appear to be of the variety you put together yourself, they usually do not come with instructions and may require several tools. Assembling new furniture usually requires a specialized craftsman (maestro). The store at which you buy your furniture should provide this connection and include this service in the price, although tips are always appreciated. Delivery is frequently included as well. While shopping, you may also want to inquire into custom-made furniture such as tables and shelves, as the prices do not differ very much from those of new furniture.
Next, consider the variety of neighborhoods in Santiago. Providencia is a popular hub for tourists and long-term expatriates alike, as is Vitacura to the North. Although largely financial districts by day, their numerous bars and restaurants make this area a popular after-work destination as well. Ñuñoa, to the South, has also been a historically desirable place to live as its proximity to buses rather than Metros kept prices low, and its large central plaza provides great off-the-beaten-path entertainment. A Metro line is due to open in this neighborhood in 2016, so there is currently a scramble to obtain real estate there.
Santiago Centro is a desirable location given its ease of access to nearly all parts of the city. Its neighborhoods are large and diverse. Bellas Artes, Republica, La Moneda, Brasil, and Yungay are all cultural hubs and popular areas in which to live. To the Northeast is Recoleta, which contains the wild nightlife of Bella Vista and dizzying shopping of Patronato. Downtown apartments can be smaller and additional costs such as parking can add up, but the easy access to activities, services, and transportation often makes up for it.
Las Condes and La Reina cover an enormous area of the city to the East and are perceived as safe, quiet neighborhoods. Access to public transportation can be limited, as well as to nearby stores and restaurants. However, these residential areas are where you will most likely find houses for rent, complete with yards and garages.
Do not be afraid to consider the rest of the comunas in Santiago as well! All areas have both their charms and downsides, and many suburban neighborhoods are where you will find the greatest value, even close to metros. It is not uncommon to be told to be careful no matter where you live, which is kind advice, but not always useful. Generally, southern and western suburbs are viewed as more dangerous areas, however, plenty of success stories come from there as well. Santiago, as a whole, is one of the safest cites in South America. In any case, make good use of Google Maps before scheduling visits to apartments- some landlords may consider a half-hour walk close to the metro, and some apparently remote areas may actually be well-connected to bus lines.
Do not forget to read and sign a contract. This is the only way to legally guarantee your right to your deposit or agreed upon utility fees. Some accommodations require a long-term visa in order to sign a contract, but look for places to live where your visa status will be respected. I was once living in a shared apartment in Providencia that largely catered to travelers with Tourist Visas, and the owner still wrote up a brief contract that we all signed at a local notary, which are common small legal institutions throughout Santiago.
Make sure you to ask how to end your contract, as you may have to return to a notary, give several weeks notice, or wait until the end of a leased period of time. It never hurts to address as many of these issues as you can ahead of time. There is a huge variety in the amount of cleaning and repair work expected of you, so inquire into that as well. Some contracts include a small cleaning charge, which can be an advantageous addition. Also be aware of the complications of moving out with a lot of your own furniture and other belongings. Many buildings will not permit you to begin moving out until you have completed a salvoconducto, which is an additional document you may have to present to the administrator to confirm you are leaving and have paid all outstanding bills, so be aware of that before booking a moving truck.
If you arrive in Santiago in a temperate time of year, you may not notice that the vast majority of buildings are not equipped with central heating and cooling systems, nor significant insulation. Be prepared to invest in fans for the summer, and heaters (and plenty of thermal wear) for the winter. Some popular types of heaters are run on gas as part of the aforementioned system, but electric space heaters can be found at most department stores for as little as $7.000 CLP. A big advantage to living in Santiago is the lack of insects – moths and flies are common, but mosquitoes are nearly nonexistent. This explains the absence of screens in most windows.
Finally, the majority of the processes listed here are going to take place in Spanish. Do not hesitate to keep a pocket dictionary on hand during your search, and really dig into detail on those contracts. It can be a challenge sometimes, but you may be surprised to learn that the same small set of vocabulary is repeated again and again while searching for a place to live, and your understanding of the language and culture in Santiago will improve dramatically.
Note: This story was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.