work and travel chile

Work and Travel Chile: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you spend your workdays dreaming of moving to an exotic foreign land?

Why not actually buy a one-way ticket to a new country?

Maybe one with mountains, deserts and job opportunities galore, like Chile?

Whether you want to work, volunteer or work and travel in Chile, you’ve got plenty of options.

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Types of Visas in Chile

Regardless of what you decide to do in Chile, you’ll need to acquire a visa of some kind.

1. Chile Tourist Visa

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Travelers from most European countries, North America, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan (among others) can obtain a free visa on arrival. Australians landing at Santiago airport must pay a reciprocal fee of 158 AUD to enter the country, although entering overland is free.

Other countries need to apply for a tourist visa in advance by providing documentation such as proof of solvency and a travel itinerary.

Tourist visas usually last for 90 days and can be extended by leaving and re-entering the country or by applying for an extension within Chile.

Theoretically, there’s no limit to the number of times a traveler can leave and return to Chile to extend their visa. In practice, however, continuous attempts will result in a denial of entry as foreigners aren’t supposed to stay in Chile indefinitely on a tourist visa.

Despite what some employers might claim, remunerated (any form of payment) work on a tourist visa is prohibited in Chile and can result in fines and/or deportation. “Remunerated” includes working in exchange for services like food and accommodation.

2. Visa Sujeta a Contrato (Work Visa)

work and travel chile

The coveted Visa Sujeta a Contrato is the most common route for foreigners to work in Chile.

As the name suggests, a work contract is required to obtain the visa. Frustratingly, some companies require a work visa before offering a contract, a ridiculous situation reminiscent of the novel “Catch 22.”

At present, the visa can and should be applied for in Chile. However, there’s talk of an upcoming change which would require would-be workers to undertake the process in their home country. Check with your embassy first.

Fees vary depending on the nationality of the applicant, and the process requires a degree of bureaucratic rigmarole.

3. Working Holiday Visa

Young Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians (age requirements vary between countries) can apply for a Working Holiday Visa to Chile which allows them to work and travel in Chile for up to 12 months.

The process is intended to be far more accessible than normal migration channels, although there’s a maximum yearly quota. So try to get in quickly!

4. Temporary Visa

The aptly named Temporary Visa is available to applicants with links to Chilean residents or specialized work skills, among others. A different, albeit slightly more simplified process must be undertaken.

Paid Jobs in Chile

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Remember that all forms of remunerated activities are prohibited on a tourist visa.

You often earn a contract through business connections in Chile, known as pitutos. Nevertheless, seeking out work through online portals such as Trabajando and Laborum is still common practice. Xpat Jobs lists positions specifically intended for foreigners.

English Teachers

Native English teachers are in high demand as Chileans become increasingly eager to improve their language skills. Qualified and experienced educators can easily land a gig at a prestigious institution with packages totaling well over 1,000 USD per month. Expect low-end language schools to pay 500-800 USD per month.

Tutoring privately typically nets between 10 and 20 USD per hour, although a considerable time frame is required to develop a client base.

Tour Guides

Outdoorsy types might prefer to look for work within the country’s burgeoning adventure sports industry. After all, what could be better than getting paid to chaperone thrill-seeking tourists on mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and white water rafting excursions?

Ample experience and outdoor expertise are obviously prerequisites for each gig. Other than that, it’s relatively easy to land a job because English-speaking foreigners are in high industry demand.

Research companies and offer your services directly for best results. And don’t forget to peruse those job portals!

Professionals

Architects, lawyers, doctors and anyone else with a certifiable professional degree could land a job in Chile once their skill has been verified through the Temporary Visa application.

The mining industry is robust in Chile, meaning there are plenty of positions available for engineers, project managers, geologists, metallurgists and the like. Most jobs require being based or spending large periods of time in remote areas. Compensation is competitive.

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Information Technology (IT) is another booming industry in Chile, particularly in the tech haven of Santiago. Some international companies operate in English, while local startups tend to require an advanced level of Spanish proficiency.

Everything from low-level tech support to systems administration is in demand, with salaries to match education and experience. CompuTrabajo has a good selection of IT positions.

Translators

Native English-speaking translators are always in high demand, although qualifications and experience are expected for the best paying positions.

Translators have the option of working either remotely or in an office alongside a local team. Try Indeed for local listings

Hostel Staff

Hostel managers often employ travelers to work the bar or reception through the Workaway website in exchange for food, accommodation and perhaps even a small stipend. Requirements are low in terms of time commitment and experience.

Digital Nomads

Working remotely is an obvious choice for foreigners in Chile. From writers to graphic designers and everything in between, Chile’s speedy internet and tech-savvy population are making the country more and more of a digital nomad hub.

Volunteer Jobs in Chile

Volunteering can be undertaken in Chile on a tourist visa provided there is no form of remuneration.

Conservation

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Wilderness enthusiasts would relish a volunteer stint at one of Chile’s renowned national parks.

Imagine spending your days maintaining trails under the craggy peaks of Torres del Paine with GoAbroad. Or maybe you want to work in the wilderness to save chinchillas with Save the Wild Chinchillas, Inc.

Education

Aspiring English teachers could give classes at any number of disadvantaged schools through the government-run national volunteer center. Doing so will help you earn vital experience should you wish to become a professional teacher in the future.

Feeling nervous? FluentU can help first-timers plan their lessons with ease.

Health

Medical students and budding doctors alike can volunteer to work the country’s modern medical system. You’ll improve your knowledge and expertise while giving something back to vulnerable Chileans.

Once again, GoAbroad provides listings with reliable companies for volunteers.

Traveling in Chile

Where to Go

Chile is filled with easily accessible national parks. Enjoy high-altitude deserts in the north and the remote, mountainous wilderness of southern Patagonia.

City slickers are in their element as well, as the cosmopolitan capital of Santiago and bohemian vibe of Valparaiso are big draws for urbanites.

Beach bums can pull up a towel in the upscale Viña del Mar while oenophiles can sample all the vino (wine) they can handle in the nearby wine growing valleys.

Regardless of where you go, you won’t stray far from the ocean, meaning you can find an endless array of seafood fresh from the water at any given moment. Be sure to give the ceviche a try!

So where specifically should you go? Frankly, we recommend the lot. Dedicate at least two months to experiencing everything Chile has to offer.

Travel Tips

  • Budget travelers prefer backpack-orientated hostels or small hospedajes and residenciales (simple guest houses), which offer private rooms at discounted rates. Camping and refugios (shelters) are the best bet when exploring wilderness regions.
  • English isn’t widely spoken in Chile. Dictionary and translator apps are handy for emergencies, but you really should make an effort to build on those linguistic skills to effectively communicate with the locals. Flashcard apps like Survival Spanish for Travel can guide you in basic interactions, while language programs like FluentU help round out conversational skills through authentic Spanish content and additional learning tools.

 

With a bit of effort and creativity, a trip to Chile shouldn’t be a fleeting experience.

Get your visa in check, find your dream job and fall in love with the landscapes as you work and travel in Chile. Just make sure to take advantage of your vacation days so you can hike and eat as much seafood as possible!


Harry is a South America-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts, and culture, among many other things.

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