From Ushuaia to Cancún in 8 months
How to set your budget for your trip to Latin America? It’s rather hard to come up with some sort of universal answer because we all have different standards when it comes to comfort, plus we all seek different thrills and so on. So there’s no single traveller’s budget in Latin America, one can base his or her own calculations upon. Well, there are various useful sites that can give you a general idea about the prices in particular countries, but I personally never properly fitted in any of the categories they came up with (such as flashpacker or backpacker and so on), so I couldn’t rely on those either.
I have therefore decided to strip my own budget of various non-essential variables, in order to give you a basic picture of how much money you should be thinking of when thinking about travelling to the Americas. When it comes to general standards, I’d say that it’s a ‘basic budget plus’. So we’re not talking about 5-star hotels and Michelin-rated restaurants. It’s pretty much about staying in modest but private accommodations and eating in the restaurants used by locals as opposed to sleeping in dormitories and cooking in hostel kitchens only, which rises my traveller’s budget in Latin America a bit above the basic level.
Location-wise, I’d say that this article covers the most popular destinations on the so-called ‘Gringo Trail’ from Ushuaia to Cancún (see the featured image). Please note that I’ve skipped Costa Rica, San Salvador, Honduras as well as Brazil, Surinam, Guayana, French Guiana and Venezuela, all for different reasons that aren’t significant to talk about within the concept of this piece. To be honest, I hope to cover and include all of them once I’ll manage to create some funds to allow me to travel again…
Traveller’s budget in Latin America: Country by country
FYI, this list should give you an idea about how much you will pay for the key traveller’s items, such as meals, accommodation as well as all basic transportation. In other words, to minimise the variables, I will exclude things like coffee; tobacco; drinks; various language, cooking or dance courses; as well as any products one often needs in everyday life, whether it’s a soap, local SIM cards or any random things one needs to buy from time to time.
You know, sometimes you need to get a haircut, sometimes your trainers just give up so you just need to get a new pair, and so on. Basically, something always pops up to be paid for, I’m sure you know what I mean 😉 But such expenses are rather individual, and your numbers might be a bit different than mine, hence their exclusion. So please count these separately in accordance with your needs, thrills and standards 😉
Please note that I will also list some of the major tourist attractions to give you a rough idea of how much they are (because after transport, they are often the second-largest budget item), but I won’t count them in the cost per day as it is yet another individual item. I mean that someone could invest much more into tourism if compared to me. Tip: for accommodation check both, Airbnb and Booking sites because for example in Patagonia, Airbnb had better offers but further north it was mostly the other way around…
Chile is one of the 3 most expensive countries in South America. Some places like Central Santiago could sometimes feel like the UK kind of expensive on a big night out. But also prices of groceries in the supermarkets (except the wine) also don’t stay far behind. Patagonia is also expensive but that’s to be expected because all the mountains are normally expensive, aren’t they? Tip: watch out for the menus in supermarkets, they were simple but rather yummy 😉
- Time spent: 34 days
- Transport: 6185km for €393 @ €6.35 per 100km (incl 1 internal flight)
- Accommodation: €425 for 27 nights at a private accommodation (p) vs 6 nights at dormitories (d), ranging from €10.70 to €15.20 @ the average of €12.90 per night
- Food: €312 (60-70% of my meals I cooked in hostels)
- Cost per day: €33.20
- Tourism: 6 attractions for €166,- including an expensive Inútil Bay Penguin tour in Tierra del Fuego and the iconic Torres del Paine
In case you were interested to know more about this beautiful and diverse country, please click here for the Quaint Planet’s Traveller’s Guide for Chile, to introduce you to the country’s culture, basic history, cuisine, safety, as well as places to go and things to see.
Argentina has been suffering from a heavy recession recently and due to that reason, it wasn’t as expensive as it would normally be (just above the Chile level). While this is a very unfortunate situation for the locals, it currently makes this normally expensive country almost a budget destination. The value of a peso has been up and down in quite an extreme fashion for years now so Argentina could turn expensive anytime soon.
Eating out could become a budget breaker in expensive Patagonia but in (the cheaper) Buenos Aires it’s not easy to resist the stylish restaurants with tasty Argentinian cuisine and wine. I’ve never had more steaks and wine in my entire life. Tip: Watch out for menus AKA specials, they can save you a lot, while they still taste great 😉
- Time spent: 38 days
- Transport: 5365km for €365 @ €6.80 per 100km (incl 2 flights)
- Accommodation: €382 for 21(p) vs 17(d), ranging from €7 to €19 @ the average of €10 per night
- Food: €301
- Cost per day: €27.60
- Tourism: 11 attractions for €140,- including the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier and mesmerising Iguazú Falls
If you want to know more about this incredible country of tango, passion, wine, football, beautiful nature and friendly people please click here for the Quaint Planet’s Traveller’s Guide for Argentina, to introduce you to the country’s basic history, cuisine, culture, safety, as well as places to go and things to see.
