This South America travel budget is for backpackers and long-term travelers who have a budget of $10 – $25 USD per day. I did this trip for 3.5 years so expect that I stayed longer in these places. If you are going on a short trip or planned vacation, you can check my individual travel budget planning for each country in South America.
Hi Trish, thank you for your helpful posts about South America. I am planning to go there this year and I was wondering what was your South America travel budget? I know you did it slowly and you did volunteering but can you give me an idea about costs? How much money should I prepare? Thank you so much for the helpful blog!Charles Dahlke, United States
Thank you for reaching out! I know it’s really hard to assess your South American travel budget especially when you are still planning your trip but I will give you the most realistic South America travel budget to make your trip planning successful.
I saved over $4,000 USD for one year of travel in South America? I didn’t pay for any accommodations because of family stays, Couchsurfing, and volunteering.
You don’t have to include all South American countries to your trip. I did this trip for 3.5 years and did not visit all of them as I spent at least 3-6 months per country. It depended on my mood and visa restrictions.
Anyway, here’s my take on South America travel budget and you will definitely discover how I did $10 USD per day per country in this post! Good luck and I hope you push through!
🙋 Questions South America travel budget? Ask me on Tiktok!
💵 $10 USD per day South America travel budget
Once upon a time, I was broke and did not have a solid plan in life. And I shit you not; I did spend $10 USD per day. But that was from 2012 – 2015, so times have changed. Travel is NOW super expensive, and I am happy to have done backpacking for most of my younger years.
Now, what can you get for $10 USD per day as a South America travel budget? Not a lot, really. But it does not mean it’s not possible. The $10 USD per day allotment is mostly for backpackers who are on the road for an indefinite amount of time.
I did this and I spent 7 years living in hostels not just in South America but also in Asia and Europe. One of the things that helped me survive those $10 USD days is volunteering. The bulk of your traveling expenses is on accommodation so when you volunteer, you can get a FREE accommodation.
There are many volunteering opportunities in South America where you work 5 hours a day for 5 days a week in exchange for accommodations and one free meal. These volunteering opportunities (or work exchange) are usually in the fields of hospitality, eco lodging, farming, au pairing, and many more.
You can check out Worldpackers for volunteering opportunities in Thailand. Use my code PSIMONMYWAY10 to get a 10% discount on the first year of your membership.
I also did local stay with host families and you will see how to find host families abroad in this post together with my local experiences.
There you go, FREE accommodations and one free meal. You still have a $10 USD budget to spend! Now how are you going to spend that $10 USD per day wisely?
- 2 meals outside of your FREE meal: $3 USD per meal for street food in South America. It will cost the same if you prefer to go grocery shopping for your meal of the day.
- Beer: $2.50 USD
- Tours and activities: If you are volunteering in hostels and they do tours, volunteers get FREE tours automatically, but this does not apply to all hostels. You can deal with this with your volunteering manager, and they would always say yes. Again, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
💲 Which South American country is the cheapest to travel?
The cheapest destination in South America is Bolivia and the most expensive is Uruguay. Below is the ranking of the cheapest South American destinations (from lowest to highest).
|Suggested Daily Budget
|$20 – $30 USD per day
|$25 – $25 USD per day
|$30 – $40 per day
|$35 – $45 per day
|$35 – $50 per day
|$40 – $55 USD per day
|$40 – $55 USD per day
|$40-$60 USD per day
|$40-$60 USD per day
|$45-$65 USD per day
|$50-$70 USD per day
|Uruguay (most expensive)
|$50-$75 USD per day
- Due to the current political and economic situation in Venezuela, costs may vary significantly, and travel may not be recommended
- An exact cost is hard to gauge for Argentina because of the different USD conversions. Read my blue dollar guide for Argentina for more info.
🌎 South America travel budget per country
Colombia travel budget
✈️ Major International Airports: Bogota | Medellin | Cartagena
I stayed in Colombia for 3 months and maintained my $10 USD budget per day. I heavily focused my financial efforts on transportation costs because I want to be more comfortable when taking long-haul busses.
I only flew once in Colombia (from Barranquilla to Medellin) and for the rest of the trip, I traveled the whole Colombia by bus! Now how was I able to maintain this $10 USD budget?
First, I stayed with a local Colombian family and they actually took me in for weeks! One of the reasons why I stayed with them is because I wanted to learn Spanish.
Colombian Spanish is the clearest Spanish in all of South America, so if you are planning to polish your Spanish, this is the only country that is best at doing it. Now that I am fluent in Spanish, I really understand how unclear and informal other Spanish languages are.
Next, I also volunteered in hostels in Colombia which allowed me to get free accommodations for 2 weeks. I understand if hostel volunteering or local family stay is not your jam so I’ll discuss thee current prices for traveling in Colombia as well.
