In Bolivia, around 150,000 people from other countries currently live, most of them come from South American countries, but some of them, about a few thousand, are from first-world countries. By far, the majority of expats choose Santa Cruz to move in and, to a lesser extent, La Paz. They also choose Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija because of the good weather and also the landscapes of these cities.
Expats from the US, Canada, Europe, and first-tier countries live almost only (>95%) in the most exclusive neighborhoods and zones of Bolivia, where they can enjoy a very comfortable life with $1,200/month per person, getting all the services, safety and goods they may expect in their source countries.
In this note, we’ll describe to you where the expats are really living in our country. We are real estate and business experts from Bolivia, who have lived all our lives here, then, we know and have seen where really expats usually settle once they move to our country. Said that, let’s get all the details.
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The actual situation for expats’ residence in Bolivia
Currently, there’re around 150,000 foreigners and expats living permanently in Bolivia, from this number, only around 12,000 (8%) are from the US and other first-tier countries. The rest of these expats are from Brazil, Argentina, other South American countries, and also from Spain. Most people from Asia and China have settled in Santa Cruz and they’re almost no Indians living in the country.
The majority of expats that permanently live in Bolivia came from South America and Spain, they have settled across all the zones and neighborhoods available here. You can find foreigners from these nearby countries living in even low-income neighborhoods, and in many cases, they’re students from Brazil and Argentina.
You’ll find many Peruvians in the western region of Bolivia, in La Paz and Oruro cities, and also many Brazilians, Argentinians, and Chinese in the east region of Bolivia, in cities like Santa Cruz and Cobija. Rather than this, foreigners from the US, Europe, and similar first-world regions, only live in very specific, small, and wealthy neighborhoods.
There are specific places where 1st tier countries expats live
As we just said, a lot of expats from overseas permanently live in Bolivia, but only around 12,000 of them are from the United States and other first-world countries. In this article, we’ll focus on where expats from developed countries normally settle and live.
Expats and people from first-tier countries that move to Bolivia normally choose to live almost only in the best and most expensive neighborhoods and areas of the major cities of our country.
In these places, you can comfortably live with around $1,200/month/person (~$3,500 for 2 parents and 3 kids), an amount of money that for most Bolivians means a lot, but for expats from developed countries is not that much. With this monthly income in Bolivia, you can live like a wealthy Bolivian citizen, and get all the comforts and quality of life a middle-class person in the United States normally has.
The 5 most common places where you can find expats from developed countries
Here we’ll show you where it’s most likely to find expats from first-tier countries living in Bolivia. While expats from South American countries can be found almost in any neighborhood or zone, the ones coming from developed countries are almost non-existent anywhere, except for the most exclusive and expensive neighborhoods of Bolivia:
- Equipetrol and Urubo in Santa Cruz.
- Calacoto and San Miguel in La Paz.
- Cala Cala in Cochabamba.
- Barrio Petrolero in Sucre.
- Miraflores in Tarija.
|Place where expats live||No. 1st world expats||Neighborhood’s city||Type of neighborhood||Monthly income needed to live|
|Equipetrol||~5,000||Santa Cruz*||Downtown, both residential and commercial||$1,200/person. $3,500/5-member family|
|Urubo||~1,000||Santa Cruz*||Suburb, mostly residential||$1,500/person. $4,000/5-member family|
|Calacoto||~3,000||La Paz||Downtown, both residential and commercial||$1,200/person. $3,500/5-member family|
|San Miguel||~1,000||La Paz||Downtown, mostly commercial||$1,500/person. $4,000/5-member family|
|Cala Cala||~1,000||Cochabamba*||Downtown, both commercial and residential||$1,000/person. $3,000/5-member family|
|Barrio Petrolero||~100||Sucre*||Suburb, mostly residential.||$800/person. $2,500/5-member family|
|Miraflores||~100||Tarija*||Suburb, mostly residential||$800/person. $2,500/5-member family|
*The Chagas parasite is endemic here.
In these zones, first-tier country expats can find the same quality of living that they would have in a normal suburb of their country.
1) Equipetrol and Urubo in Santa Cruz city
By far, these 2 neighborhoods are the most expensive and exclusive ones in this city, you will find many folks from 1st world countries living there. In these neighborhoods, there are huge supermarkets, first-level hospitals, food franchises, the best gym brands, large commercial centers and malls, the best high schools and colleges, and so on (in Bolivia, neighborhoods are not only residential but also commercial and multi-purpose).
