News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
By Darren M. Popik
(SANTIAGO DE CHILE) — Just hours into a return to one of my favorite places — Chile — and already I’m remembering a few differences from Mexico City.
Namely, a few key things cost more in Santiago.
Mexico City’s Metro subway system costs a miniscule three pesos (less than 25 cents) to ride. Santiago’s Metro system, by comparison, costs over a dollar, and the fare varies based on time of day (high, medium, and low periods). You’ll pay CLP$670 Chilean pesos ($1.42), 610 ($1.30), or 560 ($1.19) per ride.
Of course, it should be noted that Mexico City’s Metro system is the cheapest I’ve yet found. (And don’t forget that it is subsidized — the actual cost per ride is about nine pesos, or three times the actual price). Metro or Metrobus type systems elsewhere in the Americas are more in line with Santiago’s prices. (Like Bogota, for example — see my earlier story on a comparison between public transportation in Bogota vs. Mexico City).
However, I should point out that the Transantiago transportation system allows you to include bus+Metro for the prices I mentioned. In Mexico City, there are no free transfers from bus to Metro.
And by the way, Santiago’s Metro is a darn nice system, with cool artwork in some stations.
First stop for coffee, and I suddenly remembered that a simple coffee of the day costs more in Chile.
In Mexico, Starbucks charges 23 pesos ($1.80) for a tall coffee of the day. Starbucks in Santiago charges CLP$1,200 ($2.55).
Similarly, at the Juan Valdez Café in the Santiago neighborhood of Las Condes, a small coffee (which is really tiny, by the way, as they use the same small portions as the Juan Valdez Cafés in Colombia) is CLP$1,150 ($1.75).
So as much as I like Juan Valdez Cafés (and the fact that they always have complimentary copies of my favorite Santiago newspapers, El Mercurio and La Tercera), I have to opt for Starbucks in Santiago, because you get twice as much coffee, for about the same price.
It’s also being reported today that housing costs have gone up about 40% in Chile between 2007 and 2012. Only two other Latin American nations topped that mark — Brazil and Colombia. In Mexico, the increase was about 20%.
But rising home prices is a sure sign of a strong and growing economy. And Chile most definitely is in a strong position economically, especially compared to some nations, like their economically crippled neighbor across the Andes. (More on this in the days to come.)
Yes, you’ll pay more to fuel your car in Chile — much more. Gas in Mexico is currently around 11 pesos per liter (88 cents, though prices continue to rise regularly), but in Santiago, prices have now surpassed CLP$800 per liter, or about $1.70. Suddenly, the cost to ride the Metro seems like a bargain, no?
But not everything costs more in Chile. For example, you can still get some great street food at reasonable prices. Trust me when I say you can’t beat a completo or Italiano (Chilean style hot dogs, known for their generous topping of avocado), lomito (roast pork), or churrasco (roast beef) sandwich. (The latter two are also topped with avocado and tomato, by the way.)
And if you want some really good deals, head to the markets where they sell fresh fruit, trucked in from the local orchards. The quality is great, and so are the prices. At the market in Valparaíso, I’ve paid less than half (and sometimes much less) than what I have to pay at any Superama in Mexico City. In some cases — notably fresh cherries — you’re more likely to pay four times the price in Mexico.
And then there’s the vino … Chile is of course a huge producer of wine, and there are some specialty wines they produce that I either can’t get in Mexico, or will have to pay much higher prices for.
Specifically, I highlight Chile’s very excellent late harvest wines, which resemble icewine, with the key difference being that the grapes are harvested before they could ever freeze on the vine (which is something that would not happen in Chile anyway, unlike Germany and Canada, where they do produce icewine).
So, though Mexico may win the price war on some fronts, on others, Chile is still doing pretty well.