Backpacking South America, my route, total cost and few tips

It took me 4 months to save money and to plan my backpacking trip around South America. Being busy earning cash for my travel, I was also occupied thinking about packing, researching visas issues, planning my route and budget. It really is not so complicated, but it was my first backpacking trip in my life, and I did not have any friends that done it before, who could help me with some tips, to share some experience. I had to heavily rely on internet info and other blog posts to prepare. Yet, I still think there is not that much information about it. Here, I will share with you some knowledge about places I have visited, how I was getting from A to B, my budget, packing and some other tips.

Planning your route 

I have to admit that I am very proud of my path. I have visited all major attractions (like Iguazu Falls, Atacama Desert, Salar de Uyuni, Machu Picchu, Titicaca Lake, Dead Road), and I stayed in really amazing places. The only thing I haven’t seen was Angels Falls, as my plane from Bogotá to Caracas, in Venezuela, got cancelled, so I decided just to skip this one. Now, I am thinking that I shouldn’t. Venezuela is truly beautiful, and you can see Amazon from there as well. Basically, I did not plan my whole way around SA back home. I did only think that I will try to visit all countries on this continent, and I set major things I want to see, then I was building my expected way around these places. I think I did well at the end, as I saw 9 countries in total. I booked my hostels/hotels only in 3 first locations, and I planed my route only in the country I started from, Brazil. Then after everything was natural, I was planning my way on weekly basis, changing my mind from time to time. Everything turned out pretty well, and I do highly recommend to fallow my way, but not staying as long in Florianopolis, Santiago and Montanita, as you can add some extra locations to your trip, in Paraguay for example, or just adding Venezuela at the end. I think 6 days is an absolute maximum to stay in one place.

Please note, that real-life vikitravel can be found in every hostel`s kitchen, since there is loads of other backpackers to share their experience and recommend great places to see. Always worth listen and talking to them!

Brazil: Sao Paulo (3 nights) – Florianopolis (8 nights) – Foz do Iguaçu (4 nights) – Paraguay: Ciudad del Este (1 day) – Argentina: Buenos Aires (6 nights) – Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento (1 day) – Argentina: Mendoza (2 nights) – Chile: Santiago (11 nights) – Valparaiso (1 day) – Vina del Mar (1 day) – San Pedro de Atacama (6 nights) – Bolivia: 3 days trip via desert from San Pedro to Uyuni – Uyuni (3 nights) – Potosi (6 nights) – Sucre (6 nights) – Cochabamba (3 nights) – La Paz (4 nights) – Copacabana (2 nights) – Peru: Puno (3 nights) – Cuzco (4 nights) – Aquas Qalientes, Machu Picchu ( 1 night) – Cuzco (2 nights) – Lima (3 nights) – Mancora (6 nights) – Ecuador: Guayaquil (1 night) – Montanita (10 nights) – Banos (4 nights) – Quito (3 nights) – Colombia: Cali (6 nights) – Bogota (7 nights).

Transport

I traveled around South America only by bus. Just once I used a ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay. There are loads of bus companies to choose from in every single country, offering different comfort (except in Bolivia) from normal to fully recline chairs with hot meals served onboard. Mostly possible to book online in advance, again, except Bolivia. Flying is very expensive and a bit pointless while backpacking. Train is an option too, especially now is getting more and more popular, but since I have not used it even once, I can not advise you on this service. I found this blog to be very useful for people who want to travel by train. For bus prices in each country you can have a look at my other post here. Regarding buses, they are very comfortable, except Bolivia (most amazing country anyway), and mostly affordable, except Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

I am afraid missing bags from the storage space under the bus are very common, thought nothing like that happened to me, other travelers, I have met, experienced it. There is nothing you can do about it, just hope that it wont happened to you. Always keep all valuable stuff in a small bag pack with you in the bus, try not to have expensive gear, clothes and shoes, not to miss it too much, just in case.

