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Our epic 4 month backpacking south america itinerary.

Bradley Williams

When I graduated university back in 2015, there was only one thing I wanted to do, and that was see the world!

Since then, we have planned trips to and visited more than 3 dozen countries all around the globe.

And it all began with our epic 4 month South America backpacking trip in 2016.

It seemed like a great place to start, seeing as the continent was so large and diverse that we knew it would be a world away form what we had experienced living in the UK.

From hot and humid rainforests in the north of Brazil right down to frozen glaciers in southern Argentina, the continent had everything to offer.

We spent weeks researching all of the best things to do in South America and planning a route that would allow us to see as much as possible.

In the end, we settled on a 4 month journey for backpacking South America that would take us through many of the most popular sites and journeying around almost the entire continent.

Below I’ve attached an image of the route we took and, although it missed out on a few countries, South America is so large that we really couldn't have squeezed much more in !

So, if you’re in the process of planning your own South America itinerary, be it for 4 weeks, 4 months or even a year, then hopefully this will help you.

our 4 month south america backpacking itinerary


Why would you want to backpack South America?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again … South America really does have it all .

It caters to all kinds of travellers, right through from those who love relaxing on the beach to those looking for high octane adventures.

For me, I was really excited to discover new cultures that were completely foreign to anything I’d seen before.

I’d been to plenty of places as a kid, but nowhere as exotic as South America .

Most of all, South America appealed to me because it still has so many untouched areas of natural beauty, most notably, the Amazon rainforest.

But at the same time, I was equally excited to visit major South American cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, which I had heard so much about in the past.

Christ The Redeemer in Rio De Janiero

But don't worry, you haven’t got to visit South America and travel quite as much as we did.

We traveled almost the entire continent and visited 6 countries along the way.

Instead, you could choose just two or three countries and spend the same amount of time, and give yourself greater chance to relax and experience each one to the fullest.

But if you’re on the fence about visiting, here are the top 3 things that I ultimately loved most of all about South America:

  • ‍ The people - All across South America, the people are so friendly and hospitable towards foreign visitors, regardless of whether you are in major cities or smaller settlements in the middle of nowhere. ‍
  • The sites - South America is home to some of the world’s most famous sites, such as the Amazon rainforest, Perito Moreno glacier, Tijuca Falls, the Bolivian Salt Flats, Machu Picchu and many MANY more. ‍
  • The chance for adventure - Though it is incredibly popular, the backpacking trails are by no means as developed as those in many typical Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Instead, it’s up to you to take local routes and craft your own journey. And the continent is so vast that you really can design your own adventure and uncover local towns and villages that few tourists ever go to.

celebrating in el salvador brazil

Our chosen 4 month backpacking South America itinerary

Okay! Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the 4 month South America route that we chose to follow.

We designed it this way, as we wanted to start in a major capital city that offered affordable flights in and to then end in another major city that we could fly home from.

It's worth noting that many backpackers we met were actually doing a similar route but in the opposite direction .

From our experience, I would say that the route we took is better, largely because of how expensive each country is compared to one another.

Colombia, Peru and Bolivia are much much cheaper than the other 3, so it’s good to arrive at those last, so that you feel like you are slowly saving money as you go around.

It’s also easier to budget that way, once you know how much you have left to spend.

drinking wine in south america

So first up we have ...

1 month backpacking Brazil

Have you ever looked at Brazil on a map?

Well, I’m sure you have and you probably realised the same thing we did at first … that it is huge !

Brazil is almost an entire continent almost on its own and seems to dominate everything around it.

As such, 1 month in Brazil is quite a lot of time to see lots of sites, but in the grand scheme of things is nowhere near enough to see it all .

I think you could go back and spend an entire 4 months just backpacking Brazil, and maybe one day we will!

view of rio in Brazil

The best places to visit in Brazil

The route we chose through Brazil was based off starting In Rio de Janeiro in the southwest and then finishing up near the Amazon in the north, where we could then catch a flight down to Argentina.

In the end, I was very happy with this route and we got to see so much of Brazil’s stunning coastline.

The one place in Brazil I wish we could have stopped at was Sao Paulo, but this didn't quite work out with regards to timings.

Either way, here’s the final route we followed:

  • Rio de janeiro - 4 nights
  • Vittoria - 3 nights
  • Salvador - 3 nights
  • Recife - 2 nights
  • Belem - 4 nights
  • Amazon boat cruise - 6 nights
  • Manaus - 3 nights
  • Amazon jungle tour - 2 nights

4 week Brazil backpacking route

We used buses to get between Rio, Vittoria and Salvador; took a flight from Recife to Belem; and then, of course, a boat from Belem to Manaus .

So all inclusive of overnight buses, we ended up spending 29 days in Brazil .

The top 3 things to do in Brazil

  • Amazon riverboat cruise
  • Drinking caipirinhas on Copacabana Beach
  • Amazon jungle tour

our belem to manaus amazon riverboat cruise

2 weeks backpacking Argentina

After 4 weeks travelling through hot and humid Brazil, we were surprisingly excited to get further south and find us some cooler weather.

Well, we ended up going from 1 extreme to the other, by travelling from Brazil’s northernmost point all the way to Argentina’s southernmost city in less than a week.

Ushuaia, which is at the very bottom of Argentina, happens to be the southernmost city, not just in South America, but in the whole world!

So it is a complete world away from the heat of the Amazon.

And this absolute diversity in climates is what I loved a lot about Argentina and what helped it make itself onto the list of our best backpacking destinations around the world.

landing in ushuaia argentina

The best places to visit in Argentina

We started in the north in Iguazu, visiting the famous Iguazu Falls, where the temperature was still 30 degrees and above.

We then took a long overnight bus journey south to the famous city of Argentina, before then flying down to Ushuaia a few days later.

Without a doubt, Patagonia (so southern Argentina & Chile) is one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

No trip to South America would be complete without spending at least 7-10 days exploring this region .

Fun fact: We actually returned here in 2023 when we drove our UK campervan down from North America. You can read more about that adventure here .

Our route was as follows:

  • Puerto Iguazu - 2 nights
  • Buenos Aires - 3 nights
  • Ushuaia - 4 nights
  • El Calafate - 4 nights

2 week Argentina backpacking route

As mentioned, we used a mixture of buses and flights to get through Argentina .

But getting to the famous Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate ended up being quite challenging.

In the end, the best way to get there required us to head up through Chile and then cut back into Argentina for a few days and visit it.

So in total we spent 15 days in Argentina when you include overnight buses .

The top 3 things to do in Argentina

  • Visit Perito Moreno glacier
  • Explore Iguazu Falls
  • Climb Marshall Glacier

perito moreno glacier argentina

3 weeks backpacking Chile

Once you hit Ushuaia in Argentina, there’s only one direction left to go, and that’s north!

So our route through Chile saw us gradually getting further and further north, all the way from glaciers in the south to arid, hot deserts in the far north.

Chile is such a beautiful country and it’s great heading up through the country, watching the landscape change.

moon valley in chile

The best places to visit in Chile

We used buses to head up to Puerto Natales, where we stayed for a couple nights before heading into the Torres del Paine National Park.

This happens to be one of the world’s most famous locations for hiking, and the W-Trek is attempted by thousands of passionate hikers every year.

We were in the park for just 2 days, which was still incredibly challenging and we made our way to the famous Three Torres for sunrise.

This ended up being my favorite moment from the entire 4 month South America journey.

From there, we visited the Perito Moreno glacier, before heading back south to Punta Arenas where we could catch a flight north to Santiago.

Chile is strange in that it's nearly impossible to get a bus north and the flights actually ended up being very cheap and taking just a couple hours.

I could talk for ages about Santiago, but I’ll give you just a brief recap.

So this was our first ever experience with Couchsurfing and we ended up having the best time with our hosts Carlos and Gabi who showed us around the city and got us drunk, on more than one occasion, on Caipirinhas!

couchsurfing in chile south america

After a few days, we hired a car and drove south on what ended up being another massive highlight to the trip.

The drive south is truly beautiful as you drive for hundreds of miles down beautifully tarmacked roads, bordered on both sides by gorgeous snow-capped mountains.

We went as far as Pucon, before heading back north again to Santiago.

We also stopped in a place called Cajon del Maipo and ended up driving deep into the snowy mountains (literally through 2 feet of snow!) until we reached some hidden hot springs.

Other than a couple of workers, we were the only ones there … relaxing in hot springs, completely secluded in this wonderful place.

It was one of the best moments of the entire trip and I highly recommend you visit here if you get chance.

Our route through Chile ...

  • Puerto Natales - 3 nights
  • Torres Del Paine National Park - 1 night
  • Punta Arenas - 1 night
  • Santiago - 7 nights
  • Cajon del Maipo - 1 night
  • Puerto Montt - 1 night
  • Pucon - 2 nights
  • San Pedro de Atacama - 3 nights

3 week Chile backpacking route

We used a mixture of buses, flights and hire cars to make it through Chile , with the journey north from Santiago to the Atacama being the longest and most dramatic in change.

After a few weeks spent in the cold south, we were finally ready to return somewhere warm and the Atacama desert is a world away from what you find in the south.

There, you get to visit a spot known as Moon Valley, because it literally looks like the surface of the moon!

In total we spent 22 days in Chile, including overnight buses

The top 3 things to do in Chile

  • Hike in the Torres del Paine National Park
  • Go glamping in the Atacama Desert
  • Relax in hot springs amidst snowy mountains in Cajon del Maipo

cajon de maipo in chile

3 weeks backpacking Bolivia

On our journey further north, the next logical country to stop in was Bolivia.

And the journey into Bolivia begins with one of the country’s most incredible adventures, which is a tour through the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve .

Tours through this region typically range from between 1 and 3 days and you get to see some truly awe-inspiring sites.

Ranging through from pink lakes surrounded by flamingos to wide open planes covered in lush grass and wild alpacas.

We chose for the more direct 1 day route that starts early in the morning with you crossing into Bolivia and getting stamped into the country at a very dodgy looking official office.

Afterwards, you spend much of the day climbing ever higher into the mountains, stopping off at key sights along the way.

Including spots that inspired Salvador Dali in many of his most famous pieces of art.

If you have the time and can afford the added expense, then we did hear good things about the 3 day routes.

bolivia border crossing

The best places to visit in Bolivia

From there, you find yourself in Salar de Uyuni, which is the most popular starting point for an epic day trip out onto the infamous Bolivian salt flats.

The incredible white expanse and clear blue skies make for some truly unique photo opportunities.

Just make sure you stock up on toys and ornaments, because you get a good couple of hours to let your inner child loose, trying to capture even more remarkable shots.

Here's a few of my favourite shots from the salt flats ...

hulk fighting salar de utuni

Potosi, Sucre and La Paz all offer up plenty to see and do, but do be warned that they are very high up, so you will likely suffer from altitude sickness and get tired after walking around for even short periods .

We took such a long time in La Paz for 3 key reasons:

  • First, we had been raising funds on our journey backpacking South America up until that point in order to donate to an exceptional type 1 diabetic charity for children.
  • Secondly, we were quite worn out by our hectic schedule over the previous 2 months, so did want to take things easy.
  • Thirdly, we spent a whole day out paragliding which was EPIC!

Here's the places we stopped off in across Bolivia:

  • Salar de Uyuni - 2 nights
  • Potosi - 2 nights
  • Sucre - 3 nights
  • La Paz - 10 nights
  • Copacabana - 1 night
  • Isla del Sol - 1 night

3 week Bolivia backpacking route

In my opinion, visiting Isla del Sol is up there as one of the top 5 things to do anywhere in South America .

This gem of an island is located about an hour from mainland Copacabana and I wish we’d stayed for more than just 1 night!

It is so peaceful and gorgeous and the island is filled with incredible hiking opportunities.

On the evening there, I chose to hike up to the highest point and it felt amazing being the only one up there, with views stretching for miles all around.

It’s worth noting that Bolivia is landlocked so it isn't ocean that surrounds Isla del Sol, but is instead a vast lake of freshwater!

Please, please, please make sure you visit Isla del Sol before you leave Bolivia; you won’t regret it.

In total we spent 21 days in Bolivia including overnight buses.

The top 3 things to do in Bolivia

  • Taking pictures at the Uyuni salt flats
  • Catching a boat out to Isla del Sol
  • Going paragliding outside La Paz

isla del sol viewpoint

1 week backpacking Peru

Our journey into Peru began with us crossing the border with Bolivia, to be greeted by a woman squatting in the road and peeing right next to us as we waited for our bus.

From there, it’s fair to say that our trip got better and better!

The best places to visit in Peru

We only managed to stop in two cities, so there are tons of awesome places in Peru that we've yet to explore!

However, Cusco and Lima are by far the most popular places to stop in and there’s tonnes to see and do all around them.

In Cusco, we went for a day tour to ancient Inca ruins and settlements and mines located all around the region.

We also went for a tour that went not as far from the city and allowed us to partake in some local evening rituals that have gone on for a number of generations.

We also found Cusco itself to be a nice place to explore, filled with all sorts of old school markets to pick up souvenirs and trinkets.

As well as lots of restaurants and bars, a perfect place to try traditional Peruvian dishes .

You’ll also find dozens of locals whispering in your ears as you pass asking if you want to buy cocaine .

We gave those offers a miss.

cusco in peru

By far the most famous reason that people visit Cusco is to climb up Machu Picchu .

This is easily one of the top 5 most famous places to visit in South America and I’m quite annoyed we never got the chance to do it.

By this point, we had burned through far too much of our budget and we simply couldn't afford it, as climbing Machu Picchu these days costs a good few hundred dollars.

From here, we took the long overnight bus journey from to Lima on the west coast.

I turned out to be very fond of Lima, in particular the incredible sandy beaches and idyllic surfing conditions of its long coastline.

It was here that I first learned to surf after paying a local instructor about $20 for a 2 hour lesson.

As well as this, I recommend you stay at the Zig Zag hostel .

It’s a very cheap, yet modern hostel and the hosts are very friendly and welcoming.

But what makes this place to special is that every week or two the hosts visit the local slums and donate meals to the poor families living there.

As a guest you have the chance to go along and it was a wonderful experience getting to meet these locals who live in incredible poverty and to help and give something back.

visiting slums in Lima, Peru

We took up a few items that we no longer had use for, such as clothes and bags and donated them to the families.

Our journey through Peru was pretty straightforward ...

  • Cusco - 3 nights
  • Lima - 3 nights

1 week backpacking Peru route

In total we spent 8 days in Peru including our overnight bus ride.

The top 3 things to do in Peru

  • Climb Machu Picchu
  • Go an an Inca day tour in Cusco
  • Visit the El Agustino slum with Zig Zag Hostel

learning to surf in south america

2 weeks backpacking Colombia

Colombia was the last stop of our 4 month South America backpacking itinerary.

We had heard a lot about Colombia on our journey around the continent, as well as from older relatives and friends from back home.

After all of this, we surmised that Colombia would be a worn torn country, inundated with drug lords and gang wars.

What we found turned out to be very different.

Yes, Colombia has had a very eventful past, especially if you've seen the series Narcos on Netflix.

However, the truth is that Colombia is no longer the drug capital of the world and so much of the violence, drug trafficking and corruption has died out.

Instead, what you find is a country that is fighting it's hardest to get rid of this image and instead build into a modern and safe place to visit.

nice resort in colombia

The best places to visit in Colombia

Once again, our lack of funds meant that our time in Colombia was limited somewhat and there are a few crucial places we planned on visiting and were unable to.

However, we still has a wonderful time here, in particular in Girardot and Cartagena .

As a popular seaside city, Cartagena is the most touristy of the places we visited and is quite a bit more expensive.

But it’s a great spot to visit nearby coastal towns and to even take day trips out to islands off the coast of the country in the Caribbean.

Our Colombia travel route was as follows ...

  • Bogota - 1 night
  • Girardot - 3 nights
  • Cali - 5 nights
  • Cartagena - 1 night

2 week backpacking colombia route

The top 3 things to do in Colombia

  • Explore the old city of Cartagena
  • Go on a coffee tour
  • Fly out to San Andres

In total we spent 10 days in Colombia.

flying home from south america

So overall, our journey across South America was just short of 4 months, allowing us to see many of the continent’s best sites and discovering almost everything we wanted to see.

But of course, they are plenty more smaller countries across South America, all of which we are very excited to return to and visit ...

Other countries to visit in South America

With only 4 months to backpack South America, we did have to say no to visiting a few countries.

We could have easily popped into Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador, however, we still wanted to travel them properly so instead chose to leave them for a future adventure.

In particular, we are excited to one day visit Venezuela, but will need to give it a few years until they eventually get some sort of political stability and do away with the corruption that currently engulfs the nation.

These other countries are ...

  • Ecuador (try to visit the Galapagos Islands if you can!)

map of south america route

What are the best things to do in South America

If you are looking for a full rundown of what to get up to whilst on this continent, then check out this other post I wrote on the best things to do in South America

It takes you through all of the biggest highlights of our trip, and I highly recommend trying to fit in as many things as possible.

But I thought it also well worth mentioning ...

The 4 things I wish we had got to do in South America

1. lencois maranhenses.

These are located on the northern end of Brazil, not too far from Belem.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time so had to skip them prior to our Amazon riverboat cruise and I was nothing short of gutted!

The area is a large open desert filled with giant sand dunes that have then created a series of mini lakes.

These lakes are only present at certain times of the year, but are some of the most picturesque places in South America.

We met people who visited them and getting there is actually very difficult as you have to take a jeep tour for a number of hours deep into the desert.

2. Machu Picchu

I talked about Machu Picchu above and, once again, I was gutted to have been unable to visit.

In the words of the Terminator … “I will be back!”

3. A trip to Easter Island

Easter Island is located 2 miles off the coast of Chile.

It is most famous for the large stone carvings that have been there for hundreds of years and no one is quite sure what their purpose is.

4. Take a boat to Antarctica

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, located in the deep south of Argentina.

From here, it’s possible to purchase a ticket for a multi day tour that takes you across the ocean all the way to Antarctica.

These trips are, as you’d imagine, very expensive, so we had to give them a miss.

tierra del fuego patagonia

Planning the right South America itinerary for you

In my ever so humble opinion, if you wish to explore as much of South America as possible and take in all of the major sites, I think you need to spend at least 12 months here.

That way, you wouldn't have to move as quickly as we did and can take more time to enjoy what they astounding continent has to offer.

That being said, this is completely impractical for most people.

So feel free to edit the journey as applicable and to add in extended stays in certain locations.

Our 4 month South America route ...

Common FAQ about backpacking South America

Here are a few more great travel tips to help you plan your own trip to South America ...

How did you sort accommodation in South America?

For 95% of our bookings in South America, we used Booking.com .

We use them all around the world as they always seem to offer the widest selection of accommodation, right through from budget hostels to nicer hotels and apartments.

They also always have the lowest prices as well as cool discounts and offers to Genius Members (which you become once you make a few bookings).

Other than that, we used Couchsurfing.com when staying in Santiago, and the experience was so much fun!

Our hosts, Carlos and Gabi, were 2 of the nicest people we met when backpacking South America and there was no better way to discover the local culture and nightlife.

Oh, and they were even kind enough to pick them up from the airport.

At the time of writing ( more than 4 years on ) we are still in touch.

I recommend trying to sort your accommodation as far in advance as possible, so ideally a week or 2 before you arrive in each location.

Otherwise, you end up paying more and will find yourself with far fewer budget places to choose from, especially in peak backpacking months.

playing guitar in south america

How much does it cost to backpack South America?

Compared to other common backpacking regions, such as South East Asia, South America can seem quite  a bit more expensive.

However, it really does depend on how fast you move through the continent.

We ended up finding that our biggest expense was travel costs associated with flights and long distance bus tickets through each country.

These can be very, very expensive, especially in places like Brazil where you need to get numerous 12+ hour bus tickets.

Food and drink in South America was cheaper than what you'd find in most western countries, however it does really depend on where you are and what you're looking to eat.

To save money, we ended up buying food from a supermarket and cooking for ourselves most nights.

I don't have an exact figure, as our entire trip ended up going well over the anticipated budget.

But all in all we each spent around £4,500-£5,000 ($5,250-$6,500) for just under 4 months in South America.

That’s roughly $45-$55 per day.

If you are looking to save some money, then I recommend travelling much more slowly than we did, and also sticking to the cheaper countries.

These are Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

Of course, you will find cheap places in Argentina, Chile and Brazil as well, however, they tend to cost a lot more to travel through.

Patagonia is one of my favourite regions anywhere in the word and is truly breathtaking. However, it is also much more expensive that other parts of the continent.

Also, be sure to pick up a travel card, such as Monzo or Revolut , which gives you the best exchange rates in all countries.

three torres in chile

How do you get around South America?

No South America travel guide would be complete without talking about how to actually get from place to place! As mentioned a couple times, the best way to get around South America is by bus and plane .

Flying in South America

In total we took 5 flights internally throughout South America; these were ..

  • Recife to Belem
  • Manaus to Foz de Iguazu
  • Buenos Aires to Ushuaia
  • Punta Arenas to Santiago
  • Lima to Bogota

As long as you book your flights a month or more in advance, then they should be pretty cheap.

And if you are travelling long distances then not only do they save you a lot of time and hassle, but they also save you a lot of money.

flying in south america

Using buses in South America

Unlike with flights, you can't really save much money on your bus journeys by booking them in advance .

And if you are planning on travelling the entire continent like we did, then the cost of these will soon stack up.

I can’t give a rough idea of how much each journey costs, as they really do vary depending on which country you are in as well as how far you are travelling.

They are also dependant on what quality of seat you are looking for.

In most of South America they have the following system:

  • No Cama - refers to seats that are in a static position and do not move. These are always the cheapest and are fine if you are taking short journeys up to a few hours.
  • Semi Cama - refers to seats that recline partially, up to around 45 degrees. These are the second most expensive and are fine if you don’t mind sleeping upright. Sometimes these are the only seats available so you don't really have much choice in the matter anyway.
  • Suite Cama - refers to seats that recline completely. Oh boy how I came to love sweet suite cama . If you have a long 12 hour overnight bus journey, then this is by far the best way to travel. You get to arrive well rested and not in pain from having been awkwardly huddled all night. However, these can easily be two or even three times the price of other tickets and in many cases are not even available.

Regardless of which bus you choose, I recommend buying a blanket for each journey as they can get very cold, and they often don’t provide one.

When you enter countries like Bolivia and Colombia, you will often find no choice in the matter and instead are forced to ride in uncomfortable buses and that’s just the way it is.

All in all, bus tickets ended up costing us a lot of money over the 4 months, far more than we were planning to spend.

As a heads up, if you are planning on visiting Lima and Cuzco, then book your flights way, way way in advance.

We were forced to catch a bus and the journey is long and famously perilous and uncomfortable, so if you can avoid it then do so.

When it comes to booking bus tickets, you can sometimes do these online and in other cases you have to do them in person from a local bus station.

This latter case seems to be more applicable in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

Good sites we used to book online bus tickets include:

foz de iquazu in argentina

Hiring a vehicle in South America

It is possible to hire cars or motorbikes in many parts of South America and they are a great way to get around.

Rentalcars.com is a great place to start your search, as they include most of the big car hire firms in cities all across South America.

However, if you wish to drop them off in another city, then it can be very expensive as the hire company will then charge you a large fee to have the car taken back to the original point.

We hired a car in Chile and drove south from Santiago for 4 days and had the best time! So I would highly recommend doing this if you get chance and can afford it.

renting and driving a car in south america

Buying motorbikes in South America

Though we have no personal experience with this, I wanted to quickly mention the option you have of buying your own motorbike and driving yourself around South America.

When on our boat cruise down the Amazon, we met an Australian couple called Ben and Ainsley who were doing exactly this.

They spent more than a year driving across South America in its entirety and had nothing but great things to say about their adventure.

Boat journeys in South America

It's possible to take boat journeys in certain parts of South America, most notably being the Amazon rainforest which stretches from Brazil down into Peru.

We took the journey from Belem to Manaus and you can read more about this here .

sailing a boat in south america

What’s the best way to get to South America?

Flights into South America are easy to come by and generally fairly affordable.

The major cities in every country offer international flights so you’ll find something to suit you.

All I would say is that you should try and plan your route as carefully as possible in advance so that you know which city is most practical to fly into and which one is best to fly out of.

For us, it made most sense to fly to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and eventually leave from Colombia.

As another note, I wouldn't recommend booking your return flights at the same time like we did.

This does limit your flexibility and we found it to end up being unnecessary.

Usually you save money by booking both flights together but we ended up finding that we could have booked even last minute return flights for almost the same price we had paid in the first place.

Whenever you are booking flights in, around and out of South America, I recommend using Skyscanner .

flamingo lake bolivia

How safe is it in South America?

Before arriving, we had heard our fair share of scare stories about South America.

Which is almost to be expected when you consider the ongoing news headlines about political arrest in many South American countries in recent years.

However, during our time here, we never had any trouble or felt concerned about our safety.

But I credit this success to a few key rules that we followed when backpacking through South America:

  • Don’t go out when it’s dark, unless you are with a large group of people
  • Only take out the amount of money that you need to spend at that time
  • Don’t go around flashing expensive phones and cameras
  • Always keep your day bag zipped up when out and about - In Brazil we took this one step further by always having a padlock on the bag. We did this after someone gave us this tip but I’m really not sure how necessary it was; and the anxiety it raised did spoil our time in Brazil somewhat
  • Don't stay out late drinking in a city you don’t know
  • Only ever use a licensed taxi or Uber
  • Don’t buy or accept drugs from anyone
  • Generally, try and be sensible and respectful of the local cultures and areas you are in

wrestling choquitas la paz

Final thoughts from our time backpacking South America

All in all, I found South America to be a wonderful place to discover and the sheer variety in climates and sites really did impress me.

It was nice knowing that, no matter where we went, there would always be some unique sites to see and kind people to meet.

Another great thing to do whilst in South America is to take a genuine interest in the local people and get to learn about them, their language, their culture and their customs.

I have very fond memories of dozens of people we met and spoke to along the way and I found it fascinating to learn more about the unique stories everyone had to offer.

I hope my 4 month South America itinerary can help you in some way in planning your own route around the country.

If there’s anything you think I’ve missed and have any additional question, then don’t be afraid to ask!

Just drop me a message in the comments below ...

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9 Epic South America Backpacking Routes: The Best Itineraries and Ultimate Travel Guide

Backpacking South America is an incredible experience that will leave you with lasting memories and a yearning for more. Planning the adventure of wandering such a vast continent can seem intimidating, but this article will demystify how the adventure can be simple yet more fulfilling than any travel experience you’ve ever had. In this guide to backpacking South America you’ll discover the best options for exploring my favorite continent, tips for getting off the beaten track, and everything you need to make your trip as smooth, amazing, and memorable as possible.

4 month trip to south america

  • Why You Should Go Backpacking in South America
  • 2 Week Itineraries
  • 1 Month Itineraries
  • 3 To 6 Month South America Itinerary
  • Essential Info for Your South America Itinerary
  • South America Travel Budget
  • Where To Start Your South America Backpacking Trip Buenos Aires Santiago Or Medellin
  • How To Get Between Countries in South America
  • The Galapagos Islands
  • Where To Next Central America and Beyond
  • What About Brazil and Venezuela
  • Now That You Understand the Highlights Of Your Destination
  • More Essential South America Info


Backpacking South America is an amazing experience! You’ll experience unique cultures, hike up active volcanoes, hike through lush Amazon rainforests, raft down giant waterfalls, and explore some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen. There will be challenges, but the rewards will be well worth all of the hard work.


  • Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park and El Chalten (Los Glaciares National Park)
  • The Galapagos Islands: Living among wild animals on land and sea
  • Buenos Aires : The gritty Paris of South America
  • Machu Picchu: Ruins of an ancient empire
  • The Lost City: An often missed highlight just as remarkable as Macchu Picchu
  • Food: Lima and Buenos Aires
  • Alien Landscapes: The high desert of San Pedro de Atacama and the salt flats of Uyuni
  • Wine: Mendoza wine country of Argentina and the equally remarkable Chilean wine country
  • Tayrona National Park with a campground nestled against the ocean and Minca highland coffee country, meer minutes away
  • Hiking up snow covered volcanoes and sliding back down
  • San Carlos de Bariloche and the Lake Districts and trekking through some of the most beautiful nature in the world
  • The Perito Moreno Glacier, this vast icefield is the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world

Still planning your trip? Be sure to read our article on the best times to visit South America and wehere to go if you’ve already booked.


In this article, we’ll share the highlights you need to know about all the best routes for backpacking South America and countries you need to visit on your South America trip to help you figure out the perfect backpacking route for you. However, feel free to click the links below for the perfect itinerary for 2 weeks by region, 1 month by region, and 3 to 6 months in South America.


4 month trip to south america

2 Weeks in Patagonia

  • San Carlos de Bariloche (2-3 days) and the lake district
  • El Chalten (2-5 days) and trekking Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
  • El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier (1 day)
  • Puerto Natales (1+1 day) in prep for the Torres del Paine trek
  • Torres Del Paine National Park (4 days for W trek, 7 days for circuit trek)
  • Ushuaia (2 days) to expererience the end of the world and fly home

2 Weeks of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay

  • Optional: Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay (2 days ) Experiencing a smaller more polite Buenos Aires
  • Iguazu Falls (1 day) UNESCO heritage site that dwarfs Niagara Falls
  • Mendoza (2 days) Argentine wine country experienced by biking between vineyards and wine tastings
  • Santiago (2-3 days) Absorbing Chile’s capital through, art, history museums, restaurants, and nightlife
  • Chilean Wine Country (1 day) Just as charming and intoxicating as Mendoza
  • Pucon (2-3 days) Hike up a volcano and go where Chileans vacation
  • San Carlos de Bariloche (2-4days) A trekking mecca (day hike or multi-day) that only a handful of places in the world compare to
  • San Pedro de Atacama (2-3 days) : The clearest skies in the world allow you to see more stars than you’ll ever see anywhere else

2 Weeks of the Incan Experience – Peru and Bolivia

  • Lima (2-4 days) : The best culinary scene in all of South America
  • Cusco (2-3 days) : The gateway to Macchu Pichu against a backdrop of hipster polished Peruvian food and drink
  • Sacred Valley (1 day) : A calmer, emptier way to discover the Incas
  • Macchu Pichu and Aguas Calientes (1 day) : The highlight of Peru and (for some) South America
  • Colca Canyon (2 days)
  • Lake Titicaca (1-2 days) : The “highest navigable lake in the world”
  • La Paz (1-3 days) : The highest de facto capital in the world, with a “frontier feel”
  • Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats of Uyuni)(2 days – ~3 to 5 days for SUV tour)
  • La Paz (1 day) : Returning home

2 Weeks of Alien Landscape – High Altitude Deserts, the Bolivian Altiplano, and Salt Flats

  • Santiago (2 days)
  • Valparaiso (1 day)
  • Atacama Desert + San Pedro de Atacama (2 days)
  • Uyuni + Salar de Uyuni (2 days)
  • La Paz, Bolivia (1 day)
  • Lake Titicaca + Puno , Peru or Copacabana , Bolivia (1 day)
  • Cusco (2 days)
  • Macchi Picchu (1 day)
  • Lima (2 days)

2 Weeks of Animals and Biodiversity – Galapagos, Volcanoes, and the Amazon

  • Quito (2 days) : Acclimate to South America in this relaxed and conservative capital
  • Otavolo and Otavolo Market (1 day) : Soak up local culture and shop for souvenirs at this uniquely Andean market
  • Mindo Cloud Forests (1 day) : An extremely boidiverse subtropical forest that is like few other places in the world
  • Galapagos – Isla Isabela (2-3 days)
  • Galapagos – Isla San Cristobal (2-3 days)
  • Galapagos – Isla Santa Cruz (2-3 days)
  • Other options: Avenue of the Volcanoes, Antitana ecological reserve


1 month in southern south america.

  • Buenos Aires (3-5 days)
  • Montevideo and Colonia Del Sacramento (2 days)
  • Iguazu (1 day)
  • Cordoba (1-2 days)
  • Mendoza (2 days
  • Santiago (2-4 days)
  • Valparaiso (2 days)
  • Pucon (2-3 days)
  • San Carlos de Bariloche (2-5 days)
  • Puerto Natales (1 day – in prep for Torres Del Paines National Park
  • Torres Del Paine National Park (4-8 days)
  • Ushuaia (2 days)

1 Month in Northern South America

  • Bogota (2 days)
  • Medellin (2 days)
  • Guatape (1 day)
  • Cartagena (2 days)
  • Zona Cafatera and Cali (2 days)
  • Quito (2 days)
  • Otavolo Market (1 day)
  • Mindo Cloud Forests (1 day)
  • Galapagos – Isla Isabela (2 days)
  • Galapagos – Isla San Cristobal (2 days)
  • Galapagos – Isla Santa Cruz (2 days)
  • Sacred Valley (1 day)
  • Macchu Pichu (1 day)
  • Optional: Colca Canyon (2 days)
  • Lake Titicaca (2 days)
  • La Paz ( 1 day)
  • Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats of Uyuni (2 days)
  • La Paz (1 day)

1 Month of South America Highlights

About the optimal time backpacking South America: The truth: one month aiming to experience all of South America is pushing it as that timeframe is much better suited for a single large country or a couple of small ones than experiencing a whole continent.  Argentina, Chile, and Colombia can each easily take a month each when traveling at a comfortable, cost-efficient pace and absorbing the culture.  Ecuador, Bolivia, or Peru could be paired as couplets for a good month of travel as well.

But for those with limited time and lots of ambition, we’ll share an itinerary, or more so a list of destinations and minimum timeframes, for blazing through the best of South America in one month.

The balance: Try to absorb the best of nightlife, food, wine, nature, history, and ruins without burning yourself out by being discriminating about your destinations.

How to use this itinerary: Highlight half of the locations that are absolute essentials for you based on your interests and bucketlist, and the 3 places/sites that are your top priority as you’ll want to spend extra time in them.  For the remaining half, get comfortable with either breezing through them – to save time – or skipping them altogether – to save money and energy. As such we’ve listed recommended minimum days for each experience so you can patch together the itinerary that suits you based on the best South America Highlights for a month-long trip without burning out or wasting time.

  • Buenos Aires (2 days)
  • Mendoza (1 day)
  • Santiago (1 day)
  • Valparaiso (1 day
  • San Pedro de Atacama (from Arequipa) (1 day)
  • Puerto Natales in prep for Torres Del Paine National Park (1 day)
  • Torres del Paine National Park (4 days) – only covers the W Trek
  • Ushaia (1 day)
  • Salar de Uyuni (2 days – accounting for bumpy transit time)
  • Cusco (1 day)
  • Maccu Picchu and Aguas Calientes (1 day)
  • Arequipa (1 day)
  • Lima (1-2 days)
  • Guayaquil –> Galapagos Islands (5 days)
  • Quito (1 day)
  • Cartagena (1 day)

3 to 6 Month South America Itinerary

3 to 6 months is the perfect period of time for backpacking all of South America, with 4 months being the minimum sweet spot. The only difference between a 3 month South America itinerary and a 6 months is that we move at a slower pace and take more rest days.

6 months on the road is exhilarating, exciting, and a wonderful opportunity if you’re spending it all in South America. By being able to slow down, and spend a week in Buenos Aires , Medellin, and Galapagos, instead of mere days you’ll fall deeper into the experience and more in love with the continent. You’ll notice smaller details and absorb more as you will be in a less rushed mindset. Additionally, scheduling 1 to 2 days per week of no travel or sightseeing will leave you rejuvenated, refreshed, and a more hungry and interested traveler.

For this itinerary, we will list all of the recommended highlights of South America with the recommended timeframes for slower travelers. Be sure to take that recommended 1 to 2 days “off” per week, and don’t be afraid of getting stuck in a destination that captures your heart for a little longer than planned – just go with it.

