Backpacking Budget for South America

Backpacking Budget for South America

This page aims to give you a rough idea of what a typical backpacking budget for South America might be.

south america map

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

South America is on the whole, budget-friendly and certainly much cheaper than North America and Europe but that said travel costs can easily mount up. Countries like Brazil are developing quickly and as a result prices are going up. It is also a very large region so trying to see it all is both time-consuming and expensive. Even relatively short-distance airfares are high here so unless you fancy hitch-hiking, buses and coaches are pretty much the only way to get around.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for more detailed info on the region.

Daily Travel Costs in South America

$20/day or less : Bolivia

$25/day : Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay

$30/day : Colombia

$40/day : Uruguay

$45/day : Chile, Argentina

$50/day : Brazil

As you can see there’s quite a wide variety between countries so calculating a Latin America travel budget can be difficult. Over the years of running this site, we’ve had various people disagreeing with these figures. Some say Peru or Colombia are far cheaper than Ecuador but bare in mind that although the cost food/accommodation may be similar or even less, you will spend much more on transport in the bigger countries like Peru, Colombia, Argentina or Chile as the destinations are far further away from each other. Ecuador is much more compact with just a few hours on a bus and only a few US Dollars separating most of the popular travel destinations.

On a similar kind of note, prices in Uruguay are comparable to anything you’ll find in Brazil or Argentina and can soar to Western European levels in places but the country is small so again you won’t be spending any extra money on flights or expensive long-distance coaches. If you’re really short on funds but still want to visit these countries, it might be worth getting your hands on Will Hatton’s guide called How to travel on $10 a day.

French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana are on the expensive end of the scale but they are so small, visitors often go for a specific purpose rather than on a general trip around the country so we haven’t factored them in. In Venezuela, there is something like 4 different exchange rates so it can vary from being absurdly cheap to extremely expensive depending which one you can get. The country is suffering from a severe economic crisis right now with violent crime rife so it’s probably not the best time to go in any case.

Also it’s well worth noting that prices can really sky-rocket around real tourist hotspots like Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu and the natural wonders of Patagonia. A trip to Machu Picchu alone can easily blow your Peru budget in just a few days.

Therefore please take these figures as a guide and not as the definitive answer as everyone and every trip is different.

Monthly Backpacking budget for South America

1 month – £820,  €950, $1000

2 months – £1640, €1900, $2000

3 months – £2460, €2850, $3000

4 months – £3280, €3800, $4000

5 months – £4100, €4750, $5000

6 months – £4920, €5700, $6000

(Exchange rates are correct as of Janaury 2017. Use Dollars as a base and convert it to your currency on current exchange rates if you’re reading this much further in the future)

A figure of $1000 per month is a reasonable starting point for a shoestring budget for the region. Visit predominantly the Andean region of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia and you can get by on less. Spend more time in the South of the continent or Brazil and you will probably need more than this.

As mentioned earlier actual transport costs are quite high so longer trips or ones that involve visiting only a few countries will give you better value for money. If you want to get by on a cheaper budget, it’s possible but you’ll have to consider hitch-hiking/camping/couchsurfing etc. which on the whole are viable options, especially in the more expensive countries, which is handy.

Remember there will still be extra expenses on top of this in terms of sorting out flights to/from the region. Many travellers opt to head there via USA with Miami a popular stop and home to some of the better value flights to South American countries, particularly Colombia. Read our backpacking budget for the USA to find out costs there.

The cost of vaccinations, visas and travel insurance are also not included in these figures. The last part is often quite expensive. We recommend World Nomads as they specialise in dealing with backpacker trips.

Read our South America budget travel overview for more on the region.

The Cost of Travel in Other Regions

Southeast Asia | Central America | Europe

How much did travel in South America cost you?

If you have travelled recently in South America then please use the comments section below to share with us your experiences of backpacking costs in the region as we look to keep this up-to-date for 2018 and beyond. Budgets really do vary considerably amongst travellers so there will never be a definitively right figure for each country but the more people who comment, the easier it is for us to keep this page as accurate as possible. Thanks!

 This page was last updated in January 2017.

  • Ellie


    Firstly, thank you for the amazing advice on this website. Someone bought me your book about travelling South America and it’s been so useful and definitely worth a buy if you’re planning a trip there soon!

    I am going to South America for 2.5 months. I’ve got quite an ambitious plan of Colombia – Brasil which means I will have to do some internal flights, which i have already purchased. So excluding these costs, I have about £2500 . I’m interested in a 5 day Salkantay trek which costs £300. 2 questions – firstly, is this a reasonable price for this trek? Has anyone done this trek and have any advice? Secondly, if I do this trek, i would be left with £2,200. Is this enough money for the rest of my trip?

    Any advice greatly appreciated

    Thank you very much


    • Hi Ellie,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Don’t have much info on that specific trek to be honest! Hopefully someone knows or you’ve already found answers on that.

      As for £2200 for the rest of your trip, it would depend a bit on which countries you’re going to be spending most of your time in. It’d work out at about £30/day which would be plenty in Colombia-Ecuador-Peru-Bolivia. However you might struggle to get by on that in some of the other countries.

      Overall it sounds doable but would be considered a shoestring budget, particularly given the £ has gone down in value recently. If you’re trying to cram a lot in, which sounds like you are, then you won’t have much left over for extra trips and activities etc.