Border crossing

As a Polish nation, I do not need any visa for any country in South America. There is no fee to pay too, not even a tax (that you pay sometimes in Central America). That is for most of the European countries, even England, Germany and France. Border crossing was always nice and smooth for me, with no any hassle, trouble or any major issues. Actually, border personnel was always extra nice and very interested in me, probably due to the fact that not so many polish people travel in that part of the world. Blond hair and green eyes helped too, I guess. Just queuing for the stamp out/stamp in was annoying sometimes (especially at night). Please note that basic Spanish is essential, as they may ask where you are going to stay, or what is your occupation. It can be also a great time to eat, as there are always loads of food stands around to choose from (not between Mendoza, Argentina-Santiago, Chile). Bus driver always wait for everyone and count passengers to be sure all are in, before continuing journey, unless he doesn’t give a damn about it..nah joking, usually he does. Don`t try to smuggle anything, sniffing dogs are present at every border, and in Colombia, even on any route to stop the bus and search bags and passengers. Thought, I did not have any problems at the border, I’ve heard some stories from male travelers that were experiencing some problems, or being asked to pay a fee, that, of course, wasn’t required.

Budget

For the 4 months of traveling, excluding flying to this continent from Europe, I have spent approx 6.800$, that including everything, staying 70% of the time in hostels, rest in hotels, all the bus travel, food, trips, activities, tickets, parties, clothes, souvenirs…. Please keep checking fly4free website for cheap deals on flights to South America. I bought mine from Belgium to Sao Paulo in Brazil with return for 650$, but can get even cheaper than that. Here is my other blog post, where I look in to prices of each country with estimated daily budget.

Health insurance

Absolutely essential and one of the most important things before traveling. Can be easily purchase online, and is very affordable. You can buy it just day before your departure, and the price will be still the same. If you are not planning anything like surfing, winter-sports, just buy the cheapest one to cover medical bills. Otherwise, if you have some crazy plans, read what your insurance will cover, trust me, I am a lawyer. No point to buy an extra option for electronic losses (phones, tablets, laptops..etc), unless, of course, it is a very good and expensive policy. My friend had her staff covered, and after being theft from her expensive Nikon camera, got 35$ as of insurance for it! Medical cover is the most essential one for a backpacker. I bought mine for around 120$ for 6 months of my travel.

Safety

Just go. Safety is your last thing to worry about before backpacking. People are mostly travel alone now anyway, especially in South America. It is a very safe place, even for solo females, like myself. Just be intelligent and don’t act stupidly (walking alone at night, going out with strangers….etc).

Apps

Maps.me is the most important application. Please don’t take a fancy phone with you, unless you can afford losing it, but good smart phone that runs this app smoothly is essential. Old samsung s series are probably the best. I say it, as I was robbed in Chile, losing my camera, tablet and good glasses, so I experienced it myself. Coming back to maps.me, it is an application that allows you to store and later use maps without wifi. You will be even able to use navigation that will show you your location and directions (no wifi needed, as it runs on GPS). I have to say, I was impresses, as GPS was working for me even high in Bolivian mountains, just almost everywhere, and always in cities and town. Apart from street names, there are almost all hostels, hotels, shops, places of interest, all public offices (post office, police, etc). You gonna use it a lot, like I did. App is free of charge.

Other app I used was booking.com, but please note, booking in advance is more expensive than just good old way of turning at the hostel doors and checking in.

Flickr app is great too. It upload all your photos from your phone automatically (once connected to the internet, just turning the app on), so you are avoiding losing them with your phone. Free app again, but just need to create an account (that is free too).

Kindle/ebook/app to read ebooks is essential for every book lover, like myself.

Packing

Hmm, it is a very good question. I can just give you a few tips, I found to be useful during all my backpacking trips:

  • Less is more! First and most important. Do not take much with you, take half what you are planning in the first place. Clothes are very cheap in South America, especially in Bolivia and Colombia, and by buying them you are getting an amazing souvenir too. Something special in your wardrobe, trust me. I had an umbrella, but haven’t used it even once, so pointless to take. Shoes: funny story, as planning loads of hiking, especially in Bolivia and Peru, I bought and took very expensive Timberlands – throw them to the bin already in Brazil and was just wearing converse (for all my hiking, at the beach, on snow, salt, swamps, deserts….). 2 pairs are max to take.
  • Good light waterproof jacket and cover for backpack is a must. Here, I really love The North Face jackets, they just wont let you get wet!!
  • For girls: hairdryer is not needed, but you may want to use it in Bolivia sometimes, as of a cold temperature. Still, not worth taking it with you, there are always females around to borrow one, if needed.
  • Nova-days, we just can’t live without our smartphones, so it is very important to have an extension for the socket, as in many hostels they are far away from your bed.
  • Don`t try to save money buying a cheap backpack. It is one of the most important things and your home for next months. It will be on your back for many many hours, so very good, comfortable straps are essential. It really needs to be a top quality one. I bought a cheap one, had to sewn it many times, and I’ve had wounds on my shoulders from a very bad straps. Trust me, hurt a lot! Before my next backpacking trip I bought a good one and that made a big difference.
  • Apart from the shoes, I binned quickly, Lonely Planet book on South America got left in my third hotel, simply because I didn’t want to carry such a heavy guide-book, since everything I needed was online. Maybe for people staying in tents, when internet connection is not always available, might be helpful, but otherwise you will be just fine with your smart phone.

Injections

It is wildly required (according to an official info) to have a yellow fever injection and a proof of it! There are 5 more you may want to take. I did all of them, and I’ve had a little book to prove my yellow fever one. I read that you wont be able to enter without it (YF). However, in reality nobody checked it at the border…nobody, even once. But better to take them, just in case and for the peace of your mind.

Last tips

  • Please, wherever you are flying to, don`t stay just one night in your first location. Your body needs to rest after a long fly and adapt to the new climate. It took me 4 days when I landed in Brazil in November from a cold Europe.
  •  I`ve had 50 Euros always in my purse, just in case. Cash machine is not always available. US Dollars are good too.
  • When it comes to thieving and robberies, South America is a leader. Please, always keep an eye on your valuables. Do not keep your backpack behind, always on one arm on the side or on your chest. I was also tightening straps from the zip together.
  • Don`t drink a tab water anywhere, unless it’s confirmed by staff in hotel/hostel or by sigh close to the tap.
  • Planning to buy outstanding sweater, cardigan? Leave it for Bolivia and Peru! Best quality (especially alpaca`s wool) and price.
  • Try to, if possible, have two different types of your cards. I`ve had a Visa and MasterCard, and I found that sometime just first one worked, sometimes second. My MasterCard (credit card) was definitely more acceptable. 
  • Your passport and your wallet is your main priority! Never leave it alone, even in a locker in hostel! You don`t even realize how easy is to open it for professional. I got robbed this way in Santiago, in Chile.
  • Before departure, I gave my mother copy of my passport, insurance, injections I took, all pin numbers and account details, just in case and for peace of my mind. Please do so as well, leave it with someone you trust and memorize phone number, you newer know what might happen.
  • Take 2 types (thin and thick) of padlock. Some lockers got a thin holes (to use smaller one). Don`t worry if you will forget, they are widely available to purchase almost everywhere, along with socket extensions and adapters.
  • Do not panic if there is an error in a cash machine, it may not be your card, but machine might be just empty. It really is a common problem. I remember, in Buenos Aires, I’ve had to try 6 of them, before finding one with money in it.
  • As a budget backpacker, always check general prices in each country. You can have a look here too. A very expensive trip on Amazon trough a rain forest from Brazil might be very cheap from Bolivia, Colombia or Venezuela.

Extra shot of adrenaline at the Dead Road in Bolivia

Name “Dead Road” definitely does not come in a first place to any mind as a casual attraction. Originally named Yungas Road became well-known as a silent killer of thousands. Famous for being most dangerous road in the world that contributed to many deaths of drivers in the past and some cyclists in recent years. All as a result of how and where the road has been constructed. A combination of a single track road, 900m high cliffs, rainy weather, limited visibility, rockfalls, waterfalls and lack of guardrails participated in all death. Luckily, and finally, Yungas road was modernised to include two driving lanes, asphalt pavement, drainage systems and guardrails. New road has been opened in 2009, as an alternative of a must choice, replacing the dangerous 64 km stretch. All traffic being diverted to the new road. I am really glad motorists can now travel from La Paz to Coroico without fearing the journey may be their last. New road, apart from the fact that has already saved hundreds of life, left Bolivia also with one of the coolest, adrenaline giving and very adventurous tourist attraction in this country. People from all around the world visit this part of Bolivia to cycle down trough the original way. I did too.ddfdfdfd

Some statistics to give you the idea

“200 to 300 estimated death drivers yearly along Yungas Road and as late as 1994 there were cars falling over the edge at a rate of one every two weeks.”

