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.


Money

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 😉

Top 10 Latin America Travel Highlights

Top 10 Latin America Travel Highlights

Ordered geographically from North to South, these are our Latin America travel highlights.

1. Smoke cigars, drink rum and travel like it’s 1959 in Havana, Cuba.

Latin America Travel Highlights

Read our Cuba backpacking budget for more info on travel on the Caribbean island.

2. Explore colourful Central America on Chicken buses.

chicken bus in guatemala

3. Reach the summit of an active volcano in Guatemala.

volcano in guatemala

Check out our Central America backpacking route for some inspiration.

4. Discover Caribbean beach paradise beneath snow-capped peaks in Colombia’s Tayrona National Park.

tayrona national park

5. Sail deep into the vastness of the Amazon.

amazon river

6. Follow the Inca Trail up to Machu Pichhu.

machu picchu

One of several destinations on this list to make our South America backpacking route.

7. Lose yourself in a world of salt at Uyuni, Bolivia.

salt flats uyuni bolivia

8. Party hard at Carnaval in Brazil.

carnaval in brazil

9. Witness the World’s most wonderous Waterfalls.

iguace waterfall

10. Explore the incredible landscape of Patagonia.

patagonia argentina

Take on our Backpacking Route for Patagonia.


This article was published in March 2014.


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.

There is more detailed info on this topic in our Backpackers Guide to South America (Ebook).

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.

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. 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.


Backpacking Route in South America

latin america routes

south america | brazil | patagonia | central america


Backpacking Route in South America

Want to see South America? Not sure where to start? Well if you need some inspiration then look no further. This is the MFT backpacking route for the continent. There’s so much to see in South America that this trip could take as long as six to twelve months and yet still there is so much more that we had to leave out. For a more detailed guide, check out our Backpackers Guide to South America (E-book).


TIME NEEDED – 5-6 MONTHS

It could be done in less but there is plenty to see and you will be spending A LOT of time on buses so unless you fancy a six hour coach journey every other day, take your time.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £5000 €5700 $6000

These figures are based on prices and exchange rates as of January 2017. For more detailed info see our South America Backpacking Costs.

Figures don’t include cost of flights to/from S America or other important pre-trip expenses such as getting travel insurance or vaccinations. It is based on taking buses everywhere, staying in hostel dorms or cheap private rooms where prices are comparable.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR SOUTH AMERICA

Visa requirements aren’t particularly strict in South America, particularly if you are from the EU with 90 days visa-free in most countries on this route. Find out which countries you need a visa for here.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

We recommend World Nomads who specialise in dealing with long backpacking trips.


South America Backpacking Route

The map below also includes our Central America itinerary.

The route starts in Colombia which has been experiencing something of a backpacking boom over the past few years and rightly so. It has evolved into a safe, friendly and exciting place to visit with a fabulous mix of big cities, stunning countryside, Caribbean coastlines and Latin American passion.

The route then follows the Andes down through Ecuador taking in historic Quito and a jaw-dropping train ride. Peru is next and for many the highlight of travel in the region: the Inca Trail and a trip to Machu Picchu. Head east into Bolivia and be shocked and inspired in equal measure by the continent’s poorest country before diving into Chile for more spectacular Andean journeys.

Some vibrant big cities await as you head from the Chilean capital of Santiago on the Pacific Coast to buzzing Buenos Aires on the Atlantic coast taking in the heart of Argentina as you go. After months on the road it’s now very much relaxation time as the beautiful beaches of Uruguay and Southern Brazil await before going out with a bang in the ultimate party city of Rio de Janeiro.


Colombia


Fly into Cartagena (possibly via a connecting flight in Bogota) or if you’re coming from Central America consider crossing the Darien Gap from Panama.

cool house in colombia

Cartagena – The old part of Cartagena is a special place with horse-drawn carriages and stylish architecture while the city is on the coast so has a Caribbean flavour. This is a good place to start as there are cheap flights to Miami which is connected to cities all over Europe and North America.

Parque Nacional Tayrona – Skip tacky Santa Marta and Taganga for the beautiful national park with deserted Caribbean beaches and snow-capped peaks.

