Cheapest countries to visit from South to North America
Ecuador is a budget traveler’s paradise and still one of the cheapest countries to visit in South America. It has islands, the Andes and the Amazon rainforest; colonial towns, lively markets, and a strong indigenous culture; hot springs, wild rivers, and unique wildlife.
There is an incredible variety of things you can do. The capital, Quito, it the most expensive city, but even there, you can easily get a budget breakfast for $1.50-$3, lunch for $2-$5 and dinner in a budget restaurant for $3.50-$8. A bus in Quito costs $0.25-$0.35 and taxis are only a couple of dollars around the center of town. A dorm bed in a hostel will set you back $10-$15 and you can get a double room in a budget hotel for less than $40 per night easily.
A typical daily expenditure for a budget traveler would be about $30-$50 (more if you do more, of course).
One of my favorite activities is cycling down the Andes from Banos, and bike rental is $10 for the whole day, so this is a cheap activity. There are also markets in many of the Andean towns where you can get local handicrafts for very reasonable prices (though you do need to bargain to get a bargain!). It’s even possible to travel around the Galapagos islands (notoriously expensive) for about $120/ day if you do land-based budget travel.
Like most countries in South America, Colombia is an absolutely amazing country and a great budget destination too! You get to see the world’s largest palm trees, tropical beaches, charming colonial towns, glorious mountains, ancient cultures and we can go on and on!
We are a 2 mums and 1 daughter family and our budget is situated somewhere between backpackers and mid-range (with an occasional splurge). Our average daily budget for Colombia for 3 of us was 200.000 COP ($62).
When we are talking lodging, we want our ho(s)tel rooms as cheap as possible, but with good hygiene, a private bathroom and – if possible – with breakfast included. In Colombia, you can expect to pay around $35 for a double room like that. As our breakfast is normally included, we usually eat out at lunch and grab something small in the supermarket or at a food stall for dinner. We spent about $15 a day on food.
Because we are traveling with a small child, we like to stay put in one place for 5-7 days and with nap times sightseeing is done in a very chill way. We also love to find cheap or free activities. This means we spent about $3 a day on transport and $6 on activities and sightseeing.
Argentina is a large country with a great deal of diversity – from the gorgeous lake district; to wine country; the bustling and vibrant Buenos Aires; and down to the spectacular scenery in Patagonia, Argentina has it all. The currency in Argentina fluctuates wildly at times, making a big difference in how cheap it is for travel, but right now is a good time to go; after a recent currency devaluation, it is dirt cheap. You can get a nice glass of Argentinean Malbec wine for as little as $2!
Tours can be expensive, but you can also travel very cheaply. You can get a bed in a hostel dorm in Buenos Aires for as little as $9.50/ night ($12-$20/ night in El Chalten). The Glaciers National Park has an entry fee in El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier (approx. $12.50 pp) but is completely free for spectacular hiking in El Chalten.
A steak dinner in a regular parrilla (steak house) in Buenos Aires, with a glass of wine, cost less than $15 each. You can eat more cheaply than this, of course, and prices decease outside the capital. Tango shows in Buenos Aires can set you back about $70 pp (skip the dinner and get just the show to save money), but you can also see great tango completely free in the street.
Public transportation in Buenos Aires costs only about 35c. So book a ticket and head down to Argentina right now!
Note: 2019 a great time to travel to Argentina cheaply. But the Argentinian peso fluctuates all the time. Be sure to check the latest situation as things can change quite quickly.
4. El Salvador
El Salvador is a great country to visit when you are on a backpacker’s budget. One thing I really loved about El Salvador was the diversity and the number of things to see in such a small country. There are volcanos, lakes, beaches and Mayan ruins, traditional cities, all waiting to be explored here.
Traveling inside the country is very easy, as there are a lot of local buses that connect the cities. Because the country is so small, the journeys are quite fast as well. The capital, however, does get the rush hour traffic when nothing seems to move, so avoid traveling at those times. The cost to travel around the country varies from $0.25 cents to $5, depending on the distances.
Food in El Salvador is extremely cheap. Pupusas, the national dish of the country only costs between $0.50 cents and $1. This delicious tortilla filled with cheese, refried beans and many other combinations of ingredients is served with a cabbage slaw and tomato sauce. It’s the perfect food to have when going out, over a glass of local beer.
Hotels in El Salvador are budget-friendly as well, and there are plenty of different ones you can choose from. There are boutique hotels, local B&Bs, even chains such as Barcelo, which you can book for so much less than you would in any other country. As an example, a room at the Barcelo costs around $60. A private room at a local hotel is around $10.
Guatemala may seem like an off-track destination for some but, trust me, it’s incredible. What absolutely blew me away was the volcanos. You can toast marshmallows on an active volcano, hike to see the sunrise over twin volcanos and swim in an enormous volcano crater lake.
As well as that, you can visit the biggest Mayan city in the world and visit unique turquoise limestone pools at Semuc Champey. One of Guatemala’s biggest exports is coffee, and you can tour artisan coffee farms in the country, sampling some of their best produce.
