South America Travel Budget

Reader Question: Hey Trisha! I’m new to your site, so this info may already be in here, but do you have an amount for how much you spent overall? Like besides the free accommodation? My bestie and I are about to head to South America and we’re wondering around how much we need set aside besides accommodation & travel expenses… I understand this varies by country, but it’d be great to have an idea. – Grace, the Philippines

You are correct! As usual, prices vary per country so below is an estimate of my South America travel budget. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brasil and Bolivia are the countries included in the list because they are the ones which are always flocked by tourists. They are categorised into 4: Food/Dining Out, Market, Transportation and Accommodation. I did not include the tour prices because this depends on the city/type of activity but we will get there in another post!

Note: Prices below are in US Dollars (U$D)

Food/Dining Out

 
COLOMBIA
ECUADOR
PERU
CHILE
ARGENTINA
BRASIL
BOLIVIA
Meal (Inexpensive Restaurant)
$2.42
$3.00
$2.91
$5.48
$12.00
$4.96
$2.70
Fastfood
$3.94
$5.95
$4.37
$4.79
$9.00
$5.45
$5.07
Beer (Local)
$0.76
$1.12
$1.46
$1.64
$3.00
$1.49
$2.03
Beer (Imported)
$1.51
$3.00
$2.33
$2.46
$5.00
$2.97
$2.89
Coffee
$1.04
$2.03
$2.21
$1.91
$3.05
$1.28
$1.92
Soda
$0.55
$0.84
$0.65
$0.97
$1.56
$0.92
$0.84
Bottled Water
$0.53
$0.52
$0.38
$0.81
$1.39
$0.60
$0.64

On the table above, ‘inexpensive meals’ are from the places that are widely available all over the city. It can be food stalls on the street and small restaurants in the area but this does not include those that are in the commercial areas like shopping malls. Fast food includes McDonalds, Burger King and KFC. With this information, we can conclude that Argentina is the most expensive and Colombia is the cheapest when dining out. Both of these countries are known for good food. Some restaurants in these 2 cities are included in the 50 World’s Best Restaurants.

Market

 
COLOMBIA
ECUADOR
PERU
CHILE
ARGENTINA
BRASIL
BOLIVIA
Milk (1 liter)
$0.71
$1.04
$1.08
$5.48
$1.29
$0.68
$0.81
Bread (Loaf)
$0.74
$1.48
$1.73
$0.93
$1.69
$1.17
$0.93
Rice (1kg, white)
$0.88
$1.35
$0.94
$1.11
$2.11
$0.84
$1.21
Eggs (1 dozen)
$1.14
$1.80
$1.47
$2.18
$2.11
$1.21
$1.46
Cheese (Local)
$2.73
$4.73
$5.70
$7.66
$9.69
$5.39
$4.55
Chicken Breasts (1 kg, boneless)
$2.98
$6.17
$5.32
$4.72
$7.59
$2.92
$3.57
Beef (1 kg)
$4.14
$8.27
$7.30
$7.99
$9.52
$5.97
$6.37
Apples (1 kg)
$1.48
$2.07
$1.31
$1.07
$2.36
$1.37
$1.48
Banana (1 kg)
$0.66
$0.97
$0.81
$0.95
$1.74
$0.89
$0.69
Tomato (1 kg)
$0.69
$1.14
$0.93
$1.11
$2.27
$1.32
$0.91
Potato (1kg)
$0.58
$1.17
$0.67
$0.91
$1.11
$0.94
$0.97
Onion (1kg)
$0.63
$1.18
$0.69
$1.00
$1.35
$1.00
$0.77
Lettuce (1 head)
$0.52
$0.67
$0.55
$0.91
$1.54
$0.60
$0.67
Bottled Water (1.5)
$0.81
$1.01
$0.72
$1.06
$1.44
$0.68
$0.94
Bottle of Wine
$7.57
$12.00
$7.28
$4.99
$5.53
$6.32
$4.34
Beer (Local)
$0.69
$1.08
$1.21
$1.14
$1.76
$1.05
$1.60
Beer (Imported)
$1.44
$2.74
$1.96
$1.63
$3.25
$2.33
$2.50
Cigarettes (1 pack)
$1.21
$4.20
$2.33
$3.83
$2.25
$1.73
$2.00

If you are backpacking South America, you want to save more and stretch your travel on a longer time period. Markets are the best way to do it in terms of eating. 90% of the hostels in South America have their own guest kitchen which you can use. I’ve done this in the majority of my travel and this is when I learned how to cook! Basing on the table above, we can say that Argentina is the most expensive while Colombia is the cheapest when it comes to grocery shopping.

