A realistic South America travel budget for backpackers in 2021
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message message_box_style=”outline” style=”square” message_box_color=”danger” icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-heartbeat”]Editor’s Note: This post was last updated on November 16, 2020. For more information about backpacking South America at the moment (COVID), get in touch with Trisha via Instagram, @psimonmyway.[/vc_message][vc_message style=”square” message_box_color=”green” icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-envelope-open”]Reader Mail: Hi Trish, thank you for your helpful posts about South America. I am planning to go there in 2020 and I was wondering what was your South America travel budget? I know you did it slowly and you did volunteering but can you give me an idea about costs? How much money should I prepare? Thank you so much for the helpful blog!
Grace, Philippines[/vc_message][vc_column_text]Hi Grace,
Thank you for reaching out! I know it’s really hard to assess your South American travel budget most especially when you are still in the planning of your trip but I will give you the most realistic South America travel budget to make your trip planning successful. Did you know that I saved over $4,000 USD for one year of travel in South America? I didn’t pay for any accommodations because of family stays, Couchsurfing, and volunteering.
In this post, I only included countries in the West – those that are popular in the South America travel route. Thanks a lot and I hope you and your friend will have a great trip to South America!
Trisha[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Who is this South America Travel Budget Guide for?”][vc_column_text]This South America travel budget guide is for backpackers who are looking into traveling South America for 1-6 months. It is very important that you know that tours are not included in this guide as backpackers tend to do tours by themselves. The prices in this post are also based on the capital cities of each country, which mostly apply to big cities, too. In South America, small towns and cities tend to have cheaper prices but it’s good to have a baseline.
All accommodations in this post are hostels only. There are no mid-range, bed, and breakfast, or luxury hotel rates here. Not even Airbnb. It is also very important that you understand that the hostels here are top-rated – meaning, their star rating on Booking.com or Agoda are 8.5 and above. Personally, I don’t like recommending or staying in hostels lower than this rating so please try to understand the quality of the accommodations in the price range in these posts. There are a lot of hostels in South America that are $8 and below. Sure, that could work for you but take note that you get what you pay – some are really shitty and unbearable, it will possibly spoil your travel.
The quality of food in this budget guide is more of street food and cheap eats. Although really cheap, I made sure the food prices in this post are not shitty and are still in line with experiencing each country’s gastronomy.
All public transport prices will be discussed including inter-city busses. Flights are not included in this post as they are usually expensive in South America. Collectivos and taxis are also in some parts.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”South America Travel Budget at a glance”][vc_column_text]Now that you have an idea what this South America travel budget post is about, let’s look at the following countries in terms of daily costs estimates. Please take note that the prices below are only for accommodations, food and transportation. Tours and entertainnment (like beers, wine, bars, pubs, etc) are not included in this summary.
- Argentina: $35 USD per day
- Bolivia: $22 USD per day
- Brazil: $46 USD per day
- Chile: $38 USD per day
- Colombia: $17 USD per day
- Ecuador: $17 USD per day
- Peru: $25 USD per day
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”argentina”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Argentina Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Low season in Argentina is between June to August. This is wintertime in Argentina so expect lower prices. From November to February falls Argentina’s summer. Expect really high, probably 20-40% more than usual.
In Buenos Aires, you can get a decent dorm in a hostel from $15 – $25 USD. But this still depends on the season/weather mentioned above. For example, during August, Selina Palermo in Buenos Aires offers a bed in a dorm room for $18 USD per night while in the high season (November), they charge $20 USD per bed with a free cancellation option. There isn’t a big price difference but you will see where the price ranges are. But note that my hostel sample, Selina is a high-rated one. You can get a basic hostel from $5 – $8 USD but please don’t expect a fantastic environment nor service.
Argentines love their meat. In Argentina, you can eat a good steak for as low as $15!
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $6 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $5 USD. Not only that Argentina is home to amazing meat but it is also proud of its Argentine wines. If you buy a bottle of wine in a supermarket, a good red starts at $5 USD. Mid-range restaurant dining starts at $27 USD for 2 pax. This may include appetizers, main course, wine, and dessert. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $2.50 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $2 USD.
