South America Backpacking Budget – How much money do you need?

South America backpacking budget

Overall, South America is quite cheap to travel in, although there are some notable price differences between countries. Below, we’ll take a deeper look at the cost of travel in South America. There are suggested daily budgets for each country and a monthly South America backpacking budget which should help you decide how much you will need to travel around the continent.

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Cost of Travel in South America

South America backpacking budget

CountryEstimated Daily Backpacking Budget (USD)

Depending on which country you are in, you will need around $20-40 per day to backpack around South America on a shoestring budget. Things are cheaper in the Andean region of Ecuador, Peru and particularly Bolivia. While Chile, Brazil and Uruguay rank as the most expensive countries in South America for travel.

This budget to backpack South America is based on solo travellers staying in hostels (mostly dorms), travelling everywhere by bus and either preparing their own food or eating mostly in budget restaurants with the odd night out but nothing too crazy nor too often.

Much will depend on your style of travel though and how quickly you move around. Budget a bit more on transport in the bigger countries like Peru, Colombia, Argentina or Chile as the main destinations are typically much further away from each other. Whereas Ecuador for example is much more compact with just a few hours on a bus and only a few US Dollars separating most of the popular places.

Your exact expenditure will most likely differ from the table above depending on some of these factors, although hopefully not by too much. It’s also worth noting that travelling South America as a couple or with a friend is generally very slightly cheaper as you can sometimes split costs on accommodation or transport.

These are uncertain economic times though with some pretty serious economic problems in Argentina for example where inflation soared to a ridiculous 70% in 2022. Therefore, do keep an eye on any important economic developments and changing exchange rates. Costs can rise or fall significantly in a relatively short time if you’re coming to the region with US Dollars, Euros or another currency.

Andes backpacking
The long road through the Andes.

Monthly budget to backpack South America

How long?Possible Budget (USD)Possible Budget (EUR)Possible Budget (GBP)
1 Month in South America$1000€925£800
2 Months in South America$2000€1850£1600
3 Months in South America$3000€2775£2400
4 Months in South America$4000€3700£3200
5 Months in South America$5000€4625£4000
6 Months in South America$6000€5550£4800
Based on 2023 prices and exchange rates.

A figure of around $1000 per month is a reasonable starting point for a shoestring budget to backpack South America. You can usually get by on less in the Andes but spend more time in the South of the continent or Brazil and you will probably need more than this.

Travel around the continent at a relatively relaxed pace, including time in most of the major countries and a budget for 6 months in South America might come to around $6000. This excludes the cost of flights to/from the region or any other pre-trip expenses such as the cost of travel insurance for your backpacking trip.

We have focused on the most visited countries in South America for these figures. Visiting any of the other four countries in the continent would certainly mean getting well off the beaten path and would most likely involve spending more money. 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. Venezuela meanwhile can also be expensive although things are a bit more complicated there with economic uncertainty and multiple currencies in circulation.

How much money do you need to backpack South America on a more comfortable budget?

The above figures are very much designed for shoestring travellers. It may be advisable to allow for a slightly bigger daily and monthly spend, particularly if you’ve not got much experience of independent travel.

By increasing your South America backpacking budget by around $10/day or $300/month, you will have far more room for doing lots of extra trips and excursions that a shoestring traveller may not be able to afford. It will also give you more freedom for taking the odd flight (internal ones are much cheaper than international ones) as the thrill of travelling everywhere by bus does quickly wear off.

No matter how hard you try to keep costs down, there will be isolated days where you go way over budget. Prices can really sky-rocket around major tourist hot-spots like Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu (closed at the time of writing) and the natural wonders of Patagonia.

There are also seasonal variations in some places with costs often much cheaper outside of peak season. However, given “peak season” varies between countries and destinations, these swings typically average out for anyone on an extended trip in South America.

Chile sea view
Pacific Ocean views from Viña del Mar, Chile.

How to save money as a budget traveller in South America

Don’t try to visit everywhere!

It’s tempting to look at South America on a map and realise that there aren’t many countries, so why not visit them all? That’s not a great idea, unless you’ve literally got a whole year in the region. Even that may not be enough (spoiler: South America is really big!).

