Bolivia is a country yet in development, this means that people are still very used to using cash in everyday transactions when they are purchasing goods and services. Many stores, even the ones in high-income neighborhoods, usually use only cash to get payments from customers. There is also significant use of credit and debit cards, and PayPal cards are fully supported in the country.
The most important payment options available in Bolivia for tourists are just plain cash, a debit or credit card from Visa or MasterCard, or a Paypal or Payoneer card. For residents are: a Bolivian bank account, Soli from BCP Bank, and Tigo Money. More than 95% of transactions in Bolivia are done in cash.
In this note about the most important payment methods and options you have in Bolivia, when either you are a tourist or a resident, we will be talking about all these solutions, their restrictions, and how to use them. We’ll also give you tips about the best payment options to choose from in our country.
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The several payment options that you have in Bolivia
Many payment options and methods that work worldwide also work in Bolivia, but many others are not fully available here. You have options like your Visa/MasterCard debit or credit card, Payoneer, Soli from BCP bank, Tigo Money, etcetera.
But in general, in Bolivia, you’ll have to use a lot of cash. We Bolivians are still very accustomed to using cash instead of other virtual or instant payment methods. We estimate that more than 95% of the transactions that are being currently done in the country are done with cash.
But it also depends on the type of residence you have in Bolivia, because tourists have fewer options to choose from.
It also depends on the permanency status you have
The options that you have for using different payment methods available in Bolivia also depend a lot on the permanency status you have in the country, which can be:
- Being only a tourist.
- Being a temporal or permanent resident
- Being a business operating in Bolivia.
Depending on this, you will be allowed to use different payment options and methods, as we show next.
1) When you are only a tourist
When you are only a tourist, this means that you don’t have an identification card in the country, issued by the government (called foreigner ID). Without this document, you can’t open a bank account in Bolivia. Also, you can’t use the more advanced payment options that Bolivians use in the country.
So in this situation, being just a tourist, you only have the following options.
- Just cash (still very common in Bolivia)
- Your normal credit or debit card
- PayPal cards
- Payoneer prepaid card
Just cash (still very common in Bolivia)
In Bolivia, it’s still very very common to use just plain cash, and the use nowadays in 2022 of other payment methods, like credit or debit cards, QR code payments, online payments, etcetera, is not common. So, whenever you are in Bolivia, you should have some cash in your wallet to make most of the transactions possible within the country.
Also, remember to use “Bolivianos” currency and not US dollars, because most people won’t accept them, and also you can become the target of many robbers and scammers if they see that you are using USD.
Whenever you are in Bolivia, given a normal day, you should have between 200 Bs. to 350 Bs. ($30 to $50) in cash in your pocket, for buying normal things throughout the day.
You will see that in Bolivia, even in malls and luxury stores, the most common payment method that people and foreigners use is indeed just cash (more than 95% of the transactions), people here are still not used to paying or receiving money with other methods.
Your normal credit or debit card
What is also commonly available for making payments in Bolivia is the use of debit and credit cards, many stores and supermarkets are available in Bolivia (but not all of them), among other important commercial centers and malls, also in all airports and some bus stations, currently accept credit and debit cards.
What you need to know also is that credit and debit cards from Visa and MasterCard, are widely accepted in some luxury stores inside residential neighborhoods, in some eCommerce Bolivian websites, and also almost any ATM available. But American Express and Maestro cards are not well supported within the country.
So, whenever you come to Bolivia be sure to bring with you a credit or debit card that is backed by either Visa or MasterCard.
PayPal debit and credit cards
You can also fully use your PayPal credit or debit card within Bolivia if it’s powered by Visa or MasterCard.
Additionally, you can use your PayPal account when staying in Bolivia, but not for buying from most Bolivian companies or Bolivian e-commerce stores. This means that you can use your PayPal account as always when staying in Bolivia. PayPal doesn’t restrict your account while you are located inside Bolivia.
But, because Bolivian companies can’t accept Paypal payments, you won’t be able to use this payment processor to pay for purchases you may make in the country.
