Colombia Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Colombia

(Map of Colombia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daily Travel Costs in Colombia on a Shoestring Budget

US$30 | 90,000 Colombian Peso

Colombian falls into the category of average South American country in terms of costs. It’s overall perhaps a fraction more expensive than neighbours Ecuador and Peru but compared to our Brazil backpacking budget, you aren’t spending as much and it has got cheaper in recent years thanks to the depreciation of its currency in comparison to the US Dollar, which is used in Ecuador.

The cost of eating and drinking out and most day-time activities are actually pretty similar but what makes Colombia a bit more expensive than its neighbour is its size and the difficulty in getting around it due to its mountainous nature. You’ll need to spend several days on a bus to get from the North Coast to one of its Southern borders and as such are likely to end up spending pushing $200 on transport alone during your time in Colombia. Providing you don’t rush through the country at whirlwind speed, you can get by on around $30/day on average with days where you aren’t travelling to a new town, likely to cost significantly less.

See where Colombia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in South America.

More Comfortable Colombia Backpacker Budget

US$45 | 135,000 Colombian Peso

If time is of the essence for you then taking a few flights, is the only way to really get to see the best of Colombia in less than a few weeks to a month. With a slightly increased budget, you can take advantage of this and although it’s a shame to miss out on some of the scenery, you will save hours and sometimes days by taking the aerial route. Even if you’re not in a particular rush, bus travel in South America can get tiresome at times and Colombia does have some of the best budget airline options. On $45/day you can afford to fly rather than take the bus for the longer journeys although some advanced booking is advisable in order to secure the better fares.

Alternatively instead of spending your extra $15 on flights, you could upgrade your accommodation from hostel dorm to a decent private room and have money left over for meals and nights out in better restaurants and bars.

Sample Prices in Colombia

Bus from Bogota to Salento (around 8 hours) – around $20

Flight from Bogota to Medellin (1 hour) – from $25 plus baggage when booked in advance with Viva Colombia

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $3

0.5 litre local beer at a bar or restaurant – $1

Dorm bed in Bogota – from $6/night

Private double or twin room in Cartagena – from $16/night

Tour of a coffee plantation in Salento – $5

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Colombia prices to the cost of travel in Peru.


Currency – Colombian Peso

£1 = 3778 COP

€1 = 3183 COP

US$1 = 3003 COP

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

Unlike neighbours Ecuador and Panama, the US Dollar is very rarely accepted so you will need Pesos.

MFT Recommends

Travel insurance is highly advisable. We suggest using World Nomads, who are experts in providing cover for backpackers.

Street art in Colombia

street art in Bogota, Colombia (via -Dj Lu- JuegasiempreCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Colombia recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉

This article was published in December 2016.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for a full overview of budget travel in the region.

Chile Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Chile

(Map of Chile from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daily Travel Costs in Chile on a Shoestring Budget

US$45 | 30,000 Chilean Peso

Chile is a complicated country to budget for, mostly because of its peculiar long snake-like Shape. From Arica in the far North to Punta Arenas in the far South, it’s almost 5,000km by the quickest overland route, over 50 hours on the road by car and plenty more via bus. Clearly covering such a vast distance costs a significant amount of money and the lack of real budget airlines makes things difficult for the shoestring traveller in Chile although things have improved in that regard recent years.

The budget you allow for depends a lot on how much ground you want to cover and how quickly. $45 is our suggest daily Chile backpacking budget but if you want to cover basically the length of the country in a few weeks, you’ll need to budget for a bit more. If you’re staying in one or two parts of the country or have a longer period time to travel then this is more realistic and by camping or using hostels with self-catering facilities, you may be able to get by on less although it is still overall one of the more expensive countries in South America and prices are certainly higher than in neighbouring Peru.

See where Chile ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all South American countries.

More Comfortable Chile Backpacker Budget

US$60 | 40,000 Chilean Peso

Another major issue with budgeting for travel in Chile is the regional and seasonal variation in prices. The cost of travel in the remote South is considerably higher than in the rest of the country, particularly during the peak summer months. It’s one of the most beautiful regions of South America but the location and harsh climate means travel infrastructure is fairly limited and prices are high as a result. There are also some fairly hefty fees to enter the stunning national parks in that region so costs can add up and if you’re planning to spend the bulk of your trip in the South of Chile and aren’t willing to camp then $60 or 40,000 Peso is a more realistic daily budget.

Sample Prices in Chile

Flight from Santiago to Antofagasta (2 hours) – from $50

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $7

0.5 Litre local beer in bar or restaurant – $2

Dorm bed in Santiago – from $6/night

Twin or Double private room in Villarrica – from $35/night

Entry to Torres del Paine National Park – 18,000 COP peak season (currently $27.50), 5,000 COP low season ($7.50)

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Chile prices to the cost of travel in Brazil


Currency – Chilean Peso

£1 = 824 CLP

€1 = 694 CLP

US$1 = 655 CLP

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

MFT Recommends

La Casa Roja is a cool hostel to stay at in the heart of the Chilean capital Santiago with a spacious garden and pool area.

Street art in Chile

street art in Valparaiso, Chile (via BORIS GCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Chile recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉

This article was published in December 2016.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for a full overview of budget travel in the region.

Brazil Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Brazil

(Map of Brazil from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daily Travel Costs in Brazil on a Shoestring Budget

US$50 | 170 Brazilian Real

Anyone heading to Brazil and expecting to find a budget travel paradise will be sadly mistaken. It is the most expensive country in South America and our Brazil backpacking budget of $50 puts it roughly in line with an average country in Europe. Given the country’s size and the massive inequality that exists, this figure is only really a rough guide though and. Spend an afternoon or evening in one of the posher areas of Rio or Sao Paulo and you could easily end up blowing this in a matter of hours. However by venturing into cheaper neighbourhoods not to mention cheaper parts of the country, prices tumble and your budget will stretch much further, especially if you have even a basic grasp of Portuguese.

Hostel beds and basic meals are relatively good value on the whole while there are lots of budget-friendly ways to enjoy a night out. What can really cost a lot in Brazil though is getting around the country. You’d need several months to get anywhere close to seeing most of the main travel regions and if you try to cram too much into a small space, you’ll be forking out a lot on internal flights and long-distance buses.