  • Buenos Aires (7 days): A perfect introduction to South America with plenty to do and great food. Consider taking Spanish lessons here
  • Iguazu (1 day): Account for the extremely long bus ride in from Buenos Aires and know this waterfall will be worth the trip
  • Cordoba (2 days) : Practice your Spanish in this university town surrounded by outdoorsy experiences
  • Mendoza (2 days): Set aside one day for “bike and wine” tour wine tasting between vineyards of nearby Maipu, and relaxing in Mendoza proper
  • Santiago (2 to 3 days): Explore Chile’s capital with heavy focus on history and art museums, nightlife, and just wandering
  • Valparaiso (2 days): Explore the hills, graffiti, and nightlife one day, and soak up the towns vibe the next lounging and dropping in on beaches the next
  • Pucon (2 days) : Climb Villarica volcano and slide down one day, spend the next sipping coffee and enjoying a popular Chilean vacation spot as locals do
  • Puerto Natales and Torres Del Paine (11 days): Give yourself 1 day to prep, 7 to 9 days to do the “Circuit Trek” through Torres del Paine, and 1 day to recover back in Puerto Natales with a warm house and hot meal
  • Ushaiia (2 days): Get the post office stamp in your passport denoting “the end of the world,” take a day trip to see penguins, and wander the city to catch “end of the world vibes.
  • San Pedro de Atacama and the Atacama desert (2 days) : Give yourself time to explore by night and account for potenital hiccups on the travel to and from Atacama
  • La Paz (2 days) : Explore the town, markets, and street food, then day trip to ride the “world’s most dangerous road”
  • Salar de Uyuni (2 days): Experience the salt flats on a day tour fromUyuni and allow time for mishaps when arriving/departing
  • Cusco (3 days): Visit the museums, do a free walking tour (or 2), and walk within and outside the city to discover ruins everywhere. Additionally, explore the nightlife and food scene thoroughly as it is just as strong as in Lima but with a Peruvian hipster vibe
  • Sacred Valley (1 day) : Soak up Incan ruins without the crowds and chaos of Macchu Pichu
  • Macchu Pichu (1 day) : Visit the highlight of Peru and inspiration for the character Indiana Jones
  • Lake Titicaca + Copacabana/Puno (2 days) : Expereince the highest navigable lake in the world, and the culture that lives by its existence
  • Lima (4 days) : Explore art, gourmet food & drink, and nightlife in this metropolis
  • Guayaquil –> Galapagos Islands (7 to 10 days) : Slow travel through the Galapagos archipelago choosing as many independent and self guided experiences as possible for a richer, more pleasant experience
  • Quito (2 days): Relax and wander, visit the equator, and just decompress in this relaxed and mellow stop
  • Bogota (2 days) : Explore the museums (such as Museo del Oro), walking tours that cover the complex history, and nightlife including arguably the best nightclubs in South America in Colombia (and Latin America’s) financial center
  • Medellin (4 days): Soak up the good life in a uniquely Colombian, vibrant, and complex place, starting with free walking tours, then visiting museums and eco-parks, following on with nightlife and (ideally) learning to salsa dance)
  • Guatape (1 day): Visit a beautiful site in the mountains that looks like thousands of forested islands grew out of a lake
  • Cartagena (2 days): Experience the Caribbean at its most “Caribbean” you’ll find in South America – outside of Baranquilla Carnival
  • Santa Marta (1 day)
  • Minca (1 day): Visit an organic and hydroelectrically powered coffee processing station and plantation
  • Tayrona National Park (2 days): Hike in and camp by the ocean for at least a couple of nights
  • Cali, Salento, and Zona Cafatera (2-4 days): Discover more than you ever wanted to know about coffee while basking in the home of salsa dancing, and perhaps taking some lessons


Travel through South America is uniquely suited for backpacking or any long term travel experience that aims to embrace experiencing local culture, food, language, and nature in a less structured way than package tours, all on a rather small budget. Compared to that required to travel North America, Western Europe, the Middle East, and many parts of Africa, the $40 to $60 per day budget of South American countries (varying by country) is one of the main reasons I recommend South America, as well as Southeast Asia as the perfect first time backpacking destinations.

In return for flexibility of timeline and compromising on 4 star accommodation in favor of hostels, guest houses, and refugios, you’ll receive a one of a kind travel experience in return – a more contiguous expereince than Southeast Asia in culture and language, a more outdoorsy experience that revolves less around beaches and more around mountains, and lastly urban experiences that somewhat echo a gritty yet more vibrant version of traveling Europe. Architecture, food, and travel infrastructure abound but are still uniquely “Latin American” with a different indigenous touch and richness in every country and region.

Here, we’ll review some of the general and basic essentials that you should keep in mind while planning for your itinerary overall as well as each country and segment of your itinerary.


Travel in South America is in a very reasonable price range – between $40 and $60 a day for a backpacker style budget, averaged across all countries, assuming shared hostels, eating out once per day, and DIY traveling as much as possible.

Compared to other regions of the world, South America travel tends to be more expensive than Southeast Asia travel, which averages ~$35 per day, but slightly cheaper than traveling the Balkans, and much cheaper than traveling the USA, Western Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In recent years, the price to travel South America has become even cheaper, relative to Europe, the Balkans and Southeast Asia as the cost of living in some of the best cities for digital nomads and backpackers in South America has dropped.

Keep in mind that Argentina, Chile, and Brazil will be the most expensive countries to visit in South America, and Buenos Aires, Santiago, and much of Brazil can become very costly if you get too caught up in the luxury lifestyle. Because of this, when planning your budget for South America plan your budget based on the amount of time you plan to spend in each country and budget much more than the $40 per day for Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Brazil in general. This way, you’ll have enough time and money for an enjoyable experience.

Tips for Saving Money in South America

  • Travel by public transport between cities, specifically by bus, as much as possible, as air travel is very expensive
  • Travel slower, because the longer you spend in a city, the cheaper the average cost per day becomes
  • Cook at home, or at your hostel (this is common) and shop at grocery stores to “brown bag lunch” during the day to save money or order the “menu del dia” at restaurants for a cheaper option
  • Quickly check the currency situation of the country you are entering next as bringing in cash dollars or Euros may garner a better exchange rate


The best places to start your South America backpacking route are Buenos Aires, Santiago, or Medellin, due to location on the “Gringo Trail” and flight access.

Starting in Buenos Aires

Starting in Buenos Aires is the optimal introduction to South America as there are plenty of international flights arriving, the city is easily navigable and welcoming, and, with the exception of Brazil, most everything you will want to see in South America is located west and south or north making it possible to efficiently travel a loop through South America.

Within Buenos Aires, the vibe is welcoming and very European. You will be able to navigate easily in only English while you figure out the ins, outs, and idiosyncrasies of traveling in South America. Additionally, you’ll be able to take some quick and cheap Spanish lessons for a week while exploring the nightlife, robust Argentine BBQ scene, and complex history of a city that is interestingly Italian, Spanish, German, and Argentine at once.

From Buenos Aires you will be able to travel west through national parks, waterfalls, and wine country before traveling south from Santiago, Chile by bus, to hop between Chile and Argentina repeatedly and explore, trek, and camp through Patagonia until reaching the end of the world in Ushuaia.

At this point you can fly back to Santiago and proceed north, exploring Andean South America. On this leg you’ll experience the mountainous and otherworldly Bolivian altiplano, ancient Peru and the remnants of the Incan empire, the biodiverse and animal rich territory of Ecuador and the Galapagos archipelago, and the complex and vibrantly charming gem of Colombia.

From here, if you still have time on your agenda, sneak past Venezuela and explore the vast, complex, and beautiful Brazil wrapping around and ending in Sao Paulo.

Starting in Medellin

For a more direct path, start in Colombia, specifically in Medellin, to enjoy the good life, get acquainted with the vibe and way of South America, and take some Spanish lessons. Medellin is another city that is very accessible, with very cheap flights from almost anywhere in the world, easy to navigate with limited Spanish, and enjoyable while you settle in.

From Medellin, explore northern Colombia and the Caribbean as well as the Atlantic coast – extra points for timing the trip with Carnival as Barranquilla has the biggest and best Carnival outside of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo – not skipping the Lost City of Colombia along the way. Then, continue falling south through Colombia, exploring coffee country and the heartland of salsa.

At the border, continue into Ecuador exploring its diversity and rerouting to Galapagos for a once in a lifetime experience.

After returning to the mainland, follow the backpacking trail south through Peru, exploring the best food scene in South America, remnants of the Incan empires, and some of the best surfing in South America.

Then, explore the rougher side of travel in Bolivia, passing through the extremely mountainous Altiplano and the salt flats.

Proceed into northern Chile and Argentina, switching from an Andean experience to a more heavily European influence, more wine, and more opportunities to camp and hike in the forested, mountainous backcountry of Patagonia instead of the rain forests of northern South America.

Continue the fall south to Ushuaia at the end of the world, potentially hopping a two-week trip by boat to Antarctica before flying up to Buenos Aires.

Spend the remainder of your trip exploring Argentina, traveling from Buenos Aires to the UNESCO site of Iguazu falls, to the university town and outdoorsy Cordoba, and the wine country of Mendoza at the base of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America. Finally, hop a bus across the border to Santiago, Chile to end your South America tour.

Starting in Santiago

From the Santiago start, proceed on much the same path as starting in Buenos Aires, except travel south, Santiago to Ushuaia, then fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires followed by traveling west by bus, city-hopping your way to Santiago. End the South America tour traveling by bus north from Santiago to Medellin and Caribbean Colombia.


A defining characteristic of traveling South America is that it is best traveled by bus, with the flight from Ushuaia to either Santiago or Buenos Aires being the only logically necessary flight. This is partly why South America is a destination best suited for months of travel if traveling multiple countries or for a single country if traveling for less than a month, to offer sufficient time travel by bus without losing your sanity. Along the way, the slow travel of busses will allow you to soak up smaller destinations that are on the beaten path but simply less traversed.

As off-putting as longhaul bus travel sounds, the “cama,” which translates to “bed,” class of buses in South America, more common in Argentina and Chile than other places, is prevalent and consists of a large comfy seat that seems more like living room furniture and reclines completely into a bed, making overnight trips bearable and interesting but still comfy.

However, if you do decide to fly, note that domestic flights are far cheaper than flights across borders, usually by a few hundred dollars at least, even if the comparable domestic and international flights are the same length, on the same airline. Plan accordingly.

Tips for getting around South America:

  • Plan on traveling by bus if possible
  • Attempt to keep flights domestic to save money
  • Colombia is the exception – with domestic flights being cheap and much more convenient than bus travel
  • When flying to Galapagos, fly out of Guayaquil instead of Quito for cheaper prices and less headache
  • Check out this article for more information on getting around South America: https://abrotherabroad.com/how-do-you-get-around-when-traveling-the-world/


The”Gringo Trail” through South America is one of the most scintillating and adventurous travel experiences on the planet combining urban experiences, towering mountains and ancient ruins, with friendly, vibrant culture in a way that few other destinations do. All possible on a rather small budget. As much as each country in South America embodies these traits, each country still truly has its own personality.

Argentina is uniquely European in the north, permeated with Italian culture, wine, and European architecture while having a Swiss Alpine feel in its southern experience.

Bolivia is a charmingly “rough” travel experience, taking you through high desert landscapes you might only see elsewhere in the Himilayas, and tying with Peru for its preservation of indigenous culture.

Ecuador is THE most unique place in the world to experience wild animals humanely, in a way that benefits them more than us, along with the most biodiverse landscape on the planet.

And every other country and region in South America carries its own personality and quintessential experiences.

With that said, no single itinerary or South America backpacking route is good for every traveler.

Because of this I highly recommend “getting the vibe” of each country in South America by reading our descriptions below, understanding the most easily traveled and economical route through them (the Gringo Trail) for you, starting in one of the three starting cities that interests you the most (Buenos Aires, Medellin, or Santiago) and just going.

From there, based on your passions and interests – food, wine, outdoors, architecture, nightlife, etc. – plan the travel allowing more days for the destinations and experiences you expect to love, and breezing past the destinations and experiences that just don’t get your heart racing.

In your itinerary, alot one day per activity (maximum two activities per day) and add an extra day or two of empty time in destinations you REALLY expect to love or that appear to have a lot that interests you on paper.

In the following sections, we’ll share the overview and highlights for the countries in South America you need to visit.

Click on any of the following countries to jump to our Country Quick Guides, or simply keep reading to soak it all in.

Argentina is an adventure-filled country with some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and a great place to experience a mesh of European and Latin American culture. Backpackers should take a road trip between Buenos Aires and the Chilean border stopping at highlight cities along the way, then down South into the lake district and the Patagonian backcountry. On this simple L-shaped path you’ll enjoy the expansive, gorgeous scenery as well as its picturesque cities and easy access to the amazing food that Argentina has to offer – beef in the north and Patagonia lamd in the south.

In Argentina, real travel means experiencing one of the most poetic regions in South America: Patagonia. Throughout Argentine Patagonia, you’ll be able to hike for hours upon hours in federally protected national parks or go rafting down waterfalls through the mountain range. Backpacking Argentinian Patagonia also introduces travelers to food and cultures they likely won’t experience anywhere else in South America. The tradition of Argentine “asado” shifts from beef in the north to wild raised goat and lamb in the south. Additionally, the heritage of beer, brought by the Germans, and the establishment of mountain towns that seems remarkably Swiss and specialize in chocolate (like San Carlos de Bariloche) make for a unique experience on the Gringo trail. Be sure to try the beers by Cervezeria Austral, especially the Calafate berry ale.

Wanderers that do make it south will find endless opportunities for outdoor adventures– anywhere they go, there are infinite landscapes waiting to be discovered – from the frontier mountain of El Chalten, to just across the border in Torres del Paine National Park. while sights like El Calafate (near Perito Moreno Glacier), a quaint little fishing town that is the gateway to Antarctica due to its location near Ushuaia. Travelers in the area can rent boats for day trips onto the frozen glacier or take guided hikes with local tour operators.

There’s no shortage of activities: from trekking alongside llamas in Mendoza wine country, climbing Mount Fitz Roy (arguably one of the most

There is plenty of historic scenery and cultural heritage to explore in the north too. Buenos Aires was one of the earliest colonial settlements in South America for example. Further north “Salta La Linda” maintains an almost indigenous charm, justifying her name.


Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, as well as the third-largest metropolitan area in South America. Backpackers can take a walking tour around Buenos Aires, visiting historic districts such as San Telmo and La Boca that have preserved various architectural styles from different periods. Backpackers may also want to visit the Teatro Colon, an internationally acclaimed opera house that is home to performances from local artists and groups touring inter-America.Sa

When in Buenos Aires, Backpackers should take a walking tour around the city, visiting historic districts such as San Telmo and La Boca that have preserved various architectural styles from different periods. Backpackers may also want to visit the Teatro Colon, an internationally acclaimed opera house that is home to performances from local artists and groups touring inter-America.

Mendoza wine country offers backpackers a unique opportunity. Backpackers will find themselves surrounded by some of the most beautiful vineyards in all of South America with views of snow-covered Andes mountains in every direction. Backpackers can partake in classes about wine

Backpackers will find themselves surrounded by some of the most beautiful vineyards in all of South America with views of snow-covered Andes mountains in every direction. Backpackers can partake in classes about winemaking and tasting in Mendoza wine country. Backpackers will enjoy the expansive, gorgeous scenery as well as its picturesque cities and easy access to amazing food.

San Carlos de Bariloche and National Park Nahuel Huapi: The most beautiful and accessible hiking country I’ve seen in the world. Countless trails through forests, pasts lakes, and up mountains, with more than you could possibly do falling into the half-day category all of the way to the multi-day category making National Park Nahuel Huapi one of my favorite places in the world

El Chalten and Parque Nacional Los Glaciares: A frontier mountain town, simple and adventurous, adjacent to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares delivers a hiking and trekking experience through front country and backcountry that is somewhat of a “Torres del Paine light” experience and free – you just have to buy and pack in your food. each time I’ve visited, this has been of the most peaceful and enjoyable experiences hiking through Patagonia.


  • Buenos Aires: The Paris of South America, gritty and filled with Argentine BBQ (asado)
  • Mendoza and Argentine wine country: Bike tour vineyards tasting world class wines
  • San Carlos de Bariloche and the Lake District: A German influenced mountain, surrounded by hiking and trekking opportunities, and the gateway to Argentine Patagonia
  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil Border: A UNESCO world heritage site, this combined waterfall has the largest flow of any in the world, taller than and twice as wide as Niagara Falls
  • Patagonian Backcountry in El Chalten: A small, frontier town that sits on the edge of the Patagonia Glaciares National Park, with great free, rustic camping and trekking with a more adventurous, less refined feel
  • El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier: Witness the vast and impressive glacier Perito Moreno while exploring it via a series of walkways for a half day experience
  • Puerto Natales, Chilean Patagonia, and Torres del Paine National Park: Hike the “W Trek” over 5 days or the “Circuit Trek” over 7 days in arguably the most impressive park in Patagonia
  • Ushuaia: Experience the end of the world and the southernmost civilized city, potentially visit Antarctica
  • More of Patagonia and the Wilds
  • Argentine Asado (BBQ)
  • Latin America meets Europe
  • Best wine in Latin America
  • Also Consider: El Bolson


Bring us dollars to get a better exchange rate and make your money go further thanks to the “dolar blue.”.

Due to recent history, Argentina is undergoing somewhat of an economic crisis. Though this event is terrible for locals, it doesn’t diminish the travel experience much and actually works in the traveler’s favor. The “Dolar Blue” is a “blue for an exchange rate much more favorable to you than the official rate. For example, at the time of writing this, the official exchange rate is 1 USD to to ~100 Argentine Pesos while by contrast the “Blue rate” is 1 USD to ~200 Argentine Pesos. The Dolar Blue rate alone makes traveling Argentine a great financial decision.

Comparatively, when I first traveled to Argentina in 2010, the currency exchange rate was 1 USD to 3.82 Argentine Pesos. At the current exchange rates, $1 will by you a Latte at an upscale coffee shop and $17 will buy you a ribeye steak at the best restaurant in Argentina (Don Julio’s).

To get the dolar blue, first educate yourself on the daily rate to go in informed. I’ve found https://bluedollar.net/ to be an accurate source. Next, bring your dollars.

If you don’t have any, going to Uruguay to withdraw from an ATM is a solid option, as there are many USD dispensing ATMs in Montevideo and Colonia.

Last, visit an “Arbolito” or unofficial exchange house kiosk. There are many located on the pedestrian street of Calle Florida.

Plan for long haul bus rides between cities

The distance between cities in Argentina are vast, so 12 to 20 hour bus rides aren’t uncommon. Do yourself a favor and only book “full cama” (full bed) bus rides over semi-cama and below


  • Mendoza Region Wine: Aim for Cabernets or Cabernet Sauvignon as these are their strengths
  • Argentinian Steaks
  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Pizza, typical of Buenos Aires in an Argentine style
  • Argentinean asados
  • Argentine desserts Dulce de Leche and alfajores


Backpackers can expect to spend about 40 USD per day if they are traveling solo and making their own accommodation arrangements. Backpackers traveling with one other person can expect to spend about 50 USD per day on accommodations and food; those who travel with two people should


Backpackers can budget about 40 USD per day if they are traveling solo and making their own accommodations arrangements. Backpackers traveling with one other person can expect to spend about 50 USD per day on accommodations and food; those who travel with two people should budget about 60 USD per

A budget for Backpacking Argentina will depend on a few factors. One factor is the time of year you go. Backpackers will have to take into account the high prices during the winter and shoulder seasons. Backpackers should also remember that accommodations are often much more expensive in the peak season (normally November to March). Other important factors in determining your budget are the length of your trip, how many people you are traveling with, and what type of accommodations you choose.


One of the best times to visit Argentina is during the shoulder seasons of September to November and March to May. Backpackers can explore at their own pace without feeling rushed and should be able to get a good price for accommodations. Those who want to avoid crowds may want to avoid the summer (in Patagonia) and winter months (in Buenos Aires and the North) as these are the peak travel seasons. Also consider visiting Patagonia for fall color in addition to the lighter crowds just before winter.


Travelers can stay up to 90 days without being granted any type of permission from immigration authorities and without any fees.


Traveling into Buenos Aires to start any Argentina backpacking trip is the best option . A perfect Argentina itinerary and path would begin in Buenos Aires traveling the loop west then south through Patagonia and Chile by bus, and then flying from Ushuaia back to Buenos Aires to depart, or to Santiago to travel north and explore more Andean South America.

Keep in mind that as you travel south through Argentina you will (or at least should) bounce across the border into Chile to explore cities such as Santiago, Valparaiso, Pucon, Valdivia, Puerto Montt, Tierra del Fuego, and of course Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park


  • Buenos Aires
  • Iguazu and Iguazu Falls
  • Mendoza and Mendoza Wine Country
  • San Carlos de Bariloche and the Lake Districts
  • El Chalten (Patagonia)
  • El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier

We’ve already mentioned that backpacking Argentina is a fantastic adventure, so it’s worth saying that Chile has just as many places and experiences worth exploring too. Backpackers who make the trip from Buenos Aires to Santiago will see the urban, cultured, and heavy European influence in Latin America, in the form of food, wine, university cities, and urban pockets, before following a more beautiful yet equally interesting path into Patagonia. The one up that Chile has is being arguably more outdoorsy and friendlier to the beach loving crowd.

Chileans, compared to Argentines and their neighbors, are remarkably more conservative, so you’re less likely to find them out at 3am on a Wednesday night going hard with work the next morning. On the other hand, thanks to the 4,000 mile coastline and landscape dominated by mountainous Patagoniw, Chileans outside of the bigger cities are know to be more outdoorsy and Salt of the earth. Take that to say Chile is the place you’re most likely to run into a local that’s a surfer, rock climber/mountaineer, and cowboy as well. And if the locals love these activities that means more opportunity for you to join in, safely ,and cheaply. If you prefer the outdoors, big night skies, and rugged landscapes to Italian influenced architecture, Chile is a place you could enjoyable fall through for months ending in legendary Torres Del Paine and Tierra Del Fuego.

By following the path south through Chile, from Santiago, “Valpo”, and Atacama, and bouncing back and forth between Argentina and Chile while falling south, backpackers can explore Torres del Paine National Park, take part in challenging climbing or make their way to Puerto Natales for an enchanting gateway town, climb a volcano (Pucon), explore the lake district on both sides of the Chilean and Argentinean border, pass through hippie towns, and more. Backcountry lovers seek out the many other less popular but equally beautiful national parks in Chilean Patagonia which tend to be more well maintained and improved than their Argentine national park counterparts.

On your way through Chile and Patagonia you’ll stumble past guanacos, pumas, and plenty of other backpackers enjoying life against a backdrop of incredible mountain landscapes while they traverse closer towards the highlight of the region – Torres del Paine National Park.

The further south you travel, the greener the landscape gets, until you’ve reached frost-covered volcanoes and the end of the world in Tierra del Fuego

Once you’ve fallen as far south as you care to, proceed north to experience the Atacama desert and some of the clearest skies in the world, perfect for stargazing in a way you will never experience anywhere else.

Chile’s long strip of land, dominated by coastline and mountain ranges, is an outdoor paradise speckled with fantastic wine. The conservative population, recently complex history (with the military junta), and lack of nightlife – compared to Argentina, Colombia, and Peru – make Chile perfect outdoors and nature lovers. EVERYONE should pass through, but plan how much extra time you spend in Chile according to your love of being outside.


  • Santiago: Chile’s capital, largest city, and start point for exploring Chile
  • Chilean Wine Country: The Casablanca Valley is Chile’s premier wine region for crisp white wines (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) as well as Pinot Noir, located halfway between Santiago and Valparaiso. Essentially the Napa Valley to Valparaiso’s “San Francisco of South America” reputation
  • Valparaiso : One of the best cities in South America according to lonely planet, Valparaiso is “Little San Francisco” with a South America twist. Hilly, artistic, and charming with its own version of “Napa Valley” (the Casablanca Valley) nearby
  • Pucon: An outdoorsy lake town at the base of the permanently snow covered volcano VIllarica which is the trip highlight to trek and literally slide down after. In between you can enjoy the trendy cafes and socializing with international vacationers
  • Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park: The town and adventure base for arguably the best National Park in Patagonia and South America hosting a 5 day “W Trek” and a 7 day “Circuit Trek”
  • San Pedro de Atacama: A high altitude desert city that boasts the clearest night skies in the hemisphere and unreal views of the stars amid a now trendy and hipster oasis
  • Iquiqe: A resort town on Chiles north coast that gives the chance to sandboard HUGE sand dunes enroute to San Pedro de Atacama
  • Valdivia: A past hub for German immigrants, as well as chocolate and beer, and now a lively university town with a solid nightlife and social scene

Also Consider:

  • Colchagua valley for wineries – south of Santiago
  • Chiloe (Region): An archipelago of 40 islands steeped in superstition and locals that are in touch with their heritage and roots of surviving in an adventurously unhospitable locale
  • Puerto Varas: A quaint lakeside town that is Chiles conservative, quieter answer to Bariloche
  • Central Chile: Great surf breaks, wineries, and Chilean cowboy culture
  • Epic Surf Spots: Arica, Pichilemu
  • Puerto Montt: The jump off point for travelers in Chile launching into Patagonia – big and busy
  • Concepcion: A busy, urban port city and the second largest in Chile


  • Chorillana: A mass of fries, cheese, hot dogs, and guilt that’s perfect drunk food.
  • Teremoto: A drink legendary among college students. One drink will shake your world up


The estimated daily budget for traveling in Chile depends on the type of traveler and the country they are visiting. Backpackers and modest tourists should expect to spend around $40 to $50 per day (shared hostel, one meal eat at a restaurant daily, self guided tours), but those who enjoy luxury can spend as much as $100 (private hotel room, eat out 3 times daily, several guided tours).


Chile’s extreme climate in the south means that it has a smaller window of time each year in which it is appropriate to visit expecting sunny skies – in Patagonia. However the shoulder seasons are still great to travel Patagonia if you don’t mind surprise rain and weather shifts. Backpackers looking to experience the Patagonian summer months might try visiting from October through February for sunny weather, but expect the most tourists in December and January.

Those who want to see the snow-capped mountains of Chile should plan on visiting during its winter months which typically fall between April and September – and plan on being able to squeeze in some snowboarding and skiing. Backpackers looking to visit Chile during its spring, summer and autumn seasons (October through March) might be interested in exploring San Pedro de Atacama or Patagonia for outdoor-oriented activities.


Travelers staying in Chile for less than 90 days will need to pay a $5 USD fee at the port of entry. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the end-date of their Chilean visa Backpackers.


As flights throughout South America are pricey, plan on bus travel when moving on to Argentina, Bolivia, or Peru from Chile. The land border crossing will be “interesting,” as Chile is very strict about the foods (mainly fruits and veggies) that cross the border into Chile, so ditch any fruits and vegetables before passing through customs.


For long haul travel within Chile, for most Chileans, flights are out of the question, as they instead of for coach style “Pullman” buses, but likely not the kind you’re used to if coming from the US, Canada, or Europe.

These buses are honestly more comfortable than most plane rides – if you pick the right one. In Chile the longhaul bus classes are “cama” (meaning “bed”) and semi-cama (meaning “semi-bed”). The “Cama” seats fold down completely horizontal to create a bed comfortable enough for a 20 hour trip. I honestly love these buses for road trips as you get a seat more comfortable than any airplane I’ve been on, with the exception of a few first class rides, and a beautiful view out of the window, especially the further you travel south into Patagonia.

The bottom line: Wherever you’re traveling in Chile, go by bus and choose “full cama” for an even more enjoyable travel experience.


  • The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
  • The Statues That Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island – Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo (Rapanui)

South America itineraries commonly focus on countries, but adventures generally don’t stop at borders and Patagonia is a perfect example of that. Patagonia is a vast, wild, and a beautiful region. Located at the southern end of South America, stretching across Chile and Argentina, this legendary rugged landscape is well worth a visit.

For lovers of the outdoors that are pressed for time and craving a trip to South America, I highly recommend skipping the city life, flying directly into Ushuaia, and venturing solely through the region of Patagonia. That experience alone would be rich and satisfying enough to make Patagonia the only part of your itinerary.


  • San Carlos de Bariloche + the Argentine Lake District: This Alpine style mountain filled with chocolate shops feels like and is the beginning Patagonia filled with deep blue lakes, towering green hills, and days of trekking in the epic Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi
  • Punta Arenas: The gateway to the Antarctic and a Patagonia jump off point that, thanks to its history, is worth a few days to explore its food, festivals (if time right), and character
  • Pumalin Douglas Tomkins National Park: A 700,000 acre park gifted back to the Chilean people
  • El Calafate: The largest city near the Perito Moreno Glacier. Though El Calafate doesn’t offer much, besides a fantastic all you can eat Patagonian BBQ joint, the city is the perfect place to base for your trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier
  • El Chalten + Cerro Fitz Roy : A Patagonian frontier town in Argentina that is one of the quintessentially charming yet relaxing trekking experiences in the region as it is adjacent to the free to use Glacier National park, filled with free campsites, with the Cerro Fitz Roy mountain, the star of the Patagonia brand logo
  • Puerto Natales town as a base for the Torres del Paine W and ) Circuit Treks
  • Torres del Paine Torres del Paine National Park W or O Trek + Grey Glacier + Peho as the highlight multi-day treks in Patagonia
  • Ushuaia: The southernmost civilized city in the world and the main “jumpoff point” for hopping a cruise to Antarctica


  • Austral Brewery Calafate Berry Ale
  • Patagonian cordero (lamb) cooked Argentine asado style
  • Chocolate (from San Carlos de Bariloche)
  • Empanadas with a Patagonian twist
  • Octopus and squid grilled on the beach
  • Comparsa (deep fried corn pancakes with cheese)


  • Distances are far between cities, so plan accordingly with snacks, bathroom breaks, and the potential for a bus to break down
  • The weather can be unpredictable don’t think you’ll be able to travel Patagonia in the winter, and plan for sun, rain, and snow (potentially) year round
  • Carry cash ATMs are fewer than in other cities in south America. Some cities only have one ATM and they’re commonly broken too


Plan on spending ~$50 per day minimum in cities throughout Patagonia not including drinks and entertainment, and significantly less when camping in places, outside of Torres del Paine Park.

Hostel Accommodation: ~$20 per night

Budget Hotel Accommodation: ~$50 per night

Transportation between cities: $20 per movement

Campsites: Free to ~$10

Food costs per day: $20

Budget for Torres del Paine National Park W Trek: ~$150 if you bring in your own food

Budget for Torres del Paine National Park Circuit Trek: ~$100 if you bring your own food


Patagonia is a unique place where you’ll want to go during the summer for the best weather and experience. Summertime, between December and February, the weather is pleasant and dry, but plan for Patagonia to be filled with tourists.

The shoulder season of springtime, during October and November, amd autumn,, during February and March, give other great options wherein the weather is cooler, crowds are lighter, and prices are less expensive.


By plane, plan to fly into Ushuaia, which has the nearest airport, and plan to bus into your preferred city, region, or destination in Patagonia from there.

For budget travelers and those already in the region, plan to take a bus, and plan your itinerary at least a week out if possible. Buses between locations and on specific routes in Southern, more remote South America only run 2 to 4 times per week, and full cama buses run even fewer days per week. To ensure you don’t spend too much more time in a destination than planned (getting stranded), check bus schedules at the town’s central bus station when you arrive, and don’t rely 100% on online bus schedules.


  • Whispering Land
  • 180 South (movie)
  • In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
  • The Old Patagonian Express – Paul Theroux
  • Patagonia: A Cultural History – Chris Moss


  • San Carlos de Bariloche
  • Punta Arenas
  • The new Patagonia National Park
  • El Calafate Perito Moreno Glacier, Lago Argentino, and Los Glaciares National Park
  • El Chalten + Cerro Fitz Roy for the trek past Lago de Los Torres or the 4 Day Huemul Circuit
  • Puerto Montt
  • Parque Nacional Pumalin (largest national park in South America)
  • Futaleufú
  • Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo
  • Puerto Natales (fit and equip for Torres del Paine)
  • What: Daily Torres del Paine W trek talk and Q&A at 3pm at Erratic Rock
  • Torres del Paine Torres del Paine National Park W or O Trek + Grey Glacier + Peho

Bolivia is a country that anyone seeking to explore the natural wonders of South America should visit. Hike through incredible mountain ranges, take part in challenging climbing in the Bolivian Altiplano -(the Himalayas of South America), and visit the country’s highlands, and more to experience an extremely unique landscape and country. All with a backdrop of complex history and visibly preserved indigenous culture.

The Bolivian Altiplano carries a special beauty that is unlike anything else on earth travelers will have seen in their travels. Visitors will also experience a multitude of indigenous cultures, charming with op hats,, pet alpacas, and brightly colored traditional dress, and incredible attractions with “adventurous” transport en route.

Go by offroad ready chicken bus or SUV tour to the Salar de Uyuni, one of the world’s largest salt flats with mesmerizing optical illusions worthy of hours long amateur photo shoots.

End the trip in Bolivia, before crossing into Peru, at Lake Titicaca, which is home to a number of indigenous ethnicities and the “highest navigable lake in the world,” with man made islands made of reeds.


  • La Paz: The highest de facto capital in the world with the “Bolivian Himalayas” as a backdrop
  • The towering Andes, the Himilayas of South America running across and towering above the vast and flat Bolivian altiplano
  • Lake Titica: The “highest navigable lake” in the world, shared with Peru, with man-made floating islands constructed of Totora root.
  • Salar de Uyuni (The Bolivian Salt Flats): Vast, impressive, and one of a kind experience – by day tour or multi-day SUV adventure
  • Mountain Biking the most dangerous road in the world


  • Keep your valuables hidden, especially passports as petty theft isn’t uncommon
  • Travel as a group or in pairs to avoid being targeted
  • Backpackers should invest in a reliable travel insurance plan for their trip (e.g., World Nomad)


  • Noodle chili
  • Chola sandwich
  • Cuñapé
  • Jak’s Iawa
  • Pique Macho


Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries in South America to travel costing roughly $25 to $35 per day (sometimes cheaper) for budget travelers and backpackers that don’t mind shared accommodation and avoid eating out too much. For less frugal travelers,, a budget of $50 to $65 a day for the basics, plus excursions will suffice.

Accommodation: ~$7-10 for a hostel, ~$25 for a budget hotel

Food: $10 for budget travelers, ~$15 for splurging

Transport: Averaged ~$5 per day if changing cities every 2 to 3 days

Activities: ~$10 to $30 self-guided and budget, $50 to $100+ for luxury


The best time to visit Bolivia is during the summer months between May and October when the dry season brings clear skies and the nights aren’t as cold. Outside of these summer months, temperatures in the highlands of the altiplano are much colder and may make hiking and camping less enticing.


Backpackers visiting Bolivia require a tourist visa, which can be obtained at any land border or airport, on arrival. The visa is valid for 30 days and costs $160. You will need 6 months validity on your passport, have proof of a flight leaving Bolivia before the expiration of your visa, and have the address for your accommodation in Bolivia.

You can find more information at the State Department website here


  • Bolivar: American Liberator
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Marching Powder – Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young

Peru is great for any backpacker looking to dabble into not just a rich present day culture, but deep into the past as well. The country has so much diversity in geography, culture, history, ruins, and gastronomy that it could very well be satisfying as your only destination for a 2 to 4 week adventure.