“One of Bolivia’s most tragic road accidents happened on July 24th 1983 when an overcrowded bus veered off the side of the road and into a canyon killing more than 100 passengers.”

“Even with these improved conditions, Yungas Road shows no mercy. Nowadays, the death toll is limited to local workers and daredevil backpackers still using the infamous road. It is believed that more than 22 cyclists have lost their lives on Bolivia’s “Death Road” since 1998.”20160202_101011

To do or not to do

The answer for me is definitely YES TO DO. I wasn’t thinking even for a minute whether I should do it or not. It was definitely one of the coolest thing I did in South America. However, it really is not for everyone. Most agencies will not be very honest with you, as they just want loads of people to sign for it for the profit. There is no limit of age, fitness etc, but since I have done it, I can set some average requirements. Here they are:

  • Dead Road is suitable from very confident cyclists to, of course, experts. A bit higher than average fitness and above. In particular for everyone above 16, but mostly done by younger group of people, usually at the age gap of 20-30. I did have two people at the age of 50-60 in my group. They both were fit and did well. Having said that, our group was one of the fastest, starting last, finishing first, so I am sure it can be done by not perfectly fit people, but maybe get some advice on best company to go with, if that’s the case for you.
  • Most of the road is very stony and dusty. The whole road is 64 km long, and, thought, you mostly going downhill, you have to be a confident cyclist with some experience to keep up with the group.
  • You have to be very very careful, you need a perfect eyesight. The whole road is mostly thin and going via many waterfalls. Mentioning good eyesight meant to warn you that at the beginning road is extremely foggy, and it is difficult to navigate. Waterfalls are very tricky, as the group do not stop to pass them, you will go trough them at your max speed.20160202_122240
  • Keep in your mind that it is pretty much “fast and furious” activity. You do not have a choice, but just go at max speed, well…at least my group was fast. So think twice if you want to do this. Trust me, I felt on my head, destroying the helmet, having an open wound on my left elbow, that got swollen as well. Yet, I still had 30 kilometers to go….gosh that was painful. Another guy broke his leg too.
  • Cycling will last 5 hours, at high performance. Road is approximate downhill: 90% (one section contains a few small uphills). You have to be ready for sore hands.
  • The drop in altitude means travelers experience both chilly conditions in the Altiplano highlands and hot humid conditions in the rain-forests below. Your body needs to be ready for it. Highly not recommended for people, that already feeling light-headed at the high of 2000m.

Once the answer is yes

  • Even that you will be provided with food and water, take an extra bottle with you. You will start in very cold environment, but once half way trough, you will be surrounded by tropical hot weather, and that`s the time when your body will need some extra hydration, so you will drink loads at the end.
  • Take a good waterproof jacket, as is usually raining near the top.
  • As the temperature will be going up, proportionally to the distance cycled downhill, have something under to wear after, preferably with long sleeve, unless you will be provided with elbow protection.20160202_094517
  • Take maybe old cloths. I thrown away my shoes after.
  • Have some wet tissues, your face will be constantly covered with mud.
  • Lucky you if you own GoPro, you can record the whole way by attaching your camera to the bike or helmet. Few of my group-mated done it.
  • Do not book you trip if you just landed in La Paz. You body needs few day to adapt to the altitude. Yungas Road climbs to around 4,650 meters, from where you will start.
  • Check the weather for the next day. No worries, you can book a trip just one day before, even before 17.00 pm. The bottom line is not to rain that day!
  • Have a phone in your pocket. Thought you will have just quick breaks, you will have few chances to take some photos of this absolutely outstanding landscape and scenery.
  • Remember! 21 cyclists and 5 guides have died since the road had been opened for mountain bike trips. It might not be the most dangerous road in the world anymore, but it is still the Death Road. Don`t be to cocky on the road.
  • Most likely your agency will not cover the entrance fee for riding a bike. it is 50 Bs now – 25 Bs at the start and 25 Bs at the end of the road.
  • You really should be covered with medical insurance for this!20160202_122003