Accommodation options range from budget-friendly hostels, starting at around $10 per night, to budget hotels that can be found for $20-$30 per night. Street food and local eateries offer delicious meals for as low as $3-$5, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant may cost around $10-$15.
Transportation is also quite affordable, with local bus fares starting at $0.50 and intercity bus fares ranging between $10-$20, depending on the distance. Entrance fees to popular tourist sites are generally inexpensive, often ranging from $2-$10.
While Colombia is undoubtedly an affordable travel destination in South America, it may not be the absolute cheapest option. Countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are known for having lower costs of living and thus can provide even cheaper travel experiences.
However, Colombia’s affordability, diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich culture, make it an excellent value for travelers seeking to explore South America on a budget.
Ecuador travel budget
I traveled from Colombia to Ecuador by land which took me at least 3 days. In Ecuador, I stayed longer in Quito and volunteered in a hostel (again). It was a really nice and small hostel and I’ve made friendships here that lasted til now – we are all still in touch!
Ecuador is a diverse and fascinating country that allows you to explore its natural wonders, vibrant culture, and historical sites without straining your South America travel budget.
If you are not staying on a hostel or doing volunteering jobs, these are the basic travel costs in Ecuador:
Basic travel prices in Ecuador are quite affordable, making it an appealing destination for backpackers and cost-conscious travelers. Budget accommodations, such as hostels, can be found for around $8-$15 per night, while budget hotels range between $20-$30 per night.
Street food and local eateries provide delicious meals for as low as $2-$4, and a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $8-$15.
Transportation is also budget-friendly, with local bus fares starting at $0.25 and intercity bus fares ranging between $5-$15 depending on the distance. Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions are generally inexpensive, often falling between $2-$10.
While Ecuador is undoubtedly an affordable travel destination in South America, it may not be the cheapest option. Countries like Bolivia and Paraguay are known for having even lower living costs, and thus can provide cheaper travel experiences.
However, Ecuador’s affordability and stunning natural attractions such as the Galápagos Islands, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Andean highlands make it an excellent value for travelers looking to explore South America on a budget.
Peru… oh wow, where do I start? I stayed here for a year! I did not expect to be here for a year but when I volunteered in a hostel in Paracas, they really loved my work ethic so they offered me a paid job to be the bar manager.
Along with that, they also sponsored my Peruvian work visa which made me explore Peru from North to South. This is a country that I know in and out so make sure to check out all my Peru travel blogs in this post. So many stories!
Peru is a captivating country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural wonders, making it a popular destination for budget travelers. Basic travel prices in Peru are generally affordable, allowing visitors to experience its ancient sites, vibrant cities, and diverse landscapes without breaking the bank.
Budget accommodations, such as hostels, can cost around $8-$15 per night, while budget hotels range between $20-$35 per night. Street food and local eateries offer delicious meals for as low as $2-$4, and a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $10-$20.
Transportation is also budget-friendly, with local bus fares starting at $0.50 and intercity bus fares ranging between $10-$30 depending on the distance.
Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions are generally inexpensive, although some major sites like Machu Picchu may require more substantial costs, starting at around $50.
I crossed from Peru to Bolivia by bus and what was so great about this experience is that 5 of us who were working together in the hostel in Peru all went to Bolivia at the same time!
I stayed in Bolivia for 3 months and volunteered in a hostel again. This was the most fun hostel that I’ve been in although I really suffered working in a hostel here because there were no elevators in our hostel.
The altitude in Bolivia is a killer so I got exhausted easily. This was also the time when I said I really need to exercise because it really is hard to travel long-term if you are not physically fit.
Bolivia is a diverse and intriguing country, boasting stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a variety of unique experiences. It’s also one of the most affordable travel destinations in South America, making it an attractive option for budget travelers.
In Bolivia, you can find budget accommodations such as hostels for around $5-$10 per night, while budget hotels can range between $15-$25 per night. Local eateries and street food vendors offer delicious and filling meals for as low as $1-$3, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $5-$10.
Transportation is also very budget-friendly, with local city bus fares starting at $0.25 and intercity bus fares ranging between $3-$20 depending on the distance. Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions are generally inexpensive, often falling between $2-$10, although some major sites like the Salar de Uyuni tours may require a higher investment.
Bolivia is often considered one of the cheapest South America travel budget destinations, along with Paraguay. Its low cost of living and affordable prices for accommodations, food, and transportation make it an appealing option for backpackers.
Bolivia’s breathtaking attractions, such as the Salar de Uyuni, the Amazon Rainforest, and the city of La Paz, offer incredible value for travelers looking to explore South America on a budget.
Brazil travel budget
I did Bolivia to Brazil by bus and it took me 5 days since I had a few stops. This was also the most exhausting border crossing because I did this during the World Cup in 2014. Everyone were going to Brazil!