Peru is one of the cheapest places in South America to travel, slightly more expensive than Bolivia but delivering a far better living and travel standard. The Capital of Lima has a variety of restaurants, museums, and nightclubs that are not as pricey as they would be in other major cities like Rio, but just as lively, gourmet, and satisfying. Visitors can also visit Cusco for its famous Inca ruins or hike the Huayhuash circuit on one of Peru’s famous day hikes while diving into Peru’s hipster food, drink, and art scene.


  • Lima: Home to the best food in South America, Peruvian, fusion, and otherwise, and some of the best restaurants in the world
  • Cusco: A city littered with Incan ruins, charming pockets of neighborhoods and great archeological museums, and the jumpoff point to legendary Macchu Picchu
  • The Inca Trail trek or the Salkantay Trail trek: Adventurous, multi-day hikes through jungle and idigenous villages leading to the iconic, legendary highlight of Peru – macchu Pichu. Inca Trail – 4 days over 25 miles, Salkantay Trail- 6 days over 37 miles
  • Macchu Picchu: The ancient and once lost city of the Incas, towering thousands of feet above sea level and the surrounding landscapes and inspired the story of Indiana Jones
  • Huayhuash Circuit Trek (8 to 12 days): An often overlooked, adventurous, and enjoyable trek in Peru for outdoorsy travelers
  • Colca Canyon: Another great and often overlooked trek in Peru
  • Countless Archeological Sites hidden within the city of Cusco and around


  • Ceviche: Citrus “cooked” fish dish that Peru is legendary for.. Every region has a variation, so try some everywhere you go
  • Lomo Saltado (Stir Fried Beef)
  • Aji de Gallina (Creamy Chicken)
  • Papas a la Huancaina (Potatoes in Spicy Cheese Sauce)
  • Cuy (Guinea Pig)
  • Causa (Potato Casserole)
  • Rocoto Relleno (Stuffed Spicy Peppers)
  • Anticuchos de Corazon (Grilled beef hearts)
  • Arroz con Pato (Duck with Rice)
  • Pollo a la Braza (Simply amazing roasted chicken)


Bring lots of water and a sense of adventure whenever you hike, trek, or adventure in Peru. The altitude and heat will dehydrate you faster than you think.

Pack cash in order to buy food or drinks during their journey. ATMs will be rare at roadside cafes and on hiking trails.


Backpacking Peru will cost roughly $30 to $40 a day, if managing how much you eat out, and staying in hostels.

An average meal will be about $5 ( adding up to $15 to $25 per day), hostels will run $10 a night, and imported beer will run $3.


May to September is high season for tourism and the best time to visit Peru. Though the costs will be higher and the attractions will be crowded, this is the season to visit.

The low tourist season of January to April may offer cheaper prices and thinner crowds, but the high altitude jungles of Peru will be in the middle of rainy season and extremely rainy. Macchu Picchu and the Inca trail regularly shut down in February due to excessive rain.


For most nationalities, no visa is necessary to enter Peru, just 6 months validity on their passport. The visa is valid for up to 183 days, at the discretion of the issuing immigration officer.


  • Inca Empire: A History from Beginning to End
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu – Mark Adams
  • The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland – Hugh Thomson
  • Eight Feet in the Andes – Dervla Murphy
  • Last Days of the Incas – Kim MacQuarrie

Ecuador is the premier country in South America to soak in the experience of wildlife and nature. As the world’s most biodiverse country and home to the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands, few other places in the world will fill your thirst for David Attenborough styled Planet Earth adventures.

Backpacking Ecuador offers opportunities for hiking through cloud forests and active volcanoes, swimming with pink dolphins on the coastlines, taking in an aerial view of colourful villages from high vantage points and shopping from local indigenous markets. After the traditional sites, the Galapgaos archipelago offers interaction with wildlife – sea lions, sharks, iguanas, sea turtles, penguins, and seabirds – that you will unable to match anywhere else in the world.

Those who are up for a real adventure should hike one of Ecuador’s seven amazing wildlife reserves – like Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve – to see howler monkeys swinging on branches or quetzals (South America’s national bird) flying overhead.

Aside from Sri Lanka and Namibia and a handful of countries in Africa, nowhere else will you bring you as close to animals. And aside from Indonesia, no country will immerse you in adventures with aquatic animals like the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador as a whole.

For outdoorsy travelers, Ecuador and the Galapagos archipelago are perfect complements to Patagonia and not to be missed.


  • Cotopaxi National Park
  • Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve
  • The Galapagos Islands (Isabella Island, Santa Cruz Island, and San Cristobal Island)
  • Quilota Loop
  • Other: Guayaquil
  • Wildlife: In the Galapagos Islands and rainforests within the Amazon
  • Rainforests
  • Biodiversity
  • Walking across the equator


1. Get used to the altitude: The altitude in Ecuador is significantly higher than most places in North America, expect Peru. Unless you just came from Peru, plan to slowly adjust to the altitude at a low elevation while on your way to Ecuador or spend a few days in your first city (like Quito at 2,850 meters/9,350 feet) getting acclimatized. Hiking and trekking will be unnecessarily more difficult when you’re not acclimated, so take it easy and start out slow.

2. Be prepared for rain: Expect rain every day. It can come down in buckets or just sprinkle little drops, so pack optimism and a rain jacket whenever you venture out.

3. Wear sturdy shoes: Backpacking Ecuador requires a lot of walking which can add up quickly, on uneven, sometimes rocky, and sometimes muddy terrain. As such, you’ll need comfortable shoes with good ankle support. Backpacking shoes with good grip are recommended. Either some lightweight and packable hiking boots, or water friendly hiking saddles like Chacos or Tevas.

4. Fly from Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands to save money : If you decide to go to the Galapagos Islands (which you should) then fly out of Guayaquil, instead of Quito, to save $150 on your flight and actually arrive via direct flight as most flights to Galapagos connect through Guayaquil


  • Empanadas de Leche
  • Guaytacos Ecuadorian dish with a variety of herbs and an avocado dressing
  • Albóndigas soup
  • Locro: Potato, corn, avocado, and cheese soup
  • Chicha: Fermented corn drink
  • Empanadas: A corn based pastry stuffed with meat, potatoes, and various vegetables
  • Pisco: The local alcohol brewed from grapes and distilled for kick
  • Llapingachos: Potato cakes
  • Encocados: Fish served with a coconut sauce
  • Seafood: A raw seafood cocktail prepared with lime and seasoned with spices and chili
  • Seco de Chivo: Goat stew


If staying in hostels instead of hotels, traveling Ecuador should be $30 to $40 a day. That is assuming you are traveling as a backpacker, staying in a hostel and managing how often you splurge and eat out.

Travelers who are not staying in hostels will spend about twice as much at around $60 to $80 a day, including long trips and excursions into the Amazon.

  • Average meal: $5, Daily $20 to $30 (food, drinks, and snacks)
  • Hostel cost: $8 for a shared room, ~$12 for a private room
  • Imported Beer: $3.50


High season for tourism is between May and September, when the weather is relatively cool and overcast with much less chance of rainfall, however, expect higher prices and more tourists. Backpackers visiting in October and November, in the shoulder season, will experience the best balance of weather and low prices.

Backpackers who want to find cheaper prices may opt to visit Ecuador in its low season of January to April – though it’s important to note that this is also when the jungle’s highland regions are experiencing monsoon season which may result in some parts of the country being flooded. Backpacking at this time is still a great call if you’re interested in seeing an active volcano and can brave the rain, or are up for some serious waterfalls hikes as the rains will “fuel up” the rivers and waterfalls making for great rafting opportunities.


For most nationalities, no tourist visa is needed on arrival and a stay of up to 90 days is allowed. You simply need a passport with a minimum of 6 months of validity and your flight out of the country within 90 days.


  • The Voyage of the Beagle – Charles Darwin


The Galapagos Islands are often thought of as one of the most impressive places in South America; and for good reason! These islands boast a natural habitat so diverse that scientists have found over a thousand unique species living with the borders of the archipelago.

You’ll find marine iguanas, land iguanas, giant tortoises, elfin forest dragons, penguins and sea lions to name just some of the bizarre animals inhabiting these islands. Backpacking to these enchanting islands is an absolutely unforgettable adventure that you won’t want to miss out on! The best part about visiting this remarkable place? Backpackers can enjoy amazing views no matter what budget they’re on making this the perfect opportunity for everyone.


Highlights of backpacking the galapagos islands.

San Cristobal Island: The lux island, with the best accommodation, fanciest restaurants, and swankiest bars, but still with plenty of excursions you can do on your own. From snorkeling in a bay with sea lions, to hiking through nests of sea birds in an eco-friendly way. Between those experiences, swim with turtles and hammerhead sharks, and get chased in the water by sea lions pups.

Santa Cruz Island: The “backpacker island,” cheaper, packed with more nearby excursions, on island and on the ocean, and home to an amazing nightly market where you can have a lobster and seafood dinner grilled in front of you with $25 buying a lobster and the rest of a meal for 2 people.

Isabela Island: The “adventurous island” as it is the largest of the three and mostly uninhabited as it is the youngest island, and filled with lava fields on the far end. If you want a truly adventurous experience, visit, and aim for the dry season.


  • You don’t need a live aboard cruise. Hopping islands and taking day trips snorkeling is a much cheaper and more enjoyable way to experience
  • For most sites, you’ll see more animals snorkeling than you will diving
  • Each island has a distinct personality – one is luxury, one is normal, one is adventurous, roughing it ready, and backpacker-ish.
  • There is a private flight from the remote island of Isla Isabella, that is worth it if you’re pressed for time. The price is ~$100
  • Alternate between self guided day trips and paid snorkeling trips to make the most of your trip and get the most bang for your buck


  • A modest meal (lunch or dinner): $10
  • Accommodation: ~$20 for a shared dorm, ~$35 for a private double room
  • Snorkel tour: ~$50 to $100


Though December to May are the best times to visit for pleasant temperatures and dry days, savvy travelers will want to time their experience around the movement of their favorite animals. Turtles, penguins, seals, various sharks, and various fishes all change where they live and nest throughout the year – sometimes closer to accessible areas and sometimes far away – based on breeding habits and food patterns that involve following their food supply.

To find the best time for you to visit Galapagos, decide the animals you would love to experience and research the migration patterns (closer to or further from Galapagos) and time your visit accordingly.


Though no visa is required to entire the Galapagos Islands, because they are part of Ecuador, there is a $100 fee upon landing at the airport in order to support the maintenance of Galapagos National Park.


Vibrant culture, mecca of salsa dancing, the financial and tech hub of South America, former drug kingpin empires, and beachy coastline (Caribbean and Pacific) make Colombia a great country to backpack through. Travelers can see the beautiful Andes and Cordillera mountain ranges on the horizon, virgin jungle perfect for trekking, high mountain lakes with no less than six bizarre species of trout, cross bird-infested lowlands to reach pink flamingos and snow-capped peaks in just three days of wandering.

The capital city of Bogota is fun and welcoming to tourists with great nightlife and day attractions too while other nearby towns and neighborhoods within offer breathtaking colonial architecture in an environment where time seems suspended.

Medellin itself is one of the highlights of Colombia and South America, rivaling the experience in Buenos Aires while being cleaner and more functional with more down to earth locals. From Medellin you have quick access to Cartagena (by cheap flight)and islands off the coast like Malpelo and Sangral which are havens for sea lions – the largest colony of fur seals in the world can be found on Isla Clarión.

Beyond the cities, nightlife, and beaches, Colombia hides its own gem, “La Ciudad Perdida” or “The Lost City” which rivals Macchu Picchu in importance and stature. It is much more difficult to reach (adding to the adventure) and is far less visited, meaning you will likely have this remnant of the ancient Tairona civilization to yourself.


  • Cartagena’s walled Old Town and nearby Caribbean beaches
  • The Lost City
  • Zona Cafatera
  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park
  • Zipaquirá
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Medellin and Antioquia
  • Lost City – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
  • Carnival (in Baranquilla)


  • Ajiaco (traditional Colombian soup)
  • Tamales de Choclo or Plato Criollo (Colombian tamale with rice, ground beef and vegetables)
  • Bandeja de Paisa


  • Backpackers can feel at ease in Colombia because violence rates are lower than in many other Latin American countries – but take precautions as you would anywhere against pickpocketing and petty theft
  • Keep a low profile, especially while touring the cities and avoid wearing conspicuous clothing that could draw attention to you and be a target for thieves
  • Stay on public transportation when traveling between major cities. Private shuttles from airport to city center are available but can be expensive.


  • Total Daily Budget: $40 for budget travel, ~$70 for more comfortable travel per day
  • Accommodation: ~$12 per day for a hostel, ~$25 per night for a hotel room
  • Meals: ~$4 per meal, $15 to $25 per day total
  • Transportation: ~$7
  • Entertainment: ~$12


The best time to visit Colombia is December to March when the weather is drier. The wettest months in Colombia are September and October. However Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” and even in its rainier moments I still loved that city. If you are traveling elsewhere, not on the coast, double check the season, but Medellin is a safe bet year round.


Most nationalities do not need a visa for less than a 90 day stay, however their cumulative stay cannot exceed 180 days in a single calendar year.


  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez


The Lost City of Colombia is an ancient city built by Tayrona Indians. Adventuroua travelers can visit the city to explore the rich heritage of the Tayrona and see grand and ancient ruins.

A new adventure that rivals the experience of Macchu Picchu and the Inca Trail trek. Whereas the Inca Trail experience can have a months long waitlist and cost $1000+, the Lost City has thin crowds and will cost ~$300 for the 26 mile trek.

The Lost City of Colombia is one of the most hidden and least visited places in all South America. It was first brought into the light by a group of Americans led by Tovar Jara who followed the ancient Inca steps up to a plateau in Ecuador where they discovered carved stone, some gold jewelery, and an Incan/Maya calendar shaped like Stonehenge.

Comparison of the Lost City and Macchu Picchu

The lost city dates back to 800 AD and was home the Tayrona Indians, while Macchu Picchu dates back from the 1400s with the Inca empire. The “Ciudad Perdida” was hidden in the jungle for over 400 years, while Macchu Picchu was “lost” for nearly 350 years.

Both treks are ~25 miles long (round trip for the lost city trek), but the Inca trail is difficult simply because of the elevation changes, the trek to the lost city is adventurous on its own, traversing through dense jungle, rivers, and more of ~5 days.

The Lost City in Colombia and Macchu Picchu are both popular tourist destinations. However, there are some major differences between these two cities. Trekkers who want to delve into Colombia’s rich history should visit the Lost City. It’s one of the oldest sites found in South America. It is believed that the Lost City was occupied by people as early as 8 000 BC before being abandoned around 1500 AD. Backpackers may have the opportunity to explore this ancient city that’s filled with ruins of a once-thriving society.

An interesting similarity between the two cities is that each was built on top of a mountain and has stone pathways up to its gates. Both were built for spiritual purposes with the intention of connecting to celestial bodies from their heights. Tourists visiting Macchu Picchu will see pre-Columbian ruins which date back to 1400 AD.


As you reach Colombia or Ushuaia and thus the end of your backpacking trip through South America, my guess is you’ll be leaving with unforgettably amazing memories and experiences. For most, that alone is the trip of a lifetime and worth departing with a huge smile on your face.

However, for those lucky enough to have six months to a year or more free to backpack around the world , where should you go next? I highly recommend one of four options

  • Central America
  • Southeast Asia
  • The other four “trails” around the world
  • One of the “mini backpacking routes” around the world


Being only a short plane or boat ride from Colombia, Panama and the rest of Central America are fantastic follow on destinations South America. With coast on both sides of the beautifuk strip of land and a vibrant mix of Latino and Afro-Caribbean culture, the beachy paradises that stack up to be Central America are perfect backpacking destinations. Beaches, surfing, diving, biodiverse landscapes, animals, volcanoes, the tropical “island style” nightlife you’d expect from a Caribbean paradise, and an all around “living the good life” vibe are what you’ll find no matter which country you visit.

Beyond Central America, but close in vibe and location, is a digital nomad favorite of Mexico. Mexico offers some of the most diverse and rich experiences of the region, with an amazing food scene, vast coastline, and fantastic, welcoming culture and people with depth and charm throughout.

Though the cost of travel in Central America will be more expensive than in South America, the experience will be just as rich and (in the more expensive places) will offer more of the amenities common in the US, Canada, and Mexico that are difficult to find in South America.

So, if you have a few more months on the road and want a place near South America, consider sailing to Panama and continuing north to Mexico.


For backpackers on the “round the world” tour aiming to hit all of the backpacker highlights in the world and aiming for a cheaper cost of travel, the “ Banana Pancake trail ” popular with backpackers in Southeast Asia is the perfect way to spend three to six months of travel, with four months being the sweet spot.

So if you’re on the year long backpacking trip, I highly recommend Southeast Asia – the cluster of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and possibly Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia as your next destinations.

During the wanderings you’ll experience the hub of backpacker culture, beach life, and thousands of years old cultures all possible on a budget of $25 to $40 per day.

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Banana Pancake Trail and Backpacking Southeast Asia


For the travelers lucky enough to have a whole year or more to explore the world, I highly recommend making the most of it by trodding off the beaten path and on to more budget friendly destinations over the popular and famed travel locales. Instead of Western Europe, travel to the Balkans, the Caucus region, and Eastern Europe. Even better, travel Arabia and the highlights of the Middle East.

As daunting as this task of hitting the major regions of the world – the Balkans via the “Balkan Walk”, Southeast Asia via the “Banana Pancake Trail”, the Middle East via the “Arabian Trail,” and Central America via the “Maya Trail” – may seem it is sctually easier than you think. Each of these paths through their respective regions are filled with friendly backpackers traveling on a self contained, conveyor belt like path if backpacker friendly infrastructure that shuttles them through the highlights of each region.

To learn more about “The Trails” approach to backpacking around the world, read our full article “ The Trails: A Guide to Backpacking the World .”


If you are not lucky enough (yet) to have a year available to travel the world, the “ mini-backpacking trails ” are perfect for you. 15 countries and regional backpacking and travel paths that fit perfectly into a 2 week trip while delivering all of the pleasure, excitement, and adventure of a round the world trip.

Here are the 15 mini-backpacking trails of the world

  • Vietnam :  The new backpacker trail and moto adventures
  • Thailand :  A classicstarter for backpackers
  • Philippines :  Waterworld, filled with diving and liveaboard cruises
  • Bali & the “Gilis” :  Island meets Asia meets eclectic
  • Myanmar :  Ancient civilizations
  • Sri Lanka :  Animal safaris, tuk tuks, ancient kingdoms, and surfing
  • Nepal :  A mecca for trekking
  • Colombia :  Close to home and rich with vibrant experiences
  • Argentina & Chile :  A Latin American European experience wrapped in wine, steak, and outdoors
  • Patagonia & the Argentine Lake Districts :  Quintessential trekking experiences in South America
  • Bolivia, Peru, and Galapagos :  South America’s frontier at the Andean Altiplano and the “Tibet of South America”
  • Turkey :  East meets west dotted with history and otherworldly landscapes
  • Israel and Jordan :  A quintessential experience of the Middle East, safely, and easily
  • Croatia & Montenegro :  Coastal Europe with castles and irreplaceable views
  • Albania :  Mediterranean beaches and emerging experiences


Brazil is so large and rich in experience that it should be its own trip. Traveling Brazil properly would involve a 4 to 6 month trip, experiencing the contrast of vibrant cities such as Rio, vast cultural hubs like Sao Paulo, a plethora of Amazonian gateways, countless beach cities – ritzy like Florianopolis and far off the beaten path – and so much more to explore. Additionally, the vast distances between the numerous sites you need to see make Brazil much harder to travel than its South American siblings.

If you want a taste of Brazil, pass through Rio, Sao Paulo, Recife, Florianopolis, Porto Alegre or Manaus (the gateway to the Amazon).

Backpackers who want to visit the Amazon can stay in Manaus and then travel downriver on a boat (usually for as long as 2-3 weeks). This also offers the option of flying or taking a bus from anywhere in Brazil all the way to Manaus and exploring all they can from there. Backpackers can explore the mountains of Rio de Janeiro or head east to Salvador de Bahia, where they’ll find miles of beachfront property in one of South America’s most popular tourist destinations.

Also consider the Brazilian Pantanal in Mato Grosso do Sul. Backpackers looking for experiences that are truly off the beaten path will find them throughout Brazil, but especially in it’s northern reaches and inland cities such as Palmas or Fortaleza.

As for Venezuela…

Venezuela is chreenrly experiencing a serious economic crisis and danger as well. In my time in South America, I ran into several Venezuelans who chose not to go back to Venezuela due to security concerns – and I would advise most travelers to do the same.

Venezuela is currently experiencing instability with a corrupt government system that has poor track record for protecting travelers and that should play heavily into your decision to visit Venezuela.

I do hope things return to normal soon for the populace and travels as Venezuela is a country that matches the rest of South America in natural beauty, culture, and experience.


  • Decide on how much time you have
  • Decide on your budget, minus flights in and out, and divide that into a daily budget
  • Review this list of countries and highlights, and visit our country specific guides and itineraries to get a better feel for each country, then list your “must-see” locations and attractions, also keeping in mind the places you can do without
  • Decide your start and end points, with your start point being solid and your endpoint being fairly flexible
  • Draw your rough route
  • Dot your destinations along the way
  • Plan the number of days you’ll need for each destination and experience, add in 1 to 2 days per week as downtime with no travel or specific exploration, then add them up to ensure they’ll fit your timeline and budget (i.e., time to bus between locations if flights are too expensive)
  • Adjust your itinerary as necessary
  • Understand that staying flexible is best as you will discover places and people that your timeline is worth changing for


  • 11 Reasons why Buenos Aires is the perfect city for a long stay
  • 5 Essential Routes for Backpacking the World and Visiting Every Continent
  • The Balkan Walk: The Perfect Backpacking Itinerary for the Balkans
  • 3 Months in Southeast Asia: A Perfect Plan for the the “Banana Pancake Trail”
  • The Mini Backpacking Trails: 15 Itineraries Aroudn the World for 2 Weeks or Less
  • The 10 Day Middle East Itinerary

(Click here to return to the Table of Contents)

More Great South America Articles

  • Palermo Buenos Aires: Discover What to Do and See in Argentina’s Most Bohemian and Stylish Neighborhood
  • Argentina Digital Nomad Visa: 6 Steps to Apply, Requirements, and Everything You Need to Know
  • The 21 Best Digital Nomad Communities Around the World, Online, and Offline, plus 50 more…

More Great Articles to Help You Get Abroad:

  • The Ultimate Malaysia Digital Nomad Visa Guide
  • Moving to Malaysia: A Complete Guide
  • Moving to Bali: A complete guide for digital nomads and aspiring expats
  • The New Thailand Visa Exemption: Everything You Need to Know
  • The New Bali Digital Nomad Visa and 5 Other Options: A Complete Guide
  • Buying a House on Bali: A Complete Guide to Cheap, Easy Home Ownership in Bali
  • The 51 Best Digital Nomad Jobs among Successful Nomads
  • 9 Epic South America Backpacking Routes
  • Backpacking the World…2 Weeks at a Time
  • Is Geoarbitrage for You? An Ultimate Guide to Living Better for Cheaper as a as a Nomad


Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.

Travelling is ultimately a tool for growth. If you want to venture further, click this banner and take the leap 😉

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Home » South America » Backpacking Travel Guide

Backpacking South America Travel Guide (TRAVEL TIPS • 2024)

So, you want to know how to travel South America, eh? Well, you’re in the right place! 

Backpacking through South America is like learning to ride a bike without the training wheels. There is just the right amount of danger and curve balls to keep you alert, focused, and totally stoked on life.

With the exception of a handful of backpacker hotspots, South America is the wild west frontier of backpacking. This is the land of crazy parties, epic surfing, sprawling cities, and wild landscapes including the Andes and the Amazon jungle.

Above all else, South America is stunningly beautiful. Though challenging to navigate at times, it’s budget backpacker friendly, diverse, relatively safe, and one hell of a travel experience…

But South America is MASSIVE. Deciding where to go and how to travel South America is a mind-boggling task. That’s where I come in, amigos. This South America travel guide will provide you with EVERYTHING you need to know to prepare for your trip through South America.

Here’s the full low-down on how to backpack South America including routes, country profiles, tips and tricks for South America budget travel, and much more.f

Lace up your bootstraps and prepare to have your travel inspiration skyrocket. We’re going on an adventure!

Silhouette of a woman fishing in a river in front of a red-orange sunset

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Why Go Backpacking in South America?

The South American continent is one of my favourite places on earth. It was always a place that mystified me: the traveller group was generally older and more mature. So when I got invited (by a sexy South American), I jumped at the chance.

It’s a place where I learned the art of budget travel , fell in love countless times, and had a multitude of life-changing experiences along the way. If you want to get off the beaten track whilst still having the option to meet plenty of other travellers, South America is the place to level up your backpacking skills and head on a real adventure…

Laura looking out over green hills holding a mate

South America is one of the most diverse continents on earth. It is home to the world’s second-highest mountain range in the Andes, world-class surf beaches, the Amazon Basin, the world’s driest desert, huge plains of lush grassland, glaciers, and unique wildlife not found anywhere else on Earth…

Each country you visit whilst backpacking South America offers up the opportunity to experience the incredible natural and cultural forces unique to that region.

Backpacking South America is generally a cheap endeavour – although it’s not as cheap as Southeast Asia or India. There are some fairly expensive corners of South America that you should avoid if you’re travelling on a budget .

You will fall in love with South America (and maybe a person or two along the way). So let’s dive into some South America travel itineraries and backpacking routes for your trip.

Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking South America

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When making a South America backpacking itinerary, remember that travel distances are HUGE, internal flights expensive, and sometimes you want to stay somewhere longer than anticipated.

backpackers walking next to the train tracks towards Machu Pichu.

So choose your South America backpacking route carefully. Unlike other continents, how much time you have really matters; you simply can’t do all of it.

If you only have 2 or 3 weeks for travelling South America, forget about seeing the whole continent. I recommend sticking to one country and devoting your energy to exploring it properly. 

In one month, you could explore some countries closer to each other. You could visit Bolivia and Lake Titicaca in Peru for example. It’s good to have room for spontaneity in your South America travel itinerary too.

2 Week South America Travel Itinerary – The West Coast Appetizer

4 month trip to south america

You’ll have to keep moving to make this itinerary happen in 2 weeks, but I believe in you!

Start your backpacking South America itinerary in Colombia by visiting Cartagena . After a few days, head to Santa Marta , the jump-off point for Minca – a charming mountain town – and Tayrona National Park.

Get a bit off the beaten path, and head east to Cabo de la Vela (where the desert meets the sea) and Punta Galinas , where you can feast on fresh seafood along the Caribbean coast. Doubling back to Cartagena , head to nearby Playa Blanca and Tolú (mangrove) before heading to Islas de San Bernardo (white-sanded islands).

Or you could start in Lima , Peru. Explore the city for a day or two before heading to the Nazca Lines , Arequipa , and Colca Canyon . 

Then head to Cusco in the Andes. Take a few days to get used to the altitude before setting off on a multi-day trek to Macchu Picchu.

Alternatively, start in Buenos Aires . Then you can head south to trek in Patagonia . In southern Argentina and Chile, you can do the world-famous Torres del Paine circuit . 2 weeks is cutting it fine but – if you hustle – you could pull it off.

In 2 weeks, you can get a good taste of Colombia, Ecuador , or Bolivia . Don’t miss out on the Salt Flats . 

1 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Starter

4 month trip to south america

With 1 month, you can make an epic backpacking South America itinerary. If you want to explore more than one country in South America, you’re gonna need more than 3 weeks. 

For surf bums, you could easily spend a month heading beach to beach from Southern Peru all the way to Colombia , in 1 month. Or you could do 2 weeks in Argentina followed by 2 weeks of hiking in Chilean Patagonia . 

If it were me, larger countries like Argentina, Chile , and Brazil are better to explore with more than 1 month. You can do it but you will spend a long time on bus journeys, so I would just stick to one area. 

Southeast Brazil is a good choice for 1 month on a South America itinerary: travel from Rio de Janeiro all the way south to Florianópolis and hit up everything in between. Bear in mind that you’ll probably want to stay in Rio AND Floripa longer than you expect.

Highlights of this route include exploring the megapolis of São Paulo , idyllic getaways of Ilha Grande and Paraty , eco-friendly and laidback Curitiba , and the crazy nightclubs of Balneário Camboriú .

Or, you could fly into Ecuador and spend 3 weeks exploring here: stay at a great hostel in Guayaquil before heading to Montañita . In Montañita you can party and surf to your heart’s content. Head North towards Bahia de Caraquez and Canoa for surf towns that are more off the beaten path. 

Next head to the mountains, stopping first in Quito . There are some excellent treks in the Ecuadorian Andes .

If you have time, definitely hit up the Volcano Loop trail on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park . A trip to the jungle around Puyo is recommended as well. Then head for a week of trekking in Colombia .

3 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Great South America Main Course

4 month trip to south america

3 months backpacking South America, eh? Hell yes!

I recommend flying into Lima, Peru unless you know you want to start in the north (Brazil or Colombia) or further south (Argentina or Chile). Explore Lima and the coast before heading to the Andes. There Machu Picchu awaits in all of its glory.

Definitely do a trek to the famous Inca city! (More on hiking in South America later). From here, you can either drop down on the other side of the Andes and explore the Amazon basin or you can head south to Bolivia and eventually Argentina and Patagonia .

Alternatively, you can slowly start making your way north via the Coast. You could spend a month (or more) in Ecuador, Colombia, or Brazil respectively.

Personally, I started off in Buenos Aires then went north to Brazil and Colombia . The distances were truly massive. I’m talking 30-hour bus rides (on comfortable buses I must say). 

Travelling in South America is never a quick affair, so plan your itinerary accordingly.

6 Month South America Travel Itinerary – The Full 3-Course Latin America

4 month trip to south america

Life has brought you to the fortunate crossroads of having 6 months to travel South America? Good on you! 

With a 6-month backpacking South America itinerary, you have the luxury of really being able to take your damn time. To see multiple countries, it’s a practical choice to begin your journey either in the north or the south to avoid backtracking.

With a 6 month itinerary, you can explore many South American countries in depth. I’ll be honest with you, the itinerary shown on the map is really fucking ambitious. But hopefully, it gives you an idea of what crossing this vast continent would look like.

Starting your journey in Rio de Janerio or São Paulo might be a bit of a rough landing, though you will be a primed bad-ass by the time it comes to move on to another country. Other options are starting with some days in Buenos Aires , in Argentina, and Chile, in the south.

You could be surfing it up on the coast of Ecuador one day, and be in the mountains of Peru several days (and many bus rides) later. I advise taking a chunk of your time to really explore and get off the beaten path in top destinations like Brazil , Colombia , and Bolivia .

Having 6 months or more to go backpacking truly means you have a total blank slate to work with. So get ready to write your own beautiful backpacking destiny!

Each country in South America has something unique and profoundly exciting for backpackers. But they also have some common themes: they are Spanish speaking (minus Portuguese in Brazil), they have stunning natural beauty, and some of the nicest people you will meet whilst travelling. So finding the best places to backpack in South America has a lot to do with your own interests.

Woman sat by the river in South America with her flip flops off

Maybe you’ll explore the epic snow-capped peaks of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. Party with beautiful people at the Carnival in Brazil. 

Trek to the Lost City in Colombia. Experience the sun-drenched deserts of Bolivia and the colourful Rainbow Mountains of Peru.

Backpacking through South America truly is a life-changing journey through one of the planet’s most fascinating landmasses. When you visit South America, you can be sure that it will be some of the most fun you will have in your life.

Group of travellers looking the view of mountains and lakes in Neuquen, Argentina.

South America is a vast continent on the move. The number of people travelling to South America is increasing every year. Whilst the cost of living in South America remains quite low, each country requires a different budget for travellers.

Once you begin to discover a few of the South American countries, you will be entranced by the jaw-dropping landscapes, fascinating history, vibrant culture, and awesome food.

Let’s take a look at the countries that make backpacking in South America so damn special.

Backpacking Brazil

Brazil is, hands down, one of South America’s most dynamic countries. It’s all about the extremes. Whether it’s the parties, the people, or nature, the vibrations run through everything – and connect everyone.

Backpacking in Brazil offers up sick surf beaches, fun-loving locals, insane parties, and landscapes that would make even the most seasoned traveller say “no shit, mate, look at that!”

Of course, the Brazilian festival Carnival is legendary – and for good reason. Get your mind blown on the Brazilian side of  Iguaçu Falls , visit the Amazon , drink a Caipirinha on the beach! Plus Brazil’s home to big up-and-coming cities like Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, and Natale.

People walking, sitting and playing volleyball on a sunny day at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

And when I say ‘extreme’, I mean extreme : Brazil is absolutely MASSIVE and covers nearly half (47%) of South America’s landmass! That should give you an idea of how big it is.

But, more importantly, it gives you a better idea of how much diversity Brazil has on offer. In fact, there’s a lot going for Brazil that you may not be aware of.

For example, trekking probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about backpacking through Brazil. It’s a shame because Brazil has truly gorgeous trails spread throughout the country. It’s also home to Iguazu, one of the most incredible waterfalls on Earth.

The best hiking opportunities are usually found in Brazil’s national parks  (parques nacionais ). Brazil has over 70 national parks and – in terms of beauty – these can contend with any other on Earth.

What to Know Before Visiting Brazil

Surfers on the beach in Itacare, Brazil at sunset

  • Don’t miss out on… Florianopolis. The Brazilians favourite place to visit for a reason. It’s chilled, safe, and gorgeous. You plan to stay in Floripa for a week, it grabs you by the balls, and you get stuck for months.
  • Keep an eye out for… Travel distances. Don’t be fooled: they’re way longer than they seem on the map. Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B.
  • The coolest hostel is… Hostel do Morro . In one of my favourite destinations in Brazil, this hostel is a true nature immersion. In the “mato”, with sea view and monkeys visiting. A true good vibes place!
  • The best food is found in… Belo Horizonte. There is an amazing energy to this place; everyone hangs out on the streets, eating and drinking at plastic tables, all night long.

Backpacking Colombia

Whilst South America has many countries that I consider to have the full package , Colombia is the most complete. It’s a relatively small country. So considering the scale of epic surf, neverending parties, untouched jungle, happening cities, and towering mountains, Colombia is a reason for backpackers to keep travelling!

Cali, Cartagena, Bogotá , and Medellín are a few major cities in Colombia where you can really let loose. Go and have some extraordinary conversations with the locals about life in Latin America and not taking life too seriously.

Man looking over vista in Medellin, Colombia

Is Colombia safe ? Perhaps your mum would love to know. Hell yes, it is !

As much as Colombianos are ready for the disassociation with Pablo Escobar, it’s hard not to mention the impact that he made on the country and the South American continent as a whole. But his reign of terror is over.

Modern-day Colombia couldn’t be more different from the days when narco-traffickers ruled the country. Visiting Medellín now vs 20 years ago is a COMPLETELY different experience. The Medellín of today is a great experience.

Colombia is for adventure junkies and nature lovers too. The northern terminus of the Andes Mountains ends here and you can take your treks into the deep jungle in Colombia’s National Parks .

What to Know Before Visiting Colombia

Colombia street view in Medellin, comuna 13 neighbourhood

  • Don’t miss out on… Carnival in Barranquilla. Most of the time, this industrial town is overlooked by travellers. But for one week of the year, this place goes NUTS.
  • Keep an eye out for… how difficult the trek to Cuidad Perdida is. It’s long, treacherous, and hot as shit, but absolutely worth the effort in the end. The Lost City is one of the best places to visit in South America.
  • The coolest hostel is… Viajero Santa Marta Hostel . Great location and has lazy and peaceful vibes. Amazing rooftop and activities to connect and meet other travelers.
  • The best food is found in… the local restaurants. Look for the menu del dia to feel like you’ll never need to eat again.

