While it may not be as cheap as South East Asia, South America is still full of super-affordable countries to travel to in 2023. Some countries are definitely more expensive than others therefore if you’re wanting to explore South America on a shoestring budget in 2023, there are certain countries you should consider over others.
In this post, we are sharing 6 of the top cheap countries in South America to travel to. These countries will likely have a much lower cost of living than your home country with affordable food, transportation and accommodation options.
For each country, we spill some of the best places to go and will also give you a rough idea of a daily budget and when the best time to go is. These countries are listed from cheapest to most expensive.
- Need some help saving up for a trip? Check out these money saving tips!
- Check out this post to learn how to travel on a shoestring budget!
- Check out the cheapest destinations to visit in Asia in 2023
- Check out the cheapest destinations to visit in Central America in 2023
Daily budget: £18 - £35 a day
When to go: May to October for the dry season
Bolivia comes in at number one for the cheapest country to visit in South America in 2023. Bolivia is a country of great contrast and immense nature but certainly lacks in terms of creature comforts you may be used to.
However, the incredible sights (and the money you’ll save) will make this trip to Bolivia worth it. If you have a sense of adventure and love to explore jaw-dropping scenery and get up and close to incredible wildlife, then you’ll love Bolivia.
While you may find accommodation is a bit more pricey than in other parts of South America, you will more than make up for it by having access to super cheap transportation, food, alcohol and even their excursions and tours and the cheapest you’ll probably find on the continent (a trip to the Amazon anyone?).
Things to do in Bolivia
There are so many amazing things to do for cheap in Bolivia. Here are our recommendations:
- Go mountain biking on the most ‘dangerous’ road in the world - the Yungas Highway otherwise known as Death Road (just make sure you have travel insurance!)
- Visit the world-famous salt flats called Salar de Uyuni.
- Go hiking in the Andes for cheap. Some of the highest peaks to explore include Huayna and Ullimani
- Visit Lake Titicaca which is located on the border of Bolivia and Peru. This auspicious location is the highest lake in the world. Here you can mean floating islands and learn about the traditional way of life.
- Go on a tour of the Amazon. Bolivia is the cheapest country to visit the Amazon rainforest! If you’re on a shoestring but want to tick this bucket list experience off your list, consider doing it in Bolivia. The town of Rurrenabaque is the gateway to the Amazon and is worth a visit!
- Visit the historic city of Potosi. Learn about its rich (literally) history in silver mining.
- Explore the capital, La Paz. This is a hub for culture and history and will most likely be your starting point in Bolivia. Take in the colonial vibes, and the breathtaking views and absorb the rich culture in Bolivia
- Explore the tropical Yungas region. If you love tropical rainforests, breathtaking waters and local communities you’ll love this region
- The historic city of Sucre is the second largest city in Bolivia and is a gorgeous Mountain town to explore.
Daily budget: £20 - £35 a day
When to go: The dry season from December to March and July to August
Coming in at number 2 for the cheapest countries in South America is Colombia! Colombia is rich in culture, coffee and plenty of nature. This is in fact one of the cheapest ways to experience the highly sought-after white-sand Caribbean beaches. There is so much to do in Colombia and tourism there is booming despite its troubled reputation.
Unlike many other places in South America, you don’t need to join a tour to experience the sights and attractions. You can easily travel independently which gives you much greater control over how much you spend.
Things to do in Colombia:
Colombia is home to stunning beaches, lush national parks, incredible coffee and chocolate and vibrant modern cities and towns! Here are some things to do in Colombia:
- Explore the colourful capital, Botoga. This city is full of life and is home to many museums, galleries and historic sites. Don’t forget to go Salsa dancing!
- Find the best coffee in Salento. Colombia is most famous for its coffee and so the coffee region is a must for all coffee lovers. Explore gorgeous coffee farms in the cute towns of Salento and Filandia
- Relax on the Caribbean coast. This is the top spot for all beach bum backpackers with plenty of incredible beaches and towns to explore for a very cheap price. Great places to go include Cartagena, Santa Marta or Tayrona National Park.
- Take a wildlife tour to experience all of the exotic animals on offer in this incredibly abundant part of the world
- Visit the lost city, known as Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains. It is only accessible by a difficult hike, but experiencing the history and the views make this a bucket list destination (move over Machu Picchu).
