Cost of Living in Tarija, Bolivia
Editor’s Note: This information is provided by Altiplano Bolivia – a husband and wife team from New Zealand who help others relocate to Bolivia and own a Spanish school and B&B in Tarija. Travel Guide to Tarija
Tarija is a tranquil, non-touristy small city (population around 180,000) 18 hours south of La Paz. Travelers stay for a night or two on their way crossing into Argentina yet some get entranced by the palm tree-lined plazas and sunny spring-like climate, staying for an extended time to study Spanish or relocate. If you want to also, here’s what it will cost you!
Note: Bolivia uses the boliviano as its currency: Money and Currency in Bolivia. Prices are current as of June, 2012.
Taxis: Tarija has some 15,000 taxis so getting one is not difficult. Some are official Radio Taxis, others are private operators. The majority are safe to use, but if you want to be extra-careful, use a registered taxi (Radio Taxi) as opposed to a non-registered one.
Taxi fares are regulated and are just 3.50 bolivianos (51 cents) per person in the central area, or perhaps 5 bolivianos (73 cents) to the outer suburbs. If you are not sure just ask when you get into the cab and be willing to bargin. They can also be rented by the hour; 30 bolivianos ($4.40 USD) per hour regardless of the number of people using it.
Micros: The city has a system of Micro (small 18-22 seater buses) bus routes that generally run from an outer suburb through the centre of the city to another outer suburb. Fares are just 1.50 bolivianos (22 cents) for adults.
Truffis: Truffis are a hybrid between buses and taxis. They follow a fixed route in the city and cost 2 bolivianos (29 cents) per person. There are also a large number of Truffi and minivan associations that run regular services to most towns and centres around Tarija.
Buses: Tarija has a national bus terminal (all outdoors, no inside seating or offices) that has daily departures for every major city in Bolivia. Fares range between 6-10 bolivianos (88 cents to $1.40 USD) per hour of travel distance. Intercity buses are called Flotas.
Air Travel: Tarija has a national airport that has daily arrivals and departures to La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz with BOA and TAM. TAM also has flights to or from Sucre at least every second day. Aerocon services some smaller cities.
Rental Cars: Tarija has two car rental agencies. Rocas Rent-A-Car and A. Barrons Rent A Car.
House Rental: An unfurnished 3 bedroom house close to the central area of Tarija will rent from $400-500 USD per month. There are many cheaper options if you are willing to go further out into the suburbs.
Apartment Rental: An unfurnished 2 or 3 bedroom department in the central area will rent from $250-400 USD per month. Smaller 1-2 bedroom departments can sometimes be around $200 USD and this will often include utilities.
Furnished apartments are available for travelers looking to stay for a few weeks or months or the new expat who wants to get oriented to the city before getting their own place and furniture. Prices range from $250 USD per month for something small with basic furniture to $600 USD per month for very well equipped 2-3 bedroom apartments that are move-in ready with appliances, furniture, crockery, utensils, and bedding.
Piezas: Piezas are rooms with a shared or private bathroom and a popular renting option for students and single people. They cost from $60-100 USD per month depending on size and location.
Food Costs & Grocery Store Items
Tarija now has four main supermarkets and a number of other smaller superette style stores. The main supermarkets (supermercado in Spanish) in Tarija are: Supermercado Tarija, Supermercado Urkupina, Supermarcado Serka and Supermercado Gato.
There are also many other smaller superette-style stores that stock the same items and generally all are priced similarly. Argentinean superette style stores are becoming very popular as they stock a slightly different range of product that is generally imported from Argentina.
For fruit and vegetables, and most other household items for that matter, Mercado Campesino is the best option with prices being cheaper than the supermarkets listed above. If you buy from the same vendors they will look after you and give you “yapas” a little extra or something free when you buy from them.
Prices of Grocery Store Items:
|liter of milk = 73 cents||dozen eggs = $1.17 USD|
|chicken (per kilo) = $4.70||toilet paper (6 rolls) = $1.32|
|rice (per kilo) = $1.47||butter = $2.05|
|beef steak (per kilo) = $5.87||local cheese (per kilo) = $4.70|
|imported cheese = $7.35 – $12||bottled water (2 litres) = 88 cents|
|Coca Cola (2 litres) = $1.50||bottled water (20 litres = $2.20|
Beer, Wine & Spirits
You can buy beer, wine and spirits at the supermarkets and local stores. There are also a few specialised liquor outlets and liquor wholesale outlets.
Beer: Supermarkets and liquor stores will stock imported beers such as: Corona, Sol, Tecate, Heinken, Stella Artois, Budweiser and Bock. Prices are: 1 litre local brew is $2.10 USD, 1 litre imported beer is $3.70 USD, 330 mls local beer is $1.31 USD, 330 mls imported beer is $1.90 USD.