Backpacking Ecuador

Ecuador might be small but it certainly packs a punch. I spent 3 months backpacking in Ecuador and could easily spend many more.

The diversity is incredible and it’s a great place to experience Andean Highland culture. The people who live in the Andes have a distinct and ancient culture rooted in mountain life. They even speak another language called Quechua . It’s a relatively safe country , and isn’t ruined by mass tourism.

In addition to staying in colonial cities like Quito , Ecuador’s natural landscape is the biggest draw. You can spend weeks or months exploring the coast before heading to the mountains and vice versa. Towering over the shore, volcanoes, waterfalls, and massive snow-capped mountains all make incredible trekking routes.

Surfing reigns supreme on the Ecuadorian coast. It attracts surfers from all over the globe. Even if you’re a beginner, it’s a great place to catch your first waves. Towns like  Montañita and Canoa are famous surf beaches and party hotspots.

Street with colorful colonial houses in Quito

If you have some extra cash in your budget, you can visit The Galápagos Islands . But be warned – this is not a cheap endeavour, especially for excursions like diving (though it is AWESOME). So prepare yourself to shell out some cash!

Then there is the Amazon Basin of Ecuador. The Amazon region is what helps make Ecuador one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. The Amazon is best explored by boat with a local guide and is bound to be the adventure of a lifetime!

What to Know Before Visiting Ecuador

Surf board and coconut at the beach in Ecuador coast.

  • Don’t miss out on… exploring the highlands and Cotopaxi National Park. Easily accessed from Quito and totally epic.
  • You know what’s overrated … Montañita. It’s not all it use to be and is mostly catered to foreigners who want to get wasted and high. If you want real Ecuadorian culture, there are better places nearby.
  • The coolest hostel is… Casa del Sol . Relaxed vibe at a few steps from the beach. Close enough to go party and far enough to have a good sleep. THE place for yoga and Surf.
  • The best food is found in… the small almuerzo (lunch) cafes found across the country.

Backpacking Peru

Ah Peru. Backpacking Peru is the essence of travelling in South America. Though tourism has spiked in Peru in recent years, there is still plenty of magic to be found here.

The cost of backpacking Peru is a little higher than you might expect. Expect to pay between $30-40 USD a day whilst travelling here. (But more about the cost of backpacking South America later.)

Peru has a super long coastline dotted with prime surf beaches and scuba diving sites. In the Andes lies a whole other form of beauty.

I mean, who isn’t aware of Machu Picchu and hiking the Inca Trail ? Besides the obvious, there is much, much more to the Peruvian Andes than Machu Picchu. Although, you still have to go there!

Peru has some truly fascinating colonial cities as well, including Cuenca and Cuzco, which is the gateway city to Machu Picchu. The off-the-beaten-path potential in Peru is enormous.

snowy mountains in peru

Check out the Rainbow Mountains to see nature at its most colourful. Hike the majestic  Cordillera Huayhuash . Explore Colca Canyon and sleep out under a billion stars.

If you want a truly magical experience, there are many eco-lodges in Peru that are nestled in the best nature spots, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes mountain range.

Wherever you decide to travel in Peru, be sure that it will be a highlight of your South America backpacking adventure.

What to Know Before Visiting Peru

Backpacker looking at the old city of Machu Picchu on a rainy day.

  • Don’t miss out on… a motorcycle journey through the Sacred Valley outside Cuzco. It’s definitely worth staying in Cuzco a little longer for this.
  • You know what’s overrated… the Inca Trail. Go for the less-trod Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu instead.
  • The coolest hostel is… Banana’s Adventure Hostel . In an unreal location (an oasis in a desert) this is a sociable and relaxed vibes hostel. With a great rooftop plus a lovely garden with hammocks, and an outdoor pool.
  • The best food is found in… Lima. This city is full of cafes, local lunch spots, and street food vendors. The best are in Barranco and Miraflores. Pig out on ceviche !

Backpacking Bolivia

Backpacking in Bolivia offers up a glimpse of what South America was like 30 years ago. It’s a country looking to the future in many ways whilst still having one foot firmly rooted in the tradition of the past.

Expect super friendly locals, dramatic desert and mountain landscapes, and the kind of low prices which make the dirtbag within us very happy. You could easily get by on $20-25 a day here, and even less by roughing it a bit.

Bolivia is home to plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities including the Road of Death , which, in essence, is a road down through the mountains in which people ride bicycles to the bottom at top speed. The ride goes on for at least 30 kilometres and it is straight down. Can you guess why it’s called the Road of Death yet?

Aside from the high-risk adventure activities, Bolivia is safe for the most part as well.

Bolivian Culture

World-class trekking is abundant in the Bolivian Andes. If you love to hike, all the more reason to visit Bolivia. Bring along a good sleeping bag as temperatures can plummet at night.

La Paz has the best hostels (particularly for partiers) and is a cool city to base yourself in. Lake Titicaca is breathtaking, however, it has become far too touristy – I personally can’t deal with that many people taking selfies. I don’t blame the locals as they need to make a living. Just the way it has been done is unfortunate.

The Salt Flats are also cool AF. Okay, admittedly it’s pretty touristy too, but it’s still worth a visit.

What to Know Before Visiting Bolivia

two cholita wrestlers wearing colourful dresses raising their hands together in the ring

  • Don’t miss out on… the Salar de Uyuni. Yes, everyone who comes to Bolivia does this and, yes, it’s touristy. Regardless, it’s still in-fuckin-credible.
  • Keep an eye out for… the altitude. Some people fly directly to La Paz from sea level and get sick almost immediately. At 3640 meters, La Paz is the highest major city in the world.
  • The coolest hostel is… Wild Rover La Paz . A dynamic and festive hostel. The perfect place to start your Bolivian experience connecting with other travellers. Great location in the central area.
  • The best food is found in… La Paz. This is the epicenter of Bolivia’s newly emerging food culture.

Backpacking Chile

There are no half measures while Backpacking Chile. From trekking through gorgeous glacial national parks to exploring the martian bone-dry Atacama desert , you’re all in for one hell of an experience.

Backpackers hitchhiking on the road in atacama desert, Chile.

There are 36 National Parks in Chile ; all of them are beautiful and unique in their own way. Chile is also home to Easter Island , one of the most mysterious places on the planet.

Like Argentina, Chilean Patagonia is a paradise for trekkers and adventure types – though it does take some effort to reach the places you want to go trekking in. That said, the journey is well worth it; experiencing some of the planets last truly wild places is an indescribable feeling that you can only understand by doing it!

Most backpackers will start their backpacking journey in Santiago. But you can come to Chile from one of its borders in the South (as I did).

Oh yeah, one more thing: Chilean wine is cheap and it is damn good! Do you need more reasons?

What to Know Before Visiting Chile

Person hugging an araucaria tree, also known as monkey puzzle tree, in the Andes mountains in Chile.

  • Don’t miss out on… Patagonia, and not just the usual spots. Chilean Patagonia is vastly unexplored, especially the fjords. Look out for whales, dolphins, penguins, and elephant seals.
  • Keep an eye out for… fire bans in Torres del Paine. A lot of nature has been threatened because of dickhead backpackers using gas burners, despite warnings.
  • The coolest hostel is… MaPatagonia Hostel . Near a beautiful lake, this place has what you need. Kitchen facilities, a nice big garden, some cats, and a jacuzzi! There is also a fireplace for those cold nights.
  • The best food is found in… Santiago. Staying in Santiago will unlock the most culinary options, including the cheap street food stalls.

Backpacking Argentina

Viva Argentina!

Backpacking Argentina is one for the ages. Welcome to the land of wine, excessive meat, football, tango, incredibly passionate people, and the final frontier – Patagonia.

Argentina is an immense country with very distinct regions. Eat to your heart’s content, party harder than you ever have before, and fall deeply in love.

You’ll probably land in Buenos Aires , arguably the cultural capital of all of South America.

Unquestionably, you’re going to find incredible hostels in Buenos Aires and reasons to stay. But don’t stay too long!

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires is the place where people protest in front of the government house.

Rosario and Cordoba are cities like Buenos Aires but, in my opinion, better. They’re a perfect place to head to if you want to steer clear of the heavily populated capital.  Mendoza is the wine region home to the “ best wine in the world ” (according to Argentinos).

Further south lies Patagonia : one of my favourite places on Earth, and home to many Argentinian National Parks . Patagonia is a truly expansive, desolate wilderness area where the weather is harsh and civilization is few and far between.

Trek mountains and glaciers, or sea kayak around them,. There, you could go days without seeing many (if any) backpackers! Now THAT’S the dream.

Staying at an Argentine mountain hut (refugio) is a wonderful experience not to be missed. Few who travel to Argentina manage to make it as far as  Tierra del Fuego (the Land of Fire). Visit one of the most dramatic places in Argentina with its long summer days and epic arctic landscapes.

Speaking of the arctic, you can arrange trips to Antarctica from Ushuaia ! This would be the adventure of a lifetime but it’s by no means cheap.

What to Know Before Visiting Argentina

tango dancers embracing argentina

  • Don’t miss out on… El Chaltén, which is the base for seeing some of the most dramatic peaks on Earth: Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.
  • You know what’s overrated… La Boca in Buenos Aires. These much-hyped multi-coloured houses are pretty rundown and actually quite dangerous, I strongly suggest you avoid it. The whole area feels like a tourist trap. There are much better things to do in Buenos Aires .
  • The coolest hostel is… America del Sur Hostel (El Calafate). Cozy, super social, and with an insane view of the lake, the town, and beautiful sunsets. Great place to chill, and work (if you need to).
  • The best food is found in… your neighbour’s personal asado . Nothing beats grilling grade-A Argentinian beef with some locals.
  • The official exchange rate is NOT THE EXCHANGE RATE . Because of the fluctating exchange rate, many of the locals withdraw their cash by using what is referred to as a “blue dollar rate” from Western Union. This way gives you 50% more pesos than withdrawing pesos from an ATM or exchanging currency.

Backpacking Uruguay

Not many travellers end up backpacking in Uruguay. There are a few reasons why:

  • It’s small
  • It’s out of the way
  • There’s not a ton to do

All of the above are true to some extent: Uruguay is not overflowing with adventurous activities or jaw-dropping sights. But let me tell you, they have some of the best quality of living in South America.

One of the perks about Uruguay is you don’t HAVE to do anything here. People are friendly and, compared to some chaos you find in other areas of the continent, it’s pretty chill. The beautiful coast is the perfect place to get away from the usual backpacking South America route and to avoid traveller’s burnout .

two people stood on the sandy banks of a river

Outside of Montevideo , there are nice beach towns worth crashing at; Punta del Diablo is the quintessential lazy surfer town. Punta del Este is fun in the summer if you like partying. Colonia del Sacramento is an old colonial outpost and UNESCO heritage – although it is admittedly more of a day trip rather than a base.

Oh but here’s the kicker: weed is legalised. Yes, Uruguay is famous for allowing the smoking of the devil’s lettuce. And the quality of it is surprisingly good.

Lots of locals keep a weed garden on their balconies. Perhaps your hostel in Montevideo will have one?

Head to Uruguay if you want to chill out and do your own thing. It’s easy to travel to Brazil and Argentina from there too.

What to Know Before Visiting Uruguay

uruguay  Colonia del Sacramento

  • Don’t miss out on… Punta del Diablo. This is laid-back surfer town evades most backpackers. It is arguably one of the best beach towns in South America.
  • You know what’s overrated… Punta del Este. This place literally exists for the sake of Argentinians on holiday. In the off-season, it’s empty.
  • The coolest hostel is… La Brújula Hostel . It’s near the beach, eco-friendly, has a family vibe, and is great to meet new people. This is a gem next to the sea.
  • The best food is found in… Montevideo. Can’t beat a giant chivito after you’ve got the munchies!

Backpacking Venezuela

Venezuela is a truly incredible country. With towering mountains, steaming forests, endless beaches , and just enough danger to keep you on your toes, this country is every budding adventurer’s dream destination.

A Disclaimer on Visiting Venezuela

Unfortunately, due to the political situation in Venezuela , The Broke Backpacker absolutely  does not condone visiting the country right now . It is simply not safe and it would be irresponsible to even attempt to Venezuela at present.

Unless you somehow have absolutely  solid and trustworthy contacts on the ground , Venezuela is not the place to travel for the foreseeable future. We do not have any contacts to give out.

That being said, there are many team members at The Broke Backpacker that hold a special place for Venezuela in their hearts. For this reason, we are leaving this information available to you, our readers, as an homage to a country we love. We can’t wait for the day that it will be safe to visit again.

Backpacking Venezuela has a truly terrible reputation. Don’t get me wrong, travelling Venezuela has been dangerous in recent years: this is a country where you need to keep both eyes on your gear, watch who you’re with, and be on the lookout for iffy situations before they get the chance to rear their ugly head.

Backpacking in Venezuela is, in my opinion, one of the last great adventures out there. Plus it’s one of the cheapest countries in the world to backpack in.

4 month trip to south america

Venezuela is a mysterious country. It attracts adventurers looking for a raw adventure.

It’s a country yet to be polluted by heavy tourism with incredible landscapes of mountains, forests, lakes, and caves. It is a kind of Shangri-La for adventurers and extreme sports lovers.

A South American backpacking trip to Venezuela is getting into the wild. To feel like the old explorers, Venezuela will not disappoint you. But backpacking Venezuela is not for the faint-hearted: this is a veteran explorer country.

What to Know Before Visiting Venezuela

Venezuelan flag painted on a wall and bars with FREE VENEZUELA written above

  • Don’t miss out on… Mt. Roraima – the highest tabletop mountain in the world; an incredible place to explore. Sometimes you feel like you’re walking on an island in the sky.
  • Keep an eye out for… the seasons when visiting Angel Falls. When it’s dry, the falls are actually quite weak (it’s more like a trickle).
  • The coolest hostel is… El Sofá Caracas . Safe, quiet, cozy place in the big city. You’ll feel at home instantly. And they have a unique boat pool to chill when it gets too hot.
  • The best food is found in… the buffet places where you pay by the weight of your plate. A little goes a long way here and you won’t be disappointed!

Getting Off the Beaten Path in South America

South America is totally full of wild places, tiny villages, far-flung settlements, lonesome valleys, sparsely inhabited jungle… Point being, there are plenty of great places to get off the beaten path . With a little motivation, you may well find yourself cutting your own path and writing your own backpacking destiny, one adventure at a time.

three people walking down towards the coast

Explore the national park systems of South America as much as you can. Investigate the little interesting-looking food stalls where all the locals are queuing up.

Don’t rely on a guidebook of popular places. In South America, those tiny towns in the middle of nowhere are where the real culture is, and the real adventures. All you need is a bus ticket…

Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so  damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

You can make your South America backpacking route totally unique. No matter what things you get up to, they’re going to leave a big print on your heart. But here are some things I definitely recommend considering planning for your itinerary .

1. Explore Patagonia

Patagonia is still one of the last untouched wildernesses on the planet. Not everyone gets to experience this in their lifetime! In addition to the usual superlative locations, like Cerro Torre and Torres del Paine, there are heaps to discover off-trail.

laguna fitz roy patagonia argentina

2. Party hard at Carnival

It’s the biggest party on the planet! Grab yo’ body paint, yo’ finest feathers, whatever else you can get your hands on, and join the festivities!

You won’t ever forget the time you spent Carnival in South America. The carnivals in Bahia, Rio, and Barranquilla are particularly good.

3. Explore the Salts Flats of Uyuni

It’s one of the most unique places on the planet and a highlight of any South America backpacking trip. Get ready to be wowed by this alien landscape.

I know broke backpackers usually cringe hard at the idea of an organised tour (because I’m one of them) but the Salt Flats is one that’s really worth shelling out for.

Group of travelers in Uyuni flat salt tour on top of the truck.

4. Find your own secret beaches

It wouldn’t be a proper backpacking South America itinerary without some beach time! Every kind of beach imaginable is found on the continent.

From tropical slices in Brazil to surfer’s paradises in Ecuador to even fjords in Chile, you won’t be lacking in choices. There are plenty of them secret spots that make those magical days. Take a beer, bring your mates, get busy.

4 month trip to south america

5. Check out Medellín

Medellín is one of the most popular cities to visit in South America right now. The choice between Medellín or Bogota has never been easier.

It’s fun, safe, comfortable, and (most impressively) completely different than it was before. Medellín has shed its violent past and is ready to host the next wave of backpackers.

4 month trip to south america

6. Visit Machu Picchu

I mean, you’re reading a backpacking South America guide: I know you already know about this one. It is the place that attracts most people to visit South America… but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worth visiting.

You can hike the Inca Trail like everyone else. But if you want to visit Machu Picchu in an alternative way, try one of the other Inca trails like Salkantay Trek.

A group of backpackers walking the inca trail to Machu Picchu.

7. Hike in the Andes

The Andes are one of the greatest mountain chains in the world, known mostly for hosting the aforementioned Machu Picchu and the gargantuan Aconcagua. But there is more to these mountains than just these popular destinations: the highlands of Ecuador, Cordillera Huayhush in Peru, the Cordillera Real in Bolivia are all stunning. Even Colombia gets a slice of the pie at Cocuy National Park.

Person trekking to the top of the Andes.

8. A South American

Hey, most backpackers will vouch for love and sex on the road being something memorable to take part in…

They love, and they love passionately. And the sex… well, maybe you’ll find out.

9. Get “stuck” somewhere

South America is full of sticky places AKA places where you get stuck for months on end. Florianópolis, La Paz, Medellín, Mancora… All of these locations start off as a simple stop on your South America backpacking route but turn into temporary homes.

Don’t fight it! Find your sticky place and stay awhile.

4 month trip to south america

Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….

These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the  real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…

South America has a wide range of budget accommodation options for backpackers. Airbnbs are fantastic for private rooms if you’re travelling as a couple or as a group.

For solo travellers, when you are not passing the night from the comfort of your tent in the Andes or with a Couchsurfing host , you’ll likely be booking hostels.

Backpacker volunteer house in South America with natural roof

Whether you just need a place to lay your head or a spot to meet fellow backpackers like yourself, hostel life is clearly where it’s at… In fact, I love South American hostels, even travelling with my partner, you get perks in a hostel that you don’t get in a hotel or Airbnb.

I’ve had some of the best nights of my life in them and met some of the best people in my life. The South American countries are home to some of the best hostels in the world .

  • Best Hostels in Sao Paulo
  • Best Hostels in Cusco
  • Best Hostels in Cartagena
  • Best Hostels in Mendoza
  • Best Hostels in Lima
  • Best Hostels in Medellin
  • Best Hostels in Quito
  • Best Hostels in Salvador de Bahia
  • Best Hostels in Santiago
  • Best Hostels in Valparaiso

Insider tip: If you want to see all your hostel options to visitbackp South America, Booking.com is the perfect one-stop-shop to book hostels. You can even filter your personal travel needs to find the perfect place for you.

It is the common belief that backpacking in South America is dirt cheap. In some places this is true, but it doesn’t go for the entire continent.

But fear not! Travelling South America on a budget can definitely be done.

Due to the nature of Patagonia being one of the most remote areas on earth, expect higher travel costs than the rest of South America. Peru also takes some navigating in order to travel on a tight budget.

Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America. The cost of living in Brazil is higher and it is notorious for jacking up accommodation prices during the high season.

Rio de Janeiro view from top. Buildings and coastline beach near city.

With a few travel tips up your sleeve, you will save a ton of money and have the time of your life. Bring your  haggle game  whilst backpacking through Latin America to ensure you get the best possible price for things, including accommodation. South Americans love smooth talkers so keep it playful but don’t get too cheeky.

Taking long-distance buses, buying beer and drugs, paying entrance fees to national parks… these things add up fast. But sometimes you have to shell out the dough in order to do the things you want. Overnight buses are a good way to save some money.

Remember to always leave a little extra wiggle room in your budget so you can go scuba diving or go on a trek that you have been dreaming about!

Daily Budgets for South America

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay on a daily basis on a backpacking South America trip…

Travel Tips for Broke Backpackers in South America

Hey, all those dollaridoodles add up to more fun times. So saving whatever you can on your journey means you can be on the journey… for longer. So here are a few budget travel tips for South America :

Camping tent set in Brazil in nature with trees around.

  • Camp : With plenty of untouched beaches, forests, stunning countryside, and far-flung jungle, South America is a great place to carry a good backpacking tent . Camping saves you money and can help you get off of the beaten path.
  • Cook your own food: Travel with a  portable backpacking stove  and cook your own food to save some serious cash whilst backpacking across South America. If you plan to do some overnight hiking trips or camping on the beach, having a backpacking stove will be a great asset.
  • Haggle:  Haggle as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things, especially while in local markets. Learning Spanish will go a long way!
  • Couchsurf:  South Americans are awesome. Get to know some! Check out Couchsurfing to make some real friendships and see the real continent. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalized messages to your potential host. A generic copy-and-paste message is much more likely to get turned down. Make yourself stand out.
  • Hitchhike:  Although some countries are friendlier than others, hitchhiking across South America is common practice, so you won’t struggle too much to find a ride. Speaking at least a little Spanish will go a long way though. You want to explain exactly what you’re doing and where you want to go.

Why Should You Travel to South America with a Water Bottle?

Plastic washes up on even the most pristine places… So do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful!

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but together we CAN make a difference. I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

backpacker drinking using grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

You know by now that we are talking about an enormous amount of land with regards to the South American continent. Countries in South America near the Equator do not experience distinct seasons. As you start to head south you will find the seasons to be the opposite of what they are in the Northern Hemisphere i.e. winter in June.

Patagonia experiences bitterly cold and windy winters. I do not advise travelling there during the winter unless you are a serious mountaineer and have all the right gear.

a man playing guitar by the pool at a hostel in buzios, brasil

Dry season depends on the country. Generally, the cooler months from June to September are the driest in the coastal areas. In the Amazon – given that it is the world’s biggest rainforest – is wet pretty much all year. The Andes are the driest from April – November.

High season for all countries is, without a doubt, from December – February. This is due to holidays occurring over that time and it is also the time when many gringos and locals alike take their holidays. Backpacking in the low or shoulder seasons will definitely make for a cheaper trip, especially with regards to accommodation.

Best Time to Visit – Country Breakdown

Here are the best times to visit South America broken down by country!

Best Months to Travel: September – April

What’s the climate in Brazil like? 

In the south, the hot, wet summer season runs from November – March. In the north, the rainy season is from April – August. In the Amazon, it rains pretty much all year.

If you want to visit during the festival season though, September-March is best.

Best Months to Travel: November – March

What’s the climate in Colombia like?

Generally speaking, travellers should visit Cartagena and the Caribbean coast between November and March when the weather is dry. The rest of the country is good year-round. Bogota, Cali, and Medellin are always pleasant weather-wise.

Best Months to Travel: March – May, September – November

What’s the climate in Ecuador and Peru like? 

Lots and lots of micro-climates in the Ecuador Peru region. But there are some general trends:

  • The highlands/Andes are dry from May – September. These are the best months for hiking and visiting Machu Picchu.
  • The coast is warm and dry from December – May. This is the best time for the Galápagos.
  • The Amazon is always wet and humid as shit.
  • The south of Peru is much drier than the north, and Ecuador for that matter.

You’ll need to plan your trip carefully around what you want to see and do.

Best Months to Travel: May – October

What’s the climate in Bolivia like?

The winter season (May – October) is also its dry season, and the best time to visit Bolivia. This means that nights can be very cold, especially when you’re at higher altitudes. Although Bolivia is generally drier than its neighbours, it stills gets dumped on in the wet, summer season.

Best Months to Travel: March – April, October – November

What’s the climate in Chile like? 

Summers in Chile are generally the high season. That being said, this may not be the best time to visit. Prices are at their highest, the Atacama Desert is a furnace, and the winds are VERY strong in Patagonia.

Like almost anywhere, the shoulder months (October – November & March – April) are better.

Best Months to Travel:  October – April.

What’s the climate in Argentina and Uruguay like?

Summer for most of the country is from December – February. In the north, the summers can see rain and temperatures that soar to almost unbearable. In the south and Patagonia, summers are dry(ish) and pleasant.

The winters, obviously, are extremely cold in the south. Whereas the north generally has pretty mild winters.

What to Pack for South America

Travelling through South America is a lot easier if you have the right gear. A thorough backpacking South America packing list goes a long way – literally.

On every adventure, there are 6 things I never go travelling without:


Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.


Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

sea to summit towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Monopoly Card Game

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier Bottle

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

South America IS a safe place to go backpacking. Is backpacking in South America safe all the time? 

Hell no. But nowhere in the world is safe 100% of the time. Does that mean we let it stop us?

Hell no. 

In recent years, security in South America is increasing. Using the common sense safety rules of backpacking is usually enough here. 

The thing with South America is understanding your surroundings and self-awareness. Coordinating your safety in Rio de Janeiro is completely different than hiking the Inca Trail. 

Robberies are rare and could happen to anyone – in any country. Sometimes people in desperate circumstances are forced to do bad things. They see a foreigner and they see a chance to temporarily relieve the stress of their situation. 

Odds are, you should be just fine. If ever you run into a hold-up situation just give them what they want. 

Your iPhone and wallet aren’t worth dying over, ever! But it’s worth hiding your money well just in case .

Political wobbles are pretty common. Due to the political situation in Venezuela right now, this is probably the most dangerous country in Latin America. I hate to say it but the situation is what it is.

In general, being out late, drunk, and/or alone is a recipe for trouble. Always take a taxi home at night, even in a group.

Do know which neighbourhoods you should avoid too, especially in major cities – even during the daytime. Ask the locals which these are. There’s no real reason to head into these areas anyway, but it’s worth noting so you don’t stumble into the wrong places.

  • Is Peru Safe?
  • Is Argentina Safe?
  • Is Chile Safe?
  • Is Brazil Safe?

Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll in South America

South Americans love to party! They start the party late and they don’t stop until the sun is way up.

Of course, Brazil is very famous for Carnival AKA the biggest party on the planet . But it’s a big deal in most South American countries – so you’ll find great parties everywhere.

The backpacker circuit is notoriously rowdy. Traveller hubs like Cusco, Buenos Aires, Montañita, Mancora, La Paz, and Medellín are legendary for their nightlife.

It is very easy to meet people, stay up all night, and fall in love with a sexy South American. Much of the continent is LGBTQ+ traveller friendly too!

People drinking from a bottle at the club during a party night.

Alcohol is freely available, freely consumed, and good quality too. I’m telling you, I’ve had beer in South America which puts Germany to shame.

South America is stoner-friendly too! Weed is legal or decriminalized for recreational use in many places – some countries are more relaxed than others. It’s best to ask the locals how it’s currently being handled where you are.

Cocaine is just about everywhere; particularly in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. But be aware, this isn’t the stuff you find back home – it’s much purer. One line is enough to keep you up all night.

To find drugs on the road, just ask a local to help you. Don’t go out alone looking to score in strange places and don’t give cops a reason to shake you down.

Ayahuasca retreats are gaining popularity as well. But remember, it is a ceremonial spiritual medicine of indigenous people. If you do want to try it, make sure you’re doing it with a real shaman, for real reasons; it’s not like acid and not a drug just to get mindless with.

Staying Healthy in South America

Travellers should be properly vaccinated before backpacking in South America. Consult a medical professional before travelling about which shots you should get.

You should have all the usual travel vaccinations before heading out: hepatitis A & B, typhoid, tetanus, etc. Rabies is also recommended particularly if you’re going to the rural areas or parts of the jungle. You don’t want to mess around with that one because it can be really nasty.

Best way to avoid mosquitos anywhere. A mosquito net will help you sleep weel.

It is worth checking if you need the Yellow fever vaccine before entering some countries. In some places, it is only recommended.

It’s also worth noting that in most places in South America, the water isn’t fit for consumption. The best travel water bottles have a filter.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting South America

Travelling without insurance in South America is risky. I broke my back in Brazil and will be happy to tell you why GOOD travel insurance is so important.

So consider getting travel insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure. You don’t want to be struck with a big, unexpected bill, or, worse, to put your health at risk.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

4 month trip to south america

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Where you will start your trip will be determined by what backpacking route you have chosen. Obviously, if you plan to tackle a specific country, the capital city of that country is a popular starting point and – usually – the logical option.

Bolivia Hop bus

South America is not the cheapest country to fly to, but you can sometimes bag a cheap direct flight from another major airport. It’s pretty expensive to fly within it too. Unless you are coming by boat to Colombia via the San Blas Islands, you will certainly be arriving by plane.

São Paulo, Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro are all major hubs for South America. Compare the prices between these top destinations, and base your South America itinerary from there.

Entry Requirements for South America

Good news everyone! Most South American nations DO NOT require a visa to visit! This applies to those travelling from the USA, UK, EU, Australia, and most other Western nations.

This is a positive trend in the last few years. A few years ago, travellers sometimes had to apply for (expensive) visas to enter countries like Argentina and Brazil. Luckily, this is no longer the case .

Once you’ve entered the country, you can remain for a period of 90 days visa-free. Extensions are possible but these vary on a country-by-country basis. Most South American governments do not take kindly to people who overstay.

Of course, ALWAYS double-check visa policies before travelling .

City Bus. Local Bus. Long-distance bus. Overnight bus.

That’s right. Buses are the most economical way of getting around South America. Every major capital has buses going to the far reaches of the country.

Stairs into the jungle on the famous lost city trek in Colombia.

Local buses are typically super cheap. You can book online but the bus stations are organised really well too.

Taxis are an option within cities and sometimes Uber too, depending on the city. If you opt for a taxi ride, make sure they are legit, set the price beforehand, and haggle the shit out of the driver without being rude.

Flights between countries in South America can be expensive. Internal flights within the country aren’t the cheapest either, though they are cheaper if you buy them while you’re inside the country (you’ll save money on taxes).

As a general rule when backpacking, cheap travel is slow travel . Buses can be slow but as you will be taking many if you are backpacking South America long term, you want to go for the cheapest option.

If you want to go full Che Guevara style you can travel by motorbike pretty easily (and cheaply) in most places in South America. I recommend that you have some experience riding motorbikes before you even think about sauntering into a capital city or down a winding road in the Andes. If you do go the motorcycle route you can be sure that it will be the ride of your life.

Hitchhiking in South America

Travelling by hitchhiking is always an option. Your success will greatly depend on the area and the country; I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking in a major city or at night.

Hitchhikers aren’t that common in countries like Colombia, mainly due to paranoia about the security situation in the country. Not everyone here is a drug lord that wants to kidnap you for ransom money. You can hitchhike throughout Colombia AND it’s such an awesome experience!

a girl hitchhiking in the back of a truck while traveling through costa rica

Rural areas of South America are especially impacted by high rates of poverty. Expecting free rides from folks with limited means isn’t morally fantastic. That said, even if you offer the driver a few bucks, it could very well end up being cheaper (and more rewarding) than taking the bus.

I would never assume that the ride is free initially. Always ask to avoid having an awkward scenario in which the driver who picked you up is demanding an unexpected fee. This is when learning Spanish comes in very handy.

Onwards Travel From South America

Your only options for leaving the continent are by boat or by plane. Most likely you will fly out of the country where you are finishing your trip if it makes sense and is the cheapest option. Try to book your flights in advance in order to find the best flight deals .

Two girls walking towards a plane at sunset in Mexico

It is technically possible to cross the Darien Gap to Panama overland. Rumour has it that you can hire a guide for quite a bit of money and cross the Darien on foot.

In the past, this was impossible though due to narco-terrorist/guerrilla activity. May the Gods of Backpacking be with you if you attempt the journey on your own without a guide.

South America is becoming a digital nomad hub. After the pandemic, the boom really: a generally low cost of living, relatively reliable internet, and tons of expat communities.

Medellín is the current front-runner. This city is growing at a RAPID pace and is becoming the apple in every backpacker’s eye.

Plus, Medellín is safer than ever. Lots of people want to stay here for an extended period of time, digital nomads included.

4 month trip to south america

Close behind are larger South American cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Quito. Being big cities though, you’ll have to overcome higher prices and crime. Safety in Buenos Aires can be sketchy but so can every massive city, right?

Note that, at the moment, most South American countries do not offer a special digital nomad visa.

mockup of a person holding a smartphone in white background with Holafly logo

A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and  ditch the plastic .

Teaching English in South America

Most people who end up living or staying long-term in South America do one of two things: teach English or volunteer.

Teaching English in South America is very popular. Some people make a living out of just going from one city to the next city and hitting up all the English schools in between. Some are accredited though many find success using their own merits.

If you have a TEFL certificate it will be much easier to score teaching gigs in South America. I recommend getting yours with MyTEFL – Broke Backpacker readers get a 50% discount on TEFL courses when you enter the code PACK50  at the checkout.

Volunteering in South America

Volunteering abroad is a great way to experience a culture whilst doing some good. There are loads of volunteering gigs in South America ranging from protecting the Amazon to teaching in barrios of Buenos Aires.

Arguably, you may need a permit in order to volunteer. But in reality, the continent is pretty chill and this is unlikely to ever be enforced.

Group of people helping as Volunteer  in Ecuador

I spent a few weeks volunteering in the mountains in Northern Colombia and it was the best way to get to know the land, people, and lifestyle. Finding volunteering opportunities in South America is about learning, building community, and making an impact in a place you visit.

The best way to find volunteer jobs is word of a trustworthy mouth. But programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers , Workaway , and WWOOF help you get your foot in the door of volunteer communities.

They’re a great opportunity for unique experiences and make amazing connections with people. But you do have to stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

If you sign up for Worldpackers with a discount code, memberships are only $39 a year. For that price, it’s often worth giving it a try.

Summing up food in South America is like trying to explain what music is. It’s incredibly diverse and every country, every region, every household has a different definition.

First of all, meat is hard to avoid. They like it juicy, tender, slow-cooked, and accompanying pretty much everything. Especially in the southern part of the continent, Argentina, Uruguay, and South Brazil, the smell of cooking cow is heavy in the air.

The Argentinian way of grilling is Asado . And it’s not just a delicious barbecue – oh no – that’s just the centrepiece. The event is a huge part of the culture.

The vegetarian movement is gaining momentum, though it’s harder in some places than others. In more rural places, you may go hungry if you don’t want to eat meat now and again, but in general, it’s not impossible.

Man cooking food on the grill using his hands.

Andean countries like Peru and Bolivia have chronically underrated food scenes. In fact, Peruvian food is often regarded as some of the best in the world. You’ve never felt fresher than after chowing down that ceviche.

In the Amazon, they have a whole different gastronomic world; obviously, everything grows here. There are ingredients that come from the Amazon that just don’t exist anywhere else.

There are strange fruit and vegetables in abundance. Then, of course, the fresh fish comes leaping out of the river, almost directly to your plate. Catching your own fish is never a bad idea either.

The food in the north of South America, like Colombia and Venezuela, is the definition of comfort food. If you’re eating right, you’re going to be gaining a few kilos. Don’t pass on an opportunity to gorge yourself silly.

Street food usually involves lots of deep-fried goodness. But it’s the abuelas that make the best pastries, with oodles of love. And ooh, those arepas… they have a special place on my plate.

The Best Food in South America

Here are some of the best South American foods that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on.

  • Feijão (Brazil) – Beany stew for everyday eating.
  • Acai (Brazil) – Superfood berry.
  • Empanadas – Your trusty stuffed pastry friend.
  • Dulce de leche – Just try it… thank me later.
  • Asado (Argentina) – Grilled meat with a side of meat.
  • Antichucho (Bolivia) – Mmmm… cow’s heart.
  • Ceviche (Peru/Chile) – raw but not raw fish, in lemon juice.
  • Cuy (Peru) – A large cooked guinea pig.
  • Encebollado (Ecuador) – Ecuadorian Grandma’s comfort stew.
  • Arepas (Colombia) – Corn pockets to fill your hungry belly.

