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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

See what we think is the 29 Best Places to Visit in South America

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
    • Backpacking
    • Shoestring Backpacking
    • Holiday style travel
  • We discuss for each country in South America: Accommodation, Transport, Activities, Budget, Visa fees
  • South America overland tour options
  • Pack your trusty old Lonely Planet the nr 1 Guide Book to South America Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring (Travel Guide)

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.


-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.


-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

  • Argentina
    • Holiday $60-100
    • Backpacking $30-40
    • Shoestring $20
  • Bolivia
    • Holiday $50-100
    • Holiday Backpacking $30-40
    • Shoestring $20
  • Brazil
    • Holiday $80-120
    • Backpacking $35-45
    • Shoestring $25
  • Chile
    • Holiday $100-150
    • Backpacking $40-50
    • Shoestring $20
  • Colombia
    • Holiday $40-80
    • Backpacking $35-45
    • Shoestring $20
  • Ecuador
    • Holiday $40-80
    • Backpacking $30-40
    • Shoestring $20
  • Paraguay
    • Holiday $50-70
    • Backpacking $25-35
    • Shoestring $15
  • Peru
    • Holiday $60-100
    • Backpacking $30
    • Shoestring    $20
  • Uruguay
    • Holiday $ 70-100
    • Backpacking $50 – 60
    • Shoestring $25
  • Venezuela
    • Backpacking $10
  • The Guianas

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.

big mac index south america 2018 stingy nomads
The price of a Big Mac in various South American countries.

How to choose accommodation online

We recommend using 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

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
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
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $60 – 100 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $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.

Lonely Planet Argentina Travel Guide


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.


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! South America travel budget
Bolivia -The Uyuni Salt desert was one of the highlights of South America!

Travel Budget for Bolivia

  • Backpacker’s budget
    • $30-40 per day
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $50 to 100 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $17 per day

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 of salteñas(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


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

Our Uyuni saltflats on a backpacker budget guide.


  • 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
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $80 to 120 per day
  • Shoestring budget
  • $25 per day
  • We spent BRL 2429  ($754) in  44 days, thus BRL 55 ($ 17) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
  • Don’t look at our budget and think it is an cheap country, Brazil is very expensive. Our avg budget for Brazil was good because we spent 12 days on a slow boat/cargo ship on the Amazon during which we could not spend money. We hiked around Ilha Grande island for five days, that was amazing and very cheap. We camped when possible.


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.
  • Hike around Ilha Grande with a tent, we only had a week, but you can easily spend 3 weeks walking around this paradise.


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.

Travel Insurance

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! South America travel budget
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
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $100 to 150 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $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
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $40 to 80 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $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


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.


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.

See our complete Colombia Budget Backpacker’s Guide 

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.

Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands (Travel Guide) – up to date travel guide released August 2018

  • 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


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

  • Backpacker’s budget
    • $25 per day
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $50 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $15 per day

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

  • Backpacker’s budget
    • $30 -40 per day
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $60 to 100 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $20 per day

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 peru
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 route article 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.


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

  • Backpacker’s budget
    • $50 per day
  • Midrange Holiday budget
    • $70 – 100 per day
  • Shoestring budget
    • $25 per day

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.
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.


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

currency venezuela
Because of the exchange rate in Venezuela, tourists with US dollars have a lot of money. These are 50B notes (almost $10 notes).


Our average budget was $5.31 a day each all inclusive.


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.

Relate Articles:


South America cost of travel


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Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Hello! Will be travelling to South America for 4 months by the end of august this year and I have to say this post is really helpful for people like me who have never been there. So really, thank you so much!

I'm planning on going for a backpackers budget (living fairly comfortably) for around 45 USD per day and will be visiting Colombia, Ecuador, Peru (into Amazonas), Chile and Bolivia. I plan to stay the longest in Bolivia and Peru since from what I understand they are the cheapest of the countries I will visit.

I was wondering when this post was made and if you have any personal experience of eventual increase in prices since then?

Thanks again!

