Cost of Travel in South America – complete breakdown
Over the last couple of years we have visited South America several times with the cost varying greatly depending on length of trip and countries visited. Our longest trip was a 13 month shoestring budget backpacking trip through Latin America. We also explored South America as mid-range backpackers and more comfortable budget travelers. In this article we discuss cost of traveling each country in South America with different traveling styles Backpacking, Backpacking on a Shoestring Budget and Holiday style travel
It is important to remember that there is a dramatic variation in price between countries when planning a trip. Bolivia, Equador and Peru are traditionally seen as the cheaper countries to travel, each extensively traveled by a large numbers of budget travelers. Chile, Brazil and Argentina are relatively more expensive, almost reaching European prices. Colombia is sort of mid-range between the two groups and the cost of travel in Venezuela is so low it is in a budget travel category of its own. Be aware that crime is a very realistic consideration when traveling here and purchasing and organizing anything is difficult in this torn apart country.
In this post
- Travel budget for every country in South America
- Budget for
- Shoestring Backpacking
- Holiday style travel
Table of Contents
South America on a SHOESTRING BUDGET
-Traveling on a very tight budget we spent $3881 in 275 days (over 8 months) so an average budget of $14.11 each per day. We camped a lot, hiked many of the most popular trails on the continent independent and did a lot of hitchhiking. This was in 2016, so even when adjusting at a very steep inflation rate it is still possible to do this for less than $20 per day.
Backpacking budget is not only dependent on price!
-The cost of travel on a shoestring budget in each country is not only dependent on price. Some examples; Chile is an expensive, but safe country that is very camping and hitchhike friendly and it is possible to hike independent. In contrast Bolivia is a cheap country, but crime can be a problem and activities are expensive. Consequently we spent more per day in Bolivia than Chile.
South America on a TOUR
Traveling solo or figuring everything out for yourself is not everybody’s idea of fun, there are organised overland tours exploring South America, where all you have to do is enjoy the ride. Check out some of world renowned company, G-adventures’ programs.
Lima to Buenos Aires – an epic adventure: beginning in Lima and ending in Buenos Aires, 35-full days. You’ll hike the Inca Trail, cross the Salt Flats of Bolivia by 4×4, and feel like a sophisticate sipping wine in Argentina. Along the way, you’ll engage with local cultures with a small group of other young travellers to back you up.
South America on a BACKPACKING BUDGET
-A Comfortable backpacker’s budget when sleeping in a hostel dormitory bed, cooking for yourself or eating in cheap local restaurants, being selective on activities and traveling with public transport should be around $35 per day, so $1000 per month.
HOLIDAY BUDGET South America
-Giving an estimate for holiday travel is not really possible; double the backpacking figure for a comfortable, budget holiday trip, double again for traveling in more luxury. I try to give some prices for individual countries.
Tours South America
It is strongly advised to do book popular activities ahead, specially if you have limited time or travel on an itinerary. All travelers are different, we discovered this awesome page where G-adventures grouped tours according to the style of travel making it super easy to start searching for the perfect package!
Travel Budget per country in South America
- Holiday $60-100
- Backpacking $30-40
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $50-100
- Holiday Backpacking $30-40
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $80-120
- Backpacking $35-45
- Shoestring $25
- Holiday $100-150
- Backpacking $40-50
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $40-80
- Backpacking $35-45
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $40-80
- Backpacking $30-40
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $50-70
- Backpacking $25-35
- Shoestring $15
- Holiday $60-100
- Backpacking $30
- Shoestring $20
- Holiday $ 70-100
- Backpacking $50 – 60
- Shoestring $25
- Backpacking $10
Comparing Cost in South America through the Big Mac Index
The Big Mac Index compares the economy of different currencies by comparing the cost of a Big Mac in different countries. You can see according to the Big Mac Index Uruguay is the most expensive country with a Big Mac costing slightly less than it does in the US, Argentina is the cheapest country.
The price of a Big Mac in various South American countries.
How to choose accommodation online
We recommend using Booking.com to book accommodation it is how we do it most of the time;
-check for accommodation with a rating above 8 in your price range
-make sure the location is good, if you are willing to spend time on transport it is usually a bit cheaper
-check that the property has many reviews, often a place has a rating of 10 given by 3 friends of the owner that stayed there, I try to go for more than 50 reviews
-read the reviews! Focus on things that are important to you
Want to see what places we think are the absolute highlights of South America?
Excellent books to help you plan
- – Great guidebook, many tips and facts, small print, thin pages. Read the reviews – Awesome starting point for planning a trip to multiple countries.
- For Inspriration: Salt & Silver: Travel, Surf, Cook -this book blends traveling, surfing, and the food cultures of Central and South America together through the travel stories of two young, adventuresome guys. : Things I wish I had known before I rode my motorcycle to Mexico, Central and South America by Michelle Lamphere (2015-09-05)
ARGENTINA travel cost
At the time of updating this post (November 2018) Argentina is a cheap to travel again! With the exchange rate going from ARS 17 to 37 for one USD in less than a year goods and services priced for locals dropped in price by about 50%. I am not going to go into the yo-yo state of Argentina’s economy, but in our visits here went from cheap too expensive to cheap again. Until December 2015 the Argentinian Peso had a fixed exchange rate. Similar to Venezuela this created a huge US dollar black market where you could buy 50-100% more pesos per dollar. This stopped when Argentina got rid of the official exchange rate as far as we are aware. Argentina, like Chile, is safe, with top quality products and services, the closest you will find to European in South America. You can find bargains now on all local produce, meals in local restaurants, drinks in local bars, Argentinian wine and beer, even Argentinian beef is cheap and expect to pay less for museum admissions, taxi and bus rides and local guides and excursions.
Mendoza and Bariloche are regarded as the most expensive places to travel in Argentina and hostel prices here was definitely higher than in Buenos Aires. Mendoza is renowned for its wines, but tasting Malbecs at different estates is definitely not a budget activity, expect to pay $150-200 for an organised tasting tour of the 3 major wine areas; Maipú, Luján de Cuyo, and Uco Valley. Doing it independent you can do it for about half, but will definitely see and taste less.
Flights and hotels are priced in dollars, so here you are not going to find massive bargains.
Argentina, it takes careful traveling to see these amazing sites on a budget! South America travel budget
Travel Budget for Argentina
- Backpacker’s budget
- $30 per day
- $60 – 100 per day
- $15 per day (no this is not a typo, read on)
We spent ARS 4238 ($ 212) in 17 days, thus ARS 297 ($ 13.97) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses. During our last visit to Argentina the peso was much stronger, we still managed to backpack it on a very frugal budget by hitchhiking, camping and couchsurfing, like Chile it is a safe country allowing to travel in such a manner.
- Food is definitely one of the highlights in Argentina. They have a reputation for good steak, wine and mate and this is well deserved. Steak in a restaurant and on the barbecue was first class.
- A nice Bife de Chorizo (sirloin steak) is about ARS 500 ($13) in a restaurant in Buenos Aires.
- Argentinians are addicted to Dulce de leche (caramel/boiled condensed milk), big containers are cheap. We ate lots of dulce de leche on Maria biscuits during hikes. Ice cream and alfajores sweets is something not to be missed! The top of the range sweets Cachafas Afajores and Freddo ice cream is worth buying once to taste. Falling back on Grido ice cream and Guymallen alfajores for a fraction of the price is a good budget strategy.
Despite the favourable currency for traveling the bus prices that I find online is still high. A bus from Santiago to Bariloche is about $70 for a 24 hour bus ride, not that much cheaper than what we experienced a couple of years agol The buses are very comfortable and by taking a night bus you can save on accommodation.
We broke our hitchhiking records in Argentina by traveling almost 4000 km in 2 rides from Punta Arenas in Chile all the way to Buenos Aires. This trip would have cost us $180 by bus. I will not recommend hitchhiking around the cities it took us 2 days to get out of Buenos Aires!
In Buenos Aires a dormitory bed in a hostel costs $6-10. A budget double room starts at $25. Camping at El Chalten costs about $5 per day, a dormitory bed in a hostel here starts at $10.
VISA FEES FOR ARGENTINA
There were not visa fee for Russians or South Africans. Australian, US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa, there used to be a reciprocal fee to enter Argentina, I understand that was recently cancelled.
- Hike and Camp at El Chalten, the route and camping on route is free.
South America Tours – Explore Argentina with G-Adventures
Looking to experience amazing highlights of Chile and Argentina? Visit coastal Valparaíso, get active in the adventure-sport mecca of Pucón, and journey to a genuine gaucho ranch outside of quaint, lakeside Bariloche, before finishing up in the iconic “don’t cry for me” cosmopolis of Buenos Aires. Get yourself to this southern part of the world and go home recharged.
BOLIVIA travel cost
Bolivia is another South American country with a lot to offer adventurous tourists. It is known as the cheapest country in South America and is thus great to travel if you are on a budget. If you love to get your adrenaline pumping there are some unique opportunities in Bolivia, one of the easiest 6000m peaks to climb, cycle the most dangerous road in the world and do some spectacular hikes.
Food and accommodation were cheap in Bolivia, but activities and tours were expensive like in all other countries. We were discouraged from hiking and camping on our own, due to muggings and robberies. So traveling on a shoestring budget Bolivia ended up costing us more than many other countries on the continent. If you however travel by bus and stay in hostels during your travels Bolivia will probably be your cheapest country.
Bolivia -The Uyuni Salt desert was one of the highlights of South America!
Travel Budget for Bolivia
We spent BOB 2020 ($ 294) in 15 days, thus BOB 135 ($ 19) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses, but if you only subtract the cost of the 3 day Uyuni tour, Bolivia cost us less than $14 per day.
- Dormitory bed in a nice hostel in $7
- Double room in budget hotel $25
- Stay in luxury 5star hotel from $200
- Similar to Peru a set menu “menu del dia” at local restaurants is good value for money at around 20 BOB ($3). It is normally a main course, a drink and sometimes a small desert.
- Want to eat a Bolivian style set meal gone upmarket? Try ‘Popular Cocina Boliviana’ in La Paz. Bolivian food gone Gourmet style, great price for what you get at about 50 BOB ($7) for a set meal
- We often bought food at the market and cooked for ourselves, vegetables some interesting and delicious fruit was very cheap here. You can usually find a meal at the market anytime of the day, we enjoyed the breakfasts.
- You have to eat a couple ofsalteñas(the Bolivia version of empanada) or tucumanas (a deep friend salteña) 3BOB ($0.50)
- Don’t drink the tap water in Bolivia.
- Roads are quite dangerous in Bolivia use a reputable company such as MEM or El Dorado
- Cost for a one way bus ticket between La Paz and Sucre an 11 hour, 700km ride are as follows:
- 45 ($6.50) for a seat on a local bus.
- semi-cama seat (140-degree reclining seats) Bs 117 ($17)
- full cama seat (180-degree reclining seats) Bs. 180 (US$26)
Popular Activities in Bolivia
These activities are pricey, but why come if you are not going to experience these things?