Therefore by focusing on just one part of the country or a couple of regions tops, you can get by on $50/day comfortably enough and perhaps even less. Anything much more ambitious and you might want to start thinking about the ‘more comfortable’ budget below.

See where Brazil ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in South America.

More Comfortable Brazil Backpacker Budget

US$75 | 250 Brazilian Real

Upping your budget to $75 opens up a lot more opportunities. If you have say a month or less in Brazil but wish to visit Rio and a few places on the coast as well as heading to the famous Iguazu falls and into the Amazon then this might be more realistic. The cost of internal flights can be quite high and you won’t have time to take the more budget-friendly but incredibly time-consuming, multi-day boat journey into the Amazon.

If time is less of an issue and you’re willing to opt for slower but cheaper transport, then this budget will allow you to pay for a few more organised trips such as guided excursions deeper into the Amazon. It will also allow you stay in nicer accommodation and enjoy more meals/drinks in better restaurants/bars.

Sample Prices in Brazil

Bus journey from Rio to Sao Paulo (7 hours) – $30

Flight from Rio to Manaus (4 hours) – from $120

0.5 Litre local beer in a bar – $1.75

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $6

Dorm bed in Rio de Janeiro – from $9/night

Private double or twin room in Recife – from $18/night

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Brazil prices to the cost of travel in Peru


Currency – Brazilian Real

£1 = 4.25 BRL

€1 = 3.58 BRL

US$1 = 3.38 BRL

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

MFT Recommends

Check out the Walk on the Favela Hostel in Rio for an authentic Brazilian favela experience just a short walk from the iconic Copacabana Beach.

Street art in Brazil

street art in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Brazil recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉

This article was published in December 2016.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for a full overview of budget travel in the region.

Peru Backpacking Budget

Peru backpacking budget

(Map of Peru from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daily Travel Costs in Peru on a Shoestring Budget

US$25 | 85 Peruvian Sol

Peru is overall a cheap country to visit even by South America standards. Staying in one place, you can probably get by on as little as $15/day with plenty of real budget accommodation while eating out in local restaurants is also great value. However there are a few reasons why Peru is a bit more expensive than Bolivia for example or the cheapest countries in Asia or Africa.

Firstly the size of the country means you will spend a lot of time travelling around particularly if you are looking to go all the way from the Northern border with Ecuador all the way down into Bolivia or Chile. The lack of budget airlines means travelling by bus is the only realistic option for shoestring travellers and although they aren’t expensive on a per km or per hour basis, you will need to spend several days on a bus to travel through the entire country and costs do add up.

Average costs are perhaps a bit cheaper than Ecuador but it is 5 times as big so unless you just focus on one part of the country you are likely to be working on a similar budget. The second budget breaker in Peru is the world famous Machu Picchu, which is very expensive to visit. Although it is entirely possible to go to Peru and not go there (there are many other great Incan sites to visit), the majority of travellers do go there and if you opt for one of the more expensive trips to it then you may struggle to stick to our overall Peru backpacking budget of $25/day.

See where Peru ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all South American countries

More Comfortable Peru Backpacker Budget

US$40 | 135 Peruvian Sol

If you are doing a big trip in South America and have a certain timeframe for it, you might want to budget a bit more for Peru and maybe skip some of the less interesting parts of the country by taking a flight. Most of the main points of interest are in the South of the country with the likes of Cuzco and Arequipa among the more interesting cities to visit compared to Lima or the ones in the North.

By budgeting for $40/day you can probably afford to skip a large portion of the country and well over 24 hours of travelling on buses by taking a domestic flight or if you are just visiting the South, you could probably take a flight from Lima to Cuzco rather than the never-ending bus route. You could probably also do one of the longer hikes up to Machu Picchu.

Sample Prices in Peru

Flight from Lima to Cuzco (1 hour 20 minutes) – 260 Soles ($80)

Bus from Cuzco to Arequipa (11 hours) – from 30 Soles ($9)

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – 10 Soles ($3)

Large local beer in a cheap bar or restaurant – 5 Soles ($1.50)

Dorm bed in Cuzco – from 15 Soles/night ($4.50)

Budget private double or twin – 30 Soles/night ($9)

Entrance Fee to Machu Picchu – 128 Soles* ($40)

*this is purely to enter & doesn’t include the considerable cost of getting there.


Currency – Peruvian Sol

£1 = 4.80 Sol

€1 = 3.78 Sol

US$1 = 3.33 Sol

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

MFT Recommends

Stay at Vallecito Backpackers in Arequipa for great value dorm beds and excellent staff.

street art in Peru

street art in Huachipa, Peru (via El DecertorCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Peru recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉

This article was published in June 2016.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for a full overview of budget travel in the region.

Top 10 Cities for Watching Football (Soccer)

Note these cities are in no particular order! They are all great places to take in some football for different reasons and each offer unique experiences, which are hard to rank.

Best Cities for Watching Football

1. Dortmund

Dortmund - One of the best cities for football
The Yellow Wall

Truth be told, Dortmund isn’t one of the world’s great travel destinations but the experience of taking in a match at Westfalenstadion is a must for any hardcore footy fan. The enormous single tier Südtribüne (South Bank) is the largest terrace in European football with 24,000 packing it on matchdays and creating the famous Yellow Wall, which generates an incredible atmosphere. British supporters, who long for the days of standing at games arrive in their thousands every matchday to experience it and it is certainly one of the continents growing football tourism venues. The on-field action isn’t bad either with Borussia playing an attacking brand of football that usually produces plenty of goals. With fellow Bundesliga clubs Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Köln and Borussia Monchengladbach not far away you might even be able to squeeze two games into your trip.

2. Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires football
A mini Maradona looks out colourful La Boca

The Argentine capital is home to more professional football clubs than any other city in the world and to say the sport is taken very seriously here, would be an enormous understatement. 16 of the 30 teams in the Argentine top flight are based in Greater Buenos Aires with Boca Juniors and River Plate the most famous within the city itself. River fans may think otherwise but a trip to La Bombonera in the colourful working class district of La Boca is a real highlight. It is one of the iconic football stadiums and produces an incredible matchday atmosphere with club legend Diego Maradona often in attendance in his own private box. For the ultimate South American football experience make sure you’re in town for the Superclásico when River Plate and Boca Juniors meet in perhaps the biggest local derby in world football.