Prices and booking

Dead Road is usually done from La Paz, the city in Bolivia. There are loads of agencies to provide you with their service, especially around city center area. Every single hostel and most hotels can book you in too. It really isn’t a problem to buy this trip. It is relatively cheap. Prices depend on agency and mostly the kind of the bike, you will be provided with. It will be between 50-100$, as of 2016. I rented the worst bike, and I think being cheap about the bicycle is not the best idea. Get a double suspension one and from a good agency. Never go with Luna Tours agency (see photos above to recognise uniform and logo). I went with them and was promised to be provided with photos and movies of us while cycling. They did film a lot, took loads of photos, and at the end agency provided us with CDs where all media suppose to be. After few moths, when I came back home exited to show movies to my sister and her kids (to show how cool is their aunt), I discovered that there is no photos or movies of us!!!  Just old movies to promote agency. I was extremely disappointed and angry, I have only few photos from my phone. DSC_0830.jpg

Brief overlook of the day trip to do the Dead Road

  • My meeting point was at the cafe in La Paz at 7.00 am where we had a breakfast, and we briefly discussed the plan for the next 10 hours. Please note that some agencies can pick you from the hotel.fdf.jpg
  • At 8.00 am our bikes got uploaded to the top of the van, we sat in, and we went off from La Paz, which is at a height of 3,600 meters (11,810 feet), to the foot of the Andes Mountains towards the summit, which was at 4,700 m.
  • Approx at 10.00 am we arrived at the starting point of La Cumbre Pass. We then proceed to get the specialized equipment for each of us. The guides make recognition of our teams. We were also explained of all the rules at the road, how to sign with your hand, and what our schedule will be.
  • We were fitted into our gear that was: a jacket, pants with knee pads to put under, gloves, and a full-face helmet. Then we tested our mountain bikes: breaks and sit high. Our guide rechecked all again to make sure all is safe, and we went off.
  • Starting the adventure at around 11.00 am.
  • First 20 kilometers is via new asphalt road to Coroico. Actual Dead Road will start after that length. In this bit we can get used to the bikes and enjoy the road before difficult part.
  • Quick break for a snack before getting in to actual Yungas Road.
  • Dirt road begins at a height of 2,700 meters (2,953 feet) above sea level. In the beginning of the Bolivian jungle. Exactly where the paved road ends begins the most dangerous road in the world.
  • Keep cycling through rivers, waterfalls, along with the wide variety of beautiful flora and fauna with few breaks to keep the team together.
  • At 15.00 finishing and arriving at the bridge, congratulating each other. At the end of the road, you will get a well deserved beer or coke and a t-shirt. I picked coke…hmmm, I must have being still in shock after my fall :D.
  • After a little rest heading off for a well deserved dinner with swimming pool on the side and showers to refresh.
  • At approx 16.30-17.00 heading back to La Paz, arriving at around 18.30-19.00.

