Living in Bolivia can be very different according to the city or area you choose to move in. Depending on your goals and what you want to achieve in our country, for example if you want economical growth, retirement, vacations, the good weather, tourism, etcetera, you’ll find that some cities are better to live in than others. But in general, principal cities here are the best places to choose.
For most expats, Santa Cruz De La Sierra is the best city to live in Bolivia, as it has the best economical and most capitalist environment. It also has a huge market of 1.7 million people growing at 2% per year, a GDP of 6.5%, and by far it’s already the 1st choice for expats coming to the country.
Here, we’re going to give you all the details about which cities are the best to live in Bolivia as an expat, according to different goals you may have when moving to our country, including the pros and cons for each city. Also, we’ll advise you against dangerous diseases you may find in some places when moving there. We’re Bolivians, who have lived all our lives in the country.
An overall of the best cities in Bolivia for foreigners
Overall, the metropolitan area of Bolivia is conformed by 3 main cities:
- Santa Cruz De La Sierra
- La Paz
These cities will generally be the best places for expats moving to Bolivia, as they offer many business and work opportunities, they also have neighborhoods which are quite appealing for people from the first world, as they can handle most needs of them very well, making it possible to have a standard of living expected in a developed country.
By far, the city that is constantly the first election for people from overseas coming to live in Bolivia is Santa Cruz, and not only by expats, but also by Bolivia citizens, who constantly are moving to this city. Both Bolivians and foreigners choose Santa Cruz as the best city to live because:
- It is a big urban metropolitan area, with a population of 1.7 million.
- Businesses and companies are very active here, and there are a lot of jobs available.
- The tropical weather, sometimes too hot, is usually very sunny and humid, like the weather of Florida or Central America (usually 68°F to 95°F)
- People in Santa Cruz are very liberalist, and they really support capitalism, so they encourage industries, businesses, agriculture and the development of free markets.
- This city is the economical heart and engine of Bolivia.
- This city is growing very fast, if you buy real estate properties there, in 7 years they can duplicate their value.
- This city is very unlikely to become socialist. The Cambas (nickname for people from this city) have their own liberal and hard working culture, and they constantly fight against socialist policies and regulations from left side governments.
- The GDP of this city is growing at an insane rate of 6.5% every year.
- Its population has grown 25% over the last decade (~2% per year).
- This city has the economical power in Bolivia, and as we said, it’s a very liberal city.
Santa Cruz offers a lot of opportunities in doing business, a local huge market and warm weather all the year. People there are very cheerful, fun and open-minded.
This city also has a very capitalist mindset and constantly opposes the regulations and laws of left sided governments. These are the reasons why foreigners by far choose Santa Cruz de la Sierra to move in, make businesses and live.
Of course both La Paz and Cochabamba have areas that expats love, where they feel as if they were in a developed country, also both cities have better and cooler climates, but they don’t offer the same economic opportunities as Santa Cruz De La Sierra.
Caution: Chagas disease
When living in Santa Cruz remember to always use a “musketeer” to cover your bed and avoid dangerous arachnids and bugs, like the Chagas disease, which is also endemic in this city. This precaution is a must in Santa Cruz and all the people living there use it.
Bolivia is the place where more people have Chagas disease in the whole world, the prevalence in the population is around 20%. This means that of 10 million people, nearly 2 million have Chagas disease here, take all the necessary precautions against this terrible and deadly disease before coming to Bolivia. You can read this article for more information: Link. Also, how to take the proper precautions: (Translated: Link).
Best cities to live in Bolivia according to your needs
Next, we are going to rank the best cities to live that can be suitable for your needs, depending on which are your main goals when moving to Bolivia:
- You want great weather, peace and rest.
- You want the best environment for job and business opportunities.
- You want to live around other foreigners.
- You want to save as much money in living costs in Bolivia.
