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How to Fly Cheap in South America: Budget Airlines & Airline Passes (Updated 2024)

how to travel south america cheap

O ne thing people often don't know about South America is that despite its overall cheapness, flights are surprisingly expensive here. Low-cost carriers do exist, as do inter-country air passes, but don't expect RyanAir or AirAsia prices when flying from one country to the next. Error fares are possible, but are typically from the USA only.

If you want to cover a lot of ground quickly, group tours can be cost-wise as they include flights, activities, and accomodation. A single group tour as opposed to a series of cross-continental flights can at times be less pricey, since budget flights aren't really “budget” here.

Still, reasonable flights in South America can be found if you know where to look for them. Here's how!

Psst:  planning a visit to Machu Picchu? Check our ultimate Machu Picchu travel guide , plus our article how to buy entrance tickets . Want to check out Uyuni's jaw-dropping salt flats? Check our other guide here .

Cartagena, Colombia

How to find cheap flights in South America:

1. identify the low-cost airlines of your destination(s).

Hopefully our list below of budget airlines by country will prove useful, as knowing these and where to find them is important! In terms of flying into  South America, the major global airlines include  LAN ,  TAME , and  Avianca . Some low-cost carriers that do international flights into South America include Spirit Airlines (to/from U.S.), Viva Colombia (to/from U.S.), Surinam Airways (flies to Europe), and Santa Barbara Airlines (to/from U.S.).

2. Look for flights on a broad search engine

Skyscanner   is what we personally use and recommend for wide-scale searches on flights. Skyscanner now includes budget airlines, so this should be a comprehensive search. Our other flight-booking hacks can be found here .

3.  Identify the cheapest dates to fly

Work your itinerary around the cheapest flight dates, as these can vary wildly even within a single month. In Skyscanner this can be done by selecting “Entire month” under the date box, revealing the prices for each day that month (this can also help you stumble on error fares ).

4. Sign up for a credit card with a huge points bonus for South America

Signing up for a travel rewards credit card is one of the easiest ways to pay for most or even all of your flight. Credit card issuers are constantly offering massive points bonuses simply for signing up and hitting the minimum spend, and you can redeem your points for flights with many airlines servicing South America.

For example, the American Express® Gold Card offers a 60,000 welcome bonus after you spend $6,000 within the first 6 months of opening your account, simply by making everyday purchases with the card ( read more ). You can convert these points to a choice of 18 airline partners, many of which service South America such as JetBlue, Aeromexico, and Delta. You also enjoy no foreign transaction fees (often up to 3% of the purchase), 4x the points at restaurants, 3x the points booked with airlines or on amextravel.com, and more. Terms apply. ( Compare this card to other travel rewards cards ) ( See Rates and Fees )

American Express Gold

American Express® Gold Card

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after meeting the minimum spend of $6,000 within the first 6 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 4x points at restaurants, takeout and delivery in the U.S., 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Transfer your points to a selection of 18 airline and 3 hotel partners
  • $120 Uber Cash: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and get $10 in Uber Cash every month
  • $120 Dining Credit: Get up to $10/month in statement credits after purchases at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Mlik Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Annual fee: $250. Terms apply.
  • Learn how to apply – See Rates and Fees

The annual fee is worth it when you're strategic with the points, but another option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card , offering a 60,000 points sign-up bonus worth $750 . You can then convert these points to a partner airline that flies to South America like United, or book directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. With no foreign transaction fees, 3x points on dining, and 2x points on travel purchases worldwide, it's a great all around travel card to have.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 60,000 reward points (worth $750 ) after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x points for purchases on Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, and 2x points on all other travel purchases.
  • Points are worth 25% more on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards (e.g. 60,000 points worth $750 toward travel)
  • Includes trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage insurance and more.
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Annual fee: $95

5. Keep in the know-how of airline sales

You can do this by following budget airlines of your intended destination(s) on social media or e-newsletters, then plan accordingly as sales arise.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 11.46.35 PM

6. Consider getting a South America air pass

Airline passes are another way to snag affordable flights within South America. The major downfall is that they are few and far between. We list & explore all of the air passes below, which tend to be geographically limited. Take note that South American  air passes often require you to fly into the continent or country on particular airlines.  Be sure to consider this when booking your inbound flight!

Basically, you should first consider if an air pass works out to be cheaper for your itinerary. Often air passes in South America do not equate to savings (but if you have several flights, it potentially can). Details on how to determine the cost-effectiveness of this are explored at the final part of this article.

Budget airlines in South America (by country)

We've updated this list as of 2019, but the most comprehensive way to identify current budget airlines is to conduct a search on Skyscanner . That being said, some of the smaller charter airlines may require booking via phone, and thus may not be listed. It's good to do a broad search first, then cross-check and see if any airlines were missed in the search. Here are the most current airlines to date:

Perito Moreno, Argentina

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • LADE (a military operated airline that runs flights on limited days per week, including to the Patagonia region)
  • LASA Argentina
  • Norwegian Air Argentina (an offshoot of Norwegian Air, offering cheap flights within Argentina)

DSC04770

  • Boliviano de Aviación (BOA )
  • Transporte Aeréo Militar (TAM)

The incredible Iguazu Falls

Budget airlines in Brazil are fairly unique in that several of them offer airline passes within the country. The catch is that you typically have to fly into South America on particular airlines. Prices start around $299 USD for roughly 4 flights, but check individual airlines for specific costs and requirements.

  • ASTA  (operates flights to the Amazon)
  • Avianca Airlines  (domestic and international)
  • Azul Airlines  (has 10 and 21-day airpass for $399 USD and $499 USD respectively for flights around Brazil – only valid if flying Azul, United, or TAP within Brazil)
  • GOL  (has various air passes for domestic and international flights)
  • Passaredo Linhas Aereas

DSC06105.jpg

  • AeroCardal (does private/charter flights including to Robinson Crusoe Island)
  • Aervius DAP (operates charter and scheduled flights in Patagonia, Antarctica, and more)
  • Jetsmart (operates flights around Chile, Argentina and Peru)
  • LATAM (domestic and international flights – partner airline of OneWorld pass described later)
  • Latin American Wings (LAW)
  • Sky Airline

Kogi children in front of their village.

Colombia has a couple of budget airlines. By South American standards, flights within the country are quite reasonable.

  • Avianca (domestic and international)
  • Copa Airlines (domestic and international. Is also a Oneworld Alliance member)
  • LATAM (domestic and international, is also a OneWorld Alliance member)
  • TAC Airline (flies to smaller domestic cities)
  • VivaColombia
  • Wingo (domestic and international)

how to travel south america cheap

  • TAME (also does flights around the Amazon)

Guyana Beach

  • Air Guyana (Charter flights)
  • TransGuyana Airways

Machu Picchu

  • Jetsmart (operates flights around Chile and Peru)
  • LATAM (domestic and international, Oneworld Alliance member)
  • Peruvian Air

Suriname

  • BlueWing Airlines
  • Surinam Airways  (includes flights to Europe)

Uruguay

  • Aeromás  (charter flights)

Venezuela

  • Aeroparaguana
  • Aeropostal Alas de Venezuela
  • Albatros Airlines
  • Conviasa  (domestic & international)
  • Santa Barbara (SBA) Airlines (flies to USA)
  • Sundance Airlines
  • Turpia Airlines

These are all of the budget and low-cost airlines (that we know of!) for countries around South America. See one missing here? Let us know so we can keep the info current for other travellers. Now, onto airline passes in South America!

Airline passes in South America

South American airline passes provide a set number of flights within the continent or a single country for a flat rate. Here's a quick overview of the airpasses available. For details on each including how to book, read on below!

Oneworld Alliance South America Pass

  • Regions included : Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela
  • Price : Calculated based on zones (ranges from $150-$480 USD per flight depending on distance)
  • Restrictions : Minimum 3 flights including inbound flight to South America. Can only be used on Oneworld Alliance Airlines. Must fly into South America on Oneworld alliance airline (listed here under “How to book”). Can be used up to 12 months.
  • Where to book : Via phone – see detailed instructions below. Read their updated 2019 brochure for full details.

GOL South America Pass

  • Regions included : Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Uruguay or Venezuela
  • Price : Starting at $505 USD for 4 flights
  • Restrictions: Valid for Brazil residents and non-residents of South America. Can be used within 30 days on GOL airlines. Can only be used if flying into Brazil on any of the following airlines: GOL, Air France, KLM, or Delta. Must be booked outside of South America.

Oneworld Alliance South America Airpass Pricing & Booking

The Oneworld South America pass is a bit more complex in its pricing structure. Consult its updated 2019 brochure here (starting on page 11) for details on pricing, which include domestic and international flights. Prices start as low as $40USD and go up to $420USD.

To calculate the distance between your two destinations, use Oneworld's route calculator  (take note, it gives distances in km by default so be careful when comparing zone pricing if you're looking at miles or kms).

So, for a pricing example – if you were flying from Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru (which is 828 miles), that flight would be Zone 3, or a flat rate of $251 USD. As stated earlier above,  all Oneworld Pass flights must be booked via phone .

The Oneworld Alliance South America airpass can only be booked via phone . This is troublesome as few staff are familiar with it. To begin, call the Oneworld airline that you would fly into South America on (e.g. American Airlines from the USA, Qantas from Australia, etc. – see full list here  of airlines under “ How to book “). Next, when ready to purchase, you must choose your flight times and dates on the spot. You could look up flights (write down flight #s) ahead of time and relay this when booking, but this offers no guarantee of getting a certain flight.

Changes can be made to reservations, but this incurs a fee of $50 USD per flight change per person. The terms and conditions state that you only need to book your inbound flight to the continent to redeem the pass . That means you do not need to book all of your flights in advance, but airline staff advised us that we should do this if on a strict travel schedule in case of fully-booked flights.

Country-Specific Air Passes in South America

At the moment, Brazil is the only country that offers air passes. Fortunately, it has not just one air pass, but three! Azul, GOL, and TAM each offer their own passes that work within Brazil. Here's a quick breakdown of each.

Visit Argentina Air Pass

  • Regions included : Argentina
  • Price : Package varies based on flights
  • Restrictions:   Must have international air ticket of your arrival and departure to/from Argentina, be sure to click “Conditions” at bottom of page.

Avianca Air Pass

  • Regions included : Brazil
  • Price : $500+ USD for any 4 flights
  • Restrictions:   Valid for up to 8 flights on Avianca Brazil, within Brazil only. Pass must be bought outside of Brazil.

Azul Brazil Airpass

  • Regions included : Travel within Brazil only. Includes destinations like Rio de Janeiro, Iguassu, Salvador, Fortaleza, Curitiba, Natal, Fernando de Noronha, Manaus,, and more.
  • Price : Starting at $399 USD + fees for 4 flights if you fly into Brazil with Azul, United, or TAP. If you fly into Brazil on another airline, the price is $499+ USD plus fees.
  • Restrictions: Can only be used on Azul airlines when flying around Brazil. Must use within 21 days.

GOL Brazil Airpass

  • Regions included : Travel within Brazil only. Includes destinations like Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, Fernando de Noronha, Natal, Fortaleza, and more.
  • Price : Starting at $505 USD for 4 flights (max $1,249 USD for 9 flights)
  • Restrictions: Can only be used on GOL, Air France, KLM or Delta Airlines. Must fly into Brazil on one of these airlines. Must be used within 30 days.

Should I buy a South America air pass?

The short answer here is, it depends . Some passes offer better value than others, but it really depends on your itinerary and the lump sum cost of all your flights based on your searches. Here's a few important factors to consider when deciding if an air pass is cost-effective for your trip:

  • Will the pass cover all the flights you need for your trip?
  • Does the pass require you to fly in on a particular airline (which could be more expensive than say a low-cost carrier)?
  • What is the cost per flight with the pass, versus the cost per flight when checking on a search engine like Skyscanner ?
  • Most passes are quoted in USD. If your national currency is not USD, this might make the ticket a lot pricier than paying in your own currency given the current strength of the USD!

The Thrifty Gist

  • Follow budget airlines in your destination on social media &/or newsletters to be aware of sales
  • Search broadly using tools like Skyscanner & cross-compare against lists of budget airlines in your destination
  • Use air passes if you determine it to be more cost-effective than the lump sum of all your flights

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold card, this page

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Travel South America on a Budget – 6 Insider Tips

By: Author Tim Leffel

Do you want to travel South America on a budget? Well I’ve got a few time-tested ideas on that subject since I’ve been there many times for extended periods. The continent can be a great value if you do it right. 

travel South America on a budget

I’m getting excited because after visiting Argentina a few months ago, in September I’m flying down to Colombia for what I think will be my 13th or 14th trip to South America . Sometimes it has been work, sometimes a vacation, but it’s never been boring either way. Most of the time it has been a terrific travel bargain too. 

Traveling on a budget in South America is hard to generalize about because of widely varying economies and continual exchange rate changes. Argentina is especially unpredictable, going from cheap to expensive to cheap again in the past decade, depending on how their financial crisis of the day was playing out. Right now it’s the best bargain in the Americas if you bring plenty of cash to Argentina . 

Over the years, three of the countries that charged a lot to enter have dropped their reciprocal visa fees too, which lopped $160 per person off of your South America vacation cost. The only country still socking visitors for this now is Bolivia. Fortunately, after you get in, Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries to travel in on the continent.

In general, South America is a pretty good deal for shoestring travelers, but an excellent deal for mid-range travelers. Even in the capital cities you can get a decent hotel room for $40 or less per night . Most of the middle-class locals are not rich either, so it’s easy to find budget places to stay and day tour prices are usually reasonable.

If you’re past the point of traveling on a shoestring budget and your travel style requires more comfort, you’ll get a lot for your money in most of these countries and a rather average vacation budget will stretch a long way.

Meal time is usually a good value throughout this part of the globe. More on that further down.

Table of Contents

Best Places to Visit in South America on a Budget

There are a few countries that have appeared in every edition of my book, The World’s Cheapest Destinations . If you spend most of your time in these, adding on the ones where the dollar is currently extra strong, you’ll get able to cover a big chunk of South America on a typical backpacker budget of $1000 to $1,800 per month for a single, $2,000 to $3,000 for a couple.

So what are the best places to visit in South America on a budget? If you wanted to backpack through South America for a few months or more?

I’d say you should probably fly to Central America first, because you can do it more cheaply with money or miles, then make your way through Panama and either fly or take a boat to Colombia. Or find a flight deal to Cartagena or Bogota—two of the cheapest places to fly to in South America—and start your South America itinerary there.

Spend a few weeks in Colombia , taking advantage of a historically weak local currency, Limit your time in Cartagena as it’s the most expensive city by far. It’s much more reasonable in the Coffee Triangle, Santa Marta, Medellin, and the mountain towns.

Then go overland to Ecuador and watch your money instantly buy even more. (Except imported liquor and wine.) Quito and Cuenca are worth spending time in and are good bases for exploration of other towns and the Andes Mountains. Then you’ve lots of adventure activity options , beaches at the right time of year, and hot springs areas.

international living in Ecuador

The big draw of South America for many travelers is Peru , which is thankfully quite a bargain after you get past the Machu Picchu costs that are going to break your budget for a few days. Suck it up and go, but then spend some time in cheaper, less crowded areas like Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Amazonas , or even the Sacred Valley towns and mountain villages where nobody else bothers to spend the night.

If you get away from the tour bus locations, Peru can be a very cheap place to travel . It’s a great value.

After Peru, you can head to Bolivia overland via Lake Titicaca or elsewhere, reaching what is in many respects the cheapest country in South America. Thanks to its hefty visa fee and general lack of promotion, it’s also one of the least developed for tourists, which is a good thing for budget backpackers.

The only area getting a sizable number of visitors is the Salar de Uyuni salt flats area, the star of many an Instagram feed. It is a trippy, otherworldly place indeed. Try to spend more than a day there, maybe even going overland through the desert to Atacama if you’re headed to Chile. (Chile is no bargain though, so I’m not including it on this list.)

traveling to Bolivia in South America

The cheaper option from Bolivia is to head over to northern Argentina , to the dry Salta Province area, a sparsely populated region that looks somewhat like the American Southwest, but with more wineries. See a Salta travel story I wrote here . 

Then explore the rest of Argentina as you wish, keeping in mind that the distances are vast and you’ll spend a lot of time on overnight bus trips if you don’t have splurge money set aside to fly now and then. Also remember there’s a high season and a no go season for Patagonia and plan accordingly. Your budget will be higher for Patagonia as well, especially when visiting the Perito Morena Glacier .

Overall though, costs are historically low in Argentina as I write this in 2022 and what you get for your money is unbelievable sometimes, especially for eating and drinking. Argentina craft beer just might be the best-priced on the planet right now, thanks to the exchange and the fact that Argentina can grow hops and barley, unlike its neighbors further north. 

If you had your heart set on getting a Chile passport stamp, it would be an easy crossing in the Patagonia region, which is shared by both countries. Or you can cross to Santiago from Mendoza overland to visit wine regions and Valparaiso. Assume your daily budget is going to double as soon as you cross the border though, so you’re probably going to want to make the Chile part a quick in and out.

a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil costs around $30

A few years ago I would have said to end it there, but once-expensive Brazil has gotten reasonably priced for now if you’re coming with U.S. dollars. That’s partly because of a currency drop, but also because, as I mentioned earlier, they dropped their expensive and cumbersome visa fee. Brazil has a completely different vibe than the Spanish-speaking countries and some of the best music in the Americas. See the post I did earlier on travel prices in Rio .

From a logistics standpoint, if you’re heading to Rio de Janeiro from Argentina, you can now stop on both sides of Iguazu Falls, seeing them from the Argentina side and the Brazil side. Before the visa change, you had to cough up a lot of money to do this. But when I was on an Intrepid Travel tour a few years ago that went through here , it was quite easy, no extra fees beyond park admissions.

You’ll probably want to see more of Brazil, maybe checking out some of the great beaches along the coast. Then head home or onward from where you can find a good flight deal. That’s more likely to be from Brazil than Argentina these days, though you may be better off flying from Brazil to another country to the north and then getting a second ticket from there. Scope out the options on Google Flights or Skyscanner .

To recap, the best countries to visit in South America, if you’re on a tight budget, are Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. If you stick to those you can get by for quite cheap–though understand that the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island are out of your budget range. If you do have some splurge money set aside, visit the Galapagos and add more expensive countries (though still not terrible) like Chile and Uruguay . If you’re a nature buff looking to get away from other tourists, you could head to Guyana. 

Take Your Time on this Continent Meant for Slow Travel

Way too many people hurry through Peru and only see the sites thronged with tourists, or they try to cover vast distances in a short time when they travel in South America. As a result, they are handing much of their money to transportation companies every day or two. Slow travel is much cheaper travel, especially here.

The easiest way to keep your South America travel budget low, besides picking the right destinations, is to spend some quality time in each place before moving on to the next spot. It can literally cost you twice as much to be on the move every day or two, especially since there are so many long bus rides or more costly flights to deal with to get from A to B. You’re often crossing the Andes Mountains or traversing vast desert or pampas regions, so you want to settle in for a while after the journey.

To give you an idea, driving Chile end-to-end is roughly the same distance as driving from the west coast of the U.S. to the east coast. Driving from the top of Argentina to the bottom is the equivalent of driving from Calgary in Canada through the USA and Mexico to Guatemala City. And Brazil is much bigger than both of those added together!

Argentina one of the cheapest places to travel again

These bus trips cover such long distances in South America travel destinations that you sometimes get a sleeping berth. Many of them in Argentina and Chile are 24 hours, like Buenos Aires to Bariloche.

You can cut off a lot of time by flying, but domestic flights are often no bargain. They’re quite reasonable in Bolivia (from La Paz especially) and among the cities of Colombia. There are plenty of budget airlines to choose from. Flights can feel way overpriced in Argentina in Peru, however. (In the latter, foreigners pay more than the locals do). Trying to be a box-checking, bucket-listing, country-counting flashpacker is going to cost you far more money–and part of your sanity.

If your time is limited and you want to cover a lot of ground on a short trip, I would strongly advise signing up for an organized tour with a company like Intrepid Travel or G Adventures . You’ll know in advance what your budget is and they’ll take care of all the logistics for you, which is worth a lot. You’re usually looking at $80-$150 a day per person with them. A lot for a long-term traveler, but pretty cheap for a vacationer.

Eat a Big Lunch When Traveling in South America

A $3 meal of the day in Cusco, Peru including soup, a drink, and tip. Lunch is a bargain in South America!

The way it works is, you usually get a soup or starter; a main course with a few options to pick from; rice, potatoes or pasta; something to drink; and maybe dessert. 

That picture to the right is from a lunch just two blocks from the main plaza in Cusco. It was $3 counting the soup I had already devoured, a drink not pictured here, and a tip. See more examples of Cusco travel prices here .

These afternoon meal deals can range from very humble market stall meals that are literally two or three dollars up to fancier ones meant for office workers that are still only $5 or $6. Whether simple or fancy, these are your most economical choices when eating out. So it’s often best to get into the habit of eating your largest meal in the middle of the day, then having a lighter dinner. Hey, it’s probably better for your weight management too.

Take advantage of street food stalls and local markets as well. Maybe not the first day you arrive, but in general they’re safe when places are busy and you can see the food being prepared. They’re mostly serving working-class locals, so the price is right.

Learn Some Spanish to Travel South America

If most of your international travel has been in Asia or Europe, you may be under the impression that anyone who works with tourists around the world speaks English. There are plenty of areas where this is still not the case though, like any vast area where millions speak the local language. That applies to South America with Spanish . 

Someone could travel from San Diego all the way to the tip of Tierra del Fuego without speaking anything but Spanish—as long as they avoid Belize, Brazil, and the Guyanas. In Mexico I got cable TV with my internet service and I have 200 channels that are Spanish only. It’s the same when I travel in Peru, Argentina, or Ecuador. Since these countries get so many tourists from neighboring countries, it’s not essential for them to have a strong command of English to survive.

Then when you get outside the main South America travel spots that are big tourist destinations, it gets worse. Bring a phrasebook or good app, load up Google Translate or Deepl, and try to learn a bit of Spanish before you leave with a self-study system like Rosetta Stone , Pimsleur, or Duolingo.

Colombia travel

Maybe stay in one place for a week or two and take some lessons. Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador are known for speaking relatively pure Latin American Spanish. As in they don’t drop letters at the end of words, they don’t speak with an Italian accent, and they don’t use an abundance of slang and idioms in regular speech. So they’re good places to learn and prices are reasonable. Backpacking South America becomes much easier and cheaper once you can communicate at a basic level at least.

If you’re going to spend extensive time in Brazil, learning some (very different) Portuguese can help too. I got by in Iguacu Falls and Rio okay without it: sometimes I could switch to Spanish and they understood that if not English. It’s tougher if you get away from where the tourists are though. 

When to Visit: Outside of High Season if Possible

What’s the best time to visit South America? Well there’s no one answer that’s going to cover all of this vast continent but known when and when not to go can have a big impact on how much money you end up spending. The more the vacation place is a popular destination, the more likely you’ll see big seasonal price swings.

I have written before on how much of an impact there can be on prices depending on when you arrive. Low season can have awful weather or everything is closed, while high season can hit you with peak prices and low room availability. When possible, if you can land in town when it’s shoulder season , that’s a great time to find a middle ground with good conditions and good prices are both in play.

Naturally, the seasonal variations are not going to be the same across all of South America at any given time. Between May and September, Patagonia empties out and many lodges close up for the winter unless they’re in a ski area. You don’t want to go to Peru in February when it’s the height of rainy season and the Inca Trail is shut down.

Then there is a high season in Peru, however, when it’s sunny and dry and everything is green from the past few months of rain. If you want to avoid peak crowds and prices in the mountainous parts of Peru, it’s best to plan on May or Autumn. December can be iffy, but I only got rained on one day when I went on a hiking trip there in early December. 

travel South America in Peru

Apart from known weather patterns like these though, most of the continent is warm all year and just has fluctuations in precipitation, though of course the higher the elevation, the colder it will get in their winter. It doesn’t much matter when you go to the Amazon Rainforest since it’s hot and close to sea level. In Colombia though, the Caribbean coast has different weather than the Pacific coast beach on the other side—and very different water temperatures.

So the key advice is to avoid high season, or at least try to catch the beginning or end of it. Fortunately, the national parks in South America are not nearly as crowded as the U.S. ones, especially in vast Patagonia, so for those you mainly need to look at the weather patterns. Only Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina) and Torres del Paine ever really feel crowded. If a place doesn’t get many tourists, you don’t have to worry much about fluctuations in the price of a private room when you are off the beaten path.

Two periods are uniformly busy across South America. Easter, known as Pascua or Semana Santa, is a bigger holiday than Christmas in most of these countries, with vacations lasting up to two weeks. A month before that you’ve got Carnaval in Brazil and elsewhere, when lodging prices shoot up and rooms can get scarce. 

Also, this being the southern hemisphere, the big “summer vacation” period is January and February, sometimes bleeding into Christmas on the front end and early March on the other. This is a terrible time to visit the beaches of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, or Ecuador unless you love the high-season energy and want to mix it up with vacationing locals. Plan accordingly. 

Work on Your Patience in the Southern Hemisphere

In much of the USA, Canada, and Europe, efficiency and convenience are prized attributes. No wasted time, get to the point, don’t be late. Things work differently in most of Latin America . Nobody ever seems to be in a hurry, business is done at what seems like a glacial pace to us, and relationships trump logic every time.

Things usually get done eventually, but probably not as fast as you were hoping or expecting. Get used to waiting around, accepting some Spanish form of “later” as an answer, and going with the flow.

On the plus side, most people in South America are gracious, patient, and not all that bothered about you butchering their language. Once you slow down and lower your expectations, it’s kind of nice to let go. Hey, what’s the rush?

For a country-by-country breakdown of these destinations and others around the globe, pick up a copy of the 5th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations . This post contains affiliate links, though you will never pay more by using them than you would if you went direct to the site. I just make a small referral commission that helps keep the site running.

cheapest places to travel in South America: Ecuador

Tuesday 30th of May 2023

i travelled mostly to colombia, its beautiful and cheap. also i start using this app, ATM Fee saver, it shows me atms around wiht low fees for withdrawing money. makes me save a bit of money while travelling =)

Tuesday 6th of June 2023

Thanks for the tip Charlie. I'm putting this in the next issue of the Nomadico newsletter! https://atmfeesaver.com/

Tuesday 16th of August 2022

backpacking latin america

How to plan a trip to South America on a budget

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Are you soon to be traveling to South America on a budget?

For many first-timers planning an epic South America trip, the first question usually asked is how to stay safe and how to save money on the road.

Both budget and safety are top priorities for backpackers , so we’ll do our best to explain the overall situation and give our tips on a country-by-country basis.

What's in this guide?

The paradox lies in the fact that when we travel to South America on a budget, the aim is to save money, but scrimping and scraping inherently puts us in a risky situation because we tend to choose the budget option over everything.

It does not all have to be like this , especially when it comes to accommodation (for example) or doing tours where you’ll be flying off a paragliding somewhere. This is because you can be at your most vulnerable in both situations.

We believe it is smarter to know what to budget for, and where to spend that little bit extra, to be able to mitigate the safety risk in any one particular place.

Language and Currency

Let’s now look at some important elements of budgeting in backpacking South America that most travelers will need to consider at some point during their trip:

It is no secret that Spanish is the dominant language of South America .

It’s the main language of Colombia, Ecuador , Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina , Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.

The two exceptions (of countries we’ve covered in this guide) are Brazil who speak Portuguese, and Guyana whose mother tongue is English.

paraguayan banknotes

Another notable language is Guaraní, which once used by the indigenous tribes of Paraguay , is now also one of the country’s official languages (although not needed as most speak Spanish).

To be honest, you can get around somewhat comfortably with just English, especially in the bigger cities throughout South America like Rio de Janeiro and Lima.

However, knowing just a bit of Spanish will make the experience so much better (not just ease, but also being able to connect with locals).

Although Portuguese is Brazil’s tongue, most understand Spanish so you’ll somewhat be able to communicate and get both of your points across.

There are many indigenous languages also spoken here, most notably in the Andean regions as well as in Bolivia and Paraguay.

Some of the biggest and still-used today includes Quechua and Aymara. Brazil has the most indigenous languages of all South American countries, with a grand total of 177.

If you’re heading to South America, then be prepared for a myriad of confusing currencies and exchange rates!

Pretty much each country here uses a different currency, so you’ll need to adjust and work out your budget as you move along the backpacking trail .

Ecuador is the only country that uses $USD, and therefore is a lot easier to work out costs. Peru uses Soles; however Dollars are sometimes accepted and can be withdrawn from most ATM’s (similar with other countries too)

  • Colombia uses Colombian Peso
  • Bolivia uses Bolivian Peso
  • Chile the Chilean Peso
  • Argentina the Argentinean Peso
  • Brazil the Real
  • Paraguay the Guaraní
  • Uruguay the Uruguayan Peso
  • Guyana the Guyanese Dollar

Then of course we have Venezuela, who uses the Venezuelan Bolivar, which tends to be pretty confusing at best. They also widely use dollars, but you’ll need to bring them with you since it’s they are not available in ATM machines.

As all rates are constantly changing, we won’t bother listing them here. You can check currency sites such as XE who provide up-to-date and accurate exchange rates.

Getting Around South America

There are many ways of accessing South America, with the most popular by plane. The international hubs of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Lima are the easiest and often cheapest to fly into.

bogota to medellin

There’s a tonne of flights arriving and departing from these cities daily.

The other (more adventurous way) is arriving by sailboat into Colombia from Panama, which is one of our bucket list items in its own right.

If coming from Central America we would recommend this option , where you’ll spend 3 days crossing the Caribbean Sea and stopping off in the beautiful San Blas Islands along the way.

The only other way really is by cruise ships, which often depart from USA or Asia and have multiple stop-offs in the continent. As these are expensive and not part of the backpacking lifestyle, we won’t go into detail here.

South America is a mammoth of a continent.

Driving from Cartagena in the north of Colombia to Ushuaia in the extreme south of Patagonia would take over 6 days, non-stop!

Many who backpack South America with little preparation are slapped in the face when it comes to the distances between destinations, so we want to give you a more gentle one now so you can properly prepare.

backpacking paraguay buses in paraguay

Most of the countries are big in size, and whilst some roads are well-built, many are still lacking and often wind around huge mountains and jungles .

You can expect most bus rides to take between 3-8 hours between top destinations, although the long distance one’s like in Chile and Brazil can often take up to 24 hours. Get yo phone and laptop charged boi!

