Complete Guide to South America for Backpackers
So you're getting ready to travel around South America, huh?
Backpacking South America is like learning to ride a bike without the learning wheels.
There's just the right amount of danger and twists to keep you alert, focused, and totally excited about life.
With the exception of a handful of backpacking hot spots, South America is the frontier of the backpacking Wild West.
This is the land of crazy parties, epic surfing, sprawling cities and wild landscapes including the Andes and the Amazon jungle.
Above all, South America is incredibly beautiful.
Although difficult to get around at times, it is easy for backpackers, diverse, relatively safe, and an amazing travel experience.
But South America is MASSIVE. Deciding where to go and how to plan a backpacking trip is a daunting task. That's where I come in, folks.
This South America travel guide will provide you with EVERYTHING you need to know to prepare your trip to South America..
Here you have all the information about the South America backpacking itinerary and routes, country profiles, tips and tricks for a budget trip in South America, and much more.
Put on your boots and get ready for your travel inspiration to soar. We're going on an adventure!
Each country you visit while backpacking South America will offer you the opportunity to experience a new vision of nature and cultural customs unique to each region.
Discover the epic snow-capped peaks of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile.
Immerse yourself in the waves of the impressive beaches of Ecuador.
Experience the famous Brazilian Carnival. Practice Trekking to the Lost City in Colombia. Get off the beaten track in Venezuela.
Experience the sensation of the hot deserts of Bolivia and the colorful Rainbow Mountains of Peru.
“Backpacking South America is truly a life-changing journey through one of the most fascinating lands on the planet”
Backpacking South America is generally cheap, although it is not as cheap as the Southeast Asian or India, we will be able to carry out our travels with relatively little money.
Even so, there are some pretty expensive places in South America.ca that you should avoid if you travel on a “low backpacker” budget cost” 😉
This South America "road map" will provide you with all the important information you need to have a truly awesome experience without leaving your bank account at "0".
You'll fall in love with South America (and maybe a person or two along the way).
Let's dive in and take a look at some South America travel itineraries and backpacking routes to get you going.
The best routes in South America with a backpack
Finding the best backpacking route in South America depends on many things.
How much time do you have? 2 weeks? 3 weeks? 1 month? 3 months? 6 months? Lifetime?
What do you like to do while backpacking? To surf? Hiking? Diving? Partying?
Once you start answering some of those questions, the most important thing is your time, based on all of this, you can choose a South American backpacking itinerary to suit you.
In South America, the distances can be enormous, continental flights expensive, and sometimes you can end up stuck in one place for much longer than you had planned.
2-week travel itinerary through South America – The flavor of South America
Begin your South American backpacking itinerary in Colombia by visiting Cartagena.
After a few days, go to Santa Marta the starting point for Minca – a charming mountain town – and Tayrona National Park.
Get a little off the beaten track and head east towards Cape of the Sail (where the desert meets the sea) and Punta Galinas, where you can feast on fresh seafood on the Caribbean coast.
Go back to Cartagena, go to the vicinity White beach and tolu (mangrove) before heading to Saint Bernard Islands (islands of white sand).
EITHER you can start in Lime, Peru.
Explore the city for a day or two before heading to the Nazca lines, Arequipa and Colca Canyon
then head to Cusco in the Andes. Take a few days to get used to the altitude before embarking on a multi-day hike up Macchu Picchu.
You can also start at Buenos Aires. Then you can head south for some hiking in Patagonia.
In the south of Argentina and Chile, you can do the world famous Circuit of the Torres del Paine. 2 weeks would be a good cut, but -if you put in the effort- you could do it.
In 2 weeks, you can have a good taste of Colombia, Ecuador either bolivian. Don't miss the Salinas
1 Month South America Travel Itinerary – A Proper Backpacking Trip
With 1 month, you can go on an epic backpacking itinerary through South America.
If you want to explore more than one country in South America, you will need more than 3 weeks.
For surfers, you could easily spend a month hopping from beach to beach from southern peru until Colombia, in 1 month.
Or you can do 2 weeks in Argentina followed by 2 weeks of hiking in Chilean patagonia.
If it was me, bigger countries like Argentina, Chile and Brazil it is better to explore with more than 1 month.
You can, but you'll be spending a lot of time on bus trips, so I'd stick to one area.
Southeast Brazil is a good option for 1 month in South America itinerary: travel from Rio de Janeiro all the way south to Florianopolis and hits everything in between.
Keep in mind that you will probably want to stay in Rio AND in Floripa longer than you expect.
