6 of the cheapest countries in South America
Dom Herrera, 06.12.18
With amazing wildlife, rich and diverse cultures and an irresistible charm, South America has it all. Whether you’re dancing salsa on the beach in Cartagena or jungle trekking in the Amazon Rainforest, there’s an abundance of adventure in South America just waiting for you take on. And, perhaps the best thing about South America is that you can do it all on a budget!
Overall, South America is one of the cheapest continents to visit in the world. And, if you stay away from the more expensive countries (the likes of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina) — which have prices that are comparable to those in the higher-tier of North America and Europe — you’d do tremendously to find a better place to have such fun at such a low price.
Travel South America Cheap
Perú: the cheap way to see one of the New7Wonders of the World
With impressive architecture and a dynamic nightlife scene, Perú’s capital, Lima, is one of the most underrated capital cities in South America and is a lot easier on the wallet than the big cities of neighbouring Brazil.
But the standout attraction in Perú — and arguably the whole of South America — is Machu Picchu. Uncover the ancient mysteries of the Inca Empire and then make sure to add a couple of days in Cusco. Transportation from Cusco to Machu Picchu is on the expensive side, but everything else in Cusco is ultra-affordable. If you want to hike up to Machu Picchu, you can opt for cheaper alternative treks than the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay trek, which can save you half of the price.
Whatever you decide, we promise you that you won’t experience a view in all of South America that will stick with you the way one of Machu Picchu does — it’s a must do!
Machu Picchu, Cusco
Currency: Peruvian sol
Accommodation: $25—128 USD for a standard double room in a decent hotel
Meals: Around $8 USD for a three course meal at a mid-range restaurant. Overall range: $6–20 USD Drinks: $1.95 USD for a local beer. $0.50 USD for a bottle of water and $2.31 USD for a coffee
Attractions: Museum entrances cost around $10 USD. To visit Machu Picchu it costs between $50—60 USD
Transportation: A one-way ticket on local transport costs $0.42 USD. A bus ride from Lima to Cusco is $50—$100 USD, but bare in mind this is a 18—21 hour journey. Shorter journeys from city to city are considerably cheaper
Getting there by air: There is no national carrier of Perú, but LATAM Perù is the most prominent airline in the country and you can fly into Perú from outside of South America with LATAM. Other Peruvian airlines include LC Perú, Star Perú and Peruvian Airlines
There are currently seven airlines that fly within Chile and are good for travelling longer distances across the country. These include LATAM Peru, Star Peru, Viva Air Peru and more. Check out our guide to buying domestic flights around Peru.
Ecuador: the cheap place before the Galapagos Islands
Overlooked by many as a gateway to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is the cheapest capital city in South America and one of the cheapest places you can visit in South America overall.
But, if a UNESCO World Heritage Site city isn’t your thing. There’s plenty more to see in Ecuador. From Cotopaxi volcano to the Quilotoa Loop, and even parts of the Amazon Rainforest!
Currency: US dollar
Accommodation: A double room in a mid-range hotel will cost $20 USD upwards
Meals: At average, $13 USD for a three course meal for one person at a mid-range restaurant
Drinks: A local beer costs $2 USD. A bottle of water costs $0.57 USD and a coffee costs $2.22 USD
Attractions: Museum entry fees are around $5—10 USD and a day trip to Cotopaxi volcano costs around $30 USD
Transportation: A one-way ticket on a local bus costs $0.30 USD and longer bus journeys across the country cost around $2 USD. A bus ride from Quito to Guayaquil would cost between $10—14 USD
Getting there by air: TAME is the national carrier of Ecuador. Other Ecuadorian airlines include Avianca Ecuador (formerly Aerogal
Chile: the cheap country with a reputation for being expensive
You might be surprised to see Chile on this list. But Chile is actually considerably less expensive than it’s made out to be and still much cheaper than most European and North American cities and one of the cheaper South American countries. You can cut costs by shopping around and not eating at the first restaurant you pass and to be honest — the amazing scenery in Chile is worth the extra cost anyway!
Currency: Chilean peso
Accommodation: You can expect to pay around $40—55 USD for a nice room in a hotel. Hostel prices are much cheaper, with a room in a dorm costing around $6 USD and a private room costing around $20 USD
Meals: Roughly $24 USD for a three course meal at a mid-range restaurant per person
Drinks: $3.79 USD for a local beer. A bottle of water costs $1.04 USD and a coffee costs $2.71 USD
Attractions: Most tourist attractions will range from $5 USD to $27 USD
Transportation: A one-way ticket on local transports costs around $1 USD. A bus ride just under a quarter of the way across the country costs around $30 USD
Getting there by air: There is no national carrier of Chile, but LATAM Chile is the main airline in the country and you can fly into Chile on LATAM. Other airlines from Chile include Sky Airline and JetSmart
Bolivia: the cheap way to see the Amazon rainforest
Bolivia is always made out to be the cheapest country in South America — and while a case can certainly be made for it — you must be clever about where and what you spend your money on if you really want to get the best bargain out of Bolivia.
