Chile - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Last published date: 2021-01-16

Business Customs

U.S. business representatives will find that business practices in Chile and the United States are very similar. The Chilean business day usually begins at 9 am and ends between 6 pm and 7 pm. Lunch breaks usually do not begin before 1 pm. If there is business to be conducted, two or even three-hour lunches are not uncommon. Although social occasions do not always begin at the indicated time, business meetings usually do.

Many Chilean businesspeople are well-educated professionals who travel internationally. However, not all speak English and foreigners will often find the ability to speak Spanish very useful, if not an absolute must. Product marketing or company promotional literature should be in Spanish.

Appearance is an important part of Chilean business. Dress codes are generally formal and conservative - suit and tie for men and discreet dress or business suit (skirt or trousers) for women. Men tend to put on their jackets when leaving the office, even if it is just for lunch. Business attire is less formal outside major cities and in certain industrial sectors.

It is useful to have business cards printed with English on one side and Spanish on the other. Generally, business cards are exchanged at the beginning of any meeting.

Travel Advisory

As of October 2019, State Department has issued a Travel Advisory for Chile. Visitors are advised to refer to the State Department’s website for the latest information on traveling to Chile.

Visa Requirements

U.S. citizens entering Chile must have a valid passport in good condition, valid for the period of their stay. U.S. citizens traveling to Chile for recreation, tourism, business, or academic conferences do not need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Chile if traveling with a tourist passport. Chilean immigration will issue a Tourist Card or printed receipt valid for a stay of up to 90 days. An extension of stay for another 90 days is possible upon payment of a USD 100 extension fee at the Chilean Immigration Office located at San Antonio 580, Santiago; telephone +56-2-2486-3200. The Tourist Card must be presented and surrendered upon departure. Failure to submit this card upon departure may result in delays until a replacement is obtained. If lost or stolen, the Tourist Card must be replaced by the International Police (website is in Spanish only) at their nearest headquarters or at the international airport prior to departure.

If you have stayed in Chile for more than the allowed time, you will not be allowed to leave the country without paying a fine. This fine cannot be paid at the airport or any border crossing, so you must pay it before attempting to depart Chile. To pay the fine prior to your departure, you should go to the Departamento de Extranjería and make an autodenuncia, or complaint, against yourself in the Sanciones (sanctions) office. Upon doing this, you will be told how much the fine will be, and, once you pay it, you will be able to depart the country. If you attempt to depart Chile without paying the fine, your passport will be confiscated by the airport police, and they will give you directions on how to pay the fine. This process involves going to multiple Chilean government offices to first find out how much the fine is, to pay the fine, next to show that you have paid the fine so that you can get a document indicating your passport should be returned, and finally to retrieve your passport. The entire process may take from several days to three weeks.

U.S. citizens who intend to work, live, or study in Chile long-term must apply in advance for a Chilean visa. You can enquire with the closest Chilean Consulate for further information.

The Government of Chile requires U.S. Government travelers on official business to enter the country with a diplomatic or official passport and a valid Chilean visa. Visas must be obtained at a Chilean Embassy or Consulate before traveling to or through Chile. Official travelers attempting entry on tourist passports will be denied entry, detained, and returned to the point of origin at personal expense. U.S. Government officials should only use their tourist passports to enter Chile while here on personal tourism.

Ensure that you have appropriate documentation to enter Chile. The U.S. Embassy cannot secure entry on your behalf if you arrive without a valid U.S. passport, with a passport that is damaged or mutilated, or if you arrive without a visa when one is required.

For up-to-date information on Chilean visa requirements, visit the website of the Embassy of Chile in Washington, D.C.

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should visit the State Department visa website  for more information.

Currency

Chile’s currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Bank notes are in denominations of 1,000 – 2,000 – 5,000 – 10,000 and 20,000; coins are in denominations of 10, 50, 100, and 500.

