US dollars are not commonly accepted in Chile, so you will definitely need to get your hands on some pesos soon after arriving. And fresh off the plane, the last thing you want is to get ripped off when exchanging your hard-earned dollars for Chilean pesos.
Unfortunately there are many methods of exchange out there that will take a hefty bite out of your greenbacks.
In this post I’ll cover several ways to change your foreign currency into pesos in Santiago, Chile, and show you which method gives the best bang for your buck – including one very attractive option you almost certainly haven’t thought of.
The exchange rate varies but usually hovers roughly around 500CLP to 1USD.
It’s always a good idea to check quoted rates to make sure you are getting the best possible deal. Accurate up-to-date exchange rates can always be found using google.
Hotels and airports
While hotel and airport exchanges seem convenient, they often charge outrageous commissions in excess of 15%. Avoid using these options. If you arrive in Chile and need pesos quickly, use the ATM at the airport.
Credit card via ATM
Chile is a developed country, and as such there are ATMs everywhere. Most will work with your credit card from home, and credit card companies usually offer quite an attractive exchange rate, with commissions between 2-4%.
One point to note – if the ATM asks which currency you would like to be charged in, ALWAYS choose the local one i.e. Chilean Pesos. ATM machines often use a very poor rate in calculating this charge, so selecting pesos here can save you a bit of extra cash.
Casas de Cambio
By far the best option for most people looking to exchange large amounts of cash are the highly competitive casas de cambio (exchange houses) in Santiago. You can often find commission rates of just 0.5% or even lower! The best place to go is the row of exchange houses on Pedro de Valdivia in Providencia (see map below). They offer extremely competitive exchange rates, especially for large amounts (USD $1000 and up). This is a fairly safe area, but even so, be vigilant and make sure to deposit your shiny new pesos right after making the exchange.
One potentially great option if you have cash dollars to exchange would be to find someone who is leaving Santiago and looking to offload a lot of pesos before they leave. You could get a fantastic rate on this with no commission. A great place to ask if any foreigners are looking to exchange their pesos for dollars would be the findinchile facebook group.