Although it may not compare to the likes of South East Asia, South America is still a solid budget travel destination. Yet some regions are distinctly more pricey than others, so it really pays to know where to go when trying to traverse the continent on a shoestring. Thankfully, Culture Trip have traveled far and wide to bring you a list of the top 15 cheap destinations in South America.
La Paz, Bolivia
As the biggest urban area of the cheapest country in the continent, La Paz is bound to bring a bargain or two. Travelers needn’t be rich to relish in thumping nightlife, trek among jaw-dropping mountains, or just savor the sights of this crazy high altitude city.
Although a jeep tour of the surreal Uyuni salt flats and its otherworldly nearby natural attractions may be the single biggest expenditure backpackers face in Bolivia, this bucket list destination still only sets them back US$150 or so. Unbeatable value, really.
Keen to explore the grandeur of the Spanish new world empire without breaking the bank? Then the Bolivian city of Sucre is the best bet in South America. Laughably cheap food, lodging and sightseeing excursions make this stunning colonial gem a must while in the region.
Almost everyone who visits South America yearns to explore the mighty Amazon, and there is nowhere cheaper to do so than the northern Bolivian jungle town of Rurrenabaque. Give those exclusive high-end jungle lodges a miss and get down-and-dirty with exotic wildlife on a dirt cheap three-day pampas tour.
Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia
As the poorest region of both Bolivia and Peru, a visit to Lake Titicaca is refreshingly easy on the wallet. Explore ancient Inca archaeological sites and interact with colorfully dressed indigenous locals as you gaze over the shimmering waters of the world’s highest navigable lake.
Although Miraflores’ top bars and restaurants are notoriously upmarket, the rest of the city is a dead set bargain. Munch on fresh ceviche at a roadside stall, sip on pisco sour at a local watering hole, or meander through the colonial sights of this phenomenal city in the smug knowledge that your budget is well and truly in check.
Something of a backpackers’ paradise, there is little more to do in this desert oasis town than sit back and enjoy the views. That is, of course, unless you are interested in a loco yet surprisingly cost-effective dune buggy ride that includes an adrenaline-pumping sandboarding foray.
Once the most important city of the Inca and the Spanish, modern day Cusco may seem a little pricey by Peruvian standards. Nevertheless, it still offers excellent value for money for travelers wishing to indulge in a little ancient history, cultural immersion, or the buzzing all-night party scene.
The Sacred Valley, Peru
Savvy travelers can take advantage of public transport and family-run lodging to keep costs down as they explore the region’s plethora of awe-inspiring archaeological sites. As for Machu Picchu, it’s possible to arrive via a series of local buses to avoid paying for that extortionate tourist train.
The Peruvian highlands, Peru
Get right off the beaten track and avoid those pesky gringo prices by traversing through a little known portion of Peru – the unforgettable Andean highlands. From Ayacucho to Cajamarca and everything in between, this breathtaking yet undiscovered mountainous region is so cheap it will leave you wondering where all the backpackers are.
Argentina is not an especially cheap country. Thankfully, however, its vino is inexpensive and delicious, while a bicycle tour of the finest Mendoza vineyards can be done for next to nothing. Better yet, a bottle of the locally produced good stuff can be picked up for peanuts. Salud!
Ecuador’s high altitude capital is undeniably easy on the wallet, made all the better by the fact that most of the country’s dazzling attractions are just a short (and very cheap) bus ride away. Best of all, the local US dollar currency makes it super satisfying to realize just how little you’re spending each day.
For a budget-friendly opportunity to get some bucket list adventure sports out of the way, the subtropical Ecuadorian town of Baños ticks all the boxes. Mountain biking, hiking, climbing and rafting are just a few of the options available in this stunning backpacker mecca.
After a well-deserved beach break? Admittedly, the best stretches of sand in South America are in Brazil, but who really has that kind of money? Instead, opt for the up-and-coming beachside town of Montañita, where solid breaks, a bohemian vibe and a low cost of living keep travelers hanging around much longer than expected.
Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
“Rubbish”, you say, “Patagonia is the most expensive place in South America”. While this might be true, outdoor enthusiasts can spend a pittance by camping every day and hitching a ride with friendly locals between jaw-dropping destinations. Just be sure to visit in summer when it’s actually warm enough to survive.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.