Given a significant portion of any South America travel budget goes on bus tickets and getting from A to B, slowing down your pace of travel and focusing on only a few countries will save you money. That’s particularly true if you focus on the Andes and skip more expensive places like Brazil and Uruguay.

There are also the temptation to combine visiting South America with Central America (where travel is also pretty cheap) but again that may be a bit ambitious and will add to you overall costs as getting between the two regions is harder than it looks.

Consider doing work exchanges

If you’re worried about not being able to stick to the budgets above, then work exchanges are worth considering. Worldpackers is a platform that enables travellers to find placements and while you won’t get paid, you get to experience life in another country and can be provided with free accommodation, food and other benefits, which will allow you to spend longer in South America and spend less money.

It does cost $49/year to sign up but you can use the code ‘MYFUNKYTRAVELWP’ for a $10 discount on that. The membership fee will easily pay for itself in terms of savings as you’ll be able to cut your daily budget down to almost nothing during the weeks where you are doing work exchanges with hundreds of options across South America.

Eat like a Local

Many local restaurants across South America offer special set meals for lunch (“menú del dia”). In cheaper countries these may only be a few dollars but are typically generous portions that will keep you going for the day. They are particularly good in Peru which has arguably the best cuisine in the whole region. There are often decent, budget-friendly offerings at breakfast too.

Wherever you are, observe how and where the locals eat and you probably won’t go too far wrong. Knowing a bit of Spanish will help too as menus won’t be in English aside from the more expensive tourist restaurants which will quickly destroy your daily backpacking budget for South America.

Food costs in South America - Peru
Street stalls serving cheap food in Lima, Peru.

 All backpacking budgets were last updated in January 2023 according to prices and exchange rates at that time.

South America Backpacking Budget – How much money do you need?

46 thoughts on “South America Backpacking Budget – How much money do you need?

  1. Hi, I’m planning on doing a 51 day G Adventure trip across South America which covers different areas, do you have any ideas for budget? It will mainly be spent on activities and potentially souvenirs as accommodation and travel between different places is covered. Also is it best to use local money or USD?

    1. Hi Laura, apart from Ecuador where USD is the currency, it’s best to use local money and USD will rarely be accepted.

      In terms of a budget, it’s very hard to give you an accurate estimate as not sure which countries you are going to and what kind of activities you are looking to do. The info on this page is mostly aimed at budget travellers and backpackers who perhaps have more time and spread their spend on activities out across a longer period. If you’re looking to cram as many activities and trips into 51 days as possible, then you could still easily end up spending $20-30/day extra on average, perhaps more if you’re spending more time in the expensive countries and are visiting some of the main tourist places.

  2. Hello! I was planning to do a South American trip in July 2020 – however only for 1 month. What route / countries would you suggest? And how much (for a shoestring and comfortable budget) would you suggest to bring?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi,

      I’d suggest maybe flying in to Quito and back from Lima and travelling through Ecuador & Peru, perhaps taking an internal flight in the latter to skip the north and central areas.

      Alternatively maybe you could do the section from Cuenca to San Pedro Atacama on our South America route although it may be more expensive getting in and out doing it this way as neither have big international airports so you will need more connecting flights.

      It’s hard to give an accurate figure in terms of budgeting for such a short trip. One or two big excursions/activities can change things a lot but you can probably look at $30-50 per day as a rough guide. Trips of a month or less tend to be more expensive than the figures listed above as it’s natural that you will want to fit more in and do more activities if you only have a limited time.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Hi,

    I am planning to go to Ecuador in September. I will probably be there for a month. Do you think that 1700$ is enough budget, or do I need more than that?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Leo,

      It sounds like a very comfortable budget for Ecuador. It’s one of the cheaper countries in South America as you can see from the tables above and you should have some room to do lots of extra activities and excursions with that.

      However note that the figures above don’t include the cost of flights in & out which could work out as a large % of your total trip if you’ll only be there a month. Depends where you’re coming from obviously.


  4. Hey!

    I’m planning on doing a solo trip starting fall 2020.
    Do you think there has been any major changes in the prices from 2019 that you have listed?