You can also take regional flights to speed things up. Some of these domestic flights within countries can be pretty cheap, especially in Peru from our experience. However if your budget is tight, then buses win 100% every time .

Costs and Budgeting

One of the most important factors to plan before heading off is your budget.

South America is one of the cheaper continents to backpack around , which is good as your money will go on for longer here (especially good considering the sheer size and amount of things to do and see).

Let’s take a look at how much things tend to be, as well as how to plan a both reasonable and realistic budget.

The costs we listed here as correct as of September 2021 .

South America Travel Costs

Let’s take a look at the typical costs that you’ll be spending on a day to day basis in South America.

Remember these can and will vary depending on where you are!

  • Average Dorm Bed = £4-10
  • Private Single Room in a Hostel = £10-15
  • A Street Food Dish = £1-2
  • A Meal at an Inexpensive Restaurant = £5-10
  • Beer at a Local Bar or Dive = £0.50-£2.00
  • Beer at a Touristy Bar = £2.50-3.50

For example, a town in the Bolivian highlands is going to be much, much cheaper than the popular cities of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

South America Travel Budget

As previously mentioned, backpacking around South America is quite cheap.

All countries do vary in terms of budget needed, especially with Latin America’s infamous ability to be unstable both politically and economically.

brazilian food

For Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, the average backpacker will be spending roughly £25-30 a day . These are by far the more expensive countries to backpack around.

Whilst it’s definitely possible to spend less, the figure above takes into account average dorm bed rates, food as well as transport around cities within these countries.

The rest of these countries you can expect to spend around £20-25 per day .

These countries (especially Bolivia and Paraguay) tend to be poorer in areas, and also a lot cheaper compared with the previous ones.

It’s a lot easier to travel for longer in these countries, so factor more time in these countries to make the most of your journey in this continent.

South America Trip Planning

Whilst backpacking is definitely about being spontaneous and open to the new, solid planning beforehand really does go a long way.

Below we’ll go through some key things you should get sorted before heading out to South America.

What to Pack for South America?

I don’t know about you, but for us pulling out the ol’ backpack and preparing for a trip really gets the adrenaline going.

It’s here where things start to feel real, as you’ll start asking yourself questions like “What do I really need?” and “Will this shirt (or dress if you’re a woman) make me look the sexiest human in Colombia?”.

Hell we’re all human, and we’re here to have the best trip possible .

After you’ve looked at different countries in South America and decided where you want to head, now it’s time to get practical and look at what you need (NEED) not want. See this South America packing list for our best ideas.

For example, it’s probably a good idea to take that pair of hiking boots if planning on going to Patagonia instead of 4 different bathing suits.

One of my best tips that have helped us during planning is to first lay out what we want to take. Second is to divide into two piles; absolute essentials that we need, and others that we want .

Thirdly, add around 50% of the “others that I want” to your essential pile and start filling your backpack. Done.

Remember that whilst your backpack may feel empty this way, this is good as:

  • b) it’s a pain trying to fit everything back in every time you move hostel, especially if in a rush.

Pack a range of clothes (as you’ve read, you’ll experience absolutely everything in terms of weather and temperature in South America).

See our much more detailed guide on the best time to visit South America for more ideas on what type of weather to expect depending on where you go.

Toiletries are also important, although try to pack liquids of less than 100ml , as this way you may be able to fly with just hand luggage saving you some dollar.

Other things to pack include your documents in a safe folder, a sleeping mattress, towels, electronics such as a laptop and some backup wallets and spare credit cards etc. High quality Hiking Boots are also an essential bring. We recommend these for men as well as these for women .

South America can be very poor in some areas, so whilst being cautious with food and drink whilst you’re there is important, even better is to get key vaccinations to avoid problems altogether .

Some injections that travelers tend to get before heading to South America include:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B

However, please see your doctor as we are not medically trained or qualified to give advice. They’ll tell you exactly what you need for each specific country.

Be sure to read our guide on backpacking South America for places to visit.

👉🏽 P.S. If you’ve found this guide helpful, buy us a coffee here to say thanks! Or, support us by downloading our South America Travel Bible to get our best content.

“ Dear traveler! Some links in this post contain affiliate links. Meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, book a hostel or sign up for a tour, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you . Your support means a lot and helps us to carry on traveling and maintaining the quality of this site for you.”

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Person holding a black and gold globe showing South America

Budget Travel in South America

August 18, 2020 eric gamble.

The answer is YES!

Now, don’t get us wrong, there is no guaranteed blanket strategy that will cover all 12 of the countries in South America. For example, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia tend to be quite easy on a travel budget. While traveling to Argentina, Brazil or Chile might require you to focus a bit better on your budget. Either way, we have found that using these 10 money-saving tips are best for anyone traveling South America on a Budget!

Table of Contents

#1  Manage your money wisely

Man checking his cash and ATM cards as he is working on his budget for travelling around South America

Whenever you ask a travel “pro” for their best piece of advice on how to budget for travel , they are probably going to mention avoiding fees! Perhaps the horrible exchange rate fees at the airport are the easiest to avoid if you know they are outrageous. But the one that often gets us is the painful ATM fees every time you make a cash withdrawal. These tend to be the costliest as you can sometimes get hit with 3 separate fees:

  • The Foreign ATM transaction fee from the machine you are using.
  • The Exchange Rate transaction fee from your own bank.
  • The Foreign ATM transaction fee from your own bank. (We hate this one the MOST!)

Don’t get us wrong, we understand that some fees are unavoidable. But there is no reason to lose money because your bank isn’t travel friendly.

To prevent this extra cost, look into banks that offer no international fees on purchases or withdrawals.  We have also found that some of the best Credit Unions and Banks that will even refund any ATM fees that you acquire in South America. So do your research and find that perfect travel-friendly Bank Account for traveling South America on a Budget.

#2  Find better flights to budget travel in South America

Find better flights to budget travel in South America 

However, just using the right search tool isn’t the only factor to save money while traveling in South America. Remember to be flexible on what days you fly and if possible, try booking early. We have often seen that about 7 weeks or 54 days prior to your trip tends to be the lowest price. But if you see a great deal from the Dollar Flight Club or other notification services that help you save money don’t be afraid to snag it right away.

#3  Consider traveling South America during the Off-Season

Eric Gamble in Machu Picchu almost alone as he Travelled Off Season to South America

But traveling to South America during the off-season also offers other benefits. For one, you can often find better deals on flights and accommodations since there is more supply and less demand. Also, there are fewer people everywhere. So now you don’t have to fight a horde of people to take that perfect shot at Machu Picchu or deal with their noise while you are  South American Hunting .

#4  Book Cheaper Accommodations

A beautiful Airbnb in Colombia is a way to find Cheaper Accommodations

Another alternative to overpriced hotel chains is booking a night in a hostel in South America . Now before you start rolling your eyes at the idea of some dormitory-style accommodation for smelly backpackers, hostels are actually a lot of fun. First of all, they can offer some of the cheapest ways to travel South America and more often than not, hostels have large private nice rooms at a fraction of the cost. Plus, we have found that in our travels around South America, hostels often provide fun environments to meet new people and other amenities to liven up your adventure.

#5  Book your activities ahead of time

Darcee and Eric on a Tour at a hidden waterfall near Santa Marta, Colombia

One of the first places we now check is Get Your Guides . With over 800 different excursions and adventures, we find that they often offer some of the best deals that save us money. But if you can’t find what you are looking for there, then Viator is another option with almost 22,000 organized tours throughout South America.

#6 Use local transportation to get around

A local VW Van toy on a Map of South America to reference Using Cheaper Transportation in South America

For example, Eric booked a comfortable air-conditioned double-decker bus on Bookaway from Lima to Cusco in Peru for less than $40 and it was awesome. Not only was the bus extremely comfortable but it had wi-fi, reclining seats to sleep, and they fed him 2 meals along the trip. Plus, what better way to see the country you are traveling than through a giant bus window!

#7  Save money like a local and eat like a King

Eat like a Local in Cartagena, Colombia

  • The first thing we do is ask the locals. One of the best parts of staying in Airbnbs or even hostels is that people are always willing to share their favorite secret spots! Plus, they may even want to join you which adds to an amazing experience.
  • Explore Street Food. Now, we don’t want you to get sick. So do some scouting of local vendors. But ultimately, don’t be afraid of street food. If you watch where others are eating you are bound to come across some amazing traditional foods at street-stalls. Plus, it ends up only costing just a few dollars so you can sample different bites.
  • Hit up the local grocery store. This is probably one of our favorite things to do! It is so cool to just stroll around a grocery store seeing what different foods and produce are local that you may have never seen before. Plus, it is a great way to save money if you use it to stock up on snacks or even breakfast foods.
  • Fill up on Menu Del Dia. In most Latin American countries, many restaurants will have a special on Almuerzo (lunch) or have a Menu Del Dia which is basically the special of the day. These pre-fixed menus are often a bargain but are still packed with tons of local flavor and will leave you full.

#8  Explore the area for free

Enjoy the Free Activities like these local dancers and musicians in South America

Another way to find free activities in your area is to check with the front desk or your Airbnb host. Often, these locals know of all kinds of concerts or small festivals going on nearby. If they don’t know you can always check a hotel or local hostel. In general, even if we aren’t staying there, we go in and ask for a map from the concierge or person working at the front desk. Then, we just ask for recommendations on the best free tourist attractions in the area.

how to travel south america cheap

#9  Be willing to haggle

Haggling for Souvenirs in South America

Now for most people, haggling can be a bit uncomfortable. Plus, in some of the more developed countries like Argentina or Brazil, it isn’t always common. But it never hurts to ask especially when dealing with street vendors or in open markets. You might not talk them down half price, but a dollar saved is a dollar earned for food or fun!

#10  Know the cost of a Big Mac

A pic of a McDonald's Big Mac for the idea of knowing the cost of travel using the Big Mac Index

However, one of the best ways to budget travel in South America is to use the Big Mac Index. Created in 1986 for fun by The Economist magazine, the Big Mac Index is a tool to help travelers understand the relationship between your own country’s dollar versus the relative value of a dollar in the country you are visiting.

Therefore, before you travel, you should check out The Big Mac Index Converter to help you better understand how much your dollar can actually buy there.

To check it out, just plug in the cost of a Big Mac in your own country in the Big Mac Index Converter . It is pretty self-explanatory. But let’s give you an example:

Using the Big Mac Index for Travelers going to Peru

What money-saving travel tips do you use in South America ? 

Pinterest Picture of Eric Gamble sitting in front of Machu Picchu for Budget Travel in South America

Disclosure:  This post, “Budget Travel in South America”, is a sponsored post. However, All opinions expressed below are our own. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. Using the links doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps keep the site free, fun, and community supported! Eric & Darcee will never recommend a product that we don’t genuinely believe in, actually use ourselves, have researched, and trust. Please see the disclosure policy  for more information.

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94 thoughts on “ budget travel in south america ”.

How have I never heard of the Big Mac Index Converter! What a great idea and way for people to visualize how they’re spending their money. I enjoying putting together a budget when I’m planning a trip. For one, it helps me narrow in on what parts of the trip are truly most important to me. Secondly, I love not coming home and looking at my bank statement in shock of what I spent! These tips would really help while putting together my budget!

Thanks Lia. We totally agree that there is nothing worse than coming home to see the dreaded bank statement! That is why we are like you, and really sit down and evaluate our budget when traveling in South America or anywhere in the world. I agree that the Big Mac Index is key to helping us too! Let’s us know really how far our dollar will go!

Great tips I would love to go back to South America. Thanks

South America is so huge and so awesome. The Amazon, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, Rio, the hills of Peru, Angel Falls, and so much more. Thanks for providing these tips to save money.

Yes I am! I have been planning to explore South America so I am so happy to stumble upon your post. Thank you for sharing these tips. Taking note of how to save money on food. I like the idea of hitting up the local grocery store. I did this in Japan and was surprised to see a lot of local foods and produce. It was a great experience.

Anyway, this Big Mac Index is interesting and would love to learn and explore it more. Thank you for sharing the converter.

Yeah, hitting up a real local grocery store in a foreign country is such a fun and unique adventure that can also help you budget travel anywhere but especially in South America.

Before I had visited South America even I had heard that it is very expensive but when I traveled there I understood one thing that if I maintain a budget then it can be well affordable. I always love to travel on local transport when I visit a place. Plus booking cheap accommodation and flights which are good too is necessary. And obviously visiting in off-season always has its pros.

Glad you enjoyed your time in South America while still saving money on your travels there!

Eating where the locals eat is a great way to save money. We always try to do that wherever we travel to

Yeah, we often do the same as not only eating where the locals is a great way to budget travel in South America but it is a great way to find the best food around!

South America is definitely on my travel bucket list but I’m not entirely sure of which country…probably Chile, Argentina or Brazil would be my tops contenders. I love visiting destinations off season especially since it’s much more cost efficient. And asking the locals what to eat is my favorite advice you give since I’m such a foodie haha. Also, booking activities in advance is a must! My friend went to Machu Picchu last year and booked her tour 7 months in advance!

Hope you get down there soon!! Those Patagonia Mountains keep bugging me about why you haven’t come and visited them yet! But seriously, I think you will love it down there & especially since you love Food..You may never want to leave!

I’ve never been to South America, it’s great to have some tips for travellers on a budget. The photos look amazing, so many lovely places to see.

Yeah, it is a truly beautiful region of the world & if you plan it right, you can easily Save Money on Travel in South America which is definitely an added bonus in my book too!

The big mac analogy is really interesting! I gained a lot from it. I even tried it. Lol!

Haha, well glad to help you understand international finance a bit more over a hamburger!

if you ask me, I am always up to save a little when it goes for traveling. I mean budget traveling means you get to travel more. I don’t care about pricey hotels, I care about breathtaking views

We couldn’t agree more with you Lyosha! Dont get me wrong, I dont want my new wife to go slumming it in a dangerous shanty of a place. But all we need is a nice bed, a safe place to store our gear, and preferably a hot shower and we are good. Plus, I’d rather spend my money on another trip or some epic once in a lifetime bucket list activity or experience than a bloated, expensive room with cable tv that I will never see.

Traveling anywhere we always make it a point to stop and ask a local their favorite food spot. We have eaten such amazing food at a cheap price. Also, you threw me off with the whole big mac thing. That is a very interesting fact.

Haha, yeah the Big Mac Index seems to be a new revelation for most people. You might also hear a Coca Cola type comparison and the Millennial generations seem to compare the price of things in Starbucks. But, the Big Mac index is still king when trying to budget travel anywhere and especially if you are hoping to budget travel in South America.

I love that accommodation! It is so refreshing and relaxing. I’d keep these tips in mind. Very helpful indeed!

Yeah, using Airbnb has not only saved us lots of money on travel around the world, but we have stayed in some amazing places too for pennies on the dollar!

a good compilation of tips for traveling South America the cheap way. I often used night busses in South America, which not only saved me time (because I was traveling during the night when I was sleeping anyway), but also money as I didn’t have to pay accommodation for this night of the bus ride. As an additional plus, most night busses are super comfortable, so that you actually can sleep very well.

Haha, you sound like me (Eric). I often am trying to pitch my wife Darcee on the idea of overnight bus travel so we can double dip on the savings like you said. I did that when I rode a Bus from Lima to Cusco and didn’t mind it at all cause those busses had really nice recliner seats!

I understand how you are using the Big Mac equation, but have you actually eaten a Big Mac in South America? Most high on my bucket list is exploring Patagonia. I am currently working on becoming bilingual in Spanish. That will help me take the bus and haggle. I also love to travel off-season, but know my locale isn’t the cheapest spot.

Haha, well, no we don’t tend to patronize American restaurants in foreign countries when we travel, though we did eat at a McDonalds in Delhi. We had been in India for a month eating at local restaurants and street food. But when we got to Delhi, we were hanging out with an old Indian friend who went to college in the states. He said that we really needed to experience McDonalds in India at least once since Cows are sacred and they don’t eat beef! So he took us and it was a weird yet cool experience.

Asking the locals is a great way to find out which are the best local restaurants. We’ve found some hidden gems that way. I’m a bit wearier about street foods.

Yeah we love dining not only where the locals eat but even with them too! It can be such a wild and fun experience!

I am a pro at haggling so I’m sure I’ll do fine haha. I haven’t been to South America as yet but I plan to take out a month next year and go. I do realize the internal flights will be expensive and I will be taking quite a few of those so will keep an eye out on the tools you have mentioned. I do not mind travelling during the off season at all. Also, I’d love to stay in the Romantic Cabana Airbnb in Colombia not for the cost but because of how beautiful it looks!

Awesome Medha, I can’t wait to watch your adventures bouncing around South America and I hope these budget tips can help your money go a bit farther! Yeah that Romantic Cabana Airbnb in Colombia is amazing! But even if you cant get that one, there are tons of Airbnbs throughout the entire continent that can really help you Budget Travel South America!

I would love to go in South America on a budget, who don’t want it anyway, right ?! And this money-saving tips are perfect to start with, atleast now I know how to have a budget friendly trip in South America. South America , here I come!!!

Haha, that is awesome Anne because just the other day, South America asked me when Anne was visiting, so now I can put the entire continent on high alert!! But seriously, I hope these tips to Budget Travel in South America or anywhere in the world truly help you out!

To answer your first question, I’m ALWAYS dreaming of a trip to South America. I’ve been twice (4 countries total) and I absolutely love it. I can vouch for most of these tips but I have to say you had me all intrigued (and reading like my life depended on it) about the Big Mac rule. I have never heard of that. You better believe I will never look at exchange conversions the same again! It’s all Big Mac to me now! 🙂

Haha, love it Heather! Yeah, I know you are an avid bucket list traveler like us, so it doesn’t shock me that you have explored a lot of South America. Yeah, oddly enough, I learned about the Big Mac Index from a German Friend of mine who is a pretty avid backpacker. I had originally heard of a Coca Cola type theory and tried to use in it in several Scandinavian Countries but it is kind of off for some reason but the Big Mac seems to work better.

Ohh my…thanks for all these useful travel tips, am a backpacker & this budget tips really useful for me as the flight costs me a lot for a South America trip. Have saved this post for my travel reference & yes, I always enjoy travel around in a country with its local transport & meet the local people 😀 cheers, siennylovesdrawing

Thanks Sienny! I am glad to help with these tips on how to save money while traveling in South America or really anywhere in the world! Can’t wait to see some of your next bucket list travel adventures!

Definitely off-peak travel is best. I scored an eco hotel in Costa Rica in Feb off Expedia and definitely explored the beach town and saved $$ by eating local food. Lobster was much cheaper and plentiful than in NYC. Sigh..

OOOH, Yeah we love eating exotic foods like Lobster when we travel too cause it is always so much cheaper outside of the States. I bet that Eco-Hotel was off the hook in Costa Rica. We had a similar experience when my wife flew us to Costa Rica the first week of November for a quick mini honeymoon! It was relatively cheaper than summer months, plus it wasn’t crowded at all, and even the bars and restaurants seemed cheaper than normal!

Great tips to save money on travels

Thanks! Now you can have more money for cocktails and other bucket list adventures!

I’ve read so much about budget travel though I have never embarked on one. These tips will be helpful if I make up my mind to embark on one.

Well, you don’t have to use these tips on saving money on travel just in South America. You can use it on any type of travel in any part of the world. We have used it in India, Thailand, and even here in the United States where we live. In my opinion, it is more of a better way to travel while saving money on the things you will enjoy more rather than the basics.

Fees when traveling are always the worst part! I always wondered about cash though, what’s the best way to get cash- at home before you leave? get a little at the airport?

NO! I would really try to always avoid the exchanges at Airports, their fees are horrible and they know it since they got you! If you plan it out correctly, I would visit your personal bank at home first. Sometimes it takes them a day or two to order the currency but they can usually help you out first. After that, I would use the atm machines wherever you are visiting. But try to find a bank or talk to your bank about the fees associated with International withdrawls first.

This is a great list of budget tips. I remember hearing about the Big Mac Converter some where before so it’s awesome that you included it on this list. Great way to save some cash!

This was really useful, not just for traveling in south America but for anywhere. I loked the biy about the big mac the most. Informative!

Great budget tips! I always wanted to visit south america. I would love to go to Brazil. The scenery is beautiful.

There are lots of useful information and insights that I didn’t know about. Plus, I really liked your comment about rolling your eyes. I’m still laughing. The romantic cabana which you booked on Airbnb looks luxurious. I couldn’t find cheap flights on Momondo, because the link doesn’t work. Bookaway.com, FreeTour.com and Big Mac Index converter look very interesting and we will definitely use them in the future. Thank you very much!

These are fantastic tips, every penny counts, i love looking for ways to save money when i go on trips. I definitely like the idea of taking public transport as this will not only save you some coins, it’s another way to really see other areas of the country without paying for a tour guide.

Yeah, it is always so cool to see different parts of town from a metro or bus cause they tend to roll a bit slower than a hired car!

Fantastic tips! I always look for ways to save money while traveling and make my dollar go further. I love the idea of the Big Mac Index Converter. It is such a neat idea and very helpful to I’m sure. Taking public transportation is also always a great option for saving money. I will keep these in mind when traveling to South America and beyond.

Thanks Melissa! Yeah, we like exploring the Public transportation options for budget travel in South America and really anywhere. It can seem a bit hectic at first because of the language barrier or issues to pay, but if you are patient and open to help at first, it is actually pretty easy and a great way to save a lot of money!

With kid is still in school, traveling off shoulder is not our choice at all. But in a few years we’ll be able to do it. The Big Mac index sounds cool. And I agree that if we eat like a local will save us money, too.

Yeah kids in school can be a little tricky but remember shoulder season is different for other countries! For example, I LOVE to travel during America’s Thanksgiving week international. Don’t get me wrong, travel in the U.S. during that week can be pricy, but I went to Trinidad & Tobago that week and my flights were $180 USD round trip from New Orleans and everything was super cheap since it was their shoulder season! Who needs freezing weather and an expensive turkey dinner when you can take your family to an exotic beach and eat Bake & Shark for pennies on the Dollar!

I did budget travel in South America many years ago and I managed quite well, even though I didn’t speak spanish… Changing money was a bit tricky sometimes. Using the Big Mac index is a smart trick to work out a budget and sticking to it…

Yeah, the money changing thing can always be a bit challenging when you aren’t in the biggest of towns but I am glad you were able to work it out and do quite well with your Budget Travel in South America!

These are great tips. Our next big trip we have planned after covid is to go to South America so whilst we’re waiting we’re doing a lot of planning so this is helpful! Really can’t wait to get off again now!!

Yeah, we can’t wait to just go anywhere that isn’t just to the grocery store down the street! (haha!) I hope you have a blast in South America, each country, though a little similar in some aspects has a lot of unique adventures to offer! So you all will have a blast I am sure!

Thats some great advice and very useful tips on budget travelling in South America. I’d love to plan out this continent some day. Visiting during off-season is usually the best bet and more often than not covers the aspect of getting a better accommodation at a cheaper price than what you would have originally got during the peak season (a huge game changer). Plus heeding the local advice is such a great tip, always helps! I too love going out to pick up stuff from local grocery stores, they are so chic and super fancy at times. 🙂 Thanks for this useful post.

Yeah, it always shocks my friends when I tell them I actually went into a local grocery store and not just those quick stop marts when I am on an adventure somewhere. But it can be tons of fun discovering, like a museum for FOOD! I agree that off season can help you score some great deals on the already cheap accommodations in South America too!

These are some excellent tips guys on traveling to South America. I love the Big mac index, I’d never heard of that before. Also, like you, I live to eat, so going anywhere local would be good for me. The Airbnb in Colombia is gorgeous too, and so cheap!!

Yeah that Airbnb in Colombia is ridiculously awesome!

Aside from the flights, I found South America to be very budget friendly, even though I travelled there during the Christmas period. I found in most places, I could get two meals for the price of one Big Mac. I ALWAYS go for local food!

With money, I found it was actually better to have cash and exchange it along the way. I travelled overland using local bus services and was actually surprised by how good exchange rates were near borders. I would set a budget for each country and any money left from that would be exchanged in the next country. My budget for one country would end up lasting me for two countries, because I never could be bothered searching for exchange places and would just make the money stretch until the next country.

I also found budget hotels and hostels in South America to be quite cheap and decent. I managed to get a simple private room in one country for $7.50/night. And I only paid $20/night for a hotel room in Aguas Calientes.

Well to be fair Kex, Peru is perhaps the Cheapest Country in all of South America along with Ecuador, Colombia, and even Bolivia (cept their Visa requirements). So it is pretty easy to eat and find shelter in all those areas if you follow these tips to Budget Travel. But, according to the Big Mac Index, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and several other countries rival the prices of some countries even of Europe on certain things. So, with these tips and the ones you shared about cash, it can help others save a ton of money on the other 3/4ths of the continent.

Great tips! I love off season travel! Now that my kids are nearly out of school (and the house) that will open up more opportunities for that! I have never heard of the Big Mac comparison but I am going to check it out! I love that idea!!

Well, don’t let your kids stop you from exploring!! We did the math one time and taking your family of 4 to Peru for a week to see Machu Picchu can be cheaper than a week long west coast adventure to any beach. But it may be more fun without them too! (haha!)

I swear by travelling in the off-season too. Everything is cheaper and there are fewer crowds!

I visited South America in spring and it was lovely – not too hot, not too crowded, absolutely perfect!

I didn’t use public transportation much while I was in Rio since I was a bit worried about pickpocketing – had read a few stories before my visit and I was just being overcautious! But uber wasn’t that expensive so it turned out ok.

Yeah, travelling South America cheap is great. But NEVER EVER, risk your safety over a few bucks. Even if it is somewhat irrational, just the piece of mind is worth it. We had similar experiences when we first arrived in India. Of course local transportation was cheaper, but I didn’t feel comfortable yet dealing with it, I had Darcee, my girlfriend (now wife) in tow & wanted to make her feel safe, and I didnt want to feel cheated or scammed. So, Uber or other types of transports are somewhat better for that. Now, by the end of our trip, Darcee was making us hitchhike across the entire subcontinent in some bizarre transports, but Safety over Savings is always important!

We generally don’t do budget travel. But we are thrifty and safe where we can so we can splurge in other ways. We are lucky that we have flexibility for travel so can travel when rates for flights and hotels may be better. We always say we will book ahead but don’t. Good research can definitely get better rates than just buying tours on the street. We too love to visit grocery stores and tend to picnic for one or two meals a day. I never heard of the Big Mac index. But I have used Starbucks prices to realize the difference in cost of standard items. It stopped me from getting a Frappuccino in Dubai!! Good tips to help make your money go further no matter your budget.

Haha, I guess Starbucks is a good measurement tool also! We will have to submit that to The Economist magazine in case they want to update their Big Mac Index! I like how you put that you are thrifty. I think that is a great way to describe our travels too. For example, I HATE “wasting” money on a hotel room! It is because I know that it is basically a storage shed to hold my gear and give me a bed and shower whenever I finally return. Since, I want to be out exploring, I always look for better options on lodging for my budget or thrifty travels. BUT, I will spend some extra money on a fabulous dinner or an amazing cocktail for sure! So, it is just a matter of priorities when you Budget Travel in South America!

It’s really interesting to think of the big mac as a way to check how much the local currency is worth. I would not have considered that.

Travelling during the shoulder season is my main tip. It’s easier to take holidays from work, and is sooo much cheaper.

I love your foodie travel style too. To be honest, good food is the one thing I never mind splurging on. BUT it is always fun to visit local supermarkets to see what locals normally buy/eat.

Yeah, we love FOOD cause we are from New Orleans where we don’t eat to live but LIVE to EAT! So, in reality we do splurge on food, especially in the late afternoons and evenings. But, I guess we use the opportunity to explore the food markets cause breakfast isnt always a big deal to us, we often find that it is a cultural adventure, and plus I have a thing for chocolate candy bars from different countries. It is always a weird thing for me to want to try their junk food candy bars and local sodas! Guess you can’t take the GenX kid out of me!

It is relatively easy to find cheap airfare in South America with kiwi.com and such booking sites. The problem is that those fares come with all kinds of restrictions. On one flight we had a 5kg carry-on limit and no checked bags and on another flight, I was barely able to sit in my seat as there was almost no legroom. So, read the fine print.

We like using Kiwi too, though I will have to say that recently we have been scoring better deals with Momondo and occasionally Skyscanner instead. So maybe check out Momondo on our tools list cause they often to have as many “Bargain = weird restrictions” type issues that we have noticed.

South America is made of some really exotic and beautiful countries. These are some really doable and practical tips for traveling across South America on a budget.

Thanks! Yeah, plus these tips on how to budget travel in South America can also be used in other parts of the world or really anywhere!

I want to travel to South America and I believe your tips will come handy. If we ditch the expensive cabs the budget of transportation can be kept in control. With so many places to visit, as suggested by you, I will plan and book everything in advance. Great article.

Thanks Ramya! Yeah, transportation is always a little tricky. But if you are willing to shake off the old standard methods and embrace some local methods, it can be a great way to not only save money but a fun adventure too!

That picture of an Airbnb accommodation is so much more tempting than a boring hotel room. About time we experimented with one of these. You’re right about the offseason travel, it can really slash costs. Great post on budget travel.

I know right! Between the Airbnbs in South America and the Private Rooms in Hostels that we found and actually stayed in, you would have thought I was rich cause they looked super fancy! Don’t get us wrong, we don’t hate hotels but if you are there to explore and won’t hardly be in the room, why pay a premium.

I’ve yet to visit South America and your budget tips and practical advice are really valuable! I had never heard of the Big Mac Index ha ha, that’s brilliant!

I hope you get to go Zarina! It is tons of fun but yet every country is quite unique!

Argh, the ATM fees when travelling are so annoying! We did our best to avoid most fees, but the fees the foreign banks impose are pretty hard to avoid! Haggling is definitely something I have get better at, but it still feels a little awkward sometimes, but when travelling on a budget it is definitely something you need to do! These are great tips for budget travel in South America!

Yeah, ATM FEES suck! I mean it is our money why do we pay so many extra fees just to get it or use it? That is why really do our research on Banks and Credit Unions, especially since I got rid of all credit cards about 7 years ago. (No Fees there Either for me!) I know the haggling thing can be a personality thing for most people too but I always say, “it can’t hurt to ask”.

These are all great tips! I have not been to South America yet and hope to plan a trip in the next couple of years or two! Will definitely be keeping all of this in mind 🙂

Thanks Kelly, I hope you get going cause they told me they cant wait to See you down there in South America!!

