How much it cost: 2 weeks in South America

My real itinerary and costs for flights + hotels in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay

When you first begin planning a trip, one of the big question marks looming over your head is: How much is this going to cost me? 

You can use Google and other online research to price your trip, but I find that examples of real trips are the best way for me to understand what I really need to plan for.

So, lately I've been putting together trip briefs, or summaries of my recent travels: 1-page PDFs outlining all of the hotels, flights, and associated costs. These are obviously quite specific to the actual trips I've taken, and you probably won't follow the same itinerary. Either way, I hope they're useful to those considering a trip to that part of the world.

Everyone travels in different ways. I tend to be pretty frugal, but as I've gotten older, I enjoy spending a little more on certain kinds of experiences. But if there's a way to game the system or find some kind of hack to get that experience for less money - I'm all over it. You'll find some examples of that here.

Read on for an overview of my recent trip to South America, along with where I stayed and how much I spent on flights and hotels, or grab the PDF below.

Days 1-3 Valparaiso, CHILE

After landing in Santiago, we rented a car (which we'd booked online while waiting for our flight in DFW) and drove to Valparaiso. On the way, we stopped in the Casablanca wine valley to sample the region's famed Sauvignon Blancs. 

Our hotel in Valparaiso was a bright yellow historic Victorian converted home. Even though the hotel didn't claim to offer parking, they let us park in their small driveway after I called them to ask. The room and bed were quite small, but the creaky old home had character, a bar, and fantastic views. It was also fun pointing out our hotel from other cerros (hills) in Valpo.

 Can you spot it? Our hotel is the bright yellow house with the green roof on the far right.

Can you spot it? Our hotel is the bright yellow house with the green roof on the far right.

Valparaiso was full of art and character. Read more about my time there in 3 ways Chile will inspire your inner artist.

Flight: DFW to Santiago,  30,000 American miles (economy) + $5.60
Hotel: Hotel Brighton, $84/night, booking.com
Rental car: Alamo, $32.62/day

DAYS 3-4, SANTA CRUZ / COLCHAGUA VALLEY, CHILE

We spent only one night in the scenic wine region of Colchagua, opting to take in one winery on the way in and two or three on our way out of town back to Santiago. Commercial, chain hotels are pretty rare around here, and the B&B we stayed at reminded me of a grandmother's home. A two-level house in a residential neighborhood, with the lobby desk right beside the staircase and the breakfast nook around the corner, plus a handful of bedrooms upstairs. It was pricy for what it was, but we did get a private bathroom (the bedrooms had been converted to each contain their own bathroom) and we were comfortable and happy overall. 

Hotel: Hostal Cepa Noble, $90/night, booking.com

DAYS 4-5, SANTIAGO, CHILE

We'd been planning to stay with a friend in Santiago, but those plans fell through at the last minute, so we decided to grab a room in the clean, modern, and utilitarian Novapark Hotel. I searched on Booking.com and Expedia as we drove into town and then we got a great deal by walking in - even lower than if we'd booked online first.

Hotel: Novapark Hotel, $42.93/night

  Jacarandas  in full lilac bloom in Santiago, Chile.

Jacarandas in full lilac bloom in Santiago, Chile.

Days 5-7 Mendoza, Argentina

This was another great deal from booking.com - the Millennium Mitre apartments were spacious, the size of a large hotel room plus a huge bathroom and separate kitchenette - for just $67/night, all in. It was located within walking distance of all the restaurants in town. Our winery tour with Ampora Wine Tours picked us up straight from the apartment, too. (Ampora was great - I definitely recommend booking the Lujan de Cuyo wine experience for $175 per person.)

Flight: Santiago to Mendoza, Sky Airlines, $37, Kayak.com
Hotel: Millennium Mitre Apartments, $67/night, booking.com

Days 7-10 Montevideo, Uruguay

Stepping into our room in Montevideo, I was struck by the spacious, modern apartment with separate living area, balcony with privacy screen, and kitchenette. The only drawback was the teensy tiny bathroom, which I unfortunately spent a lot of time in due after coming down with the flu 🤒. Otherwise, a great find and a real bargain at less than $65/night.

Flight: Mendoza to Buenos Aires, Andes Lineas, $72.10, Kayak.com
Ferry: Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Buquebus, $131 (business class)
Hotel: Merit Apart & Suites, $64.80/night, booking.com

Days 10-16 Buenos Aires, Argentina

This was the real gem of our trip - and what a way to cap it off. We stayed 6 nights at the ultra-luxe Palacio Duhao Park Hyatt, by far one of the nicest hotels in town. If you were to book this online, you'd pay about $450 a night for the room we had, which was their most basic King. Thanks to a corporate code my husband was able to use from his company, that rate was reduced significantly - and then we got the 4th night free on top of that, due to the Citi Prestige card. (The Citi Prestige gives you the 4th night free of any hotel stay - you just have to book it via their concierge over the phone. The card's annual fee is $450, but if you travel frequently you'll make that up in free hotel nights alone, not to mention all the other perks that come with the card.) So after both discounts, we paid about $206 per night. 

How much it cost: 2 weeks in South America

I've been lucky enough to stay in some nice hotels, but this was by far the most luxurious. It had all of the little touches you'd expect from a 5 star hotel, like motorized window shades, sophisticated lighting, and a comfortable King size bed - but the bar area with wine glasses and wine opener, free water bottles daily, and fancy bath soaps and toiletries are what really made the room shine. 

The grounds were absolutely stunning, as well. Even if you don't stay here, if you find yourself in Buenos Aires you should definitely at least come to the Park Hyatt for an afternoon cocktail in their famously beautiful courtyard.

How much I spent - 2 weeks in South America

Ferry: Montevideo to Buenos Aires, Buquebus, $131 (business class)
Hotel: Palacio Duhao Park Hyatt, $206.33/night, booked via Citi Prestige
Flight: Buenos Aires to Miami, Miami to Dallas-Ft. Worth, 30,000 American miles (coach) + $91.06

Overall, this trip turned out to be a little pricey - mostly due to the fact that we spent way more on hotels than we normally do. Even though we got an amazing deal on the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires, it was still $206/night after our discounts. Plus, when we opt for expensive hotels, we usually do so for only 2 or 3 nights. Here, we did that for 6!

Then, the ferries to and from Montevideo were also surprisingly expensive, especially when I compare them to similar ferries we took in Croatia. (Note: We opted for business class, but the difference in price for economy and business wasn't that great, so even coach would have been pretty pricey.) 

The bottom line? You could definitely do a trip like this for less, especially when you consider how much we spent on many of our other hotels! South America is, generally speaking, quite inexpensive if you do it right. And it's definitely worth the trip.

You might also like:
How I afford travel: badass trips on a not-so-badass budget
How I fly around the world for next to nothing

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