It is not a secret that Uruguay isn’t cheap, in fact, it’s probably the most expensive South American country. It’s however definitely worth a visit. I stayed in dormitories and made my meals out of the nearly UK-priced groceries out of supermarkets. Tip: Like in Chile, some supermarkets offer ready meals AKA “menu” and it’s not a bad option if you haven’t got time for cooking.
- Time spent: 10 days
- Transport: 1352km for €120 @ €8.88 per 100km
- Accommodation: €134 for 9 nights in dormitories, ranging from €10.80 to €17.70 @ the average of €14.90 per night
- Food: €120 (mostly cooked myself)
- Cost per day: €37.40
To learn more about this special little country, please click here for the Quaint Planet’s Traveller’s Guide for Uruguay, to introduce you to the country’s basic history, culture, cuisine, safety, as well as places to go and things to see.
Bolivia is known to be at the cheaper end of South American destinations, if not the cheapest. The meals, the tourist attractions as well as the private accommodation were certainly the most affordable from the whole Latin World. Tip: Bolivia is known for causing certain digestive adventures to quite a few travellers, many of which find themselves in a sudden desperate search for Imodium. It might be just due to the different Western immune system but I’d recommend – try eating in busy places that sell fresh stuff…
- Time spent: 18 days
- Transport: 1223km for €52 @ €4.25 per 100km
- Accommodation: €131 for 12(p) vs 1(d), ranging from €6.30 to € 10.80 @ the average of €10 per night
- Food: €138 (eating out)
- Cost per day: €17.80
- Tourism: 5 attractions for €215,- including the surreal Uyuni Salt Flats and the entertaining Death Road Tour
Peru is one of the most touristic countries on the continent. Its tourist industry is a well-oiled machine but the prices don’t appear to reflect the high competition, which makes the tourism there rather expensive if compared to its equally attractive neighbours. Plus, the high concentration of tourists create fertile soil for a lot of SCAM to flourish): For example in Cusco, it sometimes felt like that you pay a dollar for each step you make if you are not careful.
- Time spent: 14 days
- Transport: 2682km for €155 @ €5.78 per 100km (incl 1 flight)
- Accommodation: €111 for 12(p) vs 1(d), ranging from €7.90 to €10.50 @ the average of €8.50 per night
- Food: €66 (eating out mostly)
- Cost per day: €23.70
- Tourism: 3 attractions for €129,- including Machu Picchu
Cheaper than its neighbours but not quite at the Bolivian level. IMHO, Ecuador is a rather underrated tourist destination. It’s a very pretty and diverse country that contains pretty much everything its southern neighbour offers and there are fewer tourists.
- Time spent: 10 days
- Transport: 855km for €29 @ €3.39 per 100km
- Accommodation: €84 for 5(p) vs 5(d), ranging from €6.30 to €10.80 @ the average of €8.40 per night
- Food: €120 (eating out, in rather flashy fashion)
- Tourism: 1 attraction for €9
- Cost per day: €23.30
Like in all places in the world, it depends where you go. There are cheaper regions but the country as a whole was right behind Uruguay and Chile, somewhere just above the level of Peru when it came to expenses. FYI, I’ve spent many nights with my cherished friends for free so I’ve added up the numbers for accommodation with an average €13 per night value, which I’ve calculated from the other ho(s)tel prices I’ve paid in the country.
- Time spent: 31 days
- Transport: 2073km for €229 @ €11.04 per 100km (incl 3 flights)
- Accommodation: €364 for 17(p) vs 14(d), ranging from €5.70 to €20
- Food: €225 (eating out, cooked only breakfasts mostly)
- Cost per day: €26.40
- Tourism: 2 attractions €19,-
Stupidly expensive country. Like $7 for a pack of ciggies as opposed to $1,50 in Colombia. Beers, meals, travel, accommodation – all expensive. Quite a shock after Colombia to be honest (:0
- Time spent: 7 days
- Transport: 1065km for €125 @ €11.74 per 100km (incl 1 flight)
- Accommodation: €196 for private rooms, ranging from €16.10 to €34.30 @ the average of €28 per night
- Food: €89 (eating out)
- Cost per day: €58.60
Nicaragua was arguably the cheapest in Central Americas but still more expensive than for example Prague when it came to drinks.
- Time spent: 28 days
- Transport: 1169km for €57 @ €4.88 per 100km
- Accommodation: €244 for private rooms, ranging from €8.75 to €23
- Food: €198 (eating out)
- Cost per day: €17.80
- Tourism: 3 attractions for €50,- incl the Volcano boarding near the town of León
A tiny step up from Nicaragua. Not exactly cheap cheap but still much better than Panama. A little expensive for drinks in bars though…
- Time spent: 25 days
- Transport: 731km for €51 @ €6.98 per 100km
- Accommodation: €165 for 20(p) vs 4(d), ranging from €4.20 to €9.40
- Food: €229 (eating out)
- Cost per day: €17.80
- Tourism: 2 attractions for €61.80 including Tikal ruins and Semuc Champey
Mexico came as a relief after Guatemala when it comes to the feeling the prices but the Mayan Riviera (the only place I’ve seen due to the shortage of time) could get stupidly expensive in certain areas.