3. Glasgow

Visiting the Old Firm Derby
Rival fans at the Old Firm Derby

Forget London, Liverpool or Manchester, British football’s most passionate supporters can be found North of the border in Glasgow. Scottish football may have fallen on hard times and that is especially true of Rangers, who are still fighting their way back having been relegated 3 divisions for severe financial troubles. However the Old Firm Derby will be back in the top flight before too long and Rangers against Celtic is unquestionably the biggest rivalry in British football with deep political and religious divides providing a sometimes ugly under-current. Glasgow is a city that lives and breathes football and it’s another city that avid football fans need to tick off their list.

4. Barcelona

The Nou Camp from the sky
More than a club – FC Barcelona

The Camp Nou almost certainly receives more tourists each matchday than any other football stadium in the world and that can take the edge off the atmosphere a little bit. Apart from El Clasico against Real Madrid or big European games, it certainly isn’t anything like as intense as some of the other clubs on this list but when you’re watching one of the great football sides of the modern era and in Leo Messi, one of the best players to have ever graced the game it is certainly worth the entry fee, which can be as low as 20 Euros for most matches. A stadium tour of the 99,000 capacity Camp Nou and visit to the wonderful museum can take up an afternoon too and with an abundance of budget airlines flying into Barcelona from around Europe it’s a very easy place to get to. Oh and it’s a great city too!

5. Istanbul

Watching football in Istanbul
Pre-match atmosphere at Galatasaray

The Istanbul football experience is unlike anything else in Europe. Fans often arrive and start unveiling flags, flares, banners and chanting as much as 3 hours early with the atmosphere reaching boiling point by kick-off. The city is home to 3 major clubs in Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahçe, who play on the Asian side of the city at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. Traditionaly Galatasaray against Fener is the biggest rivalry in Turkish football but the 3 clubs tend to dominate the domestic game and all are regulars in European competitions. Visiting fans and teams at Galatasaray’s old Ali Sami Yen Stadium used to be welcomed with ‘Welcome to Hell’ banners and although all the clubs now have new modern stadiums, Istanbul is still widely regarded as having the most intimidating atmospheres in European football and a visit is not for the feint-hearted.

6. São Paulo

Sao Paulo fans
Corinthians fans and a fairly large flag

Rio de Janeiro may be the first city that springs to mind when you put the words football and Brazil together. However the São Paulo clubs are traditionally the more successful and even the Campeonato Paulista (São Paulo State Championship), which precedes the Brazilian Serie A, is an incredibly tough competition. Brazilian clubs play an enormous amount of football which only very briefly pauses for a few weeks around Christmas and with so many clubs you won’t find it hard to find a match to attend in the city. The National Football Museum is also excellent and is located at Pacaembu Stadium. Corinthians, São Paulo FC and Palmeiras are the biggest teams but if you head 35 miles out of town to the coast, you find Santos, which acts like a conveyor belt of the world’s best footballers with the likes of Pele and Neymar having risen through the clubs academy.

7. Rosario

Rosario Central supporters
Rosario Central fans and an enormous flag!

Rosario is another Argentine city that is fanatical about football and is home to Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central, who both provide the biggest challenge to the virtual monopoly that the capital region holds on football in the country. The two clubs both attract large crowds to their old-fashioned English style stadiums, with fans right on top of the action. If you’ve already made it to games in a lot of the places on our countdown of the best cities for watching football and want something old-school then head to Rosario, which is a real throwback to how football was decades ago in Europe. You might be the only tourist but you’re sure to get an unforgettable match-day experience.

8. Hamburg

St Pauli flag
The iconic skull and crossbones flag of St Pauli.

Hamburger SV might be the city’s most successful club with a bigger stadium and regular Bundesliga action but it is Hamburg’s other club, FC St. Pauli that is of most interest here. Over the decades it has developed a real cult following and despite only playing in the 2nd tier of German football, it boasts fans from all over the world. The matchday experience is more akin to a rock concert with Hells Bells by AC/DC greeting the teams onto the field and a crowd that is a little bit punk-rock. The club is very left-wing and supporters pride themsevles as being strong opponents to racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia. A visit to the Millerntor-Stadion is certainly a refreshing change in a sport that is often slow to take a stance against some of those issues.

9. Sevilla

Real Betis fans
Real Betis fans at the Seville derby

Sevilla is perhaps a surprise inclusion but anyone who has taken in a game at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan or Estadio Benito Villamarín will testify to the fact that attending a game of football in the city is a special experience. It is the only city in Spain outside the capital to have two Primera Division clubs that both regularly attract crowds of over 30,000. If you’re in town for the Seville derby between Sevilla FC and Real Betis, you will experience Spanish football’s most fiercely contested local derby but regular matchdays are also pretty lively affairs. Another interesting facet to football in the Andalucian capital can be the kick-off times which are sometimes as late as 11:00pm to avoid the heat in what is mainland Europe’s hottest town. Check out this Spanish football blog for more on soccer in the country including a handy guide to catching a game in Seville.

10. Rio de Janeiro

Rio beach soccer
A beach football game in Rio

Last but by no means least Rio de Janeiro makes it in as one of the best cities around the world for watching football or soccer for the benefit our American friends. The iconic Maracanã hosted the World Cup final in 2014 and hosts domestic action virtually every week throughout the year with Flamengo and Fluminese playing most of their home games at the ground. In Rio though you don’t even need to be at a stadium to take in skillful footy action. Just head to the Copacabana beach or indeed any of the beaches that circle this amazing city and it won’t be long before you encounter a game of beach soccer and witness locals demonstrating the slickest of skills.


These sort of lists are always controversial. If you think we’ve missed a city out, let us know by commenting below and explaining why it is a great city to watch football!


This article was published in October 2015.

Things to do in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is a monster, but you might like it!

sao paulo people

On the bus ride in from Guaralhos International Airport towards the centre of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest metropolis it is only natural to arrive at a far from favourable first impression of Sao Paulo. The buildings are bland and grey giving an almost depressingly Soviet feel to the heartbeat of one of the world’s most colourful countries. While the feeling that this is Rio de Janeiro’s ugly big bully of a brother never quite goes away, the more time you spend in the city and the more little gems you discover, you might just be won over as there are so many things to do in Sao Paulo!