- Cycle the ‘death road’ cost is about $80
- Salar de Uyuni tour of the salt flats
- Climb the 6000m peak of Huayana Putosi prices vary between $150 – $300
SALT FLATS TOUR SALAR DE UYUNI
You can do this independent if you have a motorbike, bicycle or Jeep. Otherwise like us you will have to take a tour. It was expensive, but amazing. The standard tour takes 3 days and most tours take you to the same sites. The cheapest tour we could find was $93 (BOB 645) with and additional $29 (BOB 206) for park fees. This significantly inflated our budget. Most premium tours cost between $150 – 200
- In La Paz take a collectivo BOB 6 ($1) and go and walk around the beautiful Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) entrance is BOB 20 ($3).
- Go to the interesting witches market in La Paz, it is free.
- In Sucre walk to “7 Cascadas” (7 Waterfalls) outside the city.
South America Tours – See Bolivia with G-Adventures
Bolivia Discovery – 11 Days La Paz to La Paz. From La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, travel to the crest of the Andes and the middle of nowhere for three days of incredible off-road exploration of the Uyuni Salt Flats and surrounding desert altiplano. Take the road less travelled and meet locals for an immersive cultural experience that few travellers get to know.
US and South African passport holders do require a visa. You can apply at a neighbouring country (e.g. Peru) SA passport holders it is free, US citizens $160.
BRAZIL travel cost
Brazil is a fantastic country to travel with some of the most extraordinary places to visit in South America, don’t miss the wild Amazon, the amazing wild life of the Pantanal or the unreal vibe and beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is not cheap, despite many poor people staying in favelas; food, accommodation and tourist activities are some of the most expensive in South America. Inequality here is massive, similar to my home country South Africa, I could not help to constantly compare Rio to Cape Town.
Amazing Brazil, Iguazu Falls, hiking around Ilha Grande, Rio De Janeiro and two weeks on cargo ships on the Amazon.
Be inspired by the new edition of Insight Guide Brazil, a comprehensive full-color guide to one of the most exciting countries in the world.
Travel Budget for Brazil
- Backpacker’s budget
- $40-50 per day
- $80 to 120 per day
Long-distance buses are a convenient, but they are pricey a bus ride from Rio de Janeiro to Foz do Iguazu (19 hours) starting at BRL 270 ($70). Buy your ticket at least one day in advance.
Local public transportation costs 2-5 BRL per ride. Uber works well in 11 Brazilian cities.
We did hitchhike sometimes, but getting rides in Brazil were not always easy and we sometimes ended up taking the bus.
- Dormitory bed in a nice hostel in Rio starts at about BRL30 ($8)
- Double room in budget hotel BRL 135 ($35)
- Stay in luxury 5star hotel from BRL460 ($120)
The South of Brazil vs the North
The South is much more expensive than the north, our budget was $15 avg until we reached Rio! There are some “must see” tourist attractions in and around Rio de Janeiro that are expensive, e.g. cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain BRL120 ($30), entrance Christ the Redeemer statue BRL 43 ($11) if you hike up it is a bit cheaper, entrance Foz do Iguacu BRL 65 ($ 17)
- Cruise down the Amazon on a slowboat.
- Do a free walking tour in Rio de Janeiro.
- Free in Rio.
- go to Copacabana beach
- Walk around the favelas
- Go to Parque Lage.
VISA FEES FOR BRAZIL
UK, South African and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for entry into Brazil. $160 USD, Canadians $65 USD, and Australians $35 USD. need visas.
about our travels in Brazil
South America Tours – explore Brazil with G-Adventures
Wonders of Brazil – From the cobble stoned streets of colonial Paraty to remote interior wilderness, uncover the wonders of Brazil in two exciting weeks. Experience Iguassu Falls — a series of falls so massive it straddles two countries and so intriguing you’ll need two days to fully appreciate the view. Not to be outdone, the Pantanal wetlands are teeming with wildlife like caiman, jaguar, and exotic birds. Finally, trade early morning songbirds for some samba in Rio and the rhythm of the beach. This adventure provides natural and cultural highlights and the best Brazil has to offer.
Insurance is essential on a long trip exploring South America. Some problems with standard travel insurance companies; does not cover long term trips since they don’t see it as traveling, you can not take out insurance while traveling, no extending insurance on the road and it often does not cover ‘dangerous activities’ like diving and climbing. Check out what we recommend for your trip Insurance for your travels
CHILE travel cost
Chile was our favorite country traveling in South America, we spent 3 months exploring from the Atacama desert in the north to the south of Patagonia. The landscapes are jaw dropping, from the driest desert in the world to the amazing mountains and glaciers of Patagonia. We did quite a few amazing hikes in Patagonia and if trekking is your thing, add this place to your bucket list. Torres Del Paine is the most famous hike around here for a good reason, many people walk it but it is truly spectacular. Food, accommodation and transport all make Chile more expensive than some of its neighbours.
Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island guidebook published October 2018, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you.
Chile – picking so few photos of over 2 months that we spent in this amazing country is harder than traveling here on a $13 per day budget!
Travel Budget for Chile
- Backpacker’s budget
- $40-50 per day
- $100 to 150 per day
- $15 per day (no this is not a typo, read on)
We spent CLP 653 600 ($ 979,50) in 82 days, thus CLP 11 970 ($ 11.95) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses
It is an expensive country, but an amazing place to backpack on a budget. How could we travel here with so little money? Camping, hitchhiking and couchsurfing. Chilean people are unreal, we have many stories about their fantastic hospitality. We never used public transport in Chile hitchhiking thousands of kilometers, it was safe and easy and we met some amazing people. We did many multi-day hikes here and because we did it on our own it was very cheap.
Transport is a major expense when traveling here, the buses are quite expensive, especially when you get to Patagonia. The Carraterra Austral is mostly gravel road so the trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales takes 34 hours by bus, costing $80.
Flying is sometimes a better option than the bus, if you go to Puerto Natales to hike Torres del Paine it is a lot faster.
Hitchhiking worked fantastic for us in Chile all the way from the most Northern to Southern towns, San Pedro de Atacama to Villa O’Higgins.
Citizens of US, UK, Canada and Australia and South Africa do not need visa, 108 other countries do so check before going. Australians have to pay a $117.
This is the country to travel with a tent, there are campsites everywhere. When there were none we did some ‘bush camping’ and even pitched our tent at a fuel station. We made great friends couchsurfing and off course saved a lot on accommodation in the cities this way. If you look at hostel prices you can see that if you do not camp accommodation in Patagonia will cost you a pretty penny.
- Camping CLP 2000-7000 ($3 – 10)
- Hostel in Santiago. Bed in dormitory – $9, Standard double room – $36
- Double room nice budget hotel Santiago- $80
- 5 star hotel Santiago – $200
- Hostel in Coiyhaique (Patagonia). Bed in dormitory – $22, Standard double room – $60
South America Tours – Patagonia Adventure with G-Adventures
G-Adventures adventure tour – Imagine almost three weeks packed with every activity you can think of and then some! Trek through perfectly picturesque Patagonia, wake up early for whitewater rafting, hike through crisp mountain landscapes on Torres del Paine’s renowned W Trek, and bike, raft, and smile to your heart’s content. Your adrenaline reserves will be tapped by the end of it all.
COLOMBIA travel cost
We loved Colombia, nice people, the people are very friendly, the food is amazing, there are some awesome activities to get your adrenaline pumping and the best is that it is very affordable.
What an adventure we had traveling in Colombia; I am a coffee junkie and following a coffee the world’s best coffee from bean to cup in the mountains was amazing. Beautiful country to explore a variety of interesting places from colonial cities, great beaches and the Amazon to a beautiful desert.
Lonely Planet Colombia (Travel Guide) – up to date travel guide released August 2018
- Backpacker’s budget
- $35-45 per day
- $40 to 80 per day
- $20 per day
- We spent 1 851 135 COP ($636) in 31 days, thus 59 714 COP ($20.50) each per day including white water rafting, paragliding and a plane ticket from Bogota to Leticia.
At $20 per day each our budget was on the high side for Colombia, but we did awesome things. Camping at the airport helped with our budget! South America travel budget
- Meal at a local restaurant COP 11300 ($3.50)
- Meal at a midrange restaurant COP 32 380 ($10)
- McDonald’s meal COP 16 000 ($5)
We spent very little on food by buying groceries in the supermarket and cooking in the hostel. You can see exactly how we regulated our budget in our Colombia Budget Backpacker’s Guide.
- Backpacker Hostels
- Dormitory bed varied between 15 000 and 30 000 COP ($5-$10)
- Awesome Hostels
- Bogota – awesome hostel for $5 – Casa Capita Hostel
- Cartagena – well rated, well priced – Casa Hostal el Prado
Great Budget Hotels
- Bogota – beautiful, comfortable, modern – Hotel El Dorado Bogota
- Cartagena fantastic atmosphere, spacious – Hotel Manglar 421
- Stay in Luxury
- Bogota – treat yourself – Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia
- Cartagena – amazing refurbished colonial mansion – Tcherassi Hotel
Local transport is really cheap. Three major cities in Colombia (Bogota, Cali, Medellin) have mass transit systems similar to those in Europe and the United States. Bogota’s system is called the TranMileno and – bright red buses almost like a subway. Medellin has a subway, rides less than a dollar. Public transport in the city $1-2 per day
Buses between cities in Colombia are actually quite expensive. A bus from Bogota to Medellin will cost around COP 65 000 ($20)
The budget airline Vivacolombia is a cheap way to move long distances.
Uber is available in cities and is cheaper than taxis.
- Adventure activities was well priced in Colombia, it was the only country we decided to splurge.
- white water rafting ($40)
- paragliding ($20)
- Scuba diving – there are some cool spots from Cartagena with nice wrecks and marine life.
- Don’t miss a tour of a coffee plantation starting at about 15,000 COP ($5) – Don Elias in Salento is fantastic.
VISA FEES FOR COLOMBIA
UK, US, Canadian, South African, Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for entry into Colombia for stays of up to 90 days. Visas can be easily extended for an additional 90 days
- Transport was expensive. We saved a lot on accommodation by taking night buses for longer distances, thus saving on a night’s accommodation. We did not hitchhike in Colombia (no reason).
- Cook for yourself, food in supermarkets was good and very cheap.
- Visit museums on Sundays, many are free.
- Get a ‘Hola Hostel’ card, they are free, good discounts.
- Free walking tour in Medellin – excellent!
- Hiking around San Gill – well marked 3 day trail to do on your own.
- Walk around in The Tatacoa Desert.
- Coffee tasting in Salento, cheap not free, but a must for a coffee lover.
South America Tours – Colombia with G-Adventures
G-Adventures Colombia 9 Day Bogota to Cartagena – Where to go if you only have a week to experience a truly unique part of the world? The answer: Colombia. If you think a week isn’t enough to tour the beaches, coffee regions, and metropolitan cities of this reemerging country, think again — this trip makes it possible. Check out the resurgence of culture, art, and food in Bogotá and Medellín, dive deep into the Caribbean vibe in Cartagena, and enjoy the Latin-Caribbean fusion of flavours in local cuisine. All this in only nine days. Start packing now.
