The cost of living is low in Chile, despite it being one of the most modern countries in South America. On a teacher’s salary, you’ll be able to travel round Chile during your time off, in addition to saving around 15-20% of your teaching salary.
In comparison to other major cities in South America the average rent in Santiago is cheap at around £200/$300 per month. This means that most teachers rent privately and can afford a good sized 2 or 3 bedroom apartment. Rent stays consistent whether you’re in the city or the suburbs, so you won’t be able to save much money by moving further out.
With over 2,400km of coast, Chilean food consists of a lot of seafood! An extremely popular dish is Curanto en Hoyo – especially in South Chile – which is where fish, potatoes and bread are heated in a hole in the ground over hot rocks, wrapped in leaves and covered with dirt to retain as much flavour as possible.
If you love dessert, then you’ll be right at home in Chile, joining the locals with a slice of Tres Leche cake; translated to ‘three milk’ as whole, evaporated and condensed milk are all added to give the cake an extra fluffy texture. Toffee sauce is then drizzled on top to make it even more indulgent – how could you possibly resist?!
When it comes to alcohol, it’s no surprise that wine is the tipple of choice for the Chileans; and as the fifth-largest exporter of wines in the world, it’s a booming business for them. Make like the Chileans and enjoy a glass of wine filled with strawberries (called Borgona).
Northern and Central Chile enjoys warm weather, with winters in the capital of Santiago rarely dipping below 15 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, it gets VERY cold in Southern Chile, as it’s only 1,200km away from Antarctica (and by being so close, be prepared for the daily weather forecasts for Antarctica, which all of Chile receives). Southern cities like Punta Arenas has summer temperatures the same as Northern Chile’s winter temperatures, and winter is around 2 degrees – so don’t forget to pack those jumpers if you’re teaching English in Southern Chile!
Chilean TEFL employers don’t typically provide accommodation free-of-charge, and it’s likely you’ll have to find your own housing. There are a number of websites advertising flats and spare rooms, such as Compartodepto but be aware that rents are going to be higher on these sites, compared to flats advertised in newspapers or shop windows.
Standard of accommodation varies greatly across the country; flats are modern in major cities, but in smaller towns such as Calbuco in the South, housing will be very basic.
The larger cities of Santiago, Puente Alto and Antofagasta have the most vacancies for English teachers. There are job opportunities in smaller towns such as Putre or Caleta Tortel, but these will be harder to find, and pay will be significantly lower at around £500/$800 per month.
To give yourself the best chance of securing a job, start applying for vacancies in November and December, ready for the start of the academic year in February (this is because Chile is located in the Southern hemisphere). If you wait until January to apply for jobs, it’ll be too late, with schools off on holiday so you’ll have missed your chance.
The wealthiest families live in Santiago, and if you teach in the Lo Barnechea district, your students will be children of the Chilean elite, living in luxurious mansions. Santiago has by far the most number of international companies based there, so if you want to teach business English in Chile, it’s the best city to be in.
If you love nature, then Antofagasta is ideal; life is centred around the Plaza Colon, where there’s a replica Big Ben to symbolise the strong British community, but drive a little further out and you’ll get to experience amazing natural beauty, from Mano del Desierto with a sculpted sand hand, to the sandy beaches of Monumento Natural La Portada, you’ll have plenty of things to do on your days off from teaching!
All towns and cities in Chile are served by buses, which can be very intimidating for foreigners as they’re crowded, uncomfortable, and the drivers tend to drive fast! The only exception to this is Santiago’s buses, which were replaced during 2007-2012, and are now modern, expat friendly and much easier to use.
Like much of South America, catching a taxi can be very risky: whilst some drivers are honest, there are a lot who aren’t and merely want to take as much money off you as possible. Public transport in the major cities tend to stop running at 11pm, so it can be tempting to catch a taxi after these times: to be on the safe side, call a government approved Uber taxi.
If you’re teaching English in a Chilean public school you can expect to work between 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. This means that you’ll be able to spend your weekends exploring your new home. You’ll also be pleased to learn that under Chilean law, every teacher will be guaranteed 3 weeks of paid holiday and most TEFLers use this opportunity to head to nearby Bolivia or Argentina.
The Chileans aren’t exactly known for their punctuality, and unfortunately, your students can often fail to turn up for classes. If you’re offered a job at a private institution, check they have a cancellation policy, so that you’ll still get paid if your students don’t turn up (which WILL happen!).
Obtaining a work visa may sound difficult, but don’t let it deter you from teaching English in this fascinating country! The easiest type of visa to get is the ‘visa sujeto a contrato’, which you can get once you’ve been offered a job, and your employer will help you with. This visa is free for US citizens, but costs for other nationalities – visit the Chilean Government website for up to date advice and prices.
No stay in Chile is complete without a trip to the Atacama Desert, 5 hours west of Antofagasta. Boasting geysers and hot springs, it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you can make a proper trip of it, with hotels nearby for overnight stays.