Argentina is a large country but transportation is quite efficient. Trains, tramways, first-class long-distance buses, taxis, commuter trains, subways (Subte in Buenos Aires), ferries (Boquebus & others), Remises (private taxi service) and airports (with airplanes); there are many ways to get around while visiting or living in Argentina. You can travel long-haul with a sleeper bus that normally costs less than $100 USD. Below are estimated rates for inter-city bus travel in Argentina:
Ojo del Mar Salt Flats / Jujuy, Argentina
- Buenos Aires to Rosario: $10 – $21 USD (4-5h ride)
- Buenos Aires to Cordoba: $22 – $50 USD (8h ride)
- Buenos Aires to Calafate: $128 – $204 USD (43h ride)
- Cordoba to Mendoza: $15 – $65 USD (8h ride)
- Mendoza to Salta: $60 – $120 USD (18h 45m ride)
There are also inter-country busses where you can travel Argentina’s neighbors by land. I once traveled from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires on a 72-hour bus ride that cost $140 USD. If you fly this route, it ranges from $244 – $368 USD. Montevideo, Uruguay is also close by. You can take a ferry from Colonia for $26 – $40 USD. The ferry ride lasts 2 hours.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Argentina travel budget tips
- Hitchhike. It’s not pretty common in the north but it is easily done in the south. If you’re heading to Bariloche from Buenos Aires, there are a lot of people who can take you for a ride.
- Buy your own bottle of wine. Argentina is a wine capital and in local wine shops, you can get a decent bottle for $3 USD. Restaurants charge double (which, for me, is not so bad every once in a while) but buying your own will save you money and experience the Argentine wine culture at the same time. I swear, they’re all good! Doesn’t matter what the price is!
- Find the cheap eats. These ones are not necessarily super healthy and I wouldn’t if it myself every day but the street empanadas are very filling and tasty. One piece of empanada is barely $1 USD while choripán is at $2 USD. Local pizza places and burger joints offer meals at $3 – $5 USD.
- Rent a bike. Bike rentals in Argentina are pretty common. They have it in most of the major cities. This will cost around $10 USD per day.
- Don’t take local flights. Flights are really expensive but buses will save you a lot of bucks. Argentina’s buses are very comfortable and reliable so you won’t need to worry about efficiency, especially for little money.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”bolivia”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Bolivia Travel Budget”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Low season in Bolivia is from November to April. This is rainy season in Bolivia so prices are low but expect a very wet (and cold) weather. From May to October falls Bolivia’s high season where big festivals draw crowds from all over the world. Expect higher prices for tours and accommodations, too.
A decent hostel in La Paz, Bolivia costs $8 USD. You might think this is too low but based on my judgment and standard of hostels I stayed in Bolivia, say, for example, Adventure Brew Hostel, the sleep quality for this price is not top of the line but very comfortable. Hostels in La Paz are usually bigger and the most common dorm-type is a 12-bed dorm. There are smaller dorms but they cost $1 – $5 USD more.
$1 USD meals in La Paz Market
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $5.26 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $5.53 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $3.11 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1.73 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $2.88 USD.
I personally didn’t like Bolivian food so I cooked a lot for the 90 days that I was there. Hostels usually have kitchens so if you don’t want to eat out all the time, please see below, just for you to have an idea about that costs:
San Felipe de Neri, Bolivia
- 500 grams of boneless chicken breast: $3.13 USD
- One dozen eggs: $1.83 USD
- 500 grams of local cheese: $3.87 USD
- 1 kg of apples, potatos, tomatoes: from $1 – $1.64 USD
Transportation in Bolivia is not the best but is very cheap. By not the best, I meant that their transportation is not updated compared to their neighboring countries. Bolivia still uses a lot of its old buses. Taxi costs $10 USD for every 8km (ouch!) while inter-city buses, which I couldn’t believe myself start from $5 – $15 USD.
Bolivia travel budget tips
- Credit card charges 3% more. The standard rate for using credit cards in Bolivia is 3% while the withdrawal charges are at $5 USD per transaction. Bolivia is a cash country so better take cash with you when you arrive.
- Eat in markets. Every Bolivian town/city has its own local market where people also sells cooked food. Eateries in Bolivia are cheaper and way better than the normal restaurants.