ECUADOR travel cost
Located between Colombia and Peru, Ecuador straddles the equator on the Pacific side of South America, Ecuador is a small, but diverse country most famous for the Galapagos Islands, which sparked the genius idea of evolution in Charles Darwin. It is perhaps the cheapest place from which the Amazon jungle can be explored. In Quito you can straddle the equator or go shopping for authentic souvenirs in the Otavalo market 3 hours away. Up for adventure? Climb the 5897m Cotopaxi volcano or ride down from 4500m on a mountain bike! The great thing about Ecuador for backpackers is that it is fairly cheap to travel here with lots of well-priced accommodation and adventure activities.
- Travel Holiday $40-80
- Backpacking $30-40
- Shoestring $20
- You can eat at a local restaurant for $3-5 and in the markets for less than $2.
- European meal (hamburger/pizza) around 10-12 USD.
- For a meal at a mid-range restaurant about $25
Long distance buses are a good deal for less than $2 per hour travelled.
In Quito a dormitory bed in a hostel starts at $4. A budget double room from $12 and you can stay in a 5 star hotel for $130
VISA FEES FOR ECUADOR
United States, Canada and most European countries can travel to Ecuador visa free for up to 90 days.
- Unfortunately going to the Galapagos islands is a very pricey exercise even which will cost at least $1000 even for the most stingy nomads. Flights, conservation fees and ferries alone is round $500.
- If you shop around you can do a 3 day local Amazon tour for about $120. With a higher budget you can do a 5-day tour and explore the Ecuador Amazon and live locally, admire rainforest wildlife, learn about shamanic practice and do several outdoor activities – isn’t it an amazing way of getting to know another country?!
- Stand over the equator at Quito
- Go to the Otavalo market.
- Hiking independent
South America Tours – G-Adventures Galagapos wild life
The Galápagos Islands aren’t just all about cruising! Over a week’s time and beginning and ending right in the heart of the action (the islands, of course), you’ll stay active by snorkelling, hiking, and exploring the diverse terrain before slowing things down with wildlife exploration in the company of an expert Naturalist Guide. With plenty of options to stick around after the trip’s done (or show up early for some independent adventuring beforehand), this is the perfect express trip for a most excellent Galápagos experience. G-Adventures Galapagos
PARAGUAY travel cost
I will definitely not call Paraguay ‘a tourist paradise’, one of the least visited countries in South America, with little travel infrastructure only has a handful of known tourist destinations. Getting ‘off the beaten track’ and experiencing local culture are the most popular tourist draw cards in this small land-locked country. The most well-known cities are Asuncio, the capital and popular point of entry by plane and Ciudad del Este, the second biggest city on the border with Brazil and Argentina and well known for shopping, mostly cheap and knock-off or fake goods. We entered the city from Iguazu. English is not widely spoken, so a basic knowledge of Spanish is very handy around here
Travel Budget for Paraguay
We spent PYG 191 000 ($ 34) in 3 days, thus 63 666 PYG ($12) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
We did not spend much time in Paraguay. I bought some electronics in Ciudad del Este for cheap. The Itaipu dam is located close to the city, the second biggest dam in the world is a nice site to go to from the city, the tour is free. The dam is one of the seven Engineering Wonders of the World. The massive network of waterfalls that they flooded to build the dam would have been even nicer. Apparently it was bigger and more impressive than Iguazu
- Dormitory bed in a nice hostel start at $13
- There are very few hostels, they are quite expensive
- Double room in budget hotel $30
- Good value for double rooms if you are two people sharing
- Stay in luxury 5 star hotel from $65
- For $65 you can get a double room in a top 5 star hotel
Extensive bus network connecting towns and cities, don’t expect luxury buses. Taxis are well priced, motorbike taxis are cheap.
PERU travel cost
Peru is still one of the cheaper countries to visit in South America hosting some of the continent’s most famous attractions. The two most popular highlights are without a doubt the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and the multi day hiking trail ‘The Inca trail’ leading up to this archaeological wonder. Peru has so much more to offer, visit the fascinating man made islands of Lake Titicaca, explore the Amazon from Iquitos, check out Lima or go surfing at Mancora. Peru is a dream destination for trekking with a staggering array of trails winding through the Andes. These spectacular mountains offer a lot more than just the Inca trail; we spent a month in Cusco alone, doing some fantastic trekking like Salkantay, Choquequirao and Ausangate. If you do these treks independent it is dirt cheap, what an awe-inspiring experience!
Great help in doing some planning Lonely Planet Peru (Travel Guide)
Travel Budget for Peru
We spent PEN 2008 ($592) in 37 days, thus Sol 54.20 ($ 15.95) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
Trekking in Peru was very cheap, we had an amazing time and saw some unreal places!
For us doing a lot of hikes made Peru cheaper not more expensive. Doing independent hikes costs were minimum. During hikes accommodation was free and food was very cheap.
- Dormitory bed in a nice hostel in $6
- Double room in budget hotel $40
- Stay in luxury 5star hotel from $120
- The best place for lunch is a menú at one of the local restaurants. A Peruvian menú is a set meal including a starter (normally soup or a small salad), a main course, a drink and sometimes a small dessert. The price is about PEN 10 ($3)
- Are you a foodie? Go to ‘Central’ restaurant in Lima, the nr 1 restaurant in South America and nr 4 in the world, a bit above our budget at round $200 for a 17 course meal, but we heard about the magic chef Martinez serves here, culinary art taking you from 20m below sea level to 4000m above.
- Some hostels include breakfast, usually simple (yes read not enough). We drank a lot of tea in the mountains of Peru. Most hostels give unlimited free coco tea since it helps with altitude sickness.
- McDonald’s meal about PEN16 ($4.50)
- Local beer PEN 6/ $1.8
- Bus travel in Peru is well priced with different options and prices. A bus ride from Lima to Cusco in a nice bus with wifi starts at about PEN80 ($25) for the 22 hour ride.
- Shorter trips of around 2 and a half hours were about PEN 10 ($3).
- Machu Picchu entrance is $47 including Machu Picchu Mountain. Machu Picchu is amazing despite the 4000 tourists a day, a must see.
- I recommend skipping the Inca Trail, hike a different route. There are many amazing hikes around Cuzco and several options to hike to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is the most famous and most touristy, this does not make it the best. See our Salkantay to Machu Picchu, an alternative routearticle for more on the topic.
Peru is an amazing culture and adventure experience; activities will be your biggest expense, go for it! It will be an experience you will treasure forever.
- Hike independent
- carry your own bag and use a map instead of a guide, there are some of the world’s best hikes in the Peruvian Andes!
- Take a slowboat trip in the amazon from Iquitos to Leticia. Awesome activity when traveling South America on the cheap.
South America Tours – G-Adventures Iconic Peru travels
G-Adventures Peru – This adventure offers up an intriguing combination of beauty and contrasts in scenery, wildlife, and cultures, whether you’re scanning the canopy for wildlife from the comfort of our intimate and exclusive G Lodge Amazon or climbing the ancient trail of the Incas to Machu Picchu, situated in the heavens of the Americas. Because we run our own treks, we can ensure the fair treatment of our porters and the quality of food and equipment which leaves you free to enjoy the beauty of the region.
URUGUAY. travel cost
Uruguay is known as an expensive country with top quality beef and people living on Mate, sort of a super Argentina, this is not too far off. The most popular places to visit in the country are Montevideo, Punta del Este, Colonia, Punta del diablo, and Cabo Polonio Rocha. The country is predominantly a summer beach destination, which is great since going to the beach is free. Kitesurfing is a popular activity and don’t miss eating a local steak and drink some matet (the mate straw is a cool gift to take home). Most travelers arrive in Uruguay by ferry straight from Buenos Aires ($56). The ferry is expensive and we decided to hitchhike the long way around, it took a long time. The country’s small size and efficient bus system allows for easy exploring of the whole country.
Travel Budget for Uruguay
We spent UYU 3954 ($ 140) in 7 days, thus 564 UYU ($20.50) each per day total, we did some hitchhiking and camping.
The sculpture on the beach- Los Dedos (“the fingers”), a famous work by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal.
- Eating in restaurants is very expensive, but like Argentina eating a steak is one of the must do things in Uruguay. Chivito (Uruguay’s classic steak sandwich) goes for about US$10, eating in a midrange restaurant $25 with a drink and double that for eating in a top end restaurant with wine.
- Lunch in a local restaurant cost about UYU 350 ($12). A Mcdonald’s meal is about UYU 280 ($10). Shopping and cooking the prices are not that crazy and staying in a hostel with cooking facilities is the cheapest way to travel here.
- Dormitory bed in a nice hostel start at $10
- Double room in budget hotel $35
- Stay in luxury 5star hotel from $160
All the cities and towns in Uruguay are connected by an extensive network of bus routes. The distances are short and we were surprised that transport is relatively cheap. The inter-city buses are modern, clean and comfortable and it was awesome that these buses have quite good Wi-Fi.
- Local bus ride in Montevideo US$1
- Long-distance bus rides are about US$7 per 100km travelled.
VENEZUELA travel cost
Traveling to the beautiful, dangerous and destroyed country of Venezuela is strongly discouraged by every foreign office around the world. Once one of the richest nations in South America, with massive oil reserves, due to political corruption and civil unrest it became a country with massive social and economic problems.
We had a great time traveling here late 2015, the country was already in distress and empty shops, corrupt police and non-existent service made it hard to travel here. It was however very cheap, we were traveling on cents, if it is ethical to travel to Venezuela is another hot potato.
We spent VEF 107 999 ($155) in 29 days, thus VEF 30723 ($5.31) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
THE CURRENCY ISSUE
When we were here, September 2015, the official exchange rate was $1=B6, on the black market you could however buy B700 with $1! This means that a Coke will only cost 27c at the black market rate, but you will pay $33 for the same Coke at the official exchange rate! If you bring cash it is an unbelievably cheap country to travel. If however you draw money at an ATM or pay by credit card at the official rate it is maybe the most expensive country in the world. Unfortunately this downward spiral has just continued for Venezuela with inflation at over 800 000% in October 2018
Want to know and understand what is going on in Venezuela? read this insight full and well received book – Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela
Because of the exchange rate in Venezuela, tourists with US dollars have a lot of money. These are 50B notes (almost $10 notes).
BUDGET AND PRICES
Our average budget was $5.31 a day each all inclusive.
VISA FEES FOR VENEZUELA
US citizens need visa, $30 for 90 day multiple entry visa
Most things, don’t get robbed.
More about our travels in Venezuela
THE GUIANAS travel cost
Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana collectively called the Guianas are three territories located on the North Eastern coast of South America . Getting to the Guianas is not easy and the countries are expenses, they are skipped by most travellers in South America for these reasons. We briefly set foot in Guyana hiking in Venezuela, but since it is European territories we did not want to go through visa processes to travel here. Since we did not travel through the Guyanas I am including this based on what I heard and found online.
– French Guiana is a part of France, and thus of the EU, here you enter the EU while still standing in South America. There are not many touristy sites in the country.
-Travel Budget French Guiana
French Guiana is a very expensive country, even as a budget traveller you will find it hard to get away by spending less than $80 per day. Since there is no backpacker facilities expect to pay over $50 per night for accommodation.
– Suriname was formerly known as Dutch Guiana, the smallest country in South America only has a population of 550 000, Dutch is the official language and people drive on the left hand side. Over 90% of Suriname is covered in primeval rainforest and there are some awesome fauna and flora to experience here, river dolphins, 1000 pound leather back turtles laying their eggs on the beach and the gold footed tamarind monkeys.
