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)
|Meal (Inexpensive Restaurant)|
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.
|Milk (1 liter)|
|Rice (1kg, white)|
|Eggs (1 dozen)|
|Chicken Breasts (1 kg, boneless)|
|Beef (1 kg)|
|Apples (1 kg)|
|Banana (1 kg)|
|Tomato (1 kg)|
|Lettuce (1 head)|
|Bottled Water (1.5)|
|Bottle of Wine|
|Cigarettes (1 pack)|
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.
|Local Transport (1-way ticket)|
|Taxi (Start Rate)|
|Taxi (per 1km rate)|
|Gasoline (per liter)|
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
|8-bed Mixed Dorm|
|6-bed Mixed Dorm|
|4-bed Mixed Dorm|
|Double Bed (Private)|
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.
|From Singapore, SG (Asia)|
|From Seoul, South Korea (Asia)|
|From Sydney (AU)|
|From Madrid, Spain (EU)|
|From London, UK (EU)|
|From Abu Dhabi (UAE)|
|From Los Angeles, CA (USA)|
|From Fort Lauderdale, FL (USA)|
|From Atlanta, TX (USA)|
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! 😉