What I Wished I Packed for Chile

Mira Diamond-Berman headshot
Mira Diamond-Berman
December 6, 2023

Instead of the usual packing list of what to pack for Chile, here is what I wish I had packed:

Warmer clothes:

Since Chile is in the southern hemisphere—opposite to the United States—the winter months are from June to September. Before leaving for Chile, I had already been warned of the supposedly cold Chilean winter, but I was skeptical. After spending two winters in Grinnell, Iowa for college, the idea of a cold winter in South America seemed like a joke to me; I was used to temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) with up to twenty miles per hour wind.

When I arrived in Chile I realized that even though the temperature in Chile’s winter rarely drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it often is quite cold inside. In the United States, buildings offer relief from the frigid weather, but in Chile, homes, classrooms, and libraries often don’t have central heating or rarely use it to conserve energy.  Some families use estufas (heaters) in their homes, but they are localized to a few rooms.

On cold days I often found myself in my bedroom wearing a hat and multiple layers of shirts and sweatshirts, wishing I had brought my warm sweaters that protect me from the frigid Iowa winters.

I took up way too much space in my luggage with spring and summer clothing. Although by the end of my time in Santiago in December the weather reached the high 80s (about 30 degrees Celsius), Chileans rarely brought out their shorts, tank tops, or sandals. Of course, in the US once it hits 80 degrees most young people are practically dressed for the beach. But I realized shorts and sandals are not everyday attire in Santiago during the summer as people tend to dress more formally, so jeans continue to be worn in the heat.

Dark colored clothing:

I had already been told that Chilean wear a lot of black, but I underestimated the extent to which bright colored clothing is rare. Bright colored clothing and especially bright colored geometrical patterned clothing ended up at the back of my closet, unworn all semester. Of course, it is completely acceptable to wear bright colors, but for the sake of not standing out as a foreigner, I rarely wore any bright colors.


A common travel tip is to forgo bringing toiletries such as shampoo or face-wash to make room for more space and weight in luggage. In big cities such as Santiago, toiletries are easily available to purchase. However, my friends and I found that the usual haircare brands are much more expensive in Chile; and even when looking for products such as face-wash without a particular brand in mind, they tend to be much more expensive than the U.S. So, if you have extra room in your checked luggage you might want to bring your own toiletries. 

Lots of Sunscreen:

Although I had already brought some of my own sunscreen, I underestimated how much sunscreen I would use in Chile, especially during the winter months. Chile is unfortunately located under a hole in the ozone layer, so the risk of sun exposure is much higher than usual. I found myself having to reapply sunscreen constantly on sunny days even in the winter.

Although I could purchase anything I possibly needed in Santiago if I brought some warmer clothing and my toiletries while leaving my shorts and bright-colored clothing at home, I would have made better use of the space in my suitcase. 

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Mira Diamond-Berman headshot

Mira Diamond-Berman

Hi! I'm Mira and I'm a Chemistry major at Grinnell College! love taking my dog on long walks and binging a good book. When traveling, I love going on runs to explore new places.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Grinnell College
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