South And Central America On A Dime
January 22, 2014

South And Central America On A Dime

Recently, I read this really great article on the Huffington Post about backpacking in Central and South America. Specifically, this focused on the cheapest backpacking cities in the region. For many, the only way they make it through the rough winter months is to think of traveling, and for those interested in backpacking, this article provides some great suggestions. Backpacking is my favorite way to travel internationally, so I am totally thrilled to learn about these cities.

First things first, the cost per a day calculations come from the following:

  • One night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews
  • Two public transportation rides per day
  • One paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.)
  • Three “budget” meals per day.
  • Three cheap, local beers each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.

Okay, so now that we know just what figured into the suggestions, let’s take a look at the 10 cheapest backpacking cities of Central and South America.

10) La Paz, Bolivia

With a cost of only $22.24 USD per a day (WOW! That’s affordable.), this is definitely a backpacker’s destination. Plus, the beauty of La Paz is renowned. With the scenery, markets, museums, neighborhoods, and nature, why not go to a city that is also super affordable?

9) Quito, Ecuador

Only slightly more costly than La Paz, Quito comes in at $22.30 USD per a day (again, can we say WOW!). This is a city that boasts of consistently warm temperatures, and its beauty makes it all the more appealing. Plus, it has a nice mix of historic old town and modern new areas.

8) Cuzco, Peru

Often overlooked because of the excitement of Machu Picchu, Cuzco is a city worth an adventure. Since it is the stop before Machu Picchu, travelers should check it out especially when it comes in at $27.03 USD a day.

7) Panama City, Panama

Where the previous cities have a more cultural feel, Panama City is urban and more cosmopolitan. Yet, it is still affordable at $27.72 USD per a day. Sure, this adventure may provide much of the same as what travelers have in other cities around the globe, but it is still in Central America only minutes away from stunning beaches and waters.

6) Lima, Peru

At $31.30 USD per day, the “colonial architecture and museums transport visitors to another time, while its modern-day nightlife and shopping keeps the city contemporary. Lima is also a foodie’s wonderland — so come hungry.”

5) San Jose, Costa Rica

This is the only city I have been to on this list, but I would most definitely suggest it. The beauty of mountains and rain forest leak into all parts of San Jose, and with an average daily cost of $31.89 USD, travelers will experience worthwhile beauty and fun. Plus, it’s only hours from stunning beaches. I can’t wait to go back!

4) Mexico City, Mexico

Even though this is not technically a Central or South American city, it is still one worth mentioning. This is especially true since many backpackers start at Mexico City and work their way south and then back up again. For only $32.83 USD a day, why not start in a city full of culture and history and make way south to more cities with their own interesting cultures and histories. The differences will amaze.

3) Montevideo, Uruguay

From industrial ports, to beaches, to a historic downtown district and neighborhoods full of culture, this city provides much adventure. And $34.05 USD per a day makes it a viable destination.

2) Santiago, Chile

Outdoors enthusiasts all clamor for Chile. With mountains for hiking, biking, skiing, and thrill-seeking, who wouldn’t want to see it? Plus, Santiago is an urban city full of culinary delights, arts, and activity. Bring $36.52 USD per a day to enjoy this mecca.

1) Cartagena, Columbia

As the most expensive city on this list at $37.13 USD per a day, Cartagena provides color, activity, and romance. It is a city often overlooked for political reasons but, according to the Huff Post article, well worth the cost. And, frankly, it is a cost that makes it totally affordable.

I have long wanted to head to Central and South America. My taste from Costa Rica only enhanced my desire. This article here has once again reminded me of my goal to see and experience South America like I have North America and Europe. Perhaps 2014 is my year to do that?

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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