South America is a very complex continent. Colonization by Western Europeans technically makes it the youngest member of modern civilization. But saying this disregards all the history that came before the “ conquistadors” arrived.

South America has hosted many advanced civilizations like the Incan Empire, whose influence still lasts to this day. Though much of the native culture was lost with the mass killing by said conquistadors .

Long story short: South America is an enormously diverse region, maybe more so than anywhere else. Yes, European culture has largely shaped the entire continent. But indigenous and African cultures are just as important, if not more so.

Northern Brazil is very Afrocentric. This was the first charted part of the continent and ideal for rowing sugarcane. Consequently, it’s the place where all the slaves were brought.

Slavery is over. But it leaves behind a blend of African customs and cultures morphed into Latino culture.

Local family dressing traditional clothes from Peru in front of their house.

The south, which constitutes Argentina, Chile, and Southern Brazil, is much more European. Aside from the big players – the Spanish and Portuguese – Italians, Germans, and French all settled here following a huge era of migration.

In the Andean countries of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador you see a lot of indigenous cultures. Some people still live like their ancestors, living in the highlands and tending the land. Though Spanish is still the dominant language, several local languages, like Quecha and Aymara, are still commonly spoken.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of South America is just an extension of Europe or North America. You’ll miss out on the beautiful subtleties of the region, which make backpacking in South America so wonderful.

A backpacking trip in South America is a unique experience in itself. And within that, there are instance amounts of opportunities to make your South America itinerary different to anyone else who’s travelled here before. Here are some of the best things to add to it:

packable travel medical kit

Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.

Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!

Hiking in South America

South America has some of the best hikes in the world . Here are a few iconic options to get your bucket list started:

View of argentinian lakes in Patagonia.

  • Lost City Hike, Colombia : This hike through the Colombian jungle will certainly be a highlight of your South America travel.
  • Sierra Nevada de Cocuy, Colombia : Snow in Colombia? Here you can find peaks are as high as 5,330 meters above sea level. If you have your own gear and a good sleeping bag , you can probably do the hike without a guide.
  •  Iliniza-Norte, Ecuador . This is a fantastic 2-day trek that does not require any special gear or equipment. If you are planning to tackle Cotopaxi this is a great warm-up. A solid challenge for the dedicated hiker!
  • The Salkantay trek, Peru: Hike to Machu Picchu over 4 days and experience the true beauty of the Andes along the way. One of my favorite South American treks for sure.
  • The Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru : Truly one of the most stunning areas in Peru. For serious hikers, planning a trek like this is one for the books!
  • Hut-to-Hut in Bariloche, Argentina:  Spectacular hike for some of the best views of Nahuel Huapi National Park and its lakes. Tents are optional since you can stay exclusively in the refugios.
  • Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén, Chile/Argentina : One of the greatest ways to experience Patagonia. Walk from Villa O’Higgins in Chile to El Chaltén in Argentina. You’ll see some superlative mountain, forest, and lake scenery along the way.
  • Torres Del Paine Circuit, Chile : The hike of all hikes in South America. This epic walk takes 9 – 11 days and passes through some of the most dramatic landscapes one can fathom. A must if you’ve got the time and hiking spirit!

Scuba Diving in South America

You have scuba diving options galore in South America! In general, scuba diving is pricier than it is in other parts of the world but that’s because it’s worth it. If it is something that you really want to do, I say go for it! 

Colombia is probably the cheapest and best place to dive AND get certified in South America. You have Providencia and Santa Catalina (a smaller island to the north) which is home to the third-largest coral reef barrier on Earth and includes over 40 dive sites.

Two people taking a selfie whilst scuba diving.

Malpelo is the harder-to-reach version: a jagged rock in the Colombian Pacific, it can only be reached by boat, and divers can only visit here as part of an organized trip. It’s worth the time and money for sure; Malpelo is one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks, including hammerheads, whale, and the rare sun ray shark.

People have reported schools of up to 500 sharks around Malpelo. That’s right. 500!

Peru and Ecuador both have some decent diving right off their coasts. The diving around the Galápagos Islands is world-class, but it will cost you a fortune go diving there.

If you truly want to have the scuba diving adventure of a lifetime, I highly recommend joining a Liveaboard trip.

  • Liveaboard the Galapagos
  • Liveaboard Colombia

Surfing in South America

Surfing is the number one sport on South America’s coast. From Peru to Brazil, backpackers and locals are coming together and shredding!

Peru is home to the longest left-breaking wave in the world . You can literally ride a wave for five minutes!

A person surfing

The Pacific Coast is dotted with funky surf towns, where the main activities revolve around the waves and the nightlife. There are a plethora of surf schools in every country. Often these surf schools offer Spanish classes as well if you are wanting to double down (which I highly suggest!).

It is easy to fall in love with the surfing lifestyle. But be careful, you might just fall in love with the whole scene. I wouldn’t blame you for a second.

4 month trip to south america

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Here are the questions I get asked the most about how to backpack South America.

Is backpacking South America safe?

Yes. Backpacking South America is safe. Just bear in mind that crime rates are higher than in some other areas of the world. But by following standard safety procedures, there’s no reason why that crime should affect you. Be sensible, show people plenty of respect, and look after your friends.

How are the bus journeys in South America?

The long-distance buses are generally top quality and comfortable. Just be aware that distances on the map can be deceiving and journeys can be long so bring plenty of water, food, something to keep you warm in the baltic aircon, and probably some toilet paper too.

Is travelling South America as a woman possible?

Absolutely! Not only is it possible, it’s awesome. Do remember that, unfortunately, women do have to consider safety as a factor more so than men, especially after dark. But with that in mind, prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.

How are South Americans so damn sexy?

There are too many reasons. Just go and spark up conversation with them and find out for yourself. Beware though, you’re likely to fall completely, madly, deeply in love.

Backpacking South America can be one hell of a party at times. Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away.

You can make a positive impact on people when we travel and South America is the perfect place to do that. Try to spend your money in places where the experience is mutually rewarding.

When buying a local craft, be fair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people their worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

If you visit small or indigenous communities, be respectful: they are normal folks just living their lives.  Backpacking South America – or any region for that matter – often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go travelling.

Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!

Well, amigos, the time has come for me to send you on your travellin’ way. Armed with your budget travel knowledge, on you go!

Your South America backpacking trip awaits. Have a few cold ones for me, yeah?

Will stood with four of the maestras in traditional Amazonian clothing

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Great post, loved the detail and enthusiasm you have for South America. I am saving up to travel from northern Colombia all the way down the west to Patagonia and then back up the other side (yes I am aware it will take the best part of a year). I wondered if you had any tips on the best time of year to start this adventure?

Plan your time with the weather and seasons in mind! Have a great time.

Is traveling to brazil unwise right now because of the covid situation? Has it become more unsafe because of the covid situation? It’s been really difficult to find solid information, and making a decision wether to visit or not has been quite difficult. Thanks for the otherwise wonderful post! Super informative.

informative post . best of luck

Hi Kami, glad you liked the article!

Very nice blog, congratulations I found a cheaper way to flight some routes inside Latin America If someone have plans, after this health crisis is gone, just ask me, I will be glad to help

Interesting. However as a Guyanese, that us from Guyana, South America I always find it odd that many persons leave out the English Dutch and French speaking countries of South America. We too have things to offer.

Hello Malkia, We totally agree with you! As soon as we manage to visit Guyana, we will update this guide! I look forward to exploring your country. Cheers

Hey there!! So I am planning a trip to south America this summer. I have a couples questions. I’m flying into Bogota, Colombia. I plan on spending 2-3 months in SA. I’d like to travel from Bogota to Machu Picchu, then to Buenos Aires, and depending on time Brazil. I am trying to figure out the cheapest way to travel from country to country. I don’t care about long bus rides or any of that. I just don’t know where to purchase the cheapest bus tickets. Please help!!!

Simply the cheapest tickets are usually at the bus station, or wherever locals buy their tickets. Look out for agencies and the like that might add a fee for booking the very same thing you could yourself.

I have a good tip to move around if you need to do it by plane, just let me know if you plan (after the whole problem is gone) to fly some stretches.

Hey man great blog, been reading so many of your posts recently, can you email me I wanna chat to someone who knows there stuff… I’m going to South America for about 6 to 8 months on a budget and need help planning a route… hopefully you see this and we can chat thank you

Hey Jamie, What is your question specifcally regarding your route? Cheers!

Thank you so much for sharing these information – they are so useful!

I am planning a trip of a lifetime to South America. To keep cost down, I am likely to stay in hostels for the first time. I like to understand how travellers wash their clothes in hostels. Are there usually any washer or dryer machines in hostels? Do we usually have to pay to use them? What is the price like?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Tina, Some hostels offer laundry services. Other times you can get your laundry done at local lavanderias . Depending on the country, prices are usually pretty reasonable. They usually charge by the weight. Getting a massive load of clothes washed should not cost you more than $10 (sometimes way less) washed, dried, and folded. Cheers!

Thanks Chris for this wonderful article. Bolivia and Brazil is a magical place! Anyone who went there said it was absolutely amazing! That nature is just wonderful here. keep sharing your travel ides about more places of South America.

Cheers, Mate!

I started my South American journey two months ago and this has been a big help. There’s literally so many options once you get down here. Overwhelming in all of the best ways.

Much love from Peru.

Wow! That’s a marvelous article! Unfortunately, not so long ago, I was in South America, and I really had a lot of predicaments while traveling. If only I had read this article before the traveling, most likely, my trip would have been better!

Great content, congratulations.

Really great and in depth guide, thank you! Planning my first trip to South America and really like the look of your 3 month route across Peru, Ecuador and Columbia, was thinking of taking another couple of weeks on top to see Bolivia as well. What month would you advise starting this travel? (would really like to be home for Christmas)

The autumn months would be a lovely time to visit South America 🙂

Awesome content! I took so much advice and suggestions. I feel like I can plan whatever kind of trip ranging in length of time spent there plus budgeting. Thanks!

It’s great that you’re such a strong advocate of reusable water bottles and avoiding one-use bottles and generally I totally agree. However, I normally refill my water bottle from the tap, which obviously isn’t safe everywhere. Geneally can you drink tap water in South America? Or if not how do you safely refill without buying bottled water?

We’ve used lots of things over the years to harvest clean water from taps and streams. The GRAYL filter bottle is one of our favorites. South America is something of a mixed bag when it comes to drinking water. It ranges from safe to unsafe with every shade of chloriney in between.

I am starting my South America trip new month and I found this website extremely useful. One question though – I am worried about the requirement to show proof of onward travel. Any idea if Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia require this?

Hi Neringa,

I never had to show proof of onward travel during my 6 months in South America. There was never a time when a customs officer/border police questioned me about my onward travel plans. You should be just fine 🙂

Thanks, Chris. You have been right! But I was requested to provide proof of onward travel by Avianca when flying for Cusco to Quito. Maybe because my passport expires soon. My friend, however, did not have one and was still allowed to board the plane 🙂 There was a group of Israeli guys who I think had to show this info, too.

Thanks a lot man, I’m planning a 3 month trip to Colombia, Peru and Brazil next year and this really helped me get my head around how to do it and the kind of money I’m gonna need to save! Cheers dude

Thanks, this really helped me a lot for planning my trip next year!

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Our Epic 4 Month Backpacking South America Itinerary

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Why Would You Want To Backpack South America?

You can't beat that kind of friendliness (el salvador, brazil).


1 Month Backpacking Brazil


2 Weeks Backpacking Argentina


3 Weeks Backpacking Chile


3 Weeks Backpacking Bolivia


1 Week Backpacking Peru


2 Weeks Backpacking Colombia


The 4 Things I Wish We Had Got To Do In South America


Lencois Maranhenses


Machu Picchu


A Trip To Easter Island


Take A Boat To Antarctica



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The Ultimate South America Itinerary – Plus Useful Travel Tips

Planning your south america itinerary.

South America has long been on my bucket list and therefore 9 months ago I found myself putting together my ultimate South America itinerary – determined to cram as many life-changing experiences into a 10 week trip as possible.

I started by listing all my South America must-sees and prioritising those I had lusted after for the longest, namely Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. I knew I wanted a good mix of wildlife, landscapes and culture with a few cities thrown in for good measure. As a keen dancer, the opportunity to dance would be a real bonus so Argentina and Brazil made it onto my South America bucket list .

An important thing to consider when planning your ultimate South America itinerary is the climate. It varies wildly from country to country and you need to take this into account when planning your route through South America. For example, the Inca Trail is actually closed for part of the rainy season as it’s too slippy and dangerous. When it dry and sunny in Brazil, you’ll find it’s sub-zero up a mountain in the Andes.

So for me, leaving in October, the route had to start west and work eastwards. This meant I could fit in some Andes mountain trekking before the rainy season hit and also meant that I got my fix of sunshine and caipirinhas on the beach in Rio before my flight home. Win-win.

** Pssst, this article may contain affiliate links. If you have no idea what this means, click here and everything will be explained!**

What you can expect from this article...

  • 1.1 South America by Plane
  • 1.2 South America on Tour
  • 1.3 South America by Hop on Hop off Bus
  • 1.4 South America by Local Bus
  • 2 Planning Your South America Itinerary Budget
  • 3.1 The Galapagos Eastern Islands
  • 3.2 The Galapagos Central Islands
  • 3.3 The Galapagos Southern Islands
  • 4.2 Machu Picchu
  • 4.3 Lake Titicaca
  • 4.5 Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats
  • 4.6 The Bolivian Altiplano
  • 5.1 San Pedro
  • 5.2 El Cafayate Wine Tasting
  • 5.3 Stay on a Ranch or Estancia in rural Argentina
  • 5.4 Get your Tango on in Buenos Aires
  • 6.2 How long?
  • 6.3 Foz do Igauzu Falls
  • 6.5 South Pantanal
  • 6.7 Rio de Janeiro
  • 7.1 Guatapé, Colombia.
  • 7.2 The W trek, Torres del Paine,  Patagonia
  • 7.3 Ushuaia, Argentina
  • 7.4 The Amazon Jungle
  • 7.5 More Useful Resources and Links for Planning your South American Trip
  • 7.6 Further Reading

How to get around South America

If you’ve travelled in South East Asia or Europe , you are probably used to getting about by train. However, there aren’t many trains in South America so you will be better off getting about by bus or plane.

South America by Plane

Whilst South America, in general, is not that cheap, getting about by plane is not as expensive as you may imagine as long as you don’t mind small rickety planes! Booked well in advance, you can get short international flights such as Cuzco to La Paz for $50-70. The airports are pretty straightforward.

I booked my flights with trusty Skyscanner – personally, I find this to be the best tool to find the biggest variety of flights at the best prices.

South America on Tour

To save the hassle of finding your own way about, one option is to join a tour . This is possibly the easiest way to pack a LOT of highlights into your South America itinerary in a short time period. You can focus on enjoying the highlights and not having to worry about the practicalities.

I’ve taken a few G Adventures tours in South America and they were great! Brilliant informative tour leaders , well organised and decent transport (mostly air-conditioned minibuses!)

Whilst I haven’t used Intrepid in South America, I have sampled their trips in Africa and South East Asia and again, I was very impressed. Their trips are actually very similar. Check them out and see if any of their South America Itineraries takes your fancy!

I spent a large chunk of my own Latin America itinerary travelling with Dragoman . These are participation, overlanding tours where you camp 50% of the time and stay in hotels and guesthouses the rest.

These are slightly cheaper than G Adventures and Intrepid so great if you’re on a tight budget. However, my preference is still for G Adventures as you get more included activities, smaller groups and local guides. They also work with more local projects to give back to the countries where you travel. That said I would definitely do another overlanding tour as they are a lot of fun!

Check out the trip I took HERE .

4 month trip to south america

South America by Hop on Hop off Bus

Perhaps the best of both worlds, this style of travel will allow you the freedom of doing it your own way with the convenience of jumping on a bus headed straight for the tourist attractions of hot spots in South America. The Bamba Experience is one of the most popular companies that organise hop on hop off trips.

South America by Local Bus

Sometimes it can be tricky finding the right bus and understanding timetables and prices when you don’t speak the local lingo. BusBud has provided a great solution for that – a website where you can search for local bus journeys in almost any country and in multiple currencies.

Planning Your South America Itinerary Budget

Without a doubt, the most expensive place to visit in South America is going to be The Galapagos Islands but boy is it worth it!! Being 1000Km off the mainland and with restricted numbers of visitors allowed on the islands at any given time, a trip to The Galapagos comes with a hefty price tag!

Spending time in Brazil is also pretty pricey with Chile and Argentina not far behind. If you want to make your pennies stretch further, you’ll want to spend more time in Bolivia and Peru. Bolivia particularly is cheap as chips. I would say if you are being careful, you could survive on $20-25/day in Bolivia whereas Brazil will set you back $50-70 per day.

My 9-week trip set me back $14000 which may seem like a lot of money, however, this included a week’s cruise in The Galapagos (which accounted for a whopping $3000) and I took several budget tours in order to pack a lot into a limited amount of time.

If I had the luxury of time, I would have travelled solo and I expect it would have been significantly cheaper! It really depends on what your priorities are! At that particular time, seeing as much as possible in a short time frame was mine.

For more practical tips for your trip to South America, check out my article: 20 Useful Tips for Travel in South America. Whatever you do, don’t forget to invest in a decent camera before your trip to South America! There are SO many great photo opportunities! I use a Sony A7iii yet but it’s pretty pricey so if you’re newer to photography I recommend this one or this one .

Ok so let’s get onto the good bit… What should be on your South America Bucket list?! Let’s get planning your South America Itinerary!

The Great Big South America Bucket List

South america itinerary 1 – the galapagos islands.

Best for Wildlife and Scenery

$200-300 per day if you take a cruise and $160+ for a land-based Galapagos island hopping trip . Remember to factor in tips for your crew! Read more about travelling the Galapagos on a budget and booking a budget Galapagos cruise

7-10 days. Most trips will start from Quito on the mainland so factor a day or two either side of your boat trip. A week actually exploring the Galapagos Islands is about right.

You could easily spend longer but a week will allow you to tick off most of the big wildlife and scenic attractions and will give you a good flavour of the islands. If you cut your trip short, there’s a chance you’ll miss out on the best bits like getting the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions!

Where to stay

Most Galapagos trips are boat based so your board and food will all be included. So it might be pricey but at least you know exactly how much money you will need.

You will undoubtedly save money by staying on dry land and arranging day trips but be warned, you’ll likely have to deal with bigger crowds and will spend a lot of time on the boats getting to the islands. There may also be certain highlights which you’ll miss without taking a boat.

The cruise ships and stay-onboard boats will sale overnight to maximise your time exploring the islands and get you there before the other tourists arrive which was a huge perk.

Since I have been desperate to visit the Galapagos for over 10 years, I really went to town on my research to get the best trip covering the most highlights but at the best price. I settled on a Gadventures boat called The Monserrat – I highly recommend it. I didn’t find any better prices and the trip was fantastic from start to finish! (The food by-the-way was to die for!) Check out the Galapagos tour I took .

To see other Galapagos options for all budgets, click here .

For a Galapagos packing list, click here .

4 month trip to south america

The Galapagos Eastern Islands

Best for beautiful scenery

Visit Isla Lobos for some close encounters with frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. There are SO many sea lions here. A great place to start your Galapagos adventure!

Another eastern highlight is Cerro Brujo – possibly the prettiest beach I’ve ever had the privilege to visit. Unspoilt bright white sand and azure ocean in stark contrast with the black volcanic rock dotted with the occasional marine iguana or sea lion. I think this was one of my biggest ‘Wow’ moments in South America!

See a sample eastern island itinerary here .

The Galapagos Central Islands

Best for rugged scenery

The scenery in the central islands is more varied and rugged. See the black lava formations at Sullivan Bay on Santiago and whilst you’re there, snorkel off the beach – this is where I spotted my first shark!

Take a hike to the viewpoint on the volcanic islet Bartolome island. The views are beautiful but beware the wind!

If you want to catch sight of the elusive land iguana (much harder to spot than marine iguanas,) head to Cerro Dragon. We were lucky to see two on our nature walk here!

For giant tortoises, head over to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Here you will find the Charles Darwin Conservation Centre, a great place to start and learn about the tortoises’ history on the island. Then head into the hinterlands to spot some in the wild!

If you are lucky you might spot a pod of wild orcas as we did. They may even put on a show for you like we were lucky to witness. That said, you are more likely to see whales on the western islands which I didn’t get chance to visit.

Check out a sample central islands itinerary here .

The Galapagos Southern Islands

Best for wildlife

For me, the best snorkel trip I took in The Galapagos was off the boat, not far from Espanola island. The most colourful coral I’ve ever seen but the best part was swimming with sea lions. There were so many of them and all fairly young which meant they were super playful.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this was the absolute TOP moment of my South America trip! Between Cerro Brujo and here, The Galapagos Islands were scoring pretty high marks!

Another highlight of the Southern Islands was Floreana. This was absolute wildlife paradise. Here you can see the rarely spotted Galapagos Albatross and you will see so many marine iguanas – they lie on top of each other to keep warm so there will actually be piles of them! Hundreds of iguanas basking in the sun, careful not to step on them! Don’t worry, they are a lot more placid than they look!

Check out a sample southern islands itinerary here .

South America Itinerary 2 – Peru to Bolivia

Best for Scenery Seekers 

$20-40. You can do it really cheap but this budget will allow you a decent hotel room and the occasional luxury.

2-4 weeks. You can cover the main highlights (Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca, Bolivian Altiplano) in a fortnight but you may want to allow yourself longer to travel at a more relaxed pace.

Where to Stay

Since accommodation is cheap as chips here, I’d recommend splashing out on budget hotels and guesthouses . Save the hostels for the more pricey countries!

Top Tip: If you plan to do the Inca Trail, you will need to be super organised! Inca Trail permits need to be bought well in advance – often as early as 6 months! On writing this article in April, the next available permits are for October! If you don’t get yours in time, there are plenty of great alternative treks so don’t panic!

And another Top Tip (I’m good to you like that…) Pack lot’s of layers! The temperature can vary from glorious 25 degrees plus to minus figures within just a matter of hours. This can make it tricky to pack for South America but fear not, I’ve got you covered with my South America Packing Guide !

Previously the capital of the Inca Empire, this attractive city is made beautiful by the well preserved Spanish colonial architecture and is well-positioned in the stunning Andes Mountains in Peru.

Beware it is at 3400 metres altitude so take your time climbing the stairs here!

There are oodles of beautiful churches and colourful markets to explore but you can also use Cuzco as a great base for getting out into the surrounding mountains and visiting a few Inca sites.

Check out these day trips from Cuzco – everything from day hikes to pisco sours tasting!

Machu Picchu

Okay, you can’t really miss out this iconic site from your South America Itinerary, let’s face it! The question is not really IF you should visit it, but more HOW.

You could catch a scenic train ride or you could (and should in my humble opinion) take a trek to get there. Why you ask?! Well because the scenery is stunning and you won’t really get the full experience by seeing it from a train window! So providing you are in a reasonable state of fitness, book yourself onto one of the several treks in the area. You won’t regret it!

The Inca Trail is obviously the most well known. Book well ahead and prepare to be one of many of the trail. The scenery is diverse, beautiful and leads you straight to Machu Picchu plus you can say you did the actual Inca Trail which totally gives you street cred! Check out options for the Inca Trail here .

Another great alternative is the Lares Trek.

The Lares is much quieter, it’ll be just you, your team and the llamas. You may see an occasional farmer but otherwise, you’ll have the trail pretty much to yourself. It goes to a higher altitude 4800 metres so you can brag about that to your Inca trail friends! The scenery is absolutely mind-blowing. I asked my guide which trail he preferred, his answer? The Lares Trek every time!

Read about my Lares experience here .

Or see the G Adventures trip that I took here .

Lake Titicaca

Situated at 3800 metres altitude, Lake Titicaca is really unique and not just because it is the worlds highest lake. What makes it truly unique are the local’s who live by it and even on it! You can take a tour of the local reed villages – yes made ENTIRELY of reed. The local inhabitants make a living by fishing and trading the fish at local markets.

You can easily arrange a homestay at one of the farming villages on the lakeside.  See inside a traditional Peruvian farm, eat with the family and experience traditional cuisine that you won’t get in restaurants and then help out with the farm work the next day.

Don’t be put off by the fact that many won’t speak English. We muddled by using a mixture of English words the children learnt in school, my VERY poor Spanish, lots of miming and showing photos on our phones of our homes, pets and families!

The capital city of Bolivia, La Paz, is quite an experience especially if you take a taxi from the airport… Whilst you’re here, visit the Witches markets – dried llama fetus, anyone?! Also, take a cable car trip and get amazing views of this huge city!

Check out tours of La Paz and nearby HERE

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

Visit the worlds largest salt plane – 11000 sq Km of bright white desert created when a prehistoric lake dried up leaving these vast salt planes dotted with little cacti islands! Enjoy taking some great perspective photos here. If you visit in the rainy season, you may get beautiful reflection photos.

Check out tours to Salar De Uyuni here .

The Bolivian Altiplano

The scenery here will have you speechless. There’s not a lot to ‘do’ here per se but I personally was entranced by the scenery that the long drive from Salar de Uyuni was actually one of my trip highlights. See the spurting bubbling geysers, find aqua and red lakes filled with flamingos and see desert which stretches for miles. For more inspiration, see my photos to inspire your trip to Bolivia.

Click here for tours to the Bolivean Altiplano

I travelled in Bolivia with Dragoman , see the exact trip here .

South America Itinerary 3 – San Pedro to Buenos Aires

Best for wine and dancing

$30-60. Chile and Argentina are much more expensive than Bolivia but slightly cheaper than Brazil so expect to pay a bit more in some restaurants and for tours.

The prices are not dissimilar to western countries so expect to pay similar to what you pay back home (unless home is Bolivia.)

This route will take 2-3 weeks to cover properly.

As prices are beginning to rise, this may be the time to consider staying in hostels. Most hostels have private rooms if you like a bit of privacy on a budget. Hostels are also a great way to meet people! I use booking.com to find hostels and hotels and usually find they have a great selection of accommodations and you can easily search for your specification – a swimming pool and a hot tub puh-lease!

Ah, I LOVED this place. From the cute little shops lining the streets to the drinking holes that look like they’ve been taken straight from a western movie, San Pedro certainly has character. You definitely shouldn’t miss this one off your South America Itinerary!

I also didn’t have a single bad meal here – the food was Ah-mazing! It’s a great place to arrange trips to Moon Valley and into Bolivia for the Altiplano.

There are so many outdoorsy activities to do here, you won’t be short of things to do! The scenery at Moon Valley, in particular, is just stunning! See my San Pedro guide for more info.

There are so many things to do in this area from horse riding to star gazing. Check out some options HERE.

El Cafayate Wine Tasting

Head to Argentina next and so some wine tasting in the beautiful countryside at El Cafayate. Then go out for a juicy Argentinian steak washed down with some delicious merlot! There are wineries both in the countryside and in town that you can visit. Some trips need to be pre-arranged but often you can just turn up and join the next tour or tasting session.

Stay on a Ranch or Estancia in rural Argentina

Experience the real rural Argentina on an estancia stay. Several estancias (or cattle ranches) offer accommodation and activities such as horse riding and wildlife watching. Check out these estancias near Buenos Aires .

Learn to swing a lasso like a real cowgirl or indulge in an Argentinian BBQ. I stayed at Estancia Los Potreros and had an absolute ball! In addition to the activities above, we also had more wine tasting and a music session with some local cowboys. Read about it here.

Get your Tango on in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a brilliant city! Colourful and diverse, traditional yet cosmopolitan, this city has a lot to offer travellers.

This super colourful neighbourhood is popular with tourists so it can get busy – go early in the morning to escape the crowds. Visit markets, enjoy street tango performances and enjoy the colourful buildings and street art. But make sure you go home before dark as it can be a little unsafe here at night time.

San Telmo Market

Learn argentine tango.

There is no better place to learn to Tango than Buenos Aires! Watch a street show, attend a formal show or take a lesson. But if you want to see the real tango, find a milonga. These are like afternoon tea dances where everyone will be dancing for fun – not for the tourists.

Check out day trips in and around Buenos Aires here , from stadium tours to tango shows.

South America Itinerary 4 – Brazil

Best for eco-tourism

$50-100 Brazil is pretty pricey so unless you are happy to rough it, expect to spend a bit of money here!

2-3 weeks should be enough to cover most of the highlights in South Brazil but of course, there are plenty more places to explore in Brazil if you have time.

To keep costs low, I’d recommend staying in hostels or even camping. I stayed at a few campsites in Brazil which were great and the weather is nice and warm.

Foz do Igauzu Falls

Foz do Igauzu falls are the largest waterfall system in the WORLD, this will surely be a highlight of your South America itinerary! Bordering both Argentina and Brazil, it’s worth visiting from both sides.

From The Argentina side, you can get close to the falls to appreciate their power. From the Brazil side, there are some great opportunities to see it from afar and appreciate the overall beauty! I’ve written a detailed guide to Igauzu falls, see it here .

Also on the Brazil side, there is a great tropical bird park Parque das Aves  where you can get up close to some beautiful birds including the colourful macaws and toucans!

Book your tickets to Iguazu falls HERE .

Did you know Bonito is the eco-tourism capital of Brazil? And rightly so! There are so many amazing places to see in this area!

Rio da Prata

One of the best places worldwide to try freshwater snorkelling with an average visibility of 50 metres. You will drift for 90 minutes along with the current enjoying the underwater garden seeing colourful fish and if you’re lucky a caiman or anaconda! Read more about it in my Bonito Guide .

Buraco Das Araras

This limestone sinkhole is a meeting place for hundreds of brightly coloured and NOISY macaws!

Grotto de Azur

South pantanal.

If you are a big fan of wildlife, head over to The South Pantanal, Brazilian wetlands where you stand a reasonable chance of seeing one of the big cats, possibly even a jaguar!

You will undoubtedly see plenty of caiman crocs and birdlife and there are plenty of chances to see capybara, anteaters and even cute little river otters which apparently are not so cute after all!

Did you know river otters are territorial so they are actually more dangerous than the caimans or anacondas if you were to fall in the river!

Explore by 4WD safari vehicle, on foot, by boat or on horseback. I highly recommend a night safari for your best chance of seeing a jaguar!

Check out tours to The Pantanal here .

Paraty is a really lovely well preserved Portuguese colonial coastal town with cobbled streets and only horse and cart for transport. Spend time exploring the shops and cafe and take a day trip in one of the colourful wooden boats stopping at beaches and islands.

Check out day trips from Paraty here , from jungle treks to boat trips to beautiful beaches and islands.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of the fastest paced, diverse, colourful, lively cities you could visit.

There are so many iconic viewpoints you will want to visit such as Sugar Loaf Mountain and The Christ Redeemer statue – two of the most popular sights in Brazil !.

There are so many things to do in Rio but I suggest you start by visiting the colourful Escadaria Selarón steps and then have a caipirinha on Copacabana or Ipanema beach.

Other Places you might want to put on your South America Itinerary

There are still so many places on my South America bucket list that I need to go back and tick off at some point! I would love to see more of Chile and I didn’t even step foot in Colombia and I’ve heard so many great things about it. Here are a few places that will be on my next South America itinerary!

Guatapé, Colombia.

I seem drawn to any colourful town – Cinque de Terre in Italy, by the way, is awesome! Guatape in Colombia is possibly the most colourful of them all. Not only that but it overlooks Penol-Guatape a beautiful man-made reservoir and a great place for water sports. Read more here about planning your Colombia itinerary .

The W trek, Torres del Paine,  Patagonia

Landscapes don’t get more dramatic than in Patagonia – think snow-capped mountains and bright blue glacial lakes. The W trek in Patagonia is a challenging 5-day trek but surely worth the effort for views like this?!

Click here for advice if you are  planning to travel to Patagonia .

Ushuaia, Argentina

In the South of Argentina, is Ushuaia, the starting point for many cruises to the Antarctic. But you don’t have to go that far to see penguins!

The Amazon Jungle

Head deep into the Amazon in Peru, Equador or Brazil to get close to the wildlife and creepie crawlies. Take night walks and river safaris but perhaps not if you are an arachnophobe…

For more itineraries on the places I’ve not been able to cover yet, you should head over to The Broke Backpackers site. He’s got some great information too!

More Useful Resources and Links for Planning your South American Trip

  • G Adventure Tours in South America (my personal favourite tour company.)
  • Intrepid Tours in South America  another great tour company I’ve sued many times.
  • Dragoman overland tour . (cheaper option for tours as long as you don’t mind camping.)
  • Other South America Tours
  • Bamba Experience – a hop on hop off trip. A cheaper option for the budget conscious.
  • Skyscanner – a great tool for booking your flights to and from and within South America.
  • Day Tours in South America  and other day tours
  • Accommodation via Booking.com or Airbnb

Further Reading

  • Useful tips for travel in South America
  • South America packing list
  • G Adventures Peru review
  • G Adventures Galapagos review
  • Iguazu Falls Guide
  • Day trips from Bonito, Brazil
  • San Pedro De Atacama Guide
  • The Lares Trek, Peru.
  • Lake Titicaca, Peru
  • Local’s guide to Rio de Janeiro
  • Estancia Los Potreros – Argentinian Ranch horseriding holiday.

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The great big usa bucket list – 38 awesome things to do in america, interview with a local: rio de janeiro, the changing of the guard ceremony in quito – what to expect, this post has 34 comments.

Wow I’ve been literally DYING to go to all these places in South America and you’ve just planned my trip for me. Now I have no excuse not to go, THANK YOU, pinning this for later!

Glad you found it useful Constance! Let me know if you need any more tips!

I love this post! So thorough and so helpful!! Sourh Amerixa is huge and it can be so tricky to navigate. But saving this for when I finally make it back.

Thanks! Glad you found it helpful and I hope you get there soon!

I’m planning a RTW trip and this guide is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thanks for taking to time to write such an in-depth article!

I’m so glad you thought it was useful! As a lazy researcher, I love having everything in one place! Have an amazing RTW trip – I’m SO envious!! Where’s first?!

Thanks for the great info! We’re hiking the Inca trail in September!

Ah have an AMAZING time!! I want to go back!!

Wow! What a guide! I’ll have to share it with my friend who’s currently living in BA and using that as a base to travel.

I hope she’ll find it useful too! Igauzu falls is reachable in a weekend trip from BA!

Great post Leanne. I would love to visit South America someday. I’ll definitely give some thought to the changing climates when planning my visit.

It’s incredible how different the climate from 1 country to the next!

I really enjoyed reading through this! You did a fantastic job! I will definitely pin this to my Pinterest board and share!

Thanks Elizabeth! Kind words ? I’m glad you enjoyed it!

What an incredibly detailed post. This is AMAZING. Saving this everywhere for one day when I go!

Thanks so much! I’m glad it’ll be useful for you! You will LOVE South America! It’s so diverse!

Absolutely love your post. South America is my absolute favorite continent and your pictures make me miss it so much right now. Can’t wait to go back and so all the places I haven’t ssen yet.

Glad you enjoyed it! I want to go back now to see more of chile and Patagonia!

What a fantastic itinerary to South America! I’ve never beenbefore but it’s on my bucketlist with the Galapogos being at the top!

They were at the top of mine too and so worth the price tag!!

Wow this is the most in depth guide of South America I have ever read. So far I ve only been in Central America jut I hope to visit soon

Oh wow thank you! That’s such a lovely compliment! Central America is awesome too – I need to visit there more often!

Wow! This is thorough, and great! I haven’t done South America yet and it’s on my list to do in the next two years. Totally saving this as a reference for planning.

Thanks amy! I bet you’ll have an awesome trip. South America is such an amazing place!

