I've asked the travel experts, and they have reported back with the top 20 cheapest destinations in South America for you to travel on a budget!
From the ice-capped mountains in Patagonia to the world's largest salt flat in Bolivia, I have collected the top cheapest places to travel to in South America.
So grab your free travel planner, equipped with budgeting guides and itinerary worksheets, and get ready to explore the most affordable countries in South America, featuring some of the best vacation spots on the entire continent!
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The cheapest destinations in South America, especially in Argentina, are hard to come by. While Argentina is often said to be one of the most expensive destinations in South America, there are plenty of affordable accommodations and activities in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia for you to enjoy and explore!
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Those looking for a mixture of culture, vibrance, and one of the cheapest destinations in South America, will find it in Buenos Aires. Some people call it the “Paris of South America” - just without the prices.
When planning your time here, I’d recommend starting with a walk through Recoleta Cemetery. If it seems odd to be spending your time in a cemetery, stick with it. Recoleta Cemetery is one of the most memorable cultural experiences you can have in Argentina.
It’s also free.
For the lively, colorful side of Buenos Aires, check out La Boca, a perfect spot for any Buenos Aires family vacation. There are plenty of shops, street food, and even some tango dancing along the cobblestone. Caminito Street is home to all the famous, colorful buildings you’ve likely seen in pictures.
When it comes to food, you’ll have plenty of options. San Telmo Market will let you taste a variety of Argentinian foods in a short amount of time. Grab some empanadas for lunch at a bakery while strolling around the city. And for dinner, the traditional Parilla is a must. If you’re a meat-lover, you have to experience the classic Argentinian steak. Parilla Peña is authentic and will set you back $10-15/pp USD – for A LOT of food.
And when you’re deciding where to rest your head, consider an Airbnb. There are plenty of apartments in the trendy Palermo area starting at just $53/night USD-- with some offering access to a rooftop pool. And if you want to go the more traditional route, try out the more affordable hotels in the area.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires: Past guests at the Unique Executive Central (from $38 a night) rave about the excellent service and proximity to all the activities in downtown Buenos Aires. Another great spot with a luxurious atmosphere is located a mere 1,800 feet from the city center is the Huinid Obelisco Hotel (from $59 a night).
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Frequently referred to as the "End of the World", Ushuaia sits on the southernmost point of South America. This remote destination in Argentina is surrounded by the picturesque Martial Mountains, allowing this small city to offer plenty of free, outdoor activities.
As one of the cheapest destinations in South America, you will get to explore some once-in-a-lifetime attractions for a low cost. Head over to the Parque Nacional del Fuego and the Beagle Channel to fully understand the scope of Ushuaia's natural beauty. The city, on its own, is a thriving South American cruise port, offering stunning streets lined with colorful restaurants, houses, bars, and accommodation options.
Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia is another affordable attraction known as the "prison at the End of the World". This Argentina National Historic Monument was once a correctional facility, however, it was converted to a landmark in 1947.
The best way to enjoy Argentina on a budget is to book your South American trip for cheap. You can find plenty of hostels overlooking the breathtaking, snowcapped mountains and chilled waters of the Beagle Channel. For more amazing activities, head out to the nearby attractions of the Falkland Islands or Martillo Islands where you can explore the world-renowned South American wildlife.
While it can be easy for your travel costs to rack up quickly when visiting Ushuaia, you will find plenty of low-cost restaurant options and more affordable excursions in the city once you arrive.
Where to stay in Ushuaia: One of the highest rated accommodations in Ushuaia is a one-bedroom apartment offering amazing birds-eye views of the city below. Check out LiveUshuaia (from $92 a night) to enjoy a massive and luxurious suite during your stay. For a slightly more rustic vibe, check out Hotel Tierra del Fuego, located only 1,000 feet from the city center.
Bolivia, as South America's cheapest country, offers plenty of opportunities to stick to a strict budget. With bargains around every corner, you will fall in love with the cheapest destinations in South America found within Bolivia's borders. The cheapest cities in Bolivia according to travel experts are Cochabamba and Uyuni. Stick around to learn about the cheapest things to do in Bolivia as one of the cheapest destinations in South America!