You have blown my mind with the Big Mac Index Converter! I had no idea there was such a thing but that’s a brilliant idea!

Totally Crazy I know, but just knowing the value of a Big Mac can help you realize the true cost of things in your home country’s currency! Plus the Big Mac Index Converter is an awesome tool to Budget Travel in South America, because now you NEVER have to go actually into a McDonalds in any country to see the prices and be tempted by the french fries! Instead, just check it out here!!

Some great hints and tips there – that Air B and B looked very pretty. I’d never heard of the Big Mac converter either, so will use that in the future.

haha, yeah, who would have thought that a fast food hamburger could be an equalizer in values of money across the world! As for the Airbnb in Colombia, I know right. There are tons of amazing and cost effective Airbnbs all throughout South America that can help you live like a Prince (or Princess) for the Price of a Pauper (Or Pauperess?? Is that a Word??)

This is super helpful in preparation for my trip so thank you!! I’m going to try and travel on $1000 a month so hopefully that won’t be too little!

Hmm, I think $33 USD a day is okay for Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and maybe even Colombia. I will say that in Argentina and Chile and perhaps Brazil, it will be a little of a stretch but if you follow these tips on how to Budget Travel in South America, you should do pretty good and even have a few splurge days!

I was shocked at the ATM fees in South America. Aside from finding an ATM that actually worked with a foreign debit or credit card, there are limits to how much money you can withdraw per transaction (and that amount varies by the ATM). And, each transaction incurs a hefty service fee (amounting to up to 7% of the withdrawal). It was better just to negotiate prices with larger denomination US currency or to use a money changer.

Yeah, those fees are the bane of our existence. That is why we love certain Credit Union banks & even some other online Banks that are willing to refund those costs. Obviously money exchanges can be okay if you can find good ones but we have even found if you can find a real bank in any of the South American Countries, that they are better too.

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A llama walking around Machu Picchu in Peru that you see when Budget Travel in South America

Divergent Travelers

Ultimate SOUTH AMERICA Travel Guide

South America  is one of the most diverse places on the planet when it comes to landscapes and cultures. You can find ancient ruins, rich history, the largest rainforest on the planet and even glaciers. This South America guide is here to share our tips and advice for traveling across this continent.

Located south of  North America  and  Central America , South America stretches from  the Caribbean , across the equator and all the way south to the waters off  Antarctica . It is comprised of 12 countries and quite frankly, is massive.

These countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uraguay and Venezuela. Also included are the two dependent territories of the Falkland Islands, along with South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. French Guiana, while located physically in South America, is a territory of the French central state.

We’ve spent just over 2 months traveling to various countries and regions across South America in our travels. We haven’t been to every country, yet, but we will continue to update this guide as explore more of this fascinating continent.

Destinations

South america travel: quick tips.

south america

Don’t Visit SOUTH AMERICA Without:

UNIVERSAL TRAVEL ADAPTER

how to travel south america cheap

GET A GUIDEBOOK

how to travel south america cheap

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE

how to travel south america cheap

SOUTH AMERICA BUCKET LIST

Scarlet Macaws in Peru - South America Travel

VISIT THE AMAZON RAINFOREST

Few things in life will be as stimulating as immersing yourself in the Amazon Rainforest. The  Peruvian Amazon  and  Ecuadorian Amazon  are easily accessible to most travelers. We’re enamored by it and have been five times!

Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina

EXPLORE PATAGONIA

Whether you find yourself in Torres del Paine or Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia offers some incredible scenery and adventure opportunities. World-famous for hiking, you’ll want to consider the  Basecamps Trek  in Argentina or the W Trek in Chile.

Bartolome Island in the Galapagos

SAIL THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Cruising the Galapagos Islands  is at the top of many people’s bucket lists and for good reason! Not only can you spend your days observing unique  Galapagos animals  but you can also enjoy the stunning natural scenery and white sand beaches. 

MORE THINGS TO TRY IN SOUTH AMERICA

There is no shortage of amazing things to do in South America during your visit and the biggest problem you’ll face is fitting them all into your itinerary. Trust us, we’ve been there!

Each country has its own offering and unique things to check out during a visit, so be sure to look at our country guides once you decide where you’re itinerary will take you.

FLY TO EASTER ISLAND:   While it’s not widely known,  Easter Island  is actually part of Chile. At least politically anyways. This means that the remote island is accessible from Santiago by air. Once you arrive, you’ll spend your days in the  Rapa Nui National Park  learning about the famous Moai statues and Rapa Nui culture of the island. It’s well worth the time and expense to add this to your South America travel itinerary. Hot tip, plan at least a week (we stayed for 9 days!) as the weather can be unpredictable.

EXPLORE THE ATACAMA DESERT:  One of the most famous places to visit in Chile is the Atacama Desert. Here you can discover towering volcanoes, desolate salt pans, active geysers, vast cactus fields, massive flocks of pink flamingos, to name a few. Not to mention that it’s one of the best places in the world to view the sky. You’ll want to base yourself in  San Pedro de Atacama , a cute tourist town that gives you comfortable access to the entire area.

VISIT THE END OF THE EARTH IN USHUAIA:  The official jumping-off point for trips to  Antarctica , Ushuaia is literally at the end of the world. The town technically sits in a part of Patagonia, but you have to travel north before you get into the mountains. The town is rich in explorer history and you also have direct access to the Tierra del Fuego National Park too.

SEE MACHU PICCHU:   Visiting Machu Picchu  is easily the most visited site in South America and with good reason. It’s not only set in a stunning natural setting but offers you an intimate look into the Inca life and architecture. As a bonus,  Cusco offers plenty of things to do  including the Sacred Valley. This site alone makes  Peru  one of the top destinations to visit on the continent.

DISCOVER BOGOTA:  Despite the bad rap that Colombia often gets in the media, it has some intriguing destinations to discover within its borders including the  capital city of Bogota . The first trip I ever took to South America was to Bogota (I know, that’s weird and unconventional) and I’ll admit I was shocked by the rich culture and beauty of the city and surrounding area.

UNVEIL THE WONDERS OF RIO DE JANEIRO:  The first day we spent in Rio de Janeiro solidified the city on our list of favorite places in the world. Rio is diverse, cultural, historical and naturally stunning. No other city combines these elements in perfect harmony like this one and there are loads of  things to do in Rio de Janeiro  to boot.

SEE IGUAZU FALLS:  The largest waterfall in the world,  Iguazu Falls , can be accessed from both  Brazil  and Argentina. Set within a lush rainforest setting, these falls are stunning to visit. Both sides offer infrastructure to explore and view the falls safely. You’ll need at least 2 days, one for each side, but could easily spend 3 if you wanted to do everything available in the area.

VISIT THE WORLDS LARGEST WETLANDS:  Boasting a land area the size of France, the  Pantanal in Brazil  is a sight to behold. It’s also the best place in the world to view jaguars and with it a whole host of tropical birds. This area is remote and it is best visited by booking an all-inclusive safari package with a lodge that will include all your meals, lodging and wildlife viewing.

STAND IN AWE AT THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER:  The  Perito Moreno Glacier , situated within the Los Glaciares National Park, is Patagonia’s most famous glacier and is regarded as one of the top tourist attractions in Argentina. You can base yourself in El Calafate and then take the bus to explore this massive natural wonder. Be sure to go early and stay all day. There are miles of hiking trails that give you varying vantage points of the glacier, as well as boat tours to get close too.

OVERLAND THE HIGH CHILEAN ALTIPLANO:  If you seek an off-the-beaten path adventure, then overlanding from  Salta to the Atacama Desert  will give you just that. Starting in Salta, Argentina, you’ll make your way west, spending hours each day hiking in the desert and uncovering the history of the area before making your way to luxury infused base camps. You’ll cross over the Andes Mountains, experiencing altitude that will shock you, before descending to San Pedro de Atacama for a luxurious stay at the Explora Atacama property.

FOODIE BUCKET LIST

Each country has its own unique culinary scene, which is one of the reasons that travel to South America is so exciting for foodies.

In Peru, you have to try  Ceviche , a raw seafood salad. In Argentina, it’s all about the enormous  cuts of steak , the  red wine , and the massive meat barbecues.  Feijoada , a hearty black bean stew, is a Brazilian favorite, while in Colombia, you can chow down on  Arepa , a sort of stuffed maize bread.

One staple you will find across the continent is  rice and beans , which makes an appearance in some form in every country in the region. If you’re ever in doubt, just order up a plate of rice and beans!

SOUTH AMERICA FESTIVALS

South America is a fantastic place to visit if you’re looking to enjoy local cultural events and plenty of lively carnivals. Every town and city has a carnival, but  Rio’s carnival  is the most famous in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year.

Semana Santa  – or Holy Week – is one of the most important cultural weeks of the year in South America. This takes place during the last week before Easter.

Countries will celebrate their  independence days ; cities will host food festivals, drink festivals, and many more cultural events throughout the year, making South America an exciting prospect whenever you arrive on the continent!

PLAN AN EPIC SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY!

Popular regions in south america.

Galapagos Islands Animals - Lina Stock

The West Coast – or Pacific Coast – of South America, includes Colombia in the north, Ecuador,  Peru , Chile, and, if you head inland, Bolivia.  It is off of this coastline that you can also find the  Galapagos Islands , a place of incredible diversity and wildlife.  Inland, you can climb high into the Andes Mountains to discover Incan history (this is where you’ll find  Machu Picchu ) and beautiful scenery before dropping into the Amazon’s dense forests.

Posada Amazonas - Peru - Lina Stock

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and is the world’s largest rainforest. It blankets around 40 percent of the landmass of the South American continent. It stretches into Brazil,  Ecuador , Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and can be explored from a number of locations. Multi-day expeditions that take you deep into the rainforest are among the best reasons to visit South America. Manaus in Brazil is the classic Amazon destination, a remote city from where you can venture deep into Amazonas. In  Peru , you can visit Iquitos or Puerto Maldanado. In Ecuador, pay a visit to the stunning  Yasuni National Park .

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - South America Travel

The eastern coastline of South America is long and incredibly diverse, covering  Brazil , Uruguay, and Argentina. You’ll also find hundreds of islands associated with these countries and at the very south of the continent, the Falkland Islands. The tropical rainforest turns into more temperate climes as you travel south. Explore Brazil’s famous coastal cities,  Rio de Janeiro  and São Paulo, and relax on Ilha Grande. Travel to Montevideo, the understated Uruguayan capital, before heading over to visit Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital.

things to do in Venezuela scenery

NORTHEAST/CARIBBEAN

The Caribbean touching northeast is one of the most exciting places to visit when you travel to South America. Island hop through Colombia’s happening islands, where you’ll find snorkeling, parties, and laid-back beach vibes. Then head inland to explore  Bogota . Off the coast, you could explore the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao, or Trinidad and Tobago. Tucking back inland, you can get way off the beaten path in exploring Guyana, Suriname, or French Guiana. The truly adventurous could even venture to Venezuela. You’ll find lush rainforest, towering waterfalls, and intriguing cultures throughout these countries. 

Lina & David Stock hiking in Patagonia

Remote  Patagonia  is one of the most isolated yet spectacular places you can explore in South America. Located at the southern tip of the continent, Patagonia spans the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is divided between Chile and Argentina. El Calafate and El Chalten in Argentina and Torres del Paine in Chile are amazing hubs for hiking in Patagonia. You’ll find endless trails, high mountain peaks, spectacular glaciers, and a landscape and climate more suited to  Greenland  or Scandinavia than anything you might be expecting of South America.

SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL BUDGET

Setting a budget for travel to South America is highly dependent on your travel style. It is possible to visit just about anywhere on any budget and still have a great trip. That said, you can make your trip as basic or as luxurious as you desire.

To help you set your budget, we’ve included some base range price estimations for travel within South America. Of course, keep in mind that prices can fluctuate based on seasons, availability and festivals.

ACCOMMODATION:  On the lower end of the spectrum, you can travel to South America and spend just USD 10 per day on  hostel  accommodation. You can raise this to between USD 30 and USD 50 if you are looking for  private rooms . Upwards of USD 100 per night will give you a nice  luxury hotel .

FOOD:  Food is very inexpensive. To keep costs low during your South America travel trip, you can  eat locally  – brush up on your Spanish or Portuguese so you can order! You can eat out in most countries for no more than USD 5, but expect basic set meals. For between USD 10 and USD 20, you can enjoy  finer dining  experiences.

TRANSPORT:  Long-distance buses are the cheapest way to get around when you travel to South America.  Overnight buses  will cost around USD 50 per person, while local buses and transport are much cheaper for shorter journeys.  Flight  costs vary, but flying internationally can be expensive. A two-hour flight could easily cost hundreds of dollars (as opposed to Europe, where a two-hour flight could cost just USD 20 if booked in advance!).

ACTIVITIES:  There’s so much to plan with your South America travel itinerary, but it’s good to know that activities are very cost-effective. A  multi-day trek to Machu Picchu  will cost around USD 500, and this is the higher-end version.  Day tours  are around USD 30 per person, while a  multi-day Amazon expedition  will be around USD 100 per day.

30-50 USD PER DAY

Will include dorm beds, as well as street food, grocery shopping, overnight buses & plenty of budget day tours. Bring more cash if you want to join multi-day trips, such as Machu Picchu treks.

50-100 USD PER DAY

You will stay in private rooms and guesthouses and enjoy plenty of meals out. You’ll have lots of leftover cash for day trips, expeditions, and tourist buses between cities.

200 USD + PER DAY

Luxury travelers spending more than USD 200 per day will be able to employ private drivers, fly from one city to the next & book fancy hotels in stunning locations. 

WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH AMERICA

Below you will find some of the places we have stayed during our travels in South America. These are individual properties that we enjoyed and would recommend to other travelers.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN SOUTH AMERICA

When you travel to South America, don’t underestimate how far apart destinations, cities, and countries are. This is a vast continent; it would take weeks to travel overland from Colombia all the way south to Argentina.

There are a few ways to get around South America during a visit, including cruises, ferries and flights. Plan ahead and be flexible to avoid frustration.

CRUISES:  All manner of cruises ply the waters off both coasts of South America and run the length of the continent. This also means you can find a wide range of time lengths and ship sizes. It is also possible to depart on small-ship expeditions to  Antarctica  from Ushuaia, Argentina.

BUS:  Long-distance buses are comfortable and safe, but they take a long time to get from one place to the next. South America has an extensive bus network that connects most of the countries, so bus travel can be a good way to go if you have time and a limited budget or perhaps just want a grand adventure.

FLIGHTS: Flights are the quickest way to get around; however, international routes and airlines aren’t cost-effective, and they certainly aren’t good value.

FERRIES:  Boat trips in some locations are a slow but scenic option (especially in the Amazon, where they are the only option).

CAR RENTAL:  It is possible to rent a car in plenty of cities around South America but is most popular in Argentina and Chile. Check out  Discover Rental Cars  for great deals.

TOP SOUTH AMERICA TOURS

Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina - Divergent Travelers

END OF THE EARTH

14 Days from Buenos Aires Visits: Patagonia, El Chalten, El Calafate, Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales & Ushuaia

Galapagos Luxury Cruise

ECUADOR MAINLAND & GALAPAGOS

14 Days from Quito, Ecuador Visits: Quito, Banos, Amazon Rainforest, Papallacta & the central Galapagos Islands

Things to do in Cusco

PERU & BOLIVIA – NAT GEO

16 Days Lima to La Paz Visits: Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Cusco, Amazon Rainforest, Uyuni, Potosi & Sucre

WHEN TO VISIT SOUTH AMERICA

When you’re planning your South America travel itinerary, don’t forget how vast this continent is. Each region has its own climate; when it’s cold in southern Argentina, it’s going to be hot and humid in Colombia!

The further north you travel , the more tropical the climate is. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil all have  wet and dry seasons . The best time to plan your South America travel itinerary in the north is during the dry season, which runs from May to October.

This is the best time for hiking to Machu Picchu or experiencing the salt flats of Bolivia. It’s not too hot, and there’s almost no rain.

In the south , things are a lot more  temperate . If you’re looking to travel to South America to explore Uruguay, Chile, or Argentina, you’ll want to head here outside of winter.

Summer  is hot and busy (between November and February), while  spring and fall  can be more pleasant and less crowded. If you’re heading  far south  to Patagonia, you’ll want to visit in  summer  when all the hiking trails are definitely going to be open.

HIKE YOUR WAY AROUND SOUTH AMERICA LIKE A PRO!

Safety in south america.

If you’re planning to travel to South America, you’re probably already aware that the continent doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to crime. Most travelers will have a trouble-free trip, but you do need to be aware of a few things.

Petty theft, muggings, and even express kidnappings can be a problem for tourists. If you’re caught up in something like this, don’t put up a fight. Try not to flaunt cash or valuables when in public, to avoid attention.

When traveling by bus, book tickets on reputable, first-class buses that don’t stop outside designated bus stations. They are safer and much less likely to be held up.

Certain countries do have no-go zones for tourists – parts of Colombia and some areas of Brazilian cities, for instance. Try to keep abreast of political events while you’re in a country, as things can deteriorate without much warning, and governments often crack down hard on protestors.

If you know Spanish, or can learn the basics, you’ll have a much safer and easier time when you travel to South America (in Brazil, the same goes for learning Portuguese).

As with any destination, we recommend learning and adhering to certain safety practices when you travel. Be sure to read our personal  travel safety tips , compiled from our travels across 7 continents.

SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL: BOOKING RESOURCES

South america travel guide: related articles.

Looking for more info? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel to South America and start planning your dream trip.

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6 budget-friendly destinations in South America for 2023

  • 6 budget-friendly destinations in South America for 2023
  • < Travel inspiration

Travel inspiration

By David Szmidt January 4, 2023

By David Szmidt | January 4, 2023

Where are the cheapest and most interesting places in South America? Do you want city life, beautiful scenery, or both? Here’s our guide to the best places in South America to travel to on the cheap

Obviously, there’s no way we can cover an entire continent, but for those of you who’ve decided that 2023 will be the year you visit South America , here are a few of our picks. From coastal resorts to mountain towns; big city vibes to backpacker favorites, here’s what you need to know for a trip to South America.

La Paz, Bolivia

Best for: backpacking on a budget.

Of all the countries in South America, Bolivia is generally the cheapest for tourists, so naturally, La Paz should be on your list if you’re on a budget. The Bolivian capital is high up in the mountains, over 4,000m above sea level, and once you’ve got used to that, it’s time to do some exploring.

Witches' Market in La Paz at dusk — Getty Images

Whether you’re discovering the colonial buildings — including some fine churches — or some of the more curious local things such as the Witches’ Market (really), you’ll find something going on at street level. Exhausting hikes up apparently impossible inclines will often emerge onto peacefully pretty plazas that you had no idea existed beforehand, and the rapid expansion has brought a (sometimes) pleasing randomness to the place. After all that, and if you can’t face another climb, board the cable cars up and over the city for a magnificent view over the madness below.

Evening view of cable car over La Paz — Getty Images

As night falls, the adventures continue. Many experienced travelers say that La Paz has some of the best nightlife not only on the continent, but in the world. Whether it’s cocktail bars, underground live music clubs, banging techno nights, cozy wine bars or rooftop pool parties, there’s so much going on, and it’s one of the very reasons people intend to come for a week or so and then stay even longer!

Asunción, Paraguay

Best for: good vibes.

Paraguay needs some love. Uruguay has its beautiful beaches , Argentina has food, wine and passion , Brazil dances to its samba beats, while Paraguay… Well, it should be appreciated more.

Large Asunción sign in the middle of the city — Shutterstock

Paraguay is routinely ranked one of the “ happiest countries in the world “, mainly due to its philosophy of tranquilo pa — a combination of the Spanish word for ‘calm’ and the local Guaraní suffix pa . It’s kind of a combination of laid-back, happy and easygoing, but not so much that one neglects important things. It doesn’t mean no-work-and-all-play, but the idea that family, friendship, learning, work, and seeing the bright side of things should balance out, giving you a feeling of satisfaction with your lot in life.

The capital of Paraguay certainly feels like this. It’s not a big place — only around half a million people — but it’s a very young city (65% of its residents are under 30). And it’s certainly tranquilo pa; it’s not the most spectacular place you’ll ever visit, but it’s interesting, affordable, friendly, walkable, and relaxed.

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Visit Paraguay (@visitparaguay)

Like La Paz , however, when the sun goes down, you’ll realize how a city this youthful can seem bigger than it is. You’ll always find something cool going on, but you’ll never have to drag yourself miles across the city to experience it. If you’re not quite ready for Rio de Janeiro , would find São Paulo intimidating, or think Buenos Aires is too obvious, try Asunción. You’ll be surprised.

Cartagena, Colombia

Best for: beach life.

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA 🌴🏖️ (@descubre_cartagena)

One of South America’s most beautiful cities, the Old Town of Cartagena is a Unesco World Heritage Site, containing beautiful churches, rows of colorful colonial houses and dramatic, fortified walls.

The city itself is considered rather an upmarket place, all things considered. There’s a wide selection of luxury hotels and fancy restaurants, but there are still plenty of budget options too, both in places to stay and in dining. Even sticking to the staples — meat, rice, fish, salad, things of that ilk — you’ll find meals that are satisfying, tasty and cheap.

Being situated on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena can be considered all things to all people. Want a beach holiday? You’ve come to the right place. Would you rather simply wander around, exploring the city? Perfect — it’s accessible, a great place to lose yourself, and teeming with history. Looking for street art, cool bars and local musicians? No worries — the area of Getsemaní, once a notorious drug- and crime-ridden locale is now one of South America’s coolest places to be.

It’s an amazing time to come and see a place that has seen it all, done it all, and not only survived, but reinvented itself as a thriving, colorful city that is a must-see for any South American adventure.

Canoa, Ecuador (and Ecuador in general)

Best for: meeting the locals.

Surfer playing guitar on a tranquil beach — Getty Images

The coast of Ecuador is becoming more and more well-known as a place to go and party, surf, and generally go crazy. If, however, you’d like to keep the beach vibe but don’t feel up to the endless madness, the small town of Canoa is the place to be. With hills on one side and empty beaches on the other, it’s a much more mellow proposition than a lot of other places. It’s more of a lie-on-the-sand-with-a-beer than a dance-’til-dawn sort of town and, in many ways, it’s the better for it. You’re more likely to be mixing with locals, and while the seafood is as good as anywhere else, the prices are lower.

The rest of the country stands up to further exploration as well, to be honest. It’s South America in microcosm: beaches on one side, the Andes in the middle, the Amazon in the east, as well as the Galápagos Islands (although this is an article about budget travel — you won’t get there on the cheap).

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Visit Quito (@visit_quito)

The capital, Quito, is a 17th-century treasure trove of churches, mansions, avenues and plazas, while up in the Andes there are villages that continue their ancient way of life, farming, weaving, and trading at tumbledown market stalls. The ways of the people, as well as the land on which they live, are being protected (particularly when it comes to tourism), with the Ecuador Ama la Vida program promoting bio-tourism, environmental protection and cultural respect.

Wherever you go, you’ll find a country that knows where it’s come from, knows where it’s going, and has found a good balance between tradition and objective. It’s a rare and difficult thing to do, but slowly, Ecuador seems to be managing.

The Highlands, Peru

Best for: history buffs.

Peru is the number one nation on a lot of South American travel lists, and with good reason. Cities like the capital, Lima , and the former Incan capital, Cusco are rightly famous, as is the legendary Machu Picchu, attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year. But we’re going to look at the wonders of the Andean highlands.

Alpaca in the Andean Highlands — Getty Images

We know that a lot of tourists are after an experience that is, to use that awful and overused word, “authentic”, and this part of the world is the closest you’ll get to it. English is spoken very infrequently, so your Spanish had better be at least okay (or use this as a learning opportunity), you’ll discover that the colorful clothes, rugs and hats are not gimmicks, but traditionally handmade and used with love, and that llamas are cooler in real life than in pictures on the internet.

Of course, there are many places to stop off on your jaunt, including the town of Cajamarca — (supposedly) a site of Incan royal bathing spots; Huánuco, normally a stop-off between Lima and the Amazon rainforest but well worth your time; the hot springs and hiking trails near Huancavelica; and numerous chances to explore mountains, valleys, plains, forests, caves — pretty much everything you could want, without virtually ever coming across another tourist. It’s as good as it gets.

Ybycuí National Park, Paraguay

Best for: jungle adventures.

We’ve already mentioned Paraguay in this article, so we’re going to finish with a place that’s well within reach of Asunción: Ybycuí National Park. We’ll deal with the unusual name first — it means “sandy” in the local Guaraní language. So there you go.

Waterfall in Ybycuí National Park — Getty Images

It’s not difficult to get to from the capital. At around 150 kilometers away, it’s a straightforward drive and you’ll have no problem finding people willing to act as a taxi service. The park itself is a dense forest of tightly-canopied trees, rocky undergrowth, waterfalls and pools, all soundtracked by the numerous species of birds and monkeys that live there.

It’s not huge, but there are a number of routes to walk along, and you’re permitted to swim in some of the pools under the waterfalls, as well as take your own picnic if you so wish. It can sometimes get busy, but it shouldn’t ever be overwhelming.

The other curious aspect of the park is the remains of the Minas Kue armaments factory. During the Paraguayan War, this part of the park — being rich in iron ore — was mined, and the iron ore was smelted and used to make weapons and bullets. The smelting plant and factory are now both abandoned, but there’s a museum showing the history of the place as well as an overview of the conflict. It’s strange to contemplate a bloody struggle when surrounded by so much beauty, but it’s just another side to this unusual, compelling country.

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Want more travel inspiration? Visit  Kiwi.com Stories .

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13 Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America For An Affordable Adventure

how to travel south america cheap

Are you dreaming of embarking on an adventure to South America? The good news is that exploring this magnificent continent doesn’t have to break the bank. With a plethora of budget-friendly countries to choose from, you can indulge in unforgettable experiences without draining your wallet.

We have compiled a list of the cheapest countries to visit in South America. Reading through the end, you will find yourself your next budget-friendly trip to South America.

So, if you’re wondering where to begin your journey for affordable vacations in South America, look no further!

Table of Contents

How cheap is south america.

South America, known for its vibrant cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and rich history, also offers incredible options for budget-friendly travel .

If you’re yearning for an adventure without breaking the bank, then South America is the perfect destination for you.

This vast continent encompasses a multitude of countries that cater to all kinds of travelers seeking affordable vacations .

When it comes to exploring South America on a budget, several factors make this continent an ideal choice .

Firstly, transportation costs within South America tend to be relatively low compared to other parts of the world.

Whether you opt for buses or domestic flights between countries, you can easily find affordable options that allow you to traverse vast distances without draining your wallet.

Additionally, accommodations in South America range from cheap hostels to guesthouses and budget hotels that offer comfortable and convenient stays at affordable rates.

Furthermore, dining in South America is often a delightful experience that won’t break the bank .

From bustling local markets where vendors sell fresh fruits and street food at incredibly low prices to small local restaurants serving authentic regional dishes at pocket-friendly rates, there are plenty of culinary gems waiting to be discovered.

The diversity of food across the continent allows visitors to indulge in cultural immersive vacations while enjoying delicious meals without spending a fortune.

South America’s affordability extends beyond transportation and food; it also applies to sightseeing and activities .

Many countries within this region boast natural wonders such as majestic waterfalls like Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil or awe-inspiring landscapes like Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats.

Exploring these natural marvels often comes with minimal entry fees or even free access in some cases.

Whether you’re dreaming of hiking Machu Picchu’s ancient ruins in Peru or discovering Colombia’s vibrant cities rich with history and culture, South America has plenty of enticing options for budget-conscious travelers .

The combination of stunning landscapes, diverse cultures, and low-cost trips available in each country makes this continent a haven for those seeking affordable vacations .

So, pack your bags, prepare your itinerary, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the budget-friendly countries of South America.

Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America

Here are the Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America:

how to travel south america cheap

Bolivia, a landlocked country nestled in the heart of South America, is a hidden gem for budget travelers seeking an affordable adventure. With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and wallet-friendly prices, Bolivia offers incredible value for those looking to explore on a shoestring budget. One of the main attractions in Bolivia is the mesmerizing Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

This natural wonder offers breathtaking views that are nothing short of otherworldly. Traveling to Salar de Uyuni won’t break the bank either; you can join a group tour or even rent a 4×4 vehicle with fellow travelers to explore this vast expanse of white salt crust without burning a hole in your pocket.

For history buffs and culture enthusiasts, Bolivia’s capital city La Paz is a must-visit destination. The city’s vibrant markets, such as Mercado de las Brujas (Witches’ Market), offer an authentic glimpse into Bolivian life and provide budget-friendly shopping opportunities for unique souvenirs.

Additionally, exploring La Paz’s colonial architecture and visiting historic sites like Plaza Murillo can be done inexpensively on foot or by public transportation. Another highlight of visiting Bolivia on a shoestring budget is the opportunity to immerse yourself in its indigenous cultures.

In places like Copacabana and Lake Titicaca, you can experience traditional rituals and witness colorful festivals without breaking the bank. The island communities on Lake Titicaca offer basic accommodation options that allow visitors to stay overnight and truly connect with local traditions.

Bolivia undoubtedly stands out as one of South America’s most affordable nations for adventurous souls seeking unforgettable experiences without straining their wallets. Whether you’re exploring otherworldly salt flats or diving deep into indigenous cultures, Bolivia delivers both affordability and cultural immersion for those seeking budget-friendly travel in South America.

2. Colombia

how to travel south america cheap

Colombia, a hidden gem of South America, offers budget-friendly adventures that are sure to leave you in awe. With its diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and warm-hearted people, this country is a must-visit for those seeking cultural immersive vacations in South America without breaking the bank. One of the top attractions in Colombia is the capital city of Bogota.

Here, you can explore the historic La Candelaria neighborhood with its colorful colonial buildings and charming cobblestone streets. Don’t miss out on visiting iconic landmarks such as Plaza de Bolivar and Monserrate Hill for breathtaking views of the city.

Taste delicious local street food like arepas and empanadas from bustling food stalls or sip on a cup of rich Colombian coffee in one of the cozy cafes. The best part?

Exploring Bogota won’t put a dent in your wallet as it offers plenty of low-cost trips in South America. Another budget-friendly destination in Colombia is Medellin, known as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Take a ride on Medellin’s efficient metro system and visit attractions like Plaza Botero, where you can admire Fernando Botero’s famous statues.