- You want to avoid endemic illnesses and bugs as much as possible.
|Goals when moving to Bolivia||Best cities to live in Bolivia||Principal advantages|
|Great wheater, peace and rest||Cochabamba, Sucre||Temperated climate, quiet and wonderful|
|Best job and business environment||Santa Cruz, sometimes La Paz||Liberal culture, welcoming to foreigner investment|
|Living near other expats||Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba||Largest first world expat communities|
|Save money in costs of living||Major cities, not small ones and towns||Largest cities have the cheapest living costs|
|Avoid endemic illnesses and bugs||La Paz and Oruro||High elevation means no bugs and illnesses|
1) If you are searching for great weather, peace and rest
If you just want a peaceful place to rest, wonderful landscapes, and the best possible weather (59°F to 77°F), but also everything that you may need near where you’re living, like healthcare services, restaurants, grocery stores, basic entertainment and so on, the best cities for you are:
This is a large city from Bolivia, where you can find great weather, almost the same as in Sucre. Places outside the downtown of this city are generally peaceful, where streets are usually very quiet. A lot of Bolivian retired people move to Cochabamba to spend their last years there. People are also very welcoming and gentle there.
The advantage of Cochabamba over Sucre is that you’ll find a lot more foreigners living in this city, also you’ll find very exclusive neighborhoods where rich people live, and also hundreds of expats coming from first world countries. The weather most of the time won’t change, no matter the seasons, with around 77°F in the day and 59°F in the night. Also, you’ll also find decent activities and entertainment to enjoy in this city.
If you are going to move to this city in Bolivia, we recommend you to go to 2 neighborhoods where the majority of expats from first world countries live: Cala Cala and Queru Queru. There, you’ll find houses from $200,000 to $2,000,000, and 2-bedroom apartments from $60,000. But remember to take a lot of care against Chagas disease.
This is the most beautiful and peaceful large city (a population of 300,000) of Bolivia, it’s like a small town, with the nicest weather you can find in the country. Its streets are calm and green because of the abundant trees and public gardens, and people are very welcome, also there’s little crime.
In deed, the whole city is like a huge garden or green paradise, there you’ll feel that as if you were in a giant yoga place, where you are in constant contact with the nature, also you won’t be dealing with dangerous bugs and insects, except for the “Vinchuca”, which is the bug that causes the Chagas disease, be really be careful with!. More information down below.
There isn’t a large community of expats living there, actually it’s rare to find foreigners living in this city. Anyway the city is beautiful, peaceful and comfortable to live in.
Caution: Health danger!
You need to be very careful in these 2 cities, you are at the risk of “Chagas disease“ which is a terrible illness that damages your heart, kills you and doesn’t have a cure. It’s endemic in both cities (in Cochabamba 35% of the population carry this parasite, and up to 54% in Sucre). You should always look for living spaces that are fully plastered, without any cracks, and also take other precautions. Be very cautious!
2) If you want the best place to work and do businesses
As we said at the beginning of this article, Santa Cruz de La Sierra will be your best choice for these activities. This city has a huge population, people that are hardworking and entrepreneurs by culture. They also are very welcome to foreigners and their investments in this city.
This metropolitan area also has one of the biggest industrial parks of South America, many worldwide known chain foods are present there, like Subway and Burger King, also real estate companies have tens of offices there, like ReMax or Century 21. You’ll also find huge malls and the best entertainment options of Bolivia are located in this city.
As we told you just before, there is a huge immigration from all over Bolivia to Santa Cruz. People from everywhere move to this city to do business, find job opportunities and to increase their wealth. Bolivians know that to have economic prosperity, the best place to go is Santa Cruz, and you should also be awared of this.
Nevertheless, Santa Cruz is not the only city that has a big financial and economical ecosystem involving good opportunities, La Paz also is pretty significant here, but to a far much lesser extent than Santa Cruz. For some expats, La Paz could also be a good option to move pursuing economic goals.