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Cochabamba is one of Bolivia’s cheapest cities to visit. It’s known as an off the beaten track, it’s beautiful, and it’s cheap. Cochabamba is one of South America’s most interesting and affordable big cities where you can expect to pay between 20-35 US dollars per day.
Cochabamba is placed in a valley surrounded by the mountains in Tunari National Park. It’s one of Bolivia’s largest cities, yet it doesn’t feel crowded. In fact, you rarely see any other tourists in Cochabamba, which makes it the perfect place to really experience Bolivian culture.
There are many things to do in Cochabamba, such as visiting the city square, exploring Saint Sebastian Cathedral, or hiking in Tunari National Park.
However, the most popular cheap thing to do is to take the cable car to the top of San Pedro Hill and see Cristo de la Concordia-- the second largest Jesus Christ statue in the world. From the hilltop, you get an amazing 360-degree view over the orange rooftops in Cochabamba valley and the surrounding mountains.
Cochabamba also has many great restaurants. It’s an amazing place to discover the local cheap Bolivian cuisine or soothe your cravings through the city's international food such as Italian pizza or Mexican tacos.
Cochabamba is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its comfortable spring-like climate and its high altitude of 2500 meters. This means that Cochabamba is the perfect vacation spot as one of the cheapest destinations in South America to visit all-year-round. Further, there is very little to no risk of experiencing altitude sickness here compared to other cities in Bolivia.
Where to stay in Cochabamba: If you are looking for a hotel that matches the amazing Bolivian atmosphere, check out Hotel Boutique Casamagna (from $53 a night). Another great option for those looking to cut costs is Residencial Velie & Victoria (from $26 a night) where you can relax in a double room featuring a shared bathroom.
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Uyuni, probably the most popular destination in Bolivia, lives up to its hype. The town itself is pleasant, with thousands of travelers arriving each year to enter the best getaway to the mind-blowing Salar de Uyuni - the largest salt flat in the world.
Prices in Uyuni are rather affordable (especially if you compare them to other destinations in South America)-- you can find fine accommodation for around $20 or eat out for under $10. The biggest expense is the Salar de Uyuni tour and since it's basically impossible to go to the salt flats independently, you need to accept the price. But the tour is worth every penny as Salar de Uyuni is one of the most incredible places you will ever see.
There are a few options available, from a day tour to multiday ones (those sometimes finish in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile) and the price varies depending on what you choose. You can expect to pay at least $70 for a day trip, during which you will see a few amazing places, most notably the salt flats.
You will also visit the so-called trains’ graveyard featuring rusty locomotives from the beginning of the 20th century where you can take plenty of funny pictures! There is also a meal provided during this day trip.
Visiting Uyuni's salt flats is by far one of the most memorable experiences in one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
Where to stay in Uyuni: Hotel Boutique Atipax (from $69 a night) is where you want to be if you are looking for a more luxurious accommodation option to prepare for your day trips to the neighboring salt flats. Another great option is Le Ciel d'Uyuni (from $28 a night) if you are looking to save more money! Here you will enjoy a double room with a shared bathroom.
As a whole, Brazil is one of the most affordable destinations in South America. This budget-friendly country offers numerous cities that boast affordable accommodations and cheap/free activities for everyone to enjoy! Stick around to learn about the top cities in Brazil to visit on a budget-- Paraty, Sao Luis, and Santos.
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While Brazil may not be the cheapest country on the continent, a couple of places in the country can be some of the cheapest destinations in South America. The cost of exploring a destination often depends on the kind of activities available to you.
Paraty, a popular coastal holiday spot between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, can be easily explored without breaking the budget. This is because the main attraction in Paraty is the historic town center, only explorable on foot.
You can spend hours and even days wandering the cobbled streets of the exceptionally well-preserved colonial town center that dates back to the late 17th – 19th centuries when it was a major seaport during the Brazilian Gold Rush.
One of the most unusual things about Paraty’s historic center is that on the night of the full moon, its streets get flooded at high tide, turning the picturesque town into Brazil’s answer to Venice. Back in the day, special openings were deliberately built into the seawalls that separate the city from the ocean, to allow the tide to come in and remove all the rubbish from the city streets as it retreated.
There are, of course, plenty of things to do in Paraty apart from exploring its historic center. You can take a cruise to the stunning Saco do Mamangua - the only tropical fjord on the Brazilian coastline, hike to the secluded Sono beach, or take a kayaking adventure to the tranquil islands and secluded beaches of Paraty Bay.
