Subscribe to Thrifty Traveler Premium to be instantly notified of the next fare sale to South America!
While travelers have been blessed with round-trip fares below $300 to Europe and under $500 to much of Asia, South America had been tougher on the budget for years. But that seems to be changing.
For the last several months, fares from the U.S. to South America have been on a sharp decline. Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers have received alerts for flights to countries like Colombia hovering around $200 – and sometimes less.
Flying to Brazil is back down to low prices we haven’t seen since the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics. And while longer flights to cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) or Santiago (SCL) are typically north of $1,250, we’re regularly seeing fares below $600. And a recent flight deal to both cities for under $300 solidified it – it’s never been cheaper to travel to South America.
Even Delta is getting in on the action with a fantastic SkyMiles flash sale that allowed travelers to get down to Bogota, Colombia for as low as 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip.
So what’s happening that is driving prices down?
More Tourism = More Competition
Despite the fact that the two continents straddle the equator, flight prices from the U.S. to South America have traditionally been fairly expensive.
Countries like Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and others see just a fraction of the yearly tourism of Europe and Asia – meaning there are fewer flights to those destinations. And South America hasn’t seen the influx of budget carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW (RIP) that have helped drive down fares when flying across the Atlantic Ocean.
But times are changing. And you need only look at Brazil to see what might be behind these cheaper fares.
Brazil’s government is making a big push to boost tourism to the massive South American country – with a special soft spot for U.S. travelers. Just 6.6 million travelers visit Brazil each year, less than Mexico sees over a three-month span. Brazilian officials want to nearly double that number by 2022.
Just a year ago, Brazil got rid of its cumbersome visa requirements and started issuing e-visas to Americans – dropping the price to visit Brazil from $160 to about $44. And then earlier this year, the new government announced it will stop requiring visas altogether for U.S. travelers beginning June 17. Travelers from Canada, Japan, and Australia will also be able to enter the country visa-free.
And Brazil isn’t alone in looking to hitch a financial ride with the help of travelers. Colombia is exploding as a popular destination. Argentina’s lagging economy and suffering peso have made it a great spot to visit for 2019. And finally, budget airlines are starting to answer the call with cheaper flights from the U.S.
JetBlue and even Spirit have regularly offered $200-$300 roundtrip fares to hotspots on the northern half of the continent like Bogota (BOG) and Medellin (MDE) in Colombia or Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE) in Ecuador. Mexico’s Interjet has helped drive down prices to Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and beyond. Brazillian Airline GOL (Delta partner) entered the fray after launching direct flights to the U.S. just last fall.
And that’s forced major Latin American carriers to step up their game with cheaper fares south of the equator. Increasingly, airlines like Copa and LATAM are mixing it up with cheap fares, as are major North American airlines that fly to South America.
Though this competition hasn’t reached the pitch that has driven airfare to Europe down to record lows, it’s clearly working. And that means a cheaper ticket to get down to South America.
Whatever the reason, this recent stretch of cheap fares to South America is good news for any traveler. It’s time to head south for a fraction of what you’d normally pay.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.