In these areas, almost only rich people from Bolivia normally live, and they seek the same quality of life as people living in developed countries. Also, by far, Santa Cruz de La Sierra is the city with the highest number of expats from first-world countries, most of them come with the idea of creating companies and doing business in that city.
These 2 neighborhoods are known for being very calm and quiet, Equipetrol being both residential and commercial and Urubo almost only residential. Few people there walk on the streets and everyone has his own car that uses to go everywhere. All the green areas are well cared for, security is high on the streets and inside homes. A normal home there has a price of $300,000 to $3 million.
2) San Miguel and Calatoto in La Paz city
The same happens in La Paz, you can go all over the city and you are not going to find any expat from developed countries living anywhere, except for these 2 neighborhoods. These zones offer, again, everything that you can find in an average suburb of a developed country, with the addition of many commercial centers, first-level hospitals, the best schools, all of them within a walkable distance, also high safety against thieves, etcetera.
As you may expect, in this area you’ll only find a few thousand expats living around, it’s not the same as in Santa Cruz where you can have several thousands of them. But anyway, both zones are filled by high-income people of La Paz, and the feeling is like if you were in the downtown of a 1st world city.
In both zones, people tend to move mostly on foot, and if they want to go to other parts of the city, in their own cars. The streets are very clean and organized, also the safety is very high there. You’ll find a lot of condo high-rises that normally have hundreds of apartments for sale, but also exclusive houses that in the majority of cases have a price between $400,000 and $3 million.
2) Cala Cala in Cochabamba city
The same situation happens in Cochabamba, you’re not going to find people from first-world countries anywhere, but only in this neighborhood. This zone has the best quality of life across the city. As an example, there you can find anything that you may get in a suburban area of the United States.
There’re just a few hundreds of expats from developed countries currently living in Cala Cala and almost none of them live outside this neighborhood. Also, a lot of high-income people from Cochabamba live there. Is worth mentioning that Cochabamba nowadays doesn’t have too many expats from first-world countries, but this number is slowly going up.
This neighborhood also has many buildings and high-rises and is modern and quiet. You can find a lot of green areas and parks around. Also, lots of commercial places are present there and people tend to go to branded restaurants, which are all over the place, everything is clean and the streets are not that empty with always some people around. A normal house here can go from $300,000 to $2,000,000.
4) Barrio Petrolero in Sucre city
Very few expats from developed countries live in this city, just a bunch of them will be found in one of the best neighborhoods of Sucre, which is Barrio Petrolero. In this zone, you can find some of the comforts that you may expect in a small town in a developed country. But in this city, there aren’t very large or expensive places to stay or get an education, healthcare, and similar services.
You’ll find it very difficult to get in touch with other expats from developed countries in this neighborhood. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by a lot of high-income Bolivian people. Folks from other countries normally come to this city to get peace, rest, good weather, and a beautiful landscape to be all day long.
5) Miraflores in Tarija city
This is one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of this city, very few expats from developed countries can be found here, and they’re non-existent in other parts of the city. But in recent times the population of people from overseas is increasing there, mostly because of the weather, landscapes and the quiet and beautiful places around.
You’ll find that living in this neighborhood can be compared with living in a small town of a developed country, with some buildings around and at least decent services, like restaurants, hospitals, and education, but don’t expect to get anything really large, modern and complex. People from overseas find this city quiet and peaceful to live in.
Caution: Health danger!
You need to be very careful in these last 4 cities, you are at 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 these cities (in Cochabamba 35% of the population carries this parasite and up to 54% in Sucre, also 48% in Tarija).
If you think that Santa Cruz is safer in this aspect, well that’s not the case. In Santa Cruz 22% of the population has Chagas.
You should always look for living spaces that are fully plastered, without any cracks, and also take other precautions. Be very cautious!
Places that expats from different countries choose
US and Canadian expats
Almost all expats (>95%) and foreigners from both countries only live in the best areas and neighborhoods of Bolivia. You won’t find almost anyone from the US or Canada living in a common or poor neighborhood of Bolivian cities; they can be seen only in the most exclusive areas and zones of major cities of Bolivia.
Places like Equipetrol in Santa Cruz, Calacoto in La Paz, or Cala Cala in Cochabamba are where expats from both countries feel comfortable because there everything works in a very similar way as in downtowns and suburbs of the US and Canada. There, you’ll find a high quality and conformable life, good entertainment, the best hospitals, the best education, large supermarkets, the best streets, etcetera.
