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The 12 Cheapest Countries to Visit in South America

South America is popular among all types of wanderers, including budget travelers. Not only does it offer various affordable (and even free) activities, the cost of accommodation, dining, and transportation here is generally low.

For that reason, South America promises a thrilling travel experience without breaking the bank.

We’ve ranked the cheapest countries to visit in South America based on the average amount you can expect to spend in each. These costings include accommodation, public transport, and meals. 

Keep in mind that the cost of food can vary greatly depending on the type of restaurant, location, and dining habits. The same applies to accommodation; that’s why we provide both hostel and mid-range hotel rates.

So here’s our list of the cheapest countries to visit in South America.

Note: Some countries in South America are going through political unrest, which influences their economy, and means prices can go up (or down) significantly. As a result, this list may change from time to time as we try our best to stay up-to-date with the current situations.

Exchange rates are also accurate as of late 2023, so double-check these against the latest rates for the most accurate conversions and bear in mind that cash is king in many countries in South America, so while a credit card can be handy in major cities, you’ll want to either use an ATM (and check it doesn’t charge you extra for withdrawing money) or a currency exchange offering a decent rate when you arrive.

A person with a wallet filled with dollars
We’ve ranked the cheapest countries to visit in South America based on the average amount you can expect to spend in each.

1. Colombia (from $34 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $4 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $1.5-$3 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $27 USD 9 hrs
  • Cost per day: $7 + $27 for buses = $34 USD

The number of visitors to Colombia has rapidly increased in the last decade, making it one of the most popular destinations to visit in South America.

So captivated by the country’s charm – whether it’s the mega biodiversity, friendly local people, low living cost, or all of the above – some have also been unable to resist making Colombia their permanent home.

Colombia is a great place to visit if you’re on a tight budget thanks to the affordable price of traveling here. On average, you can expect to spend around 144,000 COP ($34 USD) per day if you’re staying at hostels (which cost around 17,000 COP or $4 USD per night).

La Ciudad Perdida or The Lost City is tucked into the jungle in the north of Colombia
Colombia – and its incredible sights such as the Ciudad Perdida – has become increasingly popular among backpackers and vacationers alike.

Meanwhile, one night at a mid-range hotel for a double room costs almost as much as the average daily budget, so you can expect to pay around $50 USD per day if you’re traveling as a couple.

A meal at a local, mid-range restaurant is around 17,000 to 25,000 COP (about $4 to $6 USD). Street food and snacks can cost as little as 7,000 to 14,000 COP ($1.5 to $3 USD).

A big factor that sets Colombia as the most affordable country in South America is how easy it is to explore the country on a budget.

Most of what we consider to be the top places to visit in Colombia don’t require you to join a tour, so you’re free to set your own budget and time and can head out to Colombia’s beautiful beaches, glorious national parks, and major cities such as Medellin and Cartagena at your own leisure.

A beautiful turquoise water beach inside Tyrona National Park in Colombia.
You can enjoy Colombia’s stunning beaches without spending much cash – it is, after all, the cheapest country to visit in South America!

2. Peru (from $23.5 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $7 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $2.5 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $14 USD 18 hrs
  • Cost per day: $9.5 + $14 for buses = $23.5 USD

Peru’s archaeological sites and breathtaking nature make it one of the most beautiful countries in South America. Among them is its focal point, Machu Picchu, the ever-popular Inca Trail, and the magical Sacred Valley, all of which never cease to attract visitors.

A day in Peru, on average, costs around S/89 or $23.5 USD. A meal at a local restaurant can cost anywhere from S/ 20 to 30 (about $5 to $8 USD), while street food and snacks are half the price – relatively cheap for such a thriving culinary scene that pretty much guarantees delicious food, even at street food stalls.

When it comes to accommodation, you can expect low prices of around S/ 27 or $7 USD per night at a hostel (but triple for a mid-range hotel).

View of Machu Picchu, Peru from the east of the site
A day in Peru, on average, costs around S/124 or $32 USD.

Before the 2023 protest, Peru was one of the safest countries in South America for independent solo travelers. Unfortunately, the latest incidents have had significant impacts on its tourism; some sites are temporarily closed, and others require local guides.