Brazil is a different story because I stayed with local friends here and leaned heavily on Couchsurfing. I did not do a lot of volunteering jobs. I also saved a lot of money from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia by volunteering so I figured, let’s splurge and relax in Brazil!
And for once, not be cheap. Then the bad thing happened. I got robbed in Rio de Janeiro during the World Cup. Anyway, read that story but do not be discouraged about including Brazil in your travel plans.
Brazil and I have a love-hate relationship and guess what? After those 6 months I spent in Brazil, I came to Brazil every year, especially during Christmas and carnaval!
Brazil is a vast and diverse country with a wealth of natural and cultural attractions, from the Amazon Rainforest to the bustling cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. While not the cheapest destination in South America, it is still possible to travel on a budget.
Budget accommodations such as hostels can be found for around $10-$20 per night, and budget hotels may range between $30-$50 per night. Local eateries and street food vendors offer tasty and affordable meals, with prices starting at $3-$5, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $10-$20.
Transportation is reasonably priced, with local city bus and subway fares starting at about $1, and intercity bus fares ranging between $15-$60 depending on the distance. Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions vary, but many sights like beaches and public parks can be enjoyed for free or at a low cost.
Brazil is NOT the cheapest travel destination in South America, as countries like Bolivia and Paraguay are known for having lower costs of living and more affordable travel experiences. However, Brazil offers a diverse range of attractions and experiences, making it an appealing destination for backpackers with different budgets.
Uruguay travel budget
From Brazil, I crossed the border to Uruguay. Uruguay was again a super special destination because it is not popularly visited and it is the most expensive destination in South America.
What made this experience extra special is that I lived with an Uruguayan family, not in Montevideo but in San Jose. This was an extra special experience because I never really thought I’d found a host family there.
Unlike the other South America destinations where I stayed for months, I only stayed 1 month in Uruguay. Apart from being expensive, there aren’t really a lot of things to do there but I made meaningful relationships and friendships which made me understand the Uruguayan culture better.
Uruguay is a charming and relatively small country in South America, known for its picturesque coastline, rolling countryside, and vibrant cities like Montevideo and Punta del Este. While Uruguay is not the most budget-friendly destination in the region, it is still possible to travel there without overspending.
Budget accommodations, such as hostels, can be found for around $15-$25 per night, while budget hotels range between $30-$60 per night. Dining at local eateries and street food vendors can be affordable, with prices starting at $4-$6 for a meal, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $15-$30.
Transportation is also reasonably priced, with local city bus fares starting at about $1, and intercity bus fares ranging between $5-$30 depending on the distance. Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions are generally reasonable, and many sights like beaches and public parks can be enjoyed for free.
Uruguay is not the cheapest travel destination in South America, as countries like Bolivia and Paraguay offer lower costs of living and more affordable travel experiences.
However, Uruguay’s small size, friendly atmosphere, and diverse attractions make it an appealing destination for travelers who are willing to spend a bit more.
Argentina travel budget
In Argentina, I did not volunteer. I stayed with a local family as an English teacher. At the time, I already completed my ESL certificate and this was one of the countries where I taught English.
After that, I got offered a job at the British School and I stayed for a year. I ended up living in Buenos Aires which I consider one of the best cities in the world.
Argentina is a vast and diverse country, offering a wide range of attractions, from the bustling city of Buenos Aires to the breathtaking natural wonders of Patagonia and Iguazu Falls. While not the cheapest destination in South America, budget travel in Argentina is still achievable.
Budget accommodations, such as hostels, can be found for around $10-$20 per night, while budget hotels range between $25-$50 per night. Dining at local eateries and street food vendors can be affordable, with prices starting at $3-$5 for a meal, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around $10-$25.
Transportation is also reasonably priced, with local city bus and subway fares starting at about $0.50, and intercity bus fares ranging between $15-$50 depending on the distance. Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions vary, but many sights like parks, plazas, and some museums can be enjoyed for free or at a low cost.
Whether Argentina is cheap or not, it is debatable because they have crazy inflation rates that has been going on for years. Now, this is even worse. When I was back there in 2014, it was already a crazy inflation rate so I had to learn my way around Argentina’s blue dollar.
I have lots of tips on how to manage money in Argentina so read my Argentina travel budget for that!
🚌 Cost of transportation in South America
There are several ways to get around South America from country to country. The prices provided are approximate and can vary depending on the route, season, and service provider. Here’s a list of common transportation options along with their descriptions and approximate prices:
Flying is the fastest and most convenient way to travel between South American countries. Many airlines offer flights within the continent, including LATAM, Avianca, Gol, and Copa Airlines.
