Budget Travel Guide to South America: Top Tips

Heading to South America is both thrilling and friendly for your wallet. It’s the home of the world’s second biggest mountain range and boasts a variety of landscapes. From the Amazon Basin to the Andes, there’s much to see.

It’s a top choice for those looking to save money while enjoying diverse experiences. This guide is perfect for backpackers or new visitors. It’s packed with tips to help you explore this amazing continent on a budget.

Key Takeaways

  • South America offers a diverse range of budget-friendly destinations and experiences.
  • Backpacking in South America is generally more affordable than in some other regions, but not as inexpensive as Southeast Asia or India.
  • Careful planning and flexibility in your itinerary can help you maximize your budget and discover the best of South America.
  • Accommodations, transportation, and activities can all be tailored to fit a range of budgets, from shoestring to midrange.
  • The US dollar is the recommended currency for managing your finances effectively in South America.

Introduction: Backpacking Adventures in South America

Exploring South America on foot is a life-changing adventure. It’s a bit like being in the true wild west of backpacking. There’s just enough danger and thrill to keep you hooked and dreaming more. From climbing the Andes to exploring the Amazon, South America overwhelms with its different views and experiences. Although it can be challenging, the highs of budget backpacking in South America outweigh the lows by a long shot.

Embracing the Wild West Frontier of Backpacking

South America calls out to bold travelers with its rough and varied land, unexpected changes in weather, and constant hints of something new. For a budget backpacker, it means getting to know big cities, remote towns, and all in between, ready for whatever might come. Plans switch up all the time, but that’s where the best stories begin, with surprises and new friends waiting around each bend.

The Diverse Beauty and Budget-Friendly Nature of South America

This continent has it all, from the snowy Andean peaks to the steamy Amazon jungles. Besides being drop-dead gorgeous, South America is amazingly easy on the wallet. It’s perfect for those looking to travel on a shoestring. With plenty of affordable accommodation, cheap ways to get around, and a ton of free or low-cost activities, South America is a goldmine for anyone aiming to explore on a budget.

“Exploring South America on a budget is an eye-opening adventure. It’s like entering the wild west of backpacking, with excitement keeping you fully alive and engaged.”

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Planning Your South America Backpacking Route

Planning your south america backpacking route means thinking about long distances and travel times. South America is massive. Getting from one spot to another can take a long time. This might mean hours or even days on buses or trains. It’s key to carefully plan your trip in terms of south america travel planning, distances, and how long it’ll take. This helps you use your time and money well.

How much time you have to travel around South America matters a lot. Decide how long to stay in each place based on how much time you’ve got. It’s smart to have a plan but also be ready to change it. Staying open to new ideas while you travel is important.

Considering Time Constraints and Travel Distances

South America is big, with lots of different landscapes. This makes getting around a challenge. Here are some things to think about when planning your trip:

  • South America has the world’s longest continental mountain range, the Andes, which can significantly impact travel times between destinations.
  • The continent is home to the largest river by volume, the Amazon, and the largest rainforest, requiring careful planning for efficient travel.
  • Currency differences and the region’s relative lack of tourism compared to other parts of the world can also affect travel costs and logistics.

Flexibility and Spontaneity in Your Itinerary

Having a good plan is important, but so is being flexible and spontaneous. South America is full of surprises and places off the beaten path. Being open to these can make your trip more interesting.

Leaving some wiggle room in your south america backpacking itinerary can be a great idea. It lets you change your plans as you go. You can follow tips from locals or explore places you didn’t even know about. This makes your travel experience richer and more exciting.

south america backpacking route

Budget Travel Itineraries for South America

Exploring South America is a thrilling journey, particularly if you’re on a budget. With choices ranging from a two-week getaway to a full month expedition, you’re bound to find the perfect spot. Let’s look at some wallet-friendly itineraries for this enchanting region.

2-Week Itinerary: Exploring Colombia or Peru

A two-week adventure through either Colombia or Peru is a great idea. Start in Colombia with Cartagena, then move to the tranquil Minca and the stunning Tayrona Park. Head to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Galinas, places where the desert meets the sea, before you end back in Cartagena.

In Peru, your journey includes Lima, the mysterious Nazca Lines, and Arequipa. Don’t miss the chance to visit Machu Picchu after exploring Cusco.

1-Month Itinerary: Southeast Brazil or Ecuador and Colombia

A month allows in-depth exploration. Begin in Southeast Brazil with Rio, then relax in Ilha Grande and Paraty. Traveling south, visit the eco-city of Curitiba and vibrant Balneário Camboriú.

