All you need to know before moving to Bolivia
Bolivia is a landlocked country in the central South American region that has Spanish as its official language. Expats planning to move to Bolivia should take note that since it is a developing nation, they will have to get used to things that may not be common in their home country. It will be very helpful to do some comprehensive research first about Bolivia before moving to learn more about its culture and lifestyle.
Bolivia is a country of around 10 million inhabitants located in the interior of South America, with no coastline. In the year 2009, a new constitution changed its official name from the 'Republic of Bolivia' to 'Plurinational State if Bolivia'. The region including modern Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire when the Spanish took over in the early 1500s. They found a lot of silver in the region, which made Spain a wealthy country in Europe. In the early 1800s, there were revolutions in South America against the rule by Spain, and by 1825 the new country was named Bolivia in honour of the revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar. It has lost much of its original territory including its sea coast to its neighbours in South America, especially during several wars fought in the century between 1835 and 1935.
Bolivia has high, snow covered mountains and low-lying, hot deserts. There are many different kind of plants and animals that can be found in Bolivia. The currency of Bolivia is called the Boliviano. It is currently worth around 15 cents in US dollars. The current President Morales is the first native Indian president, who has brought about the new Constitution of Bolivia. There are four equal branches of the Bolivian government: Executive, Legislative, Judicial, and Electoral.
Bolivia does not require a visitor visa for passport holders from most countries in Europe and South America, Mexico, Japan, or Israel. Nationals of most other countries can get a visa upon arrival, but citizens of some African and Asian countries need to arrange a visa with the Bolivian Embassy or Consulate beforehand. As one of the poorest nations in Latin America, Bolivia is not an immigration destination hotspot. Most foreigners in Bolivia are from other Spanish-speaking countries; there are in addition around 3000 Americans, 1600 Canadians, 1400 Japanese, and 1300 German nationals now living in Bolivia. Most of the population of Bolivia are native Indian groups such as the Quechua and the Aymara peoples; their languages are now considered official along with Spanish. There are quite a few different folk dances and several styles of folk music that are popular in Bolivia. Native women in Bolivia often wear a peasant skirt called a pollera, and a bowler hat that can indicate her marital status. The most popular sport among Bolivians is soccer football. Bolivian cooking uses ingredients such as beans, corn, and potatoes.
Essential relocation information
This country in South America is considered to be less developed compared to its neighbours Argentina, Brazil and Peru. Despite its economic status, more and more expats are moving into Bolivia because of its magnificent mountains, expansive forests and fertile highland valleys. The locals are always smiling and full of joy which will surely make you feel instantly welcome. But first, let’s go over some of the essential things when relocating to make sure that you’re all set in starting a new life in the birthplace of the sun god, Inca.
Expats who are already living in Bolivia say that the price of real estate properties is higher compared to the actual one. You can search through newspaper listings or contact local housing agencies (inmobiliarias). Most realtors that can assist you in house/apartment hunting are based in Bolivia’s major cities.
Be prepared that some rental costs do not include the utilities. The average monthly cost of essential services like water, electricity and gas is €35 while local prepaid mobile calls are billed roughly 0.15€ per minute. The internet speed in Bolivia is approximately €100 per month. It is considered to be slow but lately, some of the main cities are already improving their service.
House and Apartment Hunting
Bolivia has several housing options where you can rent a room in the landlord’s property, houses and apartment blocks where a whole street is dedicated just for that purpose. It is very budget friendly to rent here because you are only required to pay for the first and last month’s rent.
Sucre is the capital of Bolivia and where most expats are living. Even if it’s the centre of the country, Sucre is considered to be the cheapest places to live in. The average monthly rent here for a one bedroom apartment starts at €150. You can also get a two bedroom apartment or an unfurnished four bedroom house with a starting rental cost of €250.
You can also consider the Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which is located in east-central Bolivia. In contrast to its small town vibe and warm, relaxed atmosphere, Santa Cruz is deemed to be the country’s most economically prosperous city. There are major malls, five leading supermarkets and business offices in it. Rental cost of a one bedroom apartment is around €300 while a three bedroom unit is €450.
International and Local Schools
There are two school shifts in Bolivia: morning and afternoon. Some consider this type of educational system weak because the time spent learning is compressed. The first six years in primary school is free and compulsory. However, the next four years in secondary education is no longer mandatory where less than a quarter of adults are enroled. Those that are studying are mostly studying in private schools.