Foreign currency may be exchanged at the airport, banks, most hotels, and foreign exchange agencies in large Chilean cities. A passport or Chilean ID is required when exchanging travelers’ checks and is often required when exchange large sums of cash. Rates vary from place to place and banks charge a commission.

Use of credit cards is very common in Santiago and they can be used almost everywhere instead of cash. If you’re planning on visiting small towns however, you will probably need to use cash. If you are driving, you will need cash for tolls, some rental car companies will have some toll road coverage in Santiago but very few do elsewhere.

There are also many ATM machines available throughout the city and country. Check with your bank to see what the international withdrawal charges are and if they have any agreements with Chilean banks for lower or no fees.

If you are using ATMs in Chile and you are traveling to remote locations, it is advisable to withdraw money in the bigger cities as small towns may not have multiple ATMs and some very small towns may not have any. Additionally, if you are traveling during a long weekend or the holiday season it is advisable to withdraw cash early, as the ATMs may run out and will not be refilled until after the holiday.

Some hotels offer currency exchange at favorable rates. Hotels are also a potential source of information for the closest casa de cambio (currency exchange) with the best rates. There are many casas de cambio within the country, and one is usually located inside each shopping mall.

Telecommunications/Electronics

Chile’s capital, Santiago, has a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure. Domestic and international calls work well, and rates are generally competitive. There are also several mobile operators present, including Entel, Movistar, Claro, Virgin and WOM. Visitors are advised to check with their own United States carrier to see if their phone can make international calls from Chile.

Wi-Fi “hot spots” are common in Santiago. In rural parts of Chile, the telecommunications infrastructure is less reliable, but still available in many areas. It is advisable to check with the hotel or local individuals about data and cell phone reliability and availability in the area where you plan to travel.

Chile’s standard voltage is 220 V and 50Hz. You will need a voltage converter to use U.S. appliances. The power sockets are the typical Southern European (Italy) rounded two prong plugs, type C & L.

Transportation

Chile is well connected via air service to the United States and countries throughout Latin America. American Airlines has non-stop service between Santiago and both Miami and Dallas. Delta Airlines has non-stop service to Atlanta. United Airlines offers non-stop flights between Santiago and Houston. Chile’s main airline and the largest in Latin America, LATAM, offers non-stop service to Miami, New York (JFK), and Orlando, and direct service to Los Angeles with a stopover in Lima, Peru. In Chile, the primary point of entry is the Santiago International Airport. Copa Airlines is also very active in the Chilean market with connecting flights from Santiago via Panama City to over 10 U.S. destinations, including Orlando, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago, and others.

Due to COVID 19, traveling between Chile and the United States is gradually increasing. As of August 2020, the frequency of flights is limited to a few days of the week and to a few ports of entry in the U.S., mainly to Miami and New York. It is recommended that travelers contact the airlines for the latest information on flight schedules.

In December 2019, Delta Air Lines acquired a 20 percent equity stake in Latam Airlines Group for approximately $1.9 billion, Delta’s largest investment since its merger with Northwest Airlines. As a result of its new relationship with Delta, LATAM terminated its participation in the One World Alliance in April 30, 2020.

Domestic air service within Chile is well developed and offered primarily by LATAM, Sky Airlines, and JetSmart. Given the long geographic distances between cities, flights between Santiago and most cities in Chile are frequent. The rail system is less developed, but there is a good central train line that runs between Santiago and Chillan. As for public transportation, the city of Santiago has a vast subway network, the fare for the subway and public buses can only be paid using a contactless card that must be recharged with funds in subway stations and other top-up outlets. Ride-share services are available in the main cities of the country, and in recent years also have proliferated shared bike and scooters.

Primary roads in Chile are good. The main highways are toll roads and are in good condition. Toll roads within the Santiago Metropolitan area are paid electronically, while toll roads outside Santiago must be paid in cash. Secondary roads, especially outside of Santiago, are sometimes in poor repair. Gravel and dirt roads are common in rural areas. 

