Basic Cost of Living per Week

by Ken
(Florida)

Hello, I am planning a trip to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in april/may 2010 and plan to stay 1-3 months,then comeback and decide what I want to do. I also plan to spend some time in Tarija toward the end of my stay and am adjusted a bit. I have a friend who has lived there the past 4 years and is married w/child now. So, I have a contact to help me along and provide some basics before/after I arrive, I beleive this a huge benefit. Though he has assured me of alot of things I would just like to get some second opinions so I can budget this out correctly. I get a monthly settlement so I will have some funds available at budget, though I plan my initial visit budget based off what I spend here in the US...

I know that this expenses depends greatly on one's lifestyle but I am asking about the medium range expense of local life. My friend has told me what he has been living on the past year and most of what I read (the little I can find) online from other visitors contradicts this on living in Santa Cruz...Though I am finding plenty that agrees with it as well.

Basically I am wanting to know the rough average cost of living per week for single 38 yr old man. I plan to go out at night to pubs maybe 2-3 nights a week, the other nights I will plan to just chill at my place or I really I don't know .Depending on cooking appliances I will either eat medium range(?) food and cook and have my own groceries. I don't plan to do or buy a whole lot as far as tourist style things go, I am more interested in food,drink,life etc..Pretty much I am wanting to know the cost of what a local resident would spend doing similar things in a 7 day period ???

To give an idea in short :
Taxis(to where I cant walk)
Food 2 meals a day ( 1 dining out)
Bars 2 nights a week
Groceries/living supplies (7 days)


Again I know it varies depending on lifestyle, but I would just like a general idea. Thanks

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Apr 25, 2011
Cost of living
by: efloresmex

I was just there in March. Spent time in three cities, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Sucre. Depending if you're a typical american spending money like you own the joint then, well it doesn't matter. See dick run, see dick fall, don't be a dick. I've been traveling around God's big blue marble for the last 16 years. Live like a local, don't stand out. NOBODY likes a show off, plus it will bite you in the nalgas. That being said I talked to people while I was there and asked how much they spend to live there, any where from 300-600 american dollars a month. Take into consideration too, that the locals see you as an outsider and will hike things up a bit for good measure, don't let it bother you. Again the numbers above are for one to two persons. Also don't be afraid to buy stuff in the outside Mercado where the locals shop and is cheaper.

Apr 11, 2011
Cost Of Living In Bolivia
by: Bobby & Maria

Kenny thanks for your reply to my questions concerning the real daily cost of living in Bolivia.Maria & I plan on going down for her to visit her family summer of 2012.We plan on staying for two months with her sisters and other family members.We will be staying in four different cities while there.After we come back she & I will go over the real costs of living that would apply to our life style that we would expect to have. We will make the decision whether or not to live there based on the info I will gather on our visit.I think now that we will be able to live at a level that will be where we would like .We don't drink & I love to cook so that would save a lot of money,buying food at the local market.I would expect that we would live in Sucre as she has a sister there plus one in La Paz which she says would be to high for me.So if all goes as I think it will I suppose I will be a resident of Bolivia with in two years.Will keep you posted & if you come across some more info that would be helpful to us please pass it on.Regards,Bobby & Maria 4/10/2011

Apr 09, 2011
Thanks
by: sahi

Thanks for this informative post. It helped me a lot. I hope lots of people visit this site so they can easily learn this informative post.

Feb 17, 2011
kind of good
by: Kenny

Bobby, I had a turn of events after making this post due to the BP oil spil and was able to visit Santa Cruz de la sierra for 3 weeks in November to see my Gringo buddy who lives there after that I was in Argentina for 2 weeks.

But...simple answer "kind of good", though understand I didn't live there really, was just a short visit. However I met many gringos and inquired a lot about the "cost of living" from them. My friend always said "It's so cheap!!" or "$800 a month you could live like a king"...He does live cheap there, but he has a 1 room studio with a shared bath etc.. no AC and didn't even have a fan until I gave him the one I bought for where I was staying that had AC lol...The winds there would blow down from the Amazon basin at 30 mph and penetrate the seals on the windows and doors so I bought a fan...$800 wouldn't cut it for me(if I lived there) and the others there said it was pushing it that up near $1200-$1500 is more ideal.