The highlight of this route is the exploration of the megapolis of Sao Paulo, idyllic getaways from island Big and Paraty, ecological and relaxed Curitiba and the crazy nightclubs of Spa Camboriu.
Or you can fly to Ecuador and spend 3 weeks exploring here - stay in a great hostel in Guayaquil before heading to Montanita.
In Montañita you can have fun and surf to your heart's content.
Head north to Caraquez Bay and Canoe for surf towns that are further off the beaten path
Next, head into the mountains, stopping first at Quito.
There are some great hikes in the Ecuadorian Andes.
If you have time, don't hesitate to go to the Volcano Loop Trail on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park.
A trip to the jungle around puyo is also recommended.
Next, head out for a week of hiking in Colombia.
3-month travel route through South America – The Great Circuit of South America
3 months of backpacking through South America, huh? Of course!
I recommend flying to Lima Peru unless you know you want to start in the north (Brazil or Colombia) or further south (Argentina or Chile).
Explore Lima and the coast before heading to the Andes. Over there Macchu Picchu awaits you in all its splendor.
Definitely take an excursion to the famous Inca city! (Later we will talk about hiking in South America).
From here, you can go down to the other side of the Andes and explore the Amazon Basin or you can head south to Bolivia, and eventually Argentina and Patagonia.
Alternatively, you can start slowly heading north across the Coast. You could spend a month (or more) in Ecuador, Colombia, either Brazil respectively.
Personally, I started in Buenos Aires, went to the southern tip of Patagonia, and headed north en route to Ecuador and Colombia from there.
The distances were really enormous. I'm talking about 30 hour bus rides (in comfortable buses I must say)
Traveling in South America is never a quick affair, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
6-month travel route through South America
Has life brought you to the lucky crossroads of having 6 months to travel through South America? Good for you!
With a 6 month itinerary in South America as a backpacker, you have the luxury of being able to take your damn time.
To see several countries, it is a practical option to start your trip in the north or in the south to avoid going backwards.
With a 6-month itinerary, you can explore many countries in South America in depth.
I'll be honest, the itinerary that appears on the map is fucking ambitious.
But I hope it gives you an idea of what it would be like to cross the entire continent.
Start your journey in Rio de Janeiro either sao Paul It can be a bit of a hard landing, but you'll be a badass prepared when it's time to move on to another country.
Other options are to start with a few days in Buenos Aires, in Argentina, and Chile, in the south.
You could be surfing off the coast of Ecuador one day, and being in the mountains of Peru several days (and many bus rides) later.
My advice is to spend some of your time really exploring and getting off the beaten path in destinations like Brazil, Colombia and bolivian.
Having 6 months or more to go backpacking really means you have a total blank slate to work from. So get ready to write your own beautiful backpacking destination.
Best Places to Visit in South America – Country Breakdown
Backpacking in Brazil
Brazil is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic countries in South America. It's all about the extremes. Whether it's the parties, the people or nature, the vibes run through everything and connect everyone.
Backpacking Brazil offers amazing surfing beaches, fun-loving people, crazy parties, and scenery that would make even the most seasoned traveler say “damn, really?«
Of course, Carnival is legendary, and with good reason. Let yourself be carried away by the Brazilian side of Iguazu waterfalls visit the Amazon, drink a caipirinha on the beach!
In addition, in Brazil there are large booming cities such as Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and Natale.
And when I say "extreme", I mean extreme: Brazil is absolutely MASSIVE and covers almost half (47%) of the land mass of South America That should give you an idea of how big it is.
But, more importantly, it gives you a better idea of the diversity that Brazil offers.
In fact, there are many things in Brazil that you may not be aware of.
For example, hiking is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about backpacking Brazil.
It's a pity, because Brazil has really beautiful trails spread all over the country.
The best hiking opportunities are often found in the National Parks (National Parks). Brazil has more than 70 national parks, and in terms of beauty, they can compete with any other on Earth.
What you need to know before visiting Brazil
- Do not miss.. Florianopolis. The favorite place for Brazilians to visit for a reason. It is quiet, safe and beautiful. If you plan to stay in Floripa for a week, it grabs you by the balls and you're stuck for months.
- Keep an eye on... Travel distances. Don't be fooled: they are much longer than they appear on the map. Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B.
- The coolest hostel is... Hostel Bar O de Casa (São Paulo) – Consistently voted one of the best hostels in Brazil. Vila Madalena is easily the coolest part of the city too.
- The best food is in... Belo Horizonte. There is an incredible energy in this place; everyone is out on the streets, eating and drinking at plastic tables, all night long.
Although in South America there are many countries that I consider to have the whole package, Colombia is the most complete.
It is a relatively small country.
