Frequently Asked Questions


Living in Santiago

  • Where am I going to live in Santiago?answer»
  • What happens if I don’t like my host family? answer»
  • Can I use my cell phone from the US in Chile? answer»
  • What’s the weather like? answer»
  • How do I move around Santiago?answer»
  • What kinds of dress codes exist?answer»
  • What’s the standard of living in Santiago? answer»
  • What is the Internet coverage like in Chile? answer»
  • What should I bring? answer»
  • What shouldn’t I bring? answer»
  • Can I work? answer»


Safety and Security

Travel and Visas

What is the Visa Registration Process? answer »

What about traveling in Chile and South America? answer »

If you are on the Chilean Universities Program you have the choice to take classes at four universities (see Academics page). Each university has multiple campuses, so it will depend on which classes you decide to take at which universities. All campuses are accessible by public transportation, and before classes start we will visit the campuses where the majority of IFSA Santiago students take classes. If you are on the Summer Global Business and Culture Program, you will take all of your classes at the School of Business and Economics at the University of Chile, which is located two blocks from the IFSA-Santiago office. If you are on the Beginning Spanish: Inside Chile Program, you will take classes at the Universidad Autónoma, located in the comuna of Providencia.
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Books in Chile are very expensive, and outside the budget of most students. For this reason, professors leave copies of assigned readings at a designated photocopier within the department. Students then go there and request the copies they need. You may also check out any books you need at the campus libraries using your local university ID.
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You will live in middle-class residential neighborhood in Santiago, near a metro station or main avenue with public transportation. All of our host families are located in safe areas and their houses have been inspected to insure that the heating, gas and electrical systems are secure.

Student Elizabeth Daly with her host family

Taken by Elizabeth Daly, IFSA-Santiago, Fall 2010. Description: Student Elizabeth Daly with her host family.

Student Leah Martinez with her host mother.

Taken by Leah Martinez, IFSA-Santiago, Fall 2010. Description: Student Leah Martinez with her host mother.

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Although we try our best to place you with a host family based on your interests and preferences, sometimes the match just doesn’t work out. If at any time during the semester you’re having problems or feel uncomfortable with your host family, come and talk with IFSA Santiago staff. We’ll help you make the right decision and look for a new family if that’s what you ultimately feel is best.
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Maybe, it depends on your US cell phone carrier. However, it is much easier to buy a relatively cheap phone here in Chile, that way you won’t risk losing your US phone. You can get a pay-as-you-go phone, which means you don’t need to sign a contract of any sort, and just pay for the minutes you use. We’ll provide more information on purchasing a cell phone during orientation.
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Remember, in Chile, the seasons are opposite. So if you arrive in February, expect summer weather. If you arrive in July, you’ll be arriving in the middle of winter.

A view of Eastern  Santiago in the winter.

Taken by: Abby Hall. Description: A view of Eastern Santiago in the winter.

Summer in Santiago is hot and dry, with average daily temperatures around 86 degrees F (30 degrees C). Summer nights are normally cooler, around 68 degrees F (20 degrees C). The sun is strong in Santiago because it’s very close to the hole in the ozone layer. We recommend you wear sunscreen (at least SPF 30) every day, and especially when you go to the beach.

Winter in Santiago is rainy and relatively mild, with daily temperatures around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), dropping down to 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) at night. However, despite mild winter temperatures, many students find Santiago winters to be harsher than in the Northern part of the United States, due to a lack of central indoor heating. Most houses are heated with space heaters that are turned off at night. We recommend bringing lots of layers and warm clothes for the Santiago winter. A hat, scarves, gloves, a warm jacket and good shoes are a must.

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Santiago has an extensive public transportation system called “Transantiago”, which includes the metro and urban busses (known as micros). You pay for the bus and metro with a rechargeable Bip! Card, which we provide you with upon arrival. There are also shared taxis (colectivos) and taxis. We will explain the transportation system in detail during orientation. Remember that transportation costs are not included in your program fee.

Micro picture

Taken by Abby Hall. Description: A Transantiago micro. Feeder buses will be a different, solid color, depending on the part of Santiago.

Metro Station picture

Taken by Abby Hall. Description: The signs with three red diamonds will tell you where the metro station is. This is the Universidad Católica Metro Station, the one closes to the IFSA-Santiago office.

Tarjeta BIP picture

Taken by IFSA Staff. Description: You will use this card on the metro and urban busses.
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Chileans Crossing Street  picture

Taken by Anthony Navarrete. Description: Chileans cross the main street of Downtown Santiago (called La Alameda) on a weekday at lunchtime.

In general, Chileans dress a bit more formally than in the US, but the differences in types of clothes aren’t drastic. One main difference is that Chilean university students don’t wear sweatpants and/or pajamas to class. They usually go with casual clothes: jeans, sneakers and sweaters or tee-shirts. You will see less shorts and more skirts and dresses on women, although this fad is changing. We recommend that you bring one more formal outfit with you, in case you need to meet with someone for a research project, present an oral exam in one of your classes, or if we attend a more formal event as a group.