Explore Comuna 13, once considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods but now transformed into an open-air gallery filled with vibrant street art. For thrill-seekers on affordable vacations in South America, don’t miss out on paragliding over Medellin’s picturesque landscapes.

Colombia offers fantastic value for travelers looking to experience all that South America has to offer without breaking their bank accounts. So pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable journey through this affordable nation where cheap travel in South America meets cultural richness at every turn.

3. Paraguay

how to travel south america cheap

Paraguay, nestled in the heart of South America, is a hidden gem for budget travelers seeking an authentic and immersive experience. This landlocked country may not be as well-known as its neighbors, but it offers a plethora of attractions and experiences without breaking the bank.

From vibrant cities to untamed natural beauty, Paraguay has something to offer every traveler on a shoestring budget. One of the biggest draws of Paraguay is its affordability.

Cheap travel in South America doesn’t get much better than this. Accommodations in Paraguay are incredibly affordable, with a wide range of options to suit all budgets.

Whether you choose to stay in a budget-friendly hostel or opt for a mid-range hotel, you’ll find that your money stretches further here compared to other countries in the region. Additionally, food and transportation costs are also relatively low, allowing you to indulge in delicious local cuisine without burning a hole in your pocket.

For cultural immersive vacations in South America, Paraguay is brimming with opportunities. The capital city of Asunción boasts an intriguing blend of modernity and traditions that can be explored at minimal cost.

Take a stroll through the historic center to admire well-preserved colonial architecture or visit the iconic Panteón de los Héroes for a glimpse into Paraguay’s fascinating history. For those seeking unique cultural experiences, make sure to check out one of the lively local markets where you can sample traditional foods or purchase handmade crafts at bargain prices.

Beyond the city limits lies pristine nature waiting to be discovered on your budget-friendly trip through Paraguay. Head south towards Ñeembucú department and explore Laguna Blanca National Park – home to diverse wildlife including capybaras and marsh deer – all while appreciating breathtaking landscapes dotted with lagoons and wetlands.

Don’t miss out on visiting Cerro Corá National Park either; this protected area not only offers incredible biodiversity but also serves as an important historical site, being the place where Paraguayan national hero Francisco Solano López met his tragic end during the War of the Triple Alliance. Paraguay is a budget-friendly country that offers a wealth of experiences to those seeking affordable vacations in South America.

From its inexpensive accommodations and delicious cuisine to its rich cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes, Paraguay proves that you don’t need a hefty bank account to have an unforgettable trip. So grab your backpack and embark on a low-cost adventure through this often-overlooked gem in South America.

how to travel south america cheap

Peru, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, is a budget traveler’s dream. This South American gem offers a wide array of affordable experiences that will make your trip both unforgettable and easy on the wallet.

From exploring ancient ruins to indulging in delicious local cuisine, Peru has something for everyone seeking an affordable adventure. One of the main highlights of Peru is undoubtedly Machu Picchu.

This ancient Incan city perched high in the Andes is a bucket-list destination for many travelers. While there are luxurious options available for visiting this marvel, there are also more budget-friendly alternatives.

For those looking to save some money, consider trekking the Inca Trail independently or opting for alternative routes such as the Salkantay or Lares treks. These options allow you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery of the Andes while keeping costs down.

When it comes to accommodation in Peru, there are plenty of affordable options available. From cozy guesthouses to budget-friendly hostels, you can easily find comfortable and clean places to stay without breaking the bank.

In popular tourist destinations like Cusco and Lima, you’ll find a plethora of choices catering specifically to budget travelers. Additionally, if you’re open to experiencing the local culture firsthand, consider staying with a Peruvian family through homestay programs or booking stays at community-based tourism initiatives that support indigenous communities.

No trip to Peru would be complete without indulging in its world-renowned cuisine. With dishes like ceviche (marinated seafood), lomo saltado (stir-fried beef), and rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy peppers), your taste buds will thank you!

While dining out can be expensive in some countries, Peruvian street food offers an excellent opportunity to satisfy your cravings without breaking the bank. Try anticuchos (grilled skewers), empanadas (fried pastries filled with various ingredients), or salchipapas (French fries topped with sausage) from local food stalls or markets for an authentic and budget-friendly culinary experience.

Peru is a fantastic destination for those seeking affordable vacations in South America. With its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and diverse cuisine, this country offers a wealth of budget-friendly experiences.

From exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to immersing yourself in local street food delights, Peru will captivate your senses without emptying your wallet. So pack your bags and embark on a culturally immersive journey through one of South America’s most budget-friendly countries.

how to travel south america cheap

Ecuador, known as one of the most budget-friendly countries in South America, offers a wealth of options for travelers seeking affordable vacations. From stunning landscapes to vibrant cities and rich cultural experiences, Ecuador has it all without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply looking to immerse yourself in a different culture, this country has something for everyone.

One of the highlights of visiting Ecuador is exploring its breathtaking natural wonders. The country is home to the mesmerizing Galapagos Islands, famous for their unique wildlife and stunning landscapes.

While visiting the Galapagos can be expensive, there are ways to enjoy this natural paradise on a budget. Opting for day trips or island-hopping instead of costly cruises can significantly lower your expenses while still allowing you to experience the incredible diversity that these islands offer.

In addition to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador boasts an array of other natural attractions that won’t break the bank. The Andes Mountains provide ample opportunities for hiking enthusiasts with its picturesque trails and majestic peaks.

The Amazon Rainforest offers an unparalleled chance to explore one of the world’s most biodiverse regions at an affordable cost. With budget-friendly lodges and local guides available, it’s possible to have an authentic jungle experience without emptying your wallet.

When venturing into Ecuador’s cities like Quito or Cuenca, you’ll find affordable accommodations and dining options that cater to all budgets. Exploring colonial architecture in Quito’s historic center or strolling through Cuenca’s charming streets can transport you back in time while keeping your pockets happy.

Additionally, indulging in delicious traditional cuisine from street food vendors or local restaurants won’t put a dent in your wallet either. Overall, Ecuador offers an abundance of cultural immersive vacations and unforgettable experiences at prices that won’t leave you bankrupt.

Whether you’re seeking adventure in its diverse landscapes or exploring its vibrant cities steeped in history, Ecuador proves that budget-friendly countries can still provide remarkable and enriching journeys through South America. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable low-cost trip in this captivating country.

6. Argentina

how to travel south america cheap

Argentina, the land of tango and beef, is not only a vibrant and culturally rich country but also an affordable option for budget travelers exploring South America. When it comes to cheap travel in South America, Argentina offers a wide range of options to suit every traveler’s budget. From mesmerizing landscapes to bustling cities, this diverse nation has something for everyone.

When planning your low-cost trip to Argentina, start with Buenos Aires, the capital city known for its European flair and energetic atmosphere. Stroll through the colorful neighborhood of La Boca, famous for its tango performances and vibrant street art.

Don’t miss a visit to the iconic Plaza de Mayo, where you can witness historical landmarks such as Casa Rosada (the presidential palace) and the Metropolitan Cathedral. To experience Argentina’s natural beauty without breaking the bank, head towards Patagonia.

This breathtaking region offers awe-inspiring landscapes that will leave you in awe. Explore the stunning glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park or embark on a trekking adventure in Bariloche’s picturesque Lake District.

For those seeking cultural immersive vacations in South America on a budget, attending a traditional Estancia (ranch) is an excellent choice. Experience gaucho (cowboy) life firsthand while enjoying delicious Argentine barbecues and horseback riding through vast fields.

Besides Buenos Aires and Patagonia, there are numerous cities and attractions across Argentina that won’t drain your wallet. Visit Mendoza if you’re a wine enthusiast looking to sample some of Argentina’s world-renowned Malbecs at affordable prices.

If you’re seeking outdoor adventures on your budget South America trip, don’t miss Salta and Jujuy provinces in northern Argentina. Here you can hike through stunning mountain ranges like Quebrada de Humahuaca or explore colorful indigenous markets offering unique handicrafts at reasonable prices.

When considering affordable nations for your South American adventure, Argentina should be high on your list. With its vibrant cities, stunning natural landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, Argentina offers budget-friendly experiences that won’t compromise on quality.

From dancing the tango in Buenos Aires to marveling at Patagonia’s glaciers, there are endless opportunities to explore this beautiful country without breaking the bank. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey through one of South America’s most captivating destinations.

how to travel south america cheap

Uruguay, often overlooked by travelers seeking low-cost trips in South America, is a hidden gem when it comes to affordable vacations in the region. This small country nestled between Brazil and Argentina offers a unique blend of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and budget-friendly experiences.

From picturesque beaches to charming colonial towns, Uruguay has something for every traveler seeking a cheap travel experience in South America. One of the best ways to explore Uruguay on a budget is by visiting its capital city, Montevideo.

The city boasts an array of free or inexpensive activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture without breaking the bank. Start your day with a stroll along La Rambla, a promenade that stretches along Montevideo’s coastline and offers breathtaking views of the Rio de la Plata.

You can also visit the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town), where you’ll find historic buildings, quaint cafés, and lively street markets selling local handicrafts. Don’t miss out on trying some traditional Uruguayan cuisine like chivitos (steak sandwiches) or empanadas from one of the many affordable food stalls scattered throughout the city.

For those seeking a more laid-back experience, head to Punta del Este, one of Uruguay’s most famous beach destinations. Although it has long been associated with luxury tourism, there are plenty of options for budget-conscious travelers as well.

Instead of staying at high-end resorts or hotels, consider booking accommodation at one of Punta del Este’s many hostels or guesthouses which offer comfortable rooms at much lower prices. Spend your days lounging on Playa Mansa or Playa Brava and taking in the stunning ocean views.

In the evenings, explore Avenida Gorlero where you’ll find affordable restaurants serving delicious seafood dishes and local specialties. Uruguay may not always be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to budget South America trips, but don’t let its size fool you.

This affordable nation has so much to offer, from cultural immersive vacations in South America to stunning natural landscapes, all at a fraction of the cost of other popular destinations in the region. So why not consider Uruguay for your next adventure and discover the charm and affordability that await you in this South American gem?

how to travel south america cheap

When it comes to exploring South America on a budget, Chile may not be the first country that comes to mind. Known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant cities, Chile has a reputation for being more expensive compared to some of its neighboring countries. However, with careful planning and a little insider knowledge, it is possible to experience the beauty of Chile without breaking the bank.

One of the most budget-friendly ways to explore Chile is by taking advantage of its extensive network of buses. The country has a reliable and affordable bus system that connects major cities and towns, making it an ideal mode of transportation for budget travelers.

Whether you want to visit the bustling capital city of Santiago or immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Patagonia, traveling by bus allows you to enjoy scenic views while saving money on transportation costs. Accommodation in Chile can be a bit pricey in popular tourist areas such as Santiago or Valparaiso.

However, there are plenty of options available for budget-conscious travelers. Hostels are a popular choice among backpackers and offer comfortable dormitory-style accommodations at affordable prices.

Additionally, there are guesthouses and budget hotels available in many cities across the country. Consider staying in local neighborhoods or smaller towns outside major tourist hotspots to find more affordable accommodation options.

To fully experience the beauty and culture of this diverse nation without breaking your budget, take advantage of free or low-cost activities. In Santiago, visit the Plaza de Armas where you can admire historic buildings and watch street performers without spending a dime.

Take advantage of free walking tours offered in cities like Valparaiso or La Serena to explore these charming destinations while learning about their rich history. While Chile may not be renowned as one of the cheapest countries in South America, it is still possible to have an affordable vacation filled with rich experiences and cultural immersion.

By utilizing cost-effective transportation options such as buses, opting for budget accommodations like hostels, and taking advantage of free or low-cost activities, you can make the most of your trip to Chile without breaking the bank. So grab your backpack and embark on a budget South America trip that will allow you to uncover the hidden gems of this captivating country.

how to travel south america cheap

Guyana, nestled on the northeastern coast of South America, is a hidden gem for budget travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure. This lesser-known country offers a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences that won’t break the bank.

When it comes to low-cost trips in South America, Guyana should be on your radar. One of the main reasons why Guyana stands out as an affordable nation to visit is its relatively low cost of living.

This translates into budget-friendly accommodations, transportation, and dining options throughout the country. In the capital city of Georgetown, you can find reasonably priced guesthouses and hostels that provide comfortable lodging without denting your wallet.

Additionally, local transportation in Guyana is quite affordable, with buses and shared taxis readily available for navigating around the city or traveling between towns. For cultural immersive vacations in South America without breaking the bank, Guyana delivers an enriching experience.

The country is known for its diverse ethnic makeup, including Amerindians, Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, Chinese-Guyanese, and more. Exploring Georgetown’s vibrant markets like Stabroek Market will expose you to a lively fusion of cultures where you can sample inexpensive street food like roti or try out local delicacies such as pepperpot stew or bake and saltfish.

Venturing beyond Georgetown allows travelers to discover Guyana’s breathtaking natural landscapes at an affordable cost. The Kaieteur Falls is a must-visit attraction – this awe-inspiring waterfall plummets down from a height five times greater than Niagara Falls!

Budget-conscious adventurers can join organized tours from Georgetown that offer reasonable rates for experiencing this natural wonder up close. Moreover, Guyana boasts vast rainforests teeming with wildlife where visitors can embark on guided hikes or river trips at pocket-friendly prices.

When it comes to cheap travel in South America that doesn’t compromise on cultural and natural wonders, Guyana is a fantastic choice. With its affordable accommodations, transportation options, and opportunities for cultural immersion and exploration of stunning landscapes, this country offers an unforgettable and budget-friendly experience for travelers seeking affordable vacations in South America.

10. Suriname

how to travel south america cheap

Suriname is a hidden gem when it comes to affordable vacations in South America. This small yet diverse country offers a unique blend of cultural immersion, natural beauty, and budget-friendly adventures.

Located on the northeastern coast of South America, Suriname brings together influences from Dutch, Javanese, African, and Indigenous cultures, making it an ideal destination for those seeking an authentic experience without breaking the bank. One of the most captivating aspects of Suriname is its stunning natural landscapes.

From vast rainforests to picturesque waterfalls and pristine rivers, nature lovers can explore the country’s biodiversity through various low-cost trips. Take a boat ride along the Suriname River to witness breathtaking sunsets or embark on a wildlife safari in Brownsberg Nature Park to catch glimpses of colorful birds and fascinating wildlife species like monkeys and jaguars.

For adventure seekers on a budget, hiking through Central Suriname Nature Reserve provides an immersive experience amidst the untouched wilderness. When it comes to accommodation and food options in Suriname, travelers will find that their wallets remain relatively unburdened.

The capital city of Paramaribo offers budget-friendly accommodations ranging from cozy guesthouses to comfortable hostels that cater to all types of travelers. Don’t miss out on trying local street food such as roti (a delicious Indian-inspired dish) or Indonesian-influenced snacks like bara and pom at affordable prices while exploring vibrant markets like Central Market or Neveh Shalom Market.

Overall, Suriname presents an off-the-beaten-path adventure for those seeking cultural immersion coupled with affordable travel experiences in South America. With its rich diversity, stunning landscapes, and wallet-friendly options for accommodation and dining, Suriname should be on every traveler’s list when considering budget South American trips!

11. Venezuela

how to travel south america cheap

Venezuela, despite its recent economic challenges, still offers budget-friendly opportunities for travelers seeking affordable vacations in South America. The country boasts a diverse range of landscapes, from the stunning Caribbean coastline to majestic mountains and the iconic Angel Falls.

With its abundance of natural beauty and unique cultural experiences, Venezuela is a hidden gem for low-cost trips in South America. One of the most budget-friendly ways to explore Venezuela is by taking advantage of its extensive public transportation system.

Buses connect major cities and towns, offering an affordable means of travel between destinations. Additionally, shared taxis called “colectivos” are a popular mode of transportation within cities and can be quite economical compared to private taxis.

These options allow travelers to navigate the country without breaking the bank. When it comes to accommodation, Venezuela offers several budget-friendly options.

Hostels are scattered throughout major cities like Caracas and Maracaibo, providing affordable accommodations for backpackers and solo travelers. Some hostels even offer private rooms at reasonable rates for those seeking a bit more comfort.

Alternatively, there are guesthouses and small family-run establishments that offer inexpensive rooms while providing an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture. While exploring Venezuela on a budget, don’t forget to indulge in local cuisine as part of your cultural immersive vacation in South America!

Street food vendors offer delicious meals at pocket-friendly prices across various cities and towns. From traditional arepas (cornmeal patties filled with different ingredients) to pabellón criollo (a dish consisting of shredded beef, black beans, rice, and plantains), there’s no shortage of flavorsome dishes that won’t dent your wallet.

Moreover, taking advantage of outdoor activities is another way to experience Venezuela without breaking your budget. The country boasts breathtaking natural wonders such as Canaima National Park with its towering tepuis (table-top mountains) or Los Roques Archipelago National Park known for its turquoise waters and pristine beaches.

Entry fees for these national parks are typically affordable, allowing visitors to explore and appreciate the country’s natural beauty without spending a fortune. Venezuela may face economic challenges, but it remains an affordable nation for budget South America trips.

By utilizing public transportation, staying in budget accommodations, enjoying local street food, and exploring the country’s natural wonders without hefty entrance fees, travelers can immerse themselves in the rich culture and stunning landscapes of Venezuela without straining their wallets. So why not consider adding this budget-friendly gem to your travel itinerary?

how to travel south america cheap

Brazil, a country renowned for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and passionate people, may not be the first destination that comes to mind when thinking about budget travel in South America. However, with a little planning and some insider knowledge, it is possible to explore this diverse nation without breaking the bank. One of the best ways to experience Brazil on a budget is by visiting during the shoulder seasons.

The high season in Brazil typically falls between December and February when tourists flock to iconic destinations like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador for their famous carnivals. By avoiding these peak months and opting to visit during the shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October), you can take advantage of lower airfare and accommodation prices.

Additionally, you’ll find fewer crowds at popular attractions, allowing for a more authentic experience. When it comes to affordable accommodations in Brazil, hostels are your best bet.

These budget-friendly options not only provide a place to rest your head but also offer opportunities to connect with fellow travelers from around the world. In cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, hostel dormitory beds can be found for as low as $10-$15 per night.

For those seeking more privacy or traveling in groups, private rooms are also available at reasonable rates. Another economical option worth considering is Couchsurfing – an online community where locals offer their couches or spare rooms free of charge to travelers looking for an authentic cultural experience while saving money on lodging.

While exploring Brazil’s vast landscapes and indulging in its rich cultural heritage can be costly if not planned wisely, there are plenty of wallet-friendly activities that will still leave you awe-struck. For example, instead of booking expensive guided tours through the Amazon rainforest or Pantanal wetlands, consider researching local eco-tourism agencies that offer similar experiences at a fraction of the cost.

Alternatively, embark on self-guided hikes through national parks such as Chapada Diamantina or Lençóis Maranhenses, where entrance fees are relatively low, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature without breaking the bank. Brazil may not be the first choice for budget-conscious travelers in South America, but with careful planning and conscious decision-making, it is possible to have an affordable and enriching experience in this captivating country.

By taking advantage of shoulder seasons, opting for budget accommodations like hostels or Couchsurfing, and seeking out cost-effective activities, you can create unforgettable memories without straining your wallet. So don’t let the misconception of Brazil being an expensive destination deter you from exploring its vibrant cities, and breathtaking landscapes, and embracing its diverse culture – a journey that can be both culturally immersive and affordable.

13. Guyane (French Guiana)

how to travel south america cheap

French Guiana, also known as Guyane, is a unique destination in South America that offers a blend of French and South American cultures. While it may not be the cheapest country to visit in the region, it still has some budget-friendly options for travelers who wish to explore this fascinating territory without breaking the bank.

One of the best ways to experience French Guiana on a budget is by exploring its stunning natural landscapes. The region is home to dense rainforests, pristine rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls.

You can embark on low-cost trips in South America by visiting places like Cacao or Maroni River, where you can take guided hikes through the rainforest and discover diverse wildlife species. Additionally, you can explore nature reserves like Kaw-Roura or Trésor, which offer affordable excursions to observe rare bird species and other wildlife.

Another way to have an affordable vacation in French Guiana is by immersing yourself in its local culture. The capital city of Cayenne offers vibrant markets where you can sample delicious local cuisine and purchase souvenirs at reasonable prices.

Take a stroll along Place des Palmistes, a picturesque square lined with palm trees and colonial buildings that often hosts cultural events such as concerts or art exhibitions. Moreover, make sure to visit Saint Laurent du Maroni, a town rich in history due to its former role as a penal colony during colonial times.

Here, you can explore museums that provide insight into this intriguing period while enjoying low-cost travel experiences. While French Guiana may not be the most budget-friendly nation compared to other countries in South America, there are still opportunities for affordable travel experiences within this unique territory.

By engaging with nature and immersing themselves in the local culture, visitors can enjoy cultural immersive vacations without depleting their funds entirely. Whether it’s exploring rainforests or experiencing bustling markets and historical sites, French Guiana offers budget-friendly options for travelers seeking an enriching experience in this distinctive corner of South America.

After exploring the cheapest countries to visit in South America, it’s clear that this diverse continent offers a plethora of budget-friendly options for travelers seeking affordable vacations.

South America is home to numerous affordable nations that offer memorable and budget-friendly vacations. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient Inca ruins in Peru or immersing yourself in Argentina’s tango culture, there are plenty of opportunities for cultural exploration without breaking the bank.

Hope this was helpful!

Keep Reading

  • 7 Safest Countries to Visit in South America You Will Absolutely Love
  • 17 Best Places to Visit in South America in December
  • 23 Most Beautiful Places in South America
  • 11 Best Countries to Visit in South America

Avatar Of Taseen Alam

Hi There! This is Taseen Alam. I am the founder of Nomad Footsteps and a full time online entrepreneur living my laptop lifestyle. I am a nomad myself as well as a traveler. On this blog, I share travel destinations, guides and itineraries etc. Join me on my journey of a nomad.

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how to travel south america cheap

$97 Find cheap flights to South America

This is the cheapest one-way flight price found by a kayak user in the last 72 hours by searching for a flight from the united states to south america departing on 8/6. fares are subject to change and may not be available on all flights or dates of travel. click the price to replicate the search for this deal., search hundreds of travel sites at once for deals on flights to south america.

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Best South America Flight Deals

Cheapest round-trip prices found by our users on KAYAK in the last 72 hours

Good to know

Faqs - booking south america flights, what are the best airports to fly in and out of the u.s. to get to and from south america.

You can never go wrong with John F. Kennedy in New York as your getaway airport to South America. Strategically sitting on North America's east coast, the airport provides both non-stop flights and connecting flights to more than half of the destinations in South America, including Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, and La Paz. Miami International Airport also serves carriers that facilitate non-stop flights to South America and offer cheaper rates for connecting flights to Mendoza, Santiago, and Asunción.

Which airlines have cheaper prices on flights from the U.S. to South America?

Generally, the most affordable airlines for flying from the United States of America to South America include JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Avianca, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and CheapOair. All these carriers offer connecting flights that are more affordable than their non-stop options. Flying aboard any of these airlines is thus a sure way of saving money.

Do I need a visa to fly to countries in South America?

Holders of valid passports from the U.S. can enter most South American nations visa-free for a maximum of 90 days, except in Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Still, most countries require visitors’ passports to be valid for at least six months from the date of travel. It might be best if your passport contains empty pages for stamping. It’s not unusual for immigration officers from most South American countries to ask for proof of a return or onward connection.

Can I fly nonstop to South America from the U.S.?

Yes. From airports like Miami International Airport, American Airlines has non-stop flights to Sao Paulo, and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Delta Airlines has non-stop flights to Buenos Aires. JetBlue Airlines has non-stop flights from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Charlotte to Bogota; Southwestern Airlines has non-stop flights from JFK and Dallas to Santiago in Chile, and Spirit Airlines has non-stop flights from MIA and Chicago to Lima.

Which is the best airport to fly to in Bolivia?

Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the best airport into which you should land in Bolivia. As the largest and busiest airport in the country, it handles international, regional, and domestic departures and arrivals. An alternative to Santa Cruz airport is the El Alto International Airport famous as one of the highest international airports in the world. This airport provides easy access to two of Bolivia’s largest cities, El Alto and La Paz.

Which is the best arrival airport if I want to visit Druif Beach?

Queen Beatrix International Airport is Aruba's main international airport that provides easy access to Druif beach. The airport is located in Oranjestad, the capital city of Aruba, and sits about 11min drive from Druif beach. This peaceful locale provides the perfect weekend escape with your family to relax and commune with nature.

How long is the flight to South America?

An average nonstop flight from the United States to South America takes 8h 11m, covering a distance of 3337 miles. The most popular route is Miami - Medellín with an average flight time of 3h 20m.

What is the cheapest flight to South America?

The cheapest ticket to South America from the United States found in the last 72 hours was $59 one-way, and $182 round-trip. The most popular route is Miami to Medellín Jose Maria Cordova Intl and the cheapest round-trip airline ticket found on this route in the last 72 hours was $224.

Which airlines fly to South America?

American Airlines, Delta & Avianca fly the most frequently from the United States to South America.

What are the most popular destinations in South America?

Based on KAYAK flight searches, the most popular destination is Medellín (26% of total searches to South America). The next most popular destinations are Lima (22%) and Buenos Aires (11%). Searches for flights to Bogotá (11%), to Sao Paulo (7%) and to Cartagena (7%) are also popular.

How does KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool help me choose the right time to buy?

KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool uses historical data to determine whether the price for a given destination and date is likely to change within 7 days, so travelers know whether to wait or book now.

Top tips for finding cheap flights to South America

  • Enter your preferred departure airport and travel dates into the search form above to unlock the latest South America flight deals.
  • South America has endless tourist attractions that keep visitors returning. One of the must-see landmarks when touring this continent is Peru’s Pachacamac ruins, which are accessible by flying into Jorge Chávez International Airport, located about a 52min drive away.
  • Both United Airlines and American Airlines offer non-stop flights from the U.S. to South America. United provides a non-stop flight from New York’s Newark Liberty Airport to Guarulhos International Airport, while American Airlines offers non-stop flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to Ezeiza International Airport.
  • JFK provides non-stop flights to most destinations in South America, including Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Guyana via American Airlines.  However, those connecting in from other cities like Boston on American Airlines should expect a stop at JFK for about six hours, depending on the schedule of your journey.
  • Book a flight on Delta at JFK to Foz do Iguaçu International Airport in Foz do Iguaçu via Orlando and Brasília to reach Iguazu Falls. The falls lie about a 26min drive from the airport. Take a connecting flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina via LATAM Airlines to Ezeiza International Airport, which is around 52 minutes from Palermo and Jardín Botanical Garden.
  • The Semana Santa Festival in Ecuador, which is celebrated between March and April is arguably the country’s largest religious festival. If you want to secure cheaper flights to Ecuador from JFK, consider reserving your flights at least two months before your intended date of travel as ticket prices usually increase rapidly in the months leading up to the festival.
  • If you want to travel to Brazil from the U.S. on a budget, consider booking connecting flights as they are significantly cheaper than non-stop flights. To this end, reserve flights that make stopovers in Chile. Suppose you intend to fly to Sao Paulo, stop over in Miami, or choose another flight that entails a stopover in Bogota.
  • José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil, Guayas Province, should be your port of entry in Ecuador if you are keen to visit Seminario Park. This is a tourists' favorite spot due to its natural charm created by the trees and artificial lagoon.

Top 5 airlines flying to South America

Flight was delayed. Had to get rebooked. Diamond medallion but stuck in a crappy seat. Rebooked flight then got delayed again. Then when we finally boarded, we waited another hour for a new crew. Then landed in JFK and sat for another 40 minutes waiting for a crew to come to the gate to be able to deplane. Hot mess all around, which unfortunately is becoming the norm for Delta

It was terrible! Two hour delays, poor in flight service, made us check our carry on even though there was plenty of overhead storage

Terrible flight Delayed for over an hour without a reason Told all over head storage was full. It was not. Made to check our bags. What a terrible experience. Fly American.

Older plane and it came with Fleas and flea bites!

My seat was moved closer to the front of the cabin since I had requested wheelchair assistance to the gate.

Rough day of travel all the way around. Wrong info given to us multiple times and mistakes in their booking making our trip 10 hours longer than planned. I’m bummed because I fly Delta all the time and love them. Mistakes happen. Just bummed that this was a rare trip our whole family was traveling together.

Still room for improvement in food and beverage selection: bring back Cognac

Flight was canceled so it was not a great experience. Boarded, then deboarded. Delayed, boarded a new plane then deboarded the 2nd plane and flight was canceled. Then booked a fight to Rome and took a train to Venice the next day. Lost an entire day +

My seat was changed at the last minute and I was moved to the last row, right next to the bathroom despite selecting my seat well in advance. I was also made to check my carry on due to space but when I got on the plane there was significant empty overhead space. Picking up my carry on from the luggage carousel added time to my trip which had already been extended due to delay.

All good on Delta's part. Passengers could be a little more courteous to each other.

Copa delayed the fight three times. We ended up flying about 24 hours after the original time.

This airline doesn’t five and dime you for everything. I do think that a checked bag should be included in every fare.

The seats had plenty of leg room and the staff were very nice.

Copa performed as expected for the amount of money I was willing to spend for the flight; it wasn’t exceptional but it was not bad in any way either. The crew was good; friendly and straightforward. The food was airplane food, so no expectations there and the entertainment was lacking but that was my fault for owning an IPhone with a charging port that’s not compatible with the rest of the world. I’d fly Copa again.

Left my bags in origin city on a business class ticket , spent about 2-3 days in the same clothes plus the flight .

the planes are not modern there are no phone chargers

As usual, the flight with normal legroom was not very comfortable, but the second flight was much better because we had paid for extra legroom. It was very nice to check our bags without an extra fee.

LOCKED MY BAG WITHOUT CONSENT. Had to have my zippers cut upon arrival in Costa Rica.

On time. At least they offer a drink and a small snack. Plane was clean

You delayed my trip three days for no reason other than your lack of preparedness, did not offer any compensation, including food or a bed. I couldn’t trust you so I moved up my return flight and lost another day at the end of my trip to hopefully make sure I make my next flight. I will never fly LATAM again. You have the worse accountability and reliability and clearly do not care that your clients have lives and what it cost to fly to another country.

Everything was as you would expect in coach - fine. Flight was close to on time.

It was confusing because I got a notification that my gate was changed when in reality it wasn’t

No air in the middle rows. Had a hard time breathing. Was dying of heat.

