Arica – Chile is home to Tarapaca University (Universidad de Tarapaca) with various courses where foreign students come to study for an exchange semester. When I stayed there I got to know various European and US students who came to learn the language and see something completely different.
The people are very friendly here and the weather is amazing with sun all year round. The only problem is there is a huge wealth gap and that means accommodation options are limited.
The district where I was staying while in Arica was La Lisera, which was one of the most expensive parts of town. I looked at several other places before I took this room but they were all terrible. They were between 30-80,000 pesos at the time (2008-2009) but they all had one problem or another.
Finding My Room for the Summer
One day Veronica (my US Spanish teacher’s sister) and I were invited for lunch at a seaside hotel. Veronica’s friend told me she had a friend who rented rooms to foreigners so I decided to look. Initially I was a bit put off by the sound of foreigners because I didn’t want to stay in a flat with English speaking people. In the end it turned out that the other tenants were French and they didn’t speak English!
Actually no-one spoke English in the house all summer, so my Spanish improved exponentially day by day. The rent was twice the going rate in town at 150,000 pesos a month, but I did have a nice double room.
Living Expenses in Arica, Chile
Here is a little list of living expenses in Arica:
- Three course lunch in a restaurant 1,500-2,500 pesos
- Basic salary for a cleaner/live-in maid: 100,000 pesos/month
- Rent in the shanty towns: 20,000 pesos/month
- Rent in shared flat: 80-100,000 pesos/month
The house had five rooms, two living rooms, two terraces, a nice garden, three bathrooms and a kitchen. The price was all inclusive and I could cook in the kitchen if I wanted to (in the end I ate out every day – the restaurants were so cheap! In case you want to rent, ask if cooking for yourself is OK. In most places they don’t allow you to cook, you have to buy the food from the landlady.
There was also hot water in the shower, with a mirror and a sink plus toilet. It sounds basic western standards, but what luxury compared to the other places in Arica. In some places I looked at everything was shared, with the toilet in the common area.
I absolutely loved it in La Lisera, it was in a quite part of town, a 20 minute walk from the city center but right on the beach. The views were absolutely stunning and I could see and hear the waves from my window every day. I would leave my window open and go to sleep to the sounds of the waves! I miss it so much!
About half way through my stay I found out from the Hungarian consul’s wife that La Lisera was the most upmarket part of town. I didn’t have high expectations when I looked for a place, but I was not going to stay somewhere with earth flooring or no running hot water.
You might ask how I knew the consul’s wife? Although Arica was a relatively small place it still had a Hungarian consulate! There were only three Hungarian speakers there, including me, the consul and his wife so we made friends. Apparently some tourists do pass through Arica and they need help sometimes – hence the consulate.
In the rich households the gardener and maid are live-in, so they don’t pay rent or for food. They tend to be Peruvian or Bolivian immigrants, because these so called rich cannot afford to pay local wages to local people. Or they simply enjoy exploiting the poor from other countries. Either way I don’t view this as a privilege.
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