While accommodation can be more expensive than other cheap South American countries, you can make savings in your budget by opting for super-cheap bus journeys over taxis, drinking wine over beer (nearly half the price!) and eating at local restaurants and markets for astonishingly great prices.
There’s plenty of things to do for cheap in Bolivia, like visiting the amazing Valle de la Luna in La Paz, featured on our 10 out-of-this-world destinations, and hiking in the countryside of the Copacabana (the town, not the Brazilian beach). Plus, it’s much more budget-friendly than Brazil for trekking through the Amazon rainforest.
La Paz, Bolivia
Currency: Bolivian boliviano
Accommodation: Around $25 USD for a room in a mid-range basic hotel
Meals: A three course meal at a decent restaurant will cost $10 USD per person
Drinks: A local beer costs $2 USD, while wine can be as cheap as $2.90 USD for an entire bottle. A bottle of water costs $0.73 USD while a coffee will cost $2.57 USD
Attractions: There are many free or cheap attractions in Bolivia. For example, Cholita wrestling tickets only cost $7 USD on the door. However, if you want to try the infamous Death Road bicycle tour, prepare to cut into your budget — tickets cost around $80 USD!
Transportation: A one-way ticket on local transport costs $0.29 USD, while a long (six hour) bus journey from city to city only costs $7 USD
Getting there by air: Boliviana de Aviación is the flag carrier of Bolivia. You can also fly domestically within Bolivia with EcoJet and Amaszonas
Colombia: the cheap alternative to a Caribbean beach
If you’ve read our guide to Bogotá, you’ll know that Colombia’s capital has plenty to do at a fairly reasonable price. But, what if we were tell you there was more fun to have in other parts of Colombia for even cheaper?
Cartagena is a beautiful fishing village on Colombia’s Caribbean coast with a UNESCO World Heritage Site old town and is home to a number of budget Caribbean beaches. Salento in the coffee region will leave you amazed by its verdant rolling hills and 200ft tall palm trees. And Medellin has as many fascinating museums as it does fantastic nightclubs.
In fact, all of Colombia is cheap to visit. And with tourism booming in recent years, there’s plenty to do no matter where you go!
Currency: Colombian peso
Accommodation: $25—37 USD for a double room in a mid-range hotel Meals: A three course meal at a middle of the range restaurant costs around $10 USD per person
Meals: $10 USD for a three-course meal at a mid-range restaraunt
Drinks: A local beer costs $1 USD, a coffee costs $1.20 USD and water costs $0.60 USD
Attractions: Attractions you must pay for start at $5 USD and can range up to $50 USD
Transportation: A one-way ticket on local transport (bus) is around $0.70 USD A bus from Bogotá to Salento costs around $16 USD and bus from Bogotá to Cartegena costs $40 USD
Getting there by air: Avianca is the national carrier and fly into and around Colombia. Other Colombian airlines include VivaColombia, SATENA and Copa Airlines Colombia
There are a few airlines that you can use to fly around Colombia with. These include Avianca, Wingo, Satena and more. If you want to book domestic flights or want to know more about flying within Colombia, check out our domestic flights within Colombia page.
Paraguay: the cheap country that no one is visiting
Paraguay is the true dark horse of South America. Whether you’re exploring Paraguay’s colonial capital, Asuncion, discovering the variety of flora and fauna in the Chaco region, or getting to know the extremely friendly locals, Paraguay promises a great time and is very budget-friendly.
What’s most unique about Paraguay is that you’ll feel a thousand miles away from home at given moment. Sure, there’s a security and comfort that comes with being in a tourist-friendly destination — and don’t get us wrong, the rest of South America is far from a tourist trap. But the sense of adventure that comes from being in a totally unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is the defining factor that makes Paraguay standout from the rest of South America. And that's something that money can't buy.
Currency: Paraguay guarani
Accommodation: You can expect to pay around $40—55 USD
Meals: A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant costs roughly $10 USD per person
Drinks: Local beer is priced at $1 USD. A bottle of water is priced at $0.49 USD and a coffee is priced at $1.73 USD
Attractions: Most attractions are priced between $5 USD and $10 USD
Transportation: A one-way ticket on a local bus costs $0.50 USD
Getting there by air: The only active Paraguayan airline is LATAM Paraguay, which can be used for domestic flights within the country. For international flights, LATAM is a good option.
Last updated: 14th December 2020