Bolivia has 23 private universities where several are international schools. They have the Highlands International School in Valle del Sol and the American International School of Bolivia in Cochabamba.
There are also ten state-funded schools in Bolivia like The Higher University of San Andrés in La Paz that has the largest number of students and the University of San Francisco Xavier in Sucre, the oldest university in the capital which was founded in 1624.
Moving of Your Belongings
You can save a lot of time and hassle by calling international or local companies to move your belongings to Bolivia. They offer door to door service where they will pick the packages from your home and deliver them to your new house. The average shipping time to Bolivia is 2-5 business days, depending on your country o f origin. Prices of shipment also rely on the weight and quantity of the packages. Bolivia doesn’t have its ports. Containers going into the country are re-routed to the Port of Ilo in Peru and to neighbouring maritime ports of Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
If you are planning on taking your pet with you, make sure that its rabies vaccination is no more not less than one month and not more than twelve months before its arrival. You should also secure a Veterinary Health Certificate issued by a government accredited veterinarian from your country of origin. All pets entering the country by cargo should be identified by a microchip, the only method accepted by the Bolivian Customs. Also, make sure that they have an International Health Certificate issued ten days before import date. You can contact the Consulate/Embassy of Bolivia for further information about their pet relocation policy.
Since 2008, used cars are no longer allowed for import to Bolivia. If you are bringing a care which is less than four years old, make sure that you get clearance from the Bolivian Customs department. Other documents that you should prepare are:
- Proof of your positive ownership of the car or bill of sale
- Driver’s licence
- Proof of registration
The country of Bolivia doesn’t have its coastlines. So if you are a beach lover or coming from a country surrounded by water, you have to be prepared with the vast landscapes waiting for you in Bolivia. The transition will require some time. But once you’ve settled, you will find yourself falling deeply in love to its enchanting forests perfectly shaped plateaus.
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How to live like a local?
Located in Central South America, Bolivia features a unique geographically diverse terrain where mountains, desert, and rainforest are all located within the country. With its surrounding countries being Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, Bolivia is a landlocked country. Before it was colonized by the Spanish, Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire. Presently, it is known for being multiethnic, with a diverse population that expats will find interesting as they settle into their new home.
Bolivia is considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Latin American region due to policies that are state-oriented, impeding growth and investment in the country. The country’s income inequality is also the highest in all of Latin America and is one of the highest among other countries in the world.
With a labor force of 4.922 million as of 2012, Bolivia’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is only US$5,500 and is ranked 156th in the world. The majority of Bolivians are working in the Services sector, accounting for 48% of the country’s population. Bolivia’s major industries include mining, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing, and jewelry. A huge part of the population is also said to be making a livelihood from illegally growing coca, the source of cocaine.
The foreign national population in Bolivia is small compared to other Latin American countries. Most of them are staying in major cities like La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, or the capital city, Sucre. The majority of the foreigners in Bolivia are working for NGOs or are staying in the country for a short period to do volunteer work. Foreign nationals looking to find a job in Bolivia can try their luck in the English-teaching industry since this sector is where most employment opportunities for expats can be found. There are a number of international schools in Bolivia where foreign nationals can apply as an English teacher, and most of these educational institutions are located in Sucre or other big cities in the country.
Before expats can work in Bolivia, they should acquire a Special Purpose visa (Visa de Objeto Determinado) first that will allow them to reside legally in the country. That is valid for one month only, during which the foreign national should begin the application for Temporary Residence visa at the Immigration department. Once the Temporary residence visa is approved, foreigners can proceed to the Ministry of Labor and apply for a work permit (Permiso de Trabajo).
The standard working hours in Bolivia is six days a week or 48 hours, from 8AM to 12:30PM, then from 2:30 to 6:30PM. Since it is a Spanish American country, it is tradition that they take a “siesta” or midday break, which usually runs from 12PM to 2PM. All Bolivian workers are entitled to an obligatory Christmas bonus, which is worth one month of salary. They are also entitled to 12 public holidays, 25 days of annual leave, and 16 hours of rest per day.
Finding a rental accommodation in Bolivia is easy for foreign nationals, because rents are quite cheap – with the exception of major cities like La Paz or Santa Cruz where rentals can be a bit expensive. In the capital city, Sucre, expats can find rental accommodations under US$150 a month. A two-bedroom apartment will cost around US$250 a month.
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