Where to stay in Paraty: Selina Paraty (from $54 a night) offers a remarkable bohemian vibe with a relaxing outdoor pool and comfortable suites. Another great spot is located in the Paraty Historic Center at Pousada Aconchego (from $58 a night).
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Sao Luis de Maranhao is one of the many cheapest destinations in South America, located in the Maranhao State of Brazil on an Island next to the country's Atlantic coast. The city itself is worth a visit due to the rich colonial history and unique buildings. Furthermore, it is a getaway to nearby Lencois Maranhenses National Park with its magnificent dunes.
One of the best things to do in Sao Luis is to visit the historical center. Its rich historical buildings that were preserved and renewed also belong in the list of World Heritage Sites. While you walk across the cobblestoned streets, the colorful facades decorated with so-called azulejos will give perfect photo opportunities.
Some of the most memorable buildings are the Maranhao House Museum, the Palácio dos Leões, and Casa do Tambor de Crioula, but the Historical and Art Museum is also a good option. You can easily spend a day in the center strolling around and visiting some of the museums. The entrance fees are affordable.
Another free program is to walk to the end of the pier Espigão da Ponta d'Areia, in the Sao Francisco district, north of the center. After a long day of sightseeing, you can visit one of the beaches.
Where to stay in Sao Luis: One of the most affordable hotels in Sao Luis is Soft Win Hotel Sao Luis (from $23 a night). This hotel is around 3 miles from the city center and has excellent customer service. Another option for those looking to stay beachfront is the Brisamar Hotel & SPA Sao Luis (from $60 a night). This luxurious beachfront accomodation is also only 3 miles from the city center.
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If you are planning a visit to Brazil, you need to add Santos to your itinerary. Santos is a beautiful beach town, a little less than 2 hours driving from the busy and expensive city of Sao Paulo. In Santos, you can enjoy the ocean breeze, go for a swim, or try some fresh fruit juice and local food in one of the beach bars, while you tan and enjoy the awe-inspiring views.
Santos is one of the oldest cities in Brazil with plenty of cheap or even free activities to explore as one of the cheapest destinations in South America. Start with a visit to the beautiful historic city center, then head to the largest port in Latin America for a nice walk and exploration.
One of the highlights in Santos is the largest beach garden in the world, earning a spot in the Book of Records with 5,335 meters long, full of flowers and 1,700 trees.
Some of the must-visit places in Santos are the Municipal Aquarium, the Porto Museum, and the Official Coffee Exchange; gathering in an imposing building, with panels and stained-glass windows by Benedito Calixto, cafeteria, and museum.
Another must-see spot in Santos is the Pelé Museum, featuring a four-story building that tells the history of the famous Brazilian, and of course, the story of the world soccer legend.
Where to stay in Santos: A great, luxurious option in Santos is the Sheraton Santos Hotel (from $64 a night) which features an indoor pool and is steps away from the beach. Another affordable hotel is IBIS Budget Santos Gonzaga (from $32 a night) located in downtown Santos, also fairly close to the beach.
Chile, as one of the most narrow destinations in South America, offers various affordable vacation spots perfect for all travelers. From the historic heights of the Andes to the snow-capped volcanoes in Patagonia, you will be able to explore this world-class South American country on a budget. Stick around to learn about the cheapest destinations in Chile; Chiloe Island, San Pedro de Atacama, and Valparaiso.
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Chiloe Island is one of those places where it feels as if time stood still. Located north of Patagonia, the easiest way to get to Chiloe Island is by bus and ferry from Puerto Montt, on mainland Chile.
Chiloe is an island where the local myths and legends are still alive, and people live their lives believing in them. Some of the mythological characters are depicted in statues around the main cities in Chiloe, such as Ancud or Castro.
Chiloe Island is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, with affordable accommodation in hostels and B&Bs in Andud and Castro. One fantastic place to visit in Chiloe Island is the Chiloe Island National Park, located just south of the island. There are miles of trails going through the jungle, leading right to the Pacific Ocean. You can even spend a night or two here at the on-site campsite only reachable by foot.
Another great thing to do in Chiloe Island is to visit the unique churches made by wood, earning a spot on the UNESCO Heritage list. These remarkable landmarks are found all over the island and are accessible by the area's cheap public transportation services.