-Travel Budget Suriname
Suriname sounds like the cheapest of the three, you should be able to find accommodation for under $25 and get away with a budget of round $60 per day.
– Guyana located between Venezuela and Brazil, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the north is South America’s only English speaking country. This year (2018) Guyana was a popular destination under travel bloggers. Traveling independent I heard Guyana is a very difficult country to get around in. Visitors go to see the incredible nature, with sites like the tallest free falling waterfall in the world (Kaieteur Falls). There is an incredible diversity of animals in the Amazon jungle and savannahs in Guyana, you can see the massive freshwater fish, Arapima, giant anteaters, piranhas, tarantulas and even jaguars if you are a birder the more than 900 species of exotic birds makes this a bucket list spot.
-Travel Budget Guyana
You should be able to find accommodation in a guesthouse for about $40 per night. and get away with a budget of round $70 per day.
Good stuff to Pack
Good travel and hiking Backpack – you want something that is easy and comfortable to carry, that is a good hiking pack if you are going to Patagonia, but that is easy to open like a good travel pack.
This is hard to find, a great hiking backpack that is not just top loading.
Travel Security Money Belt
Nobody will know you have money on you! Travel Security Money Belt
Water is not alway drinkable and bottled water can be expensive, we save a lot of money with our life straw in a bottle This amazing device is super handy if you are going hiking independent.
Travel South America on a Budget – 6 Insider Tips
Do you want to travel South America on a budget? Well I’ve got a few time-tested ideas on that subject since I’ve been there many times for extended periods. The continent can be a great value if you do it right.
I’m getting excited because after visiting Argentina a few months ago, in September I’m flying down to Colombia for what I think will be my 13th or 14th trip to South America. Sometimes it has been work, sometimes a vacation, but it’s never been boring either way. Most of the time it has been a terrific travel bargain too.
Traveling on a budget in South America is hard to generalize about because of widely varying economies and continual exchange rate changes. Argentina is especially unpredictable, going from cheap to expensive to cheap again in the past decade, depending on how their financial crisis of the day was playing out. Right now it’s the best bargain in the Americas if you bring plenty of cash to Argentina.
Over the years, three of the countries that charged a lot to enter have dropped their reciprocal visa fees too, which lopped $160 per person off of your South America vacation cost. The only country still socking visitors for this now is Bolivia. Fortunately, after you get in, Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries to travel in on the continent.
In general, South America is a pretty good deal for shoestring travelers, but an excellent deal for mid-range travelers. Even in the capital cities you can get a decent hotel room for $40 or less per night. Most of the middle-class locals are not rich either, so it’s easy to find budget places to stay and day tour prices are usually reasonable.
If you’re past the point of traveling on a shoestring budget and your travel style requires more comfort, you’ll get a lot for your money in most of these countries and a rather average vacation budget will stretch a long way.
Meal time is usually a good value throughout this part of the globe. More on that further down.
Table of Contents
Best Places to Visit in South America on a Budget
There are a few countries that have appeared in every edition of my book, The World’s Cheapest Destinations. If you spend most of your time in these, adding on the ones where the dollar is currently extra strong, you’ll get able to cover a big chunk of South America on a typical backpacker budget of $1000 to $1,800 per month for a single, $2,000 to $3,000 for a couple.
So what are the best places to visit in South America on a budget? If you wanted to backpack through South America for a few months or more?
I’d say you should probably fly to Central America first, because you can do it more cheaply with money or miles, then make your way through Panama and either fly or take a boat to Colombia. Or find a flight deal to Cartagena or Bogota—two of the cheapest places to fly to in South America—and start your South America itinerary there.
Spend a few weeks in Colombia, taking advantage of a historically weak local currency, Limit your time in Cartagena as it’s the most expensive city by far. It’s much more reasonable in the Coffee Triangle, Santa Marta, Medellin, and the mountain towns.
Then go overland to Ecuador and watch your money instantly buy even more. (Except imported liquor and wine.) Quito and Cuenca are worth spending time in and are good bases for exploration of other towns and the Andes Mountains. Then you’ve lots of adventure activity options, beaches at the right time of year, and hot springs areas.
The big draw of South America for many travelers is Peru, which is thankfully quite a bargain after you get past the Machu Picchu costs that are going to break your budget for a few days. Suck it up and go, but then spend some time in cheaper, less crowded areas like Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Amazonas, or even the Sacred Valley towns and mountain villages where nobody else bothers to spend the night.
If you get away from the tour bus locations, Peru can be a very cheap place to travel. It’s a great value.
After Peru, you can head to Bolivia overland via Lake Titicaca or elsewhere, reaching what is in many respects the cheapest country in South America. Thanks to its hefty visa fee and general lack of promotion, it’s also one of the least developed for tourists, which is a good thing for budget backpackers.
The only area getting a sizable number of visitors is the Salar de Uyuni salt flats area, the star of many an Instagram feed. It is a trippy, otherworldly place indeed. Try to spend more than a day there, maybe even going overland through the desert to Atacama if you’re headed to Chile. (Chile is no bargain though, so I’m not including it on this list.)
The cheaper option from Bolivia is to head over to northern Argentina, to the dry Salta Province area, a sparsely populated region that looks somewhat like the American Southwest, but with more wineries. See a Salta travel story I wrote here.
Then explore the rest of Argentina as you wish, keeping in mind that the distances are vast and you’ll spend a lot of time on overnight bus trips if you don’t have splurge money set aside to fly now and then. Also remember there’s a high season and a no go season for Patagonia and plan accordingly. Your budget will be higher for Patagonia as well, especially when visiting the Perito Morena Glacier.
Overall though, costs are historically low in Argentina as I write this in 2022 and what you get for your money is unbelievable sometimes, especially for eating and drinking. Argentina craft beer just might be the best-priced on the planet right now, thanks to the exchange and the fact that Argentina can grow hops and barley, unlike its neighbors further north.
If you had your heart set on getting a Chile passport stamp, it would be an easy crossing in the Patagonia region, which is shared by both countries. Or you can cross to Santiago from Mendoza overland to visit wine regions and Valparaiso. Assume your daily budget is going to double as soon as you cross the border though, so you’re probably going to want to make the Chile part a quick in and out.
A few years ago I would have said to end it there, but once-expensive Brazil has gotten reasonably priced for now if you’re coming with U.S. dollars. That’s partly because of a currency drop, but also because, as I mentioned earlier, they dropped their expensive and cumbersome visa fee. Brazil has a completely different vibe than the Spanish-speaking countries and some of the best music in the Americas. See the post I did earlier on travel prices in Rio.
From a logistics standpoint, if you’re heading to Rio de Janeiro from Argentina, you can now stop on both sides of Iguazu Falls, seeing them from the Argentina side and the Brazil side. Before the visa change, you had to cough up a lot of money to do this. But when I was on an Intrepid Travel tour a few years ago that went through here, it was quite easy, no extra fees beyond park admissions.
You’ll probably want to see more of Brazil, maybe checking out some of the great beaches along the coast. Then head home or onward from where you can find a good flight deal. That’s more likely to be from Brazil than Argentina these days, though you may be better off flying from Brazil to another country to the north and then getting a second ticket from there. Scope out the options on Google Flights or Skyscanner.
To recap, the best countries to visit in South America, if you’re on a tight budget, are Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. If you stick to those you can get by for quite cheap–though understand that the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island are out of your budget range. If you do have some splurge money set aside, visit the Galapagos and add more expensive countries (though still not terrible) like Chile and Uruguay. If you’re a nature buff looking to get away from other tourists, you could head to Guyana.
Take Your Time on this Continent Meant for Slow Travel
Way too many people hurry through Peru and only see the sites thronged with tourists, or they try to cover vast distances in a short time when they travel in South America. As a result, they are handing much of their money to transportation companies every day or two. Slow travel is much cheaper travel, especially here.
The easiest way to keep your South America travel budget low, besides picking the right destinations, is to spend some quality time in each place before moving on to the next spot. It can literally cost you twice as much to be on the move every day or two, especially since there are so many long bus rides or more costly flights to deal with to get from A to B. You’re often crossing the Andes Mountains or traversing vast desert or pampas regions, so you want to settle in for a while after the journey.
To give you an idea, driving Chile end-to-end is roughly the same distance as driving from the west coast of the U.S. to the east coast. Driving from the top of Argentina to the bottom is the equivalent of driving from Calgary in Canada through the USA and Mexico to Guatemala City. And Brazil is much bigger than both of those added together!
These bus trips cover such long distances in South America travel destinations that you sometimes get a sleeping berth. Many of them in Argentina and Chile are 24 hours, like Buenos Aires to Bariloche.
You can cut off a lot of time by flying, but domestic flights are often no bargain. They’re quite reasonable in Bolivia (from La Paz especially) and among the cities of Colombia. There are plenty of budget airlines to choose from. Flights can feel way overpriced in Argentina in Peru, however. (In the latter, foreigners pay more than the locals do). Trying to be a box-checking, bucket-listing, country-counting flashpacker is going to cost you far more money–and part of your sanity.
If your time is limited and you want to cover a lot of ground on a short trip, I would strongly advise signing up for an organized tour with a company like Intrepid Travel or G Adventures. You’ll know in advance what your budget is and they’ll take care of all the logistics for you, which is worth a lot. You’re usually looking at $80-$150 a day per person with them. A lot for a long-term traveler, but pretty cheap for a vacationer.
Eat a Big Lunch When Traveling in South America
The meal of the day goes by many names on hand-written signs and chalkboards in Latin America, like menu del dia, comida corrida, la comida, or simply almuerzo. Or you may see something different on a sign that shows multiple courses and choices in local restaurants.
The way it works is, you usually get a soup or starter; a main course with a few options to pick from; rice, potatoes or pasta; something to drink; and maybe dessert.
That picture to the right is from a lunch just two blocks from the main plaza in Cusco. It was $3 counting the soup I had already devoured, a drink not pictured here, and a tip. See more examples of Cusco travel prices here.
These afternoon meal deals can range from very humble market stall meals that are literally two or three dollars up to fancier ones meant for office workers that are still only $5 or $6. Whether simple or fancy, these are your most economical choices when eating out. So it’s often best to get into the habit of eating your largest meal in the middle of the day, then having a lighter dinner. Hey, it’s probably better for your weight management too.
Take advantage of street food stalls and local markets as well. Maybe not the first day you arrive, but in general they’re safe when places are busy and you can see the food being prepared. They’re mostly serving working-class locals, so the price is right.
Learn Some Spanish to Travel South America
If most of your international travel has been in Asia or Europe, you may be under the impression that anyone who works with tourists around the world speaks English. There are plenty of areas where this is still not the case though, like any vast area where millions speak the local language. That applies to South America with Spanish.
Someone could travel from San Diego all the way to the tip of Tierra del Fuego without speaking anything but Spanish—as long as they avoid Belize, Brazil, and the Guyanas. In Mexico I got cable TV with my internet service and I have 200 channels that are Spanish only. It’s the same when I travel in Peru, Argentina, or Ecuador. Since these countries get so many tourists from neighboring countries, it’s not essential for them to have a strong command of English to survive.
