Our Travel Time in Argentina – Budget Breakdown

Over a time frame of 5 weeks, with no less than 3 different entries into one of the largest countries of South America, Argentina really impressed us. Not only the amazing views, but also the prices. Let’s take you through our budget breakdown!

Argentina was the last country I visited in South America during the Big Trip. From the snowy mountains in the center at Bariloche, to spotting penguins at the end of the world, all the way up north to the humid tropical rain forest of Puerto de Iguazu, to dancing tango in the capital, Argentina had it all. Steaks, tasty wines, modest people, a J sound instead of the typical Spanish ll.  Little did we know that this country surprised us in so many ways… !

We made it… all the way south !

Travel budget: important facts and figures

  • I traveled around Argentina with Ms. Rice, all expenses mentioned are for the two of us (unless per person is specified).
  • We spent 21 days in Argentina, entering the country by bus over land at the Chilean border Los Andes de los Tres. We exited the first time heading towards Puerto Natales in Chile. We exited a second time in Buenos Aires, taking the ferry to Uruguay. We finally entered one last time from Brazil to Puerto de Iguazu.
  • I quote prices in Argentinian Pesos (ARS) as this is the currency of Argentina. I’ve also added prices in EUR and USD. At the time of traveling (Nov/Dec. 2016), the exchange rate was 1 EUR = 16 ARS or 1 USD = 15 ARS
  • In total we spent 45,538 pesos / 2,846 EUR / 3,035 USD in 21 days, which comes down to an average of 2,168 ARS / 135 EUR / 144 USD a day as a couple. Is that a lot? Well, yes and no. You’ll later see why 🙂
  • All expenses are included, also the bus journey to cross the border to Chile to Puerto Natales (560 ARS)  and the second one to Uruguay (662 ARS) which both technically are partially a cost in the other countries. 

2 tips: the Blue Dollar is no longer of use. There are still some people trying to exchange money on the streets, but its not very interesting anymore.
Please keep an eye on inflation… In 2016, this was above 40%. At the moment of writing (Jan.2018), things are picking up, but still: take this into account when you read older information about prices / budgets. 

Our five Expense categories

1. Accommodation: 13% of daily costs
2. Transportation: 48% of daily costs
3. Food & Drinks: 15% of daily costs
4. Activities: 21% of daily costs
5. Other: 3% of daily costs

You can immediately tell the difference with our previous visits in South America. Transport was really a huge cost. Not only because we took 2 domestic flights and several long distance buses: prices increased a lot in recent years. Beyond a lot of free activities / hiking, we also did 2 “bucket list” activities, which took a large part of our budget. Yet, no regrets at all! Without those 2 big activities, it would already be 530 EUR / 560 USD less in total, reaching 110 EUR / 118 USD per day.

Up next: details !

1. Cost of accommodation

We had a nice mix of lodging in Argentina: hostels, 3 (!) Servas homestays  and a fancy hotel! We had great Servas Homestays in Bariloche, Puerto de Iguazu and Buenos Aires.  We had a great time hanging out with our hosts, improving our Spanish. We even had China culture lovers in Buenos Aires!  The combination of 7 Servas nights and 1 overnight bus, really decreased a part of our accommodation costs.

Our fabulous host in Bariloche!

To round up, our accommodation costs for Argentina are quite in line with expectations. All of this for a total of 5,900 ARS / 368 EUR / 393 USD.  There are always cheaper possibilities, but as a couple, you can estimate the nightly cost (private room in hostel with shower or Airbnb room) roughly at around 20-30 EUR/USD (sometimes including breakfast).

Awesome host in Puerto de Iguazu, who then started his South America 1y bike trip

2. Transportation costs

When you travel in South America, you’re bound to spend a lot of time (and money) on long-distance buses. Argentina was not different. Only: prices are quite high !

We also had to take 2 domestic flights, from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires (no 3 days bus please at same cost) and from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires (flight equaled bus expense). This were largest expenses in Argentina, mainly due to the high amount of terrain we covered.

Total transportation costs were 21,936 ARS / 1,371 EUR / 1,462 USD, on average 1,045 CLP / 65 EUR / 67 USD a day as a travel couple. This includes several long distance overnight buses (we took a 23h bus from Bariloche to El Chalten!) and pricy public transport/airport buses.  We must admit: even though the buses are faster than in Peru, the level of luxury decreased. Most of times, it’s only a 140 recline seat, no (or crappy) food. Pretty standard though.

After 23h and a hike, you’ll look at this…

One small example on how bus prices increased over the years: the El Chalten – El Calafate is a standard 3h bus journey, with 3 companies making the trip. In 2013, the price was 150 ARS. In Nov. 2016, it quadrupled: 600 ARS per person !

