Upscale travelers are finally starting to get their due in South America. It has taken time, but spurred on by the example and standards of several international chains, and inspired by some award-winning local hotels, service and amenities have been improving across the board, particularly in the upscale market. The region's strong suit is still its moderately priced hotels, though. However, room size and quality vary quite a bit within this price range, so don't expect the kind of uniformity that you may find at home. Almost all the big hotels have free parking lots, while the smaller, budget hotels have street parking.
If you're budget- or bohemian-minded, you can find quite a few good deals for less than $50 a double. Note: Air-conditioning or central heating is not necessarily a given in many midrange hotels. In general, this is not a problem. A well-placed ceiling fan or heavy blankets are often more than enough to keep things pleasant, unless we mention otherwise in the hotel reviews. And although power outages aren't a regular issue anymore (at least in the region's cities), it is always wise to check out if your hotel has a backup generator in case things get uncomfortable.
Another welcome hotel trend in the area is the renovation and conversion of old homes or historic buildings into small hotels or B&Bs, known as hosterías or posadas. South America is still riding the ecotourism wave, and you'll find small nature-oriented ecolodges throughout the region, too. These lodges offer opportunities to see wildlife (including sloths, monkeys, and hundreds of species of birds) and learn about tropical forests, high deserts, or other remote wilderness areas. They range from spartan facilities catering primarily to scientific researchers, to luxury accommodations that are among the finest in the country. Keep in mind that although the nightly room rates at these lodges are often quite moderate, prices start to climb when you throw in transportation (often on chartered planes), guided excursions, and meals. Also, just because you can book a reservation at most of these lodges doesn't mean that they're not remote. Be sure to find out how you get to and from the eco-lodge, and what tours and services are included in your stay. Then think long and hard about whether you really want to put up with hot, humid weather; biting insects; rugged transportation; and strenuous hikes to see wildlife.
One uniquely South American lodging type that you might encounter is the apartotel, which is just what it sounds like: an apartment hotel where you'll get a full kitchen and one or two bedrooms, along with daily maid service. A posada or hostal (also called a hostería) is a small, usually family-run hotel, not unlike a B&B. If you're visiting an eco-lodge or hotel in any area near the jungle, most accommodations have either screened-in windows or provide mosquito nets. The exceptions are the bare-bones beach shacks along the coast and rustic huts in the jungle.
Hotels listed as expensive throughout this book often offer much cheaper rates for travelers booking through their websites. Your best bet throughout this region is negotiating directly with the hotels themselves, especially the smaller hotels. However, be aware that response times might be slower than you'd like, and many of the smaller hotels might have some trouble communicating back and forth in English. Rates quoted throughout the book reflect double occupancy, and differences between low- and high-season rates are noted wherever possible. (Note that there are some bargains to be had during the low season.)
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.