How Much Does it Cost to Live in Bolivia? Every Detail

You are currently viewing How Much Does it Cost to Live in Bolivia? Every Detail
The cost of living in Bolivia a complete breakdown
Reading Time: 17 minutes

Certainly living in Bolivia is significantly cheaper than in first world countries. For example, here you can have anything to live in a frugalistic way, but without sacrificing your health or even your entertainment, for just about $500 per person. On the other hand, if you want to live like a Rich Bolivian, which is comparable to a middle-upper class citizen of a first tier country, you’ll need to spend around $4,000 per month.

The cost of living in Bolivia for lower to middle class Bolivians is ~$500/month. For middle-upper class Bolivians, it’s $1,500/month. For rich Bolivians, it’s $3,000-$5,000/month. Spending $1,500 a month in Bolivia, like an upper-middle class Bolivian, you’ll feel as if you were in a 1st tier country.

Here, we’re going to walk you through all the numbers involved in the cost of living in Bolivia. We’ll compare Bolivian citizens with people from overseas, according to their incomes and to what they are accustomed to. We are experts in real estate and business in Bolivia and also people that have lived all their lives in the country. That said, let’s get all the details.

The general cost of living in Bolivia

Here you can see the cost of living in Bolivia according to the 5 social classes that experts normally use when evaluating the cost of living in an area or country, these levels are:

  1. Lower-class bolivians. This social class has such a low standard of living that it can’t really be compared to any social class in the first world (~$250/month per person).
  2. Lower-middle class Bolivians. This social class normally reaches the same standard of living as a lower class citizen in the first world ($427/month per person).. 
  3. Middle-class bolivians. This social class can be compared to the standard of living that a lower-middle class citizen reaches in first tier countries (~$700/month per person)..
  4. Upper-middle class bolivians. This social class is comparable in the standard of living to a middle-class citizen from a developed country ($1,490/month per person).
  5. Rich Bolivians. This social class is comparable to the standard of living an upper-middle class citizen of a developed country can reach ($5,640/month per person).
Cost of living in Bolivia according to income status
Cost of living in Bolivia, according to income status.

Next, we are going to deeply review the cost of living details in Bolivia for just 3 income levels (lower-middle class, upper-middle class and rich Bolivians), because they are closer to what you can find in the first world when comparing the cost of living between Bolivia and first tier countries.

Bolivian social class1st world country social classCost of living, 1 Bolivian ppl.% of the Bolivian populationStandard of living reached
Lower-class BolivianAlmost non-existent~$250/month35%Extreme poverty in the 1st world
Lower-middle class BolivianLower-class citizen$427/month30%Only most basic needs covered
Middle-class BolivianLower-middle class citizen~$700/month25%Enough to live somewhat decently
Upper-middle class BolivianMiddle-class citizen$1,490/month9%Enough to live comfortably
Rich BolivianUpper-middle class citizen$5,640/month<1%Enough to live with luxury
(Ultra rich Bolivian) almost non-existentRich citizen>$20,000/month<0.01%Very few Bolivians reach this class
Standard of living reached by different costs of living, comparison between Bolivians and 1st world citizens.

For example, a lower-class Bolivian has such a low monthly cost of living and standard of living that he can’t really be compared to any social class in the first world ($250/month). Also, a middle-class Bolivian ($700/month), can be considered more like a lower-middle class citizen from the first world, because of the standard of living he has on a daily basis. 

1) Cost of living in Bolivia for lower-middle class citizens

The minimum wage in Bolivia is around $330 per month. The government says that this is the least amount of money you need to decently survive in Bolivia, but many people here feel that this amount is not enough. We’ll break down the cost of living for an average Bolivian citizen in the next sections.

Type of cost (lower-middle class Bolivian)Monthly spending
Food and beverages$70
Housing and lodging$150
Apparel & clothes$22
Transportation$50
Medical care & health$30
Entertainment & recreation$30
Education & communication$25
Other goods & services$50
Total expenses$427
Cost of living for a lower-middle class Bolivian, who reaches a similar standard of living of a lower-class foreigner.