- Bargain. Bargaining is a thing in Bolivia especially in markets. You can’t, however, do it in places where the prices tags are fixed. In my experience, I tried bargaining with tour companies and it worked!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”brazil”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Brazil Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Low season in Brazil is from May to September. Prices are low but expect locals traveling in July because of the school holiday for kids. This is also a good time to visit the Amazon. December to March is Brazil’s high season as it’s their summer. Huge volumes of people visit Rio de Janeiro and the coasts. Expect higher prices than usual in these seasons.
In Sao Paulo, you can find $10 – $15 USD hostels during low season. Conforto Madá Hostel in Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo charges $12 for a standard 8-bed mixed dorm. It is very central and is close to public transport. Rio de Janeiro, however, can carve a different story when it comes to hostel rates. Copa Hostel is literally in Copacabana and charges $11 USD per night for a 10-bed dorm. Breakfast is included in this price.
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $8 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $7 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $3.42 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1.24 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $2.30 USD. A bottle of good table wine (red) starts at $11 USD.
While Brazilian food can be great, cooking in hostels can really save you some cash. Breakfast is usually included in hostel (very basic, I should warn you) but for your other meals of the day, you can go to the market and get some ingredients for cooking. I personally think that supermarkets in Brazil are still quite expensive compared to other Latin American countries. But it’s way cheaper than dining out all the time.
- 500 grams of boneless chicken breast: $2.07 USD
- One dozen eggs: $2.12 USD
- 500 grams of local cheese: $4.81 USD
- 1 kg of apples, potatos, tomatoes: from $0.91 – $1.91 USD
Transportation in Brazil is also very comfortable. I once took a bus from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and it cost me less than $100 USD. In Sao Paulo, a 30-day subscription for busses and trains is at $56 USD (avg) while inter-city buses range from $25 – $125 USD.
Brazil travel budget tips
- Visit during the low season. May to September is Brazil’s low season and is the good time to see the country for less. You can spend as low as $20 USD per day (hostel, food and transpo only) if you plan it well.
- Go to unlimited meat restaurants. Churrascaria is a Brazilian’s favorite and there are a lot of restaurants all over the country that offers unlimited meat for as low as $7 USD. This is sort of an unspoken agreement when any of my friends are celebrating their birthdays.
- Agree on the taxi fare. Buses in Brazil are really convenient but if you ever have to take a taxi, bargain the price with the taxi driver before hopping in.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”chile”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Chile Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Low season in Chile is from June to August, a good time for ski resorts. Prices are low but mountain passes can be blocked by snow. The high season is from November to February, also known as the Patagonia season (Dec-Feb) where prices are really high. This is the most expensive season in Chile so consider traveling during low or shoulder season (September–November, and March-May).
Hostel rates in Santiago start at $18 USD per night. Some can go up to $25 USD but you can also find decent ones for $8 USD. Rado Boutique Hostel is my favorite as it’s not that expensive and it is really pretty! During the high season, the normal prices can be up to $20 USD per night for a mixed dorm. Most Chilean hostels offer very basic breakfast so count your first meal of the day in that hostel budget.
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $9 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $6 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $4.07 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1.30 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $3.31 USD. A bottle of good table wine (red) starts at $5.73 USD.
Chilean food was not something I raved about. I also found Chile very expensive in general so I opted to cook in the hostel for most days. I only went out to eat in Chile if I was going with friends, let’s say twice a week or during the weekends. To have an idea what supermarket shopping in Chile’s like, check some sample products below:
- 500 grams of boneless chicken breast: $3.29 USD
- One dozen eggs: $2.70 USD
- 500 grams of local cheese: $4.81 USD
- 1 kg of apples, potatos, tomatoes: from $1.07 – $1.27 USD
Chile travel budget tips
- Buy wine in supermarkets. Like Argentina, Chile is also home to the finest wines in the world so wine shouldn’t be that expensive. However, they can raise the prices in touristic areas. In the supermarket, you can buy a good bottle for $6 USD (est).
- Take colectivos. Colectivos are shared taxis not only in Chile but all over South America. It’s like an Uber ride sharing but in a form of a mini-bus. It’s super cheap and can also take you door to door!