Then when you get outside the main South America travel spots that are big tourist destinations, it gets worse. Bring a phrasebook or good app, load up Google Translate or Deepl, and try to learn a bit of Spanish before you leave with a self-study system like Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, or Duolingo.
Maybe stay in one place for a week or two and take some lessons. Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador are known for speaking relatively pure Latin American Spanish. As in they don’t drop letters at the end of words, they don’t speak with an Italian accent, and they don’t use an abundance of slang and idioms in regular speech. So they’re good places to learn and prices are reasonable. Backpacking South America becomes much easier and cheaper once you can communicate at a basic level at least.
If you’re going to spend extensive time in Brazil, learning some (very different) Portuguese can help too. I got by in Iguacu Falls and Rio okay without it: sometimes I could switch to Spanish and they understood that if not English. It’s tougher if you get away from where the tourists are though.
When to Visit: Outside of High Season if Possible
What’s the best time to visit South America? Well there’s no one answer that’s going to cover all of this vast continent but known when and when not to go can have a big impact on how much money you end up spending. The more the vacation place is a popular destination, the more likely you’ll see big seasonal price swings.
I have written before on how much of an impact there can be on prices depending on when you arrive. Low season can have awful weather or everything is closed, while high season can hit you with peak prices and low room availability. When possible, if you can land in town when it’s shoulder season, that’s a great time to find a middle ground with good conditions and good prices are both in play.
Naturally, the seasonal variations are not going to be the same across all of South America at any given time. Between May and September, Patagonia empties out and many lodges close up for the winter unless they’re in a ski area. You don’t want to go to Peru in February when it’s the height of rainy season and the Inca Trail is shut down.
Then there is a high season in Peru, however, when it’s sunny and dry and everything is green from the past few months of rain. If you want to avoid peak crowds and prices in the mountainous parts of Peru, it’s best to plan on May or Autumn. December can be iffy, but I only got rained on one day when I went on a hiking trip there in early December.
Apart from known weather patterns like these though, most of the continent is warm all year and just has fluctuations in precipitation, though of course the higher the elevation, the colder it will get in their winter. It doesn’t much matter when you go to the Amazon Rainforest since it’s hot and close to sea level. In Colombia though, the Caribbean coast has different weather than the Pacific coast beach on the other side—and very different water temperatures.
So the key advice is to avoid high season, or at least try to catch the beginning or end of it. Fortunately, the national parks in South America are not nearly as crowded as the U.S. ones, especially in vast Patagonia, so for those you mainly need to look at the weather patterns. Only Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina) and Torres del Paine ever really feel crowded. If a place doesn’t get many tourists, you don’t have to worry much about fluctuations in the price of a private room when you are off the beaten path.
Two periods are uniformly busy across South America. Easter, known as Pascua or Semana Santa, is a bigger holiday than Christmas in most of these countries, with vacations lasting up to two weeks. A month before that you’ve got Carnaval in Brazil and elsewhere, when lodging prices shoot up and rooms can get scarce.
Also, this being the southern hemisphere, the big “summer vacation” period is January and February, sometimes bleeding into Christmas on the front end and early March on the other. This is a terrible time to visit the beaches of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, or Ecuador unless you love the high-season energy and want to mix it up with vacationing locals. Plan accordingly.
Work on Your Patience in the Southern Hemisphere
In much of the USA, Canada, and Europe, efficiency and convenience are prized attributes. No wasted time, get to the point, don’t be late. Things work differently in most of Latin America. Nobody ever seems to be in a hurry, business is done at what seems like a glacial pace to us, and relationships trump logic every time.
Things usually get done eventually, but probably not as fast as you were hoping or expecting. Get used to waiting around, accepting some Spanish form of “later” as an answer, and going with the flow.
On the plus side, most people in South America are gracious, patient, and not all that bothered about you butchering their language. Once you slow down and lower your expectations, it’s kind of nice to let go. Hey, what’s the rush?
For a country-by-country breakdown of these destinations and others around the globe, pick up a copy of the 5th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations. This post contains affiliate links, though you will never pay more by using them than you would if you went direct to the site. I just make a small referral commission that helps keep the site running.
The Cost to Travel Everywhere in the World
Canada is growing in popularity with international travelers thanks to an awesome working visa option and wide open beauty. An adventure seeker’s dream, Canada has something for everyone no matter the season. With a suggested daily budget of about $70-$80 CAD, Canada is about on par with many European countries.
Transportation in Canada is fairly expensive but you can get a Canrail pass for $699 which gives you 7 one-way tickets, $899 for 10 one-way tickets, or $1,299 for unlimited travel. Tipping is big in Canada, so sitting down at a restaurant can be expensive at $15-$35 CA. If you want to save money on food, keep your eye out for cheap sandwich shops or cook your own meals. Lastly, accommodation rates are dependent on the city you are in but expect to pay around $30 CAD for a dorm and $60 and upwards for a hotel.
The U.S. might be one of the most expensive destinations on this list but it is also one of the destinations with the most diversity in terms of culture and natural beauty.
Almost anything you want to experience, from the tropics in Hawaii to the northern lights in Alaska, is on offer. The U.S. can be a fairly expensive destination because of high transportation and accommodation costs, but these costs can vary greatly from state to state with prices running highest on the coasts, in the national parks, and in Hawaii. A suggested daily budget is around $100 for decent meals, non-dorm accommodation, and transport. Travelers who prefer dorms should expect to pay about $30 for a dorm in New York or Los Angeles, but should also know that the US doesn’t have a big dorm culture. The best ways to save are to cook your own food, camp, and to couchsurf.
Public transport isn’t great in the US, therefore road trips are popular for most visitors, either across the US or on the Pacific Coast Highway, among others.
Mexico has a lot to offer from gorgeous beaches along two coasts, to the vibrant culture of Mexico city and Oaxaca, and of course Mexican cuisine, which has been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List by UNESCO. Mexico is also known for its ancient Mayan ruins and tropical weather. As a result of this popularity Mexico can be a bit more expensive than its neighbors in Central America, even if you do skip the resorts, but it’s still much cheaper than the US or Canada. Accommodation in hostels begins at around $6 to $14 in budget hotels. For budget travelers, street food is the best option with tacos starting at $1. To travel around Mexico you can take buses using the ADO website and the cost ranges from $10-$40.
Central America: Cheap
Central America is a great choice for those on a budget who want to find a slightly older crowd on the road (more people in their 30s and 40s as opposed to more in their 20s in Southeast Asia). The most expensive countries to travel to in Central America are Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama. Excursions and activities such as zip lining or ATV tours in Costa Rica are always priced with American tourists in mind and are usually over $50. Entry to the parks for hiking without a guide will cost at least $15. In Belize, expect to pay more for diving and tours than you would elsewhere in Central America.
Conversely, traveling to Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, or Honduras is more affordable. Accommodation can cost as low as $10 per night, and keep in mind that local public transportation is much cheaper than private, or ‘tourist’, transportation. Food is the best, tastiest, and cheapest when exploring the local street food. In countries like Guatemala, you can enjoy a full lunch “menu del día” for $5 or less!
South America: Mid-Range
South America really varies in cost, but it’s still generally cheaper than most of Western Europe, Oceania, and North America. Plan on spending less in the countries farther north and a lot more in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. That said, the buses are generally great, there’s camping and hostels, and varying degrees of luxury (and bang for your buck) as well.
Transport: Check this guide for bus recommendations per country.
Bolivia is one of the cheaper countries to travel to in South America. Accommodation costs for backpackers in dorms are cheaper than many other South American countries, ranging from around $10-20 for dorms and $15-30 for private rooms. Eating local meals will be cheaper (under $10) than westernized restaurants.
Public transportation is very cheap, but the quality and safety is better on tourist buses, which are more expensive. When traveling in Bolivia, the most expensive thing you’re likely to encounter is activity costs. Tours to mountain bike down the World’s Most Dangerous Road, for example, vary depending on the safety gear provided, but range from $50-100. The Bolivian visa cost for Americans is steep at $160.
Prices in Argentina tend to fluctuate thanks to an unstable currency. Sometimes, Argentina can be a great value to travel through and at other times, prices can essentially double. The black market on currency which used to make Argentina cheap is gone now, so don’t expect it to be as cheap as the glory days of yore. Hostels can run as much as $60 for a private room in popular places. Food can also be expensive, but when you’re eating delicious steak in Argentina, you just might be willing to overlook that.
Colombia is affordable when it comes to local meals and accommodation. A typical bandeja paisa platter costs around $6-7. The menu of the day is always a tasty, affordable option as well. A nice hostel dorm can cost as low as $12 per night.
Colombia can get expensive for transportation on overnight buses (around $50 one-way). In some cases it is more economical to fly via VivaColombia, Colombia’s budget airline. Prices for everything in popular cities like Medellín and Cartagena (especially in the historic center) are higher than in less traveled cities. Note that tourism in Colombia is rapidly growing, so price increases should be expected year over year.
Chile’s economy is the strongest in Latin America. As such, expect Chile to be a more expensive place to visit. You can still save by camping through most of the country, ordering the menu del dia (menu of the day) for lunch, and you can even hitchhike through part of it pretty safely. Your budget can vary pretty wildly in Patagonia, in particular. I personally spent an average of $53 per day over 60 days there.
Expect places like Easter Island to be super expensive for food and activities, and for the middle of the country and Santiago to be mid-range with lots of accommodation levels and options.
Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America. The visa entry cost for Americans is $160 USD, $65 USD for Canadians and $35 USD for Australians.
Since the 2016 Summer Olympics, prices in Rio have skyrocketed. Activities in Rio such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf mountain cost around $15-20 and visiting the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls costs approximately $15-20. Accommodation in hostels ranges from $10 during low season to as much as $50-70 in high season. Traveling by buses runs from $20-80, so flights from around $80-100 may be a more efficient use of travel time for long distances considering that Brazil is such a massive country. Meals range from $10-20; consider the self-service option in which you can eat as much as you want for a fixed price!
Peru has the potential to be pretty affordable. Where it can get expensive is depending on which activities you want to do and how independently you do them. For example, there are very expensive tours to Machu Picchu using the train and bus, but you can also travel to Machu Picchu independently and without the help of a tour for a fraction of the cost. Day trips to Huacachina or the 2 day/1 night Colca Canyon hike are about $20-50.
Local meals and street food are the cheapest options while food in more tourist-heavy areas such as Cusco are more expensive. Lima, which is very much like any American city price-wise, is also inherently more expensive. There are many affordable accommodation options ranging from dorms to guest houses or hotels. Cruz del Sur is one of the better bus companies for the long-haul overnight journeys, but these tickets are more expensive than some of the less comfortable overnight bus companies.
Western Europe: Expensive
Western Europe includes the countries on Europe’s west coast from Portugal and Spain, to as far east as Germany, Italy, and Finland, and all of those in-between. This region isn’t a budget destination, but it does cater to travelers of every type from budget backpackers to high-end luxury travelers. Expect to pay about what you would in the US for most things, with some, sometimes extreme, variations.