Transportation

 
COLOMBIA
ECUADOR
PERU
CHILE
ARGENTINA
BRASIL
BOLIVIA
Local Transport (1-way ticket)
$0.55
$0.25
$0.35
$0.89
$0.50
$0.84
$0.29
Monthly Pass
$22.42
$15.00
$21.84
$41.07
$25.00
$37.17
$28.94
Taxi (Start Rate)
$1.21
$1.12
$1.46
$0.41
$1.70
$1.14
$1.16
Taxi (per 1km rate)
$1.11
$1.00
$1.46
$1.37
$1.50
$0.68
$1.44
Gasoline (per liter)
$0.66
$0.50
$1.07
$1.07
$1.36
$0.84
$0.54

Local transport is best for long rides (1 hour max) but I suggest walking if you can. This is the best way to know a culture and a city. Taxi is not advisable in South America because of it’s high price however, riding a cab in Bolivia is really really cheap! I didn’t take a taxi for a year and when I got to Bolivia, I found myself enjoying and taking advantage of its low price. Other form of transport are also available like the colectivo, which means shared ride. For example, you can ride a combi/shared taxi in Peru for $0.50

Accommodations

 
COLOMBIA
ECUADOR
PERU
CHILE
ARGENTINA
BRASIL
BOLIVIA
8-bed Mixed Dorm
$8.83
$12.50
$13.02
$17.00
$13.00
$7.93
$8.74
6-bed Mixed Dorm
$9.81
$14.50
$14.61
$18.00
$15.00
$8.50
$9.50
4-bed Mixed Dorm
$10.57
$16.00
15.24
$20.00
$16.30
$9.26
$11.81
Twin (Private)
$13.81
$18.00
$17.47
$23.00
$27.33
$12.18
$11.84
Double Bed (Private)
$25.20
$20.00
$19.07
$25.00
$29.50
$15.89
$15.89

The type of traveller that you are depends on the kind of accommodation you want to avail. On the table above, I have listed different accommodations that are common and widely available in South America. 4-bed sharing are the most expensive when it comes to dorms because you only share with 3 other people. As the beds increase, the prices decrease. Privates are not that expensive compared to dorms so most tourists prefer to avail this type of accommodation. However, backpackers know that dorms are the best places to make friends and join a small community so I suggest you pick this accommodation type as well.

Airfare

ROUND TRIP
to Bogota
to Quito
to Lima
to Santiago
to Buenos Aires
to Rio de Janeiro
to La Paz
From Singapore, SG (Asia)
from $1,740
from $1,707
from $1,554
from $1,983
from $1436
from $1,122
from $2,690
From Seoul, South Korea (Asia)
from $1,094
from $1,309
from $1,115
from $1,004
from $1,001
from $1,180
from $1,494
From Sydney (AU)
from $1,083
from $2,197
from $1,311
from $1,199
from $1,051
from $1,099
from $2,898
From Madrid, Spain (EU)
from $613
from $746
from $627
from $732
from $618
from $501
from $813
From London, UK (EU)
from $661
from $1,522
from $638
from $854
from $761
from $621
from $867
From Abu Dhabi (UAE)
from $2,018
from $2,025
from $2,021
from $1,847
from $1,515
from $1,842
N/A
From Los Angeles, CA (USA)
from $414
from $491
from $504
from $738
from $1,286
from $741
from $628
From Fort Lauderdale, FL (USA)
from $249
from $365
from $365
from $533
N/A
N/A
N/A
From Atlanta, TX (USA)
from $364
from $607
from $440
from $988
from $1,452
from $754
N/A

Now this one is tricky. The information above is based on a 3-month booking period. However, we can say that these are the normal tariffs for airfares from the major airports that fly to South America. Please take note that whether where you are flying from, South America flights are really expensive. One reason is the demand — there aren’t a lot of people traveling to South America nowadays but who knows — it might change in the future!

TIP: The best flying hub in and out of South America is Santiago, Chile. 