So, considering the scale of the epic surfing, the endless parties, the virgin jungle, the cities that happen and the towering mountains, Colombia is a reason for backpackers to keep traveling!
Cali, Cartagena, Bogotaand Medellin There are a few cities in Colombia where you can really let go.
Don't fight the sauce; let your body move to the music. Go and have some amazing conversations with the locals about life in Latin America.
Is Colombia safe? Maybe your mother would like to know Of course it is!
As much as Colombians are willing to disassociate themselves from Pablo Escobar, it's hard not to mention the impact he made on the country and on the entire South American continent. But his reign of terror is over.
Colombia today could not be more different from the days when drug traffickers ruled the country. V
Visiting Medellín now compared to 20 years ago is a COMPLETELY different experience. Today's Medellín is much safer.
Colombia is for adventure addicts and also for nature lovers.
The northern end of the Andes range ends here and you can hike in the deep jungle.
What you need to know before visiting Colombia
- Do not miss.. Carnival in Barranquilla. Most of the time, this industrial city is ignored by travelers. But for one week of the year, this place goes crazy.
- Don't lose sight... how difficult the road to Lost City is. It's long and treacherous and hot as fuck, but in the end it's absolutely worth the effort. The lost City It is one of the best places to visit in South America.
- The coolest hostel is... The secret Garden (Cotopaxi) – The most serene garden lodge, with hobbit-style houses.
- The best food is in... the local urban food stalls, which offer the best value for money. Go to those who serve glorious arepas.
Backpacking in Ecuador
Ecuador may be small, but it certainly packs a punch. I spent 3 months backpacking in Ecuador and could easily spend many more.
The diversity is incredible and it is a great place to experience the culture of the Andean highlands.
The people who live in the Andes have a distinct and ancient culture rooted in mountain life. They even speak another language called Quechua.
In addition to staying in colonial cities such as Quito Ecuador's natural landscape is the biggest draw.
You can spend weeks or months exploring the coast before heading to the mountains and vice versa.
Volcanoes, waterfalls, and huge snow-capped mountains towering over the coast make for incredible hiking trails.
Surfing reigns on the Ecuadorian coast. It attracts surfers from all over the world. Even if you're a beginner, it's a great place to catch your first waves. P
towns like Montanita and Canoe they are famous surfing beaches and party spots.
If you have some extra money in your budget, you can visit the Galapagos Islands.
But keep in mind that it is not a cheap company, especially when it comes to excursions like scuba diving (although it is AMAZING). So get ready to spend some money
there is also the Amazon Basin from Ecuador. The Amazon region is what makes Ecuador one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.
The best way to explore the Amazon is by boat with a local guide, and it's sure to be the adventure of a lifetime!
What you need to know before visiting Ecuador
- Do not miss.. explore the highlands and the Cotopaxi National Park. Easily accessible from Quito and totally epic.
- You know what's overrated? Montañita. It's not all that it used to be and is mainly geared towards foreigners who want to get drunk and high. If you want true Ecuadorian culture, there are better places nearby.
- The coolest hostel is... Muchado River – This place is quite off the beaten track, but it is worth the trip. Laid back, easy going and with an amazing organic cafe. A resting place away from the party!
- The best food is in... the small lunch (lunch) found throughout the country.
Backpacking in Peru
Oh Peru. Backpacking Peru is the essence of traveling in South America.
Although tourism has exploded in Peru in recent years, there is still a lot of magic to be found here.
The cost of backpacking Peru is a bit higher than you might expect.
You can expect to pay between 30 and 40 USD a day while traveling here. (But later we will talk about the cost of backpacking in South America)
Peru has a very long coastline dotted with top quality beaches for surfing and scuba diving. In the Andes there is another form of beauty.
Who does not know Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail? Besides the obvious, the Peruvian Andes are much, much more than Machu Picchu. Although, still, you have to go there!
Peru also has some really fascinating colonial cities, such as Cuenca and Cuzco, which is the gateway city to Machu Picchu. The potential of off the beaten track in Peru is enormous.
Take a look at the Rainbow Mountains to see nature at its best.
Tour the majestic Cordillera Huayhuash. Explore Colca Canyon And sleep under a billion stars.
If you want a truly magical experience, there are many eco-lodges in Peru that are nestled in the best natural settings, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes mountain range.
Wherever you decide to travel to in Peru, rest assured that it will be the highlight of your backpacking adventure in South America.
What you need to know before visiting Peru
- Do not miss.. a motorcycle trip through the Sacred Valley on the outskirts of Cuzco. It is definitely worth staying in Cuzco a little longer for this.