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The standard of living varies greatly depending on social class. However, compared to other Latin American countries, Santiago has a high standard of living. Most people have cell phones and most households have televisions. You will be living with middle class families where you will be well taken care of, although you most likely won’t be living in the lap of luxury. Many families, including middle class households, have housekeepers (nanas) which may come to the house as much as every day, or as little as once a week.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Chile is one of the most connected countries in Latin America. Most host families have internet access. There are computers with internet access as well as Wi-Fi coverage at the IFSA office. The local universities also have computer labs with internet access as well as Wi-Fi coverage. You’ll find many cafés and even some metro stops in Santiago have Wi-Fi coverage as well.
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IFSA will send you a packing list prior to departure. In addition, we recommend that you bring some small souvenirs or gifts for your host family and future friends. Chile’s electric system runs on 220 volts (the US uses 110 volts), so if you have certain electronics items such as hair dryers or electronic razors, you may need to bring a voltage converter. Your computer should be fine without one. Check the voltage requirements on your electronics items before leaving.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
You won’t be able to enter Chile with any animal products, fresh fruits or vegetables or seeds. The Chilean Agricultural and Livestock Service requires that you declare any of these products you bring into Chile, and you could face high fines if you don’t declare them. When in doubt, declare anything you think is questionable. Chile uses Zone 4 for DVDs, so if you bring DVDs from home, you may not be able to watch them on Chilean DVD players. Likewise, if you buy DVDs in Chile, you may not be able to watch them in the United States.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
No, your student visa does not allow you to work. If Chilean authorities discover you formally working, you can be deported.
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With your university ID card from the local universities, you will be able to get discounts to many cultural events, such as the theater, concerts and museums. This ID card will be issued to you after course registration.
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The exchange rate fluctuates depending on economic conditions.  As of May 2012, the rate is around 515 pesos to the dollar. To check the current exchange rate, you can go to this website.

Monedas picture

Taken by: IFSA Staff. Description: Chilean coins come in the following denominations: 500, 100 (two versions), 50, 10, 5 and 1. The five and one peso coins are not pictured.

Bills picture

Taken by: Abby Hall. Description: Chilean bills come in the following denominations: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 (not pictured). The Central Bank is currently in the process of releasing new currency designs, so you may see older versions of the 5000 and 10000 bills, as well as newer versions of the 1000 and 2000 bills.
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(Redbanc Picture) Taken by Abby Hall. Description: You can find ATMs anywhere you see this maroon and white “Redbanc” sign.

You can exchange US dollars to Chilean pesos at many places here in Santiago. Additionally, you can use your US debit card to take money out of Chilean ATMs, called RedBanc. The Chilean ATM will charge you around US $5.00 and your home bank may charge you as well to take money out. You can also use your US credit or debit cards to make purchases directly. Check with your credit card company to see if they charge a foreign transaction fee. You may also exchange traveler’s checks, although the exchange rate will not be as favorable as exchanging cash.

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US Embassy

The US Embassy in Santiago.

The US Embassy is located in northeastern Santiago. The address is Avenida Andrés Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile. The phone number is (56-2) 330-3000. The IFSA-Butler staff is in frequent contact with the US Embassy, so if you need anything, let us know first. We will help you register with the Embassy once you arrive.

For more information: and

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Chile is a very seismic country, due to the fact that it is located at the border of the Nazca and South American plates. This means that Chile is a country of geysers, volcanoes and yes, earthquakes. On February 27, 2010, an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale struck Chile, with most damage occurring in the area near the southern city of Concepción, about 500 km south of Santiago. Aftershocks were felt for months following the quake, and small tremors are occasionally still felt. IFSA-Butler Santiago has a detailed emergency plan in case of an incident such as an earthquake, and we make sure that you know what to do in case of such event. Immediately after the 2010 earthquake, the plan was put into effect and worked. All students were accounted for and parents in the US were notified immediately. Following the quake, students carried out service learning projects to aid the victims. It is likely that you’ll feel small tremors during your time in Chile, and although this can be worrisome or even scary, geological experts state that it is extremely unlikely that an earthquake of similar magnitude will strike again in the same area in the near future.

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Torres del Paine Picture

Taken by Abby Hall. Description: A Chilean cedula de identidad, also known as a “Carnet”.

According to Chilean law, within thirty days of entering the country, you must register your student visa with the International Police. After doing this, you will be able to get your Chilean ID card, called a cédula de identidad and serves as your main form of ID while in Chile. Don’t worry; during orientation, IFSA-Butler staff will go with you and help you with this process.

For more information: and

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Travel within Chile and to other South American countries is quite easy. We can give you recommendations and help you obtain the correct visas and vaccinations. However, please keep in mind your academic commitment when making travel plans.

Torres del Paine Picture

Taken by Chasie Wallis, IFSA-Santiago Spring 2005. Description: IFSA-Santiago Spring 2005 students Chasie Wallis and Katy Moy at Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile.

Atacama Dog - Santiago, Chile Study Abroad

Taken by Emelie MacPherson, IFSA-Santaigo Fall 2007. IFSA Santiago Fall 2007 student Emelie MacPherson made a canine friend while sand boarding in the Atacama Desert in the North of Chile.

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