A couple of months ago, I returned from a somewhat lengthy trip to South America. In 54 nights, I visited three countries – Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. In order to get some idea where my monies went, I kept a rather a detailed log of all my travel expenses.
After slicing and dicing all the data, I have decided to share my findings with all my fellow travelers - after all, many of you are probably curious as to how much does it costs to travel in South America. Now I am not talking about a 2-3 week package tour but a real journey, which I define as a trip of at least 25 or more days. My findings are rather illuminating…
When viewing the expense summary (see below), please keep in mind that I am not a backpacker nor do I consider myself a conventional luggage-toting tourist. I would probably describe myself as being a flashpacker, which is midway between the other two aforementioned traveler types. I usually travel with a large canvas bag, a small carrying bag, a dedicated camera bag and a backpack for my laptop, an I-pod, a portable sound system and some reading material.
As far as accommodations go, I usually stay in one of the better budget hotels, moderate bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels or one of the best hostels/guesthouses. Only on rare occasions do I splurge on accommodations, and in general, I dine at either at local cafes or moderately priced restaurants. No street food for me!
Total land expenses for 55 days/54 nights…..$4140 Per diem expense…..$77
Includes domestic airfare within South America
Breakdown of the land expense per country
PERU (12 nights) $1143** Per diem expense…..95.25
BOLIVIA (25 nights) $1621** Per diem expense…..64.84
ARGENTINA (25 nights) $1376** Per diem expense…..80.94
It should be noted that all touring costs were included in my land expense per country figure. Here’s a rundown of those expenses: Peru - three tours for $211; Bolivia - three tours (includes a 4 day/3 night Salar de Uyuni package) for $290 and Argentina - two tours for a measly $33.
**Domestic airfare within South America is also included in my costing figures. In Peru, I flew from Lima to Arequipa for $117, in Bolivia, I flew from La Paz to Sucre for $84.50 and in Argentina, I flew from Salta to Buenos Aires for $245**
Please note all prices are in US dollars.
You might want to see a more detailed breakdown of the land cost per country - includes average price per accommodation/per night per country (including highest and lowest prices); average cost per dinner (including highest and lowest prices) as well as a comparative cost of a small bottle of water. Very interesting, and worth a view!
After reviewing my cost breakdown, what can we conclude? Bolivia has the reputation of being the least expensive travel destination in South America and my data bears that out. Peru is considered a more affordable destination than Argentina, but my data shows that the per diem expense in Peru was somewhat more than Argentina. Keep in mind that the per diem rate for Peru was inflated by a somewhat pricey one-day tour to Isla de Ballestas/Paracas National Park ($128). Then again, Argentina might be a more affordable destination than the general perception held by most travelers.