- Party hard and also explore museums in the town of Medellin.
Daily budget: £25 - £40 a day
When to go: December to May for the dry season for the coastal region, the Amazon region & Galapagos Islands. The Andes region is dry from June - September.
Ecuador is a true nature and wildlife lovers' paradise. It is most famous for the Galapagos islands, however, there is much more to Ecuador that costs a lot less. Ecuador is home to preserved colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, a part of the Amazon rainforest and also the Andes mountains. There is just a diversity of landscapes and wildlife to experience here.
Its small size makes it easier and more affordable to get around and is an adventure seekers' paradise. Must like Bolivia, this is also an excellent place to experience the Amazon on a budget, especially if a tour to the Galapagos Islands is out of your budget.
Sadly Ecuador doesn’t have the best reputation for safety due to many protests in recent years. However, it should not be overlooked. The country is rising on the Global Peace Index, making it safer for travellers. As long as you avoid protests and stick to the tourist trail you should be safe.
Things to do in Ecuador
- Go on a work exchange to Galapagos. We couldn’t not include the Galapagos on this list. However, it is expensive! So a way to get around this for budget travellers is to apply to do a work exchange there. Get free food and accommodation in exchange for helping tour operators show tourists the wildlife- sounds like a no-brainer. Check Workaway for opportunities. You can also get better deals on tours here by going during the off-season or not booking in advance. Book once you are there which will give you bargaining power.
- Explore the capital of Quito. This is most well known for its historic centre which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Churches, palaces and museums are features of this beautiful destination - which is one of the cheapest capitals in South America!
- Go hiking in the Andes. Hiking Cotopaxi volcano is an adrenaline seeker's dream hike which also offers stunning views of the Andes. You can also hike the Quilotoa loop which connects remote villages in the Andes. This is one of the best ways to experience the rural way of life and ancient ruins in Ecuador.
- Go on an excursion to the Amazon rainforest
- Go on an adventure in Banos. This town is known for its hot springs, waterfalls, hiking, rafting and canyoning. This is a great way to experience usually pricey activities on a budget.
- Explore Cuenca. This is a colourful colonial town which beautiful architecture, museums and local crafts.
- Relax on the beach in Montanita. This up-and-coming beach town offers you everything you’d want in a tropical beach destination with a bohemian vibe and low cost of living. You may end up staying here for longer than you expected!
Daily Budget: £25 - £40
When to go: May - September for the dry season
Peru is quickly one of the most famous destinations in the world thanks to Machu Picchu. It is still, however, incredibly affordable to visit. This is one of the most profound ways to experience the mysteries of the ancient Incas.
It goes without saying you can’t go to Peru without doing the Inca Trail or seeing Machu Picchu. This will add to the cost of your trip however, it is so worth it.
There are also many other notable things to do and places to explore that won’t cost the earth. You can find budget-friendly accommodation and cheap food everywhere you go.
Peru was considered one of the safest countries in South America before protests erupted in 2023, which say Machu Picchu close for a couple of weeks. There is a lot of political unrest which has had a huge hit on tourism. While this is awful for the people of Peru, the drop in tourism will probably make Peru a more affordable destination this year. Just make sure you do your research about what is happening before you go to ensure it's safe.
Things to do in Peru
- Visit Machu Picchu. You simply must! This is the most iconic destination in Peru, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the wonders of the world. You won’t be disappointed.
- Hike the Inca Trail & explore the Sacred Valley. This is a world-famous hike and it is undoubtedly the best way to get to Machu Picchu. If a guided hike to Machu Picchu is out of your budget, consider exploring other trails throughout the sacred valley. The sacred valley is home to ancient ruins, local villages and breathtaking landscapes.
- Explore Cusco. Cusco is a charming high-altitude city in the Andes in Peru. It is the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Once you get over the change in altitude you will fall in love with the local culture, the vibrant markets, the local people and the quaint stone building and roads.
- Go to the Amazon Rainforest. Peru is one of the best places to experience the Amazon. It’s not as affordable as Bolivia or Ecuador but it can still fit in with most budgets. One of the best things about visiting the Amazon in Peru is you can rest assured that Peru has sustainability as a priority for the Amazon.
- Visit Lake Titicaca - yes you can also visit this incredible destination from Peru.