- You know what's overrated? the Inca Trail. Instead, opt for the less-trodden Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu.
- The coolest hostel is... the adventure of the banana (Huacachina). Full disclosure: Peruvian hostels are usually party hostels. If that's what you're looking for, this may be the best of all.
- The best food is in... Lime. This city is full of cafes, eating places and street food vendors. The best are in Barranco and Miraflores. eat big Ceviche!
Backpacking in Bolivia
Backpacking Bolivia offers a glimpse of what South America was like 30 years ago.
It is a country that looks to the future in many ways, but still has one foot firmly rooted in the tradition of the past.
Expect friendly people, spectacular desert and mountain scenery, and the kind of low prices that make your inner person very happy. You could easily get by on 20-25 bucks a day, and even less if you can get by a bit.
In Bolivia there are a lot of adrenaline activities, such as the Death Road which, in essence, is a road that goes down the mountains where people bike all the way at full speed.
The journey lasts for at least 30 kilometers and is in a straight line downwards. Can you guess why it is called the Highway of Death?
Aside from the high-risk adventure activities, Bolivia is also safe for the most part.
World-class hiking abounds in the Bolivian Andes.
If you like hiking, all the more reason to visit Bolivia. Bring a good sleeping bag, as temperatures can plummet at night.
Peace it has the best hostels (especially for party people) and is a great city to settle down.
Titicaca lake it is impressive, however it has become too touristy; I personally can't stand so many people taking selfies.
I don't blame the locals as they need to make a living. It's just that the way it's been done is unfortunate.
He The salt pans they are also great. Ok, you have to admit that they are also quite touristy, but they are still worth visiting.
What you need to know before visiting Bolivia
- Do not miss.. the Uyuni Salt Flats. Yes, everyone who comes to Bolivia does it and, yes, it is a tourist. Despite that, it's still fucking believable.
- Don't lose sight... the altitude. Some people fly directly into La Paz from sea level and get sick almost immediately. At 3,640 meters, La Paz is the highest city in the world.
- The coolest hostel is... Greenhouse Bolivia (Peace). This is a more relaxed accommodation, away from all the commotion. Even if you are a party person, you still need a down time from time to time.
- The best food is in... Peace. It is the epicenter of the new gastronomic culture of Bolivia.
Backpacking in Chile
There are no half measures when backpacking Chile.
From trekking through magnificent Glacier National Parks to exploring the Martian atacama desert A hellish experience awaits you.
There are 36 National Parks in Chile; all of them are beautiful and unique in their own way. Chile also hosts Easter Island one of the most mysterious places on the planet.
Like Argentina, Chilean patagonia It is a paradise for hikers and adventurers, although it does take a bit of effort to get to the places you want to hike.
That said, the trip is worth it; experiencing some of the last truly wild places on the planet is an indescribable feeling that you can only understand doing it
Most backpackers start their trip in Santiago. But you can get to Chile from one of its borders in the South (as I did).
Oh yeah, one more thing: Chilean wine is cheap and damn good. Need more reasons?
What you should know before visiting Chile
- Do not miss.. Patagonia, and not just the usual places. Chilean Patagonia is largely unexplored, especially the fjords. Look for whales, dolphins, penguins and elephant seals.
- Keep an eye on... fire ban in Torres del Paine. A lot of nature has been threatened by asshole backpackers using gas burners, despite warnings.
- The coolest hostel is... Last Hope Puerto Natales – a super nice hostel that helps organize trips to Torres del Paine. Pets allowed
- The best food is in... Santiago. If you stay in Santiago, you will find the most culinary options, including cheap street food stalls.
Long live Argentina!
Backpacking through Argentina will be an unforgettable experience. Welcome to the land of wine, excessive meat, soccer, tango, incredibly passionate people and the last frontier of South America: Patagonia.
Argentina is a immense country with very different regions. Eat your fill, party like never before and fall deeply in love.
You will probably land on Buenos Aires, possibly the cultural capital of all South America.
Without a doubt, you will find incredible hostels in Buenos Aires and reasons to stay. But don't stay too long
rosary beads and Cordoba are cities as Buenos Aires but, in my opinion, better.
They are a perfect place to head to if you want to get away from the densely populated capital Mendoza It is the wine region that is home to the "best wine in the world" (according to Argentines).
Further south is Patagonia: one of my favorite places on Earth.
Patagonia is a truly vast and desolate wilderness, where the climate is harsh and civilization sparse.
Go hiking through the mountains and glaciers, or surround the sea in kayak.
There, you can go days without seeing many backpackers (if any) Now that's a dream.
Staying in an Argentine mountain refuge is a wonderful experience that you should not miss.
