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How much money do I need to travel to South America?

4th February 2020

South America is a big place. With 13 countries and 14 currencies in circulation, you'd be forgiven for scratching your head when it comes to planning your holiday itinerary, let alone your travel budget. 

Of course, you want an overall budget for the whole trip, but how do you calculate that when each country has different costs and levels of expense relative to others? With the Travel Money Oz holiday budget calculator, of course! Our clever robots combine Numbeo data with daily exchange rates to give you the most accurate idea of how much you'll be spending in each South American country. 

Before we dive into the numbers, let's first check out what is included in a South American holiday budget. 

How to plan a trip to South America with a budget?

First up, you need to figure out what you need to budget for.

To work out your rough costs, you'll need to know:

  • Where you're going – for flight costs.
  • How long you'll be away – for nightly accommodation costs.
  • How you want to get around – for transport costs.

These are your main costs. Once you've sorted those, you'll also need to consider:

  • Food - for eating
  • Activities - for doing
  • Pre-travel expenses - like insurance, immunisations and visas. 

It also helps to budget with those you'll be travelling with, so you can work out what costs are solely yours and what you can share. It's also a good way to set out what type of holiday you want to have. If you're a budget traveller who wants to hostel-hop your way through South America, your budget will be very different to the traveller that wants 5-star, all-inclusive, buffet breakfast, city-view, luxury hotels. 

If you're travelling with a bigger group, or are a solo travelling struggling to get your head around everything, tours are also a great option to consider. Generally, their cost will include all of your accommodation and transport while in South America, and some even include food. With those costs taken care of, all you need to worry about are your flights, extra daily costs like food and shopping and travel insurance. 

How much does a South American trip cost?


How long is a piece of string? The cost of your South American holiday will differ to everyone else's, purely because we all travel differently. With that in mind, we've put together a few budget estimates below based on some popular travel styles. 

The lovey-dovey couple

This romantic pair are travelling through Chile for two weeks, flying in and out of Santiago. They plan on staying in mid-range accommodation (3-star average), catching public transport and getting out to experience nature and the local culture as much as possible. The trip won't be too crazy, setting the couple back less than $5k after scoring some cheaper flights. 


From AU$1097* per person

Flying from Sydney to Santiago with Qantas (August 2020).


From AU$1,800^

For 14 nights in accommodation varying from 3-star beachside resorts, rural homestays and 3-star city hotels. 

Public Transport


Plenty to spend on public transport, taxis or cross-country travel. 



For both of you cuties


The solo backpacker

This lucky vagabond is planning on spending a month backpacking through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. He doesn’t have an exact itinerary, all he has is a flight in to Bogota and out of Santiago a month later. He won’t need to save for long, with the whole trip costing less than $3000AUD. 


From $1,270* per person

Flying from Sydney to Bogota and Santiago to Sydney one month later with Latam airlines. 


From AU$650^ per person

Budgeting $20 per night for 30 nights in hostel bunks. Keep in mind some places will be a lot cheaper than others. 

Public Transport


This is a generous budget, however it’s worth having a bit extra as you organise cross-border travel. For the most part you’ll get away with super cheap public transport.



Bump it up to $3000; it’s still pretty cheap for a month in five different countries. 


The fun family

This wonderful family of 2 adults and 2 kids (under age 11) is heading to Buenos Aires for two weeks – lucky kids… The parents will need to save around $10,000 AUD worth of pennies to afford the flights, accommodation and transport  for this trip. 


From $4,500* for the family

Flying from Sydney to Buenos Aires with Latam Airlines. 


From AU$4,600~

14 nights in a city centre King Suite Apartment with breakfast included. 


From AU$500^

A mix of public transport, cabs and private transfers. 



Consider bumping up the budget to accommodate a few days witnessing the grandeur of Patagonia as well.


Note that these are your core expenses. Other costs from travel insurance, daily expenses like food and drinks, sightseeing, activities and all those shopping trips aren’t taken into account.

Costs of travelling South America per day

We've looked at the big stuff, now let's get into the intricate expenses.

First of all, a reasonable holiday budget will keep in mind where you can tighten up on expenses – and where you can splurge! Having this type of flexible holiday budget is essential because you never know when an opportunity might come up that you don't want to miss out on.

For a middle-of-the-road holiday (neither budget nor luxury living) we recommend from:

AU$40 to AU$90 per person, per day.

This will cover sightseeing, food and drinks, shopping and other nitty-gritties. But of course, there are heaps of ways to cut down on this cost – or add to it – to create your preferred budget.

Consider your bookings

It helps to know exactly what's included in what you've booked. Does your hotel include breakfast in the per night cost? If it does, then that's one less thing you need to budget for. Or does your accommodation have kitchen facilities? That gives you a cheap'n'easy, DIY meal option.

If travelling with a bigger group, how can you guys work together to save some cash? 

You can also look for other ways to save. Can you purchase a public transport pass, rather than buying single tickets (as usually, this will offer some savings)? Or can you buy a sightseeing pass that includes entry costs and public transport? If you can, why not go for it and save.

Final words on budgeting

Well, that was probably a lot to take in, so let's finish up with some easy-peasy dot points.

  • It can help to have a pre-agreed cost for things (pre-agreed with yourself, or your travel companions if you're splitting costs). This avoids arguments, stress and overspending.
  • Put time and research into your 'per day' budget and include the things you want to do. Once you know the costs, you have a goal to save for. Remember this per day budget is a well-rounded figure too; some days you will spend more and some days you will spend less. As long as you keep track of this, it should all work out equal in the end.
  • It pays to book things in advance, but sometimes you might be able to find a cheaper price when you are in the country
  • Don't forget to factor in your pre-travel costs (e.g. travel insurance, immunisations and visas). If you are travelling to Brazil, in particular, be sure to allow time for your visa to be processed.
  • Budget for cheap eats some days so you can gorge other days. You'll be able to find plenty of deliciously cheap street food in South America, just follow the locals (or your nose) to the popular vendors.
  • Don't forget those sneaky costs (e.g. transfers, tours and tipping).
  • There are a lot of currencies throughout South America, and if you are travelling to a few currencies, you will need to stock up on a few. For safety and ease of use, it's worth loading up a prepaid travel money card like
  • the Travel Money Oz Currency Pass with either USD or AUD. Once you arrive in South America, you can use ATMs to either withdraw USD or the currency of choice from ATMs; just watch out for sneaky ATM fees!
  • Stock up on some cold, hard cash before leaving with our Best Price Guarantee. That way, you won't need to worry about dodgy exchange rates or communication barriers when you arrive in South America.
  • Don't carry all of your cash at once. Instead, split it across a few different locations to minimise the fallout if the worst happens.
  • Watch out of the llamas. They are cheeky little fuzzballs.
  • If you still need help with setting a holiday budget, our travel money experts have a handy budgeting tool available in any of our 165 stores across Australia and New Zealand.


*Flight costs based on search from and are indicative costs only, based on prices available on 31 January 2020. ^Accommodation costs are based on an average per night price for budget, moderate or luxury hotels, as indicated in the table. COST COMPARISON TABLE: All costs are based on estimated approximate costs from major metropolitan cities in each country. “From” costs indicate costs that start from the indicated price and may be higher than shown. Average prices indicate a typical estimated cost you would pay for the indicated item. This blog is provided for information only and does not take into consideration your objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should consider whether the information and suggestions contained in any blog entry are appropriate for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. While we take reasonable care in providing the blog, we give no warranties or representations that it is complete or accurate, or is appropriate for you. We are not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from use of, or reliance on, the information and/or suggestions contained in this blog.