Terrible They charged me 157$ for excess baggage even though my bags were within the normally accepted limits Flight was late. Service was poor. The snacks were really bad

Horrific checkin procedure with neither Delta nor Latam figuring out how to check me in. 4 hrs on customer support with both and both airlines pointing to each other who should do checking. I was not checked in until morning of flight, which for international flight is concerning.

Flight from Lima to São Paulo didn’t have USB plug to charge the cellphone.

It was a good experience, the flight was a little too long & the food was ok

We had 2 delayed LATAM flights in our trip. We were only given one coffee for 5 hours delay. Also when we were boarding the crew wanted to charge us for our allowed carry on luggage. I got a bit angry and they finally didn’t charge anything. Not flying with LATAM again.

Our flight from BOS - BOG was delayed 10 hours because they were waiting for a Flight attendant to fly from Miami. They lied and said they would give us food and hotel. That was a straight Lie! It never came! We were in the airport for 13 hours with Two babies. We were on the plane 7 more Hours. When we asked to get diapers from our checked luggage, Jorge in Boston told my wife she should have planned better. Meanwhile, the 10 Avianca Employees Sat there and did nothing for 13 hours. Yes, we planned for 10 hours with the wait and the flight, not 20 hours JORGE! If this was an American company we would have got a refund! But they are not up to American standards. The kicker is they apparently needed the 3rd stewardess to serve the food. Guess what? It was 4AM when they tried to serve the FOOD! Everybody was asleep by then! Ridiculous! Never Again!

My fly was cancelled so i run to the airport and fight for my fly Thank god at the end was good

Terrible. Flight was delayed without explanation, airplane was in poor condition (old, dirty) and crew was not in a good mood.

Definitely my worst experience. We booked a flight JFK - Cartagena with a layover at Bogota. My partner and I were on time for the boarding at 10:55pm. We were about to enter in the plane, literally, when one of the officer from the airline Avianca, took the passport of my partner to apparently « looked at his luggage reservation ». It made no sense, first the luggage was under my name, and then we went through all the controls at the airport. The person went back to the gate inside the airport, I followed my partner. The employees from the airline were rude and disrespectful. They were not explaining us what’s was going on. After 5 minutes of silence treatment. They told us that my partner was intoxicated (it was absolutely not true, they never conducted tests btw) and he couldn’t board in the plane and he will take the next one. They didn’t late us coordinated the trip, and not even let us say goodbye to each other. I was forced to take the plane to bogota and my partner to stay in NYC. It was traumatic. My partner had to wait 6h in the airport (night time) and he had to pay an additional ticket even tho the employees mentioned he was going to take the next flight. We are going to file a complain. It’s unbelievable. First and last time I will ever use this airline. I do not recommend.

Ok, but these people don’t give you nothing no snack no water

No water for a 5 hour flight entertainment not working seats with little room for knees when person in front of me reclined kept bumping my knees.

I don't think anyone actually reads these comments, so I won't spend much time on this submission. If you want to talk, you know how to reach me. The D/FW manager of Avianca (self-identified), Juan Calderon, insisted I buy an onward ticket from San Salvador even though I have diplomatic status in El Salvador and live here. It cost me $1,393 and Mr Calderon would not let me make the ticked flexible so I could get a refund. He went out of his way to be rude to me. He gave me seat 32K -- windowless window seat in the last row and did not offer to let me upgrade even though there were plenty of seats. I have flown well over a million miles in my life and this is the worst experience I have ever had. I would like a refund on the ticket I was forced to buy. Just awful!

This is the Spirit of Latino travel. And don’t even get me started on customer service.

Awful. I checked in online and there was no option to pay for baggage, at the airport when I checked in my baggage was received and Iwas not charged. When I got to LA during the boarding process I was told I didn't pay for baggage, the crew resolved I was let in the plane. When I got to my final destination my baggage was not there. It took me two days to receive my baggage. Bad service ever!

There was no food or drink service, couldn’t even get a glass of water for free. It was a long and expensive flight to not offer food or beverage on the plane.

Great flight. The captain did a great job of minimizing some minor turbulence and in general it was a smooth flight. Early departure and early arrival at destination. Great service.

It was the worst experience ever. Cabin temperature cold, for which they did not have any blankets upon my asking. We paid $125 extra for each passenger to get extra space sits; the sits were ridiculously small, tight, and uncomfortable! The flight attendant dropped ice on me and my sister! All in all, American Airlines deserves below zero!

Our flight left on time and we arrived a few minutes early. Great service!

It was the coldest flight I have ever been on

My morning PHX to NY flight was canceled. Not a cloud in the sky. No wind. No weather across the country. My guess is they canceled the flight because they didn’t have enough people or a mechanical issue. Either way really bad. I checked it at midnight and the 830a flight was on time so I was very surprised when I woke up to see the flight canceled and I’ve been rebooked on a flight… An hour earlier than my originally scheduled one. Of course I missed this earlier flight because AA texted at 4 AM when I was sleeping. I was re routed to Miami, boarded a plane, sat in the heat for 40 minutes, then boarded because of mechanical issues and had to wait another hour before finally getting to New York Ironically, the 430 Phoenix to New York flight landed at the same time I did… I could’ve been sitting at the pool all day vs jumping through hoops. never ever will I again fly American Airlines. No offer of a free drink, maybe a few points on my advantage account nothing… As if nothing happened and they did not inconvenienced me at all. I’m so sick of the dumb crackers that they give us on these flights. It’s really like a budget Airlines these days. A far fall for s once mighty company.

I got food poisoning - lasted 4 days after starting medications - someone should check with food delivery.

I like the speed of boarding and deplaning and the fact that everything was on time. The crew (attendants) were probably quite new and did not begin the in cabin service until 30 min before landing even though there was little to no air turbulence for the last 1.5 hours of the flight. It made for a mad scramble at the end to get trash collected and carts stowed before touch down.

Our 9:10 am scheduled flight continued to get delayed all day with no information given from the agents as to why. It wasn’t until I went to the customer service desk and got us switched to another flight at 2:44 pm (that wasn’t nonstop like our booked flight) that the agent finally was able to find out it was due to a fuel leak. I don’t know if our original flight ever took off but I don’t find it acceptable to leave people sitting in an airport all day with no explanation.

Horrible airline! They always got something messed up with their planes. 3 hour delayed made us missed both out flights. Had to wake up early in the morning next morning to get another flight!

If there was enough room for me to bring my carry on luggage with me on the flight.

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Ellie's Travel Tips

20 Cheapest Destinations in South America

I’ve asked the travel experts, and they have reported back with the top 20 cheapest destinations in South America for you to travel on a budget!

From the ice-capped mountains in Patagonia to the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia, I have collected the top cheapest places to travel to in South America.

So grab your free travel planner , equipped with budgeting guides and itinerary worksheets, and get ready to explore the most affordable countries in South America, featuring some of the best vacation spots on the entire continent!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here .

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The cheapest destinations in South America, especially in Argentina, are hard to come by. While Argentina is often said to be one of the most expensive destinations in South America, there are plenty of affordable accommodations and activities in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia for you to enjoy and explore!

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires vacation

Recommended by Brittany from  Family on Standby

Those looking for a mixture of culture, vibrance, and one of the cheapest destinations in South America, will find it in Buenos Aires. Some people call it the “ Paris of South America ” – just without the prices.

When planning your time here, I’d recommend starting with a walk through Recoleta Cemetery . If it seems odd to be spending your time in a cemetery, stick with it. Recoleta Cemetery is one of the most memorable cultural experiences you can have in Argentina.It’s also free.For the lively, colorful side of Buenos Aires, check out La Boca , a perfect spot for any Buenos Aires family vacation . There are plenty of shops, street food, and even some tango dancing along the cobblestone. Caminito Street is home to all the famous, colorful buildings you’ve likely seen in pictures.When it comes to food, you’ll have plenty of options. San Telmo Market will let you taste a variety of Argentinian foods in a short amount of time. Grab some empanadas for lunch at a bakery while strolling around the city. And for dinner, the traditional Parilla is a must. If you’re a meat-lover, you have to experience the classic Argentinian steak. Parilla Peña is authentic and will set you back $10-15/pp USD – for A LOT of food.And when you’re deciding where to rest your head, consider an Airbnb. There are plenty of apartments in the trendy Palermo area starting at just $53/night USD– with some offering access to a rooftop pool. And if you want to go the more traditional route, try out the more affordable hotels in the area.

Where to stay in Buenos Aires: Past guests at the Unique Executive Central (from $38 a night) rave about the excellent service and proximity to all the activities in downtown Buenos Aires. Another great spot with a luxurious atmosphere is located a mere 1,800 feet from the city center is the Huinid Obelisco Hotel (from $59 a night).

Ushuaia cheapest destinations in South America

Recommended by Ellie

Frequently referred to as the “ End of the World “, Ushuaia sits on the southernmost point of South America. This remote destination in Argentina is surrounded by the picturesque Martial Mountains , allowing this small city to offer plenty of free, outdoor activities.

As one of the cheapest destinations in South America, you will get to explore some once-in-a-lifetime attractions for a low cost. Head over to the Parque Nacional del Fuego and the Beagle Channel to fully understand the scope of Ushuaia’s natural beauty. The city, on its own, is a thriving South American cruise port, offering stunning streets lined with colorful restaurants, houses, bars, and accommodation options.

Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia is another affordable attraction known as the “prison at the End of the World”. This Argentina National Historic Monument was once a correctional facility, however, it was converted to a landmark in 1947.

The best way to enjoy Argentina on a budget is to book your South American trip for cheap. You can find plenty of hostels overlooking the breathtaking, snowcapped mountains and chilled waters of the Beagle Channel. For more amazing activities, head out to the nearby attractions of the Falkland Islands or Martillo Islands where you can explore the world-renowned South American wildlife.

While it can be easy for your travel costs to rack up quickly when visiting Ushuaia, you will find plenty of low-cost restaurant  options and more affordable excursions in the city once you arrive. 

Where to stay in Ushuaia: One of the highest rated accommodations in Ushuaia is a one-bedroom apartment offering amazing birds-eye views of the city below. Check out LiveUshuaia (from $92 a night) to enjoy a massive and luxurious suite during your stay. For a slightly more rustic vibe, check out Hotel Tierra del Fuego, located only 1,000 feet from the city center.

Bolivia vacation

Bolivia, as South America’s cheapest country, offers plenty of opportunities to stick to a strict budget. With bargains around every corner, you will fall in love with the cheapest destinations in South America found within Bolivia’s borders. The cheapest cities in Bolivia according to travel experts are Cochabamba and Uyuni. Stick around to learn about the cheapest things to do in Bolivia as one of the cheapest destinations in South America!

Cochabamba vacation destinations in South America

Recommended by Cecilie from  Worldwide Walkers

Cochabamba is one of Bolivia’s cheapest cities to visit. It’s known as an off the beaten track, it’s beautiful, and it’s cheap. Cochabamba is one of South America’s most interesting and affordable big cities where you can expect to pay between 20-35 US dollars per day .

Cochabamba is placed in a valley surrounded by the mountains in Tunari National Park . It’s one of Bolivia’s largest cities, yet it doesn’t feel crowded. In fact, you rarely see any other tourists in Cochabamba, which makes it the perfect place to really experience Bolivian culture.

There are many  things to do in Cochabamba , such as visiting the city square, exploring Saint Sebastian Cathedral, or hiking in Tunari National Park. 

However, the most popular cheap thing to do is to take the cable car to the top of San Pedro Hill and see Cristo de la Concordia — the second largest Jesus Christ statue in the world. From the hilltop, you get an amazing 360-degree view over the orange rooftops in Cochabamba valley and the surrounding mountains.

Cochabamba also has many great restaurants. It’s an amazing place to discover the local cheap Bolivian cuisine or soothe your cravings through the city’s international food such as Italian pizza or Mexican tacos.

Cochabamba is known as the “ City of Eternal Spring ” because of its comfortable spring-like climate and its high altitude of 2500 meters. This means that Cochabamba is the perfect vacation spot as one of the cheapest destinations in South America to visit all-year-round. Further, there is very little to no risk of experiencing altitude sickness here compared to other cities in Bolivia.

Where to stay in Cochabamba: If you are looking for a hotel that matches the amazing Bolivian atmosphere, check out Hotel Boutique Casamagna (from $53 a night). Another great option for those looking to cut costs is Residencial Velie & Victoria (from $26 a night) where you can relax in a double room featuring a shared bathroom.

Uyuni vacation spots in South America

Recommended by Kamila from  My Wanderlust

Uyuni, probably the most popular destination in Bolivia, lives up to its hype. The town itself is pleasant, with thousands of travelers arriving each year to enter the best getaway to the mind-blowing Salar de Uyuni – the largest salt flat in the world .

Prices in Uyuni are rather affordable (especially if you compare them to other destinations in South America)– you can find fine accommodation for around $20 or eat out for under $10. The biggest expense is the Salar de Uyuni tour  and since it’s basically impossible to go to the salt flats independently, you need to accept the price. But the tour is worth every penny as Salar de Uyuni is one of the most incredible places you will ever see.

There are a few options available, from a day tour to multiday ones (those sometimes finish in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile) and the price varies depending on what you choose. You can expect to pay at least $70 for a day trip , during which you will see a few amazing places, most notably the salt flats. 

You will also visit the so-called trains’ graveyard featuring rusty locomotives from the beginning of the 20th century where you can take plenty of funny pictures! There is also a meal provided during this day trip.

Visiting Uyuni’s salt flats is by far one of the most memorable experiences in one of the cheapest destinations in South America.

Where to stay in Uyuni: Hotel Boutique Atipax (from $69 a night) is where you want to be if you are looking for a more luxurious accommodation option to prepare for your day trips to the neighboring salt flats. Another great option is Le Ciel d’Uyuni (from $28 a night) if you are looking to save more money! Here you will enjoy a double room with a shared bathroom.

Brazil vacation destinations in South America

As a whole, Brazil is one of the most affordable destinations in South America. This budget-friendly country offers numerous cities that boast affordable accommodations and cheap/free activities for everyone to enjoy! Stick around to learn about the top cities in Brazil to visit on a budget– Paraty , Sao Luis , and Santos .

Paraty best vacation spots for couples

Recommended by Margarita from  The Wildlife Diaries

While Brazil may not be the cheapest country on the continent, a couple of places in the country can be some of the cheapest destinations in South America. The cost of exploring a destination often depends on the kind of activities available to you. 

Paraty, a popular coastal holiday spot between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, can be easily explored without breaking the budget. This is because the main attraction in Paraty is the historic town center , only explorable on foot. 

You can spend hours and even days wandering the cobbled streets of the exceptionally well-preserved colonial town center that dates back to the late 17th – 19th centuries when it was a major seaport during the Brazilian Gold Rush . 

One of the most unusual things about Paraty’s historic center is that on the night of the full moon, its streets get flooded at high tide, turning the picturesque town into Brazil’s answer to Venice. Back in the day, special openings were deliberately built into the seawalls that separate the city from the ocean, to allow the tide to come in and remove all the rubbish from the city streets as it retreated. 

There are, of course, plenty of things to do in Paraty apart from exploring its historic center. You can take a cruise to the stunning Saco do Mamangua – the only tropical fjord on the Brazilian coastline, hike to the secluded Sono beach , or take a kayaking adventure to the tranquil islands and secluded beaches of Paraty Bay . 

Where to stay in Paraty: Selina Paraty (from $54 a night) offers a remarkable bohemian vibe with a relaxing outdoor pool and comfortable suites. Another great spot is located in the Paraty Historic Center at Pousada Aconchego (from $58 a night).

Sao Luis affordable vacation spots

Recommended by Katalin from Our Life Our Travel

Sao Luis de Maranhao is one of the many cheapest destinations in South America, located in the Maranhao State of Brazil on an Island next to the country’s Atlantic coast. The city itself is worth a visit due to the rich colonial history and unique buildings. Furthermore, it is a getaway to nearby Lencois Maranhenses National Park with its magnificent dunes.

One of the best things to do in Sao Luis is to visit the historical center . Its rich historical buildings that were preserved and renewed also belong in the list of World Heritage Sites. While you walk across the cobblestoned streets, the colorful facades decorated with so-called azulejos will give perfect photo opportunities. 

Some of the most memorable buildings are the Maranhao House Museum , the Palácio dos Leões , and Casa do Tambor de Crioula , but the Historical and Art Museum is also a good option. You can easily spend a day in the center strolling around and visiting some of the museums. The entrance fees are affordable. 

Another free program is to walk to the end of the pier Espigão da Ponta d’Areia , in the Sao Francisco district, north of the center. After a long day of sightseeing, you can visit one of the beaches.

Where to stay in Sao Luis: One of the most affordable hotels in Sao Luis is Soft Win Hotel Sao Luis (from $23 a night). This hotel is around 3 miles from the city center and has excellent customer service. Another option for those looking to stay beachfront is the Brisamar Hotel & SPA Sao Luis  (from $60 a night). This luxurious beachfront accomodation is also only 3 miles from the city center.

Santos vacation cheap vacation spots

Recommended by Paula from  Paula Pins the Planet

If you are planning a visit to Brazil , you need to add Santos to your itinerary. Santos is a beautiful beach town , a little less than 2 hours driving from the busy and expensive city of Sao Paulo. In Santos, you can enjoy the ocean breeze, go for a swim, or try some fresh fruit juice and local food in one of the beach bars, while you tan and enjoy the awe-inspiring views. 

Santos is one of the oldest cities in Brazil with plenty of cheap or even free activities to explore as one of the cheapest destinations in South America. Start with a visit to the beautiful historic city center , then head to the largest port in Latin America for a nice walk and exploration. 

One of the highlights in Santos is the largest beach garden in the world , earning a spot in the Book of Records with 5,335 meters long, full of flowers and 1,700 trees.

Some of the must-visit places in Santos are the Municipal Aquarium , the Porto Museum , and the Official Coffee Exchange ; gathering in an imposing building, with panels and stained-glass windows by Benedito Calixto, cafeteria, and museum.

Another must-see spot in Santos is the Pelé Museum , featuring a four-story building that tells the history of the famous Brazilian, and of course, the story of the world soccer legend.

Where to stay in Santos: A great, luxurious option in Santos is the Sheraton Santos Hotel (from $64 a night) which features an indoor pool and is steps away from the beach. Another affordable hotel is IBIS Budget Santos Gonzaga (from $32 a night) located in downtown Santos, also fairly close to the beach.

Chile vacation destinations in South America

Chile, as one of the most narrow destinations in South America, offers various affordable vacation spots perfect for all travelers. From the historic heights of the Andes to the snow-capped volcanoes in Patagonia, you will be able to explore this world-class South American country on a budget. Stick around to learn about the cheapest destinations in Chile;  Chiloe Island , San Pedro de Atacama , and  Valparai so .

Chiloe Island

Chiloe Island Patagonia

Recommended by Joanna from  the World in my Pocket

Chiloe Island is one of those places where it feels as if time stood still. Located n orth of Patagonia , the easiest way to get to Chiloe Island is by bus and ferry from Puerto Montt, on mainland Chile.

Chiloe is an island where the local myths and legends are still alive, and people live their lives believing in them. Some of the mythological characters are depicted in statues around the main cities in Chiloe, such as Ancud or Castro .

Chiloe Island is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, with affordable accommodation in hostels and B&Bs in Andud and Castro. One fantastic place to visit in Chiloe Island is the Chiloe Island National Park , located just south of the island. There are miles of trails going through the jungle, leading right to the Pacific Ocean. You can even spend a night or two here at the on-site campsite only reachable by foot.

Another great thing to do in Chiloe Island is to visit the unique churches made by wood , earning a spot on the UNESCO Heritage list. These remarkable landmarks are found all over the island and are accessible by the area’s cheap public transportation services.

When you visit Chiloe Island, don’t forget to stop at a bakery and eat a kuchen – the traditional cake brought on the island by the German immigrants. It’s interesting how over the years it has become the traditional cake of Chiloe.

It feels that time in Chiloe passes slower, allowing people to connect without any distractions such as the internet. So when you are here, try to make friends with the locals and who knows, you might get invited to a curanto chilote , a traditional supper where the food is cooked underneath the ground.

Where to stay in Chiloe Island:  There is no shortage of unique and budget-friendly accommodations in Chiloe Island. Check out Cabanas Kompatzki (from $55 a night) to enjoy a one-bedroom apartment offering amazing amenities like a sauna, water spots, and free bikes. Another, more affordable spot in Chiloe is Hostal Plaza Chiloe (from $31 a night), boasting the best reviews in all of Chiloe Island.

San Pedro de Atacama

cheap vacation spots Chile

Recommended by Maria from   A World of Destinations

San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the world’s driest desert , the Atacama Desert. Located in the north of Chile at an altitude of 2.400 m above sea level, your body might need a day to adjust to the lack of oxygen in the air. While Chile is one of the comparatively expensive countries of South America, there is a way of visiting San Pedro de Atacama on a low budget. 

What will help you stick to your budget is renting a bik e to explore. This way, you’ll have the chance to fully immerse in the nature around you and you can go at your pace. Depending on your level of fitness, you can bike to different places such as Valle de la Muerte . Just ask at the bike rental agency to see what fits you best.

The Atacama Desert is one of the best places for stargazing in the world and the starry night sky is absolutely breathtaking. So definitely don’t miss out on doing a stargazing tour . The best way to get a good price for tours is by walking around town and comparing the prices of different agencies. 

They usually give you a discount if you ask for it, especially if you book several tours with the same agency or if you’re a group of people. When trying to find a budget-friendly place to eat , leave the main road and explore the side streets, that’s where you’ll find the best deals.

San Pedro de Atacama is home to Mars-like landscapes that make you feel like you’re on a different planet. It’s definitely worth visiting on a trip to Chile.

Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama: An affordable option located only 2,800 feet from the city center is Hotel Casa Algarrobo (from $53 a night). This hotel features a beautiful outdoor pool to escape the heat of the day. An even cheaper spot is Hostal Sumaj Jallpa (from $44 a night), a hostel offering double rooms with shared bathrooms.

Valparaiso cheap traveling places Chile

Recommended by Roxanne from Faraway Worlds

One of the coolest towns in Chile, the port city of Valparaiso is a quirky and affordable destination for travelers who want to add a bit of color and vibrancy to their trip.

Situated on hills overlooking the coast, colorful buil dings are dotted along the steep hillside, with narrow streets twisting and turning up to them. As you walk up the hill, the walls are covered in street art of varying styles and types, giving a fun, Bohemian feel to the town. 

As a result, one of the best things to do in Valparaiso is the most affordable – simply wandering through the city, admiring the wide range of murals all around the town. For many visitors, the street art in Valparaiso  is the highlight of their trip.

When you’ve had your fill of walking through the steep streets, take the old funicular down the hill . Costing just cents, this trip gives you amazing views of the surrounding hills. Then head down to the port to catch a glimpse of the sea. 

Food is cheaper in this part of town, and walking around here can give you some insight into everyday life. If you’re here in summer and want a taste of a beach holiday, it’s a quick and cheap train ride to the resort town of Vina del Mar , with beautiful views all the way. 

Where to stay in Valparaiso:  One of the best places to stay in this Chilean city is Ibis Valparaiso (from $56 a night). This hotel is located only 650 feet from the city’s pier and is known for its tranquil environment. An even more budget-friendly option is Maki Suites ex Hotel Da Vinci (from $22 a night) offering double rooms with private bathrooms.

Colombia vacation destinations in South America

With Colombia quickly becoming the highlight of many visits to South America, you could say it is the new hip vacation spot of South America. More and more people are choosing Colombia for their budget South America travel, with visits to three of the cheapest destinations in South America– Barichara , Bogota , and Medellin .

Barichara vacation spots in South America

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Barichara , a small colonial town about 8 hours northeast of Bogota, is a true hidden gem. The proximity to Chicamocha Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, makes it a great place for all extreme sports, such as canyoning, rafting, or paragliding. But this stunning town is also a place to relax and recharge while surrounded by stunning mountainous landscapes.

Barichara has luckily yet to be discovered by mainstream tourism and is the perfect destination for budget travelers who like to venture a bit further off the beaten path.

This cool, bohemian town has a good number of local art and craft galleries of local artists selling jewelry, craft, fashion, and accessories. You won’t find streets packed with touristy souvenir shops – instead everything feels just very authentic. There is also a good number of restaurants that are not expensive such as the organic and vegan Shambala .

If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, you can attend creative workshops, such as the a ll Female Artisanal Paper Making Workshop . You can also hike the Camino Real to the scenic mountain village of Guane where time seems to stand still.

 For more adventurous souls, Chicamocha Canyon is only about an hour away, perfect for any type of adrenaline-filled activity.

Where to stay in Barichara: For a comfortable stay in one of the city’s top hotels, check out Casa Betel Hotel Boutique (from $45 a night). Another, more budget-friendly option is Casona CHARA (from $28 a night), located around 2,000 feet from the city center.

Bogota vacation cheap

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Colombia is an overall very affordable country to visit – though definitely not the cheapest one in South America. Its capital, Bogota, used to be a no-go for most travelers: huge, known for being a rather dangerous place, it was best avoided. This has thankfully changed and if you decide to visit, you will be pleasantly surprised with a city that has a lot to offer – and at unbeatable prices.You won’t have shortages of  things to do in Bogota . Start your exploration with a walk around Candelaria , the city’s prettiest colonial district: it’s a maze of cobbled alleys and low rise colorful buildings. In La Candelaria you’ll also find Museo Botero , entirely dedicated to the work of Colombia’s most prominent artist – it’s free to visit! Not far from it, Plaza Bolivar is literally the heart of Bogota, and home to its Cathedral , the Capitol Building, and the City Hall . Another museum you may want to check out is the Museo del Oro – the Gold Museum: admission is just $1 USD!For breathtaking views of the city, head up to Cerro Montserrate . You can hike up there – but it’s best not to go by yourself. Alternatively, hop on the cable car which only costs $3.50 one way.Bogota is also a fantastic city for street art: you can easily find the best pieces on a walk around town, but there are also guided tours (some actually free) you can take for a more structured experience.  The best area for food is probably Zona Rosa , where you’ll find lots of restaurants, but it’s not the cheapest spot in Bogota. Street food is the way to go if you are on a budget: make sure to try arepas, delicious corn patties served plain or stuffed with melted cheese.

Where to stay in Bogota:  Bogota has some of the most affordable accommodation options in all of Colombia. Book your stay at Ibis Bogota Museo   (from $37 a night) to stay in downtown Bogota with amazing amenities. Another option is a little further out from the city at Hilton Garden Inn (from $63 a night) which offers a superb spa experience.

visit medellin for cheap

Recommended by Daniel from  Layer Culture

When looking for the best place to go out of the cheapest destinations in South America, it is difficult to ignore all that Colombia has to offer. Whether it be sunbathing on the Caribbean coast, whale watching on the Pacific, or exploring local gems in the coffee triangle , there are so many options. 

Medellin is a great place for a vacation because it offers the perfect medium when it comes to climate and fun activities. Noted as the second most important city in Colombia , Medellin caters to many types of travelers and serves as the perfect hub for those who want to explore other parts of the country. 

When looking at all the things to do in Medellin the first place you’ll want to head to is El Poblado . It is a tourist center and a place where you can find everything from Museums, coffee shops, and restaurants. From El Poblado, you can visit the  Botanical Gardens which are free to enter as well as the nearby Parque Explora and the Planetarium which all can provide you with an afternoon full of educational entertainment. 

While you are here, you can try some of the local food dishes such as the Bandeja Paisa which can be found on sale in most restaurants and eateries around the city. All in all, Medellin offers a great mix of things to do without breaking the bank as well as making it easy to connect to other parts of the country. 

Where to stay in Medellin: The top hotel in Medellin offered at an affordable price is Hotel Dann Carlton Belfort   (from $53 a night). This spectacular hotel offers a refreshing, panoramic pool for the ultimate celebrity treatment. Another great spot in Medellin is Hotel Porton (from $47 a night), with beautiful staterooms featuring warm colors and wooden furniture.

Ecuador vacation destinations in South America

Nestled quietly between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador is often overlooked as one of the cheapest destinations in South America. While the main attraction of the Galapagos Islands may not be within your budget, traveling and backpacking around the other cheap cities in Ecuador will be just as amazing! Stick around to learn about two of the most affordable spots in South America, Cuenca and Quito .

Cuenca vacation destinations in South America

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The charming colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador is one of the cheapest destinations in South America to visit. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca is brimming with quaint, cobbled streets, brightly colored colonial buildings, delicious, fresh fruits, and friendly locals.  

There are so many things to do in Cuenca , you’ll never be at a loss.  Among the most popular things to do include visiting Pumapungo Museum to see the shrunken heads, exploring the Old Town , visiting the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception with its iconic blue domes, or simply relaxing in picturesque Parque Calderon .  

For breakfast, head to Cafe Fractal for a hearty meal for less than $4!  Fresh fruit, eggs, pan del dia, juice, coffee, and cheese will give you plenty of energy for the day. For lunch or dinner, try the ceviche at Raymipampa .

If you’re looking for an exciting day trip from Cuenca, head to Cajas National Park , where you can get up close and personal with wild alpacas and horses. The park is free to visit, but it’s helpful to have a guide to not get lost.

Cuenca is a relatively safe city and has a large expat community, making new friendships frequent and easy to come by. There are many hostels available, but oftentimes it’s just as affordable to rent an Airbnb while staying in Cuenca– one of the cheapest destinations in South America.

Where to stay in Cuenca: One of the top places to stay in Cuenca is also very affordable. Oro Verde Cuenca (from $60 a night) features a refreshing pool, a fitness center, and free WiFi– what more could you need? Another great option in Cuenca is Del Parque Hotel & Suites (from $27 a night). This hotel boasts classic colonial-style decorations and furnishings that will truly bring you back in time.

quito ecuador vacation cheap

Recommended by Carley from  Home to Havana

Many visitors head to Ecuador as one of the cheapest destinations in South America and a starting point for a tour of the Galapagos, but miss out on all the gems mainland Ecuador has to offer. Ecuador’s capital city of Quito has the largest and best-preserved historical center in South America but boasts more than just historic architecture – wedged between mountains and dormant volcanoes, this city has an incredible view around every corner.

There are plenty of things to do  off the beaten path in Quito that are inexpensive or completely free. Make sure to check out Parque Itchimbia in the late morning or early afternoon for an incredible panoramic view over the city.  