- When shopping for food, go to La Vega Market. This market in Santiago has everything and they sell it for cheap. It’s way cheaper to shop here than your local supermarket so hoard away!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”colombia”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Colombia Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Low season in Colombia is from October to November. Watch out for rain and floods in the Andean region plus the northwest coasts can be a little wet. During this season, prices everywhere are very low. From December to February is high season where it is dry everywhere except for the Amazon. Expect a lush, green and sunny vacation in Colombia during this season but prices are also at their highest in the whole country. Personally, I don’t really take into consideration the high and low season in Colombia as people from everywhere flock at any time because of its tropical weather (except Central). For me, Colombia can be visited at any time of the year.
During the low season, Viajero Cartagena Hostel starts at $15 USD per night with a good breakfast included. For the higher seasons, it can increase up to $3 USD more. In the capital, Selina Chapinero Bogotá is at $10 USD per night without breakfast. 10-bed dormitories are also common in Colombia while 4-bed dorms are very rare. This might be the result of the great South American backpacker culture that has evolved over the years. The more beds they have, the more customers they can gain.
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $4.37 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $4.74 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $1.50 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $0.80 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $1.93 USD. A bottle of good table wine (red) in the supermarket starts at $13 USD.
Colombian food is super cheap and tasty – I barely cooked in hostels during my travels in Colombia because eating out is very affordable. Yummy street food like arepa con queso is less than a dollar in Colombia. There are a lot of eateries all over Colombia where you can eat for cheap but the north coast of the country where there are beaches can be really expensive any time of the year.
Colombia travel budget tips
- Avoid booking accommodations in touristic neighborhoods. They are always double the price! Cartagena’s Old Town, Park 93 in Bogotá, and Poblado in Medellín are some of the areas flocked by gringos so they have a different currency in those areas.
- Do a lot of DIY and don’t book with tour agencies. I never signed up for a tour agency in Colombia because you can pretty much do everything yourself. Unlike Chile and Argentina where you really have to go with guides and tour companies, Colombia’s terrain is manageable and can be explored on your own.
- Uber is illegal in Colombia but you can take it anyway. Uber is not legally recognized in Colombia though you will find a lot of drivers, expecially in big cities like Bogota and Medellin. They are way cheaper than regular taxis and are more convenient if shared with friends or hostel mates.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”ecuador”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Ecuador Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Most South American countries’ high seasons fall between November to March but Ecuador’s is the opposite. Low season in Ecuador is from December to May where the weather is cooler and rainier. It is also the best time to visit the Galápagos as it can be cheaper. From April to July, heavy rains are very common in the orient. High season falls from June to September, but the coastal towns and beaches are also high season from December to July. At this time of the year, Ecuador is sunny and warm.
In Quito, hostels price ranges from $7 – $10 USD per night. Community Hostel can charge up to $13 USD per night for a 6-bed shared dorm during the high season. Guest houses are more common in Ecuador than hostels where you can get a private room for $10 USD per person. If you are traveling with a partner and wants some private time, bed and breakfast prices don’t have much difference than that of the hostel dorms.
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $5.55 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $5.48 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $2.53 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1.55 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $3.34 USD. A bottle of good table wine (red) in the supermarket starts at $14 USD.
Ecuadorian food wasn’t my favorite so I rarely ate out. When eating out, it’s more of going to Western restaurants as they are popular countrywide. It would really save you money inn Ecuador if you cook in hostels. Below are the estimate prices of supermarket items for you to have an idea on how much to allot for supermarket shopping:
- 500 grams of boneless chicken breast: $2.49 USD
- One dozen eggs: $2 USD
- 500 grams of local cheese: $4.15 USD
- 1 kg of apples, potatos, tomatoes: from $1.16 – $2.18 USD
Ecuador travel budget tips
- Don’t enroll to Spanish classes. A lot of people go to Ecuador to learn Spanish by enrolling to a school but staying with local families or volunteering in hostels will cut the costs.
- Stay in guesthouses. Family-run hospedajes are not necessarily cheaper but are more comfortable, most especially if you want privacy. They are equal to the price of a shared dorm.
- Eat set menus. Set menus and packages are very common in Ecuador. For $2.50 USD, you can fill your stomach with a more variety of treats!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”peru”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_section_title position=”” title_tag=”” disable_break_words=”no” tagline=”South America Travel Budget Guide” title=”Peru Travel Budget”][vc_column_text]Low season in Peru is from December to February where rainy season in the highlands is very often. The Inca trail is closed all February for a cleanup and maintenance but Machu Picchu remains open. Though this is a low season for the mountainous regions, it is high season for the coast and beaches. High season falls from June to August and is the best time for outdoor activities, including treks. It is also the busiest time due to US and European holidays so expect prices to be higher than usual.