When you visit Chiloe Island, don’t forget to stop at a bakery and eat a kuchen – the traditional cake brought on the island by the German immigrants. It’s interesting how over the years it has become the traditional cake of Chiloe.
It feels that time in Chiloe passes slower, allowing people to connect without any distractions such as the internet. So when you are here, try to make friends with the locals and who knows, you might get invited to a curanto chilote, a traditional supper where the food is cooked underneath the ground.
Where to stay in Chiloe Island: There is no shortage of unique and budget-friendly accommodations in Chiloe Island. Check out Cabanas Kompatzki (from $55 a night) to enjoy a one-bedroom apartment offering amazing amenities like a sauna, water spots, and free bikes. Another, more affordable spot in Chiloe is Hostal Plaza Chiloe (from $31 a night), boasting the best reviews in all of Chiloe Island.
San Pedro de Atacama
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San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert. Located in the north of Chile at an altitude of 2.400 m above sea level, your body might need a day to adjust to the lack of oxygen in the air. While Chile is one of the comparatively expensive countries of South America, there is a way of visiting San Pedro de Atacama on a low budget.
What will help you stick to your budget is renting a bike to explore. This way, you’ll have the chance to fully immerse in the nature around you and you can go at your pace. Depending on your level of fitness, you can bike to different places such as Valle de la Muerte. Just ask at the bike rental agency to see what fits you best.
The Atacama Desert is one of the best places for stargazing in the world and the starry night sky is absolutely breathtaking. So definitely don’t miss out on doing a stargazing tour. The best way to get a good price for tours is by walking around town and comparing the prices of different agencies.
They usually give you a discount if you ask for it, especially if you book several tours with the same agency or if you’re a group of people. When trying to find a budget-friendly place to eat, leave the main road and explore the side streets, that’s where you’ll find the best deals.
San Pedro de Atacama is home to Mars-like landscapes that make you feel like you’re on a different planet. It's definitely worth visiting on a trip to Chile.
Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama: An affordable option located only 2,800 feet from the city center is Hotel Casa Algarrobo (from $53 a night). This hotel features a beautiful outdoor pool to escape the heat of the day. An even cheaper spot is Hostal Sumaj Jallpa (from $44 a night), a hostel offering double rooms with shared bathrooms.
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One of the coolest towns in Chile, the port city of Valparaiso is a quirky and affordable destination for travelers who want to add a bit of color and vibrancy to their trip.
Situated on hills overlooking the coast, colorful buildings are dotted along the steep hillside, with narrow streets twisting and turning up to them. As you walk up the hill, the walls are covered in street art of varying styles and types, giving a fun, Bohemian feel to the town.
As a result, one of the best things to do in Valparaiso is the most affordable – simply wandering through the city, admiring the wide range of murals all around the town. For many visitors, the street art in Valparaiso is the highlight of their trip.
When you’ve had your fill of walking through the steep streets, take the old funicular down the hill. Costing just cents, this trip gives you amazing views of the surrounding hills. Then head down to the port to catch a glimpse of the sea.
Food is cheaper in this part of town, and walking around here can give you some insight into everyday life. If you’re here in summer and want a taste of a beach holiday, it’s a quick and cheap train ride to the resort town of Vina del Mar, with beautiful views all the way.
Where to stay in Valparaiso: One of the best places to stay in this Chilean city is Ibis Valparaiso (from $56 a night). This hotel is located only 650 feet from the city's pier and is known for its tranquil environment. An even more budget-friendly option is Maki Suites ex Hotel Da Vinci (from $22 a night) offering double rooms with private bathrooms.
With Colombia quickly becoming the highlight of many visits to South America, you could say it is the new hip vacation spot of South America. More and more people are choosing Colombia for their budget South America travel, with visits to three of the cheapest destinations in South America-- Barichara, Bogota, and Medellin.
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Barichara, a small colonial town about 8 hours northeast of Bogota, is a true hidden gem. The proximity to Chicamocha Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, makes it a great place for all extreme sports, such as canyoning, rafting, or paragliding. But this stunning town is also a place to relax and recharge while surrounded by stunning mountainous landscapes.
Barichara has luckily yet to be discovered by mainstream tourism and is the perfect destination for budget travelers who like to venture a bit further off the beaten path.
