Chileans often joke that many imported goods are priced "dolar a luca" in local retail, i.e. about 40% more expensive than in the US. That means that US$1 becomes CL$1,000. For this reason, international shopping is popular here and Amazon is preparing to deploy into the country as well.

For all packages with total declared cost over US$30, the customs charge about 7% in fees and then multiply the result by 19% of value-added tax (IVA), so that the final cost will come out to be almost 28% higher. Packages with a declared cost of over US$1000 also require a customs broker.

You can't import medications, vitamins, or dietary supplements without a doctor's prescription, and there's a fee for certifying it by the Ministry of Health. Cosmetics for personal use also require a certification.

Customs don't have the capabilities to check every small package in the regular post, so some vitamins or a small item over US$30 will usually pass by unnoticed without any additional fees. But they will definitely check your courier shipments! Considering that it takes 1-2 months to receive regular post packages, it's often a choice between paying more or waiting longer.

Let's compare the possible delivery methods below.

Regular post

Pros:

  • Usually not checked, so you avoid taxes and fees for most small packages.
  • Delivery from Chinese stores on AliExpress is often free.

Cons:

  • Takes from 4 to 10 weeks, depending on their workload.
  • Often no tracking inside the country.
  • Rarely packages can get lost or stolen.
  • They don't deliver to some areas, but you can pick up your package at the post office for up to a month.

Couriers (DHL, FedEx, etc.)

Pros:

  • Fast (8-12 days).
  • Tracking available.

Cons:

  • The process of collecting taxes and fees is not automated.
  • They will contact you by phone in Spanish.
  • You need to go and make a deposit in the bank to pay if you don't have a Chilean bank account.

Expedition companies

These are Chilean companies like Chilebox and eShopex that have warehouses in the US (Miami), Spain, and China. They receive your domestic packages in those countries, request payment from you, and then transport them to Chile.

Pros:

  • Fast (3-5 days after receiving a package at their warehouse in another country).
  • You can buy goods that are not shipped internationally.
  • They optimize the logistics to Chile so that the transportation costs are lower than those of couriers (but higher than Amazon's).

Also, Chilebox can group your packages before sending them to Chile, and eShopex can pay for you in some stores if your card is not accepted.

Cons:

  • You need a RUT number to register on their sites.
  • You need to go and make a deposit in the bank to pay if you don't have a Chilean bank account.
  • In the case of the US, you need to pay Miami's sales tax at checkout in online stores.

Amazon

Pros:

  • Incredibly fast, even the "Standard shipping" option often takes just 5-6 working days.
  • Calculates and collects taxes and fees at checkout so you can see the total cost before buying.
  • You can pay with your foreign credit card.

Cons:

  • Some goods are not shipped to Chile.
  • Not everything is sold on Amazon.
  • If you don't have a RUT number yet, Amazon's customs broker will call and ask for it — try your passport number instead.

Amazon is also coming to Chile in 2018.

Chilean online stores

Even the biggest online stores in Chile do not accept foreign credit cards. As soon as you get a national ID, you can open a CuentaRUT account or use the MACH app for online payments.

If you don't have an ID yet, then look for the stores that offer bank deposit as a payment method. Select this method during a purchase, then go to a cash desk at the bank, deposit the money to a store's account, and send them a photo of the receipt. The best time to go to the bank is around 12:30–1:00 pm — any later and the lines get too long during lunch time.

Writing address

Postal codes are not that important in Chile, but you should include your region to improve deliverability. It’s also better to include your commune too if its name is different from your city's name, or if you live in Santiago where streets in different communes can have similar names.

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