As many told me there is no simple answer, it all depends on how you live...Anything like beer, alcohol or foreign import (snickers,redbull etc..) are all about the same price as in the US. If you home cook a lot and that is the plan then you can live really well...I had some adjusting to do when I got there and it seemed to get cheaper by the day. If your wife is Bolivian and has family there then you can probably do really well. So in short simple answer,.....If you want to live and have ALL the things you have in the USA then expect to pay US prices or just near them.

Really depends a lot on your reasons for wanting to live there, but if you want a scenario from me....after hearing how cheap it was from my buddy and seeing what you get for that cost and what it REALLY breaks down to money-wise here is an example:

1 12 oz coke at restaurant in Santa Cruz is (roughly) $1 and a $1 each refill has little or no ice, meal $5-$10 dollars - make note there is A LOT cheaper BUT THIS WAS ME...

Arrive back in the USA/Miami Intl and have a few hour layover, so I am thinking "American Fast Food" I really missed, convenience factor really, so I find the Burger King at the airport and order a Double Bacon egg and cheese croissant,larger tater tots and a 32oz cup with as much Ice and refills as I could stand for $3.59....


All that said ..I CAN'T WAIT TO GET BACK THERE :)

Feb 16, 2011
Money
by: Bobby & Maria

I am married to a woman from Bolivia.She says we can go & live there for almost nothing,compared to the cost of living in the USA.I have read a lot about what the prices of things are in several city's but keep coming back to real figures as opposed to you might or you can if you are close with your money.While I fully understand those kind of answers,I still feel they are kind of vague ones.I will have $1400.00 US to live on.Just a straight answer as to how good we can live is the question I would like to have answered.Like Very Good,Good,Kind Of Good,or you should have stayed in the US.I realize there are conditions that would be out of our control concerning prices increases that are happening in Bolivia now .What with the gas & food price spikes.Maybe the saving fact would be that she has a large family network that could guide us with respect to housing as that would be the major cost factor.Thanks for you attention to my concerns.Regards Bobby & Maria 2/16/'11

May 14, 2010
John
by: Anonymous

I have been living here for two years.My wife is bolivianna. We lived in the US for 20 years and when I retired from my business we moved here.

As you say it have depends on your life style. We
have a house in las palmas and is more of a up scale area. My home is 5600 sq ft 4 br 5 baths kitchen dinning slaon garden patio pool ect.

We have two maids grounds keeper. We have a large
family some livig at home, four family members and the hired help is seven people. Total average cost of operation for me is $1800.00 per month which includes college for our youngest daughter.

For a single man and depending where you choose to live you can get by on as little 600 for months and live well, but all depends on your choices.

Hope this gives you some insight.

Jan 30, 2010
really good questions about foreign exchange
by: BoliviaBella

Hi Exchanger. Your questions about foreign exchange are really, really excellent. I thought they merited some equally well-thought answers so rather than answering you with a short message through this forum, I've built a whole entire new page just for you and any future foreign exchange students. See it here. Bella.

Jan 29, 2010
Foreign Exchange
by: Exchanger

Dear B, I am going to be a foreign exchange student in Bolivia starting August 1st. I'm very excited but also worried that I am ill-prepared. I am a 16 year old female from Indiana and will be living with 3-4 host families over my trip (Which will be around 11 months). I hear it is suggested to being gifts, not carry many personal belongings, and use common sense (of course). I was wondering if you had any specific tips for me including clothes, personal hygiene products, beauty products, the language, schooling, and/or money.

Thanks,
Exchanger(:

Jan 24, 2010
Thanks Susan !
by: Kenny

I am generally pretty tan and not too fair complected, I will probably come down with a dark tan aswell because I will fish most of april for a species here in Florida that I wait on to arrive every year ...While I do plan on trying to 'blend in' somewhat, I don't plan to be successful at it :)

But I do have a good friend SRZ who has been there for 4 years who is going to help me out in getting situated with some of his regular spots, friends etc.. so Im hoping to get known at a few spots, by frequenting them and then finding more and more as I go along...I do plan to bring, or have available plenty of funds for my initial visit, though I do plan to live simple for the most part. Basically I plan to keep a place in the city and take a few trips out of there. I plan to purchase a spanish course soon, right now I am just using youtube, looking at eldeber classifieds, using translator tools etc..hopefully this will all pay off.