Take in the view over the city from another angle by climbing to the top of the Basilica del Voto Nacional – make sure you continue all the way up to the spire for a view of the bell towers framing the city below!

If you’re looking for a budget accommodation at one of the cheapest destinations in South America, Secret Garden is a popular spot and has a similarly incredible view from its rooftop bar and restaurant, which attracts even those that aren’t guests for a sunset drink overlooking the city. Nearby, the local market “ Mercado Central ” is a fantastic place to try all the favorite local dishes like encebollado, hornado, and llapingachos on a budget. 

Where to stay in Quito: A great and cheap spot located only a couple miles from Quito’s city center is Air Suites Hotel Boutique (from $42 a night). This hotel is located only feet from the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium and features a restaurant and bar within the property. Another affordable hotel in Quito is Hotel David (from $20 a night), located in Alameda Park.

Peru vacation destinations in South America

For anyone looking for the cheapest destinations in South America, Peru is the country for you! Peru can be a very inexpensive country if you focus on Peru’s cheaper cities of Lima , Colca Canyon , and Cusco . With plenty of affordable accommodation options and cheap activities in Peru, why not visit one of these cheap cities in South America?

Lima vacations South America

Recommended by Victoria from  Guide Your Travel

Lima is a cheap vacation spot in South America for those who value affordability and a lot of value for money. The city is known for its incredible cuisine, but you don’t need to break the bank to experience all that Lima has to offer.

A great way to get around Lima on a budget is to take the metro . This is a lot cheaper than taxis and will help you save money on your trip. Lima has two major free museums, the Palacio de Gobierno and the Museo de Congreso y la Inquisicion . Coming here is the perfect afternoon activity, especially if the weather is not the best.

The city’s beaches are also a great place to visit if you’re seeing Lima on a budget. Relax in the sun or explore the nearby neighborhoods.

Another great free activity in Lima to add to your itinerary is the walk along the Malecón . This breathtaking along the cliffs is the perfect way to see the city from another perspective and enjoy the amazing views.Lima offers world-class dining options for all budgets. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a meal, stick to little restaurants on street corners where you’ll find diverse menu options and delicious local foods . You can find  a meal for as little as 3$ , which is the perfect way to save money in the city without sacrificing quality. You’ll love Lima and its incredible scenery.

Where to stay in Lima: A great and affordable place to stay in Lima is Hotel Boulevard (from $39 a night). Located a 10-minute walk from Parque Kennedy, this cheap accommodation is located near all the best attractions! Another cheap hotel is Faraona Grand Hotel (from $39 a night) which offers a luxurious experience complete with remodeled rooms, live piano music, and flat-screen TVs.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon South America vacation

Recommended by Ellis from  Backpack Adventures

The Colca Canyon in Peru is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, located around the city of Arequipa . While most people will travel to this region on an organized trip, it is very well possible to go on your own. If arranged in Arequipa, tours to the Colca Canyon aren’t that expensive, but it’s easy to create your own adventure. That makes the Colca Canyon one of the cheapest destinations in South America.

The Colca Canyon has lots to offer to independent budget travelers . It is one of the world’s deepest river canyons and the landscapes are spectacular. Hiking the Colca Canyon is one of the best free activities. In 2 or 3 days you can hike down to the bottom of the valley, stay in friendly homestays , and hike up again. It’s a challenging hike with steep climbs up and down, but the path is easy to follow, and there is no need for a guide. 

The Colca Canyon is also famous for being one of the best places to see the Andean Condor , the largest bird in the world. You can see them flying through the canyon and at the popular condor viewpoint almost right next to you. Seeing the condors in action is of course absolutely free. 

The Colca Canyon is also home to several traditional villages where the local indigenous population is often seen in their colorful clothes. One can spend days in the area exploring the different towns. Most of them are connected with public transportation.

Going on your own is not only an affordable way to see the Colca Canyon, but it will also be more authentic as you can go to those places that are not visited by the tour buses. You might need some more time and planning, but you will be rewarded with spectacular sceneries and immersive cultural experiences.   

Where to stay in Colca Canyon: By far the best place to stay in Colca Canyon is La Casa de Anita (from $41 a night). Guests are offered amazing amenities including an on-site restaurant, free WiFi, and flat-screen TVs. Another great spot is Andes Colca Hostal (from $28 a night) for those looking to save a little more on their vacation.

Cusco vacations in South America

Recommended by Megan from  Packing Up the Pieces

Peru is one of South America’s most affordable destinations, and the Imperial City of Cusco is no exception. While most people use the city as the gateway to Machu Picchu , there are so many affordable and free things to do within the lovely city limits.

Cusco sits at an elevation of 11,152 feet, and most visitors choose to take it easy and adjust to the altitude for few days. While acclimating, stroll through the hip neighborhood of San Blas , and appreciate one of the city’s beautiful plazas. Visit a fascinating museum like Qorikancha or the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art , both are well worth the $4 entrance fee.

To score an authentic and local meal, head to the San Pedro Market . Order a hearty 2-course lunch menu from one of the food stalls, many of these meals are less than $1.50. Don’t be afraid of the street food, many locals sell goodies like tamales, fresh fruit, or choclo con queso (corn with cheese)  for just 25¢.

Cusco has hidden Inca ruins that are scattered among the hillsides. Many of these sites are free, like I nkilltambo , which rarely sees tourists. There are also free and stellar day hikes nearby, like Cerro Picol , Cusco’s tallest peak that towers over the city at 14,500 feet.

Cusco is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, filled with cobblestone streets, colorful people, and unbelievable remnants of the mysterious and powerful Inca dynasty . Dig deep into the city and integrate as a local to truly find that Cusco is not only of the most affordable South American cities, but one that will steal your heart.

Where to stay in Cusco: It really isn’t difficult to visit Cusco on a budget. Casa Real Hoteles (from $18 a night) offers comfortable accommodation at an amazing price, located right in Cusco City Center. For those looking to add a little luxury to their stay, check out Novotel Cusco (from $65 a night) located in a historic, 16th-century building 3 blocks away from Plaza de Armas.

Ecuador vacation destinations in South America

While many would say Uruguay is the most expensive country in South America, but I would say, they just don’t know where to go! Uruguay can be one of the cheapest destinations in South America if you head into the cheaper cities of Uruguay. Make sure to visit Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo , two of the most affordable spots in Uruguay to travel to, as soon as you can!

Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento vacation how to save money traveling

Recommended by Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler

One of the cheapest destinations in South America is the historic town of Colonia del Sacramento, a hidden gem in Uruguay. Often overlooked for the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this colonial town was found ed by the P ortuguese in 1680 . 

You can easily visit Colonia del Sacramento as a day trip from Buenos Aires . Since it’s closer than Montevideo, you’ll save money on transportation – and have more time to explore! Once you’ve arrived, it’s time to get lost in narrow cobblestone streets, vibrant colorful buildings, and old ruins scattered throughout. 

The best, and in my opinion, most beautiful, thing to do in Colonia del Sacramento is walk through Barrio Historico (Old Town). The cobblestone streets are original from when the town was built during the late 1600s. La Calle de los Suspiros is the most famous street in the town due to the vibrant buildings painted red. 

The El Faro Lighthouse stands tall in the historic part of the city. It’s free to explore nearby and only $2 to go to the top. The base of the lighthouse was built in the 19th century over the old ruins, making it look a little different than traditional lighthouses.

Have your meal at one of the quaint, locally owned businesses at the Plaza de Armas located in the center of the city. Don’t miss the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento while in the plaza – it’s the oldest church in Uruguay! The charming personality of Colonia del Sacramento makes it one of the best cheapest destinations in South America.

Where to stay in Colonia del Sacramento: The hotel that stands out in Colonia del Sacramento, Real Colonia Hotel & Suites (from $64 a night), is extremely affordable and is nestled close to a beach. Another great option offering bright and spacious rooms is Posada El Viajero (from $48 a night).

Montevideo Uruguay cheap traveling places South America

While the entire country of Uruguay has a reputation for being expensive, Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, offers plenty of ways to save money as one of the cheapest destinations in South America.

Thankfully, this trendy South American city offers its complete collection of fascinating museums for free ! With more than 50 museums, you could easily spend most of your South America vacation exploring the deep history of Uruguay. 

From immersing yourself in the cowboy culture at Museo del Gaucho to discovering some of the world’s most beautiful artifacts at the Intendencia’s Museo de la Historia del Arte , you will truly uncover some of Montevideo’s best-kept secrets.

Later, seek out a birds-eye-view of Montevideo from one of the colorful Art Deco roofs. A popular spot for this experience is Palacio Salvo on Plaza Independencia , where you will enjoy a free elevator ride to the top of the building.

As one of the cheapest destinations in South America, Uruguay is home to delicious and affordable food. For some massive portions of asado (beef), check out La Pulperia – a highly praised local eatery by the locals.

If you are looking for a hip nightlife experience, book your stay at El Viajero , nestled in Montevideo’s Centro Barrio. A bunk here will only run you around $16 a night, perfect to enjoy during your adventure in one of the cheapest destinations in South America!

Where to stay in Montevideo: The Dazzler by Wyndham (from $62 a night) truly lives up to its name. This beautiful hotel features a fitness center, spa, and a refreshing outdoor pool. Another fantastic accommodation is the Palladium Business Hotel (from $39 a night) located near the new Zona Franca offering a panoramic rooftop terrace complete with a swimming pool.

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It is my dream to go to South America and explore. This post is so inspirational, I love all the colourful places and I have always wanted to go to Bolivia. I didn’t know that it was the cheapest country in South America and I will be heading straight there!

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Thanks for sharing all of those great and cheap destinations! All of them looks stunning! I wish I can explore South America soon!

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There are so many places still to see in South America! Your article makes me want to go back….

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So many amazing places to visit in this post – I’m yet to make it to South America so there’s some awesome ideas here for my first trip!

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This is such an amazing guide! I’ve only been to Peru, but it is my goal to see more of South America within the next few years. Argentina and Chile are at the top of the list. 🙂

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Such a great post with some fascinating destinations. Uyuni salt lands are so beautiful. Haven’t been to South America yet, but adding it now.

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This was an incredibly informative post! I’ve never been anywhere in South America but hopefully will get a chance to when we can travel safely again. Your photos all look beautiful!

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Love all these recommendations! There is still so much of South America I still need to see. I have been to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay and love those places.

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THIS is such a useful collaboration post. I’ve been to Peru and Ecuador and found them both very reasonable. I’m looking forward to more South American travel to stretch my travel budget.

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Great list! I’ve only made it to Ecuador in South America so I’m hoping I can check off a few more of these destinations post – pandemic

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What a great list! I’ve never been to South America before but I’m very inspired to do so now.

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I love this collab so much — thanks for putting it together! I’m so excited to get back to traveling soon, and there are a lot of places on this list I still haven’t made it to. Thanks for sharing!

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I absolutely love this list. I am from Brazil, but I have to confess that I haven’t explored much in South America yet. There is so much to do, see and try, and even better, it is cheap.

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Home » South America » Backpacking Travel Guide

Backpacking South America Travel Guide (TRAVEL TIPS • 2024)

So, you want to know how to travel South America, eh? Well, you’re in the right place! 

Backpacking through South America is like learning to ride a bike without the training wheels. There is just the right amount of danger and curve balls to keep you alert, focused, and totally stoked on life.

With the exception of a handful of backpacker hotspots, South America is the wild west frontier of backpacking. This is the land of crazy parties, epic surfing, sprawling cities, and wild landscapes including the Andes and the Amazon jungle.

Above all else, South America is stunningly beautiful. Though challenging to navigate at times, it’s budget backpacker friendly, diverse, relatively safe, and one hell of a travel experience…

But South America is MASSIVE. Deciding where to go and how to travel South America is a mind-boggling task. That’s where I come in, amigos. This South America travel guide will provide you with EVERYTHING you need to know to prepare for your trip through South America.

Here’s the full low-down on how to backpack South America including routes, country profiles, tips and tricks for South America budget travel, and much more.f

Lace up your bootstraps and prepare to have your travel inspiration skyrocket. We’re going on an adventure!

Silhouette of a woman fishing in a river in front of a red-orange sunset

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Why Go Backpacking in South America?

The South American continent is one of my favourite places on earth. It was always a place that mystified me: the traveller group was generally older and more mature. So when I got invited (by a sexy South American), I jumped at the chance.

It’s a place where I learned the art of budget travel , fell in love countless times, and had a multitude of life-changing experiences along the way. If you want to get off the beaten track whilst still having the option to meet plenty of other travellers, South America is the place to level up your backpacking skills and head on a real adventure…

Laura looking out over green hills holding a mate

South America is one of the most diverse continents on earth. It is home to the world’s second-highest mountain range in the Andes, world-class surf beaches, the Amazon Basin, the world’s driest desert, huge plains of lush grassland, glaciers, and unique wildlife not found anywhere else on Earth…

Each country you visit whilst backpacking South America offers up the opportunity to experience the incredible natural and cultural forces unique to that region.

Backpacking South America is generally a cheap endeavour – although it’s not as cheap as Southeast Asia or India. There are some fairly expensive corners of South America that you should avoid if you’re travelling on a budget .

You will fall in love with South America (and maybe a person or two along the way). So let’s dive into some South America travel itineraries and backpacking routes for your trip.

Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking South America

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When making a South America backpacking itinerary, remember that travel distances are HUGE, internal flights expensive, and sometimes you want to stay somewhere longer than anticipated.

backpackers walking next to the train tracks towards Machu Pichu.

So choose your South America backpacking route carefully. Unlike other continents, how much time you have really matters; you simply can’t do all of it.

If you only have 2 or 3 weeks for travelling South America, forget about seeing the whole continent. I recommend sticking to one country and devoting your energy to exploring it properly. 

In one month, you could explore some countries closer to each other. You could visit Bolivia and Lake Titicaca in Peru for example. It’s good to have room for spontaneity in your South America travel itinerary too.

2 Week South America Travel Itinerary – The West Coast Appetizer

how to travel south america cheap

You’ll have to keep moving to make this itinerary happen in 2 weeks, but I believe in you!

Start your backpacking South America itinerary in Colombia by visiting Cartagena . After a few days, head to Santa Marta , the jump-off point for Minca – a charming mountain town – and Tayrona National Park.

Get a bit off the beaten path, and head east to Cabo de la Vela (where the desert meets the sea) and Punta Galinas , where you can feast on fresh seafood along the Caribbean coast. Doubling back to Cartagena , head to nearby Playa Blanca and Tolú (mangrove) before heading to Islas de San Bernardo (white-sanded islands).

Or you could start in Lima , Peru. Explore the city for a day or two before heading to the Nazca Lines , Arequipa , and Colca Canyon . 

Then head to Cusco in the Andes. Take a few days to get used to the altitude before setting off on a multi-day trek to Macchu Picchu.

Alternatively, start in Buenos Aires . Then you can head south to trek in Patagonia . In southern Argentina and Chile, you can do the world-famous Torres del Paine circuit . 2 weeks is cutting it fine but – if you hustle – you could pull it off.

In 2 weeks, you can get a good taste of Colombia, Ecuador , or Bolivia . Don’t miss out on the Salt Flats . 

1 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Starter

how to travel south america cheap

With 1 month, you can make an epic backpacking South America itinerary. If you want to explore more than one country in South America, you’re gonna need more than 3 weeks. 

For surf bums, you could easily spend a month heading beach to beach from Southern Peru all the way to Colombia , in 1 month. Or you could do 2 weeks in Argentina followed by 2 weeks of hiking in Chilean Patagonia . 

If it were me, larger countries like Argentina, Chile , and Brazil are better to explore with more than 1 month. You can do it but you will spend a long time on bus journeys, so I would just stick to one area. 

Southeast Brazil is a good choice for 1 month on a South America itinerary: travel from Rio de Janeiro all the way south to Florianópolis and hit up everything in between. Bear in mind that you’ll probably want to stay in Rio AND Floripa longer than you expect.

Highlights of this route include exploring the megapolis of São Paulo , idyllic getaways of Ilha Grande and Paraty , eco-friendly and laidback Curitiba , and the crazy nightclubs of Balneário Camboriú .

Or, you could fly into Ecuador and spend 3 weeks exploring here: stay at a great hostel in Guayaquil before heading to Montañita . In Montañita you can party and surf to your heart’s content. Head North towards Bahia de Caraquez and Canoa for surf towns that are more off the beaten path. 

Next head to the mountains, stopping first in Quito . There are some excellent treks in the Ecuadorian Andes .

If you have time, definitely hit up the Volcano Loop trail on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park . A trip to the jungle around Puyo is recommended as well. Then head for a week of trekking in Colombia .

3 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Great South America Main Course

how to travel south america cheap

3 months backpacking South America, eh? Hell yes!

I recommend flying into Lima, Peru unless you know you want to start in the north (Brazil or Colombia) or further south (Argentina or Chile). Explore Lima and the coast before heading to the Andes. There Machu Picchu awaits in all of its glory.

Definitely do a trek to the famous Inca city! (More on hiking in South America later). From here, you can either drop down on the other side of the Andes and explore the Amazon basin or you can head south to Bolivia and eventually Argentina and Patagonia .

Alternatively, you can slowly start making your way north via the Coast. You could spend a month (or more) in Ecuador, Colombia, or Brazil respectively.

Personally, I started off in Buenos Aires then went north to Brazil and Colombia . The distances were truly massive. I’m talking 30-hour bus rides (on comfortable buses I must say). 

Travelling in South America is never a quick affair, so plan your itinerary accordingly.

6 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Full 3-Course Latin America

how to travel south america cheap

Life has brought you to the fortunate crossroads of having 6 months to travel South America? Good on you! 

With a 6-month backpacking South America itinerary, you have the luxury of really being able to take your damn time. To see multiple countries, it’s a practical choice to begin your journey either in the north or the south to avoid backtracking.

With a 6 month itinerary, you can explore many South American countries in depth. I’ll be honest with you, the itinerary shown on the map is really fucking ambitious. But hopefully, it gives you an idea of what crossing this vast continent would look like.

Starting your journey in Rio de Janerio or São Paulo might be a bit of a rough landing, though you will be a primed bad-ass by the time it comes to move on to another country. Other options are starting with some days in Buenos Aires , in Argentina, and Chile, in the south.

You could be surfing it up on the coast of Ecuador one day, and be in the mountains of Peru several days (and many bus rides) later. I advise taking a chunk of your time to really explore and get off the beaten path in top destinations like Brazil , Colombia , and Bolivia .

Having 6 months or more to go backpacking truly means you have a total blank slate to work with. So get ready to write your own beautiful backpacking destiny!

Each country in South America has something unique and profoundly exciting for backpackers. But they also have some common themes: they are Spanish speaking (minus Portuguese in Brazil), they have stunning natural beauty, and some of the nicest people you will meet whilst travelling. So finding the best places to backpack in South America has a lot to do with your own interests.

Woman sat by the river in South America with her flip flops off

Maybe you’ll explore the epic snow-capped peaks of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. Party with beautiful people at the Carnival in Brazil. 

Trek to the Lost City in Colombia. Experience the sun-drenched deserts of Bolivia and the colourful Rainbow Mountains of Peru.

Backpacking through South America truly is a life-changing journey through one of the planet’s most fascinating landmasses. When you visit South America, you can be sure that it will be some of the most fun you will have in your life.

Group of travellers looking the view of mountains and lakes in Neuquen, Argentina.

South America is a vast continent on the move. The number of people travelling to South America is increasing every year. Whilst the cost of living in South America remains quite low, each country requires a different budget for travellers.

Once you begin to discover a few of the South American countries, you will be entranced by the jaw-dropping landscapes, fascinating history, vibrant culture, and awesome food.

Let’s take a look at the countries that make backpacking in South America so damn special.

Backpacking Brazil

Brazil is, hands down, one of South America’s most dynamic countries. It’s all about the extremes. Whether it’s the parties, the people, or nature, the vibrations run through everything – and connect everyone.

Backpacking in Brazil offers up sick surf beaches, fun-loving locals, insane parties, and landscapes that would make even the most seasoned traveller say “no shit, mate, look at that!”

Of course, the Brazilian festival Carnival is legendary – and for good reason. Get your mind blown on the Brazilian side of  Iguaçu Falls , visit the Amazon , drink a Caipirinha on the beach! Plus Brazil’s home to big up-and-coming cities like Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, and Natale.

People walking, sitting and playing volleyball on a sunny day at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

And when I say ‘extreme’, I mean extreme : Brazil is absolutely MASSIVE and covers nearly half (47%) of South America’s landmass! That should give you an idea of how big it is.

But, more importantly, it gives you a better idea of how much diversity Brazil has on offer. In fact, there’s a lot going for Brazil that you may not be aware of.

For example, trekking probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about backpacking through Brazil. It’s a shame because Brazil has truly gorgeous trails spread throughout the country. It’s also home to Iguazu, one of the most incredible waterfalls on Earth.

The best hiking opportunities are usually found in Brazil’s national parks  (parques nacionais ). Brazil has over 70 national parks and – in terms of beauty – these can contend with any other on Earth.

What to Know Before Visiting Brazil

Surfers on the beach in Itacare, Brazil at sunset

  • Don’t miss out on… Florianopolis. The Brazilians favourite place to visit for a reason. It’s chilled, safe, and gorgeous. You plan to stay in Floripa for a week, it grabs you by the balls, and you get stuck for months.
  • Keep an eye out for… Travel distances. Don’t be fooled: they’re way longer than they seem on the map. Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B.
  • The coolest hostel is… Hostel do Morro . In one of my favourite destinations in Brazil, this hostel is a true nature immersion. In the “mato”, with sea view and monkeys visiting. A true good vibes place!
  • The best food is found in… Belo Horizonte. There is an amazing energy to this place; everyone hangs out on the streets, eating and drinking at plastic tables, all night long.

Backpacking Colombia

Whilst South America has many countries that I consider to have the full package , Colombia is the most complete. It’s a relatively small country. So considering the scale of epic surf, neverending parties, untouched jungle, happening cities, and towering mountains, Colombia is a reason for backpackers to keep travelling!

Cali, Cartagena, Bogotá , and Medellín are a few major cities in Colombia where you can really let loose. Go and have some extraordinary conversations with the locals about life in Latin America and not taking life too seriously.

Man looking over vista in Medellin, Colombia

Is Colombia safe ? Perhaps your mum would love to know. Hell yes, it is !

As much as Colombianos are ready for the disassociation with Pablo Escobar, it’s hard not to mention the impact that he made on the country and the South American continent as a whole. But his reign of terror is over.

Modern-day Colombia couldn’t be more different from the days when narco-traffickers ruled the country. Visiting Medellín now vs 20 years ago is a COMPLETELY different experience. The Medellín of today is a great experience.

Colombia is for adventure junkies and nature lovers too. The northern terminus of the Andes Mountains ends here and you can take your treks into the deep jungle in Colombia’s National Parks .

What to Know Before Visiting Colombia

Colombia street view in Medellin, comuna 13 neighbourhood

  • Don’t miss out on… Carnival in Barranquilla. Most of the time, this industrial town is overlooked by travellers. But for one week of the year, this place goes NUTS.
  • Keep an eye out for… how difficult the trek to Cuidad Perdida is. It’s long, treacherous, and hot as shit, but absolutely worth the effort in the end. The Lost City is one of the best places to visit in South America.
  • The coolest hostel is… Viajero Santa Marta Hostel . Great location and has lazy and peaceful vibes. Amazing rooftop and activities to connect and meet other travelers.
  • The best food is found in… the local restaurants. Look for the menu del dia to feel like you’ll never need to eat again.

Backpacking Ecuador

Ecuador might be small but it certainly packs a punch. I spent 3 months backpacking in Ecuador and could easily spend many more.

The diversity is incredible and it’s a great place to experience Andean Highland culture. The people who live in the Andes have a distinct and ancient culture rooted in mountain life. They even speak another language called Quechua . It’s a relatively safe country , and isn’t ruined by mass tourism.

In addition to staying in colonial cities like Quito , Ecuador’s natural landscape is the biggest draw. You can spend weeks or months exploring the coast before heading to the mountains and vice versa. Towering over the shore, volcanoes, waterfalls, and massive snow-capped mountains all make incredible trekking routes.

Surfing reigns supreme on the Ecuadorian coast. It attracts surfers from all over the globe. Even if you’re a beginner, it’s a great place to catch your first waves. Towns like  Montañita and Canoa are famous surf beaches and party hotspots.

Street with colorful colonial houses in Quito

If you have some extra cash in your budget, you can visit The Galápagos Islands . But be warned – this is not a cheap endeavour, especially for excursions like diving (though it is AWESOME). So prepare yourself to shell out some cash!

Then there is the Amazon Basin of Ecuador. The Amazon region is what helps make Ecuador one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. The Amazon is best explored by boat with a local guide and is bound to be the adventure of a lifetime!

What to Know Before Visiting Ecuador

Surf board and coconut at the beach in Ecuador coast.

  • Don’t miss out on… exploring the highlands and Cotopaxi National Park. Easily accessed from Quito and totally epic.
  • You know what’s overrated … Montañita. It’s not all it use to be and is mostly catered to foreigners who want to get wasted and high. If you want real Ecuadorian culture, there are better places nearby.
  • The coolest hostel is… Casa del Sol . Relaxed vibe at a few steps from the beach. Close enough to go party and far enough to have a good sleep. THE place for yoga and Surf.
  • The best food is found in… the small almuerzo (lunch) cafes found across the country.

Backpacking Peru

Ah Peru. Backpacking Peru is the essence of travelling in South America. Though tourism has spiked in Peru in recent years, there is still plenty of magic to be found here.

The cost of backpacking Peru is a little higher than you might expect. Expect to pay between $30-40 USD a day whilst travelling here. (But more about the cost of backpacking South America later.)

Peru has a super long coastline dotted with prime surf beaches and scuba diving sites. In the Andes lies a whole other form of beauty.

I mean, who isn’t aware of Machu Picchu and hiking the Inca Trail ? Besides the obvious, there is much, much more to the Peruvian Andes than Machu Picchu. Although, you still have to go there!

Peru has some truly fascinating colonial cities as well, including Cuenca and Cuzco, which is the gateway city to Machu Picchu. The off-the-beaten-path potential in Peru is enormous.

snowy mountains in peru

Check out the Rainbow Mountains to see nature at its most colourful. Hike the majestic  Cordillera Huayhuash . Explore Colca Canyon and sleep out under a billion stars.

If you want a truly magical experience, there are many eco-lodges in Peru that are nestled in the best nature spots, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes mountain range.

Wherever you decide to travel in Peru, be sure that it will be a highlight of your South America backpacking adventure.

What to Know Before Visiting Peru

Backpacker looking at the old city of Machu Picchu on a rainy day.

  • Don’t miss out on… a motorcycle journey through the Sacred Valley outside Cuzco. It’s definitely worth staying in Cuzco a little longer for this.
  • You know what’s overrated… the Inca Trail. Go for the less-trod Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu instead.
  • The coolest hostel is… Banana’s Adventure Hostel . In an unreal location (an oasis in a desert) this is a sociable and relaxed vibes hostel. With a great rooftop plus a lovely garden with hammocks, and an outdoor pool.
  • The best food is found in… Lima. This city is full of cafes, local lunch spots, and street food vendors. The best are in Barranco and Miraflores. Pig out on ceviche !

Backpacking Bolivia

Backpacking in Bolivia offers up a glimpse of what South America was like 30 years ago. It’s a country looking to the future in many ways whilst still having one foot firmly rooted in the tradition of the past.

Expect super friendly locals, dramatic desert and mountain landscapes, and the kind of low prices which make the dirtbag within us very happy. You could easily get by on $20-25 a day here, and even less by roughing it a bit.

Bolivia is home to plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities including the Road of Death , which, in essence, is a road down through the mountains in which people ride bicycles to the bottom at top speed. The ride goes on for at least 30 kilometres and it is straight down. Can you guess why it’s called the Road of Death yet?

Aside from the high-risk adventure activities, Bolivia is safe for the most part as well.

Bolivian Culture

World-class trekking is abundant in the Bolivian Andes. If you love to hike, all the more reason to visit Bolivia. Bring along a good sleeping bag as temperatures can plummet at night.

La Paz has the best hostels (particularly for partiers) and is a cool city to base yourself in. Lake Titicaca is breathtaking, however, it has become far too touristy – I personally can’t deal with that many people taking selfies. I don’t blame the locals as they need to make a living. Just the way it has been done is unfortunate.

The Salt Flats are also cool AF. Okay, admittedly it’s pretty touristy too, but it’s still worth a visit.

What to Know Before Visiting Bolivia

two cholita wrestlers wearing colourful dresses raising their hands together in the ring

  • Don’t miss out on… the Salar de Uyuni. Yes, everyone who comes to Bolivia does this and, yes, it’s touristy. Regardless, it’s still in-fuckin-credible.
  • Keep an eye out for… the altitude. Some people fly directly to La Paz from sea level and get sick almost immediately. At 3640 meters, La Paz is the highest major city in the world.
  • The coolest hostel is… Wild Rover La Paz . A dynamic and festive hostel. The perfect place to start your Bolivian experience connecting with other travellers. Great location in the central area.
  • The best food is found in… La Paz. This is the epicenter of Bolivia’s newly emerging food culture.

Backpacking Chile

There are no half measures while Backpacking Chile. From trekking through gorgeous glacial national parks to exploring the martian bone-dry Atacama desert , you’re all in for one hell of an experience.

Backpackers hitchhiking on the road in atacama desert, Chile.

There are 36 National Parks in Chile ; all of them are beautiful and unique in their own way. Chile is also home to Easter Island , one of the most mysterious places on the planet.

Like Argentina, Chilean Patagonia is a paradise for trekkers and adventure types – though it does take some effort to reach the places you want to go trekking in. That said, the journey is well worth it; experiencing some of the planets last truly wild places is an indescribable feeling that you can only understand by doing it!

Most backpackers will start their backpacking journey in Santiago. But you can come to Chile from one of its borders in the South (as I did).

Oh yeah, one more thing: Chilean wine is cheap and it is damn good! Do you need more reasons?

What to Know Before Visiting Chile

Person hugging an araucaria tree, also known as monkey puzzle tree, in the Andes mountains in Chile.

  • Don’t miss out on… Patagonia, and not just the usual spots. Chilean Patagonia is vastly unexplored, especially the fjords. Look out for whales, dolphins, penguins, and elephant seals.
  • Keep an eye out for… fire bans in Torres del Paine. A lot of nature has been threatened because of dickhead backpackers using gas burners, despite warnings.
  • The coolest hostel is… MaPatagonia Hostel . Near a beautiful lake, this place has what you need. Kitchen facilities, a nice big garden, some cats, and a jacuzzi! There is also a fireplace for those cold nights.
  • The best food is found in… Santiago. Staying in Santiago will unlock the most culinary options, including the cheap street food stalls.