Looks like you put a lot of effort in to create such a detailed post. Thanks for sharing! <3

No problem! I just hope it can be helpful! ?

Wow, this is incredible! All that in 10 weeks, I feel you could write a book from so many experiences! I am myself toying with the idea of going to Argentina later this year, to see the spring (and penguins!), I will bookmark this post for future use!

I’d love to write a book one day – it’s on my bucket list. But I was thinking more of a novel! Argentina will be amazing. I definitely need to go head south and see those penguins soon!

Such a great post. I haven’t yet step foot in South America so this is a great help. Thanks?

Wow that is detailed! what a great overview of travel through south america. I love the salt flat pics, some corkers!

I’m SO glad I’ve found this blog post! South America is the last continent I haven’t been to and I’m in the planning stage of a big trip there. This covers pretty much everything I was hoping for, even the Galapagos Islands, which looks absolutely incredible so thank you so much it all looks insane!

You will have such an amazing time! I just made a video about the Galapagos – it’s on my twitter page @globetrottergp if you want more inspiration! (and videos of tiny tiny baby sea lions…) I hope you’ll have the most amazing trip!

Hi Leanne Great Post! Me and my girlfriend will be travelling to South America October 10th to the end February and will be looking to cover as much as possible, do you have any suggestions on where to start our trip ? I see you began your trip in October too and im a little worried about the changing seasons / rain ! Thanks

The main thing to coisder is the inca train opening times as it closes for some of the wet season. working west to east worked for me in oct

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Backpacking in South America: Everything You Need To Know

June 16, 2021 · In: South America

Are you planning to go backpacking in South America? Here is everything you need to know before your big trip down south — including the most popular backpacking routes, travel advice and safety tips.

Machu Picchu seen from above, one of the best places to visit when backpacking in South America

South America is home to the globe’s longest continental mountain range; the world’s largest river by volume; the largest rainforest; the largest salt flat ; and the highest capital city.

Backpacking South America means traveling through otherworldly landscapes that’ll make you question why you haven’t visited sooner. Each country’s cuisine is as bold as the landscape around it. Cultures tied to ancient civilizations will leave you in awe.

That’s what you can expect from backpacking in South America .

Use this guide to plan your ultimate South America backpacking trip: It’s time to discover one of the most diverse yet under-visited continents in the world.

Table of Contents

10 Things To Know Before Backpacking In South America

  • Consider learning some Spanish. English isn’t widely spoken in South America, even in popular tourist spots. Knowing basic Spanish will make backpacking in South America a whole lot easier.
  • Flying between countries in South America is expensive. Consider researching and beyond your flights ahead of time. Most backpackers travel by land — we did!
  • Bus travel is widely available and extremely popular. You can travel everywhere in South America by bus . Keep in mind that accidents are common, which is why I recommend avoiding overnight buses in rural or mountainous regions.
  • It’s not as dangerous as you’ve heard. Bigger cities are generally less safe than smaller towns and mountain villages, but I never felt particularly unsafe while backpacking South America. I’ll go into more detail about safety below.
  • You can bargain for everything. Bargaining is part of the culture in South America. Always be mindful about your bargaining, though. As an impactful traveler, you should support local businesses — and not hurt them over a few extra dollars saved.
  • The weather is unpredictable. South America’s landscape is very diverse, and odds are you’ll run into the Andes at some point or another. The vast change in altitude can bring all kinds of weather.
  • Pack plenty of sunscreen. The ozone layer over Peru is damaged, and certain parts of the country receive very high levels of UV radiation. The worst sunburn I’ve ever gotten was in Peru! Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen with you.
  • Carry cash. You can use your credit card and withdraw cash easily in big cities like Santiago or Rio de Janeiro. But you’ll find that cash is the preferred method of payment in more remote parts of the continent.
  • Be wary of the food and water. It’s best to avoid tap water while backpacking South America. Use your judgment when ordering food in more remote, rural areas; sometimes it’s best to cook your own meals at home.
  • Don’t expect to have reliable WiFi everywhere. It’s available in nearly all of the hotels and hostels you’ll stay in, but not so much on buses, trains or airplanes.

| READ MORE: How To Visit Machu Picchu on a Budget

Is Traveling In South America Safe?

A large lake surrounded by mountains in Rio de Janeiro, a popular city to visit when backpacking in South America

Much of the South America continent is perfectly safe to visit. While the news that reaches the U.S. and other parts of the world is quite negative, it typically focuses on one-off events in areas off the tourist track.

Rio de Janeiro, for example, is often described as one of the most dangerous cities in South America. As someone who lives here, though, I can tell you that this is an exaggeration. The drug and gang violence that happens in Rio typically takes place far outside the tourist areas.

As long as you know what neighborhoods to avoid, you should have no issues backpacking in South America. Pick-pocketing and petty crime are common, so it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings. Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t flaunt your expensive gear like cameras when in a big city like Rio.

South America Travel Advice

  • Try not to look like a tourist. You’ll likely already stand out as a backpacker but let’s try to keep it low-key. Walk with confidence, know where you’re going and stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Read up about your destination before arriving, and keep up with local news while you’re there. While I was backpacking in Ecuador , there was a daylong bus strike that left me stranded in Quito, for example. In Buenos Aires, I read about protests happening downtown so I knew to stay away from the area on those days.
  • Learn some basic Spanish. Like I mentioned previously, English isn’t widely spoken in South America. Knowing basic Spanish can help you avoid iffy situations or being taken advantage of.
  • Keep an eye on your valuables at all times. Unfortunately, petty thieves will target tourists and they’ll be waiting for you to let your guard down. Don’t leave your iPhone sitting on top of the table while you’re looking the other way, for example. Keep it in your pocket or bag, and keep that near you, too.
  • Avoid unnecessary overnight bus travel. I took tons of overnight buses while backpacking South America but looking back, I see how risky it was. If I were to do it again today, I would try to travel mostly by day. Accidents and bus thefts are more common at night.
  • Familiarize yourself with a city before visiting. Look up the best and safest places to stay. And learn about any areas you should avoid.

| READ MORE: Best Countries To Visit in South America

10 Must-Haves When Backpacking in South America

Here are a few things I wouldn’t travel to South America without:

  • A sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots
  • Rain jacket or windbreaker
  • Lightweight thermal jacket
  • eBags packing cubes to stay organized
  • Daypack to carry valuables like camera and lenses while sightseeing or hiking
  • Scrubba wash bag for small laundry items
  • Travel adaptor to charge your phone and laptop
  • External battery to keep your phone charged
  • Pocket blanket that you can lay out anywhere
  • And a travel backpack , of course!

Best Time To Visit South America

A hill surrounded by colorful buildings in Quito, Ecuador, a great place to visit while backpacking in South America.

South America’s diverse landscapes, altitudes and climates mean there’s no single best time to visit.

Generally speaking, September to October is a pretty good time to visit most countries. Expect moderate spring temperatures and dry weather.

Other countries closer to the equator like Peru or Ecuador can be year-round destinations, although you can expect more rain between January to April.

I personally backpacked South America from December to March and rarely ran into weather issues. Some high-altitude destinations like La Paz in Bolivia were of course colder than others, but overall, I didn’t have any plans ruined by rain or harsh weather,

Here’s a pretty decent breakdown of when to visit each country in South America.

| READ MORE: How To Visit The Salar de Uyuni Tour in Bolivia

Accommodation in South America

If you’ve traveled through Europe or Southeast Asia, you’ll know that $10 can land you a bed in a pretty decent hostel or even hotel. Budget travel is a well-paved industry in either continent, and the tourism infrastructure has caught up to it.

South America remains one of the under-visited regions of the world. To better put this in perspective, the most popular European countries welcomed 20 million to 80 million visitors in 2019, while Argentina, the most visited country in South America, welcomed only 7.4 million.

This is all to say that a one-star hotel or hostel in Europe or Southeast Asia is likely more comfortable than one in South America.

Still, hostels and budget hotels are readily available across the continent. If you’re traveling from the U.S. or Europe, the currency is certainly in your favor.

Many times you’ll find that Airbnb might give you more bang for your buck. I personally used Airbnb quite a bit in South America. My boyfriend and I often rented a private room in someone’s apartment, which allowed us to connect with locals in every country.

| READ MORE: Hiking the Famous Pichincha Volcano in Quito, Ecuador

Getting Around South America

Lamas grazing on an orange field with purple-tinted mountains in the background in Bolivia. Consider stopping in Bolivia during your South America backpacking route.

The bus is the most common mode of transportation for backpackers in South America.

It’s important to note that the continent is massive. While traveling by bus is the most cost-effective option, it does take up a lot of time. Overnight bus rides are readily available if you don’t want to waste a day traveling, but they’re also more prone to accidents and robberies.

That being said, I never ran into either while I was backpacking South America. Every country has at least a couple of reputable companies that offer “luxury” long-distance buses equipped with beds and bathrooms. Some even offer meal service. 

| Travel Tip: The best way to book your bus tickets is to book in-person at the city’s local bus station. However, you should always bring snacks on board to be safe! Sometimes certain long-distance buses don’t offer many bathroom or meal breaks.

Best Places to Visit in South America

There are so many incredible places to visit in South America , it’s hard to choose just a few. If I truly had to, though, these 7 destinations would be at the top of my bucket list .

The following places are home to the most incredible experiences I had while backpacking in South America.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Not much compares to Machu Picchu in Peru , the architectural masterpiece hidden in the heights of the Andes Mountains . Whether you’re tackling the multi-day hike or riding the glass-walled train, the journey there is just as exhilarating as the final destination. Machu Picchu is the No. 1 place you must see when backpacking South America.

A yellow clock tower marks the entrance of Cartagena's historic center. Consider stopping in Cartagena while traveling through South America.

Cartegena, Colombia

The colorful city of Cartagena is a common stop on the South America backpacking route. Most come to soak up the laidback yet vibrant atmosphere created by the mixture of Caribbean and Colombian cultures. Picture pastel-colored buildings, turquoise blue water and Spanish colonial architecture. 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Home to the largest party in the world, Rio de Janeiro is worth a visit even when it’s not Carnaval season. The landscape is like nothing you’ve seen before: A sensory overload of lush green mountains and white sandy beaches. Come for the beaches and stay for the lively Brazilian culture.

A woman seemingly holding a man in her hand and blowing him off the edge of her fingers — an illusion you can create in the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Consider visiting the salt flat during your South America trip.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni is one of the top bucket list destinations in South America. It’s the largest salt flat in the world, and the three-day road trip to get there will take you through some of the most beautiful and untouched landscapes on the planet.

The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

The world’s largest tropical rainforest can be found in several of the counties in South America — but the Brazilian side is probably the most famous. The Amazon is still on my bucket list for its incredible biodiversity and the wealth of ecotourism it offers.

A giant volcano looms over the orange buildings of San Pedro de Atacama, one of the best places to visit while backpacking in South America

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama is the main backpacker town in the Atacama Desert, also known as one of the driest places on earth. Backpacking South America is all about encountering the planet’s most extraordinary places, and the Chilean desert delivers. Hot springs, volcanoes, lagoons and moon-like valleys can all be explored with day trips from San Pedro. 

Torres del Paine, Chile

Chile’s crown jewel lies in the south of the country, where Patagonia continues to stun hikers from all over the world. Torres del Paine National Park is the gateway to Chile’s Patagonia and its many glaciers, waterfalls and mountains.

South America Backpacking Routes

The city of Medellin seen from afar - Medellin is worth a visit when backpacking in South America.

I remember a time when a friend told me they wanted to backpack South America in a week . They wanted to hit Brazil, Colombia and perhaps a third country in a span of a few days.

While a quick, multi-destination trip like this is possible in Europe, South America is a whole other animal. First of all, the continent is absolutely massive. It’s the fourth largest continent and nearly twice the size of the U.S.

Backpacking in South America requires a lot more time than backpacking in Europe. And since most of the travel is done overland, you tend to move pretty slowly.

South America also isn’t the kind of place you want to rush through. Unlike a city like Paris, where you can see the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in a single day and be done with (if you were rushing), sites like Machu Picchu require days of exploration, not to mention the journey it takes to get there.

That being said, here are three South America backpacking itineraries that range from 4 to 6 months. You can cut any of these routes down by choosing to visit fewer countries. If you’re looking for a month-long South America adventure, here’s a good place to start.

The Gringo Trail (The Classic South America Backpacking Route)

Estimated Duration: 4-5 months Best for: Hitting all the main highlights

The Gringo Trail is a classic, tried and true South America backpacking route.

The travel itinerary hits all of the main attractions across Western South America — skipping Uruguay, Brazil and everything east of Colombia, including Venezuela.

While some travelers steer clear of this route because they deem it too touristy, The Gringo Trail does hit many of the best highlights on the continent, including Machu Picchu , the Salar de Uyuni and Patagonia.

Of course, the route is not an actual “trail” but rather an invisible line that passes through six countries in South America. Here’s a quick overview of the main highlights:

  • Colombia (Bogota, Ciudad Perdida, Cartegena, Medellin)
  • Ecuador (Quito, Banos, Galapagos)
  • Peru (Lima, Nasca, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Puno)
  • Bolivia (La Paz, Salar de Uyuni, Sucre)
  • Chile (Atacama Desert, Valparaiso, Santiago, Patagonia)
  • Argentina (Ushuaia, Buenos Aires)

The Gringo Trail stretches up toward Central America, too. It essentially weaves down from central Mexico to the southernmost tip of Patagonia.

The colorful city of Guatape is located near Medellin, a common stop on most South America backpacking routes

Estimated Duration: 5-6 months Best for: Exploring beyond the main tourist sites

The Loop is another popular South American backpacking route that covers a bit more ground than The Gringo Trail.

As the name suggests, this South America backpacking itinerary loops around the entire continent. Unlike the Gringo Trail, it features stops in Brazil, Uruguay, and even Venezuela, depending on the current political climate of the country.

Here’s an overview of the route:

  • Brazil (Manaus, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Foz do Iguacu)
  • Uruguay (Montevideo)
  • Argentina (Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Mendoza)
  • Chile (Santiago, Valparaiso, Atacama Desert)
  • Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni, Sucre, La Paz, Lake Titicaca)
  • Peru (Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Nazca, Lima, Huaraz)
  • Ecuador (Banos, Montanita, Quito, Galapagos)
  • Colombia (Bogota, Salento, Medellin, Cartegena, Santa Marta)

This is an ideal backpacking route for travelers looking to delve deeper into each country they visit, beyond the most touristic sites.

My Backpacking Route

Estimated Duration: 4 months Best for: A good mixture of tourist highlights and lesser-known destinations

I spent four months backpacking in South America between 2017 and 2018. It was one of the most thrilling travel experiences — and a whole lot of sensory overload.

My route included top sites like Machu Picchu and the Salar the Uyuni as well as off-the-beaten off towns like Huancacho in Peru and Pucon in Chile.

We spent the most amount of time in Peru, where we backpacked for about a month, only traveling by land. We also spend a good amount of time backpacking through Chile, while Argentina and Ecuador were quicker stops.

Fun Fact: We crossed over the border of Ecuador to Colombia on foot because it was incredibly cheaper than flying.

Here’s a round-up of the destinations I visited:

  • Brazil (Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre)
  • Argentina (Buenos Aires)
  • Chile (Santiago, Vina del Mar, Pucon, San Pedro de Atacama)
  • Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni, La Paz, Copacabana)
  • Peru (Puno, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Lima, Huanchaco, Vichayito, Mancora)
  • Ecuador (Quito, Tulcan)
  • Colombia (Pasto, Medellin, Cartagena)

| Travel Tip: Traveling by bus can be a lot cheaper than flying in South America. My boyfriend and I traveled mostly by land. A few of the bus services we used included Bolivia/Peru Hop , Turbus, and Pullman.

Visas for South America

An orange and pink sunset in Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro - one of the best places to visit on your South America backpacking trip

Visa rules aren’t as strict for travelers coming from the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Regardless of where you’re coming from, it’s advised to travel with a passport that’s valid for at least six months.

Here’s a breakdown of the different South America visa requirements by country:

  • No visa required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
  • $160 for Americans
  • $150 for Canadians
  • $100 for Australians
  • Visa on arrival required for residents of the U.S., but not the UK, Australia, Mexico and many EU countries
  • $160, plus a $25 departure tax
  • No visa required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
  • $160 for Americans, $132 for Canadians, $95 for Australians, $23 for Mexicans to be paid at the airport
  • $50 for Canadians, plus a universal $56 departure tax that is sometimes included in the price of a plane ticket
  • $25 departure tax
  • No visa required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada and the EU
  • Visa on arrival required for citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Russia, and Taiwan
  • Citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and much of the EU must obtain a Tourist Card from a local embassy
  • No visa is required for citizens of the UK, Australia and New Zealand. U.S. citizens must have a tourist card from a Venezuelan diplomatic mission

I hope this guide to backpacking in South America helps you better prepare for your trip! Don’t forget to pin this article for later!

The ultimate guide to backpacking in South America, including three of the best routes and travel advice from someone who lives here.

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February 28, 2024 at 4:01 pm

Hello, I loved this, it was so helpful, thank you. I am just wondering, how did you travel from brazil to Argentina without flying if you did not pass through Uragauy?

4 month trip to south america

May 28, 2024 at 9:22 pm

We flew from Brasil to Santiago, Chile; then did most by land… and at some point flew to Buenos Aires (don’t remember from where, but you can find my full around the world itinerary on here!). We also flew from BA to Porto Alegre, which involved a layover in Montevideo.

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South America trip planner: 8 incredible routes

Whether you want to hike the Andes, self-drive Brazil, delve into the Guianas or take the train to Machu Picchu, these eight journeys will inspire a Latin adventure…

1. Southern Patagonian Andes: Argentina & Chile

Duration: 10 days Best for: Hiking, biking, glaciers and off-road adventure Route: El Chaltén > Lago Argentino > Puerto Natales > Torres del Paine

4 month trip to south america

2. Inca heartland: Bolivia and Peru

4 month trip to south america

3. Under the volcanoes: Ecuador & the Galápagos

4 month trip to south america

4. Costa Verde: Southern Brazil

4 month trip to south america

5. Birdlife on the wild side: Colombia

4 month trip to south america

6. Overland adventure: Venezuela & the Guianas

4 month trip to south america

The coast road leads across lots of rivers all the way to Suriname , the former Dutch colony. Paramaribo, the capital, is approached by roads lined with churches raised on stilts to prevent any flood damage, modern factories and Chinese supermarkets, swastika-bearing Hindu temples and mosques topped by crescent moons. There’s a real cosmopolitan flavour here, and the capital has some of the best-preserved colonial buildings in all South America. The final leg of the trip – now in EU territory – passes via the atmospheric ruined penitentiary Devil’s Island and the Guiana Space Centre before arriving in Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana; a fascinating museum, excellent French-influenced cuisine and a handful of historic sites make this a curious, but comfortable conclusion to a memorable road trip.

7. Beaches and beyond: Uruguay

4 month trip to south america

8. Gran Chaco & the ‘other’ Pantanal: Paraguay

4 month trip to south america

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Green Mochila

Budget Backpacking in South America

Backpacking in South America: All the Answers You Need

4 month trip to south america

We all dream differently of South America. Some of us need to feel small in its immense nature during multi-day hiking adventures. Others want to feel the life pulsating in its cities, its street art, its sensual dances and wild carnivals. Some will want to find themselves in strange marks on ancient stones. Others still are looking forward to a cocktail on the beach, facing the warm sun and the turquoise mirror of the Caribbean. Whatever your dream is, this is your guide. We’re answering here all the questions you may have, in order to help you plan your perfect budget backpacking in South America .

Chances are that this post contains affiliate links. We’re not selling anything ourselves – we just help out products we find great. If you click one of them and decide to purchase, it’ll be at no extra cost to you; and we’ll get a trifle that’ll help us bring you more awesome travel guides.

Note: our South America travel advice doesn’t include the 3 Guianas ( Guyana, Suriname & French Guiana ) which are a complete mystery to us.

Jump to: Is South America safe?   |  Backpacking tips   |  Backpacking South America budget South American itineraries   |  Packing list   |  Countries overview

A few travel tips about budget backpacking in South America

South america is a whole world.

The very 1st thing we want you to know is how absurd this South America travel guide is. South America is a whole world, a continent of more than 428,819,652 people living in 13 countries; meaning there are as many differences from one country to another as between, say, The Blair Witch Project and The Little Mermaid .

And because they’re all equally fascinating, you’ll want to travel more than 2 weeks in South America.

Don’t expect to find the same situation everywhere in South America. We want you to keep this in mind while you’re going through this post. If we had to make generalisations (under the torture) here’s what we could say:

  • the most expensive and developed countries are in the southern half. That’s Chile, Uruguay, Argentina (although currently under ongoing economical crisis) and Brazil . There you’ll find decent roads and infrastructure the most, and a lifestyle that is the most similar to the so-called “Western world”.
  • Brazil , though, is much livelier, more colourful, probably more ‘exotic’ . Its population is also more mixed between Indigenous, Whites and Blacks. It’s similar to Colombia and Venezuela – but wealthier and more expensive.
  • the Andean countries ( Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and to a lesser extent Colombia ) have a more Indigenous and traditional society , living a lot on self-sufficient farming and informal market. Expect to pay for everything there more than anywhere else. The level of life is lower, except in Ecuador , which is surprisingly more developed.

View of Baños from the hills, the town is nestled among mountains

Few people speak English

That’s right. It might be a tad easier in the most developed countries (remember? Chile, Uruguay and Argentina) and downright difficult in the rest of the continent. Of course, your hostel staff will be able to help you; but that might not even be the case in Bolivia or Paraguay, or in the less touristy areas.

The best thing is really to pick up some Spanish (and Portuguese , if you travel to Brazil) before travelling to South America; or even along the way, like many long-tern travellers manage to do. Even the basics will procure peace of mind; you’ll be sure that you get understood, understand where you’re going, and aren’t abused with prices.

There aren’t many vegetarian or vegan options

South America is definitely a meat-eating continent. For most people there, a meal without meat isn’t a meal. If you feel nauseous at the mere sight of meat, you want to avoid adventuring to markets or going anywhere near street food carts.

Don’t worry though, you’ll find veggie and vegan restaurants in all the big cities throughout the continent. In many places, Asian all-you-can-eats do the trick perfectly, especially in Argentina; and for a cheap price.

The least veggie-friendly countries are Bolivia , Venezuela and Paraguay .

The countries that are the most veggie-friendly are Argentina and Uruguay (which have a similar cuisine by the way). Peru’s Sacred Valley , in particular Cusco, are also surprisingly vegan-friendly due to the crowds of hippies passing through; don’t miss the falafel in “San Blas” market!

Of course, nothing stops you from cooking yourself. The fresh fruits and vegetables grown in most of those countries are so appetising!

The Andean cuisine is heavy on the meat, to say the least. Yet, it’s easy to eat vegetarian at markets’ comedores : you just need to ask. Let me tell you though, it won’t be light; the meat is usually replaced with fried egg or plantains .

Markets are the Mecca

If you’ve been around Green Mochila long enough, you know that we are real market fanatics. It’s cheap, it’s colourful, it’s authentic, the produce are usually local and the meals follow regional recipes. Bring your own bag and it’s also plastic-free. What’s there not to like about it?

We cook a lot on our travels, and we usually get our veggies from the market. We look around and ask for prices to compare. When we’re set on a seller, we get as much as possible from them, so they give us a good price; maybe they even give us something extra, what they call the “ yapa ” in several countries.

We also eat lunch at markets, there’s always a “ comedor “, some place where the ladies cook. There are also freshly squeezed fruit juices and snacks all day.

Markets are also a great place to have a little chat – provided you know a bit of Spanish/Portuguese. How many things did we learn just sitting down on a market bench!

fruits and veggies market in Urubamba, Peru

Is backpacking in South America safe?

People often ask us if it’s safe to travel in South America; or they do like our mums and just take for granted that we’ll be kidnapped and they’ll soon receive our ears for ransom.

There have been, and there are still, stories of violence across Latin America. But in most parts, you’re just as safe as in your hometown. It’s also just as safe backpacking South America solo as in a couple or a group. Like everywhere really, you should be aware of where you go , of the situation around you at all times.

Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places. Don’t walk around with your valuables showing. What we always do when we arrive in a new town, is ask at our accommodation if there are neighbourhoods we should avoid. Even the way they answer gives us an idea of the local safety.

There are a few places on the continent where you should pay extra attention. Not places you should avoid, just where bad stuff is a bit more likely to happen. There again, ask locals and they’ll give you tips.

Places in South America where you should be extra careful:

  • All Colombia , even in smaller towns
  • Large Brazilian cities : Rio de Janeiro and Salvador in particular
  • Some capitals : Lima in Peru, Quito in Ecuador
  • Venezuela is a no-go right now, with its current situation and everyday violence

It’s more likely that that you end up paying double price for things , especially if you don’t speak the language. In Bolivia and Peru in particular, sellers think gringos are rich and don’t mind spending extra. We advise that you spend your 1st day in each country checking how much things cost, to get an idea.

Before budget backpacking in South America: travel tips and facts

Anna hitching a ride in Vilcabamba, Ecuador


Distances are big on the continent, and you will often have to endure 8 to 10-hour bus rides to reach your next destination.

It’s actually ideal; we always chose a night bus to save one night in an accommodation, arrived early morning in a new place, freshly rested and full of wanderlust. Well, theoretically. That depends much on the state of the road and the eagerness of the driver.

Unless you’re travelling to remote locations like the Galápagos, Easter Islands or Iquitos, nothing justifies taking a plane . If your next destination lies more than 15 hours away, there’s something wrong with your route. Think it over. Maybe you need to add a stop in-between? Maybe you’ll discover an unknown place you’ll fall in love with?

Read our guide to bus transportation in South America

Independent travel vs South America tours

Some agencies offer South America backpacking tours , that include a visit to some of the most famous locations on the continent. For a flat rate, they rush you from one site to the next, crossing towns and borders like nothing happened. We heard of tours that range from 1 to 4 weeks.

As you may guess, we wouldn’t recommend that much. Of course it’s comfortable. But you’ll just see sights without understanding what they mean in a local context. An independent travel allows you more time and attention to places, people, meanings.

Tour companies want you to think that some places are impossible to visit without them. Most of the time, that’s not true. There’s almost always a bus to get there, people on-site to help you out, a single ticket to buy. And all this much cheaper on the spot.

Our best tip: Even if you’re not an independent traveller at heart, don’t get ripped off online. By booking in your home country, you get prices that can be 3 times the average price on-site. Trust the local companies.


It is in general fairly easy to use Couchsurfing anywhere on the South American continent. From our experience, the only exception is Bolivia, where the community is very small.

As a rule of thumb, send your requests about 7-10 days before your arrival – a bit more for touristy places. People from South and Central America are spontaneous folks, so a request that’s earlier than that will probably get a ‘no’, as they don’t want to compromise so long in advance.

Latin Americans are very friendly and always ready to help you. They will treat you as a close friend right from the start, often in a very expressive manner (except in the Andes, where people are colder). They will also welcome you in a space that we would consider too small; or in a situation where we would generally abstain. With this, we mean that you should be ready to sleep eg. on a simple mattress in the living room.

Anna sleeping in a Colombian hammock

Cost of backpacking in South America

The best way to help you budget your backpacking in South America is to give you a breakdown of our own costs, in 2019.

Bear in mind that we’re hardcore budget travellers. We use Couchsurfing most of the time, otherwise we look for the cheapest accommodation; travel by bus and hitchhike from time to time; speak both Spanish and Portuguese and can barter the prices; walk around cities and look for free events. Having said that, we don’t skip any major attraction.

Backpacking South America budget (per person per month):

  • Brazil: 630 € / 700 USD
  • Argentina: 215 € / 240 USD
  • Bolivia: 400 € / 450 USD
  • Chile: 315 € / 350 USD
  • Colombia: 240 € / 270 USD
  • Peru: 220 € / 250 USD
  • Uruguay: 270 € / 300 USD

Our best tips on how to travel in South America on a budget:

  • buy ingredients from the markets, cook food and bring it in your lunch box to eat during the day
  • try to haggle and negotiate , from food to bus tickets to hostel nights; for this, you’ll need to speak some of the language
  • instead of restaurants, eat local food at market canteens and street food
  • use Couchsurfing , or camp with your tent
  • exchange your hostel nights against a volunteer job or a workshop in your speciality
  • hitchhike whenever possible, including to tourist attractions that are only reachable by car; there will be other tourists going there and willing to help you out
  • many museum have free entrance once a week; check their website beforehand
  • look for free events on the internet; there are more than you think!
  • walk instead of taking the public transportation; it’s also the best way to discover a city

And even some tips on how to make money on your South American trip, if you’re not a digital nomad:

  • if you know how to dance, juggle or make music , do that on the street; there’s a heavy Argentinian competition though
  • sell homemade food on the squares (cake, fruit salad, vegetarian sandwich)
  • learn how to make bracelets and sell them; you can even exchange them for food at the market (true story, our Spanish friend Isa did that regularly while backpacking through South America)

Man selling jewelry at Otavalo market Ecuador

Got more tips for fellow backpackers in South America on how to save or make money? Share them in the comments!

South America backpacking routes

How long do i need to backpack south america.

South America is big – have we said that before? We mean that there’s no need to rush and have one large South America itinerary, to see all the main spots in a short period of time. With the cheap flight deals we find nowadays, you’ll have occasions to come back several times. Honestly, a ‘ South America itinerary 2 weeks ‘ is an aberration.

For a 1-2 month South America backpacking trip , consider sticking to one country or region. Eg. Patagonia in Argentina/Chile; the Southeast of Brazil; the Andean countries Bolivia and Peru. Staying in a region will offer continuity in the local culture, allowing you a better understanding thereof. You’ll also remain in the same climate, which can make the packing dilemma considerably easier. And that’s not a detail.

For these reasons, and to reduce your impact on the environment, consider a slow way of travel , one that doesn’t involve flights. Think that you’re on a faraway continent, a new world to you. Who can tell what’s unrolling under the wings of your plane? Who says it’s not worthy of your attention?

We think that 3 months in South America is already a good time. We’ve brainstormed and came up with a few options for backpacking routes in South America, depending on the time you have and on your interests. We’ve chosen them on geographical and cultural criteria.

sunset on the mountains in argentina lake district

3-4 month South America backpacking itinerary

Argentina & chile:.

This route will bring to you all the wonders of the most diverse countries on the continent. Stretching from frozen glaciers down sky-high mountains to sandy deserts with geysers and quirky rock formations . From the flat pampas to moody islands and further to perfect surf spots. Also to buzzing metropolises , cosy towns and fascinating villages .

Start your backpacking trip either in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Santiago, Chile. After spending a few days there, make a loop according to the season; the south reaches freezing temperatures in winter, and the north can be unbearably hot in summer. So calculate well the best time to travel to South America. See the Countries Overview underneath for the places to see on the way.

Andean countries: Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador

This backpacking route will bring you through the most traditional region in South America. Colonial towns and Indigenous villages, but also unique landscapes and a myriad ancient ruins and sacred places . It’s a perfect trip if you’re into history or want to spend time in remote nature; jungle forest , tall waterfalls or wind-swept beaches.

It’s a land of high plateaus, so it’ll be cold all year round, especially in Winter (June to early September); the rainy season can be heavy and block roads in January-March. Mind the altitude: it’s important that you take the 1st couple of days to acclimatise.

You can either start your travels in Quito, Ecuador and go down, or in La Paz, Bolivia and move north. Note that Bolivia is the least developed country among them and Ecuador the most developed, with all comfort and services. See the Countries Overview underneath for the places to see on the way.

Empty beach and blue sky in Florianopolis, Brazil

the Brazilian coast

With 7,491 km (4,654 miles) of coastline, you’d have a lot to see on a trip down (or up) Brazil. You’d be riding through large modern cities , smaller towns and fishermen’s villages; the jungle in the north and the flat grasslands of the south. Always keeping an eye on the immensity of the Atlantic ocean.

Start in Belém in the north or in Porto Alegre in the South; or the other way round, from the region with the most European roots to the one with major Black ancestry.

Caribbean countries: Venezuela, Colombia and their islands

To feel the warm sun on your skin and meet people who talk easily on the street, head over to the Caribbean. That’s among the most joyful, loud and colourful parts of the continent. This route goes through Colombia, Venezuela and their islands; with extra time and money, maybe you can visit some of the island nations above: Aruba, Curacao, Trinidad & Tobago.

Because the southeastern part belongs to the Amazon rainforest, the best is probably to start in Bogotá or Medellín, Colombia. From there, you should 1st go south to see Cali, Popayán, the Coffee Axis and the Tatacoa desert. Then make your way to the coast and follow along at your own rhythm.

On your way, colonial towns, peaceful beaches , fishermen’s villages, stunning national parks and the tallest waterfall in the world.

Warning: as of December 2019, travelling to Venezuela is strongly inadvisable.

6-month backpacking South America routes

View from comuna 13, medellin, colombia

Andean countries extended: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia

To what’s been said in the 3-4 South America travel route already, we’re adding Colombia. The south of the country is high up in the Andes, and is culturally attached to the “Andean countries”.

You’ll need to pack heavy for this route, as it’ll bring you through cold high plateaus –that should be avoided during the rainy season in January-March– and under the hot temperatures of the Caribbean.

Mind the altitude in the Andes: it’s important that you take the 1st couple of days to acclimatise. For this reason, it might be better to start your trip in Colombia and head southward to the highest altitudes. See the Countries Overview underneath for the places to see on the way.

Brazil, editor’s cut

Besides its immense coastline that we’ve discussed in the 3-4 month itineraries, Brazil has a world to offer. Indigenous communities deep inside the rain forest, living side by side with an amazing wildlife. Colonial towns built around the mining industry. Modern cities that are gems for foodies and street art lovers.

We don’t think you can visit Brazil entirely, even in 6 months. The distances are so big, the forest is so thick; the people are so friendly that you will want to stay longer everywhere.

the Southern half: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay

Probably my favourite South America travel itinerary. Let’s add to the 3-4 month Chile/Argentina itinerary two more countries, shall we? Please meet Uruguay and Paraguay. If the former is a very modern and progressive small country, the latter is rather rural and stuffed with forest.

Uruguay is therefore a comfortable, albeit slightly expensive travel destination. Paraguay on the other hand is rather poor; but it offers some precious natural areas, colonial towns and the famous Jesuit ruins lost in the forest. See the Countries Overview underneath for the exact places to see in both.

You could start this backpacking trip through that half of South America in Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile again. You’ll just do a wider loop, there again minding the seasons and the climates.

For more inspiration, check the map of our own 10-month South America backpacking route

magellan penguins near pinihuil, on chiloe islands, chile

Where to start budget backpacking South America?

This probably depends mainly on where you’ll find a cheap flight to. If you follow our advice and concentrate on one region, you can easily make a loop and leave from where you started.

Long-time travellers should get any best-amazing-discounted-promo flight to Anywhereville, then work up their route from there; if you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of your trip, you can always buy a return ticket one month in advance.

We started our trip in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, simply because it was the cheapest we found. Actually, the 5 or so cheapest destinations from Europe were in Brazil – go figure. From there, we built our backpacking itinerary in South America with a few weeks in advance. We kept hearing about new places along the way, so our route kept changing. It’s important to be flexible.

Here are the questions you should ask yourself:

  • which countries do I definitely want to visit ?

If you want nothing else but Argentina and Colombia, that’s going to be tricky, geographically. But if you’re open-minded, we promise that you can be fascinated by every place.

  • are there festivals/celebrations I want to see?

Celebrations in South America are often beautiful, so full of life, music and colours. Plan well in advance if you’re interested in any of them. If you aren’t, then stay away. Towns are full and it becomes really hard to find accommodation; things also get suddenly expensive.

  • which weather am I ready to cope with?