Few of those who travel to Argentina manage to reach Land of Fire (the Land of Fire).
Visit one of the most spectacular places in Argentina, with its long summer days and epic arctic landscapes.
Speaking of the Arctic, you can organize trips to Antarctica from Ushuaia. This would be the adventure of a lifetime, but it is by no means cheap.
What you need to know before visiting Argentina
- Do not miss.. El Chaltén, which is the base to see some of the most spectacular peaks on Earth: Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.
- You know what's overrated? The Mouth in Buenos Aires. These highly promoted multi-colored houses are quite dilapidated and quite dangerous, so I recommend you avoid them. The whole area looks like a tourist trap. There are much better things to do in Buenos Aires.
- The coolest hostel is... Hostel South America (El Calafate) – Super stylish hostel with great views and incredibly rustic architecture.
- The best food is in... your neighbor's staff roast. There's nothing better than grilling up prime Argentinian beef with some locals.
- The official exchange rate IS NOT THE EXCHANGE RATE. Due to the fluctuation of the exchange rate, many of the locals withdraw their cash using what is called Western Union's "blue dollar rate". In this way, you get 50% more pesos than withdrawing pesos from an ATM or changing currency. You can read more about this in our Agentina guide.
Not many travelers end up backpacking in Uruguay. There are a few reasons for this:
- It is small
- does not get in the way
- there's not much to do
All of the above is true up to a point: Uruguay is not overflowing with adventurous activities or amazing sights.
But let me tell you that they have one of the best quality of life in South America.
One of the advantages of Uruguay is that you don't HAVE to do anything here.
The people are friendly, and compared to the chaos found in other parts of the continent, it's pretty quiet.
The beautiful coastline is the perfect place to get off the beaten path of backpacking South America and avoid traveler burnout.
Outside Montevideo there are pretty beach towns worth crashing into.
Devil's Point it is the quintessential city of lazy surfers.
east point It's fun in the summer if you like to party.
Sacramento Colony It's an old colonial outpost and a UNESCO heritage site, though admittedly more of a day trip than a base.
Ah, but here's the best part: weed is legalized. Yes, Uruguay is famous for allowing devil's lettuce to be smoked. And its quality is surprisingly good.
Many locals have a herb garden on their balconies. Maybe your hostel in Montevideo has one?
Head to Uruguay if you want to relax and do your thing. It is also easy to travel to Brazil and Argentina from there.
What you need to know before visiting Uruguay
- Do not miss.. Devil's Point. This is a laid-back surfer town that evades most backpackers. Arguably one of the best beach towns in South America.
- You know what's overrated? East Point. This place literally exists for Argentinians on vacation. In low season, it is empty.
- The coolest hostel is... Charruas Hostel (Montevideo) – Amazing atmosphere, nice people, great facilities, perfect location – it really is the coolest place to stay!
- The best food is in... Montevideo. There is nothing better than a giant little goat after you feel like eating!
Top 9 things to do in South America
1. Explore Patagonia
Patagonia continues to be one of the last virgin areas on the planet. Not everyone can experience it in their lifetime.
In addition to the usual superlative spots like Cerro Torre and Torres del Paine, there's plenty to discover off the beaten track.
It's the biggest party on the planet! Grab your body paint, your best feathers, and whatever else you can get your hands on and join the party.
You will never forget the time you spent at the South American Carnival. The carnivals of Bahía, Río and Barranquilla are especially good.
3. Explore the Uyuni salt flats
It is one of the most unique places on the planet and a highlight of any backpacking trip in South America. Prepare to be blown away by this alien landscape.
I know that penniless backpackers often cringe at the idea of an organized excursion (because I am one of them), but this one is really worth it.
4. Find your own secret beaches
It wouldn't be a true backpacking itinerary in South America without a bit of beach. On the continent there are all kinds of beaches imaginable.
From the tropical slices of Brazil to the surfers' paradises of Ecuador to the fjords of Chile, you won't be short of options.
There is a lot one of those secret corners that make those days magical.
5. Get to know Medellin
Medellin is one of the most popular cities to visit in South America right now.
It's fun, safe, comfortable, and (most impressively) completely different than it was before.
Medellín has shed its violent past and is ready to welcome the next wave of backpackers.
6. Visit to Machu Picchu
You are reading a backpacker's guide to South America. I know you already know this place. It is the place that most attracts people to visit South America… but I would be lying if I said that it is not worth visiting.
You can walk the Inca Trail like everyone else. But if you want to visit Machu Picchu in an alternative way, do the Salkantay Trail instead.
