Eh? What's a Flashpacker?Well... when I started planning my three month adventure to South America, I had good intentions of sticking to a super strict budget. At the time, I wanted to spend around £1,000 per month, which would have been easily doable. However, I might have got a little bit carried away once the trip began... I was in a very fortunate position to be given a three month sabbatical from work. As my sabbatical directly followed our super busy period, I had worked plenty of extra hours before the trip and was allowed to take these hours as paid "time off in lieu" meaning I was still receiving a wage throughout some of my trip - result! The sabbatical was a celebration for becoming a Chartered Tax Advisor last year and I know that I won't be given this opportunity again, so I really wanted to make the most of it (hence why I ended up spending a bit more)! So essentially.... I'm a bit of a "flashy" backpacker...
Want to see my entire itinerary? Lucky you, you can find a HUGE breakdown here!
What's My Travel Style?
Accommodation:I stayed mainly in hostels with only a few "upgrades" throughout the trip. On one occasion, I stayed in an airport hotel (which is always pricey) as I didn't fancy sleeping on Santiago airport floor on my own. My real luxury treat was a 3 night stay in an eco-lodge in the Amazon Jungle... Yes, I could have picked a cheaper accommodation, but I had been camping on many hikes prior to this and fancied a little bit of luxury!
Food:If I were a true budget-backpacker, I would have cooked more meals for myself. In reality, I only truly cooked for myself on Easter Island where food prices are known to be extortionate (part of me wishes that I also had access to a kitchen on the Galapagos Islands)! Otherwise, I loved sampling the local cuisines in restaurants across South America. Breakfast was the one meal that I tried not to pay for as it's often included in the price of your hostel (warning: you will get bored of bread and jam hostel breakfasts)!
Activities:South America is FILLED with incredible bucket-list experiences and I simply couldn't say no to any of them - oops! I faced a lot of fears during my trip (e.g. "Death Road") which also often led me to pick the more expensive tour operators which had better safety ratings etc. Many backpackers that I met on my trip were a lot more picky and only spent their hard-earned money on a few top activities.
Transport:Buses are the best mode of transport in South America and generally they are fairly cheap. However, to truly utilise my 3 months, I sometimes picked pricier options which made life easier (e.g. a 1 hour flight in Chile as opposed to a 24 hour bus journey and the Peru Hop buses which pick you up and drop you off at your hostels).
What Did I Spend?!For the total 3 month trip, I spent £6,621.65 (just over £2,000 per month). That figure makes me want to cry a little bit given that I am normally such a thrifty traveller on shorter trips, but I can assure you that it was worth every penny. If you are looking to complete this trip on more of a budget, you should read my buddy Ellie's breakdown of her costs on a very similar trip here! She spent £3,787 in three months during 2015.
Dun Dun Dun... The Breakdown!Just telling you how much I spent isn't very helpful, is it? So, here's a complete breakdown of what I spent my money on and how you can do it cheaper!
Argentina (£347.29 over 4 days = £86.82 per day)
- Accommodation: £82.06
- Food: £23.04
- Sightseeing/activities: £173.79
- Transport: £68.40
Bolivia (£366.81 over 7 days = £52.40 per day)
- Accommodation: £23.81
- Food: £24.70
- Necessities: £0.50 (public toilet)
- Sightseeing: £206.00
- Transport £111.80
Chile (£727.36 over 11 days = £66.12 per day)
- Accommodation: £210.23
- Food: £158.73
- Gifts: £15.60
- Necessities: £50.23 (medicine for an eye infection and a replacement towel)
- Sightseeing: £174.61
- Transport: £117.96
Easter Island (£926.62 over 6 days = £154.44 per day)
- Accommodation: £181.50
- Food: £34.88
- Gifts: £6.64
- Necessities: £6.60 (public toilet and replacement sunglasses)
- Sightseeing: £97.20
- Transport £599.80
Ecuador (£493.20 over 17 days = £29.01 per day)
- Accommodation: £223.94
- Food: £97.81
- Gifts: £12.42
- Necessities: £7.78 (Laundry and toiletries)
- Sightseeing: £95.76
- Transport: £55.50
Galapagos Islands (£879.09 over 9 days = £97.68 per day)
- Accommodation: £176.82
- Food: £92.45
- Sightseeing: £423.00
- Transport: £186.82
Peru (£2,100.35 over 34 days = £61.77 per day)
- Accommodation: £672.32
- Food: £237.59
- Gifts: £3.30
- Necessities: £107.98 (batteries, memory cards, rain clothing, massage and toiletries)
- Sightseeing: £833.19
- Transport: £245.97
- Flights from London to Santiago and Guayaquil to London: £666
- Bank charges: £32.43
- Travel insurance with additional gadget cover: £82.50
Other Top Tips!
Cash vs Card in South AmericaOther than Santiago and Lima which are both very metropolitan and modern cities, you will NEED to pay in cash in most places, so make sure you have a card which allows you to withdraw cash without any fees. I used the Santander Zero Credit Card with absolutely no issues! The card has no foreign transaction fees on purchases when made in the local currency, no cash withdrawal fees anywhere in the world and no monthly fee. Other travellers that I met were using the Revolut card which is great to protect you against theft as the card is pre-loaded with a certain amount. However, as some people found out, if you lose your phone (i.e. your method of topping up your card), this can become an issue!
Keeping Small ChangeParticularly in Ecuador, I found that lots of places didn't have change to give you. So try and need your notes small, treasure your small change (no matter how annoying it is to carry around)! I often handed notes to waitresses that I deemed to be "normal" (i.e. equivalent to £15-20 or lower) and it caused such a problem that restaurant staff were running from shop to shop looking for change! In Lima, bank workers could be found outside the bank ready to change your large notes into smaller amounts - while I didn't use this service, a free walking tour guide reassured me that it was legit!
Keep a Few Spare USDMany larger purchases in South America (e.g expensive tours and hotel rooms) can be paid for using USD. While I wouldn't always rely on this being the case, it's good to know that you don't need to get hundreds of notes from the bank in local currency to pay for the larger items - nobody wants to be carrying around a huge wad of cash! I changed some GBP to USD before my trip as "emergency money". I knew that I would be ending my trip in Ecuador (where USD is the national currency), so I knew that it would get used at the end of my trip even if I didn't touch the emergency cash during the rest of my trip. Just make sure that the USD notes are in pristine condition, many vendors in South America will decline ripped/dirty/old USD notes.
Keep Your Cash SeparatedI was a bit rubbish and always kept all of my cash in my purse at all times which goes against all of the advice you will ever read. For the avoidance of any doubt, I will regurgitate the advice everyone gave me before my trip, despite the fact that I didn't choose to follow it myself... Pick-pocketing and bag-snatching are rife in certain areas of the world (South America included) and therefore it would be advisable to keep small amounts of cash and any spare credit cards scattered across your belongings/body in case of an accident.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. However, this post may contain affiliate links whereby if you make a purchase I earn a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you.
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