    1. Hi Gaute,

      Wouldn’t have thought there have been any radical changes since then. The one to keep an eye on is probably Argentina where the currency has devalued significantly over the past couple of years. This in theory should make it much cheaper to visit but it’s probably worth monitoring that and trying to find some more up-to-date info specific to that country nearer the time of your trip (if you plan to go there) as the economy appears to be quite volatile.

      The figures obviously are quite rough anyway seen as everybody has different travel habits but you should be able to rely on them for a relatively accurate picture even though they are a year old now.

  5. Hi,

    planning on a 5 month trip short shops in brazil and Uruquay (maybe ten days each) then the rest 4 and a months argentina up to columbia! travelling with my girlfriend so splittng some costs, we are thinking of taking 8000 euros each, 5000 for general living, so 1000 a month and 3000 for activities and visa!

    do you think this would be enough?

    1. Hi Jake,
      Would have thought that would be enough. €5000 each sounds like a realistic shoestring budget for your trip, particularly given you won’t be spending long in Brazil. An extra 3000 is a nice safety net to have and should open up some great options for added activities and trips plus maybe even the odd flight to skip save a bit of time in the regions where there is less of interest. Visa requirements aren’t generally that strict in South America and shouldn’t cost much, if any money, although it depends where you’re from!

  6. Hi!

    Thank you for the comprehensive guide. I am planning to do a 3 month trip to South America at the end of 2019 or early 2020. Thinking of visiting Colombia – Ecuador – Peru – Bolivia then Brazil (in this order or the reverse, plan to fly in one of them and fly out at the other). Basically i will spend less time in Brazil (10 days) and Ecuador( 7 days) and the rest of the days it should be split on the other 3 countries. I plan to budget it for 3,000 – 3,500 (excluding the flight in and out of south america), do you think this is feasible? I am a experienced backpacker and it is my first time in south america.

    1. Hi Adrian,
      That sounds like a realistic enough shoestring budget for your 3 months in those countries (based on only spending 10 days or so in Brazil which is significantly more expensive. It feels like quite a lot to pack into 3 months though so you’d either have to spent a lot of time on buses or maybe try and squeeze in few flights, which can really eat into any budget in South America. I think I’d look to try and find a couple of hopefully reasonably priced flights in advance to cut down on the travelling in Peru and Brazil. If you can do that, then there’s no reason why you can’t stick to that kind of budget seen as you’re an experienced traveller.

  7. Hi,

    I am planning to go to South America in July 2019 for 6 months on a budget of around £6000 – £7000. My rough route is Colombia – Peru – Ecuador – Bolivia – Chile – Argentina. I am planning to stay mainly in hostels and eat any food out cheaply or cook in hostels. I am also planning to do some major activities like Macchu Picchu. Do you think that budget is enough for me?

    1. Hi George,
      I think £6000-7000 sounds realistic as a shoestring budget for that trip as a whole, especially given you’re missing out Brazil and are focused more on the cheaper countries. There will probably be some activities you’ll have to pass up on in order to stick to the budget but you should still have the funds to do the big ones like Macchu Picchu provided you’re smart when it comes to limiting your accommodation/food costs etc.
      I’d advise to try and keep a fair bit left for the end of the trip though. Chile is quite expensive by regional standards and although Argentina is a lot cheaper right now, their economy is pretty volatile so things could have changed 12 months from now.
      Hope that helps!

  8. Hi, im going to South America in August 2019. I will be visiting Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. I will be away for about 6 months. My budget is 12.000 dollars. Do you think that is fine? Im sleeping at hostels and in my tent and im travelling with my boyfriend, so we split most of the prices.

    Sincerely, Emilie

    1. Hi Emilie, Will be updating this page soon (probably January/February 2019) so it should give you a better idea then – Argentina is quite a bit cheaper now for example but otherwise it’s not so different.

      I’m assuming you mean 12,000 is the total for the two of you which I think should be fine unless you are planning to spend most of the trip in the South of the continent or Brazil. The figures we’ve quoted are mostly based on solo travellers and for sure it’s generally a bit cheaper to travel with a partner/friend. 1,000 Dollar/month each would certainly still be a shoestring budget so you will have to be a bit careful but it should be manageable. Staying in a tent is certainly a really good idea in more expensive areas like Southern Chile and Argentina where accommodation is quite expensive.