7. Hike in the Andes
The Andes are one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, known above all for hosting the aforementioned Machu Picchu and the gigantic Aconcagua. But there are more mountains than these popular destinations: the highlands of Ecuador, the Cordillera Huayhush in Peru, and the Cordillera Real in Bolivia are all impressive. Even Colombia has a piece of the pie in the Cocuy National Park.
8. A South America
Hey, most backpackers will attest that love and sex on the road is a fucking awesome thing.
But if you haven't experienced all the passion of the South Americans... don't live the rest of your life just out of curiosity
They love, and they love very much. And the sex… well… I'll leave it for you to discover.
9. Get "stuck" somewhere
South America is full of sticky places: places where you get stuck for months. Florianopolis, La Paz, Medellin, Mancora…
All these places start as a stop on an itinerary, but end up becoming resting places.
Do not resist! Find your sticky spot and stay a while.
Backpacker accommodation in South America
South America has a wide range of cheap accommodation options for backpackers.
When you're not spending the night from the comfort of your tent in the Andes or with a Couchsurfing host, you'll need to book a hostel.
Whether you just need a place to lay your head or a place to meet fellow backpackers like you, hostel life is clearly for the best.
In fact, I love South American hostels. I have spent some of the best nights of my life in them and have met some of the best people in my life. The continent is home to some of the best hostels in the world.
Insider tip: If you want to see all -and I mean ALL- the hostel options in South America, hostelworld is the perfect one stop shop for booking hostels.
You can even filter your personal travel needs to find the perfect place for you.
Backpacking costs in South America
There is a common belief that backpacking in South America is very cheap.
In some places this is true, but it is not true for the entire continent.
But fear not! Traveling in South America on a tight budget is possible.
Because Patagonia is one of the most remote areas on the planet, it is to be expected that travel costs will be higher than in the rest of South America.
In Peru you also have to navigate a bit to travel on a tight budget.
Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America.
The cost of living in Brazil is higher and has a reputation for skyrocketing accommodation prices during high season.
With a few travel tips up your sleeve, you'll save a lot of money and have a blast like never before.
Bring up your bargaining game while backpacking Latin America to make sure you get the best possible price for things, including accommodation.
Taking long-distance buses, buying beer and drugs, paying entrance fees to national parks…these things add up fast.
But sometimes you have to shell out the money to be able to do the things you want.
Always remember to leave a little room in your budget to be able to dive or take the trip you have dreamed of so much
Daily budgets for South America
Here's a breakdown of what you can afford on a daily basis while backpacking South America.
|Country||Bedroom||Local food||Bus ride (depending on distance)||Average daily cost|
|Argentina||$6-15||$2-10||$5-50+||$20 – $70+|
|bolivian||$7-10||$2-5||$2-5||$20 – $40|
|Brazil||$10-15||$4-9||$20-50+||$40 – 50+|
|Chili||$12-15||$4-9||$10-40+||$35 – $65+|
|Colombia||$8-10||$1-12||$5-30||$35 – $60|
|Ecuador||$8-10||$2-5||$2-8||$25 – $50|
|Peru||$8-15||$2-8||$5-45||$30 – $60|
Travel tips for backpackers without resources in South America
All those little bucks add up to more fun times.
So saving what you can on your trip means you can stay on the trip…for longer.
Here are a few budget travel tips for South America:
- Camp: With plenty of pristine beaches, forests, stunning scenery, and remote jungles, South America is a great place to pack a good backpacking tent. Camping saves you money and can help you get off the beaten path.
- cook your own food Travel with a portable backpacking stove and cook your own food to save a lot of money while backpacking South America. If you plan on doing some overnight hiking or camping on the beach, having a backpacking stove will be a big plus.
- haggle: Bargain as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things, especially in the local markets. Learning Spanish will help you a lot
- couchsurfing: South Americans are amazing. Meet some! Check out Couchsurfing to make real friends and see the real continent. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalized messages to your potential host. A generic copy and paste message is much more likely to be rejected. Get noticed.
- hitchhike Although some countries are friendlier than others, hitchhiking across South America is common practice, so it won't be too hard to find transportation. However, speaking at least a little Spanish will be of great help to you. You will need to explain exactly what you are doing and where you want to go.
The best time to travel to South America
By now you know that we are talking about a huge expanse of land as far as the South American continent is concerned.
The South American countries that are close to the Equator do not have defined seasons.
As you start to head south, you'll see that the seasons are the opposite of what they are in the northern hemisphere, namely winter in June.
Patagonia experiences very cold and windy winters.
I do not advise traveling there during the winter unless you are a serious mountaineer and have all the proper equipment.