Mompos- Totally unique town well off the beaten track, stuck in a time-warp with lots of furniture and rocking chairs!

San Gil– Adrenaline junkies paradise with cheap and excellent rafting, paragliding, hydrospeeding and waterfall abseiling.

Villa de Leyva- Colonial town near the capital with a huge square.

Bogota- Cool and much improved capital city. Cyclist’s paradise (especially on Sundays), alternative districts and great museums. Check out our 5 Funky Things to do in Bogota!

Salento – Small town, lots of travellers and some stunning surrounding countryside.

Cali – Colombia’s salsa city with some passionate Colombian nightlife at weekends.

Popayan – Perhaps the most attractive of Colombia’s old towns. Lots of churches and pretty white buildings.

Find out more in our Backpackers Guide to Colombia (a few years old now but still some relevant info).


Colombia-Ecuador


The Popayan-Otavalo leg is potentially very dangerous at night with armed bandits in Western Colombia. Set off very early and consider stopping over in Pasto or Ipiales. The journey is at least 12 hours in total and this is possibly the longest day of travelling on our South America backpacking itinerary. The border crossing is fairly quick and painless at the international bridge between Ipiales (COL) and Tulcan (ECU).

Volcan Cotopaxi Ecuador

Otavalo – Famous for its Saturday market, friendly indigenous people and lots of men sporting dresses and ponytails! Bloodthirsty backpackers may want to visit the town’s cockfighting ring.

Quito – Popular if at times unsafe capital city. The old town is large and interesting but head to the Marsical for an all action international area bursting with backpackers, loads of hostels and lively westernised clubs.

Cotopaxi (above) – Stunning National park with the giant and freezing cold 5900m Volcan Cotopaxi at the centre of it.

Banos – Touristy town but a very pleasant, safe place with its famous baths and surrounded by green mountains. Take a trip into the Amazon which starts just a few kilometers east of the town.

Riobamba – Mountain town with some random buildings and shops. Starting point of the famously steep train ride down to Sibambe.

Sibambe – End of the trainline, little to see but it’s a short trip to Cuenca.

Cuenca – Popular riverside city full of colonial buildings and cool cafes.


Ecuador-Peru


Cross at the Huaquillas border crossing. If you speak Spanish, it’s fairly easy to hitch a lift in one the many lorries that run the route down to Mancora which is about 3 hours south of the border but buses do run to Mancora from Cuenca.

Mancora – Popular beach resort full of drunk gap year students, surfers and an unfortunately high number of thieves.

Trujillo – Truth be told Northern Peru has little in comparison to the south but Trujillo is a decent stopover for a day or so.

Huaraz – Another altitude spot of natural beauty in Peru’s central Sierra. Surprisingly lively nightly entertainment including a decent choice of live music.

Lima – Coastal capital of Peru perched on huge cliffs above the Pacific. It’s okay for a few days but for a capital there’s not much to see.

Huacachina– Much fun to be had here in the giant sand dunes with options including sandboarding and bumpy buggy tours.

Nazca – Famous for its mysterious lines as featured in Indiana Jones. Unfortunately fly-overs are out of the budget of most backpackers.

Cuzco – The ancient Incan capital is still a really impressive sight and great place to hang around for a few days. It’s also the launching pad for the Inca Trail and a visit to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu – The most famous of all the Incan ruins, an incredible place up in the clouds of the Andes mountains. For many travellers this is the highlight of backpacking around South America (below).

Puno – Lively town on the Peruvian banks of Lake Titicaca.

machu picchu

Read about the cost of travel in Peru.


Peru-Bolivia


There are bus companies in Puno who run twice daily trips to Copacabana. The journey is about three hours and includes stops at both border checkpoints. There are no ATM’s in Copacabana the last we knew so make sure you have enough cash before crossing the border. US dollars can be exchanged easily in both towns.

Copacabana – The first town in Bolivia, enjoy the cheapness of the place and hop on a boat to the Isla del Sol.

Isla del Sol – This is the Inca birthplace, a beautiful island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest freshwater lake.