Backpacking Argentina

Viva Argentina!

Backpacking Argentina is one for the ages. Welcome to the land of wine, excessive meat, football, tango, incredibly passionate people, and the final frontier – Patagonia.

Argentina is an immense country with very distinct regions. Eat to your heart’s content, party harder than you ever have before, and fall deeply in love.

You’ll probably land in Buenos Aires , arguably the cultural capital of all of South America.

Unquestionably, you’re going to find incredible hostels in Buenos Aires and reasons to stay. But don’t stay too long!

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires is the place where people protest in front of the government house.

Rosario and Cordoba are cities like Buenos Aires but, in my opinion, better. They’re a perfect place to head to if you want to steer clear of the heavily populated capital.  Mendoza is the wine region home to the “ best wine in the world ” (according to Argentinos).

Further south lies Patagonia : one of my favourite places on Earth, and home to many Argentinian National Parks . Patagonia is a truly expansive, desolate wilderness area where the weather is harsh and civilization is few and far between.

Trek mountains and glaciers, or sea kayak around them,. There, you could go days without seeing many (if any) backpackers! Now THAT’S the dream.

Staying at an Argentine mountain hut (refugio) is a wonderful experience not to be missed. Few who travel to Argentina manage to make it as far as  Tierra del Fuego (the Land of Fire). Visit one of the most dramatic places in Argentina with its long summer days and epic arctic landscapes.

Speaking of the arctic, you can arrange trips to Antarctica from Ushuaia ! This would be the adventure of a lifetime but it’s by no means cheap.

What to Know Before Visiting Argentina

tango dancers embracing argentina

  • Don’t miss out on… El Chaltén, which is the base for seeing some of the most dramatic peaks on Earth: Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.
  • You know what’s overrated… La Boca in Buenos Aires. These much-hyped multi-coloured houses are pretty rundown and actually quite dangerous, I strongly suggest you avoid it. The whole area feels like a tourist trap. There are much better things to do in Buenos Aires .
  • The coolest hostel is… America del Sur Hostel (El Calafate). Cozy, super social, and with an insane view of the lake, the town, and beautiful sunsets. Great place to chill, and work (if you need to).
  • The best food is found in… your neighbour’s personal asado . Nothing beats grilling grade-A Argentinian beef with some locals.
  • The official exchange rate is NOT THE EXCHANGE RATE . Because of the fluctating exchange rate, many of the locals withdraw their cash by using what is referred to as a “blue dollar rate” from Western Union. This way gives you 50% more pesos than withdrawing pesos from an ATM or exchanging currency.

Backpacking Uruguay

Not many travellers end up backpacking in Uruguay. There are a few reasons why:

  • It’s small
  • It’s out of the way
  • There’s not a ton to do

All of the above are true to some extent: Uruguay is not overflowing with adventurous activities or jaw-dropping sights. But let me tell you, they have some of the best quality of living in South America.

One of the perks about Uruguay is you don’t HAVE to do anything here. People are friendly and, compared to some chaos you find in other areas of the continent, it’s pretty chill. The beautiful coast is the perfect place to get away from the usual backpacking South America route and to avoid traveller’s burnout .

two people stood on the sandy banks of a river

Outside of Montevideo , there are nice beach towns worth crashing at; Punta del Diablo is the quintessential lazy surfer town. Punta del Este is fun in the summer if you like partying. Colonia del Sacramento is an old colonial outpost and UNESCO heritage – although it is admittedly more of a day trip rather than a base.

Oh but here’s the kicker: weed is legalised. Yes, Uruguay is famous for allowing the smoking of the devil’s lettuce. And the quality of it is surprisingly good.

Lots of locals keep a weed garden on their balconies. Perhaps your hostel in Montevideo will have one?

Head to Uruguay if you want to chill out and do your own thing. It’s easy to travel to Brazil and Argentina from there too.

What to Know Before Visiting Uruguay

uruguay  Colonia del Sacramento

  • Don’t miss out on… Punta del Diablo. This is laid-back surfer town evades most backpackers. It is arguably one of the best beach towns in South America.
  • You know what’s overrated… Punta del Este. This place literally exists for the sake of Argentinians on holiday. In the off-season, it’s empty.
  • The coolest hostel is… La Brújula Hostel . It’s near the beach, eco-friendly, has a family vibe, and is great to meet new people. This is a gem next to the sea.
  • The best food is found in… Montevideo. Can’t beat a giant chivito after you’ve got the munchies!

Backpacking Venezuela

Venezuela is a truly incredible country. With towering mountains, steaming forests, endless beaches , and just enough danger to keep you on your toes, this country is every budding adventurer’s dream destination.

A Disclaimer on Visiting Venezuela

Unfortunately, due to the political situation in Venezuela , The Broke Backpacker absolutely  does not condone visiting the country right now . It is simply not safe and it would be irresponsible to even attempt to Venezuela at present.

Unless you somehow have absolutely  solid and trustworthy contacts on the ground , Venezuela is not the place to travel for the foreseeable future. We do not have any contacts to give out.

That being said, there are many team members at The Broke Backpacker that hold a special place for Venezuela in their hearts. For this reason, we are leaving this information available to you, our readers, as an homage to a country we love. We can’t wait for the day that it will be safe to visit again.

Backpacking Venezuela has a truly terrible reputation. Don’t get me wrong, travelling Venezuela has been dangerous in recent years: this is a country where you need to keep both eyes on your gear, watch who you’re with, and be on the lookout for iffy situations before they get the chance to rear their ugly head.

Backpacking in Venezuela is, in my opinion, one of the last great adventures out there. Plus it’s one of the cheapest countries in the world to backpack in.

how to travel south america cheap

Venezuela is a mysterious country. It attracts adventurers looking for a raw adventure.

It’s a country yet to be polluted by heavy tourism with incredible landscapes of mountains, forests, lakes, and caves. It is a kind of Shangri-La for adventurers and extreme sports lovers.

A South American backpacking trip to Venezuela is getting into the wild. To feel like the old explorers, Venezuela will not disappoint you. But backpacking Venezuela is not for the faint-hearted: this is a veteran explorer country.

What to Know Before Visiting Venezuela

Venezuelan flag painted on a wall and bars with FREE VENEZUELA written above

  • Don’t miss out on… Mt. Roraima – the highest tabletop mountain in the world; an incredible place to explore. Sometimes you feel like you’re walking on an island in the sky.
  • Keep an eye out for… the seasons when visiting Angel Falls. When it’s dry, the falls are actually quite weak (it’s more like a trickle).
  • The coolest hostel is… El Sofá Caracas . Safe, quiet, cozy place in the big city. You’ll feel at home instantly. And they have a unique boat pool to chill when it gets too hot.
  • The best food is found in… the buffet places where you pay by the weight of your plate. A little goes a long way here and you won’t be disappointed!

Getting Off the Beaten Path in South America

South America is totally full of wild places, tiny villages, far-flung settlements, lonesome valleys, sparsely inhabited jungle… Point being, there are plenty of great places to get off the beaten path . With a little motivation, you may well find yourself cutting your own path and writing your own backpacking destiny, one adventure at a time.

three people walking down towards the coast

Explore the national park systems of South America as much as you can. Investigate the little interesting-looking food stalls where all the locals are queuing up.

Don’t rely on a guidebook of popular places. In South America, those tiny towns in the middle of nowhere are where the real culture is, and the real adventures. All you need is a bus ticket…

Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so  damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

You can make your South America backpacking route totally unique. No matter what things you get up to, they’re going to leave a big print on your heart. But here are some things I definitely recommend considering planning for your itinerary .

1. Explore Patagonia

Patagonia is still one of the last untouched wildernesses on the planet. Not everyone gets to experience this in their lifetime! In addition to the usual superlative locations, like Cerro Torre and Torres del Paine, there are heaps to discover off-trail.

laguna fitz roy patagonia argentina

2. Party hard at Carnival

It’s the biggest party on the planet! Grab yo’ body paint, yo’ finest feathers, whatever else you can get your hands on, and join the festivities!

You won’t ever forget the time you spent Carnival in South America. The carnivals in Bahia, Rio, and Barranquilla are particularly good.

3. Explore the Salts Flats of Uyuni

It’s one of the most unique places on the planet and a highlight of any South America backpacking trip. Get ready to be wowed by this alien landscape.

I know broke backpackers usually cringe hard at the idea of an organised tour (because I’m one of them) but the Salt Flats is one that’s really worth shelling out for.

Group of travelers in Uyuni flat salt tour on top of the truck.

4. Find your own secret beaches

It wouldn’t be a proper backpacking South America itinerary without some beach time! Every kind of beach imaginable is found on the continent.

From tropical slices in Brazil to surfer’s paradises in Ecuador to even fjords in Chile, you won’t be lacking in choices. There are plenty of them secret spots that make those magical days. Take a beer, bring your mates, get busy.

how to travel south america cheap

5. Check out Medellín

Medellín is one of the most popular cities to visit in South America right now. The choice between Medellín or Bogota has never been easier.

It’s fun, safe, comfortable, and (most impressively) completely different than it was before. Medellín has shed its violent past and is ready to host the next wave of backpackers.

how to travel south america cheap

6. Visit Machu Picchu

I mean, you’re reading a backpacking South America guide: I know you already know about this one. It is the place that attracts most people to visit South America… but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worth visiting.

You can hike the Inca Trail like everyone else. But if you want to visit Machu Picchu in an alternative way, try one of the other Inca trails like Salkantay Trek.

A group of backpackers walking the inca trail to Machu Picchu.

7. Hike in the Andes

The Andes are one of the greatest mountain chains in the world, known mostly for hosting the aforementioned Machu Picchu and the gargantuan Aconcagua. But there is more to these mountains than just these popular destinations: the highlands of Ecuador, Cordillera Huayhush in Peru, the Cordillera Real in Bolivia are all stunning. Even Colombia gets a slice of the pie at Cocuy National Park.

Person trekking to the top of the Andes.

8. A South American

Hey, most backpackers will vouch for love and sex on the road being something memorable to take part in…

They love, and they love passionately. And the sex… well, maybe you’ll find out.

9. Get “stuck” somewhere

South America is full of sticky places AKA places where you get stuck for months on end. Florianópolis, La Paz, Medellín, Mancora… All of these locations start off as a simple stop on your South America backpacking route but turn into temporary homes.

Don’t fight it! Find your sticky place and stay awhile.

how to travel south america cheap

Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….

These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the  real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…

South America has a wide range of budget accommodation options for backpackers. Airbnbs are fantastic for private rooms if you’re travelling as a couple or as a group.

For solo travellers, when you are not passing the night from the comfort of your tent in the Andes or with a Couchsurfing host , you’ll likely be booking hostels.

Backpacker volunteer house in South America with natural roof

Whether you just need a place to lay your head or a spot to meet fellow backpackers like yourself, hostel life is clearly where it’s at… In fact, I love South American hostels, even travelling with my partner, you get perks in a hostel that you don’t get in a hotel or Airbnb.

I’ve had some of the best nights of my life in them and met some of the best people in my life. The South American countries are home to some of the best hostels in the world .

  • Best Hostels in Sao Paulo
  • Best Hostels in Cusco
  • Best Hostels in Cartagena
  • Best Hostels in Mendoza
  • Best Hostels in Lima
  • Best Hostels in Medellin
  • Best Hostels in Quito
  • Best Hostels in Salvador de Bahia
  • Best Hostels in Santiago
  • Best Hostels in Valparaiso

Insider tip: If you want to see all your hostel options to visitbackp South America, Booking.com is the perfect one-stop-shop to book hostels. You can even filter your personal travel needs to find the perfect place for you.

It is the common belief that backpacking in South America is dirt cheap. In some places this is true, but it doesn’t go for the entire continent.

But fear not! Travelling South America on a budget can definitely be done.

Due to the nature of Patagonia being one of the most remote areas on earth, expect higher travel costs than the rest of South America. Peru also takes some navigating in order to travel on a tight budget.

Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America. The cost of living in Brazil is higher and it is notorious for jacking up accommodation prices during the high season.

Rio de Janeiro view from top. Buildings and coastline beach near city.

With a few travel tips up your sleeve, you will save a ton of money and have the time of your life. Bring your  haggle game  whilst backpacking through Latin America to ensure you get the best possible price for things, including accommodation. South Americans love smooth talkers so keep it playful but don’t get too cheeky.

Taking long-distance buses, buying beer and drugs, paying entrance fees to national parks… these things add up fast. But sometimes you have to shell out the dough in order to do the things you want. Overnight buses are a good way to save some money.

Remember to always leave a little extra wiggle room in your budget so you can go scuba diving or go on a trek that you have been dreaming about!

Daily Budgets for South America

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay on a daily basis on a backpacking South America trip…

Travel Tips for Broke Backpackers in South America

Hey, all those dollaridoodles add up to more fun times. So saving whatever you can on your journey means you can be on the journey… for longer. So here are a few budget travel tips for South America :

Camping tent set in Brazil in nature with trees around.

  • Camp : With plenty of untouched beaches, forests, stunning countryside, and far-flung jungle, South America is a great place to carry a good backpacking tent . Camping saves you money and can help you get off of the beaten path.
  • Cook your own food: Travel with a  portable backpacking stove  and cook your own food to save some serious cash whilst backpacking across South America. If you plan to do some overnight hiking trips or camping on the beach, having a backpacking stove will be a great asset.
  • Haggle:  Haggle as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things, especially while in local markets. Learning Spanish will go a long way!
  • Couchsurf:  South Americans are awesome. Get to know some! Check out Couchsurfing to make some real friendships and see the real continent. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalized messages to your potential host. A generic copy-and-paste message is much more likely to get turned down. Make yourself stand out.
  • Hitchhike:  Although some countries are friendlier than others, hitchhiking across South America is common practice, so you won’t struggle too much to find a ride. Speaking at least a little Spanish will go a long way though. You want to explain exactly what you’re doing and where you want to go.

Why Should You Travel to South America with a Water Bottle?

Plastic washes up on even the most pristine places… So do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful!

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but together we CAN make a difference. I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

backpacker drinking using grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

You know by now that we are talking about an enormous amount of land with regards to the South American continent. Countries in South America near the Equator do not experience distinct seasons. As you start to head south you will find the seasons to be the opposite of what they are in the Northern Hemisphere i.e. winter in June.

Patagonia experiences bitterly cold and windy winters. I do not advise travelling there during the winter unless you are a serious mountaineer and have all the right gear.

a man playing guitar by the pool at a hostel in buzios, brasil

Dry season depends on the country. Generally, the cooler months from June to September are the driest in the coastal areas. In the Amazon – given that it is the world’s biggest rainforest – is wet pretty much all year. The Andes are the driest from April – November.

High season for all countries is, without a doubt, from December – February. This is due to holidays occurring over that time and it is also the time when many gringos and locals alike take their holidays. Backpacking in the low or shoulder seasons will definitely make for a cheaper trip, especially with regards to accommodation.

Best Time to Visit – Country Breakdown

Here are the best times to visit South America broken down by country!

Best Months to Travel: September – April

What’s the climate in Brazil like? 

In the south, the hot, wet summer season runs from November – March. In the north, the rainy season is from April – August. In the Amazon, it rains pretty much all year.

If you want to visit during the festival season though, September-March is best.

Best Months to Travel: November – March

What’s the climate in Colombia like?

Generally speaking, travellers should visit Cartagena and the Caribbean coast between November and March when the weather is dry. The rest of the country is good year-round. Bogota, Cali, and Medellin are always pleasant weather-wise.

Best Months to Travel: March – May, September – November

What’s the climate in Ecuador and Peru like? 

Lots and lots of micro-climates in the Ecuador Peru region. But there are some general trends:

  • The highlands/Andes are dry from May – September. These are the best months for hiking and visiting Machu Picchu.
  • The coast is warm and dry from December – May. This is the best time for the Galápagos.
  • The Amazon is always wet and humid as shit.
  • The south of Peru is much drier than the north, and Ecuador for that matter.

You’ll need to plan your trip carefully around what you want to see and do.

Best Months to Travel: May – October

What’s the climate in Bolivia like?

The winter season (May – October) is also its dry season, and the best time to visit Bolivia. This means that nights can be very cold, especially when you’re at higher altitudes. Although Bolivia is generally drier than its neighbours, it stills gets dumped on in the wet, summer season.

Best Months to Travel: March – April, October – November

What’s the climate in Chile like? 

Summers in Chile are generally the high season. That being said, this may not be the best time to visit. Prices are at their highest, the Atacama Desert is a furnace, and the winds are VERY strong in Patagonia.

Like almost anywhere, the shoulder months (October – November & March – April) are better.

Best Months to Travel:  October – April.

What’s the climate in Argentina and Uruguay like?

Summer for most of the country is from December – February. In the north, the summers can see rain and temperatures that soar to almost unbearable. In the south and Patagonia, summers are dry(ish) and pleasant.

The winters, obviously, are extremely cold in the south. Whereas the north generally has pretty mild winters.

What to Pack for South America

Travelling through South America is a lot easier if you have the right gear. A thorough backpacking South America packing list goes a long way – literally.

On every adventure, there are 6 things I never go travelling without:

Earplugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

nomatic_laundry_bag

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

sea to summit towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Monopoly Card Game

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier Bottle

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

South America IS a safe place to go backpacking. Is backpacking in South America safe all the time? 

Hell no. But nowhere in the world is safe 100% of the time. Does that mean we let it stop us?

Hell no. 

In recent years, security in South America is increasing. Using the common sense safety rules of backpacking is usually enough here. 

The thing with South America is understanding your surroundings and self-awareness. Coordinating your safety in Rio de Janeiro is completely different than hiking the Inca Trail. 

Robberies are rare and could happen to anyone – in any country. Sometimes people in desperate circumstances are forced to do bad things. They see a foreigner and they see a chance to temporarily relieve the stress of their situation. 

Odds are, you should be just fine. If ever you run into a hold-up situation just give them what they want. 

Your iPhone and wallet aren’t worth dying over, ever! But it’s worth hiding your money well just in case .

Political wobbles are pretty common. Due to the political situation in Venezuela right now, this is probably the most dangerous country in Latin America. I hate to say it but the situation is what it is.

In general, being out late, drunk, and/or alone is a recipe for trouble. Always take a taxi home at night, even in a group.

Do know which neighbourhoods you should avoid too, especially in major cities – even during the daytime. Ask the locals which these are. There’s no real reason to head into these areas anyway, but it’s worth noting so you don’t stumble into the wrong places.

  • Is Peru Safe?
  • Is Argentina Safe?
  • Is Chile Safe?
  • Is Brazil Safe?

Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll in South America

South Americans love to party! They start the party late and they don’t stop until the sun is way up.

Of course, Brazil is very famous for Carnival AKA the biggest party on the planet . But it’s a big deal in most South American countries – so you’ll find great parties everywhere.

The backpacker circuit is notoriously rowdy. Traveller hubs like Cusco, Buenos Aires, Montañita, Mancora, La Paz, and Medellín are legendary for their nightlife.

It is very easy to meet people, stay up all night, and fall in love with a sexy South American. Much of the continent is LGBTQ+ traveller friendly too!

People drinking from a bottle at the club during a party night.

Alcohol is freely available, freely consumed, and good quality too. I’m telling you, I’ve had beer in South America which puts Germany to shame.

South America is stoner-friendly too! Weed is legal or decriminalized for recreational use in many places – some countries are more relaxed than others. It’s best to ask the locals how it’s currently being handled where you are.

Cocaine is just about everywhere; particularly in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. But be aware, this isn’t the stuff you find back home – it’s much purer. One line is enough to keep you up all night.

To find drugs on the road, just ask a local to help you. Don’t go out alone looking to score in strange places and don’t give cops a reason to shake you down.

Ayahuasca retreats are gaining popularity as well. But remember, it is a ceremonial spiritual medicine of indigenous people. If you do want to try it, make sure you’re doing it with a real shaman, for real reasons; it’s not like acid and not a drug just to get mindless with.

Staying Healthy in South America

Travellers should be properly vaccinated before backpacking in South America. Consult a medical professional before travelling about which shots you should get.

You should have all the usual travel vaccinations before heading out: hepatitis A & B, typhoid, tetanus, etc. Rabies is also recommended particularly if you’re going to the rural areas or parts of the jungle. You don’t want to mess around with that one because it can be really nasty.

Best way to avoid mosquitos anywhere. A mosquito net will help you sleep weel.

It is worth checking if you need the Yellow fever vaccine before entering some countries. In some places, it is only recommended.

It’s also worth noting that in most places in South America, the water isn’t fit for consumption. The best travel water bottles have a filter.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting South America

Travelling without insurance in South America is risky. I broke my back in Brazil and will be happy to tell you why GOOD travel insurance is so important.

So consider getting travel insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure. You don’t want to be struck with a big, unexpected bill, or, worse, to put your health at risk.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

how to travel south america cheap

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Where you will start your trip will be determined by what backpacking route you have chosen. Obviously, if you plan to tackle a specific country, the capital city of that country is a popular starting point and – usually – the logical option.

Bolivia Hop bus

South America is not the cheapest country to fly to, but you can sometimes bag a cheap direct flight from another major airport. It’s pretty expensive to fly within it too. Unless you are coming by boat to Colombia via the San Blas Islands, you will certainly be arriving by plane.

São Paulo, Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro are all major hubs for South America. Compare the prices between these top destinations, and base your South America itinerary from there.

Entry Requirements for South America

Good news everyone! Most South American nations DO NOT require a visa to visit! This applies to those travelling from the USA, UK, EU, Australia, and most other Western nations.

This is a positive trend in the last few years. A few years ago, travellers sometimes had to apply for (expensive) visas to enter countries like Argentina and Brazil. Luckily, this is no longer the case .

Once you’ve entered the country, you can remain for a period of 90 days visa-free. Extensions are possible but these vary on a country-by-country basis. Most South American governments do not take kindly to people who overstay.

Of course, ALWAYS double-check visa policies before travelling .

City Bus. Local Bus. Long-distance bus. Overnight bus.

That’s right. Buses are the most economical way of getting around South America. Every major capital has buses going to the far reaches of the country.

Stairs into the jungle on the famous lost city trek in Colombia.

Local buses are typically super cheap. You can book online but the bus stations are organised really well too.

Taxis are an option within cities and sometimes Uber too, depending on the city. If you opt for a taxi ride, make sure they are legit, set the price beforehand, and haggle the shit out of the driver without being rude.

Flights between countries in South America can be expensive. Internal flights within the country aren’t the cheapest either, though they are cheaper if you buy them while you’re inside the country (you’ll save money on taxes).

As a general rule when backpacking, cheap travel is slow travel . Buses can be slow but as you will be taking many if you are backpacking South America long term, you want to go for the cheapest option.

If you want to go full Che Guevara style you can travel by motorbike pretty easily (and cheaply) in most places in South America. I recommend that you have some experience riding motorbikes before you even think about sauntering into a capital city or down a winding road in the Andes. If you do go the motorcycle route you can be sure that it will be the ride of your life.

Hitchhiking in South America

Travelling by hitchhiking is always an option. Your success will greatly depend on the area and the country; I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking in a major city or at night.

Hitchhikers aren’t that common in countries like Colombia, mainly due to paranoia about the security situation in the country. Not everyone here is a drug lord that wants to kidnap you for ransom money. You can hitchhike throughout Colombia AND it’s such an awesome experience!

a girl hitchhiking in the back of a truck while traveling through costa rica

Rural areas of South America are especially impacted by high rates of poverty. Expecting free rides from folks with limited means isn’t morally fantastic. That said, even if you offer the driver a few bucks, it could very well end up being cheaper (and more rewarding) than taking the bus.

I would never assume that the ride is free initially. Always ask to avoid having an awkward scenario in which the driver who picked you up is demanding an unexpected fee. This is when learning Spanish comes in very handy.

Onwards Travel From South America

Your only options for leaving the continent are by boat or by plane. Most likely you will fly out of the country where you are finishing your trip if it makes sense and is the cheapest option. Try to book your flights in advance in order to find the best flight deals .

Two girls walking towards a plane at sunset in Mexico

It is technically possible to cross the Darien Gap to Panama overland. Rumour has it that you can hire a guide for quite a bit of money and cross the Darien on foot.

In the past, this was impossible though due to narco-terrorist/guerrilla activity. May the Gods of Backpacking be with you if you attempt the journey on your own without a guide.

South America is becoming a digital nomad hub. After the pandemic, the boom really: a generally low cost of living, relatively reliable internet, and tons of expat communities.

Medellín is the current front-runner. This city is growing at a RAPID pace and is becoming the apple in every backpacker’s eye.

Plus, Medellín is safer than ever. Lots of people want to stay here for an extended period of time, digital nomads included.

how to travel south america cheap

Close behind are larger South American cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Quito. Being big cities though, you’ll have to overcome higher prices and crime. Safety in Buenos Aires can be sketchy but so can every massive city, right?

Note that, at the moment, most South American countries do not offer a special digital nomad visa.

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A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and  ditch the plastic .

Teaching English in South America

Most people who end up living or staying long-term in South America do one of two things: teach English or volunteer.

Teaching English in South America is very popular. Some people make a living out of just going from one city to the next city and hitting up all the English schools in between. Some are accredited though many find success using their own merits.

If you have a TEFL certificate it will be much easier to score teaching gigs in South America. I recommend getting yours with MyTEFL – Broke Backpacker readers get a 50% discount on TEFL courses when you enter the code PACK50  at the checkout.

Volunteering in South America

Volunteering abroad is a great way to experience a culture whilst doing some good. There are loads of volunteering gigs in South America ranging from protecting the Amazon to teaching in barrios of Buenos Aires.

Arguably, you may need a permit in order to volunteer. But in reality, the continent is pretty chill and this is unlikely to ever be enforced.

Group of people helping as Volunteer  in Ecuador

I spent a few weeks volunteering in the mountains in Northern Colombia and it was the best way to get to know the land, people, and lifestyle. Finding volunteering opportunities in South America is about learning, building community, and making an impact in a place you visit.

The best way to find volunteer jobs is word of a trustworthy mouth. But programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers , Workaway , and WWOOF help you get your foot in the door of volunteer communities.

They’re a great opportunity for unique experiences and make amazing connections with people. But you do have to stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

If you sign up for Worldpackers with a discount code, memberships are only $39 a year. For that price, it’s often worth giving it a try.

Summing up food in South America is like trying to explain what music is. It’s incredibly diverse and every country, every region, every household has a different definition.

First of all, meat is hard to avoid. They like it juicy, tender, slow-cooked, and accompanying pretty much everything. Especially in the southern part of the continent, Argentina, Uruguay, and South Brazil, the smell of cooking cow is heavy in the air.

The Argentinian way of grilling is Asado . And it’s not just a delicious barbecue – oh no – that’s just the centrepiece. The event is a huge part of the culture.

The vegetarian movement is gaining momentum, though it’s harder in some places than others. In more rural places, you may go hungry if you don’t want to eat meat now and again, but in general, it’s not impossible.

Man cooking food on the grill using his hands.

Andean countries like Peru and Bolivia have chronically underrated food scenes. In fact, Peruvian food is often regarded as some of the best in the world. You’ve never felt fresher than after chowing down that ceviche.

In the Amazon, they have a whole different gastronomic world; obviously, everything grows here. There are ingredients that come from the Amazon that just don’t exist anywhere else.

There are strange fruit and vegetables in abundance. Then, of course, the fresh fish comes leaping out of the river, almost directly to your plate. Catching your own fish is never a bad idea either.

The food in the north of South America, like Colombia and Venezuela, is the definition of comfort food. If you’re eating right, you’re going to be gaining a few kilos. Don’t pass on an opportunity to gorge yourself silly.

Street food usually involves lots of deep-fried goodness. But it’s the abuelas that make the best pastries, with oodles of love. And ooh, those arepas… they have a special place on my plate.

The Best Food in South America

Here are some of the best South American foods that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on.

  • Feijão (Brazil) – Beany stew for everyday eating.
  • Acai (Brazil) – Superfood berry.
  • Empanadas – Your trusty stuffed pastry friend.
  • Dulce de leche – Just try it… thank me later.
  • Asado (Argentina) – Grilled meat with a side of meat.
  • Antichucho (Bolivia) – Mmmm… cow’s heart.
  • Ceviche (Peru/Chile) – raw but not raw fish, in lemon juice.
  • Cuy (Peru) – A large cooked guinea pig.
  • Encebollado (Ecuador) – Ecuadorian Grandma’s comfort stew.
  • Arepas (Colombia) – Corn pockets to fill your hungry belly.

South America is a very complex continent. Colonization by Western Europeans technically makes it the youngest member of modern civilization. But saying this disregards all the history that came before the “ conquistadors” arrived.

South America has hosted many advanced civilizations like the Incan Empire, whose influence still lasts to this day. Though much of the native culture was lost with the mass killing by said conquistadors .

Long story short: South America is an enormously diverse region, maybe more so than anywhere else. Yes, European culture has largely shaped the entire continent. But indigenous and African cultures are just as important, if not more so.

Northern Brazil is very Afrocentric. This was the first charted part of the continent and ideal for rowing sugarcane. Consequently, it’s the place where all the slaves were brought.

Slavery is over. But it leaves behind a blend of African customs and cultures morphed into Latino culture.

Local family dressing traditional clothes from Peru in front of their house.

The south, which constitutes Argentina, Chile, and Southern Brazil, is much more European. Aside from the big players – the Spanish and Portuguese – Italians, Germans, and French all settled here following a huge era of migration.

In the Andean countries of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador you see a lot of indigenous cultures. Some people still live like their ancestors, living in the highlands and tending the land. Though Spanish is still the dominant language, several local languages, like Quecha and Aymara, are still commonly spoken.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of South America is just an extension of Europe or North America. You’ll miss out on the beautiful subtleties of the region, which make backpacking in South America so wonderful.

A backpacking trip in South America is a unique experience in itself. And within that, there are instance amounts of opportunities to make your South America itinerary different to anyone else who’s travelled here before. Here are some of the best things to add to it:

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Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.

Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!

Hiking in South America

South America has some of the best hikes in the world . Here are a few iconic options to get your bucket list started:

View of argentinian lakes in Patagonia.

