Do you spend your work days dreaming of moving to an exotic foreign land?
You’re not alone. I know I did.
So rather than heading to the drudgery of your nine-to-five job, why not actually buy a one-way ticket to a new country?
Maybe one with mountains, deserts and job opportunities galore?
Maybe work and travel in Chile.
It might be easier than you think.
Granted, obtaining an official work contract and visa is an exercise in unraveling red tape. But, yes, it’s doable.
And there are plenty of options other than work visas, such as volunteer organizations, working holiday visas and specialist migration permits to consider.
Just be sure you have enough vacation time to give this great country the attention it deserves.
Work and Travel Chile: A Beginner’s Guide
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.
- 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.
- Bus is the primary form of transportation for exploring the country, although travel times can be outrageously long. CheckMyBus provides detailed online information on a number of routes.
- Domestic flights are great for quick long-distance forays. Ask a local travel agent for discounted LATAM fares and compare them to Chile’s low-cost carriers such as newcomer JetSmart or longtime favorite Sky Airlines.
- English isn’t widely spoken in Chile, so create an account with FluentU to brush up on your Spanish before and during your trip. The first 15 days are free! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences. Make an effort to build on those linguistic skills while on the road and during your stay.
Click here to join our team!
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
And One More Thing…
If you’re excited for your big move to Chile, then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU teaches you Spanish through authentic materials, so you’ll be ready to interact with Chilean coworkers, make local friends and travel around the country.
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the app from iTunes or the Google Play store and bring FluentU’s innovative language-learning experience to your iOS or Android device.
Harry is a South America-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts, and culture, among many other things.