In general, the shoulder seasons in the autumn and spring are much cheaper than summer for accommodation and activities, and as of this writing in 2017, the exchange rate is better than it has been in years at USD $1 equaling 93 cents Euro. The beauty of traveling through Europe is that while the exchange might not be as great as countries like Vietnam or Cambodia, it’s easy and comfortable thanks to the infrastructure. Plus, you can stay for a whole 3 months with no visa required for most western nationalities. While the northern countries such as Norway and Sweden can be incredibly expensive, Greece, Spain and Portugal can offer amazing rates on food and accommodation. Moving slowly and planning ahead as much as possible will cut your transportation costs, and thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair and Norwegian, airline travel between countries like Italy and Greece can be as low as $65 one way. Many travelers also opt for the Eurail if they’ll be covering a lot of countries.
Best websites for savings:
Transport: Eurail (especially if you’re visiting mulitple countries!), Flixbus, Megabus
Hit hard by the financial crisis and still recovering, Portugal is one of the cheapest places to visit in Western Europe. Locals are reportedly much better at speaking English in Portugal than the other countries located on the Iberian Peninsula, so getting around is fairly easy. Nomadic Matt has a suggested daily budget of around $26-$47 USD if you are staying in hostels and eating at cheaper restaurants. If you’re not into hostels, a quick Airbnb search shows entire homes from $30-$200.
Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has great public transportation starting at $1.50 and intercity trains and buses are very reasonably priced as well. A pint of beer in Portugal is around $2, and you can find reasonable priced snacks in bakeries for $2-$7 euros. A sit down restaurant should be around $10-$15 depending on if you buy alcohol. The cost of museums and other attractions ranges from $5-$12 and is often half or free with student ID or, in some cases, free after a certain time of day.
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to travel to, mostly because everything from food to vehicles has to be imported there. Expect to pay a lot for food, transportation, tours, and accommodation. Thankfully, though, the waterfalls and natural attractions are mostly free to see and experience, and you can cook your own food to save.
I spent $93 per day in Iceland, making it my most expensive country I’ve ever traveled through.
Depending on where you want to go in Italy, the cost can vary quite dramatically. Rome, Milan, Venice and Cinque Terre will all most certainly be much more expensive than perhaps some less traveled destinations in Italy, like Bologna. That said, hostels are available starting at $20. Many cities in Italy also have good public transportation. A metro ticket in Rome is $1.50. Local trains in Italy are also reasonable with a ticket from Rome to Bologna costing as little as $19 euros with trenitalia.
A daily food budget of $25 euros ought to help satisfy a pasta craving if you only eat fancy for one meal and consider shopping at markets for bread, cheese, and wine for other meals. There is also pretty decent street food in Italy with slices of square pizza for $1.50 and even some cheap pasta places for $5 a plate. Aperitivo is also popular in much of Italy, which is a happy hour with snacks and drink discounts. In some cases, wine is even cheaper than bottled water in Italy! Do note that in many places you might get charged extra for sitting on the terrace.
Museums tend to run $5-$16 euros, and The Vatican and Sistine chapel cost $16 euros, or is free on the last Sunday of the month, or is half price with a student ID.
Although many were quite sad to see the UK leave the EU, travelers may have done a secret happy dance, as it brought the dollar and the pound closer than they have ever been before, thus, making the UK a much more affordable place to visit. $1 USD equals 81 pence as of this writing.
If you’re looking to go to London or the UK in general from October-April you’ll likely find the prices to be much more reasonable than the summer months. Dorm rooms in June in London start at £13, but in January start at £9.78. If you’re into museums you’re in luck as many are free, however the cathedrals, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London all have entry fees. The Tower and Buckingham palace together cost over £30. Public transportation in UK tends to be expensive as well. A trip from Liverpool to London can range from £25 to £150. Low cost travel options can be found through Megabus where if you book far enough in advance you can find bus tickets for as little as 1 GBP. England does have fairly cheap options for street food, and you can find kebab or fish and chips for around £6.
Great wine, great food, beautiful mountains, rural farm lands and gorgeous coastline make France a much-loved destination. Despite France’s fame for being a rather expensive destination a smart traveler can get by on €47-€75 per day. Besides hostels and BnBs there are also several cheap hotel chains that are becoming popular on budget websites with prices beginning at €22 (in off peak) to around €60 (high season). Hostel dorms in Paris start around €20 and range higher or lower depending on region.
As always, street food and bakeries will be cheaper than restaurants. Crepes from street vendors are delicious and cheap at around €4 for ham and cheese. It’s always possible to stop in a local delicatessen and buy bread, cured meats, and cheese for a great picnic of around €10-13. A bottle of wine can be as cheap as €6. Sit down restaurants can average $25 and up.
Local transportation, like in most Western European countries, is very reliable and reasonable. Longer distance, the farther in advance you book the cheaper it will be. A ticket from Toulouse to Paris on the TGV high speed train begins at €74 for a 2nd class seat, for example. Major attractions are reasonable, at €7 for access to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, and €17 for access to the elevator and 3rd floor. The Louvre is €15, Musee d’Orsay is €12, and the Dali Museum is €11.50. On the first Sunday of the month, museums are free. If you are 25 or under bring your student ID and you will receive discounts, and all EU nationals under 25 can enter most museums free of charge.
Eastern Europe: Cheap
The Czech Republic has been growing in popularity since the early ’00s and despite its location in Eastern Europe, it’s not as cheap as some of its neighbors. Consider a daily budget of USD $25-$50. Dorm beds and rooms range from $8-$20 but entire homes on Airbnb start at $40. Transportation in the capital, Prague, is fairly simple as they have a good network of trams, buses and subways. 30-minute tickets are the equivalent of $1 USD and 24-hour tickets are $4.65. Food in Prague is tasty and well priced, budget lunches and dinners can be found in pubs for around $7 and a pint of beer is $2. Museums range from $3-$8 with free walking tours on offer and free castle entrance.
With Split gaining popularity and giving the Greek Islands a run for their money, Croatia has been called one of Eastern Europe’s best kept secrets, though largely the news is getting out and Croatia’s costs are rising. Accommodation in popular tourist spots such as Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar range from $12 to $30 USD in dorms and mid range hotels. Public and local transportation is $1-$2 USD per ticket. Traveling by bus or ferry is the most common way to get around with bus tickets from Zadar to Dubrovnik costing around $26 USD and a ferry from Split to Hvar starting at $10 in off season. A sit down meal runs from $10-$20.
Just north of Greece, Albania, like Croatia, is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. On the road to recovery from a civil war in the ’90s, Albania is finally showing off her beautiful coastline. As one of the most underdeveloped European nations, Albania’s public transportation can be a bit bumpy but cheap. A bus in Tirana runs every 10 minutes on 12 routes to various cities and is 40 lek. Accommodation in Albania begins at $30-$50 USD for top end hotels and $9-$15 in budget hostels. Finally, eating at a midrange restaurant will run you $5-$10.
With fun festivals, great architecture, and sweet old world charm it’s no wonder Serbia has been popping up on many budget travel lists. Hostels in Belgrade start at around $11 USD but beware that some smaller cities may not have hostels. Guest houses run closer to $20 USD. Buses in Serbia cost around $2-$5 USD and short train rides from city to city are $4-$7. A cup of coffee is cheap at $1 and kebab can be about $2-$3.
(Note: It’s a big country, and to be honest, I’m not sure where it belongs regionally, so here it is in Europe. Correct me if I’m wrong!)
The good news for travelers visiting Russia these days is that the devaluation of the Russian ruble makes tourist’s pockets a little heavier. Costs are almost half what they were just two years ago, specifically for food and accommodation. Expect to pay about $50 per day in Russia, and consider the visa cost, which for US citizens, is $160. Click here for a comprehensive Russian travel costs guide.
Middle East: Expensive
Cost of travel around the Middle East can vary greatly depending on country and activity. While there are some cities like Cairo, Egypt that can be as cheap as $18.75 USD per day, Dubai in the UAE can be over $200. Tourism has dropped due to bad press in former tourist hotspots like Turkey (which wasn’t much cheaper than countries like Greece or Spain) and Egypt, causing prices to drop there as well. If you don’t want to brave it there you can check out Oman which, while considerably more expensive, is known as one of the cleanest and safest countries in the Middle East.
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If you are looking to travel to Dubai, U.S. citizens get a free 30 day visa on arrival. While Dubai is known to be pricy you can keep costs down by avoiding peak season (December and January) and staying in hostel dorms which range from $23-$34 USD, or in a private rooms which range from $47-$118. If you are looking to save cash, eat Shwarma (wraps that are similar to Greek Gyros), it is a great local snack and ranges from $1.36-$2.18. If you’re not tight on money check out any sit down restaurant and where prices can be as low as $10 or almost limitless in the other direction.
Public transportation in Dubai is fairly cheap. Dubai has a metro, tram, and monorail to get you almost anywhere you need to go. Fares for the metro begin at $2 AED (less than one dollar). The tram is 3 AED and the monorail is 16 AED.
Traveling around Israel might not be as cheap as you’d like but you certainly will get quality for what you pay for. Israel has a growing network of hostels with rooms starting at $20 USD. Buses are the most popular mode of travel often offering free wifi. A bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is $5 USD. The quality of food is very high in Israel and can be quite affordable. Falafel is delicious and only cost about $2 USD.
Many people view Turkey as the place where East meets West and in many ways it is. There’s even some debate as to whether or not it should be classified as European. Turkey isn’t a particularly expensive destination, with dorms in Istanbul starting at $10 USD and entire homes on Airbnb starting at $40. Food in Turkey is similar to Mediterranean food but with more spice and flavor. Street food in Turkey is quite delicious with pinerli, a type of turkish pizza, starting at $2.50. Hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia range from $100-$175 per person.
Opening up to the world, Iran is quickly captivating travelers’ hearts with its stunning architecture, tasty food, and famously hospitable people. Though entrance fees are notoriously prone to inflation, Iran is still relatively cheap to travel in, and can definitely be done on a backpacker budget of $25 per day. Dorm beds are around $10-15 in tourist areas, and entrance fees can range from $3-10. If traveling on a shoestring, be prepared to eat lots of $1 kebabs! (Thanks for the contribution LostWithPurpose!)
Jordan is a country of extremes when it comes to cost. Whilst you can get some really good cheap eats in Amman (costing $4-5 USD for a great meal), you’ll struggle to get even rice, veg and chicken for less than $21 USD in rural areas! This is the same with accommodation, you’ll be faced with staying in a rather dark and dreary and likely dirty room with shared bathroom for around $15 USD, or paying well over $60 USD for a pretty basic but clean ensuite room. The best way to get around is by hiring a car, which cost us $20 USD a day (for a Hyundai eon).
You can “save” money by buying the Jordan pass online before you arrive (it is still $99-113 USD, depending how long you spend in Petra). This includes the cost of the visa (normally $60 USD) and entry to 40 sights (including Petra, Wadi Rum and Jerash). Due to the costs, most travellers rush through Jordan, covering a lot of this small country in just a week. But don’t let cost put you off. Jordan’s an incredible place to visit and you’ll have some amazing experiences that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Northern Africa: Mid-Range
A rise in protests and political instability in Northern Africa have made places like Libya and Egypt a bit less tempting to travel to these days. However, as any seasoned traveler knows, things aren’t always as bad as they appear and there are still some countries in Northern Africa that are safe and cheap.
