Disclaimer: I have yet to visit South America, this is a post based on my own experiences planning my backpacking trip, and a LOT of research!
I have never been backpacking before, and I decided to throw myself into the deep end by planning a trip of 3 months in South America by myself!
Today, I am going to share all of the useful information I have gathered during my research. Hopefully, it’ll mean you don’t have to do masses of research, and those new to backpacking will find this useful!
Click on the sections you would like to go to if you don’t want to read the whole post:
- Safety in South America
- Costs of Colombia
- Costs of Ecuador
- Costs of Peru
- Costs of Bolivia
- Costs of Chile
- Costs of Argentina
How to research a backpacking trip through South America
One of the most common phrases I have read during my research is ‘South America is a lot bigger than you would think’ and as someone new to backpacking, that can be daunting!
Researching safety tips
First and foremost, I read up about safety in South America. All of my family and friends said to me ‘But it’s not safe there, why would you want to go?’ – well that’s not true!
There are some places in South America I do recommend avoiding, one of which is Venezuela. I have a Venezuelan friend who went through the South American countries she has visited and pointed out where she felt safe, and where she didn’t. Obviously, everyone has different experiences, but as a South American, I trust her judgement.
I was also recommended to avoid Brazil, so there isn’t much information on here about that particular country.
After lots of research, I have compiled a list of safety tips!
- Don’t walk around at night. Either grab a taxi or a tuk tuk, even if it is 5 minutes down the road.
- Strap your backpack to the front of you. Pickpocketers thrive off tourists, so keep things zipped up.
- Never leave your bag unattended! Don’t put it in the overhead compartments on busses, leave it in between your legs where you can see it.
- Know the emergency numbers. Keep them in your phone, and written down in your bag (in case you lose your phone!). Not only can you use this to scare people away, but it also gives you a peace of mind.
- Don’t go to after parties at someone’s house
- Don’t flash your cash, or phone, or watch, or anything expensive! This follows on from the pickpocketing point. Not only does it make you a target, it also means people will raise their prices when they see you.
Average cost of backpacking different South America countries
As said previously, South America is huge! There is no set price for the whole continent, in fact prices vary throughout the countries. The trend is, cities are cheaper, and big tourist areas (like Iguazu Falls on the Brazil border) are incredibly expensive.
So, let’s go by country!
Accommodation: dorm rooms vary between $3 – $14 (USD) depending on where you are staying. The lower end of the accommodation is in the big cities. Private hostels rooms can be $15 or higher. If you would rather stay in a budget hotel, you would be looking at $18 in cities and $36 by the coast.
Food: local restaurants and fast food places are typically $5 for a meal. However, if you prefer Western food then it’s almost double at $9 per meal.
If you are trying to cut down on costs, do food shops instead of eating out! Then you can cook your own food and save money.
A typical weekly food shop in Colombia is $34 per person.
A typical day in Colombia will cost a budget traveller around $48.
Accommodation: dorm rooms can vary between $3 – $8 in Ecuador, whereas private rooms in hostels are typically $12 per night. Once again, if you would rather stay in a budget hotel, it’s about $18 per night.
Food: as with Colombia, local restaurants are about $5 per meal, but mid-range Western meals are more expensive at $25 per meal.
A typical day in Ecuador will cost a budget traveller around $35.
If you are planning to visit the Galapagos Islands, expect your budget to grow by 10 times these amounts!
Accommodation: Peru is on the more expensive end of the scale, with dorm rooms costing approximately $7 per night and private rooms in hostels about $21.
Food: local restaurants cost between $4 and $7, while western foods are about $15.
A weekly food shop in Peru typically costs $45.
A daily budget of a backpacker in Peru is between $40 and $50.
Accommodation: dorm rooms usually start from $9 onwards.
Food: the cost of food here is mid-way between Colombia and Argentina, averaging at $6 per meal.
A typical budget traveller will spend $30 a day.
Chile is also very expensive, although not as bad as Peru.
Accommodation: dorms are typically $8 – $15 per night, with a private room in a hostel starting at $24. Budget hotels start at $30 per night.
Food: A set menu in Chile is approximately $7.
A weekly food shop in Chile is approximately $30.
A daily budget of a backpacker is $50.
Accommodation: dorm rooms in big cities are as cheap as $4 per night, but can cost up to $20 in places like Iguazu Falls.
Food: Cafe’s can cost $2, while sit down meals are $12.
Weekly food shops in Argentina can be as low as $15.
Allow a daily budget of $40.
Don’t worry, there will be more!
I will be doing a second half of this post as there is so much to cover! Once published, I will link it there so it’s easy to find,