Anyway, you will still be able to use your normal PayPal account to make purchases from international companies, including Amazon (which by the way can deliver a lot of goods to Bolivia in a matter of days, using the proper couriers like DHL and similar ones), while you’re staying in Bolivia.
Also, bear in mind that in Bolivia the use of e-commerce and online stores is not still widely available for most goods and services. People in our country are still used to buying things physically, even after the pandemic. But in recent months people and companies have become more used to buying food and simple goods through e-commerce stores and delivery companies.
We have a complete guide about whether PayPal works or not in Bolivia, with all the details for both Bolivian and foreign PayPal accounts: Does PayPal work in Bolivia? All you need to know.
Payoneer prepaid card
Payoneer has also prepaid cards that can be used in Bolivia, at any ATM available in the country. These prepaid cards are powered by MasterCard, so if you have access to Payoneer and have its card (only the USD card not the Euro card, in Bolivia you can’t withdraw money in Euros it’s not a widely used currency here), then bring it with you to use it in the ATMs of Bolivia.
2) When you are at least a temporary resident
When you become either a temporary or permanent resident in the country, you gain access to a foreigner ID card, an important document that allows you to use a lot more different kinds of services, including more financial and banking services. With this document, you can open a bank account and use other payment methods in Bolivia.
If you have either a temporary or permanent residence in Bolivia, then you have the following additional payment options available here:
- Your bank account in a Bolivian bank
- Soli from BCP Bank
- Tigo Money Bolivia
Your bank account in a Bolivian bank
As we just said, if you are a resident of Bolivia, then you are allowed to open bank accounts in Bolivian Banks. So, once you have a Bolivian bank account, it will work the same as in any other country, enabling you to send, receive, withdraw money, send wire transfers, pay for goods, etcetera.
To open a Bolivian bank account, you need to be at least a temporary resident.
Soli from BCP Bank
Soli it’s a new solution for transferring cash, paying for things that you buy, and having a virtual account in the country, but it’s only available for people from overseas who already have their foreigner ID.
So once you get this document, you will be able to enjoy Soli from BCP Bank, which enables you to:
- Pay for some services and products that you may find in Bolivia by just scanning a QR code.
- Have a virtual account where you can hold money.
- Receive money from anyone in Bolivia who simply scans a QR code.
- Send money to anyone in Bolivia by simply scanning a QR code.
- Get payments from your Bolivian customers by simply showing them your QR code.
- Withdraw your money from your BCP bank account.
You can inspect the app for this service and see what it offers (in Spanish):
- Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bcp.bo.wallet.
- App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/soli/id1135987447.
To use a Soli from BCP Bank, you need to be at least a temporary resident.
Tigo Money Bolivia
This payment method is a solution offered by a phone company in Bolivia called Tigo. It allows citizens and residents of Bolivia to use their phone numbers to send and receive money, pay for services and products, and hold money in their Tigo Money account.
Many people use this payment method in Bolivia, but unfortunately, it is only available if you have either a Bolivian ID card or a foreigner’s ID card. Then if you are only a tourist, you can’t use this solution. Anyway, you can have your phone working in the country.
To use Tigo Money Bolivia, you need to be at least a temporary resident.
We have a complete guide about how to get a residence in Bolivia, with all the steps, costs, precautions, and other details: How to get a Bolivian residence? All you need to know. Link
3) When you are a business operating in Bolivia
If you’re: a) an online business that is operating from another country and wants to get payments from Bolivia, or b) a business located in Bolivia that wants to receive payments online, then you have the following options:
- Stripe and Stripe Atlas
- Your foreign PayPal account
- Your business bank account
- Soli from BCP Bank
- Tigo Money Bolivia
Stripe and Stripe Atlas
Stripe fully supports processing payments in Bolivia, then, if you are an international business that wants to receive payments from Bolivian customers and have a Stripe account created in another country, you can get paid in Bolivia through this account, without any restriction.
But if for some reason you can’t create a Stripe account outside Bolivia, then you’ll need, before using a service from this company called Stripe Atlas, to open a bank account in the US, and then be able to process payments from Bolivian customers.
