by Jessica Bisesto
Looking for low-cost destinations south of the border? We've compiled a list of some of our favorite budget destinations in South America.
Regardless what type of travel experience you're seeking, these cities offer a fantastic combination of culture and affordability, no matter how much you're looking to spend.
1. La Paz, Bolivia
Don't let the visitor visa cost (currently $160 USD) scare you off, Bolivia as a whole is a fantastic and affordable destination. The climate is mild and consistent year-round – just be sure to give yourself a few days to get used to the high altitude.
The local food is delicious and offers plenty of variety. Head to Mercado Camacho or Mercado Lanzo for empanadas, meats and pastries for just a few dollars. If you're looking for 4-star accommodations, prices start at about $40 per night.
2. Quito, Ecuador
Another high-altitude city with low prices, Quito was also the first city to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With charming architecture, easy access to the Galapagos Islands, and pleasant spring-like climate year-round, this capital city is well worth a visit for budget travelers.
Four-star accommodations starting at approximately $35 a night, with street food meals starting from just $3 to a meal at a trendy restaurant costing as little as $6.
3. Cusco, Peru
Also known as the "Gateway to Machu Picchu," this beautiful city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with high elevation and bargain prices. Prices are slightly more competitive between November and April as it's the wet season, but don't a little rain ruin your Peruvian parade.
Budget dinners will start at about $4 and there are plenty of options for carnivores (try the guinea pig–it's a local delicacy) and vegetarians alike. 4-star accommodations start at approximately $45 per night, with room for some fantastic deals in the low season.
4. Montevideo, Uruguay
Should you find yourself (and your wallet) exhausted from neighboring Buenos Aires, Argentina, take a ferry over to lesser-explored and cheaper Montevideo. The weather is mild, and there is reliable public transportation to get you around this small country and back to Argentina. With many tourist attractions having little to no price tag, there are plenty of things to do and see.
A budget dinner will run about $9, and if you stray a bit from the tourist areas you'll find even better prices on local beef. 4-star hotels start at approximately $50 per night, with even more affordable prices during the low season between June and August.
5. Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena has blossomed into a wonderful and super-affordable tourist destination. Filled with stunning colonial architecture, an interesting walled city, beautiful beaches and cheap flights from many U.S. cities, we expect this Colombian gem to continue rising in popularity.
You can find delicious budget dinners from as little as $5, and 4-star accommodations starting from $50 per night. Cartagena is a great value destination for travelers looking to experience a South American-Caribbean infused vacation.
6. Mendoza, Argentina
The beautiful town of Mendoza is just an inexpensive bus ride from Buenos Aires or nearby Santiago, Chile. Famous for its wines – Malbec, in particular – Mendoza is also at the foot of the Andes Mountains, which allows for pleasant weather year-round, as well as a variety of outdoor activities.
4-star hotels will start at about $70 per night, and budget dinners will run about $10. Keep in mind that many restaurants operate under European hours, meaning doors may not open for dinner service until 8:00pm.
7. Santiago, Chile
Another capital city with plenty to offer at an affordable price, Santiago is a fantastic destination for those looking to spend less and experience Chilean life like the locals. There are many activities to keep any traveler occupied, ranging from wine tours to hiking, and there is easy access from the city to other parts of the country if you're itching for some time on a beach.
The low season runs between May and August when weather is a little cooler, and 4-star hotels will cost approximately $40/night. Hearty local food is delicious and affordable, with meals at budget sit-down restaurants costing less than $7. Did we mention Chile is an excellent destination for wine lovers?
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