This cool, bohemian town has a good number of local art and craft galleries of local artists selling jewelry, craft, fashion, and accessories. You won’t find streets packed with touristy souvenir shops – instead everything feels just very authentic. There is also a good number of restaurants that are not expensive such as the organic and vegan Shambala.
If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, you can attend creative workshops, such as the all Female Artisanal Paper Making Workshop. You can also hike the Camino Real to the scenic mountain village of Guane where time seems to stand still.
For more adventurous souls, Chicamocha Canyon is only about an hour away, perfect for any type of adrenaline-filled activity.
Where to stay in Barichara: For a comfortable stay in one of the city's top hotels, check out Casa Betel Hotel Boutique (from $45 a night). Another, more budget-friendly option is Casona CHARA (from $28 a night), located around 2,000 feet from the city center.
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Colombia is an overall very affordable country to visit – though definitely not the cheapest one in South America. Its capital, Bogota, used to be a no-go for most travelers: huge, known for being a rather dangerous place, it was best avoided. This has thankfully changed and if you decide to visit, you will be pleasantly surprised with a city that has a lot to offer – and at unbeatable prices.
You won’t have shortages of things to do in Bogota. Start your exploration with a walk around Candelaria, the city’s prettiest colonial district: it’s a maze of cobbled alleys and low rise colorful buildings. In La Candelaria you’ll also find Museo Botero, entirely dedicated to the work of Colombia’s most prominent artist – it’s free to visit! Not far from it, Plaza Bolivar is literally the heart of Bogota, and home to its Cathedral, the Capitol Building, and the City Hall. Another museum you may want to check out is the Museo del Oro – the Gold Museum: admission is just $1 USD!
For breathtaking views of the city, head up to Cerro Montserrate. You can hike up there – but it’s best not to go by yourself. Alternatively, hop on the cable car which only costs $3.50 one way.
Bogota is also a fantastic city for street art: you can easily find the best pieces on a walk around town, but there are also guided tours (some actually free) you can take for a more structured experience.
The best area for food is probably Zona Rosa, where you’ll find lots of restaurants, but it’s not the cheapest spot in Bogota. Street food is the way to go if you are on a budget: make sure to try arepas, delicious corn patties served plain or stuffed with melted cheese.
Where to stay in Bogota: Bogota has some of the most affordable accommodation options in all of Colombia. Book your stay at Ibis Bogota Museo (from $37 a night) to stay in downtown Bogota with amazing amenities. Another option is a little further out from the city at Hilton Garden Inn (from $63 a night) which offers a superb spa experience.
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When looking for the best place to go out of the cheapest destinations in South America, it is difficult to ignore all that Colombia has to offer. Whether it be sunbathing on the Caribbean coast, whale watching on the Pacific, or exploring local gems in the coffee triangle, there are so many options.
Medellin is a great place for a vacation because it offers the perfect medium when it comes to climate and fun activities. Noted as the second most important city in Colombia, Medellin caters to many types of travelers and serves as the perfect hub for those who want to explore other parts of the country.
When looking at all the things to do in Medellin the first place you’ll want to head to is El Poblado. It is a tourist center and a place where you can find everything from Museums, coffee shops, and restaurants. From El Poblado, you can visit the Botanical Gardens which are free to enter as well as the nearby Parque Explora and the Planetarium which all can provide you with an afternoon full of educational entertainment.
While you are here, you can try some of the local food dishes such as the Bandeja Paisa which can be found on sale in most restaurants and eateries around the city. All in all, Medellin offers a great mix of things to do without breaking the bank as well as making it easy to connect to other parts of the country.
Where to stay in Medellin: The top hotel in Medellin offered at an affordable price is Hotel Dann Carlton Belfort (from $53 a night). This spectacular hotel offers a refreshing, panoramic pool for the ultimate celebrity treatment. Another great spot in Medellin is Hotel Porton (from $47 a night), with beautiful staterooms featuring warm colors and wooden furniture.
Nestled quietly between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador is often overlooked as one of the cheapest destinations in South America. While the main attraction of the Galapagos Islands may not be within your budget, traveling and backpacking around the other cheap cities in Ecuador will be just as amazing! Stick around to learn about two of the most affordable spots in South America, Cuenca and Quito.