  • Lost City Hike, Colombia : This hike through the Colombian jungle will certainly be a highlight of your South America travel.
  • Sierra Nevada de Cocuy, Colombia : Snow in Colombia? Here you can find peaks are as high as 5,330 meters above sea level. If you have your own gear and a good sleeping bag , you can probably do the hike without a guide.
  •  Iliniza-Norte, Ecuador . This is a fantastic 2-day trek that does not require any special gear or equipment. If you are planning to tackle Cotopaxi this is a great warm-up. A solid challenge for the dedicated hiker!
  • The Salkantay trek, Peru: Hike to Machu Picchu over 4 days and experience the true beauty of the Andes along the way. One of my favorite South American treks for sure.
  • The Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru : Truly one of the most stunning areas in Peru. For serious hikers, planning a trek like this is one for the books!
  • Hut-to-Hut in Bariloche, Argentina:  Spectacular hike for some of the best views of Nahuel Huapi National Park and its lakes. Tents are optional since you can stay exclusively in the refugios.
  • Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén, Chile/Argentina : One of the greatest ways to experience Patagonia. Walk from Villa O’Higgins in Chile to El Chaltén in Argentina. You’ll see some superlative mountain, forest, and lake scenery along the way.
  • Torres Del Paine Circuit, Chile : The hike of all hikes in South America. This epic walk takes 9 – 11 days and passes through some of the most dramatic landscapes one can fathom. A must if you’ve got the time and hiking spirit!

Scuba Diving in South America

You have scuba diving options galore in South America! In general, scuba diving is pricier than it is in other parts of the world but that’s because it’s worth it. If it is something that you really want to do, I say go for it! 

Colombia is probably the cheapest and best place to dive AND get certified in South America. You have Providencia and Santa Catalina (a smaller island to the north) which is home to the third-largest coral reef barrier on Earth and includes over 40 dive sites.

Two people taking a selfie whilst scuba diving.

Malpelo is the harder-to-reach version: a jagged rock in the Colombian Pacific, it can only be reached by boat, and divers can only visit here as part of an organized trip. It’s worth the time and money for sure; Malpelo is one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks, including hammerheads, whale, and the rare sun ray shark.

People have reported schools of up to 500 sharks around Malpelo. That’s right. 500!

Peru and Ecuador both have some decent diving right off their coasts. The diving around the Galápagos Islands is world-class, but it will cost you a fortune go diving there.

If you truly want to have the scuba diving adventure of a lifetime, I highly recommend joining a Liveaboard trip.

  • Liveaboard the Galapagos
  • Liveaboard Colombia

Surfing in South America

Surfing is the number one sport on South America’s coast. From Peru to Brazil, backpackers and locals are coming together and shredding!

Peru is home to the longest left-breaking wave in the world . You can literally ride a wave for five minutes!

A person surfing

The Pacific Coast is dotted with funky surf towns, where the main activities revolve around the waves and the nightlife. There are a plethora of surf schools in every country. Often these surf schools offer Spanish classes as well if you are wanting to double down (which I highly suggest!).

It is easy to fall in love with the surfing lifestyle. But be careful, you might just fall in love with the whole scene. I wouldn’t blame you for a second.

how to travel south america cheap

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Here are the questions I get asked the most about how to backpack South America.

Is backpacking South America safe?

Yes. Backpacking South America is safe. Just bear in mind that crime rates are higher than in some other areas of the world. But by following standard safety procedures, there’s no reason why that crime should affect you. Be sensible, show people plenty of respect, and look after your friends.

How are the bus journeys in South America?

The long-distance buses are generally top quality and comfortable. Just be aware that distances on the map can be deceiving and journeys can be long so bring plenty of water, food, something to keep you warm in the baltic aircon, and probably some toilet paper too.

Is travelling South America as a woman possible?

Absolutely! Not only is it possible, it’s awesome. Do remember that, unfortunately, women do have to consider safety as a factor more so than men, especially after dark. But with that in mind, prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.

How are South Americans so damn sexy?

There are too many reasons. Just go and spark up conversation with them and find out for yourself. Beware though, you’re likely to fall completely, madly, deeply in love.

Backpacking South America can be one hell of a party at times. Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away.

You can make a positive impact on people when we travel and South America is the perfect place to do that. Try to spend your money in places where the experience is mutually rewarding.

When buying a local craft, be fair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people their worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

If you visit small or indigenous communities, be respectful: they are normal folks just living their lives.  Backpacking South America – or any region for that matter – often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go travelling.

Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!

Well, amigos, the time has come for me to send you on your travellin’ way. Armed with your budget travel knowledge, on you go!

Your South America backpacking trip awaits. Have a few cold ones for me, yeah?

Will stood with four of the maestras in traditional Amazonian clothing

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how to travel south america cheap

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30 Comments

Great post, loved the detail and enthusiasm you have for South America. I am saving up to travel from northern Colombia all the way down the west to Patagonia and then back up the other side (yes I am aware it will take the best part of a year). I wondered if you had any tips on the best time of year to start this adventure?

Plan your time with the weather and seasons in mind! Have a great time.

Is traveling to brazil unwise right now because of the covid situation? Has it become more unsafe because of the covid situation? It’s been really difficult to find solid information, and making a decision wether to visit or not has been quite difficult. Thanks for the otherwise wonderful post! Super informative.

informative post . best of luck

Hi Kami, glad you liked the article!

Very nice blog, congratulations I found a cheaper way to flight some routes inside Latin America If someone have plans, after this health crisis is gone, just ask me, I will be glad to help

Interesting. However as a Guyanese, that us from Guyana, South America I always find it odd that many persons leave out the English Dutch and French speaking countries of South America. We too have things to offer.

Hello Malkia, We totally agree with you! As soon as we manage to visit Guyana, we will update this guide! I look forward to exploring your country. Cheers

Hey there!! So I am planning a trip to south America this summer. I have a couples questions. I’m flying into Bogota, Colombia. I plan on spending 2-3 months in SA. I’d like to travel from Bogota to Machu Picchu, then to Buenos Aires, and depending on time Brazil. I am trying to figure out the cheapest way to travel from country to country. I don’t care about long bus rides or any of that. I just don’t know where to purchase the cheapest bus tickets. Please help!!!

Simply the cheapest tickets are usually at the bus station, or wherever locals buy their tickets. Look out for agencies and the like that might add a fee for booking the very same thing you could yourself.

I have a good tip to move around if you need to do it by plane, just let me know if you plan (after the whole problem is gone) to fly some stretches.

Hey man great blog, been reading so many of your posts recently, can you email me I wanna chat to someone who knows there stuff… I’m going to South America for about 6 to 8 months on a budget and need help planning a route… hopefully you see this and we can chat thank you

Hey Jamie, What is your question specifcally regarding your route? Cheers!

Thank you so much for sharing these information – they are so useful!

I am planning a trip of a lifetime to South America. To keep cost down, I am likely to stay in hostels for the first time. I like to understand how travellers wash their clothes in hostels. Are there usually any washer or dryer machines in hostels? Do we usually have to pay to use them? What is the price like?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Tina, Some hostels offer laundry services. Other times you can get your laundry done at local lavanderias . Depending on the country, prices are usually pretty reasonable. They usually charge by the weight. Getting a massive load of clothes washed should not cost you more than $10 (sometimes way less) washed, dried, and folded. Cheers!

Thanks Chris for this wonderful article. Bolivia and Brazil is a magical place! Anyone who went there said it was absolutely amazing! That nature is just wonderful here. keep sharing your travel ides about more places of South America.

Cheers, Mate!

I started my South American journey two months ago and this has been a big help. There’s literally so many options once you get down here. Overwhelming in all of the best ways.

Much love from Peru.

Wow! That’s a marvelous article! Unfortunately, not so long ago, I was in South America, and I really had a lot of predicaments while traveling. If only I had read this article before the traveling, most likely, my trip would have been better!

Great content, congratulations.

Really great and in depth guide, thank you! Planning my first trip to South America and really like the look of your 3 month route across Peru, Ecuador and Columbia, was thinking of taking another couple of weeks on top to see Bolivia as well. What month would you advise starting this travel? (would really like to be home for Christmas)

The autumn months would be a lovely time to visit South America 🙂

Awesome content! I took so much advice and suggestions. I feel like I can plan whatever kind of trip ranging in length of time spent there plus budgeting. Thanks!

It’s great that you’re such a strong advocate of reusable water bottles and avoiding one-use bottles and generally I totally agree. However, I normally refill my water bottle from the tap, which obviously isn’t safe everywhere. Geneally can you drink tap water in South America? Or if not how do you safely refill without buying bottled water?

We’ve used lots of things over the years to harvest clean water from taps and streams. The GRAYL filter bottle is one of our favorites. South America is something of a mixed bag when it comes to drinking water. It ranges from safe to unsafe with every shade of chloriney in between.

I am starting my South America trip new month and I found this website extremely useful. One question though – I am worried about the requirement to show proof of onward travel. Any idea if Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia require this?

Hi Neringa,

I never had to show proof of onward travel during my 6 months in South America. There was never a time when a customs officer/border police questioned me about my onward travel plans. You should be just fine 🙂

Thanks, Chris. You have been right! But I was requested to provide proof of onward travel by Avianca when flying for Cusco to Quito. Maybe because my passport expires soon. My friend, however, did not have one and was still allowed to board the plane 🙂 There was a group of Israeli guys who I think had to show this info, too.

Thanks a lot man, I’m planning a 3 month trip to Colombia, Peru and Brazil next year and this really helped me get my head around how to do it and the kind of money I’m gonna need to save! Cheers dude

Thanks, this really helped me a lot for planning my trip next year!

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  • South America
  • The 15 Best And Cheapest...

The 15 Best and Cheapest Places to Visit in South America

Mt. Fitz Roy, Patagonia

Although it may not compare to the likes of South East Asia, South America is still a solid budget travel destination. Yet some regions are distinctly more pricey than others, so it really pays to know where to go when trying to traverse the continent on a shoestring. Thankfully, Culture Trip have traveled far and wide to bring you a list of the top 15 cheap destinations in South America.

La paz, bolivia.

As the biggest urban area of the cheapest country in the continent, La Paz is bound to bring a bargain or two. Travelers needn’t be rich to relish in thumping nightlife , trek among jaw-dropping mountains, or just savor the sights of this crazy high altitude city.

Local shop on the top of city

Uyuni, Bolivia

Although a jeep tour of the surreal Uyuni salt flats and its otherworldly nearby natural attractions may be the single biggest expenditure backpackers face in Bolivia, this bucket list destination still only sets them back US$150 or so . Unbeatable value, really.

Uyuni, Bolivia

Sucre, Bolivia

Keen to explore the grandeur of the Spanish new world empire without breaking the bank? Then the Bolivian city of Sucre is the best bet in South America. Laughably cheap food, lodging and sightseeing excursions make this stunning colonial gem a must while in the region.

Sucre

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Almost everyone who visits South America yearns to explore the mighty Amazon, and there is nowhere cheaper to do so than the northern Bolivian jungle town of Rurrenabaque . Give those exclusive high-end jungle lodges a miss and get down-and-dirty with exotic wildlife on a dirt cheap three-day pampas tour.

Amazon Basin, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia

As the poorest region of both Bolivia and Peru, a visit to Lake Titicaca is refreshingly easy on the wallet. Explore ancient Inca archaeological sites and interact with colorfully dressed indigenous locals as you gaze over the shimmering waters of the world’s highest navigable lake.

Uros Islands

Although Miraflores’ top bars and restaurants are notoriously upmarket, the rest of the city is a dead set bargain. Munch on fresh ceviche at a roadside stall, sip on pisco sour at a local watering hole, or meander through the colonial sights of this phenomenal city in the smug knowledge that your budget is well and truly in check.

people cheering on a mountain

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Lima

Huachachina, Peru

Something of a backpackers’ paradise, there is little more to do in this desert oasis town than sit back and enjoy the views. That is, of course, unless you are interested in a loco yet surprisingly cost-effective dune buggy ride that includes an adrenaline-pumping sandboarding foray.

Huacachina

Cusco, Peru

Once the most important city of the Inca and the Spanish, modern day Cusco may seem a little pricey by Peruvian standards. Nevertheless, it still offers excellent value for money for travelers wishing to indulge in a little ancient history, cultural immersion, or the buzzing all-night party scene.

Cusco

The Sacred Valley, Peru

Savvy travelers can take advantage of public transport and family-run lodging to keep costs down as they explore the region’s plethora of awe-inspiring archaeological sites . As for Machu Picchu, it’s possible to arrive via a series of local buses to avoid paying for that extortionate tourist train.

Moray, Sacred Valley

The Peruvian highlands, Peru

Get right off the beaten track and avoid those pesky gringo prices by traversing through a little known portion of Peru – the unforgettable Andean highlands. From Ayacucho to Cajamarca and everything in between, this breathtaking yet undiscovered mountainous region is so cheap it will leave you wondering where all the backpackers are.

Cajamarca, Peru

Mendoza, Argentina

Argentina is not an especially cheap country. Thankfully, however, its vino is inexpensive and delicious, while a bicycle tour of the finest Mendoza vineyards can be done for next to nothing. Better yet, a bottle of the locally produced good stuff can be picked up for peanuts. Salud!

The Mendoza wine valley with snow-capped Andes in the background

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador’s high altitude capital is undeniably easy on the wallet , made all the better by the fact that most of the country’s dazzling attractions are just a short (and very cheap) bus ride away. Best of all, the local US dollar currency makes it super satisfying to realize just how little you’re spending each day.

Quito

Baños, Ecuador

For a budget-friendly opportunity to get some bucket list adventure sports out of the way, the subtropical Ecuadorian town of Baños ticks all the boxes . Mountain biking, hiking, climbing and rafting are just a few of the options available in this stunning backpacker mecca.

Swing at the End of the World, Baños, Ecuador

Montañita, Ecuador

After a well-deserved beach break? Admittedly, the best stretches of sand in South America are in Brazil, but who really has that kind of money? Instead, opt for the up-and-coming beachside town of Montañita, where solid breaks , a bohemian vibe and a low cost of living keep travelers hanging around much longer than expected.

Surfer and sunset montanita

Patagonia, Argentina and Chile

“Rubbish”, you say, “Patagonia is the most expensive place in South America”. While this might be true, outdoor enthusiasts can spend a pittance by camping every day and hitching a ride with friendly locals between jaw-dropping destinations . Just be sure to visit in summer when it’s actually warm enough to survive.

Patagonia

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how to travel south america cheap

These 10 Destinations Allow For Cheap Travel All Year-Round

  • Tourists can find affordable travel destinations all year round by exploring places like the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Croatia, and Guatemala.
  • These destinations offer a range of activities and attractions, from historic ruins to beautiful beaches, at budget-friendly prices.
  • Other affordable destinations include Portugal, Belize, Morocco, Ecuador, Egypt, Peru, and the State of Mexico, offering historic sites, natural wonders, and cultural experiences for travelers on a tight budget.

World traveling for cheap is a balance of skills, common sense, insider knowledge, and good, old-fashioned luck. With times changing fast, it can be hard to strike a perfect balance. How can tourists know where to find an affordable travel destination during a time of great economic change? Luckily, there will always be places around the world where people can find great deals on flights, hotels, and food. But how can tourists discover where these places are?

Although cheap travel is often a game of discovering when a destination's off-season is, there are places around the world that are always affordable, even at the height of the tourist season. In this list, people will discover some of the top affordable destinations around the world that are not only cheap during the off-season but are cheap destinations all year round.

From the jungles of Central America to the mountainous Balkans, discover some of the most affordable global travel destinations that are budget-friendly year-round, no matter whether visiting in the peak tourist season or the low period.

Related: Budget Travelers: Here Are The Cheapest Countries Where You Don’t Have To Empty Your Pockets For A Great Time

Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

For historic ruined cities, crystal blue water, and the abundance of rainforest, visitors on a budget should check out the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. This location is both fun and affordable for tourists, with lots of hiking, cultural activities, and delicious restaurants.

Seafood is especially affordable in this region, so visitors should be sure to try authentic Mexican-style ceviche or roasted octopus. Visitors should visit historic sites like Chichén Itzá and the Mayan ruins at Tulum. Sitting on the beach sipping a piña colada isn't a bad idea, either!

  • Average flight cost from NYC: $250-400 to Cancun
  • Budget hotel price per night: $19-150 per night

Cities like Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun are all trying to be more environmentally conscious, so many beach locations do not allow oil-based sunscreen.

Not only is Croatia among the cheapest countries to visit year-round, but this Balkan country also offers visitors ancient ruins, waterfalls, and Mediterranean beaches. While traveling here, tourists will get all the perks of the Mediterranean without having to break the bank.

Walking around the streets of Zahgreb or Trogir, lined with sierra roofs, will make tourists forget all their worries. Visiting the ancient palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian (the first Roman emperor to retire) is a must in this region. Seeing the stacked waterfalls pouring into green water at Krka National Park will also be an unforgettable experience!

  • Flight cost from NYC: $640-1000 to Zahgreb
  • Budget hotel price per night: $31-100 per night

Once the center of the mighty Mayan city-state of Tikal, the modern country of Guatemala offers tourists unique gastronomy, rich history, and the wonders of the rainforest. Visitors here should head to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tikal National Park to see the towering gray-stone ruins for themselves.

For mountain views and great swimming, visitors should head to Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America. Not only is this country beautiful, but it's widely considered to be one of the most economical places for tourists to go to, with costs often being half as much as those found in the US and Canada.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $148-400 to Guatemala City
  • Budget hotel price per night: $15-130 per night

One of the cheapest European destinations year-round is Portugal. This mountainous country on Europe's Atlantic coast is the perfect place to explore Medieval history, delicious seafood, and cobblestone streets.

From riding cable cars in the seaside city of Lisbon to seeing historic castles like São Jorge, Portugal offers tourists a truly unique travel experience. With great weather almost all year round, this destination really is the perfect budget location.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $500-900 to Lisbon
  • Budget hotel price per night: $26-141 per night

Related: This European City Was Just Named The Most Budget-Friendly Destination To Travel To

Belize is not only one of the world's most amazing places to travel to in general, but it is also one of the cheapest vacation destinations year-round!

The mangrove forests and coral reefs that this Caribbean nation has to offer are sights like no other. With so many different biomes to explore, tourists have an abundance of nature to explore, from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in the Belize Barrier Reef to the dense rainforests of Mayflower Bocawina National Park.

Not only that but the country is also known for the Ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantunich!

  • Flight cost from NYC: $500-900 to Belize City
  • Budget hotel price per night: $35-250 per night

See rich palaces, secret gardens, and bright blue architecture in the spectacular North African country of Morocco, one of the world's best vacation destinations that are cheap all year round.

In Marrakesh (called the heart of Morocco) alone, visitors can explore the 19th-century splendor of the Bahia Palace and the Renaissance wonder of the El Badi Palace ruins. The blue buildings of the Jardin Majorelle and the Pierre Bergé Museum of Berber Arts are also hot spots for travelers, so visitors should be sure to put that on their Morocco bucket list.

One truly spectacular sight in Morocco is Le Jardin Secret, a Saadian Dynasty garden that was originally built in the 1600s but was rebuilt in the 19th century. This garden offers tourists a unique mix of North African plants with water features, providing a haven of peace amid the busy city of Marrakesh.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $800-1200 to Marrakesh
  • Hotel price per night: $5-152 per night

Tourists on a budget should take a trip to the glorious mountain country of Ecuador, the home of the famous thirteenth Sapa Inca, Atahualpa.

One of the most rewarding places in Ecuador that travelers should head to is Ingapirca, the pre-Columbian Incan ruins. Like many Incan sites, this ancient city features the remains of an impressive Temple of the Sun. Today, this once-sacred location is roamed by brown and black camelids, who graze upon the site's bright green expanses of grass.

Ecuador also has a wealth of national parks, including El Cajas National Park, which is the perfect location for tourists to see endangered animals, like the many vibrantly-colored species of hummingbirds that Ecuador is famous for. It also boasts the world-famous Galapagos Islands; however, this wildlife hotspot can be expensive and hard to visit, so travelers on a tight budget may want to skip it.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $300-500 to Quito
  • Budget hotel price per night: $9-124 per night

Related: Is Ecuador South America's Most Breathtaking Country? Why Many Think So

One of the oldest human-inhabited lands in the world is Egypt. This truly historic region is one that every traveler should see at least once in their lives. From the rich and fertile Nile River to the Siwa Oasis out in the desert, Egypt is truly one of the world's most beautiful places.

The cultural legacy of Ancient Pharaonic Egypt, which lasted over 3,000 years, is still present in the modern experience of traveling here. Of course, seeing the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids is a must, but other locations, like Luxor and Abu Simbel, will offer rich historical experiences.

All in all, there are many world-famous and incredible historic sites in Egypt with fascinating stories , many of them within the budgets of travelers with less cash to spend.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $750-1000 to Cairo
  • Budget hotel price per night: $6-150 per night

For those who are interested in Ancient Incan history, Peru is the place to go! Considered by historians to be one of only a select few cradles of civilization, Peru is a land of ancient ruins, abundant coastlines, and massive mountains.

The main historic tourist spot is, of course, Machu Picchu, but other sites like Saqsaywaman and Tambomachay give tourists other unique options. For travelers headed to the Nazca Desert in the south, the famed Nazca Lines are visible from an observation tower.

Some of Peru's natural wonders include the blue lake at Huascarán National Park, the massive cave at Cueva de Las Lechuzas, and the protected natural reserve at Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $400-650 to Lima
  • Budget hotel price per night: $11-49 per night

Related: 10 Things To Do In Lima: Complete Guide To The Seaside Capital Of Peru

The State Of Mexico, Mexico

Once the seat of the famous Aztec Empire, the State of Mexico is one of the most affordable places in the world to travel to as a tourist. Visitors can explore the sprawling ancient ruins and pyramids of Teotihuacan, such as the Pyramid of the Sun (Teotihuacan's largest pyramid) and the Pyramid of the Moon, the other giant Teotihuacan pyramid . There's also the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Chapultepec Castle to check out.

Even just walking around the streets and markets of Mexico City is a blast! Visitors should also try to go to the Frida Kahlo Museum to see some of the 20th century's best art. Some of the natural wonders of this region include the forests in the Desierto de los Leones National Park, the reforested El Tepeyac National Park, and the twin peaks of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes.

  • Flight cost from NYC: $350-500 to Mexico City
  • Budget hotel price per night: $7-195

Related: Older Than Teotihuacan: Visit The Forgotten City Of Monte Albán & Its Ancient Pyramids Even if tourists are traveling on a budget, seeing historic archeological sites, visiting stunning gardens, and seeing incredible natural wonders are all within the realm of possibility. The world is full of exciting travel opportunities that are affordable on even the tightest of budgets. From South America to Europe, there are unique and affordable year-round destinations around the world for every traveler's taste.

These 10 Destinations Allow For Cheap Travel All Year-Round

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  1. 5 Insanely Cheap Countries in South America to Visit

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  2. 5 Insanely Cheap Countries in South America to Visit

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  3. How To Get Cheap Flights To South America (From The US)

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  4. Computing the optimal road trip across South America

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  5. 20 Cheapest Destinations in South America

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  6. 10 Cheap South America Vacations to Enjoy on a Budget

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  1. SURAMÉRICA: DE COSTA A COSTA (TEASER)

  2. 12 INSANELY CHEAP Destinations in South America

  3. South America Travel Tips (it's live now!)

  4. 10 Cheapest Countries in Central

  5. Top 5 South America Destinations

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  1. Cost of Travel in South America

    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.

  2. How to Fly Cheap in South America: Budget Airlines & Airline Passes

    Price: Starting at $505 USD for 4 flights. Restrictions: Valid for Brazil residents and non-residents of South America. Can be used within 30 days on GOL airlines. Can only be used if flying into Brazil on any of the following airlines: GOL, Air France, KLM, or Delta. Must be booked outside of South America.

  3. The 12 Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America

    Peru (from $23.5 USD per day) Budget hostal: $7 USD. Budget restaurant: $2.5 USD. Overnight bus journey: $14 USD 18 hrs. Cost per day: $9.5 + $14 for buses = $23.5 USD. The third cheapest country to visit in South America is Peru, where an average day traveling here costs around S/89 or $23.5 USD.

  4. Travel South America on a Budget

    Best Places to Visit in South America on a Budget. There are a few countries that have appeared in every edition of my book, The World's Cheapest Destinations.If you spend most of your time in these, adding on the ones where the dollar is currently extra strong, you'll get able to cover a big chunk of South America on a typical backpacker budget of $1000 to $1,800 per month for a single ...

  5. How Much Does Backpacking In South America Cost? A Budget Travel Guide

    Daily Cost of Backpacking in South America - Quick Answers! Cost of street food in South America: $1-5USD. Cost of local restaurant food in South America: $5-30USD. Cost of food in a tourist restaurant: $10-30USD. Cost of water in South America: less than $1USD. Cost of beer in South America: $0.50-3USD. Cost of hostel bed in South America ...

  6. How to plan a trip to South America on a budget

    South America Travel Costs. Let's take a look at the typical costs that you'll be spending on a day to day basis in South America. Remember these can and will vary depending on where you are! Average Dorm Bed = £4-10. Private Single Room in a Hostel = £10-15. A Street Food Dish = £1-2.

  7. 7 cheap South America vacations to enjoy on a budget

    Traveling around Paraguay is affordable, making it one of the best cheap South America vacations. 6. Affordable vacation in Peru and Bolivia: Lake Titicaca. One of the world's most unique spots is Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable body of water on the planet.

  8. Three months traveling through South America on a budget

    Buenos Aires, the capital, is one of the most colorful and cultured cities in South America, with tango rhythms and passionate people.The scenery is spectacular as well, giving you a little bit of everything: rainforests in the subtropical north, the great plains that are home to the gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) and vineyards, and the mountains and ice fields of Patagonia.

  9. Budget Travel in South America

    Table of Contents. #1 Manage your money wisely. #2 Find better flights to budget travel in South America. #3 Consider traveling South America during the Off-Season. #4 Book Cheaper Accommodations. #5 Book your activities ahead of time. #6 Use local transportation to get around.

  10. Ultimate South America Travel Guide (Planning, Tips & Advice)

    This South America guide is here to share our tips and advice for traveling across this continent. Located south of North America and Central America, South America stretches from the Caribbean, across the equator and all the way south to the waters off Antarctica. It is comprised of 12 countries and quite frankly, is massive.

  11. 6 budget-friendly destinations in South America for 2023

    Best for: backpacking on a budget. Of all the countries in South America, Bolivia is generally the cheapest for tourists, so naturally, La Paz should be on your list if you're on a budget. The Bolivian capital is high up in the mountains, over 4,000m above sea level, and once you've got used to that, it's time to do some exploring.

  12. The Complete Guide to Budget Airlines in South America

    Carry-on bag: from $12. Checked bag: from $12. Seat selection: from $4. Meals: sandwiches from $7, snacks from $1. With the example roundtrip above costing $54, fees make up a big part of the total. If you add a carry-on, checked bag, and seat selection, the total cost of your trip doubles.

  13. 13 Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America For An Affordable Adventure

    1. Bolivia. Bolivia, a landlocked country nestled in the heart of South America, is a hidden gem for budget travelers seeking an affordable adventure. With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and wallet-friendly prices, Bolivia offers incredible value for those looking to explore on a shoestring budget.

  14. 13 South America Travel Tips You NEED to Know!

    8. Buy your flights in person, not online. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually cheaper to buy your internal flights from travel agencies, or even direct from the counter at the airport, than it is online. When you purchase tickets online, there are additional taxes and hidden charges that sky-rocket the price.

  15. Cost Of Travel In South America (Backpacking Or Budget Style)

    Colombia. Daily backpacker budget: $35 to $50 (€32 - 46) Travel costs in Colombia are mid-range by South American standards. It's gotten cheaper for many travellers over the past few years, as the falling value of the peso versus currencies like the US dollar has made it more favorable.

  16. 7 Cheapest Places to Fly to in South America

    1. Buenos Aires, Argentina. First up on our list of the cheapest places to fly to in South America is Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. It among the cheapest places because it's such a massively popular port of arrivals and departures in the country. This is particularly so at Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), also called ...

  17. Find Cheap Flights to South America with these amazing tips and tricks

    Check Multiple Sites to Discover the Cheap Flights to South America. The first thing to do is to always to go to www.kayak.com and www.skyscanner.net and check out what prices they have listed for airfare for your exact travel dates. Kayak is probably the most comprehensive airfare price scanner on the internet and in combination with ...

  18. $97 Cheap Flights to South America

    The cheapest ticket to South America from the United States found in the last 72 hours was $59 one-way, and $164 round-trip. The most popular route is Miami to Medellín Jose Maria Cordova Intl and the cheapest round-trip airline ticket found on this route in the last 72 hours was $237.

  19. 20 Cheapest Destinations in South America

    More and more people are choosing Colombia for their budget South America travel, with visits to three of the cheapest destinations in South America- Barichara, Bogota, and Medellin. Barichara. Recommended by Toni from Flashpack Journal. Barichara, a small colonial town about 8 hours northeast of Bogota, is a true hidden gem.

  20. Planning a Trip to South America

    July 5, 2024. Tara Shubbuck. Plan your South America trip with this easy-to-follow guide, which also includes tips on finding cheap flights to South America. When to visit, best flight deals, and top cities to see in South America.

  21. Cheap flights to South America

    Cheap flights to anywhere in South America. Explore the best flight deals from anywhere to everywhere, then book with no fees. Travel with confidence. Find the latest travel requirements for South America and get updates if things change. Find the cheapest month or even day to fly to South America.

  22. Backpacking South America Travel Guide (TRAVEL TIPS • 2024)

    1.Rio de Janiero, 2.Ilha Grande, 3.Paraty, 4.São Paolo, 5.Curitiba, 6.Balneario Camboriu, 7.Florianópolis. With 1 month, you can make an epic backpacking South America itinerary. If you want to explore more than one country in South America, you're gonna need more than 3 weeks.

  23. The 15 Best and Cheapest Places to Visit in South America

    Patagonia, Argentina and Chile. "Rubbish", you say, "Patagonia is the most expensive place in South America". While this might be true, outdoor enthusiasts can spend a pittance by camping every day and hitching a ride with friendly locals between jaw-dropping destinations. Just be sure to visit in summer when it's actually warm enough ...

  24. These 10 Destinations Allow For Cheap Travel All Year-Round

    From South America to Europe and Africa, the most beautiful and cheap travel destinations year-round promise natural wonders, archaeology, and more!