If you choose Ecuador and Colombia, start in Ecuador’s coast and Andes. Explore Quito and the Cotopaxi area before spending a week trekking in Colombia.

2-week and 1-month south america itinerary

“Exploring the diverse landscapes and vibrant cultures of South America on a budget is an exciting prospect.”

South America has plenty of budget-friendly adventures. From its majestic natural settings to its rich cultures, there’s something for everyone. A bit of planning and some flexibility can create the perfect South American journey within your means.

3-Month Backpacking Adventure in South America

If you’ve got 3 months to spare and love adventure, South America is perfect for you. Start in Lima, Peru to explore the Andes mountains. Then, head into the Amazon basin, and further into Bolivia and Argentina.

Another great start is in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Travel north through Brazil and Colombia. Remember, distances are big, so expect long bus rides or pricey flights.

A 3-month trip gives the right mix of time and freedom. Plus, with $20-30 a day, you can see it all. This includes vibrant cities, charming villages, and breathtaking sights.

3-month south america backpacking

  • Colombia: Spend 2 weeks exploring Bogotá, Santa Marta, Medellín, and Cali.
  • Ecuador: Allocate 10 days to visit Quito, Baños, and Montañita.
  • Peru: Dedicate 3 weeks to adventure through Lima, Iquitos, and more.
  • Bolivia: Allot 16 days to see Copacabana, La Paz, and Sucre.

In 3 months, you’ll dive into South America’s culture and nature. It’ll be a trip full of amazing experiences. No matter where you start, you’ll discover the beauty and affordability of this region.

6-Month Epic South American Journey

If you have 6 months to explore South America, you’re in for a treat. You can deeply dive into its cultures and terrains. Start from Brazil’s north to Patagonia’s south. You might visit Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Machu Picchu. But, this extensive journey needs thorough planning. You’ll spend lots of hours traveling by bus or plane, hopping between places.

From Rio de Janeiro to Caracas: An Ambitious Endeavor

My 6-month journey through South America spanned 6 countries. Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia were more budget-friendly. I had aimed to spend £1,000 a month but ended up spending £6,621.65 over 3 months. This came to a bit over £2,000 each month.

I saw big differences in daily spending. In Argentina, I spent around £86.82 each day across 4 days. In Bolivia, it was just £52.40 daily for 7 days. Chile was pricier, averaging £66.12 per day over 11 days. Yet, Bolivia was a budget traveler’s dream.

Country Average Daily Spending Duration
Argentina £86.82 4 days
Bolivia £52.40 7 days
Chile £66.12 11 days

Traveling by bus is common here since it’s cheaper. But at times, I flew to save time, like from Santiago to San Pedro Atacama. Currency exchange rates and inflation affect costs. So, the trip might be less expensive in 2024 than when I went in 2018.

6-month south america backpacking

My 6 months in South America taught me a lot about managing money and time. I’d suggest cooking in hostels, choosing affordable places to stay, and using transport smartly. These tips can help you enjoy South America fully without breaking the bank.

Budget Travel Guide to South America: Top Tips

Taking a backpacking trip across South America is both exciting and rewarding. Yet, careful budget planning is key. Having traveled extensively throughout this amazing continent, I’m thrilled to share some top tips for budget travel. These will help you enjoy your journey without overspending.

Prioritize Affordable Destinations

Some South American countries are more budget-friendly than others. Places like Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia offer a low cost of living for tourists. You can get by spending between $15 and $27 a day there. Conversely, Chile and Argentina tend to be pricier. Expect to spend around $40 to $50 daily in these countries.

Embrace Slow Travel

Visiting every nook and cranny of South America can drain your savings quickly. Instead, try slow travel. Focus on a few places at a time. This not only saves you money but also lets you deeply experience each location’s culture and beauty.

Utilize Budget-Friendly Accommodations

South America has many affordable lodging options. Hostels, Couchsurfing, and camping are economical choices. You can also find good deals on Booking.com and Airbnb. They offer cheaper rates compared to traditional hotels.

Explore Local Transportation

Getting around South America doesn’t have to be expensive. By researching and staying flexible, you can find transport deals. Local buses, hitchhiking, and domestic flights can save you money. Always search for the most affordable ways to get from place to place.

Indulge in Local Cuisine and Activities

South America offers rich local flavors and vibrant cultural experiences. Choosing local markets, street food, and free activities helps keep costs low. Whether it’s sightseeing, joining in festivals, or enjoying local music, many activities won’t cost much.

