Prep 5. Money

To get the idea how much money I need roughly, I tried to calculate average daily spend in every country. Get the average price of a hostel bed + approximate cost of food + transportation + attractions.

To simplify, I’d say start with $2-3k APART from the tickets to/from home. That would be good for 3-4 months of budget backpacking. Some parts are way more expensive than others (like, Chile and its national parks on the south), so do your research and adjustments.

Here are my average daily expenses for hostel and lunch in each country. Breakfast often is included in hostel price. Dinner, snacks and water is not included, price below is for 1 meal.

hostel (USD)average lunch in cafe (USD)
rio (BR)
isla grande (BR)77
sao paulo (BR)106
iguazu (AG)75
buenos aires (AG)75
montevideo (UG)108
uyuni (BO)108
cusco (PE)75
bogota (CO)75
cartagena (CO)105

Prices for tours/attractions you can check online before your trip. Prices change all the time.

Important tips:

  • Plane tickets within the South American continent are expensive. It’s nothing like the prices in Europe or US (with checked luggage). If you want to travel in Brazil and then jump to Colombia – check the prices first.
  • Take several credit cards in case one get lost or blocked by the bank.
  • Notify your bank about your travel destinations so your cards won’t be blocked. I do it in the mobile app.
  • Have some «emergency» fund on a separate card. I had around $1k that I wanted to use to buy a ticket home eventually or for any emergency.
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash. Easy to steal. 
  • Your bank usually would add his commission if you withdraw less than $100 (check with your bank) + there’s a $4-6 commission of a local bank. I usually calculated approximate amount (hostel, food, tours, transport) to see how much cash I need. I paid a lot with a card, but sometimes hostels add commission if you pay with card. Also many services (tours, etc) still accept cash only but that’s changing quickly.
  • When you go out take only few cash for food and what you might want to buy. All the rest always lock in secure place. Don’t trust people and other travellers on that. Unfortunately, stealing in hostels is quite common in Latin America.

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