Kokopelli Hostels have branches in Lima, Paracas, and Cusco. During low season, a bed in a dorm with breakfast starts at $10 USD while it can go up to $20 USD during the high season. This is my favorite hostel in Peru as I’ve worked here for months as a volunteer and as a bar manager. I’m staying in these hostels all November (2019) so please come say hi if you will be in Peru!
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $4.81 USD. Combo meals in fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $4.45 USD. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $2.75 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $1.39 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $3.59 USD. A bottle of good table wine (red) in the supermarket starts at $10 USD.
Peruvian food is considered the best in the whole of Latin America and eating out is always affordable. You can get set meals for as low as $4.50 USD. This includes a meat dish, rice, beans, vegetables, and a drink. Of course, if you’re staying long in Peru and wants to cook in the hostel, below are the prices for supermarket basics:
- 500 grams of boneless chicken breast: $2.41 USD
- One dozen eggs: $1.77 USD
- 500 grams of local cheese: $3.41 USD
- 1 kg of apples, potatos, tomatoes: from $0.86 – $1.24 USD
Peru travel budget tips
- Take a one-month pass from Peru Hop. Peru Hop is a bus company that will take you throughout the country for a fixed cost. You can get a one-month backpacking pass for $250 USD which I think is cheaper than taking separate inter-city buses. They also pick you up door-to-door which will save you money on taxi costs to bus stations.
- Eat set meals in markets. Peru’s food tradition is set meals in big markets and they only cost $4 USD!
- Do-it-yourself tours. Most outdoor activities in Peru don’t require guides so you can do it yourself!
South America travel budget on Pinterest: save it for later!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][mkdf_icon_with_text type=”icon-left” icon_pack=”font_awesome” fa_icon=”fa fa-comments” title_tag=”” icon_color=”#000000″ title=”What’s your South America travel budget?” text=”Have you been to South America? How many months did you do it? What other budget tips can you add to this post? I’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Cost Of Travel In South America (Backpacking Or Budget Style)
Is South America an amazing continent to travel on a budget? YES!
But is every country super cheap? Hmm… not exactly.
As I experienced while backpacking through South America, not everywhere is amazingly budget-friendly. However, if you plan your route well you can certainly benefit from low cost of travel as well as favorable exchange rates against Western currencies.
While I’m European I’ll be using mainly US Dollars here for convenience. The local prices in this article are automatically converted to USD/EUR based on today’s exchange rate.
What are the cheapest countries in South America?
Some of the least expensive countries in South America are Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. If you are on a tight budget, go here! Keep in mind organized tours to major attractions (e.g. Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands) can still add up to a lot of expense, but the day-to-day costs in these countries are very low. Colombia is kind of mid-budget, though due to the extremely good exchange rate against currencies like USD and EUR it can be said to be almost cheap at the moment.
Argentina always feels like it should be more expensive since it’s very developed, but its economic situation has long made it very cheap for travelers. Bring USD, GBP, or EUR in cash as hard currency gets a huge premium to local pesos in inflation-plagued Argentina.
What are some expensive countries?
Watch out for very high costs in Chile. Travel can also get pretty expensive in Brazil, though it depends. There are big differences between the major cities and the countryside in Brazil. In 2022 it’s also a much more favorable time to go than in years past.
How much should you budget on average?
The annoying answer is… it depends!
It makes a huge difference if you’ll be traveling in backpacker or budget style. This means traveling primarily overland, eating mostly the local cuisine, staying in hostels, guesthouses or budget hotels, and booking day tours mostly from local providers instead of online platforms. All this can bring down your costs a lot.
A good rule of thumb is you’ll need about $1100 a month for traveling on a budget in South America (for one person).
Of course, your average could get a lot lower if, say, you end up staying in a rural village in Bolivia to volunteer. Or a lot more if you splurge on flights, spend your time in the most expensive countries, or go crazy with booking special trips (Galapagos cruise, Machu Picchu trek, etc.).
