Money and costs in Brazil

Cost of trip to Brazil

South America cost of travelSouth America is an amazing continent to travel on a budget, though you would be wrong to assume that every country in South America is cheap. 2016 has seen weakening currency in some countries (particularly Colombia in Brazil), though in some cases prices have also risen to match.

The least expensive countries are Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, each attracting large numbers of budget travellers. Colombia is a little more expensive than the aforementioned countries, though it can still be considered a budget destination by Western standards. On the other hand, countries like Brazil, Chile and Argentina are relatively more expensive, sometimes approaching Western prices.

This cost overview is based on notes from my own travels as well as extensive current research.

Hostel bed average is the average cost of a dorm bed in a backpacker hostel. This is based on analysis of listed prices on hostel booking sites, using samples from across the country (i.e. not just the expensive capital). Of course not everyone will sleep in dorm beds, but it was my personal favorite type of accommodation in South America. As a rule of thumb, double this value and you’ll roughly know the cost of a basic private room in a hostel, guesthouse, or small independent hotel, possibly with a shared bathroom. Triple or quadruple the hostel bed cost and you’ll have a ballpark estimate for a mid-range hotel room.

A note about budget estimates: everything obviously depends on your travel style and activities in each country. Stay in one place in Bolivia just to volunteer for instance, and you could spend as little as $15 a day — but that’s not a typical scenario. You could spend as little as $20 a day in Colombia by cooking your own food and CouchSurfing. However, this post assumes a middle-of-the-road budget travel style, not ultimate shoestring travel. I’m following the ‘typical scenario’ as best as I can, but your mileage may vary…

TIP: prices in this post are automatically converted to your assumed local currency. You can change this using the drop down at the bottom of this post.


Hostel bed average: 31, 500 pesos Daily backpacker budget: $35 to $50 Detailed travel info: see my Colombia travel guide

Colombia is mid-range by South American standards — not the cheapest destination but certainly not the most expensive either. The falling value of the peso also makes it cheaper for foreign tourists than it was just a few years ago.

The priciest location in Colombia is the beautiful and historic colonial city of Cartagena, as it is the most touristy place in the country. Beyond this, there are some expected price differences between the cities like Bogota or Medellin and the countryside.

Activities are quite affordable by Western standards. For example, a paragliding session in San Gil costs 60, 000 pesos for a short flight and 170, 000 pesos for a longer one. An hour-long private salsa dancing lesson in Medellin costs around 50, 000 pesos. Museum entry is often free or only a couple of thousand pesos.

Your biggest expense might be the 5 or 6 day Ciudad Perdida trek near Santa Marta, if this will be part of your itinerary. The price is standardized at 700, 000 pesos regardless of which trekking company you choose. While it’s a bigger one-off expense, you also won’t have to pay for food or accommodation for almost a week.

Colombia is twice the size of France and bus travel is moderately expensive, so if you will be moving around the country a lot then this will add to your expenses. is the main budget airline and often has special offers that could work out as good value. For more, read my Colombia budget travel guide.

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Hostel bed average: $12 Daily backpacker budget: $25 to $35 not including Galapagos

Ecuador has a fairly low cost of living. It is astonishingly diverse and interesting but it’s also a relatively small and compact country, which reduces the need to spend on long-distance transportation the way you will in neighbouring countries.

Activities are pretty cheap here. For example, a round trip on the stunning Devil’s Nose train will cost $30. Hiking trips to volcanoes and mountains usually start at around $40, with bigger groups getting better rates.

In terms of accommodation there are ample cheap private rooms to be found in Ecuador, and often the price difference between a dorm bed and a basic private is minimal. Basic private rooms cost between $10 and $15.

The one thing that can really tip the scale is visiting the Galapagos Islands. This is comparatively expensive as for a visit to these islands you should budget at least $1000 per person, though probably a bit more.

Note: Ecuador uses the US Dollar as its official currency.


Hostel bed average: 36 soles Daily backpacker budget: $35 to $50 More info: my in-depth Peru backpacking guide

Peru can be very affordable with a lot of great value accommodation and food in the amazing places that every backpacker wants to visit; Cusco, Lima, Nazca, Lake Titicaca etc.

Your biggest expense is likely to be a Machu Picchu Inca Trail trek. This will set you back at least $400 (the price is almost always quoted in US dollars) if you book in Cusco and potentially a lot more if you arrange it elsewhere. It is worth bearing in mind that the pricier agencies may offer better food and a more comfortable camping experience. Also, many backpackers view $400 as being a good price for seeing one of the world’s most incredible sights on a multi-day trek. The Inca Trail trek is limited to 500 persons per day and needs to be booked well ahead of time; alternatives such as the Salkantay Trek are cheaper and/or easier to arrange.

Bus travel is not only quite affordable but can be very comfortable as well. Travelling by bus from Lima to Arequipa for instance costs around 247 soles for a ‘full cama’ (full reclining luxury seat) and around 176 soles for a regular 2nd class ticket.

Many of the costs in Peru will be far higher if you book online while abroad. For example, a short flight over the mysterious Nazca Lines could cost you 530 soles if you book it from abroad but well under 350 soles if you do so in Nazca.

You should bear in mind that the overall cost of travelling in Peru can be high due to the cost of the main attractions, which some travellers visit in very quick succession. A short loop around Lima, Nazca, Cusco and Machu Picchu is likely to cost you more than the same amount of time spent in neighbouring countries. However, it makes for an incredible experience with a lot of fascinating culture in a short period of time. The daily backpacker budget listed above assumes a tight itinerary hitting up all the major attractions. You can, however, spend much less on average if you’re slow-travelling through Peru and including more local experiences. For more, read my Peru budget travel guide.


Hostel bed average: 98 bolivianos Daily backpacker budget: $20 to $35 More info: read my in-depth Bolivia backpacking guide

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