10 Tips For Cheaper Travel in South America

While on the road for extended periods of time, it’s more important than ever to make consistently good economic decisions in order to keep your trip going as long as possible.  Here are a few tips and things we have learned in our months living out of our backpacks.

1:  Try to find hostels with kitchens and cook at least one meal per day.  Sometimes cooking doesn’t save you a whole lot over what you can find for cheap on the streets, but there is a small difference, and it’s usually healthier than the cheapest street food!

2:  If you do eat out, try to make it at lunch time.  You can usually find “almuerzos” or set lunches that are the cheapest and largest portions.  Prices generally go up for dinner time.  Also, places with gringo food are ALWAYS more expensive and usually unsatisfying (just never as good as the “real thing” back home)!

3:  Stay at hostels that aren’t in the guidebook.  Most of the time these places are just as nice as the ones that everyone else is staying in.  However, lots of times these spots will do a bit of bargaining as soon as you say something about the price being too high.  Tell them that you are “going to look at other places and might come back later” and see how low they will go.

4:  Never get in a taxi until the driver tells you the price.  We have made this mistake too many times.  A simple “Cuanto cuesta?”  in advance will save you tons when it’s all added up.  Also, always ask a local how much it should cost before even flagging down a cab and then don’t settle until you get the right price.

5:  If you have a tent, use it.  Camping is super cheap if you can find the places to do it.  Look around, sometimes you can find campgrounds with kitchens and everything.

6:  Steer clear of international buses.  It’s almost always cheaper to take the domestic bus to the border town, taxi across, then pick up another bus on the other side.

7:  Wash your clothes in the sink.  Laundry services are cheap but they add up over time.  Lots of hostels have signs telling you that it’s not allowed but just be sneaky.  Wear your jeans in the shower and scrub them there.

8:  Drink water and boil it yourself when you get the chance.  Soda and beer are expensive.  Bring a water bottle on your trip and boil the water in your hostel’s kitchen.

9:  Volunteer, especially if you are staying one place for an extended period (over 1 week).  There are thousands of volunteering opportunities throughout the continent.  Some are completely free, some cost a little.  Find something that you enjoy and help people out while getting some help yourself.

10:  Couchsurfing is amazing and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out.  It’s all over the world and we have never had a bad experience.  Even if you don’t need a place to crash, check it out for locals that can show you around new cities.

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