Language

Spanish is the main language of Chile. Among the business community, there exists sporadic English language capability but to operate in Chile, U.S. businesspeople need to speak Spanish or identify a local partner who can speak both English and Spanish. More information about partner-matching assistance is available on the U.S. Commercial Service website.

Health

Chile has both public and private healthcare service providers. Some of the private clinics in Santiago are well equipped and operate at the level of service providers in the United States and Europe, two of these clinics (Alemana and Las Condes) are accredited by the Join Commission International. Travelers to Chile are advised to check with their health insurance providers to ascertain coverage levels in Chile. For more information on medical issues in Chile, see the Country Specific Information.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

Because Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are opposite those in the United States. This means that when the United States enters daylight savings time, Chile remains on standard time. In turn, Chile is far enough south that it goes on daylight savings time during its summer months. Consequently, during the Northern Hemisphere winter, Chile is 2 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. In the northern summer, Chile is the same time as Eastern Daylight Time. For a few shoulder weeks/months in the fall/spring, Chile is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard (or Daylight) Time.

Business hours in Chile are roughly the same as the United States. Most offices open at 9:00 am and continue until usually 6:00 pm or later. Lunchtime is usually later (beginning at 1:00 pm or later) and longer (1-2 hours) than in the United States. There is an increasing use of a 9-hour workday from Monday to Thursday, and a 4-hour workday on Friday.

Below is a list of holidays to be observed by the U.S. Embassy in Santiago in 2021. The Embassy will be closed to the public on these holidays.

January 1 – Friday

New Year’s Day

U.S./Chilean

January 18 – Monday        

Martin L. King’s Birthday

U.S.

February 15 – Monday

Washington’s Birthday

U.S.

April 2 – Friday

Good Friday

Chilean

May 21 – Friday 

Navy Day

Chilean

May 31 – Monday        

Memorial Day

U.S.

June 28 – Monday

Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Chilean

July 5 – Monday

Independence Day

U.S.

July 16 - Friday

Virgen del Carmen

Chilean

September 6 – Monday

Labor Day

U.S.

October 11 – Monday         

Columbus Day

U.S./Chilean

November 1 – Monday

All Saints Day

Chilean

November 11 – Thursday

Veterans Day

U.S.

November 25 – Thursday

Thanksgiving Day

U.S.

December 8 – Wednesday

Immaculate Conception

Chile

December 24 – Friday

Christmas Day (observed)

U.S.

December 31 – Friday

New Year´s Day (observed)

U.S.

The following Chilean holidays fall on weekends:

April 3 – Saturday

Holy Saturday

May 1 – Saturday

Labor Day

August 15 – Sunday

Assumption Day

September 18 – Saturday

Independence Day

September 19 – Sunday

Army Day

October 31 – Sunday

National Day of Evangelical and Protestant Churches

December 25 – Saturday

Christmas Day

 

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Under the terms of the U.S.-Chile FTA, Chile will permit duty-free temporary admission of professional equipment necessary for carrying out the business activity of a U.S. businessperson who qualifies for temporary entry under Chilean law.

Chile accepts ATA carnets, which is an international customs document issued by 70 countries. It is presented when entering a Carnet country with merchandise or equipment that will be re-exported within 12 months.

Upon presentation, the Carnet permits the equipment or merchandise to clear customs without the payment of duties and taxes. Payment is not necessary because Carnet guarantees that the merchandise or equipment will be re-exported within a year. The use of a Carnet is a way of temporarily importing into foreign countries without payment of duties and taxes. Carnets also serve as the U.S. registration of goods so that the goods can re-enter the U.S. without payment of duties and taxes.

Chile will accept carnets for these categories of goods:

  • Exhibitions and Fairs
  • Professional Equipment
  • Commercial Samples

For temporary entry of food samples, see the FAS Food and Agricultural Import Regulations report.