Wine: All the wineries from the Tarija region have their own stores and offer the best prices for local wines. You can buy a bottle of local wine for $2 USD and a high quality wine for only $9 USD, with many midrange options in-between.
You can also buy imported wines from the supermarkets and liquor stores. Prices vary greatly according to the winery and quality but generally start from 50 bolivianos ($7.30 USD) per bottle.
Spirits: A litre of Level Vodka is $13.60, litre of SKY Vodka $14.20 USD, a litre of Grants Whiskey $17 USD, a liter of Black Label Whiskey $44 USD, 600 mls Jim Beam Whiskey is $13.10 and for your Margarita-making pleasure… you can buy a 750 mls bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila for $13.30 USD.
Tarija has a good selection of nice restaurants that are open for lunch and dinner and also much cheaper ‘pension’ restaurants for lunch time meals. At pensions a set menu lunch is $2.20 USD. It generally includes a salad bar, soap, a main course and simple desert.
At the better restaurants most mains are between $5.80 – $8.80 USD. Dinner for two including an entree, main and desert, but without drinks, will be between $17.60 – $23.50 USD. A family size pizza is around $9 USD.
Internet and Cable TV
Internet Services: Entel and Cosett are the main providers of ADSL internet services. However, all the mobile telephone companies (Entel, Viva, TIGO) are now offering USD Modems that will access a digital Internet service.
A USD modem typically costs from $30-50 USD depending on the package you choose, and as with mobile phone services they sometimes offer them free. Monthly access then can cost from $20-45 USD depending on the plan and download. Competition is making it cheaper every day!
Costs of broadband internet to your house via a telephone line will vary from $22 USD per month (128 Kbps) to $100 USD (1280 kbps) depending on the speed you choose. Both Entel and Cosett allow you to pay 6 months in advance and get one month free, or 12 months in advance and get 2 months free.
Cable TV: Cosett provides CableNet with about 90 functioning channels for $22 USD per month. If you pay 6 months in advance you get 1 month free. English channels include BBC Entertainment, CNN, AXN, Sony Entertainment Canal, Universal, FoxLife, HBO, Edge, LIV, CineCanal, E-News.
MultiVision also provides a cable TV service that features more movie and sport channels. Prices vary according to the package but are more expensive than CableNet. If you buy a dish and decoder you can also get free digital TV with a huge selection of channels.
Entertainment & Local Attractions
The charm of Tarija is that it a laid-back place that is very slowly coming into the 20th century. It has one movie theatre and a growing number of nightclubs that reflect a 1980’s feel and play music from that era. Restaurants, while perhaps being called Resto Bars are still very much family restaurants.
In the later evenings entire families, even with babies and toddlers, can be found wandering or sitting in the towns numerous plazas or parks.
Perhaps the main attractions here are the wineries and countryside. In the weekends the majority of the people will escape the city and go to the countryside, perhaps to their country house, or just a place by the lake or a river.
There are numerous privately run clinics that provide a good standard of both normal medical and hospital care if needed. A consultation with a doctor at a private clinic will be between 40-50 Bolivianos. Many prescriptions are available directly from the pharmacy without a doctor’s script.
If you are employed by a local employer they should be contributing to a medical insurance scheme on your behalf which will pay the costs of most medical treatments. For specialised medical care or operations you can easily travel to the larger cities of Cochabamba or Santa Cruz.
Tarija has a Dental School and as a consequence an oversupply of well qualified dentists. There are very modern and well equipped practices with the latest equipment and procedures. A dental cleaning will cost $25 USD, filling $40 USD and a crown approximately $250 USD.
Monthly Cost of Living
Here is a guide to the monthly living costs for many items here in Tarija. We are confident that a single person could comfortably live on $600 USD per month or less given the right accommodation arrangement.
Chart of Monthly Living Costs
|Item||Low Price||Average Price||High Price|
|Rent||$280 USD||$380 USD||$560 USD|
|Food||$250 USD||$300 USD||$500 USD|
|Electric bill||$25 USD||$35 USD||$50 USD|
|Gas bill||$7 USD||$10 USD||$15 USD|
|Water||$10 USD||$15 USD||$18 USD|
|Internet||$30 USD||$35 USD||$60 USD|
|Phone||$8 USD||$15 USD||$25 USD|
|Transport||$50 USD||$75 USD||$100 USD|
|Entertainment||$70 USD||$100 USD||$140 USD|
|Miscellaneous||$30 USD||$50 USD||$60 USD|
|Total costs||$760 USD||$1015 USD||$1528 USD|
This information was provided by Martin Rattray an Expat from New Zealand who now lives in Tarija and operates, Altiplano Bolivia, a destination services business helping Expats find their feet in Bolivia.
Photographs courtesy of Altiplano Bolivia, all rights reserved.