When the winter chill sets in, the idea of getting away to someplace sunny may warm you up. But where’s the best place to beat the cold while still saving money?
Best Places to Visit in South America
Traveling to South America can satisfy your wanderlust without the high price tag often associated with more far-flung destinations. If you’re looking for affordable vacation spots that are big on charm, you’re in luck. These seven cities offer some of the best South American vacations to consider when you need a winter break.
1. BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The Argentinian capital is a bit more expensive compared to some of the other cities included here, but it still rates among the more affordable places to visit in South America. For example, dinner out for two at a local pub runs less than $30 USD. Hotel prices range from low-budget to luxury, but a quick check of Airbnb yields everything from cozy studio apartments to spacious four-bedroom homes for under $100 a night. If you want to feel like a local, skip the tourist traps and join a bike tour spanning several neighborhoods, or take a stroll through the Palermo Lakes park.
2. RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Rio is nicknamed “the marvelous city,” and there’s plenty to marvel at. The Lapa district is where the nightlife is, but if you want something more low-key try the views from Mirante Dona Marta and Pedra do Pontal. They don’t disappoint. If you’re looking for accommodations, Airbnb may be your best bet. Pricing is less than what some hotels in the city charge and it’s comparable to local hostels, but you have the advantage of being able to have a room or even an entire home all to yourself.
3. SANTIAGO, CHILE
Santiago also ranks as one of the best for cheap South American vacations. It’s one of the continent’s largest cities, but prices aren’t through the roof. If you want to go the cheapskate route, you can find rooms at local hostels for less than $20 a night. Hotel rates are similar to what you’d find in any major American city if you’ve got more wiggle room in your budget. Luckily, you can save on transportation by taking advantage of Santiago’s grid layout and getting around on foot. If you want to immerse yourself in the city’s culture, Barrio Bellavista is packed with local flavor, whether you want to enjoy music, the arts, or just good food.
4. CUSCO, PERU
Lima may be the Peruvian capital, but Cusco could be more to your liking if you want travel savings. For instance, a fancy dinner out for two costs about $35, and the budget version is $15. Airbnb rates are low, which is good if you’re planning a day trip to see the ruins of Macchu Picchu. Train travel and entry tickets can easily run a couple of hundred dollars, so you may appreciate the money you save on lodging. You can avoid the crowds by visiting after peak tourist season, which dissipates by mid-fall. Just remember to pack rain gear, since November through April is the rainy season.
5. BOGOTA, COLUMBIA
Bogota is a steal for frugal travelers, with dinner and a movie for two costing less than $25. Hotel rates are reasonable and an Airbnb rental may offer even better pricing. Getting around via public transportation is inexpensive, which is a good thing considering that the city stretches more than 685 square miles. If you want to experience Bogota like a local, scoot over to La Calera to try asado, otherwise known as Colombian barbecue, or indulge your senses at the Paloquemao Market in the city center.
6. CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
Cartagena’s beaches offer the best of Caribbean beauty without a huge price tag. Hotels can easily run $200 to $300 a night, but again, Airbnb can be a budget-friendly way to enjoy the surf and sun in style. Food and entertainment are a bargain, and grabbing a beer at a local bar costs less than $2. If the beach isn’t your thing, Cartagena’s old city might be more your speed. This historic district is where you can see the Palenquera women selling fresh fruit while you soak up some of the city’s colonial history.
7. QUITO, ECUADOR
If you’re looking for pleasant weather and lots of sun, Quito delivers. You do, however, have to be able to withstand high altitudes, since the city sits approximately 9,350 feet above sea level. The San Roque neighborhood is a good place to check out local artisans and try fried cheese empanadas, a favorite of Quito residents. If you’re feeling more adventurous, hike to one of the area’s many volcanoes. At the end of the day, you can unwind in one of the affordable hotels in the area, some of which cost under $100 a night.
Set Your Budget, Plan Ahead, and Be Safe
If a mid-winter South American trip sounds appealing, start planning for it early. Set your budget for travel spending and build a vacation savings plan, so when you’re ready to leave the winter cold behind you’re financially good to go. And while you’re scouting out destinations, remember to look beyond the cost. Safety should always be a priority when you’re away from home, so be sure to check for any travel advisories before booking a trip. It may also be a good idea to spend some time on travel review sites to see what others have to say about a city’s best—or worst—features, including which neighborhoods or local hotspots are the safest for travelers.