Funny things we have learned from backpacking

  • It really is possible to wash all your underwear everyday even for six months.
  • Hostel kitchen is better than tripadvisor.
  • You are happy changing location so quickly, so people don’t see that you wear same clothes ever so often.
  • Nobody likes upper bed on a bunk-bed.
  • Poorer you get, better chef you become.
  • Calling you a tourist is like the worst curse.
  • You drink and smoke too much.
  • Your brain switched to “cheaper food taste better”.
  • Your sense of smell is not so sharp anymore.
  • You felt in love with hammocks and suddenly it is your favorite furniture.
  • You are planning a second trip, before finishing the first one.
  • You haven`t had that many bruises since childhood.
  • You don’t mind chickens in the bus for 8 hours.
  • You have a high tolerance to the noise.
  • Your style is called “comfortable”.
  • It is a leisure to change your socks everyday.
  • Your not the only one on limited daily budget.
  • You can make a friend in 5 minutes, you can lose a friend in 3.
  • Available TV is like top pleasure, doesn’t matter you don`t understand the language.
  • WiFi is more often available than hot water.
  • People actually like you.
  • You love locals with all your heart, but you still have to guard your back pack like everyone is a potential theft.
  • Police is cool.
  • You will walk 10 kilometers to the hostel, but never skip a party.
  • Beer is good only in Europe.
  • Your not as good in negotiation as you thought you are.
  • You rarely may tip, but not as much.
  • You think you are so important, because you leave a feedback on booking.com.
  • You know there is a female in your room, because she dries her panties on the side of the bed, like you (female) do.
  • You know there is a male in your room, because he doesn’t dry his underwear on the side of the bed like you (female) do.
  • You prefer to go out in the evening, than eat the next day.
  • Every breakfast equal toast.
  • You think you are cooler than any tourist.

Titicaca Lake, Copacabana vs Puno

  Holding the title of the highest navigable lake on the planet, as well as on my list of the most beautiful water basins in the world, tucked away high in the Andes between snow-covered peaks, Lake Titicaca is one of the most popular places to see in South America. Known for its unique panorama during the day and the night time, crystal-clear air and water, combine with mountain range around. Believed to be the birthplace of the first Incas, along with the sun, moon and stars, when creator came out of the lake.

  The main two bases to explore Lake Titicaca (and other sites in the region) are Puno, in Peru, and Copacabana in Bolivia. I did visit these two mentioned towns, and I stayed a minimum of two nights in each, which gave me some time to look around and discover them. If you’re backpacking and having loads of time, you can stop in both to see the Bolivian and Peruvian side of Titicaca, as they are very different. However, if you’re rushing a bit, I would definitely suggest staying just in Copacabana in Bolivia. Why? Well, for few reasons really. From there, most tour operators run a day trips to the Isla del Sol, with a quick stop at the Isla de la Luna. Bolivian town is way smaller and cutter. Very touristic too, which I don’t always like, but can be handy when it comes to accommodation and organized trips. Lake is looking really amazing (way better) from this side as well, you can hike some mountains around to spot the stunning panorama of the pool and surrounded areas. In Puno the lake side can`t be really accessible properly, there is no beach to sit and enjoy, and there’s not so many hills from where you can get a good grip of Titicaca. Having said all that, I loved Puno for its truly Peruvian vibe. There is loads of street food stands around, loads of mercados to grab a very tasty local meal, stand with fresh fruits, vegetables, colorful ladies with coca leafs…everything really. 

This can not be found in Copacabana, I was really struggling there to find a proper local food, and once I even ended up ordering a pizza. Not so cool. However, It’s just a food, and I think exploring the lake is the reason we are there in the first place, so again, that points us towards Copacabana over Puno. There is also loads of hotels by the lake (I was lucky to be in one), when in Puno you can hardly find any so close to the water. So I think we have a winner at the end-Copacabana. However, again on another side, Puno hold a very strong argument of having a famous Floating Islands, a must see while there. Yet, I think the trip can be booked from Copacabana too. The other reason (to cheer you up really, if you cant do both) to stay at just one place is the fact that any route you will take to get there, you will be able to have another good look at the lake, as streets are usually around the lake. If you will come from  La Paz, like myself, to Copacabana, you will even cross Titicaca on the boat.

Verdict:

Just for the lake and islands Copacabana is a winner, but if you want to feel the true vibe, less touristic place, traditional food and real life more than lake, then Puno is definitely for you! 

Either way you will choose, the bottom line is not to skip this place. Trust me, Titicaca will stay in your heart forever.

South America in numbers-cost of accommodation, transport and food

 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. ffffdd 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.


Argentina

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, buses 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.


Bolivia

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 (but 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 minivan      (La Paz).

    Taxi: 1.43$ for 1 km, as official info, but it can be way cheaper!

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.


Brazil

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).

Transport:

    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.