Thanks for the tips , I was reading your comments on the "safe" post earlier. I do plan to be vigilant and stay out the way lol. My main concerns are having my room broken into and things stolen, mainly passport, or rented pc or something, I won't have much. I don't plan to put myself in a situation to where I dont have a backup plan, or emergency funds available for western union etc.. so I hope to be ok.

I am just waiting on a few things to happen then I can put all of this together, I will update as I know more. Please feel free to correct me or suggest things if needed at anytime!


Jan 24, 2010
Taxis and Food in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
by: Susan

If you are a whiter shade of pale, then you can expect to be treated as a tourist no matter how long you live in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, or in any other community in Bolivia.

The cost of travelling by taxi from one ring to another or from one street to another must be negotiated BEFORE you get into the vehicle. For example, as a rule of thumb perhaps, consider three (3) Bolivianos per ring travel. So, if you plan to travel from ring number 4 to the centre of the city, then be ready to negotiate between 10 and 12 Bolivianos.

If you plan to buy your own groceries then you can expect to pay the ticket price at the check-out counter of a supermarket. Negotiating the price of produce or other items on the street is another matter. Alot of the products that you see on the street are donated shipments from other parts of the world to be distributed to the poor. The clever poor have chosen to display the product on a mat on the ground and charge for it. Pay what you think is fair.

Eyes wide open! Have fun!

Jan 11, 2010
"reconnaisance"
by: Kenny

Hehe, I guess you could say that !! Its sort of like my friend says "you will probably love it but it's not for everyone"....I mean, I am at a place in my life, with no tie-downs or anything holding me back from moving anywhere, and no real occupation that couldn't be replaced. But I would have to recon the place first before I move.

Yes I am aware of the 90 day Visa and I understand I cannot file for residency once in Bolivia on a TV..This has been concerning me a bit as I do not want to get in a situation where I want to stay really bad and can't, or run my 90 day visa out and have to wait a whole year to come back...even though I would like to return as planned to the US during mid-fishing season here (my occupation)in the summer and work a couple months before moving back...but this would be done in September so I would be looking at 5-6 months before I can go back. Sorry if all this sounds confusing. Im sure I will ask for help on this later, but ideally I was hoping maybe for an option that allows me to work in the US 3-4 months then live ther the rest of the year...That is until I can get some business or work generated there. My friend says he can get me a job once I get semi-fluent, though it would only be a couple hundred a month. He was teaching English and Guitar there, and is now working as a dispatcher or something for a US company, not sure really.

About the dog,I did read the other fellows post on this a couple weeks ago and have also read the section here at Bella...She is also welcome at my parents house and loves them and their dogs so that is also an option...I wouldnt want to bring her if I plan to live in an apartment the city if I return to live.


Jan 11, 2010
americans need a visa to travel to bolivia
by: BoliviaBella.com

By the way you're aware you need a tourist visa to come here (you can be here up to 90 days)?

Then later, on your second trip, if you plan to live here you need to come NOT on a tourist visa but on a SPECIAL PURPOSE VISA (visa de objeto determinado) which lasts only 30 days and allows you to request residency. You cannot request residency if you arrive on a tourist visa.

But since you are taking a "reconnaisance" trip first, come as a tourist and then when you return the second time with the purpose of living here, come with the SPV. (It's cheaper anyway).

Visa info for Americans

Immigration

Jan 11, 2010
glad it was helpful
by: BoliviaBella

Hey Kenny

Glad you found the information helpful. You will definitely want to look into some of the apartments that rent fully furnished by the week and month. Most are in the $400+range but you can find some small ones near your price range. The good thing is most are right in the main downtown area, just minutes from the central plaza and since they rent for such short time frames there are almost always some available.

