There is a hard-not-to-be-struck-by off-the-beaten-path-ness about Bolivia. For the whole time I lived there, I was particularly taken aback by how rugged, natural and mysterious it was.
Be it the salt desert, the witch market, the national parks, the cholita flights in La Paz, the conversations in Quechua and Spanish- there is a distinct Bolivian-ness to everything you see that sets it apart from its Latin American peers.
But what blew me was how low the cost of living in Bolivia was. As someone from India, I never thought I would come across a place that could come close or be lower in some cases in reality.
While Colombia and Ecuador, and some other countries are way too popular with people retiring or becoming a digital nomad, but those who dismiss Bolivia are definitely missing out.
If you have wondered about the cheapest South American country, it’s Bolivia without any doubt.
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Is Bolivia Cheap or Is it all Hype?
Nah! There is no hype here. Bolivia is the cheapest South American country out there. Any time, you are running low on money, change your base to Bolivia and you would see the difference.
One of the biggest reasons a lot of digital nomads find it hard to make Bolivia a base is that it only hands out 90-day tourist visas. But that can be solved by becoming a student or getting any other Bolivian visa.
The cost of living in Bolivia is cheap coz’ everything is cheap. It’s not like Colombia where you can rent for $100 per month but at the same time, you gotta pay $8-10 for a 2-hour bus ride for 150 km.
Bolivia Apartment Rental Price
If you are planning on staying for a month or more in an apartment, you can find good places easily for say 200-400 USD, depending on which city it is and what part of city it is.
I and a friend rented an apartment in Sucre for 250 USD that came fully-furnished along with good WIFI and a great view of the city.
Usually your rent in Bolivia should include the basic utilities like water and electricity, although showers and cookers run off gas, which can be purchased per bottle for around $10 a month. In my case, it was included as well.
If you plan to live a little far from the city center, you can get a place for as low as 75-100 USD.
Food Cost in Bolivia
You probably wouldn’t really save a lot of money by cooking at home in Bolivia if you are a single expat. You can eat out real cheap. But if you are a couple or a family, cooking at home would be cheaper.
And you actually might end up cooking at home a bit more. I know I did.
Eating out in Restaurants in Bolivia
To me, most of the times Bolivian food was a little bland, especially when it was time for lunch or dinner. Once I lived in Peru and fell head over heels for Peruvian cuisine, it only confirmed my notion of Bolivian food.
Two neighbors that used to be one country in the past, yet how different their food was. Anyways, I digress.
The good thing is you can easily spice it up with a little hot sauce, llajwa. And the street food like papa rellena and tamales are pretty good.
However, food prices in Bolivia are quite low, probably the lowest among all Latin American countries.
You can easily have lunch in Bolivia for 2-3 USD or 14-21 Bolivianos. And we are talking about three-course meals here.
Are there Supermarkets in Bolivia?
Of course, there are. If you are living in a big city like Santa Cruz, La Paz or Sucre, you would come across super markets like Hipermaxi, Ketal etc.
There are also the so-called micromercados, abastos or pulperías, basically mom-and-pop grocery stores.
But I will tell you that a Mercado Campesino is the best place for buying grocery in Bolivia provided that you can take a little chaos. Every city has got one or more. You can find fresh fruits and veggies and whatnot, and maybe strike some new friendships.
The groceries for two people per month wouldn’t exceed $200.
Cost of Transport in Bolivia
Public transport is used by the majority of Bolivians for traveling in Bolivia. There are no trains, so buses are what you need to take most of the time. They are called flotas and you would need to go to a bus station to buy the tickets.
The flotas connect most of the cities in Bolivia.
The funny thing is that the bus ticket might cost you more if you buy beforehand than at the last minute or an hour ago. Sometimes, they would simply tell you to fuck off if you try to buy a day before or so.
Flights can be cheap. A flight from Sucre to La Paz cost me $45.
While inside the city, you can take micros or busetas which usually carry 8-15 passengers and have different stops throughout the city. They would cost 20 cents per ride.
Taxis in Bolivia are also cheap but you need to be ready to haggle a little bit so that they don’t rip you off.