In summary, we can say that Argentina is the most expensive and Colombia is the cheapest in South America (not including the airfare prices). However, it could also be about the two dollar exchange rates in Argentina. Click here for further reading.


Disclaimer: Prices above are based on the experiences of the writer who travelled to South America for 2 years. Help improve the data of this post by leaving a comment below! 😉

THE NEW YOU

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

  1. Tania Mukherjee

    19 January

    This is so much helpful a post Trisha! Never knew dining in Argentina is so costly compared with the rest of South American countries. Thank you for this post. Keep up the good work!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Thanks for dropping by, Tania! It’s only expensive because of the dollar conversion. But once you get a hold of the blue dollar exchange rate and how it works, I am sure you will find Argentina cheap!

  2. PaperGirl

    20 January

    Thank you so much for this response Trisha! Everything I wanted to know and more 🙂 Love your blog!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Thank you for giving me an article idea! I really love reader questions so keep it coming!

  3. b.v.amarender

    20 January

    good information

  4. Valerie

    22 January

    Good info. I hope to make it to South America soon. I want to visit Argentina. Better save up!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Thanks, Valerie! I’m sure you’re going to love Argentina! I spent 72 days there and had a hard time leaving!

  5. sabina

    23 January

    This tables are very useful and maybe should save and print them 🙂
    thank you. I’m happy to see that from Madrid airfares are not that much, so if I search from Milan and Rome I hope I can find something similar 🙂

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Hey Sabina! Sure, go ahead, print it if it will help you travel South America better! Madrid and London are the flying hubs to South America so you will really find a lot of cheap airfares from there! I don’t think Milan or Rome has any direct/cheap flight to SA but let me know if you’re able to find one!

  6. av

    23 January

    This is really helpful! The Universe might be telling me something… haha. Will bookmark!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Thanks, AV! Please feel free to bookmark and use it for your future SA travel! Good luck and may the force be with you!

  7. Katie

    23 January

    Love a good budget round up! I always knew Argentina was more expensive than the other South American countries, but I didn’t realize by how much! It is significantly more expensive to eat and drink in Argentina than anywhere else–wow!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      12 February

      Katie, it’s only expensive because of the 2 dollar rate conversion but if you have dollars when you enter Argentina, you will be fine!

  8. Great directory, Trisha! It looks like it’s very much possible to travel across South America on a budget! Great to know that! I can’t wait to travel there 🙂

  9. Megan

    23 January

    This is a great resource. I really like how you break it down. I’m heading to Southeast Asia this year but was thinking South America for my next trip. Now it might not stop me from going but had no idea how much more expensive Argentina is. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Jackie

    23 January

    Such great information! I love how you organized everything into charts. Not surprising that Argentina is the priciest given the turmoil it’s faced with its currency. I was surprised that Columbia was the cheapest, as I would have guessed Bolivia. I can also add to the flight information, for anyone looking to travel with award miles, Santiago typically has great availability as compared to other popular cities in Argentina and Brazil.

  11. Christopher

    23 January

    Wow that is a lot of great information. Planning on possibly heading to South America this Summer. This pricing is really helpful. Thanks.

  12. Melanie

    24 January

    Trisha, this is a great post! I love that you included market prices, that helps tremendously to get an idea of what it really costs to live there. We are right now in a place in Costa Rica where there is only one supermarket (quite a fancy one). It’s insane what they charge! It’s way cheaper in Austria…oh well 😉 Looking forward to visit South America one day!

  13. Holly

    24 January

    This is good information to have. Great overview of what kind of budget someone can do and what they can get with it.

  14. Stefan

    24 January

    You know you get those spammy comments saying “I’m so glad I found this and I will be bookmarking to save for later”…I’m genuine… We are planning a big trip to Latin America later this year and starting to research now – up to date info like this is gold dust 🙂

    But OMFG re Argentina – what the heck happened? I went over 10 years ago and it was always Peru/Bolivia were the bargains, Chile the most expensive and Argentina also cheap cheap cause it was recovering from a recession. But now the country seems to be powering ahead!

    Great post!

  15. Mar

    24 January

    Very detailed and useful trisha. I guess Chile is also not a cheap place. When I visited I felt as if I was in Spain and everything looked, felt and tasted much similar. Also their accent is more standard and less telling of the country. As quite a developed place, prices are accordingly, Exchange rate maybe is making Argentina more expensive?