So what’s good in Sao Paulo?

Things to do in Sao Paulo


japanese museum sao paulo

Culture is a fairly vague term but Sao Paulo is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Brazil. First a few numbers for you. The metropolitan region of Sao Paulo is home to around 20 million people who are served by around 25,000 restaurants, 15,000 bars and 90 museums. Therefore you’ll never be short of things to do or places to eat and drink and the quality of these places is often extremely high.

As well as a great culinary scene and lively nightlife (see below) the city has a number of outstanding museums that provide an in depth look at many aspects of Brazilian society. The most well known is MASP (Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo) which has a large collection of art from a variety of the world’s greatest ever artists.

Some others that are worth a visit include the Japanese Immigration Museum and Museu Afro Brasil that provide a look at the role Japanese (there is a large Japanese community in Sao Paulo mostly in the Liberdade area) and African immigrants have played in shaping this extremely diverse country. The latter can be found the vast Parque Ibirapuera which has plenty of other attractions and monuments as well as being a nice place to hang out for an afternoon.


football museum

Then there is the national obsession that is football. The Museu do Futebol underneath the terraces at The Pacaembu Stadium might well be the best museum of it’s kind in the world. It offers an entertaining and interactive experience that summarises the history of football in Brazil and documents the highs and lows of past World Cups.

There is a relatively short break between seasons in Brazil so for the vast majority of the year there are matches on with the fiercely competitive Sao Paulo State Championship preceding the 38 game national Championship. The main clubs in town are Corinthians, Palmeiras and Sao Paulo while Santos, the former club of Pele and current star of Brazilian football Neymar are based just outside the city on the coast. These are four of the five most successful clubs in Brazil and it is well worth going to a match to sample the intense atmosphere even if you’re not a huge football fan.


street art in sao paulo

The city also boast some intriguing little districts that are worth checking out day or night. The most popular with travellers is Vila Madalena which has a bohemian village feel to it which makes it suddenly quite easy to forget that you are in such a giant metropolis. Numerous budget hostels have sprung up in recent years making this a decent place to base yourself and this area certainly has the closest thing to a backpacker feel in Sao Paulo. It is also the best place to check out some of Sao Paulo’s fabulous street art. The wonderfully named Beco do Batman is a collection of streets and alleys literally covered in the stuff in the heart of Vila Madalena.


sao paulo nightlife

There are lots of small quirky bars in Vila Madalena, many with live Samba and other types of music. There are numerous districts that are worth venturing to in search of nightlife. Rua Augusta which dissects the giant Avenida Paulista is a safe bet for some decent action and has decent alternative rock clubs. Nearby Bela Vista also has some good nightlife but it’s worth asking a local or someone at your hostel as nightlife here is fairly changeable and what’s hot now might not be in six months time. Regardless you will never be short of places to eat or drink in Sao Paulo whether you’re here at the weekend or not.


Other useful pages for backpacking in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is an urban jungle and it’s hard to know where to even begin as you try to discover it. These links may give you some ideas:

Free Walking Tour

Bar Crawl

Sao Paulo on Wikitravel

30 Things to Do in Sao Paulo


This article was published in July 2014.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018 for a more detailed look at budget travel in the region.

Crossing the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama

Crossing the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama

Crossing the Darien Gap

Darien Gap, CC BY-SA 2.0

NOTE – This article is now over 5 years old. Some of the info may be out-of-date.

The Darien gap is an 80km stretch of jungle between Panama and Colombia. It will be of interest to anyone looking to combine our South America backpacking route with our Central America routeA quick look on google maps would suggest that America is one huge continent and it should be possible to travel overland from Alaska right down to Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina.

However this narrow strip of land connecting North and South America has no roads and the jungle is tough to cross even if you are fit and have an excellent knowledge of the local area (guessing you don’t)…oh and there’s Colombian rebel fighters in the area who are at war with the government and have been known to kidnap foreigners. If you do decide to chance it on foot and make it across the dangerous Darien Gap then it’s fair to say you have well and truly graduated into a hardcore traveller! (you’re also probably a bit of a nutter).

Trekking Through the Jungle

Some people do indeed cross the Darien Gap by foot every year, numbers are unknown but we’ve met people who’ve done it and are planning to do it again. Although Colombia is now pretty much a safe place, certainly much more so than 5 years ago, many of the FARC rebels (those who haven’t been killed by the government forces) are believed to have retreated back to the jungles of Darien Province thus making the trip even more dangerous.

You will probably have to use local guides if you do try and do this trip and you will have to pay for them, so the costs could well make this the most expensive option as well as the most dangerous. Other things to consider include the risk of malaria which is high and you will be trekking 80km through jungle so prepare to be eaten alive by all sorts of insects.

You can get more information on attempting the crossing in local towns on either side of the border and if you are lucky you may find other mildly insane travellers who are planning to cross the Darien Gap on foot. If you do go for it attempt the crossing in the dry season and take lots of food, water, a machete and hope for the best. is not responsible if your head gets decapitated by a Colombian guerilla 🙂

The Safer Options

1. Boats

As if the situation wasn’t bad enough there are no public ferries between Panama and Colombia and there haven’t been for many years. It is possible with improved security in the area that ferries may start up again one day but don’t hold your breath.

Luckily there is no shortage of sailing boats that do the trip and this is probably the most popular option and definitely the most scenic. Most people who have done the trip rave about. It is typically 4 to 5 days and includes a couple of days stop in the beautifully quiet San Blas Islands. From Colombia to Panama, it’s best to head to Cartagena and even if you don’t stay there head to Casa Viena hostel which has a whiteboard with a list of boats doing the trip and remaining spaces on each. Try and talk to the captain of the ship before deciding on one. Going the other way then Panama City is the best place to arrange the trip (ask in your hostel) and there is normally plenty of boats doing the route every week. It’s worth considering whether food/drinks are included in the price, what extras are included such as diving/snorkeling etc, maybe try and meet your fellow passengers/crew (make sure they’re not going to drive you insane) and also consider whether you suffer from seasickness because you will be spending several days on a fairly small boat.

