Top 7 Ways to Save Money in South America

If you’re planning an extended trip or holiday with multiple stops and several tourist sights, costs can add up quickly. However with some practice and a little bit of luck, there are a number of ways you can stretch your pesos so you can knock off a few more bucket list items before heading home:

  1. Couch surfing in Buenos Aires
    Enjoying alfajores with our amazing couchsurfing hosts!

    Couch surfing – an amazing community of likeminded travelers and hosts who open their doors, couches and homes to travelers around the world. The best part – staying with a couchsurfing host is FREE – that’s right free accommodation for a bit of time setting up a profile on the site and connecting with locals in the cities you want to visit. I can say we have successfully couch-surfed numerous times in SA and everyone we met has been truly welcoming and accommodating. We’ve been treated to asado and mate, had a local tour guide show us the best part of their city and learned a lot about the local culture.  I can’t say enough about this great community.

  2. Cook your own meals – picking up a few items for breakfast or a quick dinner is an easy way to save money and often healthier than trying to survive off pizza and empanadas. Just be sure your hostel or couchsurfing home has a kitchen you can use to prepare your meals.
  3. Student cards/Discount cards – If you’re a student, discounts are offered almost everywhere. Not a student anymore? Pick up an ISIC card or similar before you leave home. Already on the road? Ask what discounts might be offered for your profession, for a group of people, for multiple visits etc. You never know where you might be able to save a few bucks.
  4. Overnight buses, South America
    Catching zzz’s on overnight buses

    Overnight buses – While certainly not as comfortable as your own bed, taking an overnight bus saves the cost of a night’s accommodation and often lands you at your destination first thing in the morning giving you the whole day to explore the city. Most hostels will let you check in early or at least store your bags for you until check in time. Just budget on an extra coffee or a nap in the afternoon.

  5. Travel in the shoulder season and don’t book ahead – If and when possible, travelling outside of peak season will mean reduced prices on everything from accommodation to tours and exhibits. Another perk is you don’t need to pre-book anything, allowing you to shop around for the best prices in town. Of course you’ll want to be sure the attractions are still open and the roads haven’t been washed out if it’s rainy season.
  6. Barter for everything – South America isn’t quite Southeast Asia when it comes to bartering, but that being said, it never hurts to ask, especially on large ticket items like tours and when staying multiple nights at a hostel. A polite, “un pequeño descuento?” may save you more pesos than you think.
  7. Take local transit – taking local buses or the metro to explore the city can often be an adventure in itself and costs a fraction of taking a taxi. From sharing buses with chickens, to people sitting on the roof, you never know what you might encounter.

Have more money saving tips for South America? Share in the comments below!

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