But, the best part about Guatemala is that it’s unbelievably cheap. It’s perfect for anyone on a budget. For broke backpackers, expect to spend less than $30 per day. You can get hostel dorm beds for around $7, pick up local, freshly cooked food in the markets in Antigua for around $3 a meal and buy a beer for less than $2, too.
If you have a little more to spend, you’ll have a luxurious time in Guatemala on a mid-range budget. Get a whole chalet with unrivaled views entirely to yourself at Lake Atitlan for $50, spend a relaxing time at a volcano lodge near Antigua for $30 and eat in great restaurants for around $15 per meal.
At those prices, combined with all of the amazing things to do, going to Guatemala on your next trip is a no-brainer.
Nicaragua definitely is one of the cheapest countries to visit in the world – the kind of place where your dollar goes a long way. More than that, Nicaragua is an incredibly interesting country to visit, which through time has retained its raw character and that – partly for the political unrest – has yet to become a mass tourism destination.
Packed with gorgeous beaches; an excellent destination to learn how to surf; with colonial cities that make it all the more interesting to explore and with jungle and volcanoes, Nicaragua is a real paradise for backpackers who will have plenty of things to do to keep entertained and who will hardly have to worry about managing their budget.
A $50 USD daily budget in Nicaragua will go a long way, and it will include activities such as volcano boarding and more. Should you decide you are not interested in such things, you can get by on much less! Here’s a breakdown of costs:
- Bed in a dorm in a good hostel = $5
- A full meal at a local eatery = $3
- Breakfast = $1.50
- Snack and street food for lunch = $2
- Bus ride = $0.30 cents
- Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro = up to $40 if bought online, cheaper if bought locally
If you are planning to visit Central America, make sure to add Nicaragua to your bucket list!
Make no mistake, Honduras is a gorgeous and ecologically diverse nation. With the second largest barrier reef on the planet, the second largest rainforest in the Americas, 470 miles of Caribbean coastline, a zillion different kinds of birds, too many beaches to count, many tropical islands, and plenty of ancient ruins to explore, it’s got a lot to offer. Too bad the ratio of risk-to-reward is so high. As far as desirable travel destinations go, It’s not very safe.
Honduras suffers from rampant gang-violence and severe poverty and enjoys the notorious distinction of being one of the murder capitals of the world. These statistics, though certainly a deterrent to most, have seen some positive change of late.
The recommended advice to those looking to travel Honduras is to stick to tourist-friendly locations like the Bay Islands, Trujillo, La Ceiba, Utila, and a handful of others. Plan to travel on a lower, to mid-range budget (approximately $45 should cover a day’s expenses). To explore the country outside of established “safe” areas, it’s recommended to hire a guide.
In time, hopefully very little, Honduras will see a much-needed trend toward social-improvement, and travelers from all over can enjoy the immense beauty it offers.
Cuba is one of the stunning places that I have been to. I loved the cultural vibes and the history of Havana. Did you know that Cuba is also one of the inexpensive destinations in the Americas? Havana can be explored in 2-3 days, ideally covering Old Havana, taking a classic car tour, drinking mojitos and learning all about their history from their museums. And you don’t have to break the bank.
There is a wide range of hotels available in Havana. Typically one night will cost $50 and above. Keep in mind the 3-star in North America, will be a 4+ star in Cuba (as a scale of reference). Casa particulars (like your Airbnb) are also quite affordable, starting from $25-$30 and above. And the FOOD – for $6 – you can have an entire meal with a drink, dessert and main course in Old Havana. Ice creams and mojitos in most food stalls and casa paladars (private owned restaurants) will be around $3-$4. If you are willing to line up and get food from a government-operated restaurant, you might end up paying less than $1.
For sightseeing, there are so many tourist spots that are actually FREE in Havana (leaving the museums). If you wish to take a classic car ride, you can rent one for 4-5 hours, for $20.
We are mostly mid-level range travelers, but Havana is a treat for all travelers (from budget to high end, from solo travelers to couples).
Mexico is one of those places that is for everyone with any kind of budget. From budget backpackers to luxury travelers. We have visited Mexico on both budgets but no matter our budget for the trip we always have a blast. One of our favorite places to visit is Playa del Carmen, we actually lived there for 6 months we loved it so much.
The best tacos are often at food trucks with lines full of locals or hole in the wall plastic chair kind of places. Our favorite restaurant has Al Pastor tacos for 13 pesos ($0.60) each. Many places have good happy hour specials where beers are often under $2 and margaritas for $3.
Getting around Mexico is super easy as well. The major cities are connected well, right from the airport we suggest the ADO buses for around $10-$20 depending on where you are going. Once in the local cities jump in the local collectivos for cheap transportation.
If you are wanting to visit some of the best cenotes in Tulum collectivos go right down the main highway where several are located and the famous Tulum Ruins. You can easily travel to Mexico on a budget of $50 a day or less and eat like a king, visit some of the best beaches, and some epic day trips too.