If you plan on visiting Peru in the near future, please keep yourself up to date through our guide to the safest South American countries to visit and read up on when to visit Machu Picchu to help you navigate the best weather for visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site.

3. Bolivia (from $26.5 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $5 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $4.5 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $17 USD 9 hrs
  • Cost per day: $9.5 + $17 for buses = $26.5 USD

Being the home to the world’s largest salt flats, El Salar de Uyuni, makes Bolivia one of the best South American countries to visit. The country’s indigenous communities and ancient civilizations have left behind a fascinating history and cultural traditions that are still present today.

Sunrise lights up the sky behind the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, one of the cheapest countries to visit in South America
The Salar de Uyuni is Bolivia’s most visited destination.

To explore Bolivia conveniently, you’ll need around 183 BOB ($26.5 USD) per day. Dining at local restaurants costs anywhere from 30 to 50 BOB ($4.5 to $7.25 USD), while higher-end restaurants in cities like La Paz or Santa Cruz can be more expensive, with prices ranging from around 100 BOB ($14.5 USD).

The gap also applies to accommodation. While hostel rates are around 34.5 BOB ($5 USD) only, mid-range hotels can charge 221 BOB ($32 USD) or more. Transportation can also be very affordable, with bus rides the most economical means of getting around the country – although, for safety reasons, taking a flight can often be better.

Bolivia is relatively safe to visit independently, although we recommend traveling with friends, especially if it’s your first time in South America.

Three red cable cars on the red line in La Paz against a backdrop of the city and Illimani beyond
La Paz’s cable cars are a symbol of this capital city and its dramatic location.

Those who insist on going solo should find our article about things to know before visiting Bolivia helpful, whether they’re hitting the Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, or heading deep into the jungle and Madidi National Park.

4. Ecuador (from $21 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $5 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $14 USD 9 hrs
  • Budget restaurant: $2 USD
  • Cost per day: $7 + $14 = $21 USD

Ecuador packs a punch with its diverse attractions: from the unparalleled wildlife of the Galápagos Islands to the fascinating and rich culture. Budget-savvy travelers will love that a daily budget, excluding the cost of a Galápagos tour or cruise, of just $21 USD can go a long way in this friendly country.

When it comes to food, basic meals cost around $2 USD, but if you want more than rice and potatoes, expect to pay around $6.5 USD per dish.

As one of the cheapest places to visit in South America, it’s not difficult to find hostels in Ecuador, especially in popular tourist destinations like Quito and Cuenca. A hostel bed costs from $5 to $20, but private rooms (even at hostels) may cost anywhere from $20 to $50.

A seal sits on a beach in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, one of the safest countries to visit in South America
Ecuador uses the US dollar, meaning you never have to worry about exchange rates!

Interestingly enough, Ecuador uses the US dollar, so the added bonus of visiting this country is that you don’t need to worry about finding a good exchange rate!

5. Paraguay ( from $15 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $8 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $6 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: N/A
  • Cost per day: $15

Being a non-traditional tourist destination and one of the cheapest places to live in South America makes Paraguay an attraction of its own.

Whether it’s to see the colonial architecture of the well-preserved Jesuit missions, explore the vast, unspoiled wilderness of Chaco, or taste the tantalizing flavors of its one-of-a-kind cuisine, you get to experience all that with fewer crowds.

With 110,000 PYG ($15USD) a day, you stay at a hostel (58,000 PYG or $8 USD per night) and a three-course meal (around 44,000 PYG or $6 USD per meal).

A boat putters up a river in the Pantanal in Paraguay, the fourth safest country to visit in South America, according to the Global Peace Index
Paraguay’s stunning Pantanal is hard to visit – and empty of tourists as a result.

It’s relatively safe to explore cities in Paraguay on your own, but the lack of other tourists can make it a very strange experience! However, we recommend joining a tour or hiring a local guide if you plan on navigating off the beaten path, particularly if you don’t speak much Spanish.

6. Argentina ($43 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $5 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $6.5 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $84 USD 17hrs
  • Cost per day: $11.5 + 84 = $95.5

Argentina is a land of breathtaking beauty and eclectic wonders, where soaring mountains and glittering cities share the stage with wildlife colonies, world-class vineyards, and the monumental Iguazu Falls.