The Darien Gapster (no idea if they are good or bad) is a company that does the trip for $200 which is about as cheap you are going to find. There route is quicker than the others taking just 3 nights and still stopping in the San Blas Islands.

2. Fly

One solution to crossing the Darien Gap has cropped up recently with Spirit Airlines who offer budget flights from it’s Fort Lauderdale base to Colombia and cities across Central America. Flights to Cartagena are as cheap as $1+taxes+baggege fee (about $65) as of October 2010. Flights to Central America are slightly more but it’s possible to fly to San Jose for around $130. This brings the total to around $200 for the trip (eg San Jose to Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena), possibly more or less depending on the promotions they have on. Therefore the cost is similar to the sailboat option and you won’t have to worry about seasickness plus you have the option of spending a few days in Miami (there are worse places to get stuck waiting for a flight).

Otherwise there are direct flights from most of the major cities in Central America to Colombia. Flights from Panama City are normally the cheapest but still $200 or more so for a relatively short distance. It’s the quickest but least exciting way to cross the Darien Gap.

3. A Combo of Boats & Flights

The cheapest option when everything is running properly but the situation is regularly changing and it’s hard to say with any certainty what is currently possible. Firstly head to Turbo in Colombia, get a boat to Capurgana (2 hours 30). Capurgana (right) and nearby Sapzurro are great chilled out backpacker friendly beach villages and well worth hanging around a few days. Get your exit stamp at the DAS in Capurgana the day before you leave. Catch a motorboat from Capurgana to Puerto Obaldia in Panama (45 mins COP25,000). From here Aeroperlas had direct flights to Panama City for $80ish but at some point in 2010 they stopped running. Instead you can catch another motorboat from here to Mulatupo which has an airstrip (1 hour) or to Miramar which is a longer potentially choppy trip but will take you further north to Colon Province from where it isn’t far to Panama City. Reverse steps for the trip to Colombia and again it’s probably best to head to Panama City and gather current information there.

You should treat this trip as something as an adventure because it is unpredictable and frustrating but one way or another should be possible, you may have to spend a couple of days hanging around in towns waiting for a boat with space for you so don’t do it if you’re on a strict time schedule or at least do some major research beforehand into the current situation.


This article was published in November 2011.

August 2015 Update

Read this detailed post for more on the land crossing and it includes the sad story of Jan Philip Braunisch, a backpacker killed in Colombia´s Darien Gap.

The author reports that the land crossing is now more dangerous than ever but a small airline called ADA fly direct Medellin – Acandi then boat trip (20 minutes) to Capurgana etc. (No more direct flights to Capurgana).


The not so mean streets of Bogota!

Less Crime, More Cyclists & Musicians – The not so mean streets of Bogota!

What is Bogota like

What is Bogota like now?

Much of Bogota’s story is dark and disturbing but it is one that is ever evolving and there is now a significant ray of light at the end of a long dreary tunnel. For so long this was a city dominated by conflict, crime, cocaine and cartels. Those factors haven’t completely gone away but nowadays words like culture, commerce and change seem more fitting.

Colombia’s Megacity

Bogota is home to over 10 million people, a figure that is growing fast making it one of the biggest on the planet. The rate of change is exciting and come back in ten years time and this could be an almost unrecognisable city. However If you’d been here ten years ago, you would have had genuine reason to fear for your safety.

The Colombian capital is still at something of a crossroads with impoverished slums on the slopes of the surrounding mountains overlooking thriving businesses and the modern high-rise skyscrapers in which they reside. Inequality is a fact of life here as it is in much of this continent yet for the first time in decades there is genuine optimism for the future.

Friday Night Fiesta

friday night avenida septima bogota

That optimism is most visible on Friday nights when Bogota’s populous head down into the centre to celebrate the end of the week. Despite its developing international financial districts this is still very much a Latin American city and they like nothing more than a good fiesta.

The major avenue that dissects the city (Avenida Septima) is closed to traffic every Friday night and quickly fills up with people as far as the eye can see as street performers, musicians and street stalls take over the city’s most famous street. As midnight approaches it is overflowing with increasingly drunk Colombians, many of whom then move onto the bars and discos around town. If you’re visiting Bogota, try and be in town for a Friday as these parties are great fun and extra special during holiday periods.


ciclovia: cycling in bogota

One of the best ways to see the city is via the Ciclovia which takes place every Sunday. All morning and up until about 2pm many of the main avenues are closed to traffic allowing cyclists and rollerbladers to whizz around this vast metropolis without the risk of being wiped out by an impatient motorist. It can be tiring work especially in the uphill sections thanks to the altitude but there are refreshment stands all along the routes which are clearly marked. There are a few places in the traveller districts where you can rent out a bike fairly cheaply and it’s a good way of getting around and seeing Bogota.

Cartels, Cocaine, Kidnappings & Civil War

It’s fair to say Colombia has something of a chequered past and a visit to Bogota will help you understand the turmoil this country was in. Drug Cartels for decades fought what basically amounted to all-out war with the country’s police force and if they avoided capture or death, the heads of these shady organisations became hugely rich and powerful. Add to this the independence struggle of the FARC rebels who just over a decade ago were in a seriously strong position and threatening to move into Bogota itself.

In the first decade of the 21st Century the government attempted a major crack-down on these issues and after some serious bloodshed they seem to have seized control of the country back from the rebels and the cartels. Cocaine production has been hugely cut and FARC have generally opted to put down their weapons and become more engaged in mainstream politics. Visiting now you will be welcomed with open arms by people in a country that is trying almost too hard to change it’s international reputation.

bogota police museum tour

Bogota’s National Police Museum (pictured above) is fantastic for those looking to delve into the countries recent troubles. One room houses a giant array of weapons seized during police raids on the Cartels over the past few decades. Another is dedicated in graphic detail to the hunt and eventual capture of the infamous druglord Pablo Escobar. You will be guided around by a serving police officer who will doubtlessly have a story or two to tell, especially if they were in the force during the violent 1990’s.