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The charming colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador is one of the cheapest destinations in South America to visit. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca is brimming with quaint, cobbled streets, brightly colored colonial buildings, delicious, fresh fruits, and friendly locals.
There are so many things to do in Cuenca, you’ll never be at a loss. Among the most popular things to do include visiting Pumapungo Museum to see the shrunken heads, exploring the Old Town, visiting the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception with its iconic blue domes, or simply relaxing in picturesque Parque Calderon.
For breakfast, head to Cafe Fractal for a hearty meal for less than $4! Fresh fruit, eggs, pan del dia, juice, coffee, and cheese will give you plenty of energy for the day. For lunch or dinner, try the ceviche at Raymipampa.
If you’re looking for an exciting day trip from Cuenca, head to Cajas National Park, where you can get up close and personal with wild alpacas and horses. The park is free to visit, but it’s helpful to have a guide to not get lost.
Cuenca is a relatively safe city and has a large expat community, making new friendships frequent and easy to come by. There are many hostels available, but oftentimes it’s just as affordable to rent an Airbnb while staying in Cuenca-- one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
Where to stay in Cuenca: One of the top places to stay in Cuenca is also very affordable. Oro Verde Cuenca (from $60 a night) features a refreshing pool, a fitness center, and free WiFi-- what more could you need? Another great option in Cuenca is Del Parque Hotel & Suites (from $27 a night). This hotel boasts classic colonial-style decorations and furnishings that will truly bring you back in time.
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Many visitors head to Ecuador as one of the cheapest destinations in South America and a starting point for a tour of the Galapagos, but miss out on all the gems mainland Ecuador has to offer. Ecuador’s capital city of Quito has the largest and best-preserved historical center in South America but boasts more than just historic architecture – wedged between mountains and dormant volcanoes, this city has an incredible view around every corner.
There are plenty of things to do off the beaten path in Quito that are inexpensive or completely free. Make sure to check out Parque Itchimbia in the late morning or early afternoon for an incredible panoramic view over the city.
Take in the view over the city from another angle by climbing to the top of the Basilica del Voto Nacional – make sure you continue all the way up to the spire for a view of the bell towers framing the city below!
If you’re looking for a budget accommodation at one of the cheapest destinations in South America, Secret Garden is a popular spot and has a similarly incredible view from its rooftop bar and restaurant, which attracts even those that aren’t guests for a sunset drink overlooking the city. Nearby, the local market “Mercado Central” is a fantastic place to try all the favorite local dishes like encebollado, hornado, and llapingachos on a budget.
Where to stay in Quito: A great and cheap spot located only a couple miles from Quito's city center is Air Suites Hotel Boutique (from $42 a night). This hotel is located only feet from the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium and features a restaurant and bar within the property. Another affordable hotel in Quito is Hotel David (from $20 a night), located in Alameda Park.
For anyone looking for the cheapest destinations in South America, Peru is the country for you! Peru can be a very inexpensive country if you focus on Peru's cheaper cities of Lima, Colca Canyon, and Cusco. With plenty of affordable accommodation options and cheap activities in Peru, why not visit one of these cheap cities in South America?
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Lima is a cheap vacation spot in South America for those who value affordability and a lot of value for money. The city is known for its incredible cuisine, but you don’t need to break the bank to experience all that Lima has to offer.
A great way to get around Lima on a budget is to take the metro. This is a lot cheaper than taxis and will help you save money on your trip. Lima has two major free museums, the Palacio de Gobierno and the Museo de Congreso y la Inquisicion. Coming here is the perfect afternoon activity, especially if the weather is not the best.
The city’s beaches are also a great place to visit if you’re seeing Lima on a budget. Relax in the sun or explore the nearby neighborhoods.
Another great free activity in Lima to add to your itinerary is the walk along the Malecón. This breathtaking along the cliffs is the perfect way to see the city from another perspective and enjoy the amazing views.
Lima offers world-class dining options for all budgets. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a meal, stick to little restaurants on street corners where you’ll find diverse menu options and delicious local foods. You can find a meal for as little as 3$, which is the perfect way to save money in the city without sacrificing quality. You’ll love Lima and its incredible scenery.