Following these budget travel tips can make your South American adventure more affordable. They are useful whether you’re going for a short visit or a long backpacking trip. Remember, saving money on the road means more memorable experiences without the stress of overspending.

south america backpacking tips

“The vastness of South America is both a blessing and a curse – it allows you to explore a wealth of diverse landscapes and cultures, but it can also quickly deplete your travel budget if you’re not careful.” – Seasoned South America Backpacker

Choosing the Best Destinations for Budget Travelers

Planning a South America trip can be tricky. Stick to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. These are great for budget travelers. They offer cheap places to stay, ways to get around, and fun things to do.

But places like Chile and Brazil can cost more. Deciding carefully where to go helps you use your money wisely. This way, your trip can be both fun and affordable.


Colombia is perfect for those looking to save money. It has lively cities, a deep culture, and breath-taking scenery. You can find places to sleep for $40 or less each night. For a solo traveler, the budget could be between $1,000 and $1,800 per month.

Recently, visa costs have gone down in some countries, saving you money. For a couple, the price range might be $2,000 to $3,000 monthly. This makes Colombia a top choice for budget travelers.


Ecuador is a great spot for affordable travel in South America. It has everything from the Andes to the Amazon. Quito, its capital, is very cheap compared to others in the area.

You can find a bed in a hostel for as little as $5 to $10 each night. This makes Ecuador a must-visit for anyone looking to save money while traveling.


Peru draws in millions of visitors every year. Its famous hiking spots and food scene are big hits. You can stay in a hostel for $5 to $10 a night, and beers are about $2.

Bolivia and Argentina

In Bolivia, you can find cheap hostels from just $12 for a shared room. A private room might cost around $30. Their local beer is only $1.00.

Argentina is known for long bus rides, some lasting 24 hours. But the beauty of its lands and the different regions are worth it. It’s another great budget travel spot.

By choosing wisely, your South America trip can be amazing and affordable. Make a plan and be open to new things, and you’ll see incredible places without spending too much.

The Art of Slow Travel in South America

Understanding and practicing slow travel can make exploring South America easier on your wallet. Instead of racing through places, spend more time in each one. This change not only cuts down travel costs but also makes your journey richer and more memorable.

Avoiding Transportation Costs and Savoring Each Destination

In South America, long bus rides and flights can eat up your budget fast. Slowing down lets you spend less on moving between places. It means diving deep into local life, enjoying varied scenery slowly, and making memories that don’t break the bank.

Choosing Slow Travel means valuing local connections and unique experiences more than the usual tourist spots. This fits well with traveling on a budget in South America. It helps support local economy, be eco-friendly, and truly understand the places you see.

Also, slow travel helps avoid getting too tired, letting you enjoy South America better. Taking it easy allows you to really take in each moment, live like a local, and come back home with a new love for the continent’s many cultures and sceneries.

Benefits of Slow Travel in South America Potential Savings
Reduced transportation costs Up to 50% on travel expenses
Deeper cultural immersion and understanding Priceless experiences
Decreased carbon footprint Positive environmental impact
Preventing traveler burnout Improved overall well-being

By adopting the slow travel lifestyle in South America, you open up to a more enriching and wallet-friendly journey. You’ll cherish every spot you visit, and the memories will last a lifetime.

slow travel south america

Accommodation Options for Backpackers

In South America, backpackers have many budget-friendly places to stay. Hostels are everywhere and great for meeting people from other countries. You can find cheap, shared rooms in hostels where you’ll meet other adventurers.

Want to live like a local? Couchsurfing is a cool way to stay for free. It connects travelers with people who offer a place to sleep. This way, you save money, learn about the country, and make new friends.

Love the outdoors? Camping in South America is a low-cost and exciting option. You can put up a tent in places like the Andes or the Amazon. This means spending less and being closer to nature. It’s a unique way to see the beauty of the continent.

Hostels, Couchsurfing, and Camping

Backpackers can save lots by picking these accommodation options. They’ll meet interesting people and have amazing experiences. Whether you prefer hostels, staying with locals, or camping, there’s something for everyone.

budget accommodation south america

“Hostels in South America offer a great way to meet fellow travelers, learn about the local culture, and experience the region on a budget.”

In South America, you’ll find accommodation in cities and off the beaten path. These options suit various budgets and tastes. By choosing from these various places to stay, your journey becomes a great adventure.