Your foreign PayPal account
You also can set up your PayPal account from your source country to work for processing payments in Bolivia and receive payments from your clients in Bolivia. There is no restriction for your PayPal account, the restriction is only for PayPal accounts created in Bolivia by Bolivians.
This international payment processor also fully works in Bolivia, but it only works for companies that are operating within the country, and not for particular persons. So if you have either a Bolivian company inside the country or a foreign company working in Bolivia, you can activate this payment method to receive money from your clients.
This is a solution from a Bolivian company that allows e-commerce stores within the country to receive payments from clients, send bills according to Bolivian laws, and allow clients to make payments with QR codes, among other services. So, if you are either a Bolivian company or an overseas one working in Bolivia, to receive payments from your clients, this is one of the best options you have.
Your business bank account
Most people in Bolivia still transfer money between buyers and sellers using bank accounts, also when they buy goods from companies, they are more willing to pay straight to the bank account of the seller whether it is a particular or a business seller. So if you want to receive money for clients in Bolivia, a Bolivian business bank account is one of the best options you have.
Tips for choosing the right payment method in Bolivia
Where you are in Bolivia, depending on what you are going to do, we list below the best options you have when making financial transactions:
- If you are paying for services and goods. The most used method is just plain cash (> 95% of the time), almost everywhere. In very few stores you can pay with your credit or debit card powered by Visa or MasterCard.
- If you are receiving or sending money, by far, the best option you have is Western Union, this company fully supports either sending or receiving money inside and outside Bolivia, available for tourists and also residents. We have a guide about Western Union in Bolivia, with all the details about how it works here.
- When you are withdrawing money. Tourists can’t open a bank account in Bolivia, so, the best option for them is just to use their Visa or Mastercard credits or debit cards from their source country. Also, the USD Payoneer prepaid card works in Bolivia. Euro currency in Bolivia is almost not used nor well supported.
- When you are getting payments from your customers in Bolivia. By far, the best 2 options you have are the PayPal account from your source country (because the Bolivian one won’t work), also, Stripe or Stripe Atlas (this last one only if you can’t get a Stripe account outside Bolivia). In some cases, when you need a lot more payment options, 2CheckOut can also be a good solution.
Be sure to not bring with you more than 1,000 Bolivians Bs. (nearly $150), when you are outside in the streets, because you will very easily become the target of robbers and scammers, also you’ll rarely need more than this amount of cash on a given day when staying in the country.
Lastly, if you want to use a credit or debit card, the best option for you is just to use your normal debit or PayPal card, powered by either Visa or MasterCard, and avoid having too much money inside your bank account to minimize the possible money losses in the case that it gets stolen.
In this guide about the payment methods currently available in Bolivia, for either paying for goods and services, receiving, sending, or withdrawing money, you have seen that by far the most used one in the country is just plain cash, which involves more than 95% of day-to-day transactions.
You also have seen that, to a far lesser extent, credit and debit cards, backed by Visa or MasterCard, are also used to make payments for goods and services in Bolivia. You also learned that you can use the prepaid USD Payoneer card or PayPal debit and credit cards, but all of them must be powered by Visa or MasterCard.
Additionally, you realized that when you become a temporary or permanent resident, you have more payment options available in Bolivia. With this status, you can open a bank account in the country, then pay for stuff and make any other transactions. Also, you can use Soli from BCP Bank, which makes payments with QR codes, and Tigo Money, which allows you to pay with your phone.
Finally, you have seen that when you are a business, you can use other payment processors to get paid from your Bolivia customers, like a foreign PayPal account, Stripe, and PagosNet, among others. Also, you should have no more than Bs.1,000 or $150 in your pocket on a given day in Bolivia, but most likely, between Bs.200 to Bs.350, to avoid becoming the target of robbers.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know how to use Western Union in Bolivia, with all the steps and requirements, also the agencies available and the fees, visit our dedicated guide in the following direction: Western Union in Bolivia, all you need to know.
BolivianExperts.com, information about how to live, work, invest, and travel in Bolivia.