The dry season depends on the country. In general, the coldest months, from June to September, are the driest in the coastal areas.
In the Amazon -since it is the largest tropical forest in the world- it is humid practically all year round. The Andes are the driest from April to November.
The high season for all countries is undoubtedly from December to February.
This is due to the holidays that occur in that period and it is also the time when many gringos and locals take their vacations.
Backpacking in the off-peak or shoulder seasons will certainly make the trip cheaper, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Best Time to Visit – Country Breakdown
Here are the best times to visit South America broken down by country.
The best months to travel: September – April
How is the weather in Brazil?
In the south, the hot and humid season of summer runs from November to March. In the north, the rainy season runs from April to August. In the Amazon, it rains practically all year round.
However, if you want to visit during the festival season, it is best from September to March.Colombia
The best months to travel November – March
How is the weather in Colombia?
In general, travelers should visit Cartagena and the Caribbean coast between November and March, when the weather is dry. In the rest of the country the weather is good all year round. Bogotá, Cali and Medellín have always pleasant weather.
Ecuador and Peru
The best months to travel March – May, September – November
What is the weather like in Ecuador and Peru?
There are many microclimates in the region of Ecuador and Peru. But there are some general trends:
- The altiplano/Andes are dry from May to September. These are the best months for hiking and visiting Machu Picchu.
- The coast is hot and dry from December to May. This is the best time for the Galapagos.
- The Amazon is always wet as shit.
- The south of Peru is much drier than the north, and than Ecuador.
You will need to plan your trip carefully based on what you want to see and do.
The best months to travel: May – October
What is the weather like in Bolivia?
The winter season (May-October) is also its dry season, and the best time to visit Bolivia.
This means that the nights can be very cold, especially when you are at a higher altitude. Although Bolivia is, in general, drier than its neighbors, it is still a country that droops in the wet season of summer.
The best months to travel March – April, October – November
What is the weather like in Chile?
Summer in Chile is generally the high season. That being said, it may not be the best time to visit.
The prices are maximum, the Atacama desert is a furnace and the winds are VERY strong in Patagonia.
As in almost all places, the summer months (October-November and March-April) are better.
Argentina and Uruguay
The best months to travel From October to April.
How is the weather in Argentina and Uruguay?
Summer in most of the country runs from December to February.
In the north, summers can be rainy and with almost unbearable temperatures. In the south and Patagonia, the summers are dry and pleasant.
Winters are obviously extremely cold in the south. While the north usually has fairly mild winters.
How to be safe in South America
In general, South America is a very safe place to backpack.
I say this despite the fact that I was robbed at gunpoint in Ecuador. I keep it.
Thefts are rare and can happen to anyone, in any country.
Sometimes people in desperate circumstances are forced to do bad things.
They see a foreigner and they see an opportunity to get some quick money that can temporarily relieve the stress of their situation. I accept it.
yes, south america can It can be dangerous, but it's not nearly as bad as the media makes it out to be. In recent years, the level of security is increasing.
To be safe, every backpacker should follow common sense backpacking safety rules.
It is also much safer for foreigners than it has been in recent decades, although political vicissitudes never seem too far away.
Due to the political situation in Venezuela right now, I would take great care of myself while backpacking there.
I hate to say it, but the situation is what it is and it is one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America.
In general, going out late, drunk and alone is a recipe for trouble, even in the safest of countries. Backpackers are mugged on remote sections of a beach or late at night in large cities.
Always take a taxi home at night, even if you are not alone.
The locals don't walk home at night, so don't think you're cool for saving 2$.
Also know the neighborhoods to avoid, especially in big cities, even during the day.
Hostel staff, shop workers or the police are good people to ask.
There's no reason to go to those areas anyway, but it's worth keeping in mind so you don't stumble into the wrong places.
You are most likely fine. If you ever find yourself in a mugging situation, give them what they want and don't resist. Your iPhone and wallet are not worth dying for, ever!
It's worth having a backpacking seatbelt for the very slim chance you'll run into any problems.
Be sure to consult our safety guides in South America
Sex, drugs and rock n' roll in South America
South Americans love to party. They start the party late and don't stop until the sun comes up.
Of course, Brazil is very famous for Carnival AKA the biggest party on the planet.
But it's a big party in most South American countries, so you'll find big parties everywhere.
The backpacker circuit is notoriously boisterous.
Traveler hubs such as Cusco, Buenos Aires, Montañita, Máncora, La Paz and Medellín are legendary for their nightlife.
It's very easy to meet people, stay up all night and probably fall in love with some sexy South American.
Plus, much of the continent is friendly to LGBTQ+ travelers.