Where to stay in Lima: A great and affordable place to stay in Lima is Hotel Boulevard (from $39 a night). Located a 10-minute walk from Parque Kennedy, this cheap accommodation is located near all the best attractions! Another cheap hotel is Faraona Grand Hotel (from $39 a night) which offers a luxurious experience complete with remodeled rooms, live piano music, and flat-screen TVs.
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The Colca Canyon in Peru is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, located around the city of Arequipa. While most people will travel to this region on an organized trip, it is very well possible to go on your own. If arranged in Arequipa, tours to the Colca Canyon aren’t that expensive, but it's easy to create your own adventure. That makes the Colca Canyon one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
The Colca Canyon has lots to offer to independent budget travelers. It is one of the world's deepest river canyons and the landscapes are spectacular. Hiking the Colca Canyon is one of the best free activities. In 2 or 3 days you can hike down to the bottom of the valley, stay in friendly homestays, and hike up again. It's a challenging hike with steep climbs up and down, but the path is easy to follow, and there is no need for a guide.
The Colca Canyon is also famous for being one of the best places to see the Andean Condor, the largest bird in the world. You can see them flying through the canyon and at the popular condor viewpoint almost right next to you. Seeing the condors in action is of course absolutely free.
The Colca Canyon is also home to several traditional villages where the local indigenous population is often seen in their colorful clothes. One can spend days in the area exploring the different towns. Most of them are connected with public transportation.
Going on your own is not only an affordable way to see the Colca Canyon, but it will also be more authentic as you can go to those places that are not visited by the tour buses. You might need some more time and planning, but you will be rewarded with spectacular sceneries and immersive cultural experiences.
Where to stay in Colca Canyon: By far the best place to stay in Colca Canyon is La Casa de Anita (from $41 a night). Guests are offered amazing amenities including an on-site restaurant, free WiFi, and flat-screen TVs. Another great spot is Andes Colca Hostal (from $28 a night) for those looking to save a little more on their vacation.
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Peru is one of South America’s most affordable destinations, and the Imperial City of Cusco is no exception. While most people use the city as the gateway to Machu Picchu, there are so many affordable and free things to do within the lovely city limits.
Cusco sits at an elevation of 11,152 feet, and most visitors choose to take it easy and adjust to the altitude for few days. While acclimating, stroll through the hip neighborhood of San Blas, and appreciate one of the city’s beautiful plazas. Visit a fascinating museum like Qorikancha or the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art, both are well worth the $4 entrance fee.
To score an authentic and local meal, head to the San Pedro Market. Order a hearty 2-course lunch menu from one of the food stalls, many of these meals are less than $1.50. Don’t be afraid of the street food, many locals sell goodies like tamales, fresh fruit, or choclo con queso (corn with cheese) for just 25¢.
Cusco has hidden Inca ruins that are scattered among the hillsides. Many of these sites are free, like Inkilltambo, which rarely sees tourists. There are also free and stellar day hikes nearby, like Cerro Picol, Cusco’s tallest peak that towers over the city at 14,500 feet.
Cusco is one of the cheapest destinations in South America, filled with cobblestone streets, colorful people, and unbelievable remnants of the mysterious and powerful Inca dynasty. Dig deep into the city and integrate as a local to truly find that Cusco is not only of the most affordable South American cities, but one that will steal your heart.
Where to stay in Cusco: It really isn't difficult to visit Cusco on a budget. Casa Real Hoteles (from $18 a night) offers comfortable accommodation at an amazing price, located right in Cusco City Center. For those looking to add a little luxury to their stay, check out Novotel Cusco (from $65 a night) located in a historic, 16th-century building 3 blocks away from Plaza de Armas.
While many would say Uruguay is the most expensive country in South America, but I would say, they just don't know where to go! Uruguay can be one of the cheapest destinations in South America if you head into the cheaper cities of Uruguay. Make sure to visit Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, two of the most affordable spots in Uruguay to travel to, as soon as you can!
Colonia del Sacramento
Recommended by Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
One of the cheapest destinations in South America is the historic town of Colonia del Sacramento, a hidden gem in Uruguay. Often overlooked for the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this colonial town was founded by the Portuguese in 1680.
You can easily visit Colonia del Sacramento as a day trip from Buenos Aires. Since it’s closer than Montevideo, you’ll save money on transportation - and have more time to explore! Once you’ve arrived, it’s time to get lost in narrow cobblestone streets, vibrant colorful buildings, and old ruins scattered throughout.
