When I was skiing in the Andes, I stayed virtually in the middle of nowhere, outside a town called Uspallata. It cost me 270 pesos for 3 nights lodging (50 dollars American). Breakfast was free every morning, there were bike rentals, horseback riding in the mountains, BBQ every night. Hostels seem to have the lowdown on all the activities around the area.
As I write this, I'm staying in a very posh hostel in the nice area of Buenos Aires called Recoleta. I pay about 14 dollars per day to stay here and I'm very impressed. We have a pool table, a large screen TV, a bar downstairs, a music room, a lounge, a kitchen, and more. The front desk has organized an international meet and greet tonight that includes libations, food, etc… all for just 20 dollars.
In short, hostelling is a great way to get to know other travelers around the world and experience the area without breaking the bank. I will be home from South America in two days, and I look forward to warmer weather. Ciao for now.