If you eventually move here with your dog, take a look at my page on Traveling with Pets

Also, a very nice visitor called Jake posted this new and updated information because he moved here with his dog. He had trouble finding an apartment that would allow a pet but eventually did. You could probably post a question to him (just click on post comments). I think he's set up to be emailed if anyone comments on what he wrote.

Paperwork for pets from the USA

Also there are a few messages in there from other travelers in our Pet Travel Forum (yes, we actually have one).

You can post any time. Hopefully others will chime in so you don't only get my take on things (I love it here so I'm sort of biased)

LOL.

Jan 11, 2010
Great Info!!
by: Kenny

Seriously Thanks! In short, I do beleive I will need AC...Having hurricanes where I am from I have been 2 weeks without power before and it was rough in sub-tropical humidity and heat..With fans I could manage but would prefer AC. I could probably also do without a kitchen for a couple months, mainly I would like a fridge and maybe a microwave. I have read about house keepers but am not afraid to clean so I will probably now have one at first unless required. Laundry I will pay to have done mostly likely...Oh and btw many thanks on the tip regarding "big and tall" clothing as I was planning on doing the opposite and buying clothes there, but I am 6'3, in good shape , just big frame so clothing is always hassel anywhere but I will defiantely bring what I need with me now!! I will post any other questions here or on your expats site.

Jan 11, 2010
Thank You !
by: Kenny

B, Thanks for the attention to detail on my post !

I do plan to visit museums and historical places as I do love history, and my city now was the actual true first colony of the Spanish in North America, August 15, 1559.I also plan to get out and do many other things outside of the city, but my main time in the first month or so will generally be in the city gradually getting adjusted and moving outwards. Main thing is having a fluent friend to help me along, he has already located me a few cheap housing choices where some other expats are living and will hook me up with for my needs per request. Though being my first trip, and on a 90 day visa, I am hoping to find a decent/secure near the center for 300-400 for a 3 month stay (if they will rent that short?)...I was hoping to find clser to the center than in equipetrol, I do plan to head up there some just don't really have a game plan together yet. As I was saying though my main intent of this post was to get a general idea to compare with how my friend lives, as if I like it I may move back in a year or whenever they will let me back...I would need to return to the US eitherway, if I move down later on I do have to brig my yellow lab with me and would be in a house, though probably not in Santa Cruz as my goals there are outdoors based...But I am a long way from this atm. Though first I of course plan to see if I like it, and from what I have read/heard this seems not to be a problem there. I will add more questions soon, as I have many. Thanks !!!

Jan 11, 2010
what a local resident would pay
by: BoliviaBella

by the way you asked what a local resident would pay to do the same things. It sort of depends. Most local residents can't afford the lifestyle you're describing. So I based my calculations for you on the fact that you probably plan to spend your time at some of the areas most foreigners or upper class locals would hang out at.

The other 85% of the populations can't afford as much. However, if you're willing to give up some of the other conveniences of every day living you might be used to (such as air conditioning which most of the population does not have) you can actually live much cheaper.

For example, buy your groceries at the local markets instead of supermarkets, choose tiny family-owned restaurants instead of the big elite ones, do your own laundry and housecleaning, that kind of thing.

The exception would be housing itself perhaps. Rental prices have doubled in the past three years. You can find apartments privately owned called "semi-independientes" which are like a guesthouse rented out behind someone's house, etc. you can get these for about $100-$200. Or you can do what most university students do and rent just one room in someone's house for about $70-$100 a month.

On the other hand, sometimes room for room houses can be cheaper than apartments. Apartments are luxuries here. Houses are more normally-priced. You can get a decent-sized 2-bed 2-bath house with a yard and garage for $400 and up if you know where to look. Cheaper the further out you are from downtown.

So life here is actually much cheaper for most locals. But if you plan to live semi-similar to the US or at least avoid dangerous neighborhoods, go with the first calculations I sent you.

Once you get here and start exploring you'll realize what you're willing to give up and what you're not and little by little you'll spend LESS as you get the hang of things.

B.