A) Food and beverages

People in Bolivia with low to average incomes ($400 to $600 per month) normally make their own foods and they usually don’t go to expensive restaurants. They almost always buy all their groceries in open grocery markets or from wholesale sellers inside their trucks that arrive from rural areas. By this way, you can find an apple as low as $0.10, a banana as low as $0.05. A good enough, but cheap, restaurant normally charges $3 for a full healthy meal with everything included.

To get all the food and beverages that an average income Bolivian needs for a month to stay healthy, strong and comfortable he’s going to spend around $70/month.

B) Housing and lodging

Common people in Bolivia normally spend between $100 to $300 per month in housing fees, with this money they get normally a functional space that can have between 1 to 3 bedrooms. Most of the time these homes or habitable spaces are far from the quality that you may expect in the first tier countries, but they have at least all the basic services and enough stuff to feel decently comfortable.

To get a 1-bedroom apartment with all the basic services and functionality to feel comfortable in a common neighborhood, a Bolivian needs around $150/month.

C) Apparel and clothes

Common people in Bolivia tend to buy cheap, unbranded clothes, usually they are just imitations of well-known brands, or Bolivian made clothes. You can find a new jacket here for around $10, and despite this jacket being unbranded, it does have all the quality that you may find in branded clothes. You can find high quality shoes for $30, well made pants for $10. One change of decent, unbranded clothing will cost between $50 to $100.

To get 7 changes of good quality but unbranded clothing that will last for 2 years, a common Bolivian will spend $525, or around $22/month.

D) Transportation

Common people from Bolivia usually don’t use taxis or Uber to transport themselves, they normally use public transportation (a bus or minibus) to go from one to another place inside a city. When they travel between cities or regions, they almost never use airplanes and usually go by land. A minibus can charge $0.30 per trip, a bus $0.20. An intercity one-way trip can cost around $7. People tend to do between 2 or 3 full trips inside a city per day. Lower to middle class Bolivian people almost never own a car.

To go anywhere across the city and make a bunch of trips to other cities, a common lower to middle class Bolivian normally will spend around $50/month.

E) Medical care and health

People with average incomes in Bolivia don’t really visit the doctor that much, they are significantly hesitant to take medical tests or to monitorize their health. They really don’t spend too much on this, also there are some government health securities that are free for most Bolivians. But when the tragedy comes, they can spend several thousands of dollars in order to receive treatment. For a routinary consult, a common doctor will charge ~$20.

To get 2 routinary consults per year and save for other possible minor illnesses, a common Bolivian will spend $350 per year or around $30/month. When a tragedy comes, for example, going to the intensive care unit, it can cost $500/day. A visit to the dentist or oculist will cost $20. A complete health check in a private hospital can cost around $300.

F) Entertainment and Recreation

Normal people in Bolivia tend to get very cheap entertainment, like going outside the city to camping on the weekends, going to the movies, going to squares or playgrounds with their families, having family meetings or just walking around across the small cities existent here. On a normal, entertaining weekend day, they may spend just a few dollars without buying anything expensive, and without getting extravagant experiences.

To go outside to camping, to the cinema, to the park, come back at the end of the day and maybe walk around the streets for a while, which is a very common routine among common Bolivians, they’re going to spend $15/weekend or around $30/month (it’s normal to do it every 2 weekends).

G) Education and Communication

Average income people of Bolivia usually don’t spend anything on education. Normally the government pays the initial, intermediate and college education of lower and middle class people. But some people from the middle class will spend some money in private schools and colleges. A decent private high school will charge $50-$100 per month. Almost all middle class and poor people will study in Bolivian public colleges.

To get all the books and utilities that they need to study, both in high school and in college, common people in Bolivia will spend $300/year or around 25/month. Most of them will attend public schools and colleges, spending $0 per month in tuition.

H) Other goods and services

Normally, lower and middle class people in Bolivia tend to keep the same furniture for decades until it’s almost useless, the same occurs with bathroom, kitchen, living room accessories and other household stuff. They may spend $5,000 on replacing all of these things inside a house every decade. Also, basic services’ bills will be around $10/month for 1 common person.