Remember that all the South of the continent gets freezing cold in winter (June-August); the North can be intolerably hot at the same time, when it’s summer there; and the rainy season in the Andes can be downright miserable, between January and March.

How do you travel between countries in South America?

As we said before, if you restrict yourself to one region, or if you have unlimited time, there’s no need to take a plane . Taking the bus to go from one place to another will become a routine; one that is usually cheap and doesn’t need booking much in advance.

Crossing a border by bus is not more complicated than that, but it takes time. Add 30 min to 2 hours of red tape to the normal journey. Better even: ask the person you get your bus ticket from, they will know.

Anna sitting on a rock in front of red lake

What to pack for a backpacking trip in South America

What you need to pack boils down again to what regions you’ll be visiting. We hope this guide has already given you a precise idea of the climate you can expect there. We’re giving you a list of what is either indispensable or goddamn handy to have on your travels in South America.

Now don’t be scared by the quantity, we’re just trying to be comprehensive!

Our tried and tested backpacking South America packing list:

  • hiking clothes (technical t-shirt, trousers, boots, fleece)
  • thick jacket for Patagonia or the Andes
  • rain jacket
  • flip flops/sandals, for the beach or indoors
  • swimming suit
  • a hat or something to protect your head ; sunglasses
  • big scarf that can be used also to sit down on

Don’t bring a lot of stuff if you go to Bolivia, Ecuador or Peru because there are beautiful clothes there to buy for cheap. So leave space in your bag.

  • your usual responsible traveller kit (foldaway bag, reuse cup, water bottle, water filter, lunch box, cutlery)
  • useful phrases and words in Spanish and Portuguese
  • a tent if you want to camp
  • a sleeping bag even if you don’t camp but want to Couchsurf
  • maps.me: very detailed maps that can be downloaded, perfect for nature hikes
  • wikiloc: precise hiking trails with descriptions, maps and tips, works offline with a small fee
  • VidaLingua: a great language app to get you starting on the lingo

Entertainment, especially good for long-term travels:

  • 1 book: you can swap it indefinitely in every hostel or cafe that offers book-swapping
  • a pen drive to either load photos or swap films
  • playing cards, it’s always a great way to make friends (and extra money?)

A brief overview of South American countries

If your idea of South America comes from 100 Years of Solitude and Jurassic Park , you’re in for a surprise! As a vast continent subject to many influences and to different levels of development, there’s not one but several realities.

Here’s a brief description of each country; a note on what kind of travellers they can attract; and some of the best places to visit in South America.

fishermen boats with the sea in the background

What to expect:

A colourful country where the north is hot Caribbean beaches, the east is dense rain forest and the south is the cold climate of the high plateaus. Distances are big and roads are in badly need of repair. People are very welcoming but deserted streets and paths can be dangerous.

Perfect for:

1 or 2 months.

Hiking and horse riding in the jungle or in low mountains ; hot days at the beach ; church -hopping in pretty colonial towns and interesting museums ; scuba diving; greasy street food .

On the beaten path:

  • Tayrona National Park
  • Medellín , the friendly city
  • Guatapé, a very colourful village

Off the beaten path:

  • the Lost City trek through the jungle
  • Tatacoa desert, hot rock formations
  • Caño Cristales, the “Rainbow River”

Don’t forget:

“ Don’t give papaya “, meaning don’t flash your belongings at will. Colombia can be risky, so keep your wits about you at all times.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Colombia

Green hilly landscape at Tigua Ecuador

A developed country with good roads and infrastructure. A landscape divided in 3 stripes: warm coast, cold Andes, humid rain forest. The Indigenous traditions are mixed with a modern-ish lifestyle. Mind the high altitudes and medium temperatures all year round.

3 to 4 weeks.

Hiking in very different landscapes; unique flora and fauna ; nights out in party places; comfortable stays close to nature and traditions; outdoor activities .

  • Quilotoa Loop around a volcano lake
  • Galapagos Islands and those crazy blue footed boobies
  • Baños , an adrenaline-filled mountain town
  • Cuenca, lively colonial town
  • Vilcabamba, the hippies’ haven
  • Cajas National Park

Your US dollars. That’s Ecuador’s official currency since 2000. But beware: all US coins can be used in Ecuador, but the money coined in Ecuador is of no worth in the USA.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Ecuador

Gocta waterfall in Peru

A stark contrast between mass-tourism spots and the underdeveloped rest of the country. Therefore bad off-the-beaten-path infrastructure but not lacking. Strong Indigenous traditions and an active market life. Mind the long travel distances, and the high altitudes with cold temperatures in the Andes and humidity in the Amazon.

1 month or more.

Old ruins and pre-Hispanic civilisations; hiking to very remote nature places; impressive natural landmarks; greasy street food .

  • Inca Trail to the Machu Picchu
  • Cusco and other sites in the Sacred Valley
  • Huaraz , its mountains and lakes
  • Kuélap , stunning pre-Inca site
  • Colca Canyon
  • Choquequirao several-day hike

To always double-check prices. Tourism is big in Peru and sellers, bus drivers and tour operators often want to take advantage of tourists.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Peru

Sucre bolivia view from church roof

A very poor and cheap country where infrastructure is lacking. There’s a very tangible traditional Indigenous lifestyle and an active market life. The roads are really bad and can make many places secluded or cut-off in the rainy season. Keep in mind the high altitudes with very cold temperatures.

2 to 4 weeks.

Adventure backpack trip in authentic destinations; budget travel ; unique landscapes ; street food .

  • Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Titicaca Lake and its sacred islands
  • Sucre , white colonial town
  • the wilderness of Noel Kempff National Park
  • Sajama National Park

Your toilet paper. Services are lacking in the country, and paper in public loos is part of it. Also, always have some coins with you, as sellers won’t have the change.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Bolivia

A lonesome path in moon valley, chile

A very developed and expensive country where prices are similar to Europe and North America. Most towns are multicultural, with many expats and high-end locales. A constant informal street market, everywhere. An overly stretched country with very long distances.

Unique landscapes ; comfortable towns with all services; nightlife and culture with interesting museums ; road trips and slow travel and outdoor activities ;  street food .

  • Atacama Desert
  • Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia
  • Valparaíso , colourful university town
  • Chiloé , a rainy archipelago
  • cosy Puerto Varas and Volcano Osorno
  • Humberstone, an abandoned mining village

Read our complete guide to backpacking Chile

Road in the Lake District Argentina

A very European population with high living standards and a vibrant city life. It’s a developed country with very good infrastructure. The people are very friendly and incredibly helpful. Mind the ongoing economical crises that make cheap and changeable prices. A large country with very different climates and long travel distances. It gets very cold when you travel south. If we had to choose the best country in South America, that would be Argentina.

Comfortable holidays or “staycations”; nightlife and culture with interesting museums ; outdoor activities ; budget travel and hitchhiking; road trips ; very diverse and equally stunning landscapes ; foodies and vegetarian travellers.

  • Buenos Aires
  • Patagonia, from the ‘ Lake District ‘ to Perito Moreno glacier
  • Iguazú Falls
  • Mount Aconcagua Provincial Park
  • wines and fun in Mendoza
  • Córdoba’s mountains

Argentinian Spanish is rather special; even if you’ve learnt Spanish, you might feel somewhat stranded at first.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Argentina

The skyline of Paraguay's capital, Asunción, on the river

A poor and very rural country where the Gaucho traditions are still very strong. Expect cowboys working in ranches and drinking cold mate (“ tereré “) all day, that sort of things. Asunción is among the oldest capitals on the continent and still retains, at least in part, some colonial charm.

2 or 3 weeks.

Off the beaten path travels; rural stays; remote nature and wildlife encounters; budget travel ; slow travel ; cheap shopping.

  • Jesuit ruins
  • Ybycuí National Park
  • Asunción, the capital
  • Gran Chaco, dense forest and plains
  • Encarnación, a pretty town
  • Outdoor fun at Eco Reserva Mbatoví

Our complete guide to backpacking Paraguay is coming soon!

Rio Plata waterfront promenade in Montevideo, Uruguay

A very European population with high living standards and vibrant city life in Montevideo, the capital. A developed country with very good infrastructure. The people are very friendly and helpful. You’ll enjoy the progressive politics and mentalities.

Comfortable holidays or “staycations”; slow travel ; rural stays; urban culture; vegetarian travellers; LGBT travellers.

  • Montevideo , the capital
  • Punta del Diablo and Santa Teresa National Park
  • Colonia del Sacramento , small colonial town
  • Cabo Polonio, secluded hippy spot
  • Tacuarembó, the gaucho land
  • San Gregorio de Polanco

Uruguayan traditions are very similar to those of Argentina; but you don’t want to mess around telling them that tango was born in Buenos Aires!

Our complete guide to backpacking Uruguay is coming soon!

Closeup of a boat on the beach in Florianopolis Brazil

A huuuge, diverse and colourful country with the rain forest, innumerable beaches but no real mountain range. Always lots of life on the street and friendly, welcoming people. The population is very mixed, but with a latent racism and sexism. It’s a rich, economically developed country, with good infrastructure and prices are medium. Mind the very long travel distances.

2 months, or focus your trip on one region.

Very remote nature experiences ; road trips ; church-hopping in colonial towns ; hot days at the beach ; nightlife and culture with interesting museums ; comfortable towns with all services; outdoor activities.

  • Rio de Janeiro and the Pão de Açúcar
  • outdoor activities on the island of Florianópolis
  • the Amazon rain forest
  • Salvador de Bahía

The language of Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish; it’s a Portuguese that’s very different from the one spoken in Portugal.

Read our complete guide to backpacking Brazil

Colourful neighbourhood of Caracas, Venezuela

A poor country with a few major towns and many natural treasures, among the tallest waterfall in the world. Among the best hikes in South America. A lively culture with lots of street food and talkative people. Caribbean beaches and islands. A large but risky rain forest area that’s home to the guerrillas.

Off the beaten track travels; budget travels ; hiking and horse riding in wonderful nature ; hot days at the beach ; boat touring , water sports and outdoor activities ; street food .

  • Salto del Angel waterfalls
  • Los Roques Archipelago
  • Medanos de Coro desert
  • Mochima National Park
  • Mount Roraima
  • Caracas, the capital metropolis

It’s really not safe to travel to Venezuela right now; you should avoid it when you backpack in South America.

Our complete guide to backpacking Venezuela is coming… as soon as the situation settles down!

Bags full of legumes

Eco backpacking travels in South America

Please remember that such a beautiful trip is a one-time opportunity to be a responsible traveller – and make your contribution to responsible tourism on the continent.

It’s important to be respectful of the people you meet, even if their culture is different from yours; even when they stare at you because you look different. Many people will be happy to have their photo taken, but please ask them first.

Bartering prices can be fun, but don’t haggle forcefully . Each object has its fair price; and that takes into account both what you can afford and what the seller needs to make a living.

When you travel South America, take the time to understand the reality of a place. It doesn’t mean you should live 6 months in a region; a few hours may be enough. Just don’t rush it. Ask questions. Listen. You’re here to learn and grow.

Please, pretty please, avoid attractions that are ethically wrong . Because an attraction is advertised, even if it’s a popular thrill, it doesn’t mean it’s right.

The plague that is plastic

Now, we really want to focus on this. It’s not much more difficult to avoid plastic on your travels than it is at home. What you need is preparation and consistency. You just need to be ready with your own foldaway bags , your  own reusable cup  for takeaway drinks, your  own cutlery  for the food.

And If you don’t have a  travel bottle  yet, you should really get one. One that isn’t in plastic because, once again, plastic is  not good for you .

Please check again  our eco travels tips for responsible tourism

Are you planning a budget backpacking trip through South America? Do you have any questions we’re not answering here? Feel free to tell us in the comments!

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Anthony fell in love with the world, and more particularly with South America. He wants to offer inspirational guides to the curious backpacker, travel stories to the online generation, and incentives for a more responsible and greener way-of-travel for everyone.

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What a wonderful and informative post. I would love to visit South America, but I probably won’t have months of time to travel around. You gave me a brief idea of what to expect where and now I will have even more problems deciding where should I go first. Haha. Thanks for sharing all that.

This guide is here to open up a world of possibilities. Hopefully it inspired you to go traveling in South America. Thank you for your visit!

Woah, this is fantastically comprehensive!

Wow! Such a detailed guide

Thanks for sharing. Will save this for future when we plan for South America

So far I just have been to Colombia in South America but ready to explre more. Even I am not exactly backpacker while traveling with backpack mostly, I find your information useful and inspiring. If talking about Colombia, the roads I traveled were in good condition except of being quite narrow in mountains. Also I felt safe in all places I visited. Thanks for sharing.

We’re glad you felt safe, Anita. We feel it’s important to remind those who travel to South America about the safety in Colombia. Thanks for your visit!

I would love to visit more of South America. I’ve only been to Ecuador briefly and hope to see not only more of that beautiful country, but also others as well. Even though I probably won’t be backpacking, you are giving me some great tips with this post. And I couldn’t agree more with the advice to learn some Spanish. While some people did speak English in both Quito and Galapagos islands, majority I encountered didn’t. My Spanish, even though basic, did come in handy.

That’s a great feedback, Aga: even basic Spanish will help on South America travels. Thanks for your visit!

Great guide! I went to Colombia for three months this year and had the best time. I am traveling to Argentina in a couple weeks time and your post made me super excited for my upcoming trip.

You will love Argentina, Marika! At least, we did, haha. If you haven’t seen it yet, we have a guide specifically for Argentina , check it out!

This is not only detailed, but also a super-organized post! As I continue to learn more about South America, I am struck by how much you must have grown during your time there. Thank you for sharing so much information, and for your great writing.

Thank you for your kind words, Kevin. Travels tend to have that effect indeed, and our South America trip will always remain a very dear memory to us.

Wow what a post. This is epic, you put so much effort into it. I admit I learned so much from it. And want to go to Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia more than ever. Great guide Anthony.

Thanks a lot, John. Now thinking of renaming the post “Epic Backpacking across South America”. Those Andean countries are a great choice – you would love Lake Titicaca.

Excellent post – one of the best I have read. It is clear, well structured and insightful. I love the concise overview with the links to more detail and all the practical advice you give. If I am honest my days of hitching and couch surfing are done, but the information here is easily transferable to other kinds of travelling. Thank you.

True Jane, not everything here is about backpacking South America solo. We want to help whoever is travelling in South America. Thank you so much for your kind words!

Yes, I find all the answers in your blog about backpacking about south america. This article helps me a lot. If I said honestly this article made my day. Thanks for everything.

That’s very nice to hear, thank you for your words Katherine! Hope you enjoy your trip to South America.

I am planning to go for an extended tour of South America with my family. That’s why I am trying to get some information so I can make a proper plan. I read your blog and note all the important points because it’s helping me when I go to South America. Thanks for sharing with us all the answers as a tourist looking for before travel.

Glad you could find all the info for your South America travel plan, Joe. Enjoy your trip with your family!

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Urban Planning and Travel Blog

South America Itinerary

Travel Blog Last Updated · Mar 11th, 2023 [post_author_posts_link] · [post_comments before=""] -->

Macchu Picchu - one of the must visit spots in South America

Welcome to this South America itinerary.

If you are currently planning a trip to South America, you have chosen one of the best destinations for a unique travel adventure.

With a great variety of landscapes and cultures that you will never get enough of, all these beautiful countries have something unique to offer.

Read our South America travel itinerary so you don’t miss a thing below.

Table of Contents

It is true! South America has it all; old towns, ancient ruins, incredible beaches, lush forests, breathtaking mountains, and more.

Not to mention good food, friendly people, and so many opportunities for adventure and to get off the beaten track!

Is South America Safe?

Though some parts of South America are more dangerous than others, it’s safe to visit the continent and travel around.

Tourists and locals walking in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Of course, there are certain risks you can’t ignore, such as petty crime, but as long as you take precautions and keep away from dangerous cities and areas, you will be fine.

The safest places in South America seem to be Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, and Uruguay, but you must practice basic travel safety tips to keep yourself away from danger and have peace of mind during your trip.

Read below and we’ll provide you with helpful tips on safety later on!

Planning a trip to South America

There are many considerations you need to work through before jumping on a plane to South America.

Firstly, you need to make sure you have all of your jabs and travel insurance sorted out.

South America is still pretty poor in parts, and diseases such as Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A can be big risks when out there.

Another key consideration is entry requirements.

Be sure to check the countries you want to visit before booking.

COVID is starting to relax now so there are usually not too many hurdles to get into countries (proof of two vaccine doses is usually enough), however, some do need Visas depending on which country you are from.

It’s also important to check the weather for where you’ll be going and to pack appropriately. It gets icy cold in certain parts of the Southern Cone.

Distances are huge, and some destinations can be searing hot whilst others require extra layers where snow and torrid winds are common.

Even then, in some countries like Peru, you can experience vastly different climates at the same time, within the same country!

How long do you need in South America?

This is such a common, yet difficult question to answer as we all have different preferences.

With South America being such a large continent, distances can be pretty huge, and there are also tonnes to see from Cartagena in the north to Ushuaia in the south.

If you’re planning on completing the classic gringo trail (Colombia through the Andes, and then up to Brazil – or vice versa) then you’ll need a minimum of 6 months.

For those with a little more time on their hands, 9 months is better which will allow around a week in all of the major destinations along the way.

If also heading to the more unknown destinations such as Paraguay, Venezuela and the Guyana’s, then you’ll need around a year.

So while planning a trip to South America be sure to check out some of the destinations below and choose the order in which you’ll visit them:

Start your South America travel itinerary in Colombia. Bogotá is a great place to arrive because it’s a dynamic, vibrant city with a lot to offer.

Colorful houses in Cartagena, Colombia

There are many great landmarks and attractions to visit here, such as the Museo del Oro, Villa de Leyva, the Salt Cathedral, and much more.

You can also visit places such as Pereira, Almeria, Salento, and other wonderful towns, visit a coffee plantation and have countless outdoor adventures in places like the Tatacoa desert near Huila.

Ecuador is known for many different things, particularly the Galapagos Islands, which you must visit because there’s no other place like it.

Train running through the Devil's Nose in the Andes mountains in Ecuador

To continue with your South America backpacking itinerary, you can explore Ecuador and everything it has to offer.

Including volcanoes you can climb, such as Chimborazo or Sierra Negra, explore Quito and Cuenca, take a rail journey through the Andes, visit amazing waterfalls, and more.

Peru is an intriguing country, so it can’t be missing from your South America travel itinerary.

Locals in a mountain village in Peru

There are so many beautiful cities to explore, Inca ruins, delicious food, and rich indigenous culture you’ll have fun learning about.

It’s an amazing destination that suits all kinds of travelers. You can visit Lima, the capital, and explore the center, try the most delicious ceviche, visit Cusco, Machu Pichu, tour the Sacred Valley, and much more.

A car sitting on top with its reflection on the Uyuni Salt Flats

These salt flats attract tourists from all over the world not only because it’s breathtaking, but also because it provides the perfect opportunity for stargazing and you can see the Milky Way at night.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, biking down Death Road should be on your list. You can also explore the Amazon Basin, visit Potosi, the highest city and the country, and much more.

The Iguazu Falls in Argentina

You can visit places like Buenos Aires, the capital city, and explore colorful neighborhoods such as La Boca and San Telmo which has tons to offer. Recoleta, Belgrano, and Palermo are fun too.

For a real adventure, you can go to the Iguazú Falls, visit the Perito Moreno Glacier (which is just stunning), go to Patagonia or have endless adventures in Northern Argentina!

Chile is a wonderful place and it’s perfect for your South America backpacking itinerary.

It’s an expensive destination, but it offers a great diversity of landscapes and there’s so much to discover. You can start your visit in Santiago, the capital city, visit museums, landmarks, and enjoy delicious wine and food.

Moai in Easter Island, Chile

You can also go to Valparaíso, visit Easter Island and connect with Rapanui culture, explore Pucón, which is the capital of adventure, and so much more.

An aerial view of Rio de Janiero, Brazil

You can start in Rio de Janeiro, where there’s so much to do, go to wonderful beaches such as Copacabana, Leblon, and Ipanema.

What about a hike to the Christ the Redeemer statue, which is iconic, and more. You can also visit Paraty, Florianopolis, and other incredible places.

South America Travel + Safety Tips

As mentioned earlier, South America is safe to travel and if you keep these safety tips in mind, you won’t have any issues!

  • Pickpocketers, bag snatchers, and muggers are common, so stay vigilant, especially in public transport.
  • Always use company taxis.
  • Don’t visit dangerous neighborhoods.
  • Don’t walk alone at night, take a taxi instead.
  • Remember to get your FREE travel insurance quote before you travel for peace of mind while on the road.
  • Dress to blend in, leave designer clothes and jewelry at home.
  • Don’t flaunt your valuables while in public.
  • Never leave your things unattended.
  • Be fully aware of the most dangerous cities in South America so you know how to approach each and every new place that you visit.
  • Always use indoor ATMs, especially if you need to withdraw at night.
  • Only carry the cash you’ll need.
  • Purchase travel insurance, it will make you feel safer.

Practicing these tips and being alert and aware of your surroundings at all times will help keep you safe.

Also, do your own research for each specific place you visit so you always know where to go and feel more confident after doing your homework.

Is South America cheap?

This is hard to answer since we’re all different and have different comforts and so on.

In the cheaper countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay) an average budget will be between $25-30 a day.

In the more expensive countries (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil) you can expect between $30-40 a day. This budget takes into account a dorm bed, food, local buses and some extras.

It does not include flights, travel insurance or bus rides between destinations.

Daily budgets will vary depending on if you travel in high or low season, or during a festival (watch out for hiked-up prices during Carnival!).

Getting Around South America

Getting around South America by bus is a great idea because most cities and towns have a central terminal and traveling by bus is usually inexpensive, though prices will vary from country to country, city to city.

A local bus in Valparaiso, Chile

Book your ticket in advance whenever possible, and research the terminals so you know what bus you need to get based on your destination.

Remember to always keep an eye on your belongings, and dress for the weather so you’re not uncomfortable during the rides.

Buses in South America

Buses are king when it comes to traveling around South America.

They are much cheaper than flights, and usually serve most of the major routes pretty well and reliably.

However, due to long distances, you’ll need to prepare yourself for some long trips – sometimes up to 26 hours if going all-in hardcore.

Whilst most buses are in good condition and have comfortable seats and surfaces, unfortunately, they can get very cold as they always seem to leave the air-conditioning.

Always bring a few extra layers or a blanket and you’ll be fine for the ride.

Best time to visit South America

This is one of the most frequently asked questions for those wanting to explore South America. It’s also very hard to answer, given the mammoth size of the continent.

For example in July, areas of Brazil and Colombia will be as hot as a furnace whilst Patagonia will be well below freezing (remember half the continent sits in the Southern Hemisphere so the seasons are reversed).

As well as this, there are even micro-climates within the same country, such as Peru with its mountainous towns differing vastly from the desert and then also the beaches in the north.

Despite this somewhat head-ache, the truth is you don’t need to get it perfect. If you’re going to travel the whole continent then simply pack for all seasons or just buy whatever you need when you get there.

It’s commonly agreed that the best overall time to visit would be between September until November.

In the north, this would be the spring, whilst in the south the autumn, meaning there’s not as much extreme variations in weather compared to the summer and winter seasons.

Specifically, this is the best time to spot wildlife in the Amazon and Pantanal, to hike in Patagonia, as well as for going off-road in Bolivia and Peru. Which are some of the most popular things to do on this continent.

South America Itinerary: Final Words

There you have it! An itinerary you can adjust so you can spend 1 week in South America, 2 weeks in South America, or as long as you want to.

What we mentioned here today is only the tip of the iceberg, but we wanted to narrow down the options so you can have a nice South America backpacking trip. You can always go back for more!

If you want to see more latin countries in less time, why not read our Central America itinerary for the perfect introduction to Latin America?

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Beginner's guide to South America

Regis St. Louis

Apr 6, 2012 • 3 min read

4 month trip to south america

South America has long captivated travellers with its plethora of natural and cultural wonders. Take a quick inventory of continental highlights, and it's easy to see why - idyllic beaches, snow-covered mountains and tropical rainforests, all of which make a fine backdrop for a memorable holiday.

There's just one catch: this continent is massive. There's simply no way to see it all (unless you've got a couple of spare years up your sleeve). So if you've been thinking of going but don't quite know where to begin, here's a quick primer on top destinations:

Peru and Bolivia

One of the classic South American journeys is bumping around the Andes, visiting indigenous villages, colonial towns and ancient ruins amid those staggering mountain peaks. Peru is a great place to start. High in the Andes, you'll find enchanting Cuzco , the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent and a fine base for exploring archaeological treasures like nearby Machu Picchu . Other Peruvian highlights: trekking in the Cordillera Blanca, walking the cobblestone streets of Arequipa , flying over the mystical Nazca Lines and visiting the floating islands in Lake Titicaca .

At Titicaca, you can continue by boat across to Bolivia , home to enthralling indigenous villages, biologically rich forests, soaring mountains and the bizarre and beautiful salt flats of Salar de Uyuni .

If time is limited and you hope to pack a lot into your itinerary, smallish Ecuador is a good bet. It has beautiful colonial towns like Quito and Cuenca that are among the best places to study Spanish in South America (notable for inexpensive one-on-one language schools and homestays with local families). The famed Andean mountains are never far, and you can trek through alpine scenery (the four-day Quilotoa loop is popular and you can generally do it on your own), mountain bike along rugged mountain roads, go bird-watching in cloud forests or arrange horseback rides on the flanks of snow-covered volcanoes (like Cotopaxi ). You can also spend a few days in a rainforest lodge in the Amazon. If time and budget allow, tack on a 5-day tour island-hopping in the Galapagos at the journey's end.

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Larger than the continental US, Brazil is the geographic (and economic) giant of South America. It's also Latin America's priciest country, so plan accordingly. Planted among forest-covered mountains, Rio de Janeiro is a magnificent introduction to Brazil, with a great music scene, alluring beaches and heady festivals. A few hours away, you can explore remote coastline, rainforest-covered islands (like Ilha Grande ) and colonial towns (jewel-box Paraty ). With more time, you can add a few flights and visit other regions, starting in the Northeast in Salvador , a colourful colonial city that's the drumming heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. Other options: thundering Iguazu Falls on the Argentine border; Belem or Manaus , gateways to the Amazon; and architecturally intriguing Brasilia .

If you haven't heard by now, Colombia is open for travel and safer than it's been in decades. Bogota , the high mountain capital, is a cultural behemoth with salsa-filled nightclubs, charming cafes and intriguing nearby sights - including the surreal underground salt cathedral, 50km north. Other Colombian hits: sunning on the Caribbean Coast at Taganga and the pristine beaches of nearby Parque Nacional Tayrona ; trekking to the Ciudad Perdida ('Lost City'), the largest pre-Colombian town in the Americas; and exploring the photogenic streets of colonial Cartagena and its neighbouring coral-fringed islands.

Argentina and Chile

Anchoring Latin America's southern extremes, these two countries have vineyards, lively capitals and share the laid-back Lakes District, home to hot springs, picturesque villages and loads of outdoor activities (hiking, rafting, climbing, skiing). There's unrivalled adventure in Patagonia : trekking and horse riding against a backdrop of glaciers, petrified forests, snow-covered peaks and other stunning scenery.

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Worldly Adventurer

The Complete South America Packing List: For Vacationing, Backpacking & Hiking

By Author Steph Dyson

Posted on Last updated: 29th November 2023

So you’re going on an adventure to South America? Working out exactly what to pack for a short vacation or a longer-term backpacking trip can feel like a daunting prospect: after all, what happens if you forget something essential or find yourself completely underprepared for the weather, altitude or climate of South America? 

Before my first ever backpacking trip to South America back in 2014, I remember feeling exactly the same way.

Since then, I’ve spent over five years living and traveling in the region and have backpacked, vacationed, and lived across the continent, writing guidebooks (and this blog!) along the way to help others get to grips with a trip to South America. I’ve traveled on a budget and traveled in style, so I know exactly what to pack for South America depending on the type of trip you’re taking.

I’ve overpacked (mostly), underpacked (rarely), and discovered exactly what items you can and can’t find across the continent if you forget or mislay them during your trip.

I’ve also learned which hiking, camping, and general backpacking gear can withstand months (if not, in many cases, years) of traveling, so I can talk with educated knowledge about what you should – and shouldn’t – invest your money in.

4 month trip to south america

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Key things to consider before packing for South America:

  • What type of traveling will you do? Whether you’re planning a hiking adventure in Patagonia or hitting the beaches in Colombia , your luggage is going to look fairly different. This guide has been designed to cover most bases and has different sections that you can dip in and out of. You can also read my complete packing guide to Patagonia if you’re planning on spending most of your time hiking. 
  • Don’t overpack: laundry facilities are inexpensive across South America and located practically everywhere you’ll go. As a result, you can pack fewer items of clothing because you should be able to do laundry every couple of weeks. Turnaround at laundrettes can be as short as 12 hours and it should only cost a few dollars for a full load – making it extremely affordable. The only issue I’ve found is that they do have a tendency to damage your clothes, as well as occasionally losing socks and underwear. Always count the items of clothing you drop off and double-check everything’s there before you leave the shop when you pick it back up again. 
  • You can buy most things in shops in South America. Big cities tend to have all the shops you’ll need for picking up items of clothing, toiletries, and electricals, with large, modern department stores often your best bet. However, prices on imported goods can be higher than you’ll find at home; I’ve found this, particularly the case for electrical items and camping equipment (the latter of which is generally poor quality and very expensive). 
  • Safety can be an issue in South America. The fewer obviously expensive items you can pack (yup, I’m looking at you, the latest iPhone or MacBook), the less likely you are to get robbed, and the more you’ll enjoy your trip! You also want to always keep an eye and a hand on your belongings: this is very important in bus, train and metro stations where you want to have an arm through your rucksack strap or on your suitcase as thieves are very good at stealing them without you realizing they’ve gone. Make sure you also never put valuables into any luggage that goes into the hold on a bus or even into the luggage racks above your seat. Instead, keep valuable items at your feet and preferably securely attached to your person. Read our guide for more information about the safest countries to visit in South America .

So what do you need to pack for South America? Here’s my packing list honed over seven years of exploring the continent.

Backpacks for South American travel

The type of luggage you bring is a personal choice, and you do see travelers with wheelie suitcases in South America. However, if you’re planning on doing any multi-day hikes in South America (of which there are plenty), a backpack is the most versatile choice. Pulling a wheeled suitcase over cobbles or poorly-maintained streets in cities and towns across the continent is going to be hard work.

Finding a backpack that’s comfortable for wandering the streets from the bus stop to your accommodation, as well as when you’re on day eight of the O Circuit in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park is no mean feat.

I’ve had the same backpack for the past seven years and don’t look forward to the day I have to part from it. Not only is it a women’s fit (a very important choice if, like me, you’re not the tallest), but it has an adjustable back system, which has meant I can adapt it to fit me more comfortably.

However, to be sure it would fit before I bought it, I took myself to a local outdoor shop to try on a number of backpacks. This is a great way to make sure you don’t sink loads of money into a bag that will cause you frustration – or worse, a bad back. 

Torres del Paine W hike

You also want a backpack that is as functional as possible. If you’re planning on hiking in South America or even traveling to countries near the Equator where it tends to rain heavily for periods of the day, a rain cover – either included or added to your pack – is a smart idea, while various pockets, including side pockets for stuffing with shoes or water bottles, give your backpack space to grow and store more things if needed. 

Unfortunately, my backpack, the Berghaus Torridon 60 liter, is no longer available to buy. Instead, Osprey is a great brand that’s a little more expensive but known for being exceptionally reliable and long-lasting, making their bags ideal for both short and long-term travel. 

  • For her: With plenty of ways to adjust the fit, plus ventilation for keeping your back cool on sweaty treks through the city or great outdoors, the Osprey Aura AG 65 liter (if you plan on doing longer, multi-day treks: buy it from REI | Osprey | Amazon ) or the Osprey Aura AG 50 liter (for general backpacking: buy it from REI | Osprey | Amazon ) are sturdy, long-lasting and comfortable backpacks.
  • For him: The men’s Osprey Atmos AG 65 liter (buy it from REI | Osprey | Amazon ) has similar functionality: 
  • Add a rain cover  from REI | Osprey | Amazon to make sure your pack is 100% waterproof.

Wheeled suitcases for traveling in South America

Don’t fancy lugging your belongings on your back like an oversized turtle? A wheeled suitcase isn’t the most practical luggage for South America, but it’ll work, particularly if any hiking plans you’ve got will involve a daypack instead (more on that below). 

When it comes to a wheeled bag, one of the main considerations is whether you go for a hard or soft case. Soft cases have the benefit of not cracking if placed under stain (and on buses in South America they do tend to like throwing the luggage around), but if you’re concerned about security, a hard case has the edge. 

My favorite is the wheeled LEVEL8 suitcase. Not only is it roomie – it comes in 41L , 68L , and a whopping 108L – but it has three different zipped compartments, making it very easy to pack your belongings (and know where they are!).

The frame itself doesn’t weigh too much, either, which ensures it’s easy to wheel around and also doesn’t use up too much of your weight allowance! Mine has been brilliant and it’s easy enough to pack a small rucksack inside this suitcase for day trips.

  • For him and her: Available in three different sizes and made from a durable hard shell, the LEVEL8 range of cases is my top pick and can be bought in three different sizes: 41L , 68L , and 108L .

Daypacks for South America 

A day pack can serve multiple purposes on a trip to South America. For days spent exploring the city, a 20- to 40-liter backpack will be a perfect size, with enough room to carry water, a camera, and extra layers. It’ll also be the right size for day hikes, whether trekking in Torres del Paine National Park or for a day exploring Machu Picchu. They’re also useful as hand luggage on a plane or when traveling overnight on buses. 

Again, I recommend comfort and functionality when it comes to a daypack. An adjustable waist strap is invaluable when you’re hiking, while a waterproof rain cover and smaller pockets for keys or lip balm are also handy. 

I spent many happy years with my Lowe Alpine daypack, however, it’s a brand that’s practically impossible to find in the US and 25l is a little small if you’re planning on doing a multi-day hike. Instead, Osprey is again a great alternative.

  • For her: You can find my Lowe Alpine 25 on Amazon or check out the Osprey Sirrus 36 , which is packed with pockets, has a waistband and rain cover, and is easy to adjust: REI | Amazon
  • For him: The Osprey Stratos 34 has similar functionality as the women’s version: REI | Amazon .

Clothes for South America | Hiking and essentials

Choosing which clothes to pack for a South America trip is all about versatility – and recognizing that this continent is one hell of a huge place with an incredibly wide-ranging array of climates and altitudes. 

No, it’s not always hot and sunny in South America and yes, there are places where it feels like it rains all the time (or it actually does if you’re visiting in rainy season). Before you begin, check out my guide to when to visit South America , which runs you through the types of weather you can expect in different parts of the continent. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll want to be packing for pretty much every possible climate if you’re planning a backpacking adventure that spans more than just one country. 

It’s also worth noting that altitude can have a real impact on temperatures. If you’re heading to Cusco , Machu Picchu , Arequipa , Huaraz, Quito, La Paz , or other similarly high-altitude destinations, you’ll quickly notice that temperatures drop significantly at night. A warm fleece or down jacket will quickly become your favorite item of clothing. 

A person stares into the distance at the scenery of the Patagonian fjords aboard a cargo and passenger ferry,one of the ways of getting to Patagonia

Finally, a note on fabrics. Quick-dry and moisture-wicking materials, such as polyester, nylon, and linen, are a good choice, particularly if you end up needing to do a wash in a sink in your hotel (you invariably will). Cotton will keep you cool, but takes absolutely forever to dry, while silk will end up getting crumpled in your bag.

