7 South American Countries, 142 Days, £33 Per Day

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Let’s talk money! Since we left the UK the planner and organiser in me has been dutifully recording every penny that we have spent. To do this I use an App on my iPhone called ‘Trail Wallet’. It’s super easy to use as you can categorise each spend and it calculates your average daily amount for you so that you can really keep an eye on how much you are spending. So here it is…

Length of Trip: 4.5 months / 142 days
Destinations: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia
Travel period: December 2015 to mid April 2016
Traveller profile: Married couple in early 30’s
Accommodation: Mixed dorm rooms in budget hostels
Transportation: Mainly buses with occasional flights
Food: Street food and local restaurants

  • Total Spend: £9481.87*
  • Average Spend Per Day Per Couple: £66.77
  • Average Spend Per Day Per Individual: £33.39

*amounts are per couple
*amounts include all tours, domestic flights, accommodation, food, drinks, entrance fees, tips etc.
*amounts exclude international flights

Daily Expenses Per Country

daily expenses per country

*Argentina: we stayed with family in Argentina so have added in average hostel cost per day.

Cheapest Country = Bolivia

Most Expensive Country = Peru

Notable Expenses Per Country

  • Sandboarding in Chile (£35.21)
  • 3 day Salt Flat Tour in Bolivia (£213.00)
  • Expensive internal flight from Peru to Colombia (£310.81)
  • 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (£1061.33)
  • 1 day scuba diving in Colombia (£63.07)
  • Lost City Trek in Colombia (£306.60)
  • Surf lesson in Colombia (£26.28)

Total Spend By Category

  • Accommodation: £2,341.07 (25%)

Hostels are the cheapest form of accommodation throughout South America and when there’s two (or more) of you always check if it’s cheaper to get a private room as opposed to a dorm room as sometimes it is! Also check what’s going on festivities wise in a country around the time you are visiting as this will massively affect accommodation prices and if the festivity is something you aren’t bothered about plan around it. For example, Brazil isn’t as expensive all year round as it was for us – it’s much cheaper outside of Carnival time, accommodation tripled in price at the time we were there but we took the hit because we wanted to experience carnival time and balanced it by staying a few days with a friend.

  • Transport: £2,185.75 (23%)

Travelling slower would have considerably cut this proportion as it would have reduced our daily average. Unfortunately, because we already had Machu Picchu and our flights out of Colombia booked, we were always against the clock to visit the countries we wanted to. We didn’t have time to travel by any other means except air sometimes and typically only had a couple of weeks flexibility when it came to finding the cheapest flights. Flights on the whole are much more expensive that over land travel. Overnight buses in South America are safe and comfortable, out of the 11 journeys we did we only had one bad experience so always choose this option if you have the time. Always travel overnight too to save on accommodation costs.

  • Activities: £2,060.71 (22%)

Over half of what we spent on activities went on the expensive 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu which we pre-booked in England & was also the reason that Peru was our most costly country to visit. You can, however, book cheaper Jungle Trek excursions when you get to Peru or just get the train there for the day to cut down on this expense. Obviously you don’t need to do any big activities if you’re not that way inclined, but some of our best experiences travelling have been whilst doing so – check out our four day hike to the Colombian Lost City and our sandboarding experience in Chile.

  • Food: £1927.25 (20%)

For us, experiencing new and different foods was as big a part of travelling South America as seeing places. So we knew this would be a large proportion of our budget, however we kept it at a minimum by eating A LOT of street food and it was delicious – you definitely don’t need to eat in a fancy restaurant to experience a country’s best food! We hardly ever cooked ourselves, so this could be a way of reducing spend on food. We’ve met travellers eating porridge for breakfast and pasta for lunch every day to save on their budgets but this isn’t for us.

  • Drinks: £784.80 (8%)

If you don’t drink, great! You’ll be quid’s in here. Obviously you can also cut down on the amount you are spending by drinking less alcohol. It’s a no brainer and easy to get carried away with it when it’s cheaper than at home because you feel like you’re getting a bargain, but it all adds up. Our tip would be to buy in the supermarkets instead of hostels as prices are often hiked up (you may have to sneak it in though if not allowed – we got pretty good at this, or buy the same brand as they sell!)

  • Miscellaneous: £182.89 (2%)

Miscellaneous includes toiletries, laundry, clothes and travel essentials such as replacement electronic cables etc. Make sure you keep an eye on sun protection prices, this really ticked me off in Uruguay as I had to fork out £15 for a small tube because I’d ran out and couldn’t do without. Since then I’ve always made sure I stock up when it’s cheap. Also make sure you put your chargers away in hostels, we lost count of the number of people would had these go missing – just an unnecessary expense to replace. You also can’t get around washing your clothes (well you can but I’m not sure we’d have made many friends in our 4 ½ months if we hadn’t) and it’s way cheaper if you wash your own – most hostels have washing and drying facilities. It’s also really tempting to buy stuff you don’t need when it comes to clothes and accessories when they are unusual or ‘cheap’. Don’t get me wrong we splashed out on a couple of things but to keep this to a minimum you have to really question – do I need this?

pie graph of expenses

So there you have it, 142 days, 7 South America countries and £9078.94 lighter. It was worth every penny!

Are you shocked/surprised? Did you think it would cost more or less? Do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah & James x

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Different Money in South America with text overlay South American countries 142 days £33 per day