Alcohol is freely available and freely consumed, and it is of good quality. I tell you that I have had beer in South America that exposes Germany.
South America is drug addict friendly also! Weed is legal or decriminalized for recreational use in many places; some countries are more relaxed than others.
It is best to ask the locals how it is currently handled where you are.
Cocaine is practically everywhere, especially in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
But keep in mind, It is not the material you find in your country – is much purer. One line is enough to keep you up all night.
To find drugs on the road, ask a local for help. Don't go out alone looking for drugs in strange places and don't give the cops a reason to shake you off.
ayahuasca it is also gaining popularity. But remember that it is a ceremonial spiritual medicine of the indigenous peoples.
If you want to try it, make sure you do it with a real shaman, for real reasons; It's not like acid and it's not just a mind-numbing drug.
How to get around South America
Urban bus. Local bus. Long distance bus. Night bus.
That's how it is. Buses are the cheapest way to get around South America. All the big capitals have buses that go to the most remote places in the country.
Local buses are usually super cheap. You can book online, but the bus stations are also very well organized.
Taxis are an option within cities, though they are often unnecessary.
If you opt for a taxi, always make sure to set the price beforehand and haggle with the driver without crossing the line of rudeness.
Flights between South American countries can be really expensive.
Internal flights within the country aren't the cheapest either, although they are cheaper if you buy them while within of the country (you will save money in taxes).
As a general rule of thumb, when backpacking, the cheap ride is the slow ride. Buses can be slow, but since you'll be taking a lot if you're backpacking South America long-term, you'll want to go for the cheapest option.
If you want to go Che Guevara style, you can travel by motorcycle quite easily (and cheaply) in most places in South America.
I recommend that you have some experience riding motorcycles before you think about entering a capital or a winding road in the Andes.
If you opt for the bike, you can be sure that it will be the fucking ride of your life and you will officially get the title of fucking backpacker.
Hitchhiking in South America
Hitchhiking is always an option.
Your success will depend largely on the area and the country; I would not recommend hitchhiking in a major city or at night.
Hitchhikers are not as common in countries like Colombia, mainly due to paranoia about the security situation in the country.
Not everyone here is a drug lord who wants to kidnap you for ransom. You can hitchhike all over Colombia, and it's an amazing experience!
Rural areas of South America are especially affected by high poverty rates.
Expecting people with limited means to take you for free is not morally fantastic.
That said, even if you offer the driver a few bucks, it could end up being cheaper (and more rewarding) than taking the bus.
I would never assume that the ride is initially free.
Always ask to avoid an awkward scenario where the driver who picked you up demands an unexpected fee.
This is when having basic Spanish comes into play. very practical.
FAQ and frequently asked questions for backpacking South America
Is it safe to backpack South America?
Yes, backpacking South America is safe. Just keep in mind that crime rates are higher than in other areas of the world.
But if you follow normal security procedures, there is no reason for such crime to affect you.
Be sensible, show a lot of respect to people and take care of your friends.
How are bus trips in South America?
Long-distance buses are usually top quality and comfortable. Just keep in mind that distances on the map can be misleading and journeys can be long, so pack plenty of water, food, something to keep you warm in the baltic air conditioning, and probably toilet paper too.
Is it possible to travel through South America as a woman?
Absolutely! Not only is it possible, but it is incredible. Remember that unfortunately women have to consider safety as a more important factor than men, especially at dusk. But with that in mind, get ready for the adventure of your life.
How come South Americans are so sexy?
Must it be something in the water... or in the music? Or maybe it's just how damn passionate they are. If you don't want to fall head over heels in love and completely ruin your future travel plans, don't look them in the eye for too long.
South America is enormous and the possibilities are enormous when it comes to traveling through it, in this guide to south america for backpackers I have only exposed you some of the tips and possibilities among thousands, it will be you who finally shape this exciting adventure, deciding on the fly where to go and how much time to spend in each place.
I will be delighted that you come back here to see first-hand how your adventure was.
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I am a passionate traveler with an innate desire to discover the world. To date, I have had the privilege of visiting 31 countries and most of them have left an indelible mark.
During my travels, I have gained valuable knowledge on how to travel efficiently. I have perfected itinerary planning, accommodation selection, and making the most of each experience. I am proud to share my tips and tricks with you so that you can enjoy hassle-free and unforgettable trips.
On this blog, you'll find a carefully curated selection of destinations, practical tips, and honest reviews of hotels and tourist attractions. My goal is to inspire you and provide you with useful resources so that you can plan your own adventures with confidence and peace of mind.
May travel fill you with joy and open you up to new possibilities!