Argentina economy update

The Argentine economy is a huge mess at the moment, with inflation expected to hit 200% this year. Using Argentine pesos can therefore be a nightmare – and mean you lose a lot of money. The blue dollar (an unofficial exchange rate that gives you a better conversion than the official rate) is around, but if you want to avoid carrying lots of cash, you can now pay using your credit card and get an exchange rate similar to the blue dollar rate. You must choose to pay in Argentine pesos (not USD!) to secure this rate.

Both Mastercard and Visa give you what is called the MEP rate, which is almost as good as the blue dollar rate. Mastercard will charge you the official rate but refund you the money a few days later; Visa will charge you the MEP rate from the beginning.

If you do want to have some Argentine pesos for paying in cash (which I highly recommend as you will need them for some restaurants and attractions), it’s best to use Western Union, whereby you send cash to yourself using the Western Union app and then withdraw it in Argentine pesos from one of their branches in Argentina. Bear in mind, those in El Calafate and Ushuaia can run dry of notes, so it can be easiest to do this in Buenos Aires.

Additionally, you can bring USD (unmarked and untorn hundred dollar bills), which you can exchange at “cuevas” (unofficial exchange houses). These will be able to give you the blue dollar rate and any hotel owner will be able to tell you where your nearest one is. Souvenir shops in most parts of the country will be able to give you pesos in exchange for dollar bills – although they might not give you the best rate.

Avoid cash machines. Currently, the maximum withdrawal is the equivalent of $15 USD in Argentine pesos and it will cost you $10 USD in fees.

Its capital city, Buenos Aires, attracts millions of foodies and football fanatics alike, so it should come as no surprise that it’s the most popular country in South America to visit (according to Wikipedia’s world tourism ranking).

Iguazu falls, one of the new seven wonders of nature. Argentina.
Iguazu Falls is one of the many attractions that draws visitors to Argentina.

8,200 ARS ($43 USD) should be your daily budget in Argentina. Basic meals cost around 1,200 ARS ($6.5 USD) on average, but if you fancy a dish at one of the local steak houses (asados) in Buenos Aires or beyond, expect to pay at least 1,700 ARS ($9 USD).

The home to 2023 World Cup winners is popular among backpackers and solo travelers. As a result, hostels are affordable (around 950 ARS or $5 USD per night), making them only the second cheapest after Colombia.

However, mid-range hotels can be ten times more expensive, hovering around 9,500 ARS ($50 USD), especially during the high season. Our guide to the best time to visit Argentina can help you avoid these elevated costs

7. Brazil ($48 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $12 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $7 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $81USD 1d 7hrs
  • Cost per day: $19 + $81 = $100

60% of the Amazon Rainforest lies in Brazilian territory, offering plenty of adventure tourism opportunities for those looking to head deep into the jungle.

On the other side of the country, Brazil’s long coastline means unlimited sun, surf, and sand, particularly in the vast seaside city of Rio de Janeiro, home to a thriving music, dance, and food scene – and, lest we forget, riotous carnaval celebrations!

A woman dressed in a green outfit at Rio de Janeiro's carnaval in Brazil, one of the best countries to visit in South America.
Prices in Rio de Janeiro go up during the annual carnaval celebrations – but attending this world-renowned carnival is more than worth the extra cost.

A bowl of feijoada at a local restaurant usually costs around 37 BRL ($7 USD), while accommodation rates range from 63 BRL ($12 USD) for a hostel to 230 BRL ($44 USD) for a mid-range hotel. In total, a day in Brazil should cost around 251 BRL ($48 USD).

As long as you stay safe – such as by avoiding city beaches after dark and keeping possessions close – it’s doable to explore Brazil’s touristy areas alone. But if you wish to dig deeper into its villages and rainforest, it’s best to join a tour or be accompanied by a local guide.

8. Chile ($74 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $20 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $20 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: $20 USD 11hrs
  • Cost per day: $40 + $20 = $60USD

We’ve come to the more expensive side of the cheapest countries to visit in Latin America: Chile. Notice that there’s almost a $20 USD jump in daily expenses compared to Brazil at #7.