3. Cost of food & drinks

More meat please! We continued our habit of cooking in hostels, or sharing food with our Servas hosts. Yet, we also went to some nicer restaurants.  We went out for a great Argentinian steak dinner (Parilla) in Bariloche, to celebrate 6 years of travel adventures (580 ARS). We also had a superb King Crab dinner in Ushuaia: pricey, but really delicious (990 ARS).

I also celebrated my bday in Buenos Aires, so we went for a huge Asado BBQ dinner with our hosts.

Once you reach Patagonia, the supermarket options may get fewer, and especially prices of vegetables increased a lot. On the other hand, Buenos Aires has a lot to offer in the food scene: tasty alfajores, choripan,… !

In total we spent 6,637 ARS / 414 EUR / 442 USD on food and drinks, on average 316 ARS / 19 EUR / 21 USD a day as a travel couple. Not bad at all!

Need some maté? 

Craft Beer?

I admit: Argentina offered the best option regarding craft beer: from the German style microbreweries in Bariloche to some amazing sour style crafts in the capital. Eventually, the beers of Konna and Manush had some pretty neat characteristics. There’s nice things going on, with Argentinian brewers trying to add their own characteristics by using local ingredients. It’s craft, so be prepared to pay around 4-6 EUR/USD for a draft 🙂

Some Buenos Aires’ crafts

4. Cost of activities

Total costs for activities came to 9,500 ARS / 594 EUR / 633 USD, a daily average of 452 ARS / 28 EUR / 30 USD. Splurge? Yes, a little. We were on our last South American legs, so we decided to do some MUST DO activities. At some point in time, we were even considering a last minute Antarctica cruise (though 4.5K USD pp is still high… 🙂 ). Yet, our common sense kicked in, so we chose 2 other amazing activities.

Which activities did we do for 594 EUR / 633 USD as a travel couple?

When we were in Argentina, we mostly did what we love the most: hiking in the mountains. No better place than Patagonia!

  1. Ice trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s not cheap, but this is really worth it! It’s a full day activity, with first some time to visit the glacier from the viewpoints. After lunch, it’s time to put on those ice shoes and start hiking for 1.5h. It’s an amazing feeling to be on this special landscape. Extremely highly recommended ! We wrote about our wonderful experience in a separate post. If you are looking for some awesome pictures, check this out.
    Cost: 2,100 ARS / 131 EUR / 140 USD per person (Nov. 2016)
    Entry National Park: 330 ARS / 20 EUR / 22 USD per person

  2. Spotting penguins at the end of the world. True, going to Antarctica would be the real end of the world, but we just sticked to some activities around Ushuaia. One of them is penguin spotting. You can take plenty of ferry tours, by which you can squeeze yourself amongst 100 other people to catch a glimpse of those adorable birds. OR, you can choose to pay a little bit more, and actually enter one of the few islands, Martillo Island, around Ushuaia that inhabits a big population. Again, there is only 1 company which is legally allowed to organise these tours and enter the island. You will go in small groups, with a guide, and walk around the island for 1.5h. It was AMAZING. Without scaring or freaking out the penguins, you can actually spot them very close, just seeing them taking a nap, wash themselves or start playing in the ocean. We even saw one King penguin !
    Cost: 2,140 ARS / 133 EUR / 143 USD per person (Nov. 2016)

    yes, they were adorable ha

  3. Beyond these 2 pricey activities, we hiked a lot. We did several hikes in the mountain area of Bariloche. We also did the famous 1-day Fitz Roy hike in El Chalten. You can read more about this here! 
  4. Lastly, we also visited the Iguazu Falls in Puerto Iguazu (actually both sides). We were lucky: our Servas host in Pt Iguazu worked as a biologist at the National Park, so she got us free entry passes. The Iguazu Falls are totally worth it! After witnessing these enormous cascade falls, spread across the huge park, you will think other falls around the world are just small ha! It’s also a great park to spot some animal wildlife and do some walking via the different circuits. Be prepared for some tropical heat!
    Ticket: 500 ARS / 31 EUR / 33 USD per person  (we entered for free)

5. Other costs

Other costs typically holds the stuff I can’t really categorise in any of the 4 mentioned above.  Some souvenirs, post cards, crap, …, you know, those kind of things. In total, these topped at 1,567 ARS / 98 EUR / 104 USD. The main ones were:

  • post cards, stamps, magnets: 430 ARS / 26 EUR / 29 USD
  • Souvenirs: a handcrafted mate cup and a football shirt of Argentina: 600 ARS / 37 EUR / 40 USD

So that’s pretty much it! We had an amazing time in Argentina: the food, the scenery, the people. Don’t forget how rural Patagonia can be, prices tend to be very European/USA alike for some stuff. Inflation in Argentina also really made some stuff (transport, entrance tickets, special activities) quite expensive. Yet, with the right set of eyes, and maybe with less extraordinary things to do, 40 to 45 USD per day per person is definitely possible !

Did you go to Argentina? Which adventures did you like?  Share your stories with us!