Modern Bogota: City of Culture

The city is arguably the best in South America when it comes to museums and they come in all shapes and sizes. Better still from the budget traveller perspective, most are totally free (or at least on certain days) and often include excellent guided tours. The most famous is the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) which includes an enormous collection of gold and various different artifacts from bygone eras on this continent.
Art might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Colombia but there’s also multiple surprisingly impressive galleries in town with work from top local and international painters.

Amidst all the chaos some surprisingly happening districts have developed and are now flourishing with lively arts and music scene. Much of this is based in around the old-town district of La Candelaria which is also where the majority of the hostels are located. The streets here are full young Colombian punks. Wander around after dark and venture into one of the many underground bars for a taste of the alternative side to this city.

Check out the rest of this fabulous country in our Backpacker’s Guide to Colombia

This article was published in August 2013.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018 for a more detailed look at budget travel in the region.

Backpackers Guide to Colombia

Backpackers Guide to Colombia

backpackers guide to colombia

Note – This article was published in 2010 so some of the info is likely to be out-of-date.

Basic Shizzle

Population: 45 million
Size: 1.15 million km2 it’s bigger than every country in Europe except Russia, think France + Spain= Colombia
Weather: Varies greatly depending on altitude. You can be on a hot Caribbean beach with snow capped peaks in the background. An hour or two on bus can transport you to vastly different weather conditions so pack for hot, cold and wet weather, possibly all on the same day.
Law: For those inclined, you will be offered marijuana and yes cocaine at various points on your trip, especially in the big cities. You are legally allowed to carry small quantities of almost any drug including cocaine and marijuana (under 20g is considered personal use and okay). The buying/selling of drugs is illegal however so take care and cocaine in Colombia is much stronger than the stuff that gets sold in the streets of Western countries. Travellers have died in recent years due to underestimating the strength of cocaine. Always check the current legal status as laws can and do change. The legal high Ayahuasca is used by many indigenous folk in the Amazon and is gaining in popularity with travellers looking for spiritual enlightenment.
Exchange Rate: Colombian Pesos is the currency and rates are about $1=1800COP £1=2900COP EUR1=2500COP
Time: GMT- 5 hours with no daylight saving time
Religion: Catholic country with more churches than you can shake a stick at, but many people aren’t actively religious. There’s also a few indigenous religions.


The water is okay and probably safe to drink although some more cautious folk wouldn’t recommend it but in the big cities it’s fine. The most likely illness you will suffer is altitude sickness. It’s best to take a few days to acclimatize to the height before attempting any major physical activity such as mountain biking or hiking up a mountain. Antimalarials are important if you intend to visit the Amazon region of the country (South). Most of the points of interest are at an altitude high enough where malaria presents little to no risk so you don’t need tablets in the big cities for example. If you’re staying long on the coast (except Cartagena where there is no malaria) then it is advisable to take tablets. No vaccination certificate is required. Tetanus, hep A and yellow fever are the recommended vaccinations.

Getting In

The improved safety of Colombia is leading to increasing numbers of flights into the country as tourists wake up to what Colombia has to offer. Budget airline Spirit offer flights from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to several cities in Colombia and there are also flights from the capitals in Central America with Panama City the closest and cheapest. Bogota is the main airport with flights to/from Europe as well as cities right across North and South America. There are also international airports in Cali, Medellin and Cartagena.

By land heading from Brazil or Peru you must get to the Colombian jungle outpost of Leticia where three countries meet. The crossing is by boat and is the only official way in from either Brazil/Peru and a day long bus journey still awaits before you reach a major town. From Ecuador and Venezuela there are land crossings.

While Panama and Colombia share a border there is no official land crossing. For more info on getting to/from Panama check out the article on crossing the Darien Gap.
Border Crossings (Colombian town is always second)

San Antonio del Tachira-Cucuta
Maracaibo-Maicao (Paraguachon crossing)
Puerto Paez-Puerto Carreno


Best Places to Visit

Colombia features prominently in our South America backpacking route, which contains a suggested itinerary through the country.

Chances are you will know very little about the main tourist attractions in Colombia. This is in many ways a good thing as the country will surprise you in ways you couldn’t have expected. Indeed just 5 years ago the country was considered too dangerous to visit for all but hardcore travellers. This is no longer the case, the country is almost certainly safer than Ecuador or Peru which receive huge numbers of backpackers every year who have chosen to skip Colombia due to its negative reputation. There is a great deal of interesting places to visit and you could feasibly stay for months and still discover new places. There is no reason why you shouldn’t head off the beaten track although it’s never a bad idea to check the current situation as there are still a few FARC guerilla fighters and bandits left in some more remote regions. The following places are the most popular places to visit:

Bogota cafesBogota, the country’s groovy capital is in the middle of the country, home to 9 million people and fast becoming one of the biggest and most happening cities in the world. There is loads to do here both in the day and at night, weekends are best and you will need several days to a week here at least to see it all. There are many museums, most of which are free, the best include the National Museum, Museum del Oro (rated the best Gold Museum in the world) and Police Museum which includes a delightful guided tour in English and provides a great insight into Colombia’s recent troubles. Don’t miss the Ciclovia every Sunday from 7am to 2pm when cars are banned from many of the main streets which quickly fill up with bicycles, rollerbladers, skateboarders and joggers. You can rent a bike in the old town for COP15,000 for half a day and enjoy the unique experience of cycling around a huge city in safety.

The second and third biggest cities, Medellin and Cali each have a slightly different vibe and have plenty to interest the visitor. Medellin once home to the infamous Cartel of Pablo Escobar and was once the most dangerous city in the world so it has an interesting history it’s fair to say. Those days are long gone and the city and it’s surrounding area is very safe to visit with great shopping, nightlife and interesting artwork. Cali doesn’t have a great deal of sights but is pleasant enough for a day or two and you can take salsa classes in the day to get ready for a night in the cities lively clubs. There are still elements of danger in the major cities, which have beggars and a few unsavory characters. Muggings happen but no more so here than other big South American cities.

Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast and has a fabulously preserved old town and a rather average beach but there are nicer ones around. It is a mix of Latin and Caribbean culture and tourism is booming, with a new district by the beach full of high rise hotels. Some of the best beaches are off the beaten track such as Capurgana. Santa Marta and Taganga are fairly overrated with beaches are average at best and often dirty and crowded. To get the best out of the Caribbean coast head to the stunning Parque Nacional Tayrona and for the adventurous head to the lost city (Ciudad Perdida) which is supposedly as good as Machhu Pichhu with almost no tourists. The Pacific Coastal region lacks basic infrastructure and doesn’t cater to the budget traveller as well.