      If you mean you will have 12,000 each for the trip, then you’ll have a lot more freedom to do excursions, activities etc and take a few more flights around to save time.

      1. Hey again, yes we have between 12.000 and 15.000 dollars each to use. So 24.000 – 30.000 together to spend in 6 months.

        Is that fine?

  9. Hello there! I am from India and have previously visited Mexico and Colombia for about 15 days each and fell in love with Latin America. I am now planning for a longer travel starting from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina – all the way to the “fin del mundo” (end of the world) in Tierra Del Fuego (Ushuaia). I realize it is ambitious, but I have managed Mexico and Colombia with just a few words of Spanish before. How feasible do you think this trip is and if I give myself between 3-4 months for the whole trip, how much should I expect to spend over all?

    I would spend about 10 days each in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, about 1 to 1.5 months in Peru and Argentina respectively!

    1. Hi Ramesh,
      Thanks for your comment. If you can manage in Colombia with limited Spanish then it shouldn’t be any different in the other countries. Obviously it helps and you will have a more rewarding experience if you can communicate better with locals but you should be able to get by.
      3-4 months is perhaps a little short to cover that much ground by land but if you take maybe one or two flights, it should be possible.
      Based on doing the whole trip by buses though, staying in hostels etc, then $3500 might be a realistic shoestring budget (not including flights to/from South America etc – Remember that if you end up in Ushuaia, it isn’t the most convenient place to get home from!).

  10. Thinking of taking a 2 month trip to South America sometime soon with a $3000 budget. I was just wondering, about how many countries is feasible to experience in 2 months?

    1. Hi, in two months you are probably best focusing 2/3 countries at most. unless you have funds to cover flights which tend to be very expensive in South America!

      Based on travelling overland, some possibilities might be:
      Colombia-Ecuador-Peru at a bit of a rush or just two of those Colombia & Ecuador or Ecuador & Peru.
      Lima to Santiago via Inca Trail, Bolivia and Atacama Desert
      Chile & Argentina – e.g.
      Buenos Aires to Rio via Uruguay (budgeting may be a bit tighter here though)

  11. Hi,

    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


    1. 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 –

  12. 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?


    1. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. 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!

      1. 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!

  15. 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!

    1. 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!

  16. Most Central American countries can be traveled through very cheaply by using local transportation. Shuttle services catering specifically to tourists are a little more convenient, though can cost as much as ten times more.


  17. Hi, I am planning to spend two months in Central America this summer, with two weeks completing an archaeological dig in Belize. I want to keep my travelling quite compact, as flights from Scotland starting and ending in two places is very expensive from Britain so I would be flying in and out of Belize. I would most likely move into Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, so any top tips would be perfect.

    1. Belize would be comfortably the most expensive of those although if you avoid the main tourist places it shouldn’t be too bad. I travelled in Guatemala and El Salvador a few years back. Guatemala is very cheap everywhere (and a wonderful country) so I’d suggest focusing on that. El Salvador receives very few budget travellers, so there aren’t many cheap hostel type places so I found it slightly more expensive but I didn’t stay long.

      1. Thanks, thats a great help. I booked to start and end in Belize as I have a two week archaeological dig in Belize now too. I think Guatemala will be my main focus as many people seem to recommend the country as a main highlight. Thank you for the link too.

  18. I i was able to work doign TEFL or work in hostels for free accomodation would my budget stretch a lot further?

    1. Hi Stan, it would help a little bit but to be honest hostels are generally fairly cheap in Latin America and it’s the transporting between places that tends to take up most of the budget (South America especially). TEFL wages are also quite low there but enough for a reasonable standard of living if you decided to hang around a bit in one place.
      Certainly if you’re worried about budgeting it would be a good idea to visit just a few places and spend longer there (working would help further) rather than attempt to do the whole region.

    1. Hi Gary, It’s based on everything apart from flights to/from the region.

      Basically it’s a rough guide for how much it might cost to stay in a cheap hostel, travel around the country/region on local transport, eat a few cheapish meals a day and a bit left over for nights out/extra activities etc.

      You could get by on less if you don’t do much drinking/extra activities but if you do lots then it will probably be more than the figures here.

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