That said, let me give you an idea of the costs in each country, based on my own trips there as well as recently updated research. Due to the pandemic the situation has changed a fair bit, though you can use this as a rough guide.
South America travel budgets
|Country||Suggested Daily Budget|
|Colombia||$35 – $50|
|Ecuador||$30 – $40|
|Peru||$35 – $50|
|Bolivia||$20 – $35|
|Argentina||$40 – $50 (see notes)|
|Chile||$50 – $70|
|Brazil||$40 – $50|
Travel costs in Colombia are mid-range by South American standards. It’s gotten cheaper for many travellers over the past few years, as the falling value of the peso versus currencies like the US dollar has made it more favorable.
To save costs, don’t stay in Cartagena for too long! This historic colonial city is undeniably beautiful but it’s also the most touristy and expensive. Cartagena is increasingly filled with boutique or luxury hotels.
Outside Cartagena, Colombia instantly gets a lot more budget-friendly. While Colombia doesn’t have a major “bucket list” place (at least not on the level of Machu Picchu or Iguazu Falls), this also prevents any overly high tour expenses. I love Colombia and consider it one of the best destinations in South America. It’s also much safer than people think.
Activities are very affordable by Western standards. For example, a paragliding session in San Gil costs around 100,000 pesos ($20 or €20) for a short flight and 200,000 pesos ($40 or €39) for a longer one. An hour-long private salsa dancing lesson in Medellin costs around 50,000 pesos. Museum entry is often free or only a couple of thousand pesos.
If you’re travelling on a budget, you can save on your food expenses by getting the cheap menu del dia or menu executive offered by many restaurants around lunchtime. These set meals cost about 10000 pesos (about €2 or $2) and typically include a hearty and filling soup, a main dish, and fresh fruit juice.
Colombia is twice the size of France and travel costs can add up if you explore every corner of it. Viva Air is the main budget airline and often has special deals that may let you hop between distant locations more cheaply than using overland transportation. Many South American countries are lacking in good budget flights but Colombia is a big exception.
Ecuador is a fantastic budget-friendly destination and is widely regarded as a great introduction to South America.
Ecuador’s cost of living is fairly low. Since it’s also a relatively small and compact country, there is less of a need to spend on long-distance transportation. If you want to travel in South America on a budget and have Amazonian jungles, Andean mountains, and the Pacific coastline within (relatively) short distance of each other, then Ecuador is a perfect choice.
Activities are reasonably priced in Ecuador. For example, a round trip on the stunning Devil’s Nose train will cost $40 (€39). Hiking trips to volcanoes and mountains usually start at around $40 (€39), with bigger groups getting better rates.
In terms of accommodation, there are ample cheap private rooms to be found in Ecuador, and often the price difference between a dorm bed and a basic private is minimal. Basic private rooms cost between $10 and $15.
The one thing that can really tip the scale is visiting the Galapagos Islands. This highly protected nature area is best visited on an ecotourism cruise; add to this the costs of flights to- and from the islands and your budget can skyrocket. Expect to need at least $1000 per person (€974) for Galapagos, though it may end up costing more.
If you are on a multi-month trip through South America on a budget, you may wish to save the Galapagos for the future — perhaps for a dedicated holiday to Ecuador with a bigger budget — as just a short week there can cost as much as one or two months of traveling elsewhere on the mainland.
Peru as a country is very cheap. As a travel destination, it can nevertheless be a bit expensive, at least when doing the typical Peru itinerary.
Day-to-day costs such as food or transportation are low, though there are so many highlights in Peru that you may end up spending a lot on tours. A typical loop that includes Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Nazca, Lake Titicaca, etc. will likely have you quickly hopping between various paid organized activities. Some of these, most notably Machu Picchu, have become so popular that visitor numbers have been strictly capped and prices have increased.
If you plan to do the Machu Picchu Inca Trail trek, it’s likely to be your biggest expense. This will set you back at least $600 (the price is almost always quoted in US dollars) if you book in Cusco and potentially a lot more if you arrange it elsewhere. It is worth bearing in mind that the pricier agencies may offer better food and a more comfortable camping experience. Still, many backpackers view $600 as being a good price for seeing one of the world’s most incredible sights on a multi-day trek. The Inca Trail trek is limited to 500 persons per day and needs to be booked well ahead of time; alternatives such as the Salkantay Trek are cheaper and/or easier to arrange.