If you’re still dying to go to Northern Africa but not sure where to start, consider Morocco, though it’s not exactly cheap. It is easy to fly into, and requires no visa for US citizens. If you fly into Morocco you will likely land at Casablanca airport and from there it is fairly simple to take a train, bus, or taxi to many of the most popular cities such as Marrakesh and Fez. By taxi from Casablanca to Fez is about 3 hours and $147 USD. Once inside the city there are city buses for 50 cents.
Dorms in Morocco begin at $6 USD, rooms on Airbnb begin at $15 USD, or if you have some extra cash, check out booking.com to stay in Riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house built around a courtyard typically, starting at $40. A typical Moroccan meal will range $3-5 and a higher-end meal is $12. A bottle of beer is $ 3 USD and water is $0.60 USD. Museums are typically $2-$6 and camel trekking is $50. A daily suggested budget runs between $30-$60 a day. *Money saving tip: Negotiate your hostel or hotel in person. Be wary of touts trying to steer you the wrong way or scam you.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Mid-Range to Expensive
This part of the world has the potential to be mid-range if you camp, cook your own food and/or stay at backpacker accommodation. It also has the potential to be incredibly expensive and high into the luxury end, with very little in the middle.
Transportation can be difficult and you might be scratching your head wondering how locals afford $30 taxis to go short distances, until you see how overpacked and dangerous the cars and vans are. Hiring a private car, or even buying one, can sometimes be more economical in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, but as soon as the roads turn to dirt and mud as you head farther north, you’ll want a 4×4 and they can be very expensive to rent. National Park fees and safaris can get expensive too, ranging from as cheap as $80 per day for a safari to thousands.
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Accommodation: Check free Coast to Coast books in hostels in South Africa, and AirBnB (click for $25 off!), otherwise, check individual camping and hostel websites and call ahead
It used to cost a lot more to travel in South Africa, but lately with the value of the Rand falling, it’s becoming a cheaper and cheaper destination, particularly for a part of the world that can be on the expensive side. The big cities cost the most, and the rural areas tend to be the cheapest. The backpackers accommodation has everything from camping to higher-end rooms and are great places to stay with communal spaces and friendly vibes.
My personal spend was $56 per day in South Africa, which included renting a car, staying in a mixture of dorms and with friends, and eating out often instead of cooking (because I was feeling lazy and BBQ, or braai, in South Africa is delicious).
Mozambique runs pretty similar to South Africa in terms of pricing. A plate of delicious, fresh seafood will cost you $6-$12 at most beachside shacks, while buying directly from a fisherman can be pennies on the dollar. Transport is slightly expensive, annoying to use, and something you should definitely haggle on, which will be your biggest price consideration.
Activities like SCUBA diving and boating around the islands can get very expensive, while accommodation is well-priced at $15-$20 per person for a private beach bungalow with a mosquito net and fan.
Kenya had focused much of its attention on luxury tours and safaris in the past, but more recently has begun to focus attention on budget travelers as well. Backpackers accommodations offer dorms from $6-$12 depending on location, mid-range hotels cost $15-$30, and high-end hotels can go into the thousands. Eating in Kenya can be very cheap if you eat local. A typical Kenyan meal is just 0.87. If you prefer to eat Western meals, you ‘ll likely pay $4-$8. Some attractions in Kenya are costly, such as Nairobi National Park for $40 per day and Maasai Mara Game Reserve for$60 per day, but for the most part Kenya is a more budget friendly destination than its neighbors. Purchase an East Africa visa for $100 which gives you access to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
Tanzania can get very costly very quickly due to the pricing of major activities. Safaris to the Serengeti (click here for a discount) and Ngorongoro Crater each run several hundred to several thousand dollars, and climbing Kilimanjaro is in the thousands as well. The visa for Tanzania is also expensive, at $100 for US citizens. It gets cheaper when it comes to local buses, which are just a few dollars for long distances, and food can run just a few dollars per day from street vendors and cafes, and accommodation in guest houses starts at $16 per night.
Hanging out in the Indian Ocean covered in lagoons, rainforests and waterfalls the island of Mauritius is the definition of paradise. But how much does it cost to go to this particular paradise? This luxurious island offers hotels on the budget end for $48-$85 and upwards for the fancy hotels and resorts. Public buses are cheap, and an opportunity to meet locals, so try one out for only $0.34-$0.86. Regular restaurants meals are $9 while a 4 course meal at a midrange restaurant for 2 people costs $35.
Western Africa: Cheap to Mid Range
Cape Verde, also known as the land of no stress, is exactly how you would picture it with the life on the islands being relatively cheap and hassle free. Taxis are often your best bet around the islands as they are cheap and have meters in them. However, if you’re in the capital – Praia on Santiago island, you can save even more money by hopping on busses costing 150 escudos (1.5$) per ride. If you’re looking to go island hopping, the ferries are your best bet as government planes across the islands only run every few days with limited seats.
Accommodation in Cape Verde also is cheap depending on the season you are going, If you go during carnival season (February – March), you’ll be looking at paying around $100 per night for a budget single room. Rooms sell out fast so book them well in advance! During the off-peak seasons, you can find accommodation ranging from $15 per night in the main cities on each island. With 4 star hotels being around $100 per night.
Now food is where things can get pricer. The average meal costs around $20 – $30 meal and drink per person. Supermarkets are not always as cheap either. As the country’s landscape is mainly dry and deserted, not much grows in Cape Verde, therefore a lot of things, food included is imported into the country.
Transport may be your biggest expense here in Senegal, as taxi drivers are often opportunists inflating the prices for tourists. Especially at the airports where they could ask you for close to $40, so coaches are great to and from the airport.
A ticket from the airport to downtown Dakar is just over $10. In Dakar haggling with taxi drivers is a must, even for locals. Busses are cheaper but often confusing to navigate for a non-local as bus stops are not clearly marked.
With the rise of tourism to the city’s capital, Dakar, a lot of cheaper accommodations are now available. An average night in a hostel will cost around $5 per person per night, and 5 star hotels costing around $150 a night.
If you in the city centre and are staying in the upscale areas such as Ngor, meals typically range around $10 – $30 per person. There are a lot of cheaper local options and fast food chains where meals cost around $5. There are also many big supermarkets where you can find cheaper food, and cook them at your hostel or hotel.
The Gambia, a small but mighty country when it comes to what it can offer tourists.
Taxi’s are the best mode of transport around the country as they are shared and cheaper. Although they are not metered, there are fixed prices per destination points which locals know about, so make sure to ask them. Buses are also available and a good option for travelling around as they are not often crammed full and the conductors inside will let you know the price of your journey. But they are a little harder to navigate as bus stop are hard to spot and don’t stop right in front of tourist attractions so there’s still a lot of walking to do afterwards.
Accommodation in Gambia varies from $20 – $100 per night per person. A lot of cheaper accommodations are usually owned by private hosts as hotels are often more expensive.
Food is really cheap in Gambia with meals typically costing $10. However, if you go to the Senegambia strip for dinner or drinks the prices will rise to around $20 upwards, per meal per person.
Central Asia and the Caucus Region: Cheap
The Caucasus region is not commonly traveled and still very affordable, though Azerbaijan is generally more expensive than Armenia and Georgia. Americans don’t need visas to enter the region through Georgia or Armenia, though Azerbaijan requires payment for a visa on arrival ($20). Hotels or hostels cost around $20-40 per night for private rooms, while homestays are cheaper options. Food can be as cheap as $5. Rides in shared vans are common for public transportation in addition to buses or private taxis.
Clean, inviting, affordable, and understated, Georgia is a hidden gem. Accommodation in Georgia starts at around $10 USD. In Tsibilis, public transportation is easy to use and cheap costing 0,50 Lari which is nearly 19 cents. Food in Georgia is also quite cheap with meals costing as little as $2.50. Such a meal includes a type of dumpling called Khinkali which are sold for 0.30 each. Activities such as museums range from $0.60 to $2.00 and are cheaper for students.
Despite recent improvements in Tajikstan’s tourist infrastructure this remains a little-traveled to destination partly due to the the police corruption of the past and partly due to the fact that it’s not as cheap as some nearby alternatives. This is due to high costs of transportation. A suggested daily budget for two people is $89. Hotels in Tajikstan average about $30 USD per night. For an incredible experience, you can do a homestay or stay in a yurt for about $15. Local dishes will cost $3-$5 while western meals will cost $5-$10.
*The following 5 entries are contributed thanks to LostWithPurpose:
Battered by decades of war, Afghanistan is not the type of place many people plan on visiting. It is, however, on many people’s bucket lists and a handful of intrepid travelers make it there every year. War has ravaged the county’s economy, and most goods need to be imported. Coupled with the need to fly everywhere for more than $100 round-trip, and sleep in hotels with security for $30+ per night, Afghanistan is a relatively expensive place to travel, though it can be done for about $50-75 per day.
Kazakhstan was long known as the most expensive Central Asian country to travel in. Luckily, with the recent devaluation of its currency, those times have passed. Due to its massive size and poor connections, getting around in Kazakhstan can be expensive, but hitchhiking is common. Besides sizable transport costs, other costs such as food, sights, and accommodation are all reasonably cheap, making travel in Kazakhstan possible for $25 per day or less.
Kyrgyzstan is the country of choice for most travelers interested in trying out Central Asia, and thus most well-suited to travelers of all budgets. There are hostels to be found for less than $10 per night in all of Kyrgyzstan’s major destinations, and homely community-based tourism home stays in other locations for about the same price. Cheap (if grubby) minibuses are available to every destination under the sun, and budget-friendly canteens are a dime a dozen… though Kyrgyzstan being Central Asian, don’t expect anything too tantalizing.
Uzbekistan is the stuff Silk Road dreams are made of. Towering mosques and mausoleums rise every which way you look, and its old cities are a maze of sand-colored buildings and narrow alleyways. Older package tourists from Europe currently comprise the majority of visitors to Uzbekistan, so some tourist activities can be a bit costly in nature. However, with dorms in hostels and guesthouses available for about $10 per night, and markets galore with fresh breads and cheeses for less than $1, it’s definitely possible to travel Uzbekistan on a backpacker budget.
Tiny Armenia is often overlooked by travelers, but that will change soon! It’s a marvelous country filled with epic monasteries and churches, stunning mountains and rolling hills, and a million places to sit and sip wine for an afternoon. Armenia was the first country to officially adopt Christianity as the state religion, and believes it should be accessible to all, meaning all religious sites are free to enter! It’s also one of the oldest winemaking countries, so cheap and delicious sweet wine is widely available for rock bottom prices. Accommodation can be on the higher side, at around $20 a night, but everything else is so cheap, you won’t even notice.
East Asia: Mid-Range
Overall, East Asia will feel pretty expensive if you spend it mostly in Japan and South Korea. China, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be as expensive, especially if you stay in dorms and eat cheap. Spots like Hong Kong will make you break open your wallet again, and Taiwan lands somewhere in the middle, with prices easily reaching that of the US for some things, like high-end food and clothing, and super cheap for others, like accommodation and street food.
