Some of the world’s best bargains can be found in Latin America. Instead of traveling to the crowded metropolis of Asia or the expensive cities of Europe, come to South America where the costs are low, the natural beauty is spectacular, and the populations are comparatively sparse. After careful analysis, these three countries have been determined the best in South America to stretch your backpacking budget.
Bolivia is already well known amongst the backpackers for its affordability and authenticity, as it is yet to be overrun by tourists. It serves as a great halfway point to recuperate costs after too much partying in Brazil or Chile. $25 USD is more than adequate per day, while those on the most stringent of budgets can get by on $15. A private room can be had for as low as $10 a night and a dorm bed for around $6. If you were looking to trek into the steamy Amazon, Bolivia provides the cheapest rainforest tours on the continent. The main expense involves transportation: there is poor infrastructure, meaning crossing by land is arduous and a lack of budget airlines makes flying expensive.
Ecuador, for its size, has an abundance of adventure, with active volcanoes to climb and sunrises in the Andes to witness. Housing is cheap, with shared accommodation fetching around $10 a night. A three-course meal can be had for no more than $5 at the best restaurant in town… and right around $2 everywhere else. A glass of Chilean wine can be had for around $2.50 and a large pilsner beer for 75 cents. Quito is slightly more expensive being the capital, so take a bus to any number of smaller towns nestled in the green valleys of this compact country. Buses run around $1-$2 per hour, long distance. To stay on budget, avoid the Galápagos islands, as transportation to the islands and the park entrance fee are costly.
Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, the Inca Trail costs have risen in the past years. And you’ll probably still find it irresistible. But Peru is still very affordable. Naturally, costs drop away from the beaten path, but even in the tourist towns of Lima and Cusco, dorm beds cost around $11 and a delicious, flavorful meal under $4. Low costs flights from the United States and elsewhere abroad makes Peru an attractive option to begin your South America journey. Luxurious lodgings and posh restaurants can easily inflate costs, but by traveling backpacker style, you can easily get by on $30 a day. Make sure to haggle as locals may try to overcharge you for taxis (there’s no meter) and in the markets. Visit during spring and fall for lower prices, better weather, and less crowds.