Chile

Overlook: A bit more expensive then Brazil, cheaper than Argentina. Capital Santiago a bit expensive. Buses and restaurants are pricey, 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 90$ 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$) and can be found very often. There is a big, main mercado, where you can eat a big main meal for 5-6$ in Santiago.

Daily budget: Starts from 20-25$, and can be done for 20$ only when cooking by itself.


Colombia

Overlook: One of the cheapest countries.

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.


Ecuador

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, but need to be found in less posh streets. Rice, meat, salad with drink can be found for 3-4$.

Daily budget: Can start from 20$ a day.


Paraguay

Overlook: Very cheap, the cheapest next to Bolivia when it comes to food, transport and accommodation.

Accommodation: Hostels starts at 5$, hotels at 8$.

Transport:

      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$.


Peru

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 along 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).

Transport:

     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$, but can be done even from 15$.


Uruguay

Overlook: Expensive, just a little bit cheaper than Argentina, thought the size helps to explore it better.

Accommodation: Hostels starts at 12$, hotels at 16$.

Transport:

     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 similarly to Argentina.


Bolivia in one finger

  Bolivia is, and probably always will be, one of the most diverse, colorful and simply amazing places I have ever visited. I felt in love with the landscape, people and atmosphere as soon as I crossed the border on the desert between Chile and Bolivia. It was one of the nine countries, I have visited during my six months backpacking trip through South America. Even planning this trip at home, I already knew that Bolivia will be my favorite destination. The one, I will remember forever. And it happened to be one indeed. In this section, I will briefly write you about my experience, but my main goal is to give you an overall look at prices, transport and food in this absolutely stunning country.

  Probably the hardest thing to deal with in Bolivia, and pretty much in every Latin country, is zero to minimum English-speaking people around. I have to admit that it was difficult at times with my limited Spanish. You really have to learn basics to travel there around, otherwise you may miss or lose on loads of things. Thought, in most hotels or hostels receptionists speak English, it’s not always guaranteed, and remember that they are not going to be with you everywhere anyway. But here’s something to cheer you up. Bolivia is one of the cheapest places in South America, I think only Paraguay is cheaper, so enjoy! That can also be handy in taking Spanish classes there. Sucre, capital, is most popular for it, with prices starting at just under a 5$ for a day long course. Apart from study, once there, if you need a new clothes, buy them. That’s the best place to stock up on anything you need. Don’t also waste your time in the hostel’s kitchen to cook. You can get an amazing main meal for just 1-1.5$ that comes usually with drink and sometimes even with a soup. Trips are very affordable, even that I prefer always to do everything on my own, I bought few, and I was very pleased with them. Plus, I have met other travelers too, while doing so. Prices depends on season, agency and your negotiation skills, but let’s say one day trip to the jungle can cost around 20$, including all meals, transport and guide. Ha, almost forgot to mention how important negotiations are. Try to do it if possible, especially while dealing with travel agents. You can always get a discount. I never done it while buying food or meals, simply as It was cheap already. I was even paying more, just as I felt that they deserved a little bit extra from us, tourists. But hey, do what you want!

  Transport.  When it comes to transport you wallet is happy, but your back not so. Buses are very cheap, but that reflects on the comfort you are getting. There is not much choice around too. Well, loads of companies, but with the same standard buses (as of Feb 2016), so there is no need to look around too much, check just few to get the cheapest price (they don’t differ that much neither) and buy a ticket. Average bus ride for 8h will cost you no more than 11-12$. 80% of the bused do not have a toilet, or there is one, but permanently closed to the public view. Don’t panic. Bus driver will be stopping very often next to the toilets, restaurants and shops, so you will be able to stuck up on food or use a loo. Your intake and outtake will be well taken care of on the road. You don’t even have to go to the shop really, there will be loads of colorful ladies popping in to the bus to sell all kind of food and drinks. From hot meat, corns (my fav, miss them with all my heart), vegetarian or meaty delicious pastry, to nuts, all kind of fruits and sweets. Try saltena, they are all homemade and extremely delicious!!! Anyway, even that I mentioned how uncomfortable buses can be, with minimum recline chairs and no toilet in, there will be nothing more amazing and beautiful than what you will see through the window on the road. Landscape is just breath-taking. You think you are getting from A to B, but what you’re really doing is having an amazing cheap trip thought the Andes, valleys and jungle.