To save for all the household stuff that needs to be replaced once every few years, and also to pay the monthly basic service bills, a common person in Bolivia will spend around $50/month.

Total monthly cost:

A common person in Bolivia (lower to middle class, or on average, lower-middle class) will spend $427 each month to cover his cost of living. Notice that this number is slightly above the minimum wage in Bolivia, which is $310 at this moment (2022).

2) Cost of living in Bolivia for upper-middle class Bolivians

Now we are going to see the details of the cost of living for an upper-middle class Bolivian ($1,490/month), who normally reaches the same standard of living of a middle-class citizen from a first world country.

We won’t see in detail the cost of living for a middle-class Bolivian (~$700/month), because it’s closely mixed with the behaviors and standard of living of a lower-middle class Bolivian, described in the last section.

Type of cost (upper-middle class Bolivian)Monthly spending
Food and beverages$150
Housing and lodging$250
Apparel & clothes$50
Transportation$150
Medical care & health$100
Entertainment & recreation$350
Education & communication$290
Other goods & services$150
Total expenses$1,490
Cost of living of an upper-middle class Bolivian, who reaches a similar standard of living of a middle-class foreigner.

A) Food and beverages

People with relatively high incomes in Bolivia (>$1,200 per month) have other behaviors when it comes to buying groceries and food. They normally go to supermarket chains available across all the cities. In these places, the food price is significantly higher than in open grocery markets. People with high incomes usually also buy industrially made and branded food, including bread, juices, cereals, meat, etcetera.

To buy all the groceries, beverages and food that he needs in a month, a high income Bolivian (upper-middle class) is going to spend around $150/month.

B) Housing and lodging

High income Bolivians tend to live in the central neighborhoods of cities or inside apartments of buildings and high-rises, they also tend to settle in certain residential zones and are not spreaded everywhere. They usually live in modern high-quality homes or apartments, and are willing to spend several hundreds of dollars for a rental.

To get a 1-bedroom apartment that meets his needs, being a high quality place to live with all the security, functionality and premium location needed, an upper-middle class Bolivian will spend around $250/month. A mortgage will be almost the same in monthly costs as a fee of being a tenant.

C) Apparel and clothes

People of this class tend to combine branded clothes (~$40 for each pant or jacket, ~$60 for shoes) with unbranded clothes, all of them having high quality. They also tend to buy some of these clothes in clothing stores and not in open or clothing markets. Unlike poor and common people, they have more variety on their clothing changes, with many of these for special occasions, like meetings, working, exercising, etcetera. One clothing change will cost them around ~$100.

To get around 12 clothing changes that range for different situations and will last for 2 years, a high income Bolivian will spend $1,200 or around $50/month.

D) Transportation

High income people in Bolivia tend to mix taxis with buses and their own cars. The majority of them own a car for their family, usually this is a family car and there’s not one car for everyone. Also, these people normally buy cars that are in the range from $10,000 to $25,000, usually with bank loans. They also travel more often to other places, and by air (~$200/round-trip). A taxi in Bolivia charges around $3 per trip. Fuel in Bolivia costs around $2 per gallon.

Taking into account the car loan, taxi, bus, plane, costs and the frequency of tripping, an upper-middle class Bolivian, to travel everywhere across the city and make some trips to other regions, will spend around $150/month.

E) Medical care and health

In relation to health expenses, people with high incomes in Bolivia tend to get more health insurance, and most of the time, they choose private hospitals and doctors. They also go more often to take routinary health tests. A basic health insurance can cost around $500 per year and a full health insurance can go up to 1,500 per year. Good private general doctors normally charge $30 a consult, dentist and oculists charge almost the same per session.

To get 4 routinary consults per year, also to save for minor illnesses and pay an average health insurance, a high income Bolivian will spend $1,200 per year or around $100 per month. In private hospitals the intensive unit care can cost $500/day, and a complete health check can cost around $300.