If you don’t have much already in your wardrobe that seems good for traveling, REI have a whole range dedicated to travel clothing for men and women that’s worth checking out and that can be filtered according to material and qualities (such as moisture-wicking).

A waterproof jacket: I grew up in a family who takes hiking very seriously and I can’t fault my dad for persuading me that a good quality Gore-Tex waterproof jacket is an essential item of clothing for your bag. It’ll keep you dry and, if you spend more, the material is going to be breathable and stop you getting too hot or sweaty, even if you’re hiking. My latest jacket, the Patagonia Storm10 , is a three-layer waterproof (read: extremely dry) made from 100% recycled nylon. It’s very thin, which makes it light but also easy to layer up using a down jacket or cozy fleece beneath.

For cheaper budgets, North Face is always a good choice, too. Their Alta Vista jacket is a breathable, lightweight option at an affordable price point.

  • For her: I love the Patagonia Storm10 Jacket as it’s an ultralight, easy-to-pack but fully waterproof jacket ( Patagonia ); the North Face Alta Vista Jacket ( Amazon | REI ) is significantly cheaper but offers good weather protection.
  • For him: the Patagonia Storm10 Jacket is a good option ( Patagonia ) or the equally lightweight but waterproof Patagonia Torrentshell 3L ( REI | Patagonia | Backcountry ); if you want something more affordable, the North Face Alta Vista ( Amazon| REI ) is a good shout; if you’re looking for something that’ll last you a decade, check out pricey but industry-leading Arc’teryx ( REI | Amazon )

A warm fleece: Fleece is a material designed to keep you warm by trapping body heat; at the same time, it’s extremely lightweight. It’s not only great for cool evenings when the temperatures drop, but it’ll be a great addition to your hiking backpack if you head out into the mountains.

  • For her: Go for this inexpensive one from Columbia or pick up an even cheaper one from REI
  • For him: Mountain Hardwear have great options: REI | Backcountry | Amazon

A down jacket: I don’t think I wear any coat more than my down jacket. It’s because it not only provides me with a welcome extra layer, but it also packs down very small and light and can easily be worn under a waterproof jacket if I’m feeling really cold. Be aware that, while a down jacket is a great piece of kit, because down (the feathers used inside the coat for insulation) isn’t designed to get wet, you want one that’s either water resistant (pricey) or synthetic down (cheaper but heavier). I’ve been wearing a Jack Wolfskin down jacket (Amazon), which is packed with responsibly sourced down with 700-fill (a number that basically puts it at the top of the range when it comes to warmth). It’s also extremely light, so excellent for shoving in your pack for when you need it.

  • For her: I love my new Jack Wolfskin down jacket ( Amazon ). The North Face has some good synthetic down jackets ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ), while Mountain Hardw ear has some water-resistant down jackets ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ).
  • For him: REI has some good synthetic down jackets and some of the most affordable water-resistant down jackets

Two or three x hiking trousers and shorts: Whether you’re looking to hit the trails across South America or might do a bit of day hiking here and there, a couple of comfortable pairs of hiking trousers are must-haves; trust me, you’ll regret any hikes you do in jeans. Hiking trousers will also be extremely comfortable on days spent wandering around the city.

Investing in those that are quick-dry is a must (nothing’s worse than getting rained on and your trousers staying wet). prAna are known for the durability of their women’s hiking trousers, while Columbia have some great options for men .

  • For her: Get prAna hiking pants at REI | Backcountry | Amazon . 
  • For him: Columbia’s trail pants ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) are a great option.

Two or three hiking tops: Lightweight, easy drying, and quick-to-wash hiking tops are also essential, particularly as they’ll keep you nice and cool in the South American humidity. Any sort of sports tops should suffice, but make sure they’re made from moisture-wicking materials.  

  • For her: REI have some great own-brand t-shirts 
  • For him: REI have some own-brand t-shirts for men, too

Hiking poles: They might seem like something you only need once you’ve gotten past a certain age, but hiking poles are now something I always take with me on a hike. Not only are they great for taking the pressure off your knees when you’re going downhill, but they’re extremely handy if you roll your ankle or injure yourself on the trail. Check out  REI’s guide  to selecting trekking poles or try Black Diamond from REI | Backcountry | Amazon .

Clothes for her

Three or four casual tops: These can be a blend of tank tops, short-sleeved (for protecting your shoulders from the sun), and long-sleeved t-shirts (the latter are good for the jungle when you’ll want all skin out of sight), as well as casual shirts (great for throwing over you in hot weather when you start burning). Sustainable companies such as Organic Basics and Tentree have some great t-shirts and tanks from recycled synthetic materials, organic cotton, and linen; just avoid light colors which will end up getting stained

A smart top or shirt: There’s likely going to be at least one occasion where you’ll want to dress up and a smart top or shirt can make you look respectable. 

Two comfy linen trousers or similar: I never travel with jeans for the main reasons that they’re a) very bulky and b) horrifically unpleasant in hot, humid climes. Instead, I prefer linen trousers or ones made from a lightweight, quick-drying material, such as recycled polyester. Tentree has some great linen and recycled polyester trousers. 

Two pairs of leggings: Leggings are an absolute essential when it comes to your South America packing list. I tend to have three in my backpack: two pairs for hiking and another pair that can be worn either out and about or for sleeping in cold climates. Any pair of leggings will do, but REI has some affordable options, while prAna does some really comfortable pairs ( REI | Amazon ) which have handy side pockets for your phone or other essentials on the trail.  

Worldly Adventurer sat on a rock staring across Lago Torres to the towers in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia

Two pairs of shorts: Depending on when you visit South America, it can get very warm, so a few pairs of lightweight and quick-drying shorts are a must (or just throw in a few more trousers if you don’t like getting your legs out). TenTree have some lovely linen shorts .  

One dress or skirt: Sticking with the theme of wanting to look nice and respectable at some point during your trip, a dress or two can make you feel a bit smarter. 

A lightweight jumper or cardigan: Even in the hottest, most humid parts of South America, temperatures can drop, so a lightweight jumper or a cardigan will keep you cozy and warm against the chill. 

One or two swimsuits or bikinis: There are plenty of opportunities for swimming in most parts of the continent and the water can be extremely inviting on a hot day.

One pair of pajamas : I tend to wear short pajamas at night and put on a pair of leggings if I get cold. 

Seven underwear: This should be enough to go without doing laundry all the time if you’re traveling for a long time. 

Four bra: As above. 

Seven pairs of socks: This depends on the type of shoe you plan on wearing. If you’re going to be in trainers, bring plenty of trainer socks , plus at least two pairs of hiking socks . I wear a liner pair and an outer pair when I’m hiking, but you might just wear the one pair with your hiking boots. Bridgedale ( liner and outer socks) or Darn Tough are good for both liner socks ( REI | Darn Tough | Amazon ) and outer socks ( REI | Darn Tough |Amazon )

One scarf: A lightweight scarf has been invaluable for me during my time traveling in South America. Not only can it keep you warm, but it can be an excellent light layer against the sun when it gets too hot or be used as a blanket on an overnight bus journey. 

Clothes for him

Three or four casual tops: Go for a range of different styles; just make sure they’re lightweight and quick-drying, plus some long-sleeve casual shirts that can be worn over a t-shirt for extra warmth. Organic Basics have some great tencel t-shirts (made from wood pulp that’s lightweight and more moisture-wicking than cotton). Again, avoid light colors that will get stained from sweat or just general wear. 

A smart top or shirt: Great for helping you scrub up nicely when required. 

Two casual trousers: As suggested above, I would strongly recommend against packing heavy and hot jeans. Instead, go for cargo trousers or any other type of lightweight trousers – again made from a quick-drying material such as recycled polyester or nylon. 

Two pairs of shorts: Bring more or less depending on whether you prefer wearing trousers or shorts. 

A lightweight jumper: You’ll want something that’s thin but can provide an extra layer of warmth when needed.  

One or two swimming trunks: This allows you to have a pair drying and a pair being worn

One pair of pajama bottoms: Even if you generally sleep naked, think about those around in your hostel or hotel – you’ll want a pair of pj bottoms if you do share a bathroom and need to exit your room in the middle of the night!

Seven underwear: This should be enough to go without doing laundry all the time if you’re traveling for a while! 

Seven pairs socks: This depends on the type of shoe you plan on wearing. If you’re going to be in trainers, bring plenty of trainer socks , plus at least two pairs of hiking socks . I wear a liner pair and an outer pair, but you might just wear the one pair with your hiking boots. Bridgedale ( liner and outer socks) or Darn Tough for both liner socks ( REI | Darn Tough | Amazon ) and outer socks ( REI | Darn Tough | Amazon )

Footwear for your South America trip

A pair of hiking boots: I’ll always be an advocate for hiking boots and I’ve bought Salomons for my last three pairs. Mostly, it’s because they don’t give me blisters (an issue I’ve faced in the past), and because they’re made of Gore-Tex so keep my feet completely dry on hikes. They’re also a lot lighter and have better breathability than those made from leather.

However, if you’re not planning on doing much hiking – and only expecting to wander around towns or embark on day hikes – it might be better to just take a pair of decent hiking shoes instead. 

A person stands on a rock at the top of Cerro Guanaco in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego in Argentine Patagonia

It’s worth going into a shop to try on boots before you buy them online to make sure you know your size; trust me, nothing’s worse than a pair of ill-fitting hiking boots. Try them on with the socks you’ll be wearing with them and you should get a good sense of whether they fit or not. It’s also important to break new boots in (i.e. wear them for a few short walks beforehand) before taking them with you to South America. 

Salomon has been my go-to hiking boot for a long time: 

  • For her: REI | Backcountry | Amazon
  • For him: REI | Backcountry | Amazon

They also do hiking shoes:

  • For her: REI | Amazon
  • For him: REI | Amazon

A pair of sandals or flip-flops : When you’re spending a day sightseeing or at the beach, you want something comfortable that’ll keep your feet cool and allow them to breathe. I travel with a sturdy pair of Teva sandals, as well as some flip-flops (made from sustainable materials) for lounging. 

My Teva sandals are sooo versatile and I know they’re going to last forever.

A pair of trainers: If it’s colder or you just want something comfy on your feet that isn’t as heavy-going as a pair of hiking boots, trainers are ideal. Make sure they fit well and don’t rub.

Travel essentials for South America

Travel water filter: A water filter is an environmentally-sound investment for your trip and one that should save you money in the long run by cutting out spending on bottled water. I’ve used so many different types of water filters cross the years but my favorite has long been the Steripen Adventurer ( Amazon | REI ), which is the quickest and easiest method of filtering water that I’ve found: you simply insert the Steripen into a 0.5- or one-liter container of water and stir it for the required time. Hey presto: clean water. The batteries in the Steripen Adventurer should last up to 50 liters, although they are an unusual type of battery , so purchase a spare set before you leave. Alternatively, the Steripen UV Ultra is rechargeable, and won’t require batteries. Another alternative is the Grayl Geopress , which performed very well when I tested out half a dozen water filters for travel .

A water bottle: To use the Steripen Adventurer, you need a water bottle with an opening of at least 38mm (I have a Nalgene bottle ). The Steripen UV Ultra, however, is compatible with narrow-mouth bottles such as this one .

A dry bag: One thing I quickly learned while traveling in South America is that when it rains, it pours. And when it rains – and you don’t have confidence that your backpack is waterproof enough – or perhaps you’re on a river boat in the Andes and want somewhere to store your camera and passport in case you take an unexpected dip, you’ll want a dry bag. Seriously, these have saved me so much money in damaged valuables that they’re completely worth the investment. I love Sea to Summit dry bags because of their quality and durability: REI | Backcountry | Amazon

A Steripen water purifier sits next to a silver metal water bottle on a rustic table

A compression bag: A bit like packing cubes, compression bags help you stuff and compress clothing so you can fit more into your bag. Just remember to roll rather than fold otherwise you’ll end up with some really creased clothing. Get one from REI | Backcountry | Amazon

Emergency cash: It’s always worth having some spare cash on you in case your wallet gets stolen. I tend to keep around $100 USD in different pockets across my backpacks in case of emergencies. 

Travel documents: Keep a photocopy of your passport, travel insurance, and travel vaccinations (including yellow fever card) on your person, in case of emergency, as well as a digital copy somewhere safe (and preferably shared with someone back at home). 

Travel insurance: I never travel without travel insurance and it’s the number one way you can prepare for your trip to South America.

Bank cards: Withdrawing money from ATMs is fairly straightforward in South America, although you can face a lot of bank charges if you don’t have an account that gives you free cash withdrawals abroad. I would highly recommend finding a company that allows you to do this. As I’m from the UK, I use a mixture of the Halifax Clarity credit card, which allows unlimited free cash withdrawals per month, as well as my trusty Monzo card (free withdrawals up to a maximum of £200 every 30 days). 

Sewing kit: Being able to stitch up a tear in your favorite pair of trousers or even your backpack (something I’ve had to do on more than one occasion) is vital if you’re traveling for an extended period of time. Try this one .

Silk sleeping liner: Unless you’re planning on doing lots of hiking and camping, I would recommend leaving your sleeping bag at home and instead using a sleeping bag liner. You can hire sleeping bags from tour companies across South America, and when you do, you can protect yourself from whatever might be on them with this liner. I’ve also used mine religiously as an extra layer on overnight buses. I use this one .

Sleeping mask: If you need it to be dark when you sleep, a sleeping mask is a travel necessity, particularly as hotels and hostels can have curtains of varying quality. I love this one .

Microfibre travel towel: You want something lightweight that dries quickly, without feeling like it’s just moving the water around. I love my microfibre travel towel (you can also find them cheaper on REI ).

Ear plugs: I personally can’t stand them, but if you need silence to sleep then investing in a reusable pair of earplugs will ensure you get those Zs. Try these ones .

Travel pillow: Long overnight bus journeys can get tiresome and leave you with a crick in the neck if you don’t have anything to rest your head on. This pillow ( REI | Amazon ) from Sea to Summit is made from a silky, brushed polyester outer that’s soft to the touch and packs down extremely small. 

Swiss Army penknife: Invaluable for making sandwiches on the road and handy if your accommodation doesn’t have a wine bottle opener! Check them out on REI | Amazon

Padlock: Many hostels and other accommodations have lockers and you’ll need your own sturdy padlock for using them. Check them out on Amazon

Safety: I’ve never used a money belt, mostly because they’ve always looked uncomfortable and hot to wear. Instead, I tend to have a small zippered bag with various internal pockets where I store my valuables and ensure I always keep my eye on them when I’m out and about. That said, I have heard of people having the straps of their bags chopped without them noticing, so this isn’t exactly a foolproof plan. If a money belt would make you feel better, try this one.

Door stopper: It might seem like the strangest thing to be included on this packing list for South America, but I always travel with a doorstop. I’ve stayed in some hotels and hostels where I struggled to lock my room door; as a solo female traveler, this is far from ideal. A plastic door stopper can be used on the internal side of the door to prevent it from being opened from outside, giving you peace of mind at night time. Try this one .

Scrubba: Doing laundry can be expensive and not necessarily work within your timeframes, if you’ve only got a day or two in a place. I’ve been using the Scrubba for years now and it’s the perfect way to wash your underwear, t-shirts, and even larger items such as trousers quickly and effectively. It doesn’t leave your clothes all soapy, like when you wash them in the sink, either. 

Bite pen: If you’re traveling to a location where mosquitos are known to be, consider packing the bite away bite pen . It works by heating up to a set temperature within seconds – which, when applied to any mosquito bites, can remove any itchiness.

Toiletries for South America

Hanging toiletry bag: Easy to hang on the back of a bathroom door or suspend from a hook in your bedroom, a hanging toiletry bag is extremely functional and has been part of my backpack ever since I first started traveling to South America. This one from Sea to Summit has lasted me over seven years and counting. 

Sunglasses: The sun’s strong in South America. Invest in polarising sunglasses with a UV filter to protect your eyes. 

Sunscreen: It’s not only the beach where you can burn; altitude can see you burn even faster. Opt for a mineral-based sunscreen that’s safe to use in the ocean such as All Good Mineral .

Solid shampoo and conditioner: For weight-saving purposes, buy solid shampoo and conditioner bars, which should get you through a number of months without needing to buy any more. Ethique is a brand with lots of options for solid shampoo and conditioner , while Etsy has lots of brands selling them too.

4 month trip to south america

A lightweight, travel medical kit: For any cuts or more serious injuries, you’ll want a first aid kit on hand. Check them out on REI | Amazon or just put one together yourself. 

Compeed plasters : Blisters are not something to take lightly as they can make hiking extremely uncomfortable. Pack some Compeed plasters before you go and use them preventatively if you know your shoes give you blisters or after a blister has formed to help it heal. 

Face masks: These are no longer obligatory in shops, public transport, and other enclosed public spaces in countries across South America, so it’s up to you if you still want to use them. 

Hand sanitizer: Keep a bottle on hand to use when there aren’t hand washing facilities available. 

Malaria tablets: Check with your doctor as to whether antimalarials are required for your trip. If you’re heading into the Amazon, it’s likely you’ll need them. 

Motion sickness tablets: Bus journeys into the Andes mountains can leave even the most robust travelers feeling a bit sick to the stomach. Motion sickness tablets can make you feel better. 

Anti-diarrhea pills: It’s very likely you’ll end up facing a bad stomach at some point during your trip because of poor food preparation hygiene and water that isn’t safe to drink. While avoiding salad (because it may have been washed in contaminated water) and ice in restaurants is a good ploy, you’ll want some anti-diarrhea pills for when the inevitable happens. 

Vaccinations: Jabs such as yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies (the latter if you plan on heading to remote areas) are necessary for travel to South America. Consult your doctor a few months in advance of your trip, as some of these vaccinations require more than one dose. 

Insect repellent: The mosquitos in South America enjoy sampling new blood, so make sure you’ve got a strong insect repellent that you can use in hot, tropical destinations. I avoid DEET-based repellent, which can damage your clothing and even melt the plastic. This one from Sawyer ( REI | Amazon ) doesn’t have DEET but still works.

Menstrual cup: I’ve used mine for the past four years and it’s incredible the amount of money – and plastic waste – that it has saved. Tampons can also be difficult to find in South America (or at least the big brands that you’re probably accustomed to at home). Bring a couple of emergency tampons for treks or situations where you don’t have access to running water for cleaning your menstrual cup. Try out this menstrual cup .  

Hairbrush: These can be surprisingly heavy, so buy a small one that isn’t. 

Baby wipes: Great for multi-day treks where showers aren’t a possibility. Do the environment a favor and buy some biodegradable ones. You can buy these in South America, too.

Face wash: Nivea products are easy to find across South America; other brands not so much, so bring what you need. 

Moisturizer: As above. 

Makeup: Foundation and concealer can be difficult to find for pale skin; otherwise you can buy all the major brands in cities across the continent.    

Technology for South America 

A eSIM: Rather than buy a new SIM in each country, I’m now using eSIMs which have changed my travel life! You can download them in a second, add credit in another second, and I’ve found them useful in multiple countries across the globe in the past few months. I recommend Airalo .

Camera: I travel with my Sony A7iii , a mid-level DSLR, with a great, all-around travel lens, the 24mm to 105mm Sony lens . However, unless you’re very keen on photography, sticking to a classic point-and-shoot camera is likely a better option, particularly as they draw less interest when you’re out and about and weigh considerably less. My dad swears by his Canon Powershot . Not not only is the image quality incredible but it’s compact and very easy to use. They are often very good deals on buying this camera, particularly when Canon have just brought out a newer version. 

SD cards: Make sure you’ve got plenty of space for capturing photographs by bringing a couple of spare SD cards. 

Kindle: It can be difficult to find English-language books across South America. While there are always random books for exchange at hostels across the continent, if you want a bit more control over what you read (or want to buy a guidebook, such as my Moon Chile , before you go), investing in a Kindle Paperwhite is a great idea. Remember to charge your Kindle regularly!

Power bank: Ensure your phone always has charge, even after a long bus journey or a few days away from civilization in the jungle.  Anker is a great brand for reliable and inexpensive power banks ( Amazon ), while REI has a power bank that can be hooked up with solar panels if you’re planning on going far off-grid.

Rapid charging USB cable for your phone:  Nothing beats having a slow-charging USB cable. I recently bought this one without realizing quite how long it was. It wound up as a fortunate mistake as it’s perfect for a hotel or hostel where the plug socket is in an awkward place!

Universal adaptor plug: Plug sockets vary a huge amount across South America. To avoid bringing the wrong adapter, it’s best to just use a universal adaptor so that you’ll never be left without access to electricity. Check them out on Amazon

Headphones: A pair of Bluetooth headphones can help you listen to music on bus journeys without needing to have your phone within reach of anyone else. I use these ones , but you might prefer less obvious in-ear headphones instead (these aren’t great when you’re trying to snooze on the plane!).

Laptop: Realistically, I would advise that you don’t bring a laptop unless you’re working on the road. I’ve found that the more valuables I take, the more stressful traveling becomes because of the fear of potentially getting robbed. It also adds to the weight of your pack.

Headlamp: Great for reading in bed or for any camping trips you do. Bring a torch or check out Black Diamond headlamps ( REI | Backcountry | Black Diamond )

Camping equipment for South America

I often get emails from readers asking whether they should bring their own camping equipment or buy (or rent) gear when they get to South America. The answer I always give is: it depends . 

If you’re planning a camping-heavy trip to Patagonia and expect to spend a decent part of your trip staying in a tent – whether on multi-day hikes or to save money on accommodation – then it’s definitely worthwhile bringing your own equipment.

Not only can it be expensive to rent for extended periods of time, but you’re hiring gear that has probably seen more than its fair share of wear and tear and might not be in the best condition (or the most waterproof). 

Big Agnes Copper Spur backpacking tent pitched in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

Buying camping equipment in South America is also something I don’t recommend. Gear is often significantly more expensive than what you’d find back at home, and, while there are affordable local brands, the quality, however, is generally pretty terrible.

If you’re planning a trip of two halves, with a stint camping and hiking and another leg without, you can always post your camping gear home, sell it to other travelers (something possible using Facebook groups or asking around at your hotel or hostel), or donate it. 

Tent: Tents range from affordable to extremely expensive and everything in between. If you’re planning on doing multi-day hikes, I would strongly recommend investing in a lightweight tent; your back will very much thank you if you do.

When I hiked the Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park , I took the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (and you can read my full review of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL for more information). It is an expensive tent, but I was thoroughly impressed with how light and sturdy it was. More affordable options from North Face are also recommended. 

  • Try the Big Agnes HV UL2 ( REI | Amazon ) or the cheaper North Face Stormbreak 2 ( REI | Amazon ) or the roomier North Face Stormbreak 3 ( REI )

Sleeping bag: Warm and lightweight sleeping bags do come at a premium, however, it’s another area where I think it’s worth investing. Nights can get cold on the Inca Trail , in Patagonia or any other Andes region.

I recommend a good three-season sleeping bag if you’ll be camping at altitude or in Patagonia and the Nemo Disco 15 sleeping bag is a great choice. It’s filled with down and appropriate for three-season camping, meaning it’s comfortable down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4°C) and a good choice for traveling in Patagonia during spring, summer, and even the shoulder seasons (September through November, and March through May) when the night time temperatures start to fall.

It also only weighs 2.6lbs (1.21g) and packs down small enough to fit in the bottom section of my Berghaus rucksack. It’s available for  men  and  women  and is a great investment for both camping in Patagonia and other parts of the world.

  • For her: the Nemo Disco 15 ( REI | Amazon )
  • For him: the Nemo Disco 15 ( REI | Amazon )

Sleeping pad: Small, comfortable, and durable sleeping pads are really hard to find, but will ensure you can get some sleep when you’re camping. You can get a basic, thin foam one for very cheaply. Alternatively, a bigger investment is in an inflatable pad – that gets you off the ground a little, keeping you warmer and more comfortable during the night.

  • Get a cheap foam pad ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) or a more comfortable Therm-a-rest Prolite (buy it on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ).

Cooking utensils: When it comes to pots and pans, ultimately what you want is something lightweight, versatile and that can be cleaned easily. You’ll also want a bowl, a durable, plastic or metal mug, and a titanium spork (much sturdier than plastic).

  • A set of lightweight pots and pans: Check out the MSR cooking pots Backcountry | Amazon
  • Collapsible bowl: Check out Sea to Summit bowls REI | Backcountry | Amazon  
  • Camping mug: Check them out on REI | Amazon
  • Spork: Check them out on REI | Backcountry | Amazon

Self-catering in Patagonia: a good budget strategy.

Cooking stove: A lightweight and affordable option is the MSR PocketRocket 2 , which is smaller than a lot of alternatives (which is great news when backpacking!) but does need you to buy gas canisters (which you should be able to find in towns and cities near hiking destinations).

  • Check out the MSR PocketRocket 2 here ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon )

Monday 8th of January 2024

Thank you so much for this list! Leaving for 2 and a half months next week and this was an enormous help for me!

Steph Dyson

Sunday 14th of January 2024

Enjoy your trip Yanick!

Friday 1st of September 2023

Thank you for ths great article! I'll be traveling to Columbia this November, to work and to travel all around and do some multiday hiking, too. I just can't decide what type of backpack to take. I can't take both a travel backpack AND a hiking backpack - can I? How do other people resolve this issue? I hope this will be the most serious problem I will face during this trip :))))

Wednesday 20th of September 2023

Hi Bashak, I take a small backpack for hiking and a large backpack for my other stuff. You do look a bit odd but it does help! Steph

Sunday 14th of May 2023

Thank you so much for this list, very informative! I am still deciding if I should take a wheeled suitcase or a backpack for my trip to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. I will be traveling by bus a lot and my main concern is leaving my suitcase in the hold of the bus. Do you think I would be able to (or allowed to) take a 50L backpack with me on the bus? Then it will be with me at all times. Thank you!

Monday 5th of June 2023

Hi Esther, unless it can fit in the overhead compartments (which it likely won't) or you want it under your feet all the time, then you will need to put it in the hold. I've never had any issue with leaving my bag in the hold and I've done dozens of buses. Steph

Saturday 22nd of April 2023

Thank you so much for this very detailed list. I am about to travel to South America for 3/4 months this coming September and I found your article very informative. Thank you :)

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

Thanks Charlotte!

Friday 14th of April 2023

I dont think i have got half of what you recommend in my 65l bag & its jam packed & i feel i have got to much ? Dont know what im doing wrong 🙈

Hi Mike, if you're travelling with a tent and camping equipment then you will definitely struggle - I had to attach my tent to the outside of my rucksack. Otherwise, compression sacks are key! Steph

Expect a record-breaking number of travelers on Fourth of July week: How to avoid traffic

4 month trip to south america

  • An estimated 70.9 million people will travel for the Fourth of July holiday, a record-breaking number.
  • The most popular domestic destinations are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, Honolulu and Miami.
  • The worst times to drive for 4th of July week are July 3 and 4 between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

If you’re one of the projected record-breaking 70.9 million travelers going on a Fourth of July trip, get ready to pack some patience. 

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, in a statement. “We anticipate this July 4 week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”

Whether you’re going by airplane or car, traveler numbers are hitting historic highs. An estimated 5.74 million people will fly to their Independence Day destination, a 7% increase from 2023. (We can thank domestic airfare being slightly cheaper this year for that.)

This year, 2.8 million more people will travel by car than last year, for a total of 60.6 million travelers. According to AAA partner and rental car company Hertz, cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco are showing the highest rental car demand. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Fourth of July travel. 

Learn more: Best travel insurance

Planning your summer trip? Where to go and how to save on summer vacations

What are the most popular destinations for Fourth of July week?

Many travelers are headed to the coast for their Independence Day trip, with states like Hawaii and Florida topping the list. With the best time for Alaskan cruises in full swing, cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Anchorage are popular among travelers. As expected, beloved European destinations like London and Rome earned spots on the list as well. 

Most popular domestic destinations:

Most popular international destinations:

What are the best times to drive for Fourth of July week?

As is typical with holiday travel, the early bird will catch the worm, which means encountering the least traffic. Drivers should depart on their Independence Day road trips before noon on July 3 and 4. To return home, drivers should leave before 11 a.m. on July 7 and after 7 p.m. on July 8. 

What are the worst times to drive for Fourth of July week?

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, in a statement. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal.”

On July 3 and 4, drivers should avoid being on the road between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., when traffic will be most congested. On Friday, July 5, the worst traffic will be between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

On Saturday, July 5, the worst traffic for travelers returning home will be between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The worst traffic is anticipated to be on July 7, so drivers should avoid the road between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

“Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions,” Pishue said.

Peak congestion times in major US cities

  • Worst route: Birmingham to Atlanta via I-20 E
  • Worst day: July 7
  • Worst time: 6:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 36 minutes
  • 42% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Boston to Hyannis via Pilgrim Hwy S
  • Worst day: July 4
  • Worst time: 1:45 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
  • 31% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Fort Collins to Denver via I-25 S
  • Worst day: July 8
  • Worst time: 2:45 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
  • 56% increased travel time
  • Worst route: San Antonio to Houston via I-10 E
  • Worst day: July 6
  • Worst time: 1:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 48 minutes
  • 41% increased travel time

Los Angeles

  • Worst route: Bakersfield to Los Angeles via I-5 S
  • Worst time: 2:15 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • 29% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Jersey Shore to New York via Garden State Pkwy N
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • 40% increased travel time

San Francisco

  • Worst route: San Francisco to Monterey via Santa Cruz Hwy S
  • Worst day: July 2
  • Worst time: 5:45 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 31 minutes
  • 19% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Ellensburg to Seattle via I-90 E
  • Worst time: 4:30 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
  • 35% increased travel time

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst route: Baltimore to Washington D.C. via Balt/Wash Pkwy S
  • Worst time: 3:15 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hours, 1 minute
  • 67% increased travel time

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] .

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

Mom arrested after throwing 6-month-old baby in trash can during fight at Walmart, police say

FILE - In this May 16, 2011 file photo, the Walmart logo is displayed on a store in...

EUNICE, La. (Gray News) – A Louisiana mother threw her 6-month-old baby in a trash can during a fight at Walmart, according to local reports.

The Eunice Police Department confirmed to KLFY that the infant was not injured and was released to other family members. The mother was arrested.

Police said officers were called to the Walmart on Saturday afternoon for the fight involving “multiple” women near the store’s entrance.

Investigators found that during the fight, 38-year-old Brionka Benjamin was holding her 6-month-old baby, tossed the child into the trash can, and then hit another woman, police said.

According to KATC , Benjamin was arrested on charges of simple battery and cruelty to juveniles.

Benjamin’s 20-year-old niece was also arrested on a simple battery charge for her alleged involvement in the fight.

Copyright 2024 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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4 month trip to south america

Got Back Tour - 2024

Estadio Centenario, Montevideo

1 October 2024

Estadio Centenario 11400 Montevideo Departamento de Montevideo Uruguay

River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires

5 October 2024

River Plate Stadium Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 7597 C1428 Cdad. Autónoma de Buenos Aires Argentina

6 October 2024

Estadio Monumental, Santiago

11 October 2024

Estadio Monumental Av. Marathon 5300 Macul Región Metropolitana Chile

Allianz Parque, São Paulo

15 October 2024

Avenida Francisco Matarazzo 1705 R. Palestra Itália 200 - Água Branca São Paulo - SP 05001-200 Brazil

Estádio da Ressacada, Florianópolis

19 October 2024

Carianos Florianópolis - State of Santa Catarina Brazil

Estadio Mario Kempes, Córdoba

23 October 2024

Estadio Mario Kempes Ramón Cárcano Córdoba Argentina

Estadio Nacional, Lima

27 October 2024

Estadio Nacional C. José Díaz s/n Lima 15046 Peru

Estadio BBVA, Monterrey

8 November 2024

Av. Pablo Livas 2011 La Pastora 67140 Guadalupe N.L. Mexico

Estadio GNP Seguros, Mexico City

12 November 2024

Viad. Río de la Piedad S/N Granjas México Iztacalco 08400 Ciudad de México CDMX Mexico

Corona Capital, Mexico City

17 November 2024

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Viad. Río de la Piedad S/n Granjas México, Iztacalco 08400 Ciudad de México CDMX Mexico

La Défense Arena, Paris

4 December 2024

99 Jard. de l'Arche 92000 Nanterre France

5 December 2024

WiZink Center, Madrid

9 December 2024

Av. de Felipe II s/n Salamanca 28009 Madrid Spain

10 December 2024

Co-op Live, Manchester

14 December 2024

Etihad Campus 1 Sportcity Way Manchester M11 3DL

15 December 2024

The O2, London

18 December 2024

Peninsula Square London SE10 0DX

19 December 2024

Tour Information

Paul will bring his acclaimed 'Got Back' tour to South America and Europe later this year! Fulfilling his promise to 'get back', Paul will return to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru and Mexico, then head to France, Spain and the UK. His first show of 2024 will take place on 1st October in Montevideo. PRE-SALE AND GENERAL SALE TIMINGS ARE STAGGERED BY SHOW Tuesday 1st October - Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, URUGUAY ⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Monday 10 June 2PM UYT / 6PM BST ⁠General sale: Monday 17 June 12.01PM UYT / 4.O1PM BST ⁠ ⁠Saturday 5th October - River Plate Stadium, Bueno Aires, ARGENTINA Sunday 6th October - River Plate Stadium, Bueno Aires, ARGENTINA ⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 11 June 10AM ART / 2PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Wednesday 12 June 12pm ART / 4PM BST ⁠ ⁠Friday 11th October - Estadio Monumental, Santiago, CHILE ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Monday 17 June 11AM CLT / 4PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Friday 21 June 11.01AM CLT / 4.01PM BST Tuesday 15th October - Allianz Parque, Sao Paulo, BRAZIL ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 25th June 10AM BRT / 2PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Wednesday 26th June 12PM BRT / 4PM BST Saturday 19th October - Estádio da Ressacada, Florianópolis, BRAZIL ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 25th June 10AM BRT / 2PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Wednesday 26th June 12PM BRT / 4PM BST ⁠ ⁠Wednesday 23rd October - Mario Alberto Kempes, Córdoba, ARGENTINA ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 11 June 10AM ART / 2PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Wednesday 12 June 12pm ART / 4PM BST ⁠ ⁠Sunday 27th October - Estadio Nacional, Lima, PERU ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Friday 14 June 10AM PET / 4PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Sunday 16 June 10AM PET / 4PM BST Friday 8th November - Estadio BBVA, Monterrey, MEXICO ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Monday 24 June 9AM CST / 4PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Friday 28 June 1PM CST / 8PM BST Tuesday 12th November - Estadio GNP Seguros, Mexico City, MEXICO ⁠⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Monday 24 June 9AM CST / 4PM BST ⁠⁠General sale: Friday 28 June 1PM CST / 8PM BST Wednesday 4th December - La Defense Arena, Paris, FRANCE ⁠Thursday 5th December - La Defense Arena, Paris, FRANCE ⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 18 June 10am CET ⁠General sale: Friday 21 June 10am CET ⁠ ⁠Monday 9th December - WiZink Center, Madrid, SPAIN ⁠Tuesday 10th December - WiZink Center, Madrid, SPAIN ⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Tuesday 18 June 10am CET ⁠General sale: Friday 21 June 10am CET ⁠ ⁠Saturday 14th December - Co-op Live, Manchester, UK ⁠Sunday 15th December - Co-op Live, Manchester, UK ⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Wednesday 19 June 10am BST ⁠General sale: Friday 21 June 10am BST ⁠ ⁠Wednesday 18th December - The O2 Arena, London, UK ⁠Thursday 19th December - The O2 Arena, London, UK ⁠⁠PaulMcCartney.com pre-sale: Wednesday 19 June 10am BST ⁠General sale: Friday 21 June 10am BST

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Paul announces Brazil dates for the 2024 'Got Back' tour

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