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Believe it or not, Japan might not be as costly as you’ve heard. Hostels start at about $20 a night, which is no worse than Paris or London. Private ryokans can cost as little as $40 a night. If you’re craving sushi you can find sushi trains selling 6 pieces of sushi for $2 and ramen for $6. Transportation around Japan can get costly, particularly if you take a bullet train, which can cost nearly $100 for one hour. However the rail pass could make a lot of sense if you’re hitting lots of spots (thanks commenter Rachel for the info!), or to save money consider a bus which costs about 60 yen, or 50 cents.
China’s big cities have all kinds of fancy restaurants and hotels that can eat right into your budget in a big way, but it’s also possible to stay in hostels, which might just be the best-value hostels in the world at $5-$10 per night, and eat street food for just a few dollars per plate.
Transportation can run a bit more expensive at $20+ for 8-hour buses and upwards from there. China is a huge country and therefore, moving around quickly and on higher classes of train can add up quickly. My personal spend was about $50 per day, and I was hitchhiking to avoid train costs.
South Korean boasts one of the most educated populations where 78% of them are on smart phones. The cost of traveling in South Korea is about $50 dollars a day but you could do it on a shoestring for closer to $30. Soups like kimchi jjigae can be found for $4-$6 and are full of delicious vegetables like cabbage and sprouts. The cheapest option for accommodation is jjimjilbang. This is a public bathhouse and costs $6-$10, though you will be sleeping on a mat in a room with other people.
Nestled between Russia and China, Mongolia is a country with more horses than people. Mongolia offers unique cultural and outdoor adventures that aren’t packed with tourists. A single entry visa to Mongolia costs $53 and has an average daily cost of $50 per day. Transportation in and out of Mongolia can be a bit expensive, with trains from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar costing over $190 one way. A cheaper third option includes an overnight bus, a local jeep ride, then a local train ride for around $80. Flights are typically quite expensive but still an option if you are tight on time and have extra cash. Hostels in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar are around $6-$15 a night and many only take USD, so carry both forms of currency. Expect food to cost $4-$7 per day and just 0.78 per beer!
Southeast Asia: Cheap
Southeast Asia is among the cheapest regions in the world to travel through. It’s also one of the easiest, often referred to as the ‘banana pancake trail’ thanks to how well it accommodates backpackers of all ages. On a shoestring, it’s even possible to travel through Southeast Asia for the golden $30 per day. I personally spent $6k on 6 months in the region, if you subtract my expensive SCUBA diving habit.
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A favorite amongst backpackers and luxury vacationers alike, Thailand is the cheapest in the north and gets more expensive in the islands to the south. If you stick to hostels, it’s easy to maintain a tight budget, but when eating in restaurants and staying in fancy hotels, it can get expensive as well. I averaged $45/day in Thailand.
If you stick to the delicious (and usually very healthy and fresh) street food and the hostels in Vietnam, you can easily get by on less than in Thailand. My personal spend for one month there was $36 per day on average.
Indonesia is another place that can be dirt cheap, or pretty good affordable luxury value if you want to spend more and have more comfort. There are a lot more tourist transport options and expensive restaurants in Indonesia that can really add up, but don’t forget there’s always a way that locals get around (like a local ferry instead of a tourist boat) and eat, too. Find those options and you can easily keep to $30 per day.
Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia, a region that’s already dirt cheap. You can find dorms for as little as $2 per night! Beer is, thankfully, also pretty cheap and delicious at as little as 75 cents during happy hour. If you’ve got a little more money to throw around, you’ll be pretty impressed by how far $25 will go towards a room in a decent hotel. I spent $30 per day in Cambodia.
Like Cambodia, Laos is also super cheap and can be done for $30 per day. I found that transport was a bit more expensive there, but other things like accommodation, food, and many activities were cheap (like a $1.50 entry fee to view a stunning waterfall) or free. Here’s my budget guide for Laos.
With a currency that devalued in comparison to the USD even more in recent years, and with a tourism infrastructure that officially reopened within the last decade, Myanmar has one of the lowest costs of travel in Southeast Asia. Spending $35 per day will get you cocktails at bar happy hours, VIP overnight bus transport, splitting a private room or a dorm bed at a hostel with modern amentities and activities like boat tours or bike rentals.
The Philippines is another pretty cheap destination, as long as you don’t move around too often. Islands are farther apart and require a lot more planes and ferries. I spent about $45/day in the Philippines (excluding scuba diving).
Malaysia is often rumored as an expensive country (by Southeast Asia’s standards) to travel in. After spending a solid month backpacking through Peninsular Malaysia, I attest that a Malaysia travel budget does not have to break the bank. I spent about $37/day in Peninsular Malaysia. Borneo, on the other hand, due to the exclusivity of activities, can be much more expensive to travel in. I averaged $62/day in Borneo, making this my most expensive Southeast Asian destination yet.
South Asia: Cheap
In general, South Asia is one of the cheapest regions in the world that you can travel in, with a few exceptions. India and Nepal are amongst the absolute cheapest places in the world to eat, get around, and sleep in, while Bhutan and the Maldives can cost upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars per day.
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Transport: Go local!
In order to travel to Bhutan you will pay a $250 surcharge per day but this will cover all of your accommodation, transportation, food, and guide services. Bhutan maintains that it charges tourists this $250 daily charge in order to ensure that Bhutan retains the type of tourist they want. Although $250 per day might be restrictive for some, Bhutan remains one of the most authentic countries you will ever visit.
While the Maldives is certainly famous for catering to the rich and famous, believe it or not, hostels and cheaper, local guest houses and mid-range resorts mean it’s more within reach than it has been in the past, at as cheap as $100/day with activities like diving, food, and lodging included. Cheaper flights with Air Asia and Sri Lankan Airlines also make it easier to get to than it’s ever been.
Prior to going to India you will have to apply for a visa. India has a fairly straightforward online application, and if you want to go for 30 days it costs $60 for US passport holders and $48 for EU passport holders. India is perhaps the cheapest country to travel to, but if and only if you’re willing to haggle and hunt for deals. Keep in mind that cheap rooms that run in the $3 range will be very basic and it’s normal to shower with buckets of heated water. You will be hard pressed to find cheap gems in the North but the South with its gorgeous beaches may prove more fruitful when it comes to budget accommodation. Expect to pay 200-600 rupees depending on your haggling skills.
India has loads of growing hotel sites, such as OYO and Cleartrip, that will display “affordable” rooms for around 400INR-600INR (5-7 USD). The best trick is to look up these hotels then go there and try to negotiate a price directly with them.
Travel by train in India is absolutely dirt cheap, but book your tickets yourself! Do not trust a local “travel agency” to do it or you might get a train to find you don’t have a ticket. In order to book online you will have to get an account with Indiarail – here’s a guide to help with that. When you book trains you will be asked which class you want, and while the AC 2 tier might be a little pricier, for the overnight journeys it is well worth it. Flights within India are also very cheap with flights from Mumbai to Goa going for as little as $30. Buses and metros are fairly good and reliable, especially in New Delhi and Mumbai. They also have Uber and Ola which will take you 10 miles for about $300 INR/ $4.41 USD. Local buses are between $25-$100 INR or $0.37-$1.10 USD depending on the distance you travel.
A sit down dinner for two people can be 600 rupees or $8.81 USD (if you feel like splurging). Street food is delicious and absolutely worth trying as well. Samosas are about $20-$40INR. Bottled water is a must and runs $20-$40 INR or $0.30 USD, or bring water purifying tablets. Sights for tourist will often be $500 -$1000 INR. In general, a daily budget of $30 USD a day for 1 should be plenty, though on a shoestring it can be even cheaper.
Sri Lanka is a cheap country in some ways and in others, can be quite expensive. Tourism is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries at the moment, and everything from guesthouse rooms to fancy hotels are springing up. Generally, transport is very cheap with train tickets running at just a few dollars, while guesthouses can be more like $20 for a room, which is sometimes hard to swing for a solo traveler. Food runs at about $3-$5 USD for local food. Where Sri Lanka gets expensive is its activities and heritage sites, such as in the Cultural Triangle, which tend to cost around $40 or more per site. My personal spend in Sri Lanka was $50/day.
Much like India, Nepal is a very cheap country to travel through, with most food, accommodation, and transport running at just a few dollars if you eat, sleep, and travel using local options. If you end up trekking, as long as you do so independently and avoid Mt. Everest itself, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, you can travel for as cheap as $8 per day on food and accommodation at the lower elevations, and closer to $15 USD at higher elevations on popular routes like the Annapurna Circuit.
Not many foreign tourists make it to Pakistan thanks to its bad reputation. Travelers who do make it there, though, are welcomed by exceptionally hospitable people, and sights devoid of tourists. Due to its lack of mass scale tourism (and location in the subcontinent), prices are low. Most religious sights are free to enter, cheap street food is plentiful, and hotel rooms can be found for $5-$8 USD per night. The fact that Pakistanis will fall over each other in a rush to host you and invite you to dinner makes it even more affordable! (Thanks for the contribution, LostWithPurpose!)
While incredibly beautiful, easy to travel through, and safe, Oceania is not a budget destination. The large, major countries in Oceania are Australia and New Zealand and both are expensive. Though the currency exchange is still in one’s favor if traveling on the US Dollar, Euro, or GBP, prices for food, accommodation, transport, and activities are all quite high.
Traveling in Australia doesn’t come cheap. A 3-month tourist visa is free for North Americans and Europeans and working holiday and work and holiday visas are available as well for a fee, depending on where you’re from. Hotels in Australia are expensive, but what many do is buy and then resell a camper van and road trip through, saving on accommodation costs as well as public transportation costs. Australia is a massive country, so budget in higher costs for gas and flights. Accommodation for hostels is around $15-$20 for a dorm bed, and many have kitchens where you can cook your own food to save money. Expect to spend upwards of $20 per plate at midrange restaurants and especially high prices on alcoholic beverages, even at grocery stores and bottle shops.
South Pacific: Cheap (surprise!)
The South Pacific is thought of as an expensive travel destination, with overwater bungalows in fancy resorts, but it’s actually not as budget-breaking as you might expect. Flights to the Cook Islands from Australia or New Zealand start at about $400 return.
The good news is there are plenty of free activities to do in the South Pacific islands in nature like swim, snorkel, or hike. Accommodation is where most of your money will be spent, with hotels starting at around $100 on some islands, and closer to $10 on others, while food could be as cheap as $10. If you’re a beach lover, want some tropical warmth and are willing to spend a bit more than you would in Asia, this could be a great region to focus on.
Antarctica – Expensive
Antarctica is an incredibly expensive travel destination because it can only be accessed by boat. There are ways to save money by booking a last minute deal out of Ushuaia, Argentina. Still, Antarctica could be the most expensive place you ever visit at a total cost of $10,000-15,000 including airfare to Ushuaia, hostels in Ushuaia, the cruise to Antarctica, and meals. Depending on the length and luxury of the cruise, they can even get up into the $25k+ range.
Over 8,000 words later, this is the cost to travel anywhere in the world, so get out your globe and start planning!
This is an ever growing and evolving list. If you’ve been to any of the countries on, or not yet on this list (and especially if you’ve written or know of a comprehensive budget guide), leave a comment below with a link and 4-5 sentences on what you spent there and I’ll add you to the list!