F) Entertainment and Recreation

These people also get more entertainment on a monthly basis, they travel more often to other regions in the country, and also abroad. They constantly go shopping, go to the movies more often, spend money in expensive restaurants, and also have certain hobbies that can cost significant money, like painting, going to dance classes, going to the gym, etcetera. They also tend to have many parties during the year.

On an entertaining or recreation weekend day, a high income Bolivian will spend around $30. A normal party can cost $3,000 to make and they’ll make 1-2 per year. Gym access, a paint session, dance courses and similar activities are around $30/month each. With all of this a high-income Bolivian will spend around $350/month for entertainment purposes.

G) Education and Communication

Bolivians from the upper-middle class (relatively high incomes) normally don’t go to public high schools or colleges, almost all the time they choose private education. A good private high School can charge $150 per month, and a good college $300 per month. They also tend to take additional classes for learning special skills, each of these classes can cost close to $40 per month.

To pay his college tuition and additional courses during the year, a Bolivian adult person with high income will spend $3,500 per year, or around $290 per month.

H) Other goods and services

High income Bolivian people normally will spend much more on high quality furniture and other stuff that is part of a house, they also tend to have way bigger houses or apartments. They’ll spend around $15,000 to replace all the furniture and stuff inside the house every decade. They’ll also consume more basic services and may spend around $25 per person each month to cover them.

To get all the basic services covered and replace all his furniture and in-house stuff every decade, an upper-middle class Bolivian will spend around $150/month.

Total monthly cost:

A relatively high income Bolivian citizen (upper-middle class) will spend $1,490 each month to cover all his costs of living. Notice that here in Bolivia we consider that a person belongs to the upper-middle class when he or she earns more than $1,200 per month.,

3) Cost of living in Bolivia for rich Bolivians

Less than 1% of Bolivians reach this cost of living level, they have all the necessary income to get a standard of living with a lot of luxury and comfort, even living in Bolivia, which can be compared to how an upper-middle class citizen lives in the first world.

But rich Bolivians can’t be compared with rich people from first tier countries, as we just said, they are only comparable with people with relatively high incomes in the first world. Instead, ultra rich Bolivians, which get an income above $20,000 per month, are very rare to find. In fact, in all over the country maybe there are just a few thousands of them. So, having a cost of living like an ultra rich Bolivian or a rich foreigner here is actually very rare to see.

Type of cost (rich Bolivian)Monthly spending
Food and beverages$750
Housing and lodging$500
Apparel & clothes$300
Transportation$600
Medical care & health$210
Entertainment & recreation$2,300
Education & communication$580
Other goods & services$400
Total expenses$5,640
Without entertainment$3,340
Cost of living of a rich Bolivian, who reaches a similar standard of living of an upper-middle class foreigner.

A) Food and beverages

Rich Bolivian people (>$3,500 per month) almost never do make their own food, they usually have housewives, and only buy in large, well known supermarkets. They also spend a lot in expensive and exclusive restaurants. A housewife can charge $400 per month for a full-time job. Monthly groceries for one rich person will cost $100. Specialized restaurants can vary from $15 to $35 in most cases. High quality restaurants for weekdays can be around $7 per meal.

To get well served by a housewife, go once or twice a week to an exclusive & specialized restaurant, buy the needed groceries and sometimes go to a normal restaurant, a rich Bolivian will spend around $750/month.

B) Housing and lodging

Rich people in Bolivia tend to live in the most exclusive neighborhoods of this country, where houses can go from $300,000 to $3 million in most cases. They’ll spend around $2,500 in tenant fees, and for a $500,000 house, the mortgage is going to be around $3,500 per month. If you divide these costs by a 5-member family, each member will spend around $500 in housing costs. A 1-bedroom exclusive apartment is going to have tenant costs of $400 every month.

To cover all his householding costs, whether it’s a house or apartment, a rich Bolivian will spend around $500/month. Mortgage for a $80,000 exclusive 1-bedroom apartment, will be ~$400, with a downpayment of 20%.