- Time spent: 12 days
- Transport: 578km for €35 @ €6.01 per 100km
- Accommodation: €178 for private rooms, ranging from €10.20 to €22.70
- Food: €105 (eating out)
- Cost per day: €26.50
- Tourism: 5 attractions for €62,- including the Tulum ruins
How much was it all together?
FYI, my full budget that included everything came up to €56 a day on average. However, if I take only drinks and baccy away, it would drop to €43. The moral of the story is that if you don’t drink and smoke, you’ll die healthier than me and save few bucks getting there but that’s for another debate 😉
Other big items that will alter these sweet looking numbers (shaved of all variables mentioned above) are obviously flights from your country to Latin America and your travel insurance (I took Truetraveller). In case you were interested to look into my full budget for nearly 8 months of travelling that came up to €13 100, it’s here.
Can you do it for less than that?
Yes, the answer to the question I can hear you asking is: YES. It is doable for less money. You could stay in dormitories only or you can use Couchsurfing, which works for many if that’s your lifestyle. Hitchhiking is another form of how to spare yourself some expenses with transportation. It is rather common in Patagonia but I haven’t seen much of it north.
You can also cook in hostels and not drink. You could take tours without guides and so on. If you travel as a couple, the accommodation expenses are halved, they’re few tricks on how to spend less money. If you were creative in this sense, I believe you could do the same 8 months trip for € 10 000,-
Traveller’s budget in Latin America: Conclusion
Regardless of the significant differences between the budgets for the particular countries, the Latin World is generally more expensive than any South-East Asian country if we don’t count mega-expensive Singapore in. That doesn’t mean that South and Central Americas are expensive but I would certainly not call the region “cheap”, because it’s not.
But as I said, it all depends on what you are earning and where you live. For example, all the hotels in the Americas cost me less than what would be my rent in Prague for the same period. But then Prague is among the cheapest European metropolises. If compared to London prices, a vast majority of the Latin World is much much cheaper.
Some more practical info about travelling in Latin Americas
- Safety: Few safety tips on how to secure your valuables, what to watch out for and more could be found here
- ATM charges: Some practical info, including the list of free-of-charge ATMs in Latin America, can be found here
- Border fees: How much are you going to pay to enter or exit some countries in Latin America could be found here
- Cheaper flights: Few tips on how to score a cheap/er flights + few other air travel tips could be found here
- Everything about public transport in Latin America: An article full of useful tips (incl prices) regarding public transport in Latin America can be found here
- Pre-trip preparations: Few things you can do ahead of time before you’ll become frantically busy prior to your departure are listed here
- Packing list: What to take with you for an extended trip as well as some security tips could be found here
Locations covered in this article
Santiago de Chile ► Valparaíso ► Santiago de Chile ►Punta Arenas – Ushuaia – Punta Arenas ► Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales ► El Calafate (Perito Moreno Glacier, Arg) ► El Chaltén (Los Glaciares National Park) ► Chile Chico (Ch) – Puerto Rio Tranquillo (Marble Caves) ► Coyhaique – Puyuhuapi – (Carretera Austral) ► Puerto Chacabuco – Quellón/Castro ► Puerto Varas – San Carlos de Bariloche (Arg) ► Buenos Aires ► Colonia (Ur) ► Montevideo ► Punta del Diablo – Cabo Polonio ► Montevideo ► Salto ► Concordia (Arg) ► Puerto Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) ► Salta ► San Salvador de Jujuy ► Tilcara ► San Pedro de Atacama (Ch) ► Uyuni Salt Flats Tour (Bol) ► Uyuni ► Sucre – La Paz (Death Road Tour) ► Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) – Isla del Sol – Copacabana ► Cusco (Per) ► Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) ► Cusco ► Lima ► Máncora – Montañita (Ecu) ► Puerto López ► Quito ► Ipiales (Col) – Pasto ► Tatacoa Desert ► Bogotá ► Medellín ► Villa de Lleyva ► Santa Marta – Cartagena – Rincón del Mar Necoclí ► Capurganá ► Puerto Obaldía (Pan) ► Panama City ► Las Lajas ► Cerro Punta ► David ► Bocas del Torro ► San José (Costa Rica) ► San Juan del Sur (Nic) – Ometepe ► Granada ► Managua – El Rama – Bluefields – Corn Islans ► Léon ► El Tunco (El Salvador) ► La Antigua Guatemala – Lake Atitlán ► Lanquín (Semuc Champey) – Flores (Tikal) ► Belize City ► Bacalar – Tulum – Playa del Carmen – Valladolid – Cancún.