  Now few worlds about city transport. Don’t hesitate to take a taxi if you need one. It’s very very cheap, but always remember to agree on the price before getting in. I am not saying they will try to cheat on you, as I found Bolivians more than fair, but just in case. For example 5km will cost you around 3$. Buses and minibuses are way cheaper…surprise, surprise ;). It is very difficult to get your head around, but once you will master that, just go for it! See yourself the real Bolivian transport system, extremely dodgy buses full of amazing people. For example, in La Paz you will be shock how buses do run, but they always have a destination shown on the front window, and they do go to the main “backpacker interest” places, so chill out. From minibus you can get off where you want, and get in where you want, just wave your hand or tell the driver to stop. They will cost you around 0.20$.

 Hostels and hotels are very cheap too. Usually I was paying max 8$ per night. In one of the best Hotels, with balcony and view on Titicaca lake in Copacabana, I paid 35$ (oh well, I need that from time to time), so you can see that good ones are affordable too. There are loads of places to stay around, and I mean it! It is like a backpacker`s dream land, so you will not look for too long to find a place you like. Bolivia is elevated, so the temperature range tend to be as the lowest in South America. That’s why in most hostels you will get a hot water, so enjoy till last, as in other countries that’s like a rare pleasure.

  At the beginning of my trip (in Brazil, Argentina and Chile), I was using a booking.com, but I quickly discovered that I am just paying more, as of booking.com fesses, so do look yourself or look online and then just go to your accommodation. There is hardly any hotel, hostel that is fully booked. As I mention before, it`s loads of them, especially in the city canter area and near all bus stations, so you won’t end up walking with your backpack for too long.

  Maps.me. Please do get a maps.me app. It saved my life many many times. You can use maps with no internet connection, and even, as because it uses a GPS, it will show you your location in most of the places. Plus, it has hostels, shops and all places of interest on it, which make it easier to find your way around.

  Food in Bolivia is like a dream. I loved it a lot. I guess, I still do, but it’s not a culinary side, so I will spare you writing much about it. However, it’s cheap, homemade, delicious and it’s available on every corner. Always go to the big markets (Mercados) to eat. Everything is there, and usually (at least in every place I visited so far) is divided in sections for stands selling fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, cosmetics, and then there is that amazing food area, I am talking about. Oh, public toilets are there too. Well, to be honest, they are very dirty, smelly and not nice in general, but please don’t act with your nose up. It is a third world country. People live in this condition and often don’t have a choice. Think how lucky and fortunate you are. Use it, pay and leave. Anyway, coming back to my favorite topic, please do visit mercados and try the food there. Its traditional and made in front of you.

As I wrote above, the average price for the main meal and drink is 1.5$. Though, it’s not much of vegetarian range there, you can find something anyway. Otherwise you can have a delicious meat (chicken, beef) with salad and rice or potatoes. Pasta is very popular too. Dishes differ from very mild to very spicy. The most amazing thing is that you will eat with locals. They are all very nice, and they will always talk to you. I really would like to highlight places like that, as usually I was the only traveler there, and that gave me the chance to truly experience a daily life in Bolivia and atmosphere. Don’t be scared and don’t listen about food poisoning, upset tummy etc. For the whole 6 months (and trust me, I ate the cheapest street food, sometimes even sitting on my bum on the street..see pic under), and I’ve never ever experience anything like that!! Be brave and don’t act posh, but if you are like that, then Bolivia is definitely not for you!!

 Girls, now you can relax, finally. There will be non to minimum harassment from Latinos in Bolivia towards you. It’s very interesting about that place, and I still don’t understand why. People are very distant there, not pushy at all, but nice when it comes to interaction. I think Nicaragua and Salvador are on the top of the list, when sometimes I was wishing I could just give them a good old face palm. So, enjoy it and walk around without unwanted attention. At the same time, I felt like Bolivia is the safest place too.