- Go and see the Nazca Lines. These are a series of geoglyphs of birds and other symbols etched into the desert floor over 2000 years ago that are only visible from above. You can take a flight if you’re feeling rich to see them from above or you can simply go to an observation tower. Why these lines are there, how they were created and who created them are still a mystery.
- Go and see Vinicuna also known as the mountain of Seven Colours or Rainbow Mountain. If you have an Instagram account this is probably already on your bucket list!
- Indulge in local cuisine. Peru is known for its unique approach to food - in fact, many staples we take for granted originated from here including potatoes and quinoa. Lima, the capital is the best place to explore local cuisine! Quinoa soup, ceviche and spit-roasted gin pig are traditional dishes.
Daily budget: £25 - £45 per day to get everything you need.
When to go: Peak season is November to February (summer). Visit during the shoulder seasons in September-October and March-May to save even more money and have milder weather in places like Buenos Aires. Note that if you plan on travelling in winter places like Patagonia will be freezing.
Argentina is a magnificent country in South America which has so much to offer! From the beautiful mountains and glaciers of Patagonia to the lush waterfalls in Iguazu, the world-class wine region of Mendoza and of course the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, known as the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere.
Argentina is a beautiful country full to the brim with culture (tango classes anyone?), history, food (they are famous for bbq steak) as well as nature and adventure.
Argentina may not come across as the type of destination you could visit on a budget, however, the Argentinan peso is in a crisis and is very weak and USD are in high demand. If you take USD with you to Argentina, your money will go very far.
Argentina certainly offers one of the best value propositions in South America!
Things to do in Argentina
- Visit Buenos Aires. This sprawling capital city is full of gorgeous architecture, history, museums and cultural attractions. Must-do things include shopping, visiting the theatre, going to a tango show, visiting the incredible Recoleta cemetery, soaking in the colourful vibes at La Boca and chowing down on a BBQ steak and Malbec at a local restaurant late at night.
- Explore Patagonia. This mountainous region is simply breathtaking and is a must-visit. Expect wide expanses, impossibly large glaciers, towering peaks and very quaint mountain villages. Head to El Calafate to visit the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, hike to the Torres Del Paine peak, go on a wildlife safari and experience their way of life in Patagonia. Visit the lake district in northern Patagonia which is known for its forest, lakes, mountains and hiking. The brand Patagonia got its name from this region.
- See Iguazu Falls. These falls are a natural wonder of the world and are located in the tropical northern region of Argentina which borders Brazil & Uruguay. You can see these falls from either side of the border.
- Experience the wine country of Mendoza. One of the most famous things to come from Argentina is the Malbec wine. This is produced in the gorgeous region of Mendoza famous for its vineyards.
- Indulge in the local cuisine. Argentina is known for having a taste of the richer things in life. Famous for steak, chips, eggs and BBQ meats which are washed down with a bottle of wine very late at night. The eating culture here may look very different from home which is why it is amazing to experience. Just don’t forget to sip on your Yerba Mate throughout the day which is a bitter tea that Argentinians drink. It is drunk through a distinctive mug and metal straw. It is used for socialising but also to help them digest their heavy diets! It has many other health benefits too.
Daily budget: £25 - £50 per day for a budget traveller
When to go: During the dry season from May to September
Paraguay comes in at number 6 for the cheapest destinations to visit in South America. It is the budget destination that no one visits! If you love getting off the beaten path and going places not many others venture to, then Paraguay may be a great destination for you.
This landlocked country is divided into two regions by a river - the eastern part and the western part. The divide creates diversity in landscapes which go from a dry forest landscape to the tropical wetland of the Pantanal. This is one of the best places in the world to see birds, it is incredibly abundant in wildlife.
Paraguay is the dark horse of South America! Experience it on a budget before everyone else finds out about it and step into another world, potentially without any other tourists in sight.
Things to do in Paraguay
- Explore the historic capital of Asuncion.
- See the historic churches call Jesuit Missions. This is a UNESCO site.
- Go birdwatching in the wetlands of the Paternal.
- Visit the Itaipu Dam which is one of the largest in the world
- Explore the wilderness of the Gran Chaco. See it on foot, on a horse or in a 4x4.
- Chill out on the riverside beaches in the city of Encarnacion
- Explore the wildlife in Ybycui National park. This is home to an abundance of flora, fauna and animals including monkeys and jaguars.
Off the Map
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