I left Chile in late November last year, after ten months of interrupted travel across the country. I say interrupted because I left Chile a few times in between, both for a visit home and for some stints into neighbouring countries Argentina and Bolivia. However, the duration of the trip was not a problem, thanks to my Chile working holiday visa.
Like similar visas in other countries, it allowed me to stay in Chile for up to one year. I could also take on jobs in the country during this period. (If you want to know how you can apply for such a visa and what exactly the conditions are, read this article here where I break it all down).
So after all those months of travelling, was it worth getting a working holiday visa? Or could I have done it any other way? You’re always smarter after the fact, so let’s take a look back at being a working holidayer in South America with this Chile working holiday review. Answering the following questions might help you decide if the visa might be something for you, too.
Disclaimer: I’m assuming here that you are eligible to both working holiday and tourist visas/visa-free travel to Chile. This will depend on your nationality. Also, this is merely a personal review of the Chile working holiday visa, based on the information and experience I have at the time of writing this. I’m far from being a visa expert, so if you’re really considering getting one, enquiring how to go about this at your nearest Chilean embassy should be your next step.
How long do you want to stay in Chile?
The most important factor is the length of your trip. On a normal tourist visa, you’re entitled to travel the country for up to 90 days. If you plan to stay longer, getting a working holiday visa might be the better option.
That being said, I realized after this trip that I could have done my travels without the working holiday visa. Looking back, I never actually stayed in Chile for longer than three months at a time before I either went home for a visit or crossed the border into a neighbouring country.
I didn’t plan it this way at all. I made up my itinerary as I went along. Thus, I only coincidentally happened to never stay in the country more than the span of a tourist visa. However, it shows that skipping out of the country for a few days isn’t really a problem should you need to. Argentina, in particular, isn’t far at all (and has quite a lot to offer as well, as I may add).
Therefore, depending on how your plans look like or in how far you even know them yet at all, you may find you don’t absolutely need to get a working holiday visa only to travel longer. Nevertheless, having one means you don’t need to worry about when to schedule your next trip out of the country.
Also, if you’re working in Chile, just heading out of the country every now and again may not be as easy to schedule for you as it was for me. Which also brings us to the next point.
Do you want to work in Chile?
I’m a freelance writer working remotely for German companies. So for me, getting a job in Chile was never a priority. I could just take my existing work with me and do it whenever and wherever I wanted, as long as I had my laptop. However, I realize this is not exactly the standard situation for someone considering a working holiday visa.
If you’re looking for a paid job in Chile, having some kind of work visa is a must. The working holiday visa is one of the easiest to get if you fulfil the requirements. Therefore, if you seek to work in Chile for a limited time to finance your travels, this is the visa for you.
On the other hand, if you’re considering only doing volunteer work (i.e. working for board and lodging without being paid money), you can actually do this on a tourist visa. Thus, if that’s your plan, you wouldn’t necessarily need a working holiday visa.
Of course, the time question from above comes in again at this point. If you don’t plan to only volunteer and/or you want to travel for more than three months (without leaving the country in between to get a new tourist visa on return), a working holiday visa will be the better option.
Are there financial factors to consider?
Getting a working holiday visa will cost you some money (I break down exactly how much in my post on applying for a Chile working holiday visa). Thus, it’s cheaper getting in as a tourist (assuming you’re from a country that gets granted tourist visas to Chile for no additional fee). However, once you’re actually in the country, there are a few other financial factors associated with the working holiday visa.
As a working holiday visa holder, you will receive a Chilean ID card. It effectively makes you a Chilean resident for the duration of your visa. This brings both advantages and disadvantages when you travel in the country.
To start with the positive, many National Parks, museums and other tourist attractions in Chile offer different rates for foreigners and Chileans, the latter always being lower. As a resident, you pay the Chilean rate. Sometimes the difference is only the equivalent of a few dollars. In other cases, however, it can be quite a lot. I saved about 34.000 Pesos (ca. $50/€45) at the Easter Island Rapa Nui National Park and about 15.000 Pesos (ca. $22/€19) in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
The accommodation tax
The disadvantage, on the other hand, is the resident tax at hotels. When Chileans travel within their own country, they have to pay a tax of nineteen per cent in all hotels, hostels or other kinds of accommodations. Exempt from this tax are only foreigners with a non-Chilean passport and/or a foreign credit card.
This is where it gets a bit complicated because, in my experience, every accommodation treated this law differently. Sometimes paying or not paying the tax depends on your nationality, sometimes on the method or currency of payment, sometimes on both. As a Chilean resident, however, this confusion sometimes serves in your favour. As long as you check-in with your foreign passport and not your Chilean ID, hardly anyone will charge you the tax. In the entire ten months that I travelled in Chile, I only had to actually pay it twice.
So, according to this Chile working holiday review – is it worth it?
In the end, I personally would not have needed the visa. I neither ended up working in Chile nor staying more than three months at a time. I still don’t regret getting it, though. Despite the tax and the application fee, it saved me a bit of money when I look at the total tally. Also, having a Chilean ID card sometimes made things a bit easier, such as making bus reservations online and some such. Plus, it meant I didn’t need to carry my passport anywhere, as I had the ID.
However, your situation could be very different from mine. If you plan to travel longer than three months in Chile without leaving the country in between and/or you want to get a paid job in Chile for up to a year, the working holiday visa is most likely your best option.
Have you travelled to Chile on a working holiday visa? What were your experiences? Any more questions on this? Share your own Chile working holiday review in the comments.