Cost of Living in Bolivia

By 25 October, 2011

Bolivia is one of the most impoverished countries in South American. The cost of living in Bolivia has risen over the last few years, but still remains one of the cheapest countries to live in South America. The economy’s output per person (GDP per capita) was just $1,858 in 2010, the lowest in all of South America, five times smaller than that of Brazil and almost twenty times small than that of the United Kingdom.

In terms of economic development, Bolivia falls way behind its South American peers; lacking infrastructure, education and training, financial markets and business sophistication. The economy has shown signs of strength in recent years, growing by 5.7% in 2010, which has pushed up the price of many basic goods with inflation running at over 10%.

At the time of writing one British pound gets you 10.9 Bolivian Bolivianos (Bs) and one US Dollar almost 6.9 Bs.

Food and Drink

If you find yourself in La Paz then there are a number of restaurants which will offer you good food at reasonable prices with meals varying widely in price and quality. You’ll be able to pitch-up at a café and buy a burger for just 15 Bs (£2, $1.50), while something more substantial, like a chicken curry, will cost around 30 Bs in a restaurant.

Bolivian food is very different from what you would expect in other parts of Latin America. Often it can be bland, though you can easily spice it up with a little hot sauce, llajwa, that seems to be on all the tables. Local food can be a bit hit and miss. Chicharrón (bits of fried pork) can be a bit fatty and is served with boiled corn. It’s a snack rather than a main meal but goes well with humitas which are little balls of corn dough, stuffed with cheese and then wrapped in a corn or banana leaf before being steamed. Street food can also be very tasty and, as with most of South America, significantly cheaper!

Housing and Utilities

Renting a place in Bolivia is much cheaper than most parts of South America. Apartments begin at around 500 Bs ($75 or £50) per month with houses about double this price. You can certainly rent a lovely two bedroom place in a nice part of La Paz for 1,500 Bs ($215 or £150). If you could afford to double your budget you’d be able to afford a luxury three bed house with a swimming pool.

Household costs such as water, electricity, gas, local rates and residential taxes are relatively less expensive compared to other major cities. In fact in a recent ranking they were placed 290th for price out of 300. 250 Bs is likely to more than cover these expenses but will obviously depend on the size of your accommodation and use of the air-con!

Entertainment / Going Out

As always the cost of going out will depend on your definition of a good night out. If you are looking for a low-key kind of night then going to the cinema will cost you about 15Bs to 45Bs depending on the time of day. A lot of cinemas screen films in English or with subtitles.

Like most of South America, Bolivian football is at the heart of the population. La Paz is host to a number of club sides, including the countries most successful team Bolívar. As well as going to watch a league game we would also recommend going to the annual Copa Simon Bolivar, named after the founder of the modern nation – it’s atmosphere is second to none.

Bolivia also has great carnival traditions, which take place in many of the rural areas. See Carnival de Oruro: Dancing With the Devil in Bolivia’s Carnival to find out more.

Other articles in our Cost of Living series include Cost of Living in Argentina and Cost of Living in Brazil and Cost of Living in Chile.

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