C) Apparel and clothes

Rich Bolivian people normally only buy clothes that are branded from well-known brands around the world, in specialized boutiques malls and clothing stores, which are widely available in the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country (in which most expats also live). They also tend to buy a lot online and even to buy clothes from other countries, having also a wide repertoire for different occasions. A premium clothing change from well-known brands in Bolivia can cost about $300, with everything included.

To get 12 clothing changes that are meant for different situations, including work, meetings sports, etcetera, and will last 1 year in most cases, a rich Bolivian will spend $3,600 per year or around $300/month.

D) Transportation

All rich bolivians normally have their own car, one for each person, these cars normally are in the $30,000 to $60,000 price range. If they don’t use their own car, they usually take a taxi. It’s not common to see a rich Bolivian using public transportation, the bus or minibus. They replace their cars every 5 years on average, getting nearly 60% of the initial price in the sale of the old car. They also mostly travel only by air to other cities, and many times a year, from 5 to 10 times. 

To get all his transportation costs covered, including car depreciation and car mortgage, gas, taxi costs and trip flying costs, a rich Bolivian will spend around $600/month.

E) Medical care and health

Bolivians with a lot of income and wealth normally take health seriously and most of the time they get full health insurances that can be around $2,000 per year. They also go only to the best doctors located in the most exclusive neighborhoods. These doctors, dentists and oculists can charge $50 per rotinary consult. They also go only to the best private hospitals available in Bolivia. When tragedy comes, they can spend thousands of dollars on the healing process (from $15,000 to to $150,000 for the worst diseases, but normally their private health insurance covers many of these costs).

To get 5 routinary consults per year, save for minor illnesses and pay for the best health insurances available, a high income Bolivian will spend $2,500 per year or around $210 per month.

F) Entertainment and Recreation

Rich people in Bolivia tend to have many of the same recreational activities as high income people in the country, this is because in Bolivia there are not very expensive entertainment activities to do. What they do instead is to travel a lot to other countries (around $3,000 per trip), and also travel to touristic places inside Bolivia ($500 per trip). On a normal recreation day, they’ll spend heavily ($40 per day), and also they’ll have very expensive parties a few times a year ($5,000 to $10,000 per party).

To get around 50 entertainment days per year, 3 trips abroad and 2 trips inside the country, and make 2 parties a year, a rich Bolivian will spend $28,000 per year or around 2,300/month. Note that this cost can vary a lot depending on how many parties and trips they may do during the year.

G) Education and Communication

Rich people in Bolivia only go to the best and most exclusive schools available in the country. The most expensive high schools in Bolivia can cost around $500 per month, the best colleges can cost nearly $700 a month. Some elementary and high schools are even designed for rich people and from overseas, where the primary language is English and many children of people from embassies and developed countries normally study there. 

It’s not the same for colleges, in Bolivia there’re not high quality colleges available that can be comparable to the ones in first world countries, even for rich Bolivians, so in many cases, they can afford to study abroad.

To pay his college tuition and additional courses during the year, a rich Bolivian adult person will spend $7,000 per year, or around $580 per month.

H) Other goods and services

Rich people in Bolivia normally buy expensive and luxury stuff for their homes, the best designs, the best materials are many times within these houses. Also all the basic services needed are present, including very fast internet, all sorts of paid services, Netflix, Disney Plus, cable TV, Satellite TV, the best surrounding sounds, water pools, grass maintenance, etcetera. To replace their furniture and in-house stuff every decade they will spend around $40,000, but this estimation can have a wide range.

To get all the different basic services covered and replace all his furniture and in-house stuff every decade, a rich Bolivian person will spend around $400/month.

Total monthly cost:

A rich person in Bolivia will spend $5,640 each month to cover his cost of living. Notice that without entertainment and recreational activities this cost goes down to $3,340, and that in Bolivia we consider a person rich when he or she earns more than $3,500 per month.