Prices can vary significantly depending on the route, time of booking, and airline, with one-way regional flights typically ranging from $100 to $500. Budget You can find better deals by booking in advance and being flexible with their travel dates.
Long-distance buses are a popular and affordable way to travel between South American countries. Bus services are generally comfortable, reliable, and safe, with options ranging from standard buses to luxury sleeper buses with reclining seats, air conditioning, and onboard entertainment.
Prices for international bus routes can range from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the distance, amenities, and bus company. Major bus companies include Cruz del Sur, Ormeño, and Expreso Internacional Ormeño.
Train travel in South America is limited compared to other continents, and there are only a few international train routes available.
One notable route is the Tren Crucero in Ecuador, which offers a luxury experience through the Andean highlands, with prices starting around $1,200 for a four-day journey. In general, train travel is more focused on scenic and tourist routes rather than inter-country connections.
Boats and Ferries
Traveling by boat or ferry can be an adventurous and scenic way to explore South America. Riverboats are a common mode of transportation in the Amazon Basin, connecting countries like Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.
Prices for multi-day riverboat journeys can range from $50 to $200, depending on the distance and boat class. Ferries also operate between Chile and Argentina through the Patagonia region, with one-way fares starting around $50.
Private Car or Rental Car
For those who prefer more flexibility and independence, renting a car or hiring a private driver can be an option for traveling between some South American countries.
However, it can be more expensive and logistically challenging due to border crossings, varying road conditions, and rental restrictions. Car rental prices can start at around $30 per day, while hiring a private driver could cost $100 or more per day, depending on the route and negotiation.
Although not recommended for everyone, some adventurous travelers choose to hitchhike as a way to get around South America. This mode of travel is free but comes with its own risks and challenges, such as personal safety, language barriers, and unpredictable wait times.
Keep in mind that transportation costs can vary greatly depending on factors such as season, route, and booking time. It’s essential to do thorough research and consider your travel priorities, preferences, and comfort levels when choosing the best transportation option for your South American adventure.
⁉️ FAQ: South America trip cost
How much should I budget for a trip to South America?
A trip to South America will vary in cost depending on the length of your stay and the destinations you plan to visit. The costs can range anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 for a 10-day trip.
Factors such as flights, accommodation, activities, and food will determine how much money you need to budget for this trip. Again, I backpacked South America for 3.5 years on a $10 USD per day so this is a case-to-case basis.
It all depends on the type of traveler that you are and what kind of trip you want to do including countries you want to visit in South America.
How much money do you need for 2 months in South America?
I did 3.5 years in South America on a $10 USD per day budget so this is really up to you and your travel style. I did not pay for accommodations and had free food for volunteering so your circumstance may be different.
I also stayed with local families and taught English during my 3-year long backpacking trip. But for a two-month trip to South America, you should budget around $2,000 – $10,000 depending on your desired destinations and activities.
It’s important to research each destination before making any plans, and create a detailed budget in order to get an accurate estimate. Additionally, consider the cost of flights and any other expenses such as accommodation or food that may be necessary for your journey.
What time of year is cheapest to travel to South America?
Generally, the cheapest time to travel to South America is during the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October. During these periods, temperatures are mild and there is less tourist traffic than in peak season.
Prices for accommodation and flights tend to be lower at this time. However, prices can vary depending on your destination and cities may experience more rainfall during certain times of the year.
However, please remember that South America is a big region and each country has their own high and low season (including different weathers). You really can’t generalize this as it differs from country to country. Research the countries individually.
Is 3 months enough to travel South America?
It all depends on your travel style and the destinations you plan to visit in South America. Generally speaking, three months is enough time to explore many of the continent’s main attractions, such as Machu Picchu in Peru or Iguazu Falls in Brazil.
If you want to experience more off-the-beaten-path locations, then it might be best to double this period of time. Consider researching routes and developing an itinerary before booking any trips.
Which country is best to visit for first time in South America?
That’s a tough question and it could depend on your personal tastes and interests. Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina are the most visited countries in South America due to the many attractions available for tourists.
If you’re looking for colonial cities steeped in history, then visit Peru or Ecuador, where ancient Inca sites await discovery. For beaches, jungle adventures and a vibrant culture, Brazil is hard to beat. Finally, if you want breathtaking mountain views and pristine national parks, Argentina and Colombia are ideal destinations.
Which country in South America is safest to visit?
It’s difficult to say which country is ‘safest’, as there are risks in any destination. That said, some countries in South America do have lower crime rates than others. Uruguay and Chile are considered two of the safest countries in the region, however, it’s still important to practice safety precautions and pay attention to your surroundings.
As for me, I did not feel harmed during my 3.5 years backpacking trip in South America. Safety is personal and subjective and to be honest, this safety thing is an American question. South America is 100% safer than the United States, I tell you that.