Should I Study Abroad in Peru or Chile?

by Laura Jelich

There are many reasons to choose Peru or Chile for your study abroad program. Students may be seeking to improve their Spanish fluency, get a quality education, or simply rejuvenate their spirit in a land where quality is valued over quantity, and people are prioritized over busy schedules. While there are many similarities between these two South American countries, students should first take a closer look at the characteristics of each, before deciding whether to study abroad in Peru or Chile. Read on to find out more about each!

Cusco Cathedral, Peru

Cusco Cathedral, Peru


Since both Chile and Peru are Spanish-speaking countries, studying abroad in either one will provide students with an excellent opportunity to learn the language through immersion among native speakers. Each country will, however, boost the language learning process in its own way.

Peru is said to have some of the clearest Spanish in the world, allowing students to understand and catch on more easily, not to mention develop a clear pronunciation and accent. Also, for students whose main priority in studying abroad is to learn Spanish, there are many Spanish language focused programs in Peru.

Chile, on the other hand, speaks a distinct style of Spanish and is known for having the least amount of English-language skills in South America. Since students won’t always have the option to fall-back on their native tongue if struggling for words while studying Spanish in Chile, they will be forced to depend on their own abilities and have no choice but to fast-track their Spanish-language learning!


Due to the already relaxed schedule traditionally kept in Latin America, classes in Peru and Chile may often start and run late or seem disorganized at times. This does not, however, mean that students can slack off and still expect to do well while studying abroad in either country. Academic expectations will be high, and there are a variety of emphasis areas for students to choose from.

Local students in Peru are likewise self-motivated and often driven academically, so some professors or study abroad programs in Peru may require a high degree of Spanish fluency of students, both local and international alike. Academic expectations will not be lowered for non-native speakers. Some universities coordinate study abroad programs in Peru which allow international and Peruvian students to work together to improve their foreign-language skills.

In addition to Spanish, the top subjects to study abroad in Peru include:

Near the Dali Rocks in Northern Chile

Near the Dali Rocks in Northern Chile

While every individual instructor has a unique style, professors in Chile tend to follow a less hands-on, more lecture-based lesson plan. Also, students studying abroad in Chile will be responsible for keeping themselves accountable throughout the semester, which may seem quite opposite compared to the enormous amounts of homework students in the U.S. are generally sent home to complete.

Students who study abroad in Chile will especially benefit from studying the following subjects:

Affordability & Accommodation

While on-campus dormitories are typically the most common form of accommodation for students in the U.S., only a few select study abroad programs in Chile and Peru offer university housing; homestays or off-campus living will be the most likely form of accommodation for students studying abroad in either country. Generally, your study abroad program provider will offer information and assistance in deciding which available housing option works the best for you.

While the cost of living in both countries is noticeably lower than in the US, prices in Peru remain slightly lower than those in Chile, making it the most cost-effective destination for students operating on a shoestring budget. Accommodation in Peru will likewise be more basic than the housing found in Chile.

Thanks to having the most stable economy in South America and an official endorsement by the World Bank, Chile became the first of the region to be declared a developed country in 2013. Consequently, Chile is known as one of the most safer, stable countries for study abroad in South America, and may prove to be the best choice for students with worried and protective parents.

Geography & Locations

Students can’t really go wrong studying abroad in Peru or Chile; both feature coastal beaches, ancient ruins, and bustling metropolises students of all interests will enjoy. Avid outdoorsy types will find endless options for exploration while those with a less adventurous style will enjoy lazy beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Students seeking a more temperate climate will love Peru. Not to mention the numerous natural and man-made wonders found in Peru, including Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The two most common locations to study abroad in Peru are Cusco and Lima.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

  • Cusco attracts students and travelers from all over the globe, with its rich past as the old Inca Empire capital and surrounding mountainous landscape. Once you experience life in Cusco, it will be hard for you to convince yourself to leave (Read our article on 5 Reasons You’ll Never Want to Leave Cusco to find out why).
  • The capital city, Lima, enjoys a warm oceanfront location featuring the tantalizing smell of sea breeze and abundant nightlife for after-study hours. Lima is also the largest city and international hub of Peru that features a well-established history dating back nearly 500 years and acts as the country’s financial and industrial center.

The sliver of land sandwiched between the Andes Mountains and Pacific Ocean that makes up the country of Chile boasts a dramatic terrain, including the longest and driest desert on earth (Atacama). The weather in Chile varies greatly from the country’s top to bottom, and is known for its extreme fluctuations. However, the centrally located cities of Santiago and Valparaíso generally experience fairly moderate mediterranean temperatures, and both tend to be international student favorites.

  • The recently revamped Santiago is known as one of the most progressive capital cities in all of South America, and is an easy choice for the majority of students studying abroad in Chile. Centrally located in Chile’s fertile valley, Santiago is at the core of the country’s political, historical, and cultural happenings.
  • The calmer and nearby city of Valparaíso is optimal for students who still want to enjoy the benefits of the moderate weather and close proximity to Chile’s most current events, but aren’t quite as enthralled with the bustle of big Santiago.


Consistent with most Latin American countries, locals in Peru and Chile are friendly to foreigners and operate on a slightly slower time schedule.

Students will instantly pick up on the laidback lifestyle while studying abroad in Latin America, and find themselves learning to enjoy each day for what it is instead of constantly stressing about the future.
Plaza in Santiago, Chile

Plaza in Santiago, Chile

Peru isn’t known as the capital of Latin cooking for nothing. With endless tasty options, students will be in foodie heaven studying abroad in Peru. Between classes (and meals), students will have the chance to explore such stunning and world-renowned sights as Machu Picchu, Chan Chan (largest pre-columbian ruins in the Americas), and the Amazon Rainforest to name a few.

The majority of Chile residents are a mix of European and indigenous heritage, warranting it the title of being a “mestizo” country. With some of the most welcoming and laid-back locals around, it’s no wonder Chile is known as the land of buena onda (good vibes). Students will feel right at home sipping maté tea among their new friends while learning to enjoy the small stuff in life (and there are many more reasons to study abroad in Chile).

The Final Word

Chile is ideal for those looking to enjoy a slower pace of life who still want exciting activities available to scratch their adventure itch when needed, while Peru is perfect for students looking to strengthen their Spanish abilities and spend their downtime exploring the endless historic and natural wonders of Peru.

Regardless of which nation they choose, students abroad in either country will receive an excellent education while embracing the experience of a lifetime overseas.