We try to shop as locally as possible and we try to make do with what is available. We try to live like the average Chilean. But what do you do when you really need something that is not available locally? Well, we do have a few options.
1. Buy online here in Chile
This is not always so simple or easy as it is in the US. Many businesses don't have a big online presence. They may have a website but you can't order off of it (?) or they just use Facebook (not!).
So for example, I found out from my friend about a company call Tostaduria Puerto Rico in Santiago. They sell dry bulk items which is great because buying (10) 1-ounce bags of cinnamon is a pain in the neck. So you go to the website which has just lists of their products with no prices or sizes and you email them and tell them what you would like. They send you a price list.Then you find out what the minimum order is and tell them how much you would like of each item. Then they send you a cotizacion or quote of your order with the total amount due. Then you have 2 options - if you have a Chilean bank account (which I don't) you would send them a bank transfer which takes 5 days to clear or you can go to their bank in the closest city and make a deposit which clears fairly quickly. The next day or so your item will ship from their warehouse by bus to your city of choice. When it arrives the next day you go pay for the package's bus ride and pick up your package. Wow, I feel like it's the 1980's!
Here is what I bought
From top to bottom
Basmati Rice - 5 kilos for 3,077 pesos per kilo inc. taxes of 19% and shipping
Whole coffee beans from Brazil - 5 kilos for 8,430 per kilo
Polenta or grits if you are from the south - 10 kilos for 903 per kilo
Popcorn - 10 kilos for 1,128 per kilo
These came in 2 boxes and the bus ride was 13,000 pesos but prices above reflect shipping fees.
These prices are good deals as buying an inferior coffee in the grocery store in a 250 g bag runs over 10,000 pesos per kilo.
Here are a few other options for shopping online in Chile.
Mercado Libre is like the ebay of Chile and purchases are free from the 19% IVA tax.
Busca Libre is a search engine for Amazon and Ebay and other US stores plus it has Spanish and Chilean books. If you shop on Amazon through this website, it gives you the prices in Chilean pesos and the shipping accordingly which seems pretty cheap if it is coming from the US. I tried ordering a book and the shipping was only 1,990 pesos. My gripe is the custom regulations. This is the note you see if you try to order a vitamin or supplement. I am seriously bummed out!!
If the product you're quoting is none of the above, proceed with the purchase. If the product is one of the above and continue with the purchase, we will refund your money.
Another interesting site for local products sold by locals is the Chilean version of Craig's List called Yapo. Ya is spanish for already but adding po to the end of words is distinctly chilean. Sipo! You can search for an item by region and they sell great things like chickens, rabbits, trucks, tractors, etc.
2. You can order directly from the US.
Though you do have 2 choices. You can order directly from a company if they ship internationally and you will probably have to pay Chilean taxes on it. We have a friend here who ordered something worth $500 and when it arrived she had to pay another 19% tax on her purchase to the Chilean government. Or you can order it and send it to a friend and have them ship it down. We have a friend who has a shipping box. When we need something we have it sent to her and when the box is full she ships it down to us. Since it is personal, it is usually not subject to the sales tax. We had a 40 lb box one time that cost us almost $200 to mail. yikes! We don't do that much anymore.
This package above had a pressure canner part and cell phone parts for a phone Andrew was fixing so we labeled it replacement parts. It wasn't insured for much and had to have weighed less than a pound but we paid $22 for it and it took about 2 weeks to arrive. It was sent USPS and Correos de Chile (Chile Post Service).
This package only had a replacement part for our Coleman camp stove at 5 oz and $13 for shipping. I have heard Correos de Chile has a problem with items missing after customs inspections. I have never had a problem but my friend has had items stolen from the packages her mom sends.
And when you are worried about getting stuff and whether Chile has as much stuff as the USA remember this quote. A sentiment I am always working towards.