How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in Bolivia?

Having made the move from the UK to Bolivia I am used to people asking me about the different cost of living in these two countries. So, how much does it really cost to live in Bolivia these days?

Well, the truth is that Bolivia is a much cheaper place to live in most respects. However, there are some things that cost more here if you aren’t careful about it.

A Roof Over Your Head

One of the differences that always amazes me is the low cost of building a house here. For around $US 20,000 or even less you could build a small but decent place to live. Throw $US 100,000 at it and you can get yourself a mansion.

The price of plots of land varies a lot. The cheapest where I live come in at $US 3,000 for a 300m2 plot, while more central areas can cost 30 or 40 times that price.

Having said that, rental prices are very high here and have little relation to how much it costs to build a house. You can expect to pay from $US 300 per month for a decent family home, which means that building in order to let out is a popular way of making money here.

Some Food on Your Plate

mercadoIf you are smart about it then the area where you’ll save the most money is in food. The little street markets that sell fresh fruit and vegetables are tremendous value for money. You can get a whole week’s worth of varied vegetables for about $US 20 or less, making this a paradise for vegetarians.

A kilo of good quality meat costs about $US 7 from a reputable butcher and you can get a big fish for as little as $US 2 when they are in season. Costs increase substantially if you want to buy imported goods in a supermarket though.

Eating out is generally cheap here, with $US 2 or $US 3 enough to get you a nice meal in a restaurant.

Transport Costs

microTravelling is incredibly cheap here, as long as you don’t mind being slightly uncomfortable. Many locals travel in the small buses called micros that criss-cross the cities and cost around $US 2 (I think it varies slightly from city to city).

A long distance bus which travels from one city to another is stupidly cheap. For less than $US 20 you can basically spend pretty much all day on a bus and get to the other side of the country.

If you want to buy your own car then you will find that it costs more then in the UK. In fact, one of the weirdest things here is the way that cars barely depreciate over the years. We bought a 1988 4 wheel drive Toyota for $US 7500 about 6 years ago and it has probably only lost about $US 500 of value in all that time.

Things That Cost More

While many of the items we have looked at here make it cheaper to live in Bolivia than in the UK, there are others that are more expensive.

For example, electronic goods such as phones and computers are more expensive and there is less choice. Generally speaking, anything that is imported tends to cost more money than it would in Europe.

I think this is partly because of the informal way the economy works here. For example, if you run a clothes boutique then you’ll probably travel to another city or even to Argentina or Brazil to buy a small amount of clothes. You then need to get them back to your shop and charge a price that justifies all that work and expense, especially when rental prices for shops are so high.


Provided that you spend wisely you should find that you can live in Bolivia for less money than in the UK or US, while it is also interesting to live here. If you have money from the UK that gives you an income of at least US$ 1000 or more then you should be able to live here easily, assuming that you are happy living like a local in some respects.

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