San Gil (pictured below and featured in our Top 10 New Backpacking Hotspots) is the place to go for adventure sports. Grade 5 Rafting, Paragliding, Bungeejumping, Hydrospeeding (body boarding down rapids) are all possible and many times cheaper than other more popular touristy countries. There’s also a 200m waterfall which is a 2 hour bike ride away and well worth the trip. Most hostels in town will sort you out with these trips or there’s a few rafting companies in town. San Gil is small and in a stunning setting so if tranquil hikes are more your thing you could still have alot of fun here exploring the mountainous countryside that surrounds the town.

san gil waterfall

There is a whole host of beautiful Spanish colonial towns dotted around the highlands. Popayan is perhaps the best with 5 beautiful churches restored following a devastating earthquake in the 1980’s. Barichara near San Gil is a beautiful village while Villa de Leyva has an enormous square and attracts many visitors from the capital.

A word on the Colombia people. Most travellers report them to be among the friendliest they have ever come across. This is largely the case and your average Colombian is typically very pleasant but the country has its fair share of crooks and people who you shouldn’t trust. Common sense as always helps and carry as little as possible at night in the cities. Interact with the locals, go to local bars and you will meet some of the most genuinely nice people you have ever met. Most Colombians are happy, peaceful folk with a good sense of humour who are proud of their country and reveling in the freedom and safety which has been lacking for so long.


Getting Around

Colombia is a pretty big and mountainous country so journeys are long and like much of Latin America buses are the only real option. Fortunately the bus network is widespread and buses are regular. Night buses are a good option for journeys of over 10 hours such as Santa Marta to San Gil or Bogota to Cali. Buses are now safe even at night (except between Popayan and Pasto/Ipiales where unpleasant incidents are very common). Each town or city has a main bus terminal, sometimes rather inconveniently on the outskirts of the city (eg Cartagena, Bogota) and therefore the journey from the centre to the terminal can be an hour or so and it’s not always easy to work out which bus you need to catch to reach the terminal.

Colombia Copetrans busOnce at the bus terminal there are normally many companies vying for your business. Prices are not fixed so it is a good idea to know what a typical fare for your route might be before arriving at the terminal. You can haggle for a cheaper price and certainly should do this if the quoted price seems too high. If there is more than one company running the route, you are in a pretty strong position and can haggle for the best price. If there is only one company running it they may try to rip you off been a foreigner and all so stand your ground. Copetrans (left) and Boliviriano are probably the best but can be slightly more expensive than rivals but they have nice coaches. Concorde are pretty average with shoddy packed minibuses and staff that will try to rip you off. Watch out for the freezing air conditioning so take some warm clothes out of your backpack before piling it in the luggage compartment. You might want to stock on food/drinks for the journey before arriving at the terminal where stuff is often overpriced. The better buses have a toilet and brief refreshment breaks typically happen every 4 or 5 hours.

The smaller towns are easy to see on foot and bikes are a good way to explore the surrounding areas which are often stunning. Medellin is the only city with a subway/rail network (metro). Bogota has a Transmilenio, which is basically buses than run along designated routes which are Transmilenio only so they are quite quick as there is no other traffic and it is run like a metro network, with designated stations and you must buy your ticket before boarding. Cali has a similar set-up known as the Masivo Integrado de Occidente, but the city is smaller and you can probably see the centre in a day on foot. Everywhere has collectivos or minibuses which you can use to get anywhere in the town including the bus terminal (Terminal de Transportes) if you manage to work out which bus is the one you want. Being able to speak Spanish is very helpful. Taxis are fairly reasonable, agree the price before getting in.



Each major city has a Zona Rosa (the main centre for nightlife in Latin American towns) and many also have an old town where the hostels tend to be so there are often some cheap interesting bars in the backpacker areas.

Bogota is lively at weekends. Every Friday night the central Carrera 7 shuts down to traffic and people flood the streets to watch street performers, eat from the food stalls and drink beer. The Zona Rosa is 6km away from La Candeleria (old town where most backpackers stay). Both are lively at weekends, the Zona Rosa is pricier but safer, while La Candeleria is more alternative with dingy cheap cafes and bars with a mix of students, backpackers while the odd beggar and thief roam the streets. Some of the hostels have lively little bars that stay open late and attract a friendly crowd of locals and foreigners.

salsa in CaliCali is city with a reputation for vibrant nightlife with passionate salsa dancing the order of the night. There are many stylish bars and clubs in the cities Zona Rosa playing many types of music as well as salsa. The Zona Rosa is more modern than Bogota’s equivalent and has more hookers. It can be quiet on weeknights however. Medellin is home to some western style superclubs and the city is famous for its attractive if not entirely natural looking women.

Even many of the smaller towns have lively bars and a few discos open late on weekends. Colombians drink Aguilla, the national beer or Aguadiente which is a surprisingly pleasant spirit. Many corner shops have tables and chairs where you can drink anything you buy and you will see people drinking at any hour on any day.

Local Lingo

Espanol is the local lingo and you will need at least some basic Spanish to survive in Colombia and indeed much of Latin America. Very few people speak English in Colombia, although most hostels have English speaking staff.

As a starting point it’s very helpful to know the numbers to avoid being overcharged for items. Costs for basic items run into the thousands due to the exchange rates, so know that mil means a thousand (not a million as you might have thought) Some basics for ordering food, drinks and sorting out accommodation will also be helpful. You will have a much more rewarding trip if you either know or learn some Spanish before arriving as it will enable you to interact with the typically very friendly locals. Spanish lessons are fairly cheap in the country but it is cheaper to take lessons in Guatemala, Nicaragua or Ecuador ($5/hour for private lessons is a typical price) if you are travelling around in the region.

