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.
How to Travel South America on a Budget
Do you like the idea of traveling to South America on a budget?
Me too, that has been one of my main goals right from the start since I embarked on my first backpacking trip to Brazil way back in 2012.
In this South America travel budget guide, I’d like to share some tips with you that will help you save money whilst you travel.
Table of Contents
South America on a Budget
I’ll share some practical tips you can use for traveling in South America and beyond.
Not only will you learn how to save your hard-earned cash but you may even travel back home with some money in your pocket.
After considering the budget tips I have exercised over the years traveling around Latin America, I think I did well.
They say Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries in South America, however, when weighing up the cost of backpacking Central America, remember that the cost of living in South America is higher.
It’s still very affordable for most backpackers but difficult to do on a budget, simply because you have a ton more options in South America.
Also, tourism is much more developed in South America.
Now, let’s talk about some of the amazing things I’ve learned on how you can do South America on a budget that works for you.
South America Travel Budget Advice
Now, let’s look at some of these practical tips you can apply when you travel around South America.
These South America travel Budget tips are based on insights I conjured up whilst spending extended periods of time in each country. Read more about my backpacking South America itinerary on this site.
Colombia Travel Budget: Learn the Lingo
In South America, take the opportunity to practice languages, whether it’s Spanish or Portuguese (most widely spoken in Latin America).
I’ve found Colombia the cheapest place to fly to in South America from the USA and I always recommend travelers start learning a little Spanish before they go, to get a head start.
I personally, never thought I’d become fluent in Spanish, but after many years of perseverance, it’s finally paying off.
As I mentioned in my Travel Bible, learning to speak Spanish is a rewarding experience, both personally and culturally.
Having the local lingo adds an interesting dimension to your trip.
You may be interested to know there are also some indigenous languages like Quechua in Bolivia or Guaraní in Paraguay.
Brazil Travel Budget: Travel Light
With all the tips for backpacking South America on this blog, you’ll know I mention this all the time.
No matter what people say, packing light is the way! If you find it difficult to do or struggle with a bad back, don’t let it hinder you.
I recommend viewing these backpacks for back pain that I’m looking at; they’ll help you alleviate the pain.
Try not to let packing be your downfall. It may take you many trips to get it right, but when you do, you’ll feel like an advanced traveler.
Traveling South America, especially countries like Argentina and Chile, can give you an experience of a lifetime if you follow the right guides.
In Peru, there are many hikes and off the grid treks, but if you’re not hiking, it make no-sense to carry camping equipment.
I carry a travel size shaving cream everywhere I go, but never the full-size version, only the necessities that can fit in my smallest bag.
Argentina Travel Budget: Dress Correct
You can never be too sure what you get invited to do. Maybe, you’ll go to Machu Picchu or the Salt Flats in Bolivia.
Whatever you decide, in the end, just have something suitable for all occasions. Save yourself buying expensive clothes in South America.
If you plan to take buses in South America, be sure to carry a fleece or a warm throw-over. Otherwise, you’ll likely get frozen by the air con.
Either way, by having a few lightweight clothing options, you’ll save space and maintain traveling light, as I mentioned above.
Peru Travel Budget: Look After your Health
One of my biggest questions after backpacking continuously for many years is how to get around South America while staying healthy.
Once I thought it was easy to eat well with the abundance of fruits and vegetables found on the continent. But, that’s not always the reality.
When backpacking in South America and eating street food etc you’ll notice that most of the food that meets the eye is deep-fried, full of dough, and high in saturated fats.
It varies, though, depending on what country you’re in.
It’s what you eat every day that counts.
If you’re a sucker for hot dogs and other cheap processed products, you’ll be degrading your health with every bite.
The solution? Dig deeper and find healthy options. There is always at least one, no matter where you are in South America.
Connect with Locals
So, now you’re learning how to backpack South America, you’ll need to meet people, right? Especially local people.
If you read my post on how to connect with locals, you’ll understand how important this concept is.
If you really want to get a 4-dimensional view of a place, connecting with local people is your free entry pass.
There are many ways you can this. When I first started to backpack Latin America, I always had this in mind.
I’d not be as knowledgeable and open as I am today without connecting with local people in Latin America.
Chile Travel Budget: Carry Cash + Credit Card
One question I would ask is how much money do you need to travel South America on a budget?
The truth is, there is no definitive answer. However, keep in mind that I found carrying a credit card helps you save money as you spend.
As long as you’re not getting charged on foreign transactions, you’ll be literally saving money as you spend it.
I tend to buy things like food and daily items in the supermarkets.
If I’m not using Uber, then I use cash for things like taxis and smaller transactions that require hard cash.
For me, one month in South America requires around $1000 minimum.
This is a good rule of thumb. If you’re in Bolivia or Colombia, you can survive on much less as a backpacker.
However, in countries like Uruguay and Argentina or the south of Brazil, expect to walk away with much less in your pocket.
Depending on your travel style and the activities you want to do.
Travel Insurance For South America
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
My Travel Bible shares tips for saving money while backpacking South America, including information on the best air miles credit card to use for saving money and collecting points when purchasing flights.
Book Accommodation in Advance
I tell travelers this all the time, especially if you’re traveling South America alone. Book your accommodation beforehand to not only save money but also to avoid disappointment.
Whilst traveling around South America, the last thing you want to do is end up in some remote village or that infamous party hostel to find out the room you wanted is fully booked.
This has happened to me once, and it will never happen again. Keep your options open.
Usually, when visiting some of the more popular places in South America, you’ll find the best accommodation gets booked up much further in advance.
I’m not sure which is the best hostel in South America, but what I do know is that it’s easy to find a hostel in South America.
I use booking.com or, if I don’t like the look of the hostel, I’ll check Airbnb to see what is on offer.
You can get a private room using Airbnb for the same price as you can for an 8-bed dorm room in a hostel.
Traveling South America on a Budget
Travel is one of the fastest ways to innovate your life.
When I travel to South America, my aim has always been to connect with families and to be living in different households.
The more I did this, I began to realize that everything I knew from home was kind of obsolete. I had to learn how to live in a new culture.
Upon arrival in my home country, I felt like a completely new person.
See my thoughts on innovating life as you travel if you’d like to learn more about cultural travel in South America during your travels.
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Helping thousands of people worldwide with independent travel in Latin America. Layer Culture means to dig deeper into the ideas, customs, and behavior of a group of people.
After spending years on the road Dan is now offering to help you find your feet in Latin America; inspire you to learn Spanish and get you started on your adventures. Learn how to travel longer and stronger!