It’s mainly due to the expensive rate for accommodation, especially in remote areas like Chiloé Island, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Patagonia, and the Atacama Desert.

Los Cuernos as seen from the road into Torres del Paine National Park from the south
Prices for accommodation, food, and transport in adventure capital Torres del Paine National Park are significantly elevated compared with the rest of the country.

On average, a bed in a hostel costs around 16,000 CLP ($20 USD), while a mid-range hotel room is a lot more, ranging from 40,000 to 60,000 CLP ($50 to $75 USD). That said, Chile is packed full of brilliant hotels and guesthouses, so it’s worth being open to splurging a little where you can.

The Chilean culinary scene is dominated by restaurants in the big cities, so you need to budget around 16,000 CLP ($20 USD) or more for one meal. In contrast, in small towns like Dalcahue on Chiloé Island, you’ll find local markets offer mouth-watering delicacies at more wallet-friendly prices.

Despite the higher cost, the plethora of activities, sights, and experiences more than makes up for it; from the serene, breathtaking landscapes of Tierra del Fuego to the lively, picturesque coastal city of Valparaíso.

The skyline of colourful Valparaiso, an easy day trip from Santiago, Chile
The lively, picturesque coastal city of Valparaíso is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Chile.

And let’s not forget, it’s the second safest South American country to visit, meaning you’ll face fewer safety concerns than elsewhere and be able to concentrate on the beautiful scenery and incredible natural landscapes, instead.

9. Uruguay ($80 USD per day)

  • Budget hostal: $28 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $10 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: N/A
  • Cost per day: $38

Nestled in Uruguay are several charming colonial towns that offer visitors a window into the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. In addition to these historical gems, Uruguay boasts stunning beaches.

To top it off, Uruguay was declared the safest South American country to visit by the 2022 Global Peace Index, making independent travel a worry-free option.

A speedboat on the water in the bay of Punta del Este in Uruguay, the safest country to visit in South America, according to the Global Peace Index
Uruguay is home to stunning beaches, brilliant wine, and expensive living costs.

Living costs in Uruguay are among the most expensive in South America, with hostels setting their nightly rate at around 1,100 UYU ($28 USD), and mid-range hotels costing at least double.

Typical meals like empanadas and chivitos cost around 400 to 500 UYU ($10 to $15 USD) or even less if you choose street food stalls. Overall, expect to spend around 3,130 UYU ($80 USD) a day in Uruguay.

10. Venezuela ($100 USD per day)

  • Budget hotel: $50 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $10 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: N/A
  • Cost per day: $60

A must-see when visiting Venezuela is the Angel Falls, one of South America’s most magnificent waterfalls. Apart from that, its capital city Caracas offers visitors museums, art galleries, historic sites, and street food stalls selling local fare. It’s unfortunate that this country has faced numerous struggles over the past few views.

Venezuela’s dramatic Angel Falls are the country’s biggest natural attraction.

The economic collapse in Venezuela has resulted in severe hyperinflation and a shortage of basic goods, causing prices to skyrocket. This significantly influences your South America vacation budget if you want to include Venezuela – however, we highly advise against visiting the country right now, due to safety concerns.

Currently, a regular meal at a local restaurant can cost $10 to $13 USD, which is usually what a dish at a mid-range restaurant would cost in most South American countries, while a mid-range hotel room charge from $50 to $80 USD. In total, you’ll need $100 USD per day in Venezuela.

11. Suriname ($110 per day; including tour/guide fees)

  • Budget hostal: $28 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $9 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: N/A
  • Cost per day: $37

From Paramaribo’s Dutch colonial architecture to pristine rainforests, waterfalls, and rivers, Suriname has something for every kind of traveler. But since it’s one of the most challenging places to visit in South America, even an avid traveler should consider joining a tour or hiring a local guide.

An aerial photo of a river in the Suriname Amazon, one of the most expensive countries to visit in South America
Suriname is hard to visit alone, and a tour is a better way to explore its extensive natural landscapes safely and more easily.

