The 12 cheapest destinations in Latin America

Through the internet or in real life, travellers like to share how they landed on unforgettable, must-see destinations. But especially to those who backpack, price matters and is sometimes more important than scenery. According to the Backpacker Index, you can live in cities like Quito in Ecuador for about £13 (US$20) a day, while at destinations like Cartagena de Indias, Colombia or Cuzco, Perú, you can live on barely £18 (US$30). We took it upon ourselves to put together a list of the 12 Latin American destinations that offer the best value for your money.

The Argentine Northwest

With the recent devaluation of the Argentine peso, foreigners will get a lot more for their dollar or pound! The provinces of Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán lie in the country's Northwest and have some unmatchable landscapes. The localities of Tilcara and Purmamarca are unmissable, far-away towns like Iruya, the Cerro de los Siete Colores ("The Hill of the Seven Colours") and the Tren de las Nubes ("Train of the Clouds") round trip have all great sightseeing opportunities to offer. There are several places of cultural and historical relevance for Argentina, such as the "Casa de Tucumán", where the Argentine Declaration of Independence from Spain was drafted or La Quiaca, the northernmost city in the country.

Cuzco, Perú

Cuzco was founded by the Inca people and is officially recognised as Peru's historic capital. It is an unmissable stop on the way to Machu Pichu. Its architectural heritage, which goes from Incan masonry, through colonial architecture up to the present day, makes it one of the most interesting cities in the whole continent. The most visited sites are the Barrio San Blas, where artisans sell their products; Hatun Rumiyoc street, where the Inca Roca palace used to be; the Catedral and the Plaza de Armas. Regarding the prices, there are plenty affordable hostels and the food is tasty and abundant in every eatery.

Quito, Ecuador

Visiting Quito is like being in several places at the same time. In Quito, modern and classic architecture converge and the weather is always changing. The volcanoes Pichincha, Antizana, Cotopaxi and Cayambe surround the Equatorial capital and represent some of the most beautiful features in the Andean landscape. The northern half of the city is known as Modern Quito, and the southern half, where the cultural and artistic heritage of the country concentrates, is called Old Quito.

San José, Costa Rica

Backpackers love this city, whether they are just passing through or staying for a while. Full city tours can be had for about £27 (US$ 45), and are well worth the money, because the city has a lot to offer. The most interesting locations are El Castillo Azul, a beautiful colonial-style building from 1911 and the Plaza de la Cultura, a meeting point for locals and tourists. Not far from the city lie some amazing beaches, like Puntarenas and Esterillos, among many other incredible options.

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

This gorgeous city has a lot to offer. Travellers usually point out a mix of natural landscapes and historic monuments. Among the first category, there is Isla de Barú and its white sandy beaches, while Ciudad Vieja counts as one of the best in the second, especially for its trail through the Corralito de Piedra. From the Convento de la Popa, located in the hill that carries the same name, one can get an unparalleled panoramic view of the city. The affordable prices, plentiful options and remarkable beauty make Cartagena de Indias one of the most recommended destinations in the Backpacker Index.

Antigua, Guatemala

Widely regarded as the best kept colonial town in Central America, it is also among the most inexpensive, which turns it into a must-see destination. Its stone walk-ways, sunny afternoons at the Parque Central filled with locals and activities like climbing the volcanoes that surround the city to enjoy the cities wide panoramas definitely stand out. But its the architecture and natural landscapes what seems to confirm, once again, that the best things in life are free.

México DF, México

This enormous city, which is suitable to moderate budgets, according to the Backpacker Index, offers unaccountable alternatives for tourists, especially if culture is what one's after. Museums, like the Templo Mayor and the Palacio Nacional del Arte both harbour murals by Diego Rivera and offer unmissable sights. There are also city tours in the "Turibus", which start in the old town and take one to Chapultepec and from the Fuente de Cibeles to the centre of Coyacan. Eating in restaurants tends to be inexpensive, and the street stalls are even cheaper. But the traveller unaccustomed to eating spicy should better beware: Mexican cuisine gets hot!

Sights in Bolivia

At very affordable prices, this country has some marvellous destinations that deserve to be visited. Among them, Potosí stands out for its civilian and religious monuments; Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world; Isla del Sol, a sacred place to the Inca people for its imposing landscapes and Copacabana, a small city on the Titicaca's shore. Apart from the wide range of available accommodations, food tends to be very affordable for foreigners.

Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaiso was declared a World Heritage Site for its colourful old town, the 42 hills, among them Cerro Alegre and Bellavista, its 95 national monuments and a harbour that is affectionately called "The Jewel of the Pacific". Colour is not only found on the city's streets, but in the youth that chooses Valparaiso for its beautiful landscapes, and also in the many affordable lodging alternatives. This city can be reached by bus from Santiago de Chile and is very close to the beaches of Viña del Mar and Reñaca.

Isla Margarita, Venezuela

Located on the southeaster Caribbean Sea, this island offers the most competitively priced vacation packages in the region. Even if it is best suited for those who prefer "all inclusive" packages to take full advantage of the beach, there are other options for those who like more adventurous activities, among them the lighthouse in Punta Ballenas, the park El Agua and Lake de la Restinga.

Sights in Honduras

At very tourist-friendly rates, this country has a lot for you to see. Tegucigalpa, the country capital, has sights to fit any interest: culture, history, nature and ecology. Lake Yojoa is barely 200 km away, and it's a great destination to visit in the summer. Utila Islands have some of the best scuba diving waters in the world, according to professionals. The Copán ruins, an ancient Maya city with an enormous stone pyramid, is well worth the trip.

Related: 10 Stunning train journeys in Latin America

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Even if this city cannot be counted among the cheapest in the continent, the slight difference is compensated by this small city's size: a day is more than enough to see the best of it. The old town has plenty of colonial houses and can easily be visited by foot. One can even take part in some of the frequent guided tours. Restaurants are not the cheapest option to eat, but street stalls usually offer traditional "chivitos" (a type of meat sandwich that, contrary to what its name would suggest, is not made with goat meat) and other fast-food options that are always very tasty.

Related: 12 Mistakes every "Gringo" in Latin America makes

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About the Author

Celina Abud nació y vive en Buenos Aires. Recibida en 2001, se desempeña desde hace cinco años como periodista experta en Salud. A partir de 2010 produce y edita notas para un suplemento web de un importante diario argentino. Sus artículos recibieron premios y reconocimientos del área médica.