Bus travel is not only quite affordable but the Peruvian coach buses are known for their comfort. Travelling by bus from Lima to Arequipa for instance costs around 135 soles ($35 or €$34) for a ‘full cama’ (full reclining luxury seat) and around 100 soles ($26 or €$25) for a regular 2nd class ticket.
Many of the costs in Peru will be far higher if you book online while abroad. For example, a short flight over the mysterious Nazca Lines could cost you over $250 if you book it from abroad, but well under 270 soles ($71 or €69) if you do so in Nazca.
Despite the cost of tours, Peru makes for an incredible experience with a lot of fascinating culture in a short period of time. Away from the standard itinerary (such as in the north or in the Amazon), Peru is even among the cheapest areas to travel in South America.
Pssst, don’t forget your travel insurance!
Traveling South America for a while? Then I recommend Heymondo. It covers you for medical emergencies, theft, travel delay, cancellation, lost luggage, and much more. (If your trip is under 60 days, consider their affordable Annual Multi-Trip Insurance.)
Bolivia is the ultimate cheapie of South America. Sometimes called the ‘Tibet of South America’, this mountainous landlocked country is among the least developed, but this also makes it a real bargain for travelers. You can go for the very basic approach and make your money stretch a long way, or else pay a little bit more on the higher quality restaurants and hotels that are springing in the most touristy places.
Bolivia often has the lowest prices for accommodation and food, especially in poorer places like Potosi and Oruro. But keep in mind Bolivia is not always the most comfortable country. Cities like La Paz and Potosi are rugged and often dreary, with the threat of protest marches and blocked roads almost always present.
There are certain tourist activities that you will need to take into account. For example, a popular activity is to ride a mountain bike down the so-called ‘Death Road’ near La Paz, which costs from around 500 bolivianos to maybe 860 bolivianos ($125 or €122) depending on the company and the quality of the bikes. Some of the cheaper companies use old bikes that are probably best avoided on such a demanding and dangerous downhill ride.
A 3-day tour of the Salt Flats of Uyuni costs from roughly 700 bolivianos to maybe 850 bolivianos ($123 or €106), which is absolutely a steal for this incredible experience. Take a 3-day tour instead of the shorter 1- or 2-day offerings if you can, as it will be well worth it.
Overall, Bolivia is an adventurous traveler’s paradise at knock-down prices, as long as you don’t mind roughing it a little at times.
Argentina has been undergoing serious economic turmoil for years now. Stability still appears frustratingly out of reach for this massive country, but the truth is that foreign travelers can get a bargain trip due to these difficulties.
Inflation runs at a staggering rate in Argentina has left the locals shell-shocked, but as long as the peso stays low it is cheap to travel in style here. For example, the food in Argentina is probably the among the best you will find anywhere but an excellent 2 or 3 course set lunch in a good restaurant should set you back no more than maybe 120 to 150 pesos ($1 or €1).
The situation in Argentina changes fairly regularly, so it’s best to hit up some online forums and ask about the best approach right now. You may get a great exchange rate from getting money from ATMs, though it also used to be recommended to bring reliable currencies like Dollars or Euros in cash and change this locally.
Costs such as food and transportation (taxis, buses, etc.) can be extremely cheap in Argentina. However, hotel or hostel prices are often quoted in foreign currencies (especially through booking platforms), hence you stand to benefit less from Argentina’s economic situation here.
Travelling in Argentina is probably the closest that South America offers to the experience of travelling in Europe. Provided that you are smart about how you get hold of your pesos you will see a magnificent country in comfort for a bargain price. While Argentina costs more in absolute terms than some other countries, it also offers some of the best value for money on the continent.
Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Bariloche are more expensive places to stay, whereas outer cities like Salta and Cordoba are cheaper. Distances in Argentina are huge and long bus rides are common, so factor this into your budget. For instance, a long trip from Buenos Aires up to Salta will take you the best part of a day and cost you around 2000 pesos ($12 or €12). The good news is that the long, flat roads here mean that you can choose a comfortable overnight bus and save on your hotel bill without too many worries.
Recent regulation of the domestic airline industry has added low-cost airlines as an alternative option on some routes.