      Hope this helps – If you have more questions you can contact us here –

  • Ben McDonald

    Hi there, I’m planning on Backpacking from Mexico – Peru visiting a number of countries en route (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras – Bay Islands, Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador – Galapagos Islands).

    How much do you think i’d need if I went for 6 months?
    Also could this trip be done in 6 months? Or would I need longer to really see everything?


    • Hi Ben,
      Would have thought 6 months should certainly be enough for that route unless you really want to visit every last corner of each country. On the basis of it being 6 months, I’d say $5000 would be a reasonable shoestring budget to have in mind so $25-30/day on average.

      That would require some discipline and is not including your flights to or from the region. I’d also treat the Galapagos trip as a separate trip on top of the $5000. Don’t have much info about that I’m afraid but I believe it’s quite expensive getting there.

  • Hi, Between January and March 2017, we only visited Ecuador and mainly stayed in hostals, although had 4 weeks out of 11 at host family stays when we went to Spanish School in Quito and Cuenca. Check out our spending

  • Tammy Mahon

    I am a late bloomer as I am 53 years old and just starting out on this whole backpacking travel thing. I was thinking of backpacking through South America, however it scares me sooo much I have started looking at overland tours instead (which is my usual mode of travel). The cost is probably 3-4 times higher than solo travel though. I am okay with hostels but what scares me is finding my way around in a country when I don’t speak the language, more than anything. Also how do I get to those out of the way places on my own? I am interested in all those waterfalls that are deep in the jungle and such. Not so easy to get to. If I have to spend heaps on day tours to get to them wouldn’t it be cheaper/easier to go overland? I also am a people person and would find it lonely and miss people to share those wonderful waterfalls with. Not the same alone. Also Visa’s and money exchange worries me. Oh lets face it the whole thing scares the cr#p out of me lol. I am struggling with which way to go on this one. Not planning on going till Sept 2018 if I go with overland tour so have time. If I had a travel companion I would be off like a shot. Its the alone thing, I guess. Sorry for the ramble but would appreciate any advice.

    • Hi Tammy,

      Sorry for the delay getting back to you!

      I think your situation is very common and many people, are in the same boat. I’ll try and and answer a few of your points.

      On the language thing, yes it’s easier if you speak the language but if you can take a month or so just to learn some basics, particularly on asking for directions then that it’s really not impossible to get around and if you make an effort to speak Spanish, most people will be helpful.

      If you’re staying in hostels, it’s very easy to organise trips from there. Chances are you’ll be able to head to the same places the over-land tours go and it will still be much cheaper overall as you’ll be paying for your own transport between towns, own accommodation etc. You’ll also have more options at each destination rather than been stuck to their schedule so overall I think the advantages are much greater.

      If you’re a people person, chances are you’ll meet people pretty easily in hostels/travelling anyway but of course there are some days when you’re alone and you might miss the company.

      If you’ve not travelled alone before then maybe consider doing a week or two closer to home first and see how you enjoy it. Certainly going to South America for your first solo trip is a big step to take and is a bit scary for anyone!

      If you’ve travelled alone before and enjoyed it, then I wouldn’t let fear put you off. Just research your trip, exchange rates, visas etc and it should all become clear!

    • Vicky Dimotsi

      Hi Tammy
      I am planning to travel to South America and I am looking for a person to travel with without been necessary to be all the time together. This is a good way to keep the cost low and feel safe if you like to hike in the mountain or hitchhike.
      If you interested write to me
      Happy travels!

      • Sianne Crighton

        Hello! Sorry to rob the post but I’m interested in traveling to S. America from October – Dec/January..Will either of you be there around then? Thank you!

        • Vicky Dimotsi

          Hi Sianne

          I will not be there in 2018 as I have to finish some work first.
          Keep my email and keep in touch.


  • Rachel Crockford

    Thank you for the info!
    I am heading to South America next month. (I want to be gone 6 months) and my only concern is that I will run out of money. I am a budget backpacker, but I also like to see as much as I can. Do you think I could still fit into the $1000 per month if I see Machu Picchu & Patagonia, but stay in cheap hostels/couchsurfing and eat street food/cook my own?
    Also, do you know if there are areas with bars/hostels that look for english speakers (like they do in South East Asia)?
    Excited to read more of your articles!

    • Hi Rachel!

      Yes it should be possible but it would be a real shoestring trip and there’d be times maybe when you wouldn’t be able to do things you might have liked to, in order to stay on budget.

      In Patagonia and in general for Argentina/Chile, hitch-hiking, camping, couchsurfing are all really good options to keep the costs down. The cost of food is rarely a budget-killer in South America but the prices of even budget hostels in Patagonia can be really expensive even by European/North American standards. Probably you will be there in the low-season though by the sounds of it so the prices should be more reasonable.

      Aside from one or two places, there aren’t really any bars that principally are geared towards backpackers in South America so finding barwork would be tough without a good level of Spanish. Hostel work should be a bit easier to find though. Maybe you won’t get paid but they ought to give you a bed and food.

      Enjoy your trip!

  • Campbell

    Hi .
    We spent $3881 in 275 days (over 8 months) so an average budget of $14.11 each per day.
    We traveled all South American countries on a tight budget, it is very possible. We did a lot of hitchhiking, camping and couchsurfing.
    Safe Travels
    For our budget breakdown for each country:

    • Great info! Thanks for sharing. Well worth a read for anyone looking to really get by on a very tight budget.