If you have an income over $1,200/month for just you, or over $3,500/month for you and your family, then you’ll be able to live in the most exclusive neighborhoods of Bolivia, experiencing a decent quality of life, lots of amenities and almost every service that you may expect to get in an average neighborhood of the US and Canada.
The same as before, it’s very unlikely to find expats from Europe living outside the most exclusive neighborhoods of Bolivia. Even more, it’s difficult to find expats from European countries living in the country, there are far more of them from the US. Maybe you may find several hundred per major city of Bolivia and most of them concentrated in Equipetrol, Calacoto, and Cala Cala neighborhoods.
Little communities from these countries are available in Bolivia, and most of them are concentrated in high-income neighborhoods. The quality of living they get in these places is the same as the expats from the US and Canada.
Bolivian neighborhoods have an interesting feature: they are multi-purpose, so they can be both residential and commercial at the same time. Also, most of the day they’re quite crowded with walking people. Anyway, you won’t find too much support for cyclists moving throughout these neighborhoods. As a European, you’ll feel there as if you were in the downtown of a small city in England, the Netherlands, or France.
The largest Asian community in Bolivia resides in Santa Cruz de la Sierra City. Large Asian communities are present, most of them (>80%) are from China and there are also important communities from Korea and Japan. In other places of Bolivia it’s very difficult to find expats from these countries, outside Santa Cruz city they are rare.
You may find a few thousand Asian expats living in Santa Cruz city (~10,000 people), but they don’t live in the best neighborhoods of this city, instead, they are spread across the city and their incomes vary a lot, poor Chinese people are present there, but also wealthy Asians, many of them come to work to Bolivia in search of opportunities and jobs.
Expats from this country have almost no presence in Bolivia, it’s very rare to see a person from India living here. Maybe several hundred of them are present across the country. Also, they are not concentrated in some particular area, they are spread across all the country.
Places that expats avoid when moving to Bolivia
People from developed countries avoid at all costs living in neighborhoods and zones that have a quality of life below what they are accustomed to. A person from the United States will find it very hard to communicate and have a comfortable life in a common neighborhood of Bolivia, and almost nobody here speaks English. Also, in normal zones, services and goods have a low quality for a person that comes from a first-tier country.
Expats from developed countries know the risks associated with living in a common or poor neighborhood of Bolivia, where they can easily become the target of robbers and scammers. They also know that they are not going to have a comfortable life, and will face a lot of troubles with even basic services, like water, internet, gas, low-quality hospitals, low-quality education, and little security, and because they are the only expats living there, they’ll be seen as very weird by everyone else.
Because expats from developed countries want to have a quality of life that at least is the same as in their source countries, they’ll mostly only live in the most exclusive neighborhoods of Bolivia, where they may find anything that is also available in a common urban area of the US.
Almost the same is true for expats from Europe, most of them are high-income people that will only live in the most exclusive areas and zones of the major cities existent here, with first-world quality services surrounding their homes, and also living next to other high-income expats.
For expats from Asia, it’s another story, many of them came to work in Bolivia in search of opportunities. Then, most of them are poor and are spread across all of Santa Cruz city, including exclusive neighborhoods, and average and poor areas.
In this article about where expats currently live in Bolivia, you have seen that there are 3 main types of expats, according to which place they came from.
The 1st ones are the expats who came from developed countries, they live almost only in the most exclusive neighborhoods of Bolivia. The 2nd ones are expats from Asia, they are mostly present in Santa Cruz de La Sierra and across all of this city. The 3rd ones are from the rest of the world, mostly from South America, they are present across all of Bolivia and are by far the most significant in number.
You also have learned that there are almost no Indian expats here. Additionally, you’ve realized that it’s possible to find several thousands of foreigners from first-tier countries living mostly in Equipetrol and Urubo neighborhoods of Santa Cruz city. Also, but to a lesser extent, living in Calatoto and San Miguel of La Paz city and Cala Cala of Cochabamba city. Be really careful with Chagas disease in Cochabamba, Sucre, Tarija, and also in Santa Cruz.
Finally, you’ve learned that foreigners from first-world countries usually avoid at all costs living in normal and poor neighborhoods of Bolivia, as they know they’ll lack even basic services in some cases, won’t find peers from their source countries, and also, they won’t be able to communicate well with native people there, not to mention the risks of being the only expat living in these areas.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know how it is to live in Bolivia, with all the pros and cons compared to other countries, visit our dedicated guide in the following direction: What is it like to live in Bolivia? All the facts and details link.
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