Transportation in South America on a Budget

Exploring South America on a budget isn’t impossible. There are several ways to see the continent without spending too much. You can easily hop on buses or even hitchhike to enjoy all this region has to offer.

Buses: A Reliable and Affordable Way to Travel

Traveling by bus is common and cost-effective in South America. Many countries offer buses that are not only cheap but also comfortable. These buses make it easy to move between cities at a low cost.

Comfort levels vary when it comes to bus travel. You can find buses with seats that partially recline or fully recline. These options allow you to choose the level of comfort that fits your budget.

Hitchhiking: An Adventurous and Budget-Friendly Approach

Hitchhiking can be both exciting and wallet-friendly in South America. It’s a way to meet locals and dive deep into the culture. However, it’s crucial to be smart and cautious if you choose this option.

Domestic Flights: A Time-Saving Option

When you’re short on time, catching a flight within South America can save the day. Flights are faster than buses, allowing you to see more in less time. Keep an eye out for good deals to trim your budget.

By picking the right way to get around, you can cut down on expenses and get the most out of your South American adventure.

budget transportation south america

“South American buses are known for issues such as bag slashing, pickpocketing, and occasional instances of highway robbery, while violent crimes are relatively rare.”

Staying safe on a bus trip in South America is as simple as being careful. Keep your valuables secure and stay alert. It’s good to use safety items, like hidden pockets in scarves, and locks for your bags.

Budgeting for Food and Activities

You don’t have to spend too much to enjoy South America’s vibrant flavors and culture. By being smart, you can dive into the region’s food and activities on a budget.

Savor the Local Cuisine

Travelling in South America means trying colorful, tasty local dishes. Skip the expensive places and go for small, family-owned spots or south america street food. It’s a budget-friendly way to taste real, local food.

Discover Free Experiences

South American cities offer lots to do for free or cheap. You can see historical spots, relax in plazas, and enjoy museums without spending a lot. These free activities south america help you save money while you experience the lively culture.

Destination Average Daily Spending Highlights
Argentina £86.82 Sightseeing and activities were the biggest expense, costing £173.79 over 4 days.
Bolivia £52.40 The most significant cost was sightseeing at $206.00, including a tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats and the Death Road experience.
Chile £66.12 Accommodation (£210.23), food (£158.73), and sightseeing (£174.61) were the highest expenses.

Choosing south america budget food and free activities lets you enjoy the region without overspending. With some creativity and being flexible, your trip can be unforgettable and well within budget.

south america street food

“Heather spent around $600 USD in her first month in Peru, where the northern region was more budget-friendly, while she spent about $1,200 USD in her second month in the more expensive southern region.”

Finding the right balance between treating yourself and making wise financial decisions is key. Embrace local customs and find affordable or free things to do. This way, you’ll have a memorable journey through South America.


I’m wrapping up this guide on budget travel in South America. I hope it’s got you excited to tackle this amazing continent. We’ve covered everything from planning your journey to finding cheap stays and fun activities. This guide aims to help you have a fantastic South America trip without breaking the bank.

Are you a pro at backpacking or going on your first big adventure? Either way, this guide has info to help you explore South America wisely and affordably. Tapping into budget options and staying flexible will make your journey much more enjoyable. In South America, every cheap travel choice leads to a unique and memorable experience.

Now armed with the tips from this south america budget travel summary, you’re set for an awesome budget travel tips south america adventure. Get ready for stunning scenery, rich cultures, and moments you’ll never forget. Let the adventure begin and South America’s magic mesmerize you. Bon voyage!


What are some budget-friendly destinations in South America?

Countries in South America like Colombia and Peru are great for those on a budget. They offer cheap places to stay, move around, and things to do.

How can I save money on transportation in South America?

Opting for buses is both reliable and cheap for city-to-city travel. You can also hitchhike in various areas. For flying within the country, it might cost more but is quicker.

What are some affordable accommodation options for backpackers in South America?

Hostels, couchsurfing, and camping are smart choices for budget travelers in South America. They help cut down on expenses for a trip.

How can I experience the local culture and cuisine on a budget?

Eating at local places or trying street food can save you money. This way, you get to taste real dishes without the cost of tourist spots. Many cities offer cheap or free cultural stuff to see as well.

How can I plan a flexible and budget-friendly itinerary for South America?

Keep your plans open to find cool surprises and good deals in South America. Balancing your must-see spots with some unplanned fun can make your trip memorable and affordable.

What are some tips for slow travel in South America?

Spending more time in each place and traveling less keeps your costs down. This also lets you really know the people and places you visit in South America.

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