Jan 11, 2010
Basic cost of living for a single guy in Bolivia
by: Anonymous

Well you have to take into account that Tarija is a really small city and Santa Cruz has about 1.6 million so of course the urban areas are more expensive.

Single guy, 1-bedroom apartment, nice area of town like Equipetrol or other, not furnished, near some great nightspots - consider about $400-600 a month rent. Depending on your tastes, a 1-bedroom can go as high as $1000 I've seen, but that's like a penthouse fully furnished with a spectacular view and totally not worth paying since Santa Cruz is flat - so that's you're view.

If you're only visiting, there are places that rent fully furnished apartments per day, week and month. Since they know foreigners look for this, they're pretty expensive. At least $300 a month. If you rent an apartment on your own, and it is unfurnished, consider that unfurnished in Bolivia means completely bare! No fridge or stove either.

If you're willing to live a little further out, not near the hot nightspots but still not too shabby you can find something for around $300 unfurnished.

Truth be told you can actually live MUCH cheaper than that - but under those prices you end up in pretty seedy areas. If you live near the university for example, you can get a small apartment for about $150 - but really small and the area isn't that good.

Meals - calculate about $3-5 per meal just you if you buy groceries and cook, and even the same if you eat out somewhere normal (meaning not a high-end restaurant), and $10-$15 if you go out somewhere really nice and drinks average about $1-5 each, depending on what your "flavor" is. Beer's cheap.

Consider in your budget everything else you will need - like toiletries, housecleaning stuff, maybe pay a housekeeper to come over 1-2 times a week (at about $7-10 day) and most houses and apartment do NOT have washers and almost none have dryers so you'll either pay to do your laundry at a laundry mat ($2 per load wash, $2 per load dry) or pay a person to do your laundry (again about $7-10 a day).

Taxis charge by distance not time like in the US. You can cross the entire city from one side to the other for $3. Cost from the airport to downtown is $8 (that's 16 miles). Most of the time though, you'll pay about Bs. 7-10 for short routes since you won't be completely crossing the city each time. That's about $1 to $1.30 each ride.

My comment forms only take 3000 characters so I'll continue this in a second.
Hope this helps.
B.

Jan 10, 2010
None
by: Ken

By the way, not trying to sound to boring...I do plan an itinerary with alot of different things to do. But in between these things I will be doing alot of nothing other than hitting a coffee shop ,browsing around etc..

Also...Great site Bella !!




THANKS KEN!!! I appreciate that. I'm continuing from the message above cuz I ran out of space and your second message (this one) came in as I was writing. :-) So continuing:

You'll want to see stuff while you're here. All parks and plazas are free. Almost all museums and art galleries are free. Those that charge, charge about $1 entrance. If you go to a water park you pay about $10 entrance fee. Somewhere high end like Guembé $10 plus meals. Somewhere cool like Samaipata for the weekend - $20 a night. Etc.

If you plan to do any traveling, it's pretty cheap. Buses are like $8 from Santa Cruz up to 5 hours out to places like Samaipata or the Jesuit Missions.

If you plan to buy any clothes, bring stuff from the US if you're big or tall and shoes. Over size 9 men's and you can hardly find any here. Imported clothing is twice expensive as the same brand in the US. The flip side is nearly everyone uses tailors, who are very cheap. You buy the fabric, they charge about $30 to custom tailor you a suit.

Electricity - about $20-80 a month (depends, I'm on the computer building this site for you very frequently so I run the air conditioner a lot. My bill is on the high end.

Natural gas (for cooking) I pay $1.20 per month and I have a bakery so my oven is on all the time!

Water - about $10 a month

If you live in an apartment you should be aware that ALL apartments in Santa Cruz are actually what we call condos in the US. Every single one will have a monthly maintenance fee (public area lighting, guard's salaries, gardening, etc.) Apartments are not managed by management companies like in the US. Every one has a private owner. So add between $50 and $80 to your rent calculation every month.

OK coffee shops about $5-10 per visit (a coffee and muffin or cake) if you go to the upper class ones like on Monseñor Rivero, but the same costs about $3 at a normal coffee house downtown.

Browsing around - that's free anywhere if you walk ;-)

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