1000 mil
2000 dos mil
3000 tres mil
4000 cuatro mil
5000 cinco mil
6000 seis mil
7000 siete mil
8000 ocho mil
9000 nueve mil
10,000 diez mil
50,000 cincuenta mil
100,000 cien mil

Greetings (Very Common and important greetings in Latin America)

Buenos Dias- Good Morning
Buenas Tardes- Good Afternoon
Buenas Noches- Good Evening/Night
Buenas- You can respond to most greetings with a simple buenas

como estas?- How are you?
Yo estoy bien/feliz/aburrida/cansada/enojada/enferma-
I am good/happy/bored/tired/angry/sick

me gusta …..- I like…..
no me gusta- I don’t like it

De Donde es?- Where are you from?
Yo soy de ……..- I’m from …….

Donde hay un hostal?- Where’s a hostel?
Cuanto Cuesta?- How much does it cost?
Yo no entiendo- I don’t understand.

hoy- today
manana- tomorrow
frio- cold
caliente- hot
almuerzos- cheap set dinner, typically includeas a soup and a main dish of chicken/meat, rice and beans
salsateca- salsa night club
colectivo- shared taxi/minibus
bicicleta- bicycle
terminal de transportes- main bus terminal


Typical Backpacker Budget

As a guide Colombia is slightly more expensive than travelling in most of it’s Latin American neighbours such as Ecuador, Peru and most of Central America. This is largely due to the cost of getting around and the size of the country. A 10 hour bus journey can be around $30 as opposed to $10 in the much smaller Ecuador or countries in Central America. Bus journeys cost approximately 5,000 COP per hour of travel, to see the all the main travel destinations budget around 250,000 COP for your total transport costs in Colombia ($140, EUR100, £90).

Accommodation is typically around 15,000COP for a bed in the very cheapest hotels and hostels but Colombia is not overly touristy and information about your options can be hard to find.

On the positive side food is cheap, a decent sized meal can be had for 5,000COP in cheap restaurants. Beer is cheap with Aguila the most common local brand and a bottle is under $1 in many places. Many hostels also have bars which are typically reasonably priced but you often pay for everything when you check out so the temptation to drink to excess is very real when you aren’t handing over cash.

Your budget depends on how long you intend to stay in each place. It is possible to get by in Bogota or indeed most towns on $15/day if you’re not drinking alcohol or doing any other exciting activities (things like rafting or diving). In reality you will probably want to do both and adding transport costs into this then $25 a day is more realistic, possibly more if you’re moving quickly through the country.

There is more up-to-date info here on the cost of travel in Colombia.

Pic courtesy of
hilcias78 (salsa) on flickr


This article was published in November 2010.

Some of the info, particularly regarding prices, is likely to be unreliable now! Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for an up-to-date overview of budget travel in the region.


Backpackers Guide to Salta, Argentina

Pleasant Thrills in Argentina’s Far North

Backpackers Guide to Salta, Argentina

Salta is something of an outpost. 7 hours by bus from the Bolivian and Chilean borders, even further from Paraguay and over 1000km from the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires which is politically and culturally dominant in the country. Despite its isolated location there is quite a lot going on and if like many travellers in Salta you have just arrived from one of the neighbouring countries you will instantly feel as though you have arrived somewhere completely different. Salta is a cool place and well worth hanging around for a few days.

The People

If you’re travelling south from Peru, Bolivia and even the very Northern towns in Argentina, you will quickly notice the people are different here. The Native American populations in the mountainous regions of Argentina’s Northern and Western neighbours seem like a distant memory. Here the people are mostly descendents of a mix of Spanish or Italian immigrants and look and dress very differently. The difference is most evident in the girls and women who no longer sport traditional Quechan dresses but the latest accessories and fashionable clothes with plenty of flesh on show.

Salta AerialThere is certainly a certain confidence and westernised feel about the people here which will come as a sudden reminder of life back home if you’ve been travelling in South America for a while. If you started out in Buenos Aires and are now heading into the Andes, Salta may well be the last glimpse you will have of civilisation as you know it ahead of months in the more indigenous South American countries.

That’s not to say Salta is like a city in Europe or the US, far from it. It still moves to a Latin American beat and unique Argentine customs are very evident.

The Long Siesta

Once you’ve been backpacking in Argentina for any length of time you’ll probably have got used to the afternoon siesta, which sees shops and restaurants shut down. In Salta the siesta seems to last practically the entire afternoon. There are a couple of really long shopping streets which aren’t that dissimilar from ones you find in the UK or Australia with the exception that between 1pm and 5:30pm they are all shut. Between 6 and 9, especially in the summer the streets are suddenly overflowing with people who come out to do their shopping. Restaurants don’t open till about 8 and most people don’t sit down to dine till 10pm.

The Big Fiesta

The benefits of taking a long nap during the day, is that you have plenty of energy left by the time night falls. Even at dusk, it is still many hours before the nightlife in Salta truly gets going. Take a wander down the most popular bar street at 1am and you will experience a quiet scene with a few people drinking and chatting in the tables outside. By 2 or 3am (kicking out time in most Western countries) things will have really livened up as large groups of young Argentines hit the dancefloor and party till dawn. People in Argentina drink, but not too excess so getting sloshed on booze is not commonplace and won’t impress the locals.

The Salta Sights

Salta GanchosSalta isn’t overly touristy by any stretch of the imagination which is in many ways a good thing, as it allows you to get a feel for what life is like in a real Argentine city. With just under 500,000 residents it is reasonably big and home to some beautiful buildings, churches and plazas. It’s the sort of place that’s great to have a wander and relax in one of the many parks. You can also walk or take the cable-car up to the top of Cerro San Bernardo which offers top notch views of the city and surrounding areas.

Out of town there’s some great trekking, mountain climbing and rafting opportunities amongst other popular adventure-type activities. The terrain is well suited to this sort of thing although Summer’s can be stiflingly hot so bear this in mind before setting out for the day.

The Food

Salta is also a nice place to sample Argentine cuisine. You may find some of the famous Argentinean steak houses don’t really cater to travellers on a budget, however you will notice plenty of good value pizza places (pizza is also very popular in the country). Empanadas in Argentina are another traditional snack. These tasty and cheap pastry items come with a variety of different fillings and Salta has plenty of restaurants and snack bars where you can try them. Most of the cheaper restaurants are at the end of town closest to the bus station.

Pics courtesy of b00nj and angel david ramoyo on flickr


This article was published in September 2011.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018 for a more detailed look at budget travel in the region.