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Similarities and differences between Chile and Argentina

When I was finally able to explore South America in January 2012 for a bit, I have to say I was really shocked by the culture (in a good way!) but mostly by some things I didn’t expect there at all. The same as it is not very accurate to call something for example “Asian” or “European”, it is maybe even less clear if you call something ”South American” or ”Latin”.

Yes, South American countries are really so different! Would you ever guess so without visiting them??

What surprised me even more was the fact that many people put Brasil, Argentina and Chile into one group, and the rest of the Southern American countries into other one.

But after spending almost 5 weeks in Argentina and 4 in Chile, I can easily state many differences between these two countries that look very similar at first sight.

Both Argentina and Chile are more expensive than you would ever think. More than my home country Slovakia in many things. I felt there like in Europe, especially because of the high prices. Not the reason I was looking for though to feel like ”at home”.

 

I found these little differences between Chile and Argentina:

CHILE

  • (sorry for the word but) rubbish food on the buses that is included in ticket price
  • cheaper long distance buses
  • easier to get a bus ticket, they are not that overbooked. Each time I wanted to hop on a bus, I could and none of them was completely full.
  • selling food at the streets can be found sometimes
  • feels more like ”real Latin America”
  • harder accent, not pronounced properly so more difficult to understand when listening
  • easier with the mobile phones – no need to change the phone code all the time
  • with a bit of phone credit you can call abroad
  • menu of the day – discounted lunch meals, sometimes with soup, main dish and drink/desert for 3 – 6 euros mostly.
delicious Chilean menu meals

delicious Chilean menu meals

  • expensive food in supermarkets though
  • cheap local markets (with fish, fruit, vegetable)
  • manjar (sugary non-homogenized milk delicacy, similar to caramel) is not that common like in Argentina
  • alfajor cookie is not that good and not so common, mostly white chocolate, not dark
  • white bread – you have to weigh it in the shops
  • very strict at the border (NO fruit, seeds, dried fruit, dairy products). If they find them, you need to pay a big fine!!!
  • no bottled water in the restaurants, but usually only sprite and coke or free tap water
  • more rain coming from the Pacific Ocean that gets stopped by the Andes which means more rainy days in the Chilean Patagonia and almost ever-green nature

 

ARGENTINA

yummy dinner on an Argentinian bus

yummy dinner on an Argentinian bus

  • more expensive buses – way too expensive I’d say! For the same distance/time like in Chile you pay sometimes even 5 times more … or even more!
  • overbooked buses, you have to book them a lot in advance to get a ticket. Actually each time I came to a place I had to buy outgoing bus ticket already there at the bus station, and most of the time it was full already so had to spend a day more in the town.
  • more like Europe, not like Latin America (apart from the North border with Bolivia that where you will definitely feel already like in South America, not still in civilised European world)
  • accent easier to understand once you learn the phrases – or am I just in love with the Argentine Spanish?
  • I found people more helpful, talkative, smiling and more happy than in Chile
  • more difficult to call from the mobile phone – you have to use different codes in front of the phone numbers depending on if you call to a mobile phone or landline, and which region
  • high mobile phone credit needed to call abroad
  • expensive food in restaurants, lunch menu cannot be found very often
  • dulce de leche (Chilean manjar) eaten all the time EVERYWHERE
dulce de leche on an Argentinian bus

dulce de leche on an Argentinian bus

  • Argentinians are obsessed with alfajor, you can fin many different kinds of it and it is served with almost every meal on the buses
  • not that many local markets (apart from the North)
  • white baguettes mostly, not bread
  • if you don’t like steaks and meat in general like me, you will prefer food in Chile
  • pretty ok at the border (I had fruit and seeds and nothing happened)
  • bottled water in restaurants but you have to pay for it, no free water
  • less green landscapes in the Argentinian Patagonia – less rain

 

Have you visited both countries? Did you find them different? I will not bite you if you share your experiences in the comments below :)

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  56. Well, most of the time the Argentinians are friendlier than the locals in Chile.

  57. I have made several trips to S. America. This time 8 month and continuing. 15 yrs abroad.
    First time in Chile. A little disappointed with the people. Do not treat a foreigner really well. They don’t want to, they don’t need to. They got copper. Glad to read it will improve in Argentina. It will be my first visit to that country too. Many stray dogs in Chile.

  58. Glad I made you laugh, Jorge. You are right about the street dogs, saw a few of them in Chile.

  59. i enjoy a lot reading your blog, i am chilean and i am completely agree related with our accent, even for us is not easy to understand…. so i laughed a lot reading that., the other big difference if you noticed when you stayed in valparaiso, was the huge quantity of street dogs, that is particularly there, here in USA where i live, i have never seen a street dog. that was my biggest fear in chile when i used to ride my motorcycle… here is more easy

  60. Comment@ Jarmo:
    Interesting , Jarmo! I am really used to Argentine accent so maybe that’s why :)

  61. I ran out of time to explore Chile properly after Argentine, so can’t compare them properly, except I really liked Buenos Aires, I woudln’t mind living there ;) Interesting about the accent, as I found the Chilean accent way easier. Probably took me a week first in Argentina to start understanding them! :)

  62. Comment@ cornelius Aesop:
    Jealous! Good luck with your budget ;)

  63. My wife and I will be exploring both countries in February of next year and are excited to discover our own take on the two. I know both are known for being more expensive but hope that we can make it manageable without breaking our budget.

  64. Comment@ Audrey:
    Yeah, now I’m craving for a Milka double alfajor too!

  65. Mmm, we do love our alfajores and dulce de leche in Argentina. :D I wish I could get some of that stuff here in Korea!

  66. Comment@ OutsideTheGuidebook:
    Thanks :) You so have to go to South America, a must do :) No, I cannot dance at all, so no tango :(

  67. South America is on my travel agenda. Not just yet as got to cover South East Asia first, but deffo sooner rather than later. Did you learn to Tango whilst in Argentina? Nice article!

  68. Comment@ Iulian Sirbu:
    Thanks so much for such a detailed comment :) Not sure if it is Chile or Argentina more expensive, but in transport definitely Argentina, in house expensives I heard that Chile.

  69. I’ve been to both countries last year, from February to April, but I didn’t spend that much time in Chile – only ten days and in Argentina I spend almost 2 months – 3 weeks in Parque Provincial Aconcagua (I’ve climbed the summit on March, 9th, 2011). As you can see, I spend more time in Argentine and I had the time to get to know the people and their culture. Like you, I liked more the Argentinian Spanish, the Chillenos have to many invented, strange words! :)

    You forgot to mention the Argentinians obsession with manzana – apple flavour in everything! And the dulce de leche it was too much for me: at the beginning, I liked it, but after a while, when I was inside a candy shop, 90% of the cakes they were with dulce de leche! I didn’t use a mobile phone, but I used my iPod and I found free wi-fi in a lot of places in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. When I was in need to make a phone call, I was going to one of the many locutorios! I was surprised to find a lot of bookshops in Buenos Aires and I had a really good time talking with newspapers sellers, they have a lot of knowledge and you may talk with them about history and politics for hours!

    In both countries the politics play a important role and no matter where I was going I was passing by people protesting (only in capital cities).

    Overall, Chile seems to me an expensive country than Argentina. Inside Chile I travel by train, because it was cheaper than the bus (day trips to Rancagua par example)

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