Entry to the Iguazu Park costs some 800 pesos ($5 or €5) on the Argentine side and you get up far closer than on the Brazilian side (although it is really best to see it from both points of view if you can).
Chile is the country that most often surprises people. It’s sometimes thought of as a developing country, yet a traveler will find that parts of it are very modern and not very cheap at all. If you are on a tight budget, consider cooking your own food rather than eating out.
Transportation can be a major cost especially if going down all the way to Patagonia, in which case flying could be a tempting option. If you make it down to the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park then the current entrance fee is some 28,000 pesos ($22 or €22) in the high season and 11,000 pesos ($12 or €11) in the low season. You need to pay in cash. Camping is relatively cheap here but the size of the park means that you are likely to need to pay to hop on a bus, boat or horse at some point.
The poorer north of the country is usually cheaper than the south, but overall it is a country where you will want to keep a close eye on your spending. The Uyuni Salt Flats tour can be started in San Pedro de Atacama, taking you across the border into Bolivia. A 3 day tour should set you back from 90,000 pesos to 140,000 pesos ($149 / €145).
One place where you will find it impossible to travel on a tiny budget is Easter Island. This wonderfully enigmatic island with its incredible stone moai is officially part of Chile but is very far from the mainland. At the time of writing, only LAN fly there and you will be paying anywhere up to 700,000 pesos ($743 / €724) or more for a return flight. Once you are there, you will be doing very well indeed if you manage to keep your daily living costs under 35,000 pesos ($37 / €36).
From the dirt-poor favelas to the high-rise offices of Rio, Brazil is clearly a country of contrasts with some of the highest levels of social inequality. But make no mistake; prices in Brazil are often close to ‘Western’ prices and you should budget accordingly.
That said, as of writing this in 2022, the costs in Brazil are a low lower than they used to be. This is due to currency fluctuations, the pandemic, and other factors. When I traveled in Brazil some years ago, I had to pay at least $20+ for a hostel dorm bed; now you can find beds for $7 – $10 even in São Paulo. Now may be a great time to go to Brazil and enjoy it while it’s relatively cheap.
The north of Brazil tends to be much cheaper to travel, though most backpackers follow the classic trail in the south, usually including the epic waterfalls of Iguazu and the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Be sure to keep some space in your budget for sightseeing. A cable car trip up to Sugarloaf Mountain to see the bay of Rio de Janeiro costs 120 reais ($23 or €22), which would almost be a day’s budget in Bolivia, but is nevertheless highly worth it. Access to the Iguacu Falls park costs 72 reais ($14 or €13).
Paraguay & Uruguay
These countries are considerably less-visited and don’t feature often on overland trips of South America.
In brief: prices in Paraguay are very low and you should be able to get by on a backpacker budget of up to $30/day. Uruguay is very expensive and many travelers complain their wallet takes a real hit there even on a short stay.
The trendy resorts on the Uruguayan Atlantic coast – such as Punta del Este and José Ignacio – are gorgeous but the prices are eye-wateringly high. These places are aimed at the local and international celebrities who vacation there, not backpackers on a tight budget.
Firstly it should be said that Venezuela has been experiencing political and economic upheaval for years now.
Hyperinflation is a fact of life, many locals struggle to get by, and crime is a real issue. These factors make Venezuela far from a mainstream travel destination currently.
That said, adventurers who enter Venezuela find that it can be mind-bogglingly inexpensive if you bring in hard Western currency and exchange it on the grey market. Some travelers report spending under $10 a day.
The situation in Venezuela is always changing though so be sure to check travel advisories as well as the present level of stability in the country.
Suriname & Guyanas
The countries of Guyana, French Guyana, Suriname are among the least-visited by backpackers and budget travelers.
All of them are on the expensive end of the scale, with French Guyana being possibly the most expensive on the whole continent (it is part of France and Euro is its official currency).
Budget travel is on the whole more difficult in these countries as there is not much of a backpacker infrastructure, which means having to stay in more expensive hotels more often or having to use taxis where no public transportation is available. Friends of mine traveled these three countries on a budget by mostly sleeping in hammocks, though this was not always possible and some € 50 per night hotels had to be included as well.
Some links may be affiliate links, meaning I may earn commission from products or services I recommend. For more, see site policies.
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.