Backpacking, as a new way of life for loads of us, or just as an episode, always requires loads of planning ahead. It is probably the fastest growing way of traveling nowadays, especially for young people. Costing, creating your trail and allocating the amount of time, you are planning to spend in each place, is something every traveler came across. I know it from autopsy, especially from my 6 months trip in South America. Budget was as important to me as a discovery of every possible amazing place in this colorful continent. It is not easy to find this balance, but well possible. I, myself, spend more time in Bolivia and less in Argentina, to keep my finances in place. Luckily, Bolivia became as the highlight of my journey, and I found Argentina least attractive. Mathematics and rational thinking is laughing at as at this point, as of the fact that longer you are planning to travel, the cheaper it will get. I did my backpacking in 2015-2016, but I have rechecked the recent, as of May 2017, prices, to provide you with a very current information on Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. So where do we stand with the cost? Lets have a look.
Overlook: Most expensive in South America and expensive in general. Difficult to fully explore and enjoy for a budget backpacker, but possible to survive.
Accommodation: Not as expensive as food and transport. Hostels starts from just 7$, hotels from 14$.
Transport: Extremely expensive as of South American pricing.
Buses: Thought, the distances in Argentina are great, and you know you will need usually 10-20h to get from A to B, they are still way more expensive than expected. If you are brave, try to hitchhiking. Otherwise expect to pay around 100$ for a 10-12h of a journey. I paid around 180$ for a fully recline chair from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires, and it took 22 hours.
Public: 0.40$ in Buenos Aires for a single ride. Please note that you need to buy a Sube Card, or you can pay to someone to swipe you in.
Taxi: Since there is one official tariff, you are not going to be charged more. Relatively cheap at 0.92$ for 1 km.
Food: Hot-dog and burger stands are on every corner in Buenos Aires, and usually cost 3$, but meal in restaurant is for 15-20$.
Daily budget: You can easily make it at 35$ a day, but this does not include traveling between cities, going and eating out.
Overlook: One of the cheapest countries in South America. Please do enjoy, buy organized trips, eat only out, stock up on anything you need (clothes, backpack, etc).
Accommodation: Hostels start at 4-5$, hotels at 8$.
Transport: Very cheap, especially between cities (dodgy buses with no toilet), very cheap to travel around the city too.
Buses: Depending on the comfort, 1-3$ for 1h of journey.
Public: 0.15$ for micro bus for single journey, 0.40 $ for single ride in a van (La Paz).
Taxi: 1.43$ for 1 km.
Food: Main meal in the market (with drink) cost 1-2$. Soup 0.50$.
Daily budget: Possible to make it with just 15$ a day.
Overlook: Not cheap, not expensive either. Buses tend to be pricey, but accommodation and food are affordable.
Accommodation: Hostels starts at 5$, hotels at 12$ (Sao Paulo).
Buses: 40-50$ as the cheapest sit for 11h of journey (Catarinense company).
Public: 1$ for single journey by metro, 0.74-1.10$ for the bus (Sao Paulo).
Taxi: 0.82$ for 1 km (Sao Paulo).
Food: Kilo shops are the cheapest, it is a buffet style restaurant where you dish the food yourself, and you pay for the weight of it. Approx 7-8$ for 1 kg.
Daily budget: Can start from 20-25$ a day.
Overlook: A bit more expensive then Brazil, cheaper than Argentina. Buses and restaurants are expensive, accommodation is not so cheap as well.
Accommodation: Hostels start at 9$, hotels at 25$.
Transport: Relatively expensive.
Buses: Expensive, but you can save by buying in advance (around 20% cheaper). Around 100$ for 22h of journey (Santiago to San Pedro).
Public: You have to buy a Bip card that cost 2.24$. Micros always cost 1$ per trip, and the metro ranges from 0.90$ to 1.05$, depending on the time. If you ride the bus then transfer to the metro within 60 minutes, you will just be charged the difference in fare.
Taxi: 0.97$ for 1km. Please note that its normal to cheat on tourists. I did not watch the tariff, and I paid 35$ for 5 km!!!
Food: Expensive to eat out in a restaurant in Santiago, easily 15$ for a lunch for one person. Fast foods and food stands (hot-dogs, empanadas, churrascos, chips, burgers, pizza slices) are cheaper (2-5$) and can be found very often. There is a big, main mercado, where you can eat for 5-6$ in Santiago.
Daily budget: Starts from 20-25$, and can be done for 20 $ only when cooking by itself.
Overlook: One of the cheapest country.
Accommodation: Hostels starts at 5-6$, hotels at 10$.
Transport: Public, taxis and domestic transport is very cheap.
Buses: 11h of journey starts at 25$ (Cali-Bogota).
Public: 0.49$ for single journey.
Taxi: 1.54$ for 1km. Please use only licensed taxis, ideally recommend by hotel
Food: Very cheap to eat out. Rice, beans and meat can be found at 1.5$.
Daily budget: You can survive at 15$ a day.
Overlook: Vary from very cheap (in less touristic places) to more expensive (Montanita, Banos).
Accommodation: Hostels starts at 5$, hotels at 10$ (Quito). Hostels starts at 10$, hotels from 25 in very touristic Montanita.
Transport: Cheap in general.
Buses: 1-1.5$ for an hour of journey.
Public: 0.25$ for single ride (Quito).
Taxi: 0.40$ for 1km (Quito)
Food: Loads of very cheap places to eat. Rice, meat, salad with drink can be found for 3-4$.
Daily budget: Can start from 20$ a day.
Overlook: Very cheap, the cheapest next to Bolivia when it comes to food, transport and accommodation.
Accommodation: Hostels starts at 5$, hotels at 8$.
Buses: starts at 1$ for 1h of journey.
Public: 0.40-0.60$ for a single ride (Asunción).
Taxi: 0.94$ for 1 km (Asunción)
Food: Very cheap, if not the cheapest in South America. Main meal can be found from 1.5$ in mercado area.
Daily budget: 20$ a day, but can be done from 15$.
Overlook: Peru is very affordable, just a little bit more expensive than Bolivia, cheaper than Ecuador. Cusco, from where you can do Machu Picchu, is most expensive with Miraflores area in Lima.
Accommodation: Hostels start at 6$, hotels at 8$ (hotels at this price are in a very dodgy areas in Lima).
Buses: Can be found at very affordable price or for twice more for the same standard bus, so it is good to do some research. Starts from only 35$ from Lima to Mancora (18h of journey). Here I have to recommend a Civa bus company as of a cheap price and very good comfort.
Public: Starts at 0.15$ for single ride (Lima).
Taxi: 1.52$ for 1 km (Lima)
Food: Very cheap. In mercados possible to find a main meal for 1.5$.
Daily budget: Same as Bolivia and Paraguay starts at 20$, but can be done even from 15$.
Overlook: Expensive, just a little bit cheaper than Argentina, thought the size helps to explore it better.
Accommodation: Hostels starts at 12$, hotels at 16$.
Buses: Around 7$ for 2h of journey.
Public: 1.10$ for a single ticket (Montevideo).
Taxi: 0.74$ for 1 km (Montevideo).
Food: Very expensive to eat out, especially in the evening in the restaurant. Lunches starts at 8-10$, but as the cheapest one in a dodgy place.
Daily budget: Can start from 35$, very similar to Argentina.