La Paz – One of the smallest and safest capitals on the continent. Street markets, the Coca Museum and the infamous San Pedro prison are very popular with backpackers here.

Sucre – Relaxed town known as ‘la ciudad blanca’ (White City). It is probably the most attractive city in the country.

Potosi – Take a trip down the shockingly dangerous working mines in what is the highest city in the world. A depressing but unforgettable place.

Salar de Uyuni – The world’s largest salt flat is a weirdly charming place and an increasingly popular stop on the South America backpacker trail. You will probably need to do an organised tour here, which can last several days.


Bolivia-Chile


Some travellers do 3 day tours of the salt flats and some companies may offer this as part of a trip between Uyuni, a functional town in Bolivia and San Pedro in Chile. Other options include diving into Northern Argentina via the Villazon border crossing and possibly heading to the attractive city of Salta and then crossing the Argentina-Chile border to reach San Pedro.

San Pedro de Atacama – Stunning landscape around the laid back but somewhat pricey town. See it on a horse or bicycle.

Antofagasta – Unremarkable port offers an insight into life in a non-touristy Chilean city and has good transport links going south.

Copiapo – Sleepy town which burst into the global spotlight in 2010 with the dramatic and very moving rescue of 33 trapped miners.

Vina del Mar – Best beaches in the country with awesome music festival every February.

Valparaiso – Colourful town with a vibrant bohemian culture. A real gem.

Santiago – Capital city with so much to do in and around it. Skiing in the Andes, nice beaches and interesting towns all very close to what is the beating heart of this country.

You can also extend your time in Chile & Argentina and potentially visit Antarctica by following our Backpacking Route in Patagonia.


Chile-Argentina


tango in buenos airesBuses from Santiago to Mendoza take around 8 hours. The route is a fairly spectacular crossing of the Andes and obviously you will see more if you opt for a day bus although night buses do run. You may want to stop off in a village in the mountains to break up the journey and enjoy the incredible scenery. For bus times in Argentina and some of the other countries check out BusBud.

Mendoza – Excellent wine produced here and it’s also not far from Mount Aconcagua, the tallest on the continent.

Cordoba – Second city full of students with a Mediterranean feel. Big city but much more chilled out than Buenos Aires.

Alta Gracia – Small country town outside of Cordoba. The main attraction is Che Guevara’s childhood home, which is now an excellent museum.

Rosario – Interesting big city which includes riverside beaches with an alternative vibe.

Buenos Aires – Fantastic city, take in a passionate football match, the vibrant streetlife, super shopping and lively clubs that party well past dawn. Many travellers view the giant Argentinean capital as their favourite city in all of South America.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Waikiki Hostel, Buenos Aires 

Cheap hostel near a subway station so it’s easy to get around. Sensibly sized 4/5 bed dorms.


Argentina-Uruguay


Colonia is actually a popular daytrip from Buenos Aires so it is very easy to get from Argentina to Uruguay. Buquebus is a company that offers fast boats taking just one hour or cheaper slow boats that do the journey from BA to Colonia in three hours. They also have boats direct to Montevideo and Punta del Este from the docks in Buenos Aires.

Colonia – A short hop across Rio de la Plata from BA, this cobblestone town with lively bars is a great if a little touristy introduction to Uruguay.

Montevideo – Small and very pleasant by the standards of capitals in Latin America. Popular with artists and architecture lovers.

Piriapolis – Budget beach resort with fun stuff including jet skiing, windsurfing and banana boating.

Punta Del Este – Most popular beaches in the region and some banging nightlife!

Cabo Polonio – A tiny coastal village with sea lions, penguins, whales, rustic hostels and lots of hippies.


Uruguay-Brazil


Cross the border on foot at the town of Chuy north of Punta del Este but still on the coast. The main street is called Avenue Brasil/Uruguay and is where you will find the immigration controls There is accomodation in the town if you don’t want to head straight to Porto Alegre. This is where backpacking through South America suddenly gets a bit more expensive. Read more on the cost of travel in Brazil.

Porto Alegre – City with interesting museums, arts and music.