  16. LeAnna

    24 January

    Wow, this is great! We are big budget travelers so I can spend HOURS researching prices on things. S. America is on our list for the upcoming years, so I’ll have to use this when planning so I can save some time! Thank you!

  17. Elizabeth

    24 January

    We found Buenos Aires to be the most expensive dining wise (other than Patagonia- which is expensive for everything really). Collectivos can be handy, especially if you know a bit of Spanish to give instructions. The long distance bus is cheap, but boy are the distances long! Flying can be very expensive internally in South America. If you fly on a LAN partner airline you can try a LAN Pass and Sky Airlines is budget airline that operates in some areas. It can be a cheap option to the bus for long distances. Buenos Aires can be a good airport option from Europe. There is a ferry between Uruguay and BA. And Urugauy is fantastic- very underrated!

  18. melody pittman

    24 January

    Great tips plus I loved the comparisons. My husband and I live part-time in Panama and we are itching to start exploring all of Central and South America. These are great guidelines to check out in order to start planning our trips. thanks!

  19. Rosemary

    24 January

    Great and informative list. I’m currently in South America and would agree that Argentina has been the most expensive country. As you mention, you can cut costs by shopping and eating at the market as well as taking local transportation. The must surprising observation is how cheap and delicious the food in Peru. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Tracie Howe

    24 January

    Wow, it looks like Argentina has gotten pretty pricey since I was there. I assumed accommodation would be cheaper for the other places. This is a good wake up call for anyone (like me) wanting to go to South America.

  21. Kimberly Erin

    25 January

    my south american travel buddy. AHAHA Chile and Colombia have been my hubs so I guess I am evening out. Markets and kitchens help everything 😛

  22. Vicky and Buddy

    25 January

    I love the tables! They’re so easy to read and make it very clear to understand. I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 6 weeks and I can tell you that it can be pretty pricey. But like you said, it depends where you eat and what kind of transportation you’re willing to take. I tried to eat at small local places and either walked or took the subway; taxis were too expensive!

  23. Jenna

    25 January

    Thanks for the detailed information! Super helpful for budgeting. It’s so interesting to see the comparison between different types of expenses and the different countries. I’m amazed how affordable the transportation is across the board–much less expensive than what we are used to at home!

  24. Janna

    25 January

    Great post! I do the budgeting whenever my husband and I travel so this will be beneficial when we travel overseas. Thanks! 🙂

  25. Mags

    25 January

    This is such an amazing resource. Thanks for putting all of this in one place. This will certainly be helpful when I finally make it to South America. I need all the help I can get sticking to a budget!

  26. jessica

    25 January

    I like how you explained it thru tables, Trisha. I guess I will prefer Colombia – prices of coffee and cheese attract me well. Haha

  27. The cost tables should be of great help to anyone traveling to South America. Thanks for the detailed post and comparisons, its super helpful.

  28. This article is perfect for me! I’m planning to do a big trip through South America next year with two friends. We definitely want to go to Chile, Peru and Bolivia. But I’m still trying to convince them to go to more countries! Thanks for sharing this info, Trisha!

  29. Sreeram

    25 January

    This is really useful to me, as I will be spending a year backpacking in the South and Central America for a year from this May. I have just bookmarked this page. Love the break down table. Though I am a lil surprised as beer is expensive in Bolivia among all the countries listed 😉 . Thanks for sharing.

  30. evan kristine

    25 January

    Thanks Trisha for an amazing breakdown of the expenses! This is a really, really good overview for someone who is planning a trip to SA!

  31. Dante

    25 January

    Very informative post!! Thank You

  32. What a useful post! We had to skip Argentina, Chile, and Brazil on this trip, opting for Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. We were quite surprised at how expensive Peru was at parts.

  33. Joe Ankenbauer

    25 January

    This is pretty cool. I love how you have all the different places side by side, comparing costs. This is going to be very useful in the future! Thanks for a great post!

  34. Marc

    25 January

    Very useful information and I am sure a lot of people will love to read and learn about the costs. Thanks Trisha.

  35. Lauren

    26 January

    This is such a valuable guide! Sometimes it’s hard to budget out for a trip and you’ve made it easy for everyone! 🙂

  36. Hanna

    26 January

    Wow, this is really useful post! Good job!

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