“How much did you spend for the trip in South America?” This is probably the question that we have been asked the most since we came back from South America (ok maybe after “How was it?“). And I know that actually, many more didn’t dare to ask it. But it’s ok to ask. I have been so much under the charm of South America that I am whising everybody to have the opportunity to go and travel on this beautiful continent one day. People usually skip the continent because they think South America is too expensive for a long trip. But is it really?
During our 222 days (more than 7 months) in South America, we tracked our expenses on the road day by day and upon our return I did a proper financial reconciliation to check that our travel budget figures were right. – 🙂 Yes, that’s a professional deformation.
So here you get it all: the full break down of our spendings, cost item by cost item and country by country, figures you can use to plan your RTW trip, a 6 months long trip or even just a nice vacation in South America!
Travel budget South America – breakdown per cost items
For the complete trip and our 7 months and a half on the road, we spent a total of $15.209 / 11.300€. Plane tickets, insurance, bus, hostel nights, food, drinks, park entrance fees, volcano climbing, diving, horse-riding and much more, for a 31 weeks journey, the equivalent of more than 10-15 normal vacation trips. Not that bad. And probably more accessible than you thought.
Actual spendings per person for our South America trip (base 2 people)
|Spendings||Item||In $||In %|
|Pre-trip||International plane tickets||1752||12%|
Travel budget South America – Breakdown per country
Daily budget per country per person, South America
|Country||days||spendings in $||daily budget in $|
What does these amounts really cover, King bed suite or hitchhiking?
How we travelled in the cheapest countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.
In Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia we stayed in private rooms every night, ate out all the time and could afford taxis due to the low prices. In these country being a solo traveler will probably cost you a bit more.
For more information about Colombia prices, check the detailed budget page: Travelling in Colombia on a budget
And in the more expensive ones: Brazil and Uruguay, a bit cheaper Argentina and Chile.
In Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, life is more expensive and we stayed almost all the time in dorms and cooked to save money. Where you sleep can make a big difference: in Brazil, we were lucky to be welcomed at one of my friends for several nights. In Chile and Argentina, we spend more than 20 nights camping, some of them for free, which explains a bit the final daily figure.
Rio de Janeiro was the most expensive place of the trip and it’s reasonable to budget around $90 a day.
Countries that are less touristy like Paraguay may get quite expensive as you will find less backpacker alternatives.
Out of the race: Galapagos
I already dedicated a complete post to the Galapagos’ budget. Exceptional region, exceptional prices. Read more here.
How priceless but expensive activities affect your budget
Because we are active travellers, activities consisted of more than almost a fourth of our budget. We saved on daily costs taking public transportation or sharing bathrooms to be able to do amazing activities that we had been dreaming off. Looking back, there is nothing we regret we didn’t do because we could not afford it, we just always made it work.
But not everybody think that hiking for 10h a day is fun. Especially if you have to pay a hell lot of money for it. This is what the third table is about. Here I am separating the major activities (more than a day) to give an idea of the “normal” cost of living for a backpacker. You then get a daily budget for the country including accommodation, food, transportation and small activities such as entrance to monuments or football game.
|Country||Major activities realized||Cost in $||Daily $ cost without|
|Bolivia||Salar de Uyuni 3 day tour, Huyana Potosi climb||336||22|
|Ecuador||Amazonas forest 3 day tour, Cotopaxi climb||390||30|
|Peru||5 day trek to Machu Picchu||522||34|
|Chile||Ice-trekking on Grey Glacier||150||44|
|Colombia||Open water diving certificate||325||50|
|Argentina||2 days of car rental||85||60|
|Uruguay||Horse riding classes||60||62|
|Brazil||no big activity||0||72|
*Galapagos is excluded from this table as every day was an extraordinary activity*!
NB: Figures based on a 6 + months travel in South America, June 2014 to February 2015. See the itinerary.
I hope all these figures will be helpful to prepare your own dream trip!