Value Added Tax
➤ Chile's VAT is 19 percent, and it applies to some services and most goods imported into the country. However, Chile has a free trade agreement with the United States that may minimize tariffs due.
➤ VAT refunds are not available to exhibitors.
➤ Chile participates in the ATA Carnet program.
➤ Chile uses 220 volts, and equipment from the United States will need voltage converters and adapters.
➤ Booth cleaning during the show is the exhibitors' responsibility. Services can be ordered from organizers.
➤ Exhibitors are responsible for disposing of items and leaving the space clean when the show is over. If they fail to do so, they will be assessed penalties.
➤ U.S. cellphones with international plans will work, but this is an expensive option. Purchasing SIM cards at the airport is the best alternative.
➤ Airfreight to Santiago will take a few days. Ocean freight can take four weeks or more depending on the shipping port of origin.
➤ Ship well in advance and work with a company that has positive reviews, because clearing customs can be a lengthy process, requiring two to three weeks. Many shipments are held up so long that they miss the shows they're destined for.
➤ Chile has adopted the Harmonized System (HS) for coding shipments, so shipments that arrive without accurate descriptions and values may be seized.
➤ Individuals who import noncommercial goods valued at less than $500 can handle customs entry without using a customs broker. For all other imports, a broker is essential.
➤ Payments should be made by bank transfer, as credit cards and company checks are rarely accepted.
➤ Typical terms require 50 to 80 percent paid in advance, with the balance due at the time of service.
➤ Dial 133 to reach the police department, 131 for all medical emergencies, and 132 for the fire department.
Greetings and Culture
➤ A firm handshake with eye contact is an appropriate greeting in Chile, though subsequent meetings might include back slaps, hugs, and cheek kisses for women.
➤ Chileans are generally conservative and slow to trust. They prefer to do business with those they have a relationship with, so building rapport before talking business is important. A slow negotiation process is common.
➤ Chile is a more formal country than most South American nations. As such, punctuality and courtesy are particularly important.
➤ Chileans require less personal space than Americans.
➤ There is great national pride in Chile, and compliments directed toward the country will be received favorably.
➤ In-booth hospitality is common in large exhibits. Sandwiches, breads, finger foods, and hot and cold beverages are typically served. Small exhibits may offer beverages.
➤ In Chile, lunches typically don't begin before 1 p.m. Also be aware that it is quite common for business lunches to last for several hours.
➤ It is not as common to serve alcohol at trade shows in Chile as it is in other Latin American countries, though exhibitors generally don't need permission from organizers to do so. Wine, beer, and tequila are most commonly served.
➤ Exhibitors will likely be required to use the venue's official caterer for any in-booth food and beverage services.
➤ Many in the business community will speak some English, but having a translator available – preferably one familiar with the Chilean dialect – is essential.
➤ Signs, business cards, and collateral literature should be printed in both Spanish and English.
➤ Business suits in conservative colors are common for both men and women.
➤ In most industries, women have more latitude than men to wear a range of colors and styles.
➤ Women staffing trade show exhibits should avoid wearing short skirts or blouses with low necklines, though high heels are common.
➤ Generally, Chileans prefer sophisticated but conservative European attire.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ Using the show's official service providers may not result in the level of attention you expect, as official suppliers may not be the largest or most capable companies working in the market. Searching for other vendors providing trade show services in Santiago is often a better course of action, but check each company's references before making a selection.
➤ The trade show industry in Chile is small, and many companies are relatively new, so clear agreements in contracts are important for delineating the tasks a vendor will be expected to accomplish. As such, beware of hiring a firm based on price alone without first discussing expectations in detail.
➤ Show-floor workers rarely speak English, so it is essential to have a bilingual supervisor available during installation and dismantle.
➤ Any valuable items that you plan to leave in the exhibit overnight should be protected. Lockable storage closets and hired security guards are advised.
General Facts and Tips
➤ Public transportation is available in Santiago. However, bus scheduling and availability may leave service unpredictable, so the city's metro system is often a better choice.
➤ Taxis are plentiful and safe, but passengers should be watchful of drivers who surreptitiously tack large amounts onto the metered fare. Negotiating a fixed rate with drivers is possible. Uber also has a presence in Santiago.
➤ Visitors from the United States should refer to themselves as North Americans rather than calling themselves Americans, since Chileans are technically Americans, too.
➤ Santiago is a safe city, though crimes such as pickpocketing are not uncommon, so safeguard all valuables.
Fabricio Amilibia, manager/architect, aag workshop; Alejandro Escalante, president, Omega Group; Cristine Garcia, general coordinator, Lago, a division of Omega Group; Marcela Medrano, director of marketing, Dodecaedro S.A.