Comparing the 3 different costs of living just described

Below you can see a summary table where there is a comparison between these 3 main types of cost of living: 

  1. Common Bolivian people (lower-middle class Bolivians, who may be compared to a lower-class foreigner from a 1st world country, or a tourist on a budget).
  2. High income Bolivian people (upper-middle class Bolivians, who may be compared with an average or middle-class foreigner from a 1st world country, or a common tourist).
  3. Rich Bolivian people (which can be compared with an upper-middle class foreigner from a 1st world country, or a non-limited money tourist).
Type of costLower-middle class Bolivian / Lower-class foreigner / Tourist on a budget Upper-middle class Bolivian / Middle-class foreigner / Common touristRich Bolivian / Middle-upper class foreigner / Wealthy tourist
Food and beverages$70$150$750
Housing and lodging$150$250$500
Apparel & clothes$22$50$300
Transportation$50$150$600
Medical care & health$30$100$210
Entertainment & recreation$30$350$2,300
Education & communication$25$290$580
Other goods & services$50$150$400
Total expenses$427$1,490$5,640
Without entertainment$397$1,140$3,340
Comparing the cost of living in Bolivia according to 3 levels of income.

Calculator to forecast your cost of living in Bolivia

How to save money when you are living in Bolivia?

Next, we’ll show some ways you can use to save money when coming to live in Bolivia, whether you are an expat or a tourist:

  1. Rent wisely. Don’t rent overpriced and luxury houses or apartments. With a $500 2-bedroom apartment you can feel that you are living in the first world. There are very decent apartments for that monthly cost in Bolivia, located in the best zones and neighborhoods. Airbnb also has several thousands of rentals available in the country, many of them in the $20 to $30 price range for night.
  2. Know where to eat. High quality and very clean restaurants are available across exclusive neighborhoods and the center of the cities in Bolivia. In these places you can get a full meal for just $7, a breakfast can be $4 there, and a dinner around $5. You can use the “PedidosYa” delivery company to get the best food for you in Bolivia right at your door. Also, if you make your own food, you will need roughly $100 each month to cover all the costs per person if you buy groceries in supermarkets.
  3. Get a car wisely. You can rent a decent vehicle in Bolivia for just $300 a month (see EuropCar company, which currently operates in Bolivia), and the price of gas per gallon is very low at $2 per gallon. Taxis shouldn’t charge you more than $7 per trip in any case, and in most cases around $3 per trip.
  4. Don’t be fooled with touristic options. Just after noticing that you come from a first world country many people here will try to sell you way overpriced touristic services. they will try to get as much money as they can from you. You should pay almost the same as a Bolivian tourist normally pays, which is around $200 to $1,000 per trip to a tourist area inside Bolivia for around 1 week.
  5. Avoid being scammed by unethical people. Many people in Bolivia think that as you are a foreigner coming from the first world, you have a lot of money, so they’ll try to overprice everything that you want to buy. You should buy anything almost at the same price as a Bolivian citizen. Do your research and get many offers before choosing the right one.

Conclusions:

In this guide about the cost of living in Bolivia, you’ve learned that it can be divided into 3 main spending categories: 1) low to middle class Bolivians comparable to low-class 1st world foreigners, 2) upper-middle class Bolivians comparable to middle-class foreigners and 3) rich Bolivians, comparable to upper-middle class foreigners. You’ve seen that with around $1,500/month you can have a quite comfortable life in our country and feel as if you were in a common neighborhood of a first developed country.

Also you learned that you can actually live very well, without any serious threat to your life security or health, with around $500 per month here, but if you want to live with the same standard of living as in your source developed country, you’ll need to spend at least $1,500 per month. Furthermore, if you want to get the best possible homes that exist here, the best education, entertainment and also travel a lot abroad, you’ll need to spend from $3,000 to $5,000 a month per person in Bolivia and live like a rich Bolivian.

Finally, you have seen that there are some actions you can implement in order to save as much as possible when you are living in Bolivia, like renting, eating and traveling wisely, avoiding being deceived or scammed by unethical people and vendors who want to take advantage of you for the only reason that you are a foreigner from the first world.

We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know every detail and number about how the Bolivian cost of living is comparable to the US cost of living, visit our dedicated guide on this topic: The cost of living in Bolivia vs USA, all you need to know.

BolivianExperts.com, information about how to live, work, invest and travel in Bolivia.

Leave a Reply