Example of the Cost of Living in Bolivia

A very comfortable life for a retired couple in Bolivia can be had for around $1,550 per month, though money-conscious couples can live on far less. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

ExpenseU.S. $
Rent (two-bedroom centrally located furnished apartment)$400
Electric$10
Water$3
Gas (Propane)$5
Internet$30
Cell phone (Pay-per-minute x2)$20
Transportation (Buses and taxis)$50
Groceries$350
Dining out (three nights a week with drinks for two people)$250
Entertainment$150
Health insurance$75
Savings/Travel/Misc.$200
Monthly total$1,543

People from around the world are quickly discovering Bolivia. Many come for the culture, where 36 different indigenous groups inhabit the country. Geographical wonders abound too, including the eerily reflective Uyuni Salt Flats, challenging mountaineering routes, and the lush Amazon Basin. But a rapidly growing number of folks are choosing to do more than play tourist in this Andean nation—they’re choosing to stay for good.

Bolivia is attractive to newcomers on many fronts thanks to the warmth of its people, the perfectly moderate climate in the highlands, and its variety of natives who call the country home. Residents can choose to live in the high altiplano of the Andes Mountains or on the edge of the low altitude rainforest. Old colonial cities rich with history dot the landscape between these two extremes.

The icing on the cake for these international residents is that Bolivia also comes with an affordable cost of living. One-way airline tickets between cities can be had for as little as $27 and a nice bottle of locally produced table wine costs less than $3. Taxi rides are available starting at 75 cents and a family-sized platter heaped with various grilled meats (plus salad bar access) is just $12.

The southern Bolivian city of Tarija is surrounded by wine country and idyllic small farms. The city itself has a small-town flair where locals visit their neighborhood supermarkets daily and spend hours chatting with friends under the shade of broad-canopied trees. No one is in a rush here and life moves at a charmingly relaxed pace.

It’s here where U.S. expat Nathan Salveson is living a comfortable life on well under $1,000 a month. His one-bedroom apartment in a safe central neighborhood comes furnished and includes all his utilities and cable television. For this he pays $200 a month. When it comes to food Nathan admits that he likes healthy and tasty food options, so is willing to pay more for quality meals. Still, his total food budget for a month comes in at around $220.

Steve Nagy has migrated from Florida to Bolivia’s breathtaking colonial city of Sucre. He, like Nathan, is renting a one-bedroom apartment which includes all utilities and cable television. But Steve’s home is set right on the edge of the city’s historic district with its grand colonial-era structures, centuries-old churches, and meticulously maintained plazas. He pays less than $300 per month for his place and as a bonus gets internet and weekly maid service included.

A couple could live well in Sucre on $1,000 a month, Steve says. A single person could live on $600 to $800. And that low-cost lifestyle is not one of minimalistic denial. Sucre is a hub of tourism and as such has varied restaurants, cafés, and entertainment venues. While some options are pricier than others, most are quite reasonable, like the delicious four-course lunch at Chifa Thai that costs just under $3.

The city of Cochabamba is also a desirable expat destination, but with its ritzy Southern California feel, it’s one of the more expensive cities in Bolivia. Still, it’s far more affordable than any North American city.

In the last five years, luxury high-rise condo buildings have popped up all over the city, especially in the northern sector. Many come with swimming pools, spas, and/or gyms and are surrounded by walking trails, tall palm trees, and flowering shrubs. A three-bedroom condo in an upscale neighborhood will typically rent out for between $600 and $800 monthly. But food, utilities, and transportation are still on par with the rest of the country, though having more city amenities also means having more places to spend your dollars—or in this case, your Bolivianos.

However, if you’d like access to Cochabamba’s shopping centers, fine dining, and American-style grocery stores, but don’t want to pay more for living there, you have options. Eileen Velicky and her husband Bill rent a three-bedroom house in nearby Tiquipaya for just $200 a month. She is surrounded by fields of flowers and the quiet countryside. When she wants to enjoy a day in the city, Eileen simply hops into a shared cab and pays just 35 cents for the ride.

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