Stingy Nomads

Wednesday 20th of March 2024

Hello Jonatan, thanks for reading. The original post was written years ago. It was updated several times since then after discussions with travel partners in the area. Your budget should be sufficient for the countries you are planning to travel to. Backpacking in Chile will cost more than this. Transport, activities and accommodation in Patagonia is expensive, so I would recommend doing proper research when planning this part of your trip. Enjoy your trip, safe travels!

Rebecca Hartman

Friday 3rd of March 2023

Impressive work here. Thanks. I'm planning a "geezer gap year," retiring from my professorship in June, and travelling SA until I'm ready to come home or the money runs out. I want to do lots of birding, but not real keen on the tour vibe, which is usually lots of nice folks with lots of cash. I'm 66 and still backpacking. My question is this: what insights could you share regarding solo women travelers in SA? I've traveled quite a bit and feel comfortable alone, for the most part. And being older, I don't have to deal with harassing behavior anymore. But never having been to SA before, I'd value your insights. I'm also interested in places, hostels, etc. that may be more age-diverse. Thanks! And good travels.

Stingy Nomads

Monday 6th of March 2023

Hello Rebecca, I am glad you found our content helpful. I am sure you will have a great time in South America, it is fantastic that you are still backpacking! We found South America to be a safe and easy place to travel. You can definitely stay in backpacker's hostels, just read the reviews. Try to avoid the party hostels and book private rooms in the hostels when available. Hostels are a great place to meet people, we have made so many friends of all ages over the world that we still have contact with. Pay a bit more for nice transport, cheap busses over long distances can be exhausting. We never had medical emergencies in South America, but get appropriate travel insurance. The sights and trekking in South America are spectacular. The high altitude makes Peru and Bolivia quite tough, so I would recommend that you join well-rated tours for trekking and read the reviews before hand. Give yourself some time to acclimatize. Goodluck, I am sure you will have a fantastic time, Safe Travels!


Friday 8th of October 2021

Hello there

Which country would you recommend for safe and multiple independent hikes? I was thinking about Bolivia but you said it's not very safe...


Stingy Nomads

Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Hello, Jan. We didn't do much hiking in Bolivia we read and heard from people that sometimes hikers were bothered and not welcome at some places. We did quite a lot of independent hiking in Peru and Chile and absolutely loved both countries. In Peru, the best areas for hiking (in our opinion) are the Sacred Valley near Cusco and the Huaraz region. In Chile, we absolutely loved Patagonia and the Carretera Austral. It's very safe, great for hitchhiking, hiking, wild camping. Peru is quite a bit cheaper than Chile. Cheers

Jesper öblom

Saturday 8th of May 2021

Hello Stingies! I'm currently planning a 6-month turning to a 9-month trip to South America when it's okay to travel again. This is a fantastic post and probably the only one that I found useful - every other post is saying the same things that I've proven wrong in other posts like yours. Well, my question is basically, what kind of activities did you do and which "luxuries" do you guys leave out while traveling? Currently, I'm looking at 6000€ with a motorcycle for 270 days. I like to do activities and they've stacked up to a quarter of the costs. Any tips for cutting costs?

All the best, Jesper

Stingy Nomads

Monday 10th of May 2021

Hello Jesper, thanks for reading glad you found the post helpful! During our South America travels we saved the most on food and accommodation, so I will definitely recommend camping and cooking for yourself where possible. Take a tent, a stove (gas available everywhere) and a lifestraw bottle not to have to buy drinking water the whole time. We also spent money on activities, to do stuff in awesome locations is why we travel to certain countries. We always try to do activities independent if possible. In South America there are so many incredible hikes you can do independent while camping take a look on our blog around Peru and Chile are many treks we did. Sure you are going to have a great time. Safe Travels!


Saturday 9th of November 2019

Hey guys, Bit of a silly question but just wondering if in USD$ or AUD$?

Cheers, John

Stingy Nomads

Saturday 9th of November 2019

Hi, John! All prices in this post are in USD. Cheers!

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