3) If you want to live near to other foreigners
The 3 main cities of Bolivia have large communities of foreigners living in some neighborhoods. As you may expect these cities are:
- Santa Cruz de La Sierra, which is in first place by far. This city has the largest foreigner population in the country. People coming from developed countries normally reside in very exclusive neighborhoods like Equipetrol, Las Palmas, Urubo, or the downtown of the city. Asian People also have an important presence across all over the city.
- La Paz is in second place. You’ll find some important communities of expats from first tier countries living in upper class neighborhoods like Calatoto, San Miguel, or Sopocachi. In each of these neighborhoods you will find a few thousands of expats from first tier countries living in. Currently, there are very few Asian people living in La Paz.
- Cochabamba is in the third place, certainly there are several hundreds of expats from first tier countries living in the best neighborhoods of Cochabamba, these neighborhoods are Cala Cala and Queru Queru, where you’ll encounter a standard of living nearly as if you were in a small city’s downtown of the United States. Expats from Asia are almost not present in this city.
We have a complete guide about where do people from overseas actually live in Bolivia, in the following direction: Where do expats live in Bolivia? All the facts and details.
4) If you want to save as much money as possible
You will encounter a surprise here, and this is that:
In all major Bolivian cities the cost of living is almost the same. Maybe there is a difference of about 10% in cost of living between different major cities, but no more.
A Bolivian citizen needs an average of $500 to cover all his living expenses every month. This number is not going to change in Santa Cruz vs La Paz or vs Cochabamba. Also other cities like Sucre, Tarija, Oruro, will have almost this same average cost of living. This is because Bolivia is a small country with a population of about 12 million people, so there is not much change in the cost of living among different cities.
Instead, where you’ll find it more expensive to live is in the towns of Bolivia. This’s cause it’s more expensive to transport and make available for sale goods and services in these far away places. It’s difficult to reach these towns, sometimes because of Bolivia’s geography and also because of the lack of a good road system. Goods and services in small towns of Bolivia can cost 2x of what they cost in major cities of the country.
5) If you want to avoid bugs, endemic illnesses or you like cold weather
If you want to totally forget about endemic diseases like Chagas disease, malaria, zika, dengue, yellow fever, etcetera in Bolivia, and also, you don’t want to worry about bugs, spiders and snakes near to your place of living or your bedroom, you can choose cities like:
- La Paz
These cities are at a very high elevation (about 12,000 ft above sea level), which makes it very difficult for bugs and endemic diseases to be active in these cities. Even more, these dangers are almost non-existent there. It’s extremely rare to see dangerous bugs or endemic diseases in both cities.
We don’t recommend you to move to Potosí (beyond just a touristic trip), as it’s a very small city where you’re not going to find a good standard of living if you permanently live there. Instead of this, in La Paz and much less in Oruro, you’ll find a lot more economical, commercial, business, educational and medical activity.
In this guide about which are the best places to live according to different purposes, you have seen that, in general, Santa Cruz De La Sierra is the first choice to move in for people coming from all over the world, and because of good reasons. This city has the largest population, a robust economical and capitalist system, it’s growing at a fast rate and offers a lot of business opportunities to everyone.
Also, you’ve learned that there may be other places better for you when you’ve goals like resting, good weather and vacations (Sucre and Cochabamba). If you want income and economic growth (Santa Cruz, sometimes La Paz), if you want to live near other expats (Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba), or if you want to avoid bugs and endemic diseases (La Paz and Oruro).
Finally, we have alerted you about Chagas disease, which is a major health issue in Bolivia, which in some places affects almost 50% of the population. You must be very careful with this disease when moving (or coming for tourism) to Bolivia, because it’s very deadly and in the best case, it’ll make you disabled and chronic sick, and in the worst case, it will kill you.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you really want to know where expats from all over the world live in Bolivia, with all the details about the places where they settle in, visit our dedicated guide: Where do expats live in Bolivia? All you need to know.
BolivianExperts.com, information about how to live, work, invest and travel in Bolivia.