The best, and in my opinion, most beautiful, thing to do in Colonia del Sacramento is walk through Barrio Historico (Old Town). The cobblestone streets are original from when the town was built during the late 1600s. La Calle de los Suspiros is the most famous street in the town due to the vibrant buildings painted red.
The El Faro Lighthouse stands tall in the historic part of the city. It’s free to explore nearby and only $2 to go to the top. The base of the lighthouse was built in the 19th century over the old ruins, making it look a little different than traditional lighthouses.
Have your meal at one of the quaint, locally owned businesses at the Plaza de Armas located in the center of the city. Don’t miss the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento while in the plaza - it’s the oldest church in Uruguay! The charming personality of Colonia del Sacramento makes it one of the best cheapest destinations in South America.
Where to stay in Colonia del Sacramento: The hotel that stands out in Colonia del Sacramento, Real Colonia Hotel & Suites (from $64 a night), is extremely affordable and is nestled close to a beach. Another great option offering bright and spacious rooms is Posada El Viajero (from $48 a night).
Recommended by Ellie
While the entire country of Uruguay has a reputation for being expensive, Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, offers plenty of ways to save money as one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
Thankfully, this trendy South American city offers its complete collection of fascinating museums for free! With more than 50 museums, you could easily spend most of your South America vacation exploring the deep history of Uruguay.
From immersing yourself in the cowboy culture at Museo del Gaucho to discovering some of the world's most beautiful artifacts at the Intendencia's Museo de la Historia del Arte, you will truly uncover some of Montevideo's best-kept secrets.
Later, seek out a birds-eye-view of Montevideo from one of the colorful Art Deco roofs. A popular spot for this experience is Palacio Salvo on Plaza Independencia, where you will enjoy a free elevator ride to the top of the building.
As one of the cheapest destinations in South America, Uruguay is home to delicious and affordable food. For some massive portions of asado (beef), check out La Pulperia - a highly praised local eatery by the locals.
If you are looking for a hip nightlife experience, book your stay at El Viajero, nestled in Montevideo's Centro Barrio. A bunk here will only run you around $16 a night, perfect to enjoy during your adventure in one of the cheapest destinations in South America!
Where to stay in Montevideo: The Dazzler by Wyndham (from $62 a night) truly lives up to its name. This beautiful hotel features a fitness center, spa, and a refreshing outdoor pool. Another fantastic accommodation is the Palladium Business Hotel (from $39 a night) located near the new Zona Franca offering a panoramic rooftop terrace complete with a swimming pool.
13 thoughts on “20 Cheapest Destinations in South America”
I absolutely love this list. I am from Brazil, but I have to confess that I haven’t explored much in South America yet. There is so much to do, see and try, and even better, it is cheap.
I love this collab so much — thanks for putting it together! I’m so excited to get back to traveling soon, and there are a lot of places on this list I still haven’t made it to. Thanks for sharing!
What a great list! I’ve never been to South America before but I’m very inspired to do so now.
Great list! I’ve only made it to Ecuador in South America so I’m hoping I can check off a few more of these destinations post – pandemic
THIS is such a useful collaboration post. I’ve been to Peru and Ecuador and found them both very reasonable. I’m looking forward to more South American travel to stretch my travel budget.
Love all these recommendations! There is still so much of South America I still need to see. I have been to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay and love those places.
This was an incredibly informative post! I’ve never been anywhere in South America but hopefully will get a chance to when we can travel safely again. Your photos all look beautiful!
Such a great post with some fascinating destinations. Uyuni salt lands are so beautiful. Haven’t been to South America yet, but adding it now.
This is such an amazing guide! I’ve only been to Peru, but it is my goal to see more of South America within the next few years. Argentina and Chile are at the top of the list. 🙂
So many amazing places to visit in this post – I’m yet to make it to South America so there’s some awesome ideas here for my first trip!
There are so many places still to see in South America! Your article makes me want to go back….
Thanks for sharing all of those great and cheap destinations! All of them looks stunning! I wish I can explore South America soon!
It is my dream to go to South America and explore. This post is so inspirational, I love all the colourful places and I have always wanted to go to Bolivia. I didn’t know that it was the cheapest country in South America and I will be heading straight there!