Why Bolivia?

by Wade K.
(Tennessee, USA)

I'm really having a difficult time deciding on a retirement location. I see merits in several Bolivian cities, Sucre, Cochabamba, Tarija as well as Arequipa, Peru and Cuenca, Ecuador. I'd love to hear opinions as to why Bolivia is a better choice and especially why one of those cities is better overall. I'm leaning towards one of the Bolivian cities, won't say which, but I'm thrown a bit by the red tape to move there. So much so I'm thinking of spending time between Bolivia and Arequipa as I can get half a year there. Then spend the remainder of year visiting family. For the sake of affordability though I'd prefer to spend most of the year in one place, and the holidays in the States. Advice appreciated!

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Mar 04, 2013
True Geddy
by: Wade K.

Spot on correct. The difference between Ecuador and the Central American countries is that Ecuador is considerably larger. It will take many more expats before they have the impact they have had in Costa Rica and Panama. C.R. and Panama also have a much better infrastructure and thus attracted a more well heeled expat. And they are closer to the States and Europe. I think it's fair to say most expats finding their way to Ecuador are more middle class living on pensions and Social Security. They make a difference, but aren't, outside of a few spots, pumping housing up to hundreds of thousands of Dollars. Costa Rica especially is a trendy jet setter location. When a population of 3.5 million absorbs 300,000+ relatively wealthy newcomers it's inevitable that locals get squeezed out and crime rises. So far it looks like Ecuador is handling it much better.

Mar 04, 2013
Expat Residency
by: Geddy

Yes, Bolivia would be wise to encourage permanent residency for qualified expats. Particularly, Bolivia could benefit SO much from establishing a Pensionado Visa program and streamlining the procedures for obtaining the visa. Many countries in Latn America have done so effectively, notably Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica. They could start off by allowing duty free importation of household goods and a car. In exchange, Bolivia gets all the money spent by pensionados to stimulate the economy, and sales taxes paid, at very little expense to the Bolivian government. It truly is a win-win, if only someone in a high position in the government would just realize there is such an opportunity. Right now, Ecuador is the darling country of the expat retiree community. Costa Rica, and then Panama were the favorite countries, but both reached a saturation point where prices and crime started rising dramatically. The same will happen to Ecuador eventually. It is a predictable cycle. When that happens, Expats will start looking for new countries to settle in. Bolivia could be the next country, if the government took appropriate actions. Leading edge Expats have already found Bolivia, but it will be awhile before mainstream Expats would consider Bolivia as a potential retirement location. Both Sucre and Cochabamba have good potential because of the favorable climate there. Samaipata already has a number of Expat residents because of the climate, natural beauty, and low cost of living. No doubt there are many other locations in Bolivia that would be potentially appealing to Expat Retirees.

Mar 04, 2013
Ecuador is preferrable
by: Wade K.

While I would prefer Bolivia, Ecuador is making it very easy to live there and obtain permanent residency. Found a beautiful town on a mountaintop there called Zaruma. Reminds me of Coroico only the town itself is nicer looking. So until Bolivia stops punishing Americans and makes it much easier to live there, Ecuador is it for me.

Mar 02, 2013
live in bolivia
by: Paul

Expect the paperwork to be hard work, health care would concern me and generally customer service is very poor.

Jan 18, 2013
Water Quality in Bolivia
by: LorriAnne

I just want to give my own opinion based on my own experiences in Bolivia. My son and I were there a few years ago, and we never drank bottled water. We were never ill from drinking from the local water supply, in different cities. Perhaps we were lucky, but I would do so again. This included major cities such as Santa Cruz, and little towns, like Ixiamas, and also rural areas, where we drank water from the stream. I'm not saying every water source is good, but please don't be worried about the water quality to the point you rule out Bolivia.

Dec 26, 2012
by: Wade K.

Thanks for the info. Grew up in Florida and have worked in a number of hot and humid places. Pretty sure I'll only visit Santa Cruz! Have also lived and worked in several places on the Mexican border. My Spanglish is better than my Spanish, but working on it. Interesting about the pollution in Cochabamba and the cost of Arequipa. I think Sucre is where I'm headed, but each city has it's pluses. I've only been to Mexico but have always been fascinated by the Andes. I've looked at Central America from every angle and it's either too expensive, or too hot, or too risky safety wise. I know Peru can be a bit dicey but some places seem worth it like Arequipa. But overall, even though I've never been there, Bolivia seems to be what I want. Weather, scenery, costs, safety, just seems right. I'm hoping the Internet will continue to improve there, and hopefully one of these days Spirit Airlines or another discounter will fly directly from the States, or at least connect to there from Lima.

Dec 26, 2012
Retirement Options
by: Geddy

Wade, I have similar retirement interests as you. I have visited all the cities you have mentioned. My wife is Boliviana, so we are certainly considering retiring there.
Have you visited the cities you are interested in? I recommend you narrow your choices down to 2 or 3 cities, then spend at least a month in each place before deciding. There are so many variables to consider. Spanish Language skill is a big one. Do you speak Spanish? There is not a large English speaking community in Bolivia like there is in Cuenca, Panama or Costa Rica. What are your weather preferences? Santa Cruz is HOT and humid most of the year. Cuenca is pretty cool and rainy most of the year. Real estate is expensive in Santa Cruz, but is pretty cheap in Ecuador. There are small towns in Bolivia where real estate is very reasonably priced. Petty crime is a problem in Santa Cruz, as in most large cities in Latin America. Santa Cruz is not the cleanest city I have been to, especially in the outer rings. Plastic bags everywhere, millions of them. Of your cities, Cuenca is by far the cleanest. You can drink the water there right out of the tap. You can't do that anywhere in Bolivia, to my knowledge.
But, all that being said, Bolivia is a beautiful country with a rich culture. People are very friendly. Bolivia is much less developed than other countries, but that may be an attraction for some.
So, I recommend you spend a considerable time in each place so you will know what your preferences are, and what your tolerance level is for the downsides of life in a VERY third world country.

Dec 26, 2012
by: Somnath Naha

Bolivia is actually a good choice for a retirement life provided that you have a good health insurance (preferably an international one; Bisa Seguro is not bad as far as local health insurance is concerned). One can enjoy a less expensive living style in Bolivia with the same quality of life in any first world countries – you can surely live a great life with your off shore pensions. I would say Sucre, Tarija and Cochabamba all are good options; although recent studies indicate that Cochabamba is on the top of the list for pollution in Bolivia. Santa Cruz, too is a good option..a little bit more expensive than the rest of the country but the city offers you all benefits as any international cities do. Yes, getting paperwork done in Bolivia is a pain indeed…and now one needs to be very careful before doing any investment (business) in Bolivia – all cases of blackmailing is on the air!! Please keep it in mind – in Bolivia rules changes very frequently. on the other hand Arequipa has definitely much better lifestyle than anywhere in Bolivia and 2 time more expensive than Bolivia.

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