Iguacu Falls – Spectacular waterfalls where three countries meet. Pop over into Paraguay if you’re looking to tick another country off your list. Iguacu Falls is one of our Top 10 Latin America Travel Experiences!

Curitiba – Historic buildings, interesting art scenes and a European influence give Curitiba a different feel to other cities in Brazil.

Ilha do Mel – Enchanting island with top notch beaches, surfing and even lively youthful parties in the peak season. Cars are banned!

Sao Paulo – The biggest city in the southern hemisphere is chaotic but worth a visit just to get a feel for one of the world’s mega-cities. More on the monster that is Sao Paulo here!

Paraty – Stunningly preserved 18th century colonial town with so many beaches and islands nearby you are literally spoilt for choice.

Ihla Grande – More amazing Brazilian beaches, lush forests and some lively island parties.

Petropolis – Easy day trip from the heat of Rio but it’s worth crashing in this historic mountain town for a night.

Rio de Janeiro- Rio would make a spectacular ending to your time travelling in South America. Time it to get here in March for the Rio Carnival. The city of sun, sea and sin is so much fun! Check out our 5 funky things to do in Rio!


MFT RECOMMENDS – Walk on the Favela Hostel, Rio de Janeiro 

Sociable hostel just a 10 minute walk to the world famous Copacabana Beach but with a real local vibe.


Rio de Janeiro skyline

(for more on Brazil see our backpacking route for Brazil)


  Budget Accommodation in South America

You don’t really have to book accommodation in advance in most of the stops on this route however during festivals or at weekends in big cities, the best budget hostels sell out quickly so in such cases you may prefer a reservation. Many of the real cheap places in the Andean region are not found online.


Options for extending your trip in South America

There are loads of other places you could visit and routes you could take, it’s all down to what interests you really. Other possible stops include Medellin in Colombia which is another great city but given Colombia is a big country with plenty of long journeys you may look for a more direct route. If the infamous city of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian Cartels appeals to you, then you could always head south from Cartagena and miss out the national park, Mompos and San Gil in the East of the country.

If you had a whole year at your disposal then it’s well worth venturing deeper into the Amazon. Iquitos in Peru gets rave reviews from backpackers many of whom visit the shaman nearby and experiment with the native visionary and very trippy medicine ayahuasca. Indeed if nature is more your thing and then you could do an entirely different route to the mostly mountainous and coastal route above. The Amazon is enormous and despite deforestation it still covers a huge portion of the continent and extends from Brazil into Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia as well as Surinam, Venezuela and the Guineas. Following the course of the Amazon River would also be an option.

Another extension would be to start in Venezuela or one of the smaller less visited countries on the Caribbean Coast. This would enable you to do a big loop and potentially even visit every country on the continent.

Ecuador is small and very diverse with coastal, mountainous and jungle regions so you could easily hit the coast or head further into the jungle without any major detours. Head to the full-moon parties in Montanita for some moonlight raving.

With more time and money travelling down to Patagonia in the south of Chile and Argentina is immensely rewarding. You can even arrange trips to Antarctica from backpacker friendly Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. You could also see more of Chile this way and consider hitchhiking to cut costs as it’s very safe and popular in this part of South America.


Options for shortening this route

There are obviously ways to shorten the route. One would be to skip Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru by flying into Lima and going from there. You would be missing out on a lot of great places but if you’re limited on time then you will have to pick and choose what you want to see the most. Adding a few flights into the mix would speed up your journey. One possibility would be flying from Quito to Cuzco and then heading on the Inca trail. Peru is a very large country and the ascent up to Cuzco by land is something of a nightmare so a flight although more expensive may not be a bad bet if you can find some reasonable deals.

If a tight budget is your main concern then you should consider missing out Brazil, the most expensive country on the continent and flying home from Buenos Aires. Chile could also be missed for the sake of more time in dirt cheap Bolivia and then travel down either through Northern Argentina or by heading east to Paraguay, which is more budget-friendly.

 

Pics courtesy of Fernando Stankuns (Rio), Pablo Flores (Che Museum), Richard Ijzermans (Cotopaxi) and AlCortes (San Gil) on flickr.


 This page was last updated in January 2017