South America has plenty of variety, with options for all budgets. Be sure to book well in advance when visiting during big festivals (particularly Carnaval time in Brazil) and in popular resort areas during high season.
- Hostels Dorm rooms provide cheap and social lodging for solo travelers.
- Hotels A wide range of options, from boxy cells to flashy boutiques.
- Guesthouses Often family-owned, guesthouses run the gamut from bare bones to lavish.
- Homestays Live like a local in a family home.
Costs vary from country to country, with Andean countries (especially Bolivia) being the cheapest (from around US$10 per night) and Chile, Brazil, Argentina and the Guianas the costliest (upwards of US$30).
Camping is an obvious choice in parks and reserves and is a useful budget option in pricier countries such as Chile. Bring all your own gear. While camping gear is available in large cities and in trekking and activities hubs, it's expensive and choices are usually minimal. Camping gear can be rented in areas with substantial camping and trekking action (eg the Lake District, Mendoza and Huaraz), but quality is sometimes dubious.
An alternative to tent camping is staying in refugios (simple structures within parks and reserves), where a basic bunk and kitchen access are usually provided. For climbers, most summit attempts involve staying in a refugio.
Albergues (hostels) have become increasingly popular throughout South America and, as throughout the world, are great places to socialize with other travelers. Across South America, there are around 110 official albergue juveniles (youth hostels), where you can get a small discount if you're a card-carrying member of Hostelling International–American Youth Hostel (HI-USA).
When it comes to hotels, both terminology and criteria vary. The costliest in the genre are hoteles (hotels) proper. A step down in price are hostales (small hotels or guesthouses). The cheapest places are hospedajes, casas de huéspedes, residenciales, alojamientos and pensiones. A room in these places includes a bed with (hopefully) clean sheets and a blanket, maybe a table and chair and sometimes a fan. Showers and toilets are generally shared; there may not be hot water. Cleanliness varies widely, but many places are remarkably tidy. In some areas, especially southern Chile, the cheapest places may be casas familiares, family houses whose hospitality makes them excellent value.
In Brazil, Argentina and some other places, prices often include breakfast, the quality of which is usually directly related to the room price.
Hot-water supplies are often erratic, or may be available only at certain hours of the day. It's something to ask about (and consider paying extra for), especially in the highlands and far south, where it gets cold.
When showering, beware the electric shower head, an innocent-looking unit that heats cold water with an electric element. Don't touch the shower head or anything metal when the water is on or you may get shocked – never strong enough to throw you across the room, but hardly pleasant.
Dormitory prices are for rooms with shared bathrooms, while room prices include private bathrooms, unless otherwise noted.