Living and Retiring in Bolivia

by : Shannon Roxborough



A beautiful and inexpensive place without a tourist in sight. Sound like a dream? It's not. This slice of paradise does exist. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of South America, Bolivia is a little-known retreat exotically spiced with a unique Latin and Native American flavor. Bolivia has a lot to offer…a very low cost of living, unspoiled natural environment, friendly people and a range of climates to suit virtually every taste.

Property prices are among the lowest in Latin America and it has the potential to become the world's next great expatriate haven. Bolivia has long been a favorite destination of adventure travelers, yet few mainstream American and European tourists make it to this secretive outpost. Why? Well, perhaps it's because Bolivia isn't a destination you stumble across by accident. Shrouded by great mountain ranges, it lies hidden between Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay.

The country's most famous visitors were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the American outlaws who fled to South America in the early 1900s - they are said to have had their last stand with the Bolivian army and are buried here. As recent as the 1980s, wise old men in towns throughout the Bolivian highlands could be heard gossiping about the fate of two of America's most notorious outlaws. In Bolivia, myths come thick and fast, and one legend has it that the Incas have an underground network of secret passageways on an island located in Lake Titicaca, which is praised by visitors as being one of the deepest blue and most beautiful bodies of water in the world.

Leave your worries at home

Bolivia is one of those countries that seduce you through sheer personality. The colorful bustle of its markets and street vendors, the liveliness of its nightlife, and the charm and friendliness of its people, make it one of the most livable places in Latin America. Bolivia has a bit of something for everyone: charming old-world colonial towns with great restaurants, museums, and nightlife, as well as slow-paced cozy developments in rural areas near indigenous villages, where hunting, gathering and fishing are a way of life.

The climate is another plus. Temperatures in Bolivia range from the mid 60s to the low 80s, with the average being in the mid 70s. Even the hottest days are always tempered by cooling breezes.

Bolivia is a republic with a presidential system of government. Its fully democratic, American style system retains the respect of individual rights and freedoms.

Bolivia enjoys a remarkably low crime rate, with violent crime being virtually unknown and theft not commonplace.

Americans, Canadians, Australians and most Europeans don't need a visa to spend up to 90 days as a tourist in Bolivia and nonresidents may buy property. Live the good life on less than $9,000 a year. Besides the fact that there's no such thing as a rat race in Bolivia, its biggest asset is its cost of living. You can stay in a clean, friendly hotel in the city center for $8 a night (or US$125 per month) where every meal costs less than $3. Groceries are up to 70% cheaper than in the United States or Europe. A routine trip to a good English-speaking doctor will set you back no more than $20. You can take in an American movie for only $2 or get a taxi across town for as little as 80 cents. And you're certainly not going to have high utility bills: Electricity and heating costs average $15 a month.

Cheap Real Estate

To give you an example of the costs, here are some properties on offer right now:

A 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 2500-square-foot home in an affluent neighborhood with a large garden, a garage, an alarm system, and every modern convenience, for $75,000.

A 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 800-square-foot apartment with a dining room, a kitchen, central heating, a balcony, and parking, costs $15,000.

Rentals are downright cheap by First World standards. Apartments begin at around $75 per month for something small, with houses starting at the $200 mark.

You could certainly rent a nice two-bedroom apartment in one of the best parts of town for $175 to $350 a month. And you can lease a luxury three-bedroom suburban home would rent for between $275 and $400 per month; homes with private swimming pools start at around $500 monthly.

Recently, I helped a client find a lot to build on for less than $5000, with good shopping, a lake and the airport all in walking distance.

These deals and many more make little-known Bolivia worth investigating.