Set aside a 3,500 SRD (around $110 USD) daily budget to have a hassle-free experience in Suriname. A basic meal costs around 290 SRD ($9 USD), while for budget-friendly accommodation options, hostels and basic hotel rooms will cost between 900 and 1,130 SRD ($28 to $35 USD) per night.

Alternatively, Wilderness Explorers offer customizable trips to Suriname that include transportation, meals, and activities, and make it significantly easier to have a comprehensive experience of the country – all while visiting Guyana and French Guiana, too. As they’re one of our trusted local partners, you’ll receive a 5% discount if you mention Worldly Adventurer.

12. Guyana ($115 per day; including tour/guide fees)

  • Budget hostal: $12 USD
  • Budget restaurant: $12 USD
  • Overnight bus journey: N/A
  • Cost per day: $24

With its vast areas of pristine rainforest, Guyana offers opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching. For the latter, Rupununi Savannah is a must-visit; it’s the home to a diverse array of wildlife, including anteaters, giant otters, and jaguars, and is an absolutely unmissable destination for nature lovers. 

Meals and accommodations in Guyana are affordable (ranging from around 2,500 GYD or $12 USD). But since most areas are not served by public transportation, getting around is challenging and expensive.

Ecotourists have the chance to see a rare giant anteater on the grasslands of Guyana.
Guyana’s incredible range of endemic and rare species makes it a must-visit for nature lovers.

Even with Guyana being one of the few English-speaking South American countries, it’s almost impossible to explore Guyana without a tour due to its remoteness. Wilderness Explorers is one of the few tour operators here and founder Steph had a brilliant time visiting Guyana with them a couple of years back.

Their nature experience tour gives a brilliant introduction to the country, with visits to Kaieteur Falls, the world’s tallest single-drop waterfall, and remote lodges where endemic wildlife species roam all part of the itinerary. Again, mention Worldly Adventurer for a 5% discount.

FAQs

What is the cheapest country in South America to visit?

Colombia is often considered one of the most budget-friendly countries in South America. Its affordable accommodation options, low-cost local transportation, and delicious street food make it possible to enjoy a comfortable and memorable trip to Colombia on a budget.

You can find a basic hostel for around 20,000 COP or $4 USD per night, and a delicious meal at a local restaurant for as little as 20,000 to 30,000 COP (about $4 to $6 USD).

But the fact that the country’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage can be enjoyed without incurring a high cost makes it the most affordable country in South America and an increasingly popular place to explore.

Is it cheap to visit South America?

South America can be both cheap and expensive, depending on several factors. These include which countries you plan to visit, the type of accommodation you prefer, and the activities you plan to participate in.

However, it is possible to go on cheap vacations in South America by choosing budget-friendly accommodation options, eating street food or cooking your own meals, and avoiding expensive tourist traps. You can also save money by traveling during the low season when prices tend to be lower.

How much should I budget for a trip to South America?

On average, a budget-friendly trip to South America can cost between $50 to $100 USD daily, while a mid-range trip can cost between $100 to $200 USD daily. This doesn’t include entrance tickets to famous places in South America, such as Machu Picchu, Torres del Paine National Park, or the Galapagos Islands.

Dollars are necessary for travelling in Patagonia on a budget
On average, a budget-friendly trip to South America can cost between $50 to $100 USD daily.

It’s important to remember that prices can vary greatly between countries and even between different regions within a country. For example, countries like Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru tend to be more budget-friendly than Argentina and Brazil.

Planning to visit more than one country? Save money by flying into the cheapest country in South America and making it the starting point of your trip.

How much money do I need for two months in South America?

If you’re traveling on a tight budget, you can cut your expenses to as low as $1,500 USD for two months. That is more than enough to stay in the cheapest countries to visit in Latin America.

But, if you prefer mid-range accommodations and activities, you should budget closer to $2,500 to $3,000; more if you plan on visiting remote tourist attractions in South America, such as Patagonia, which can be a lot more expensive (although we do have tips for traveling to Patagonia on a budget).  

Infographic of cheapest countries to visit in South America according to date

Will

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

Thank you for the great information.

Steph Dyson

Friday 9th of February 2024

You're welcome! Steph