Money in Bolivia
Money, Budgeting & Tipping
The Bolivian currency is the Boliviano. Bolivia is one of the most affordable countries in South America. You can exchange US dollars for currency at casas de cambio (exchange agencies) or with street money-changers – but with them, you’ll need to negotiate for a preferable rate.
It’s always a good idea to arrive in South America with some cash in US dollars. This is also true for Australians and Europeans; the exchange rate is always better with USD than with the Euro or any other currency. But make sure that your bills are crisp and new; old ones are inspected and almost always rejected. It’s also a good idea to bring at least two types of credit card in case one is not accepted.
Tell your bank in advance that you will be traveling to Bolivia. ATMs are plentiful in major cities as well as some small towns – but be sure your ATM card has a 4-digit PIN. Banco de Credito has favorable transaction rates, while Banco Union does not. Credit cards accepted include Visa, MasterCard, AmericanExpress, and Diners Club, but some merchants and restaurants will add a credit card transaction fee. You may need to show a form of ID such as a driver’s license; leave your passport in the hotel safe when shopping. Be wary of ATM fraud and credit card skimming, where fraudsters copy your card information.
Meals and drinks will cost approximately one-third to one-half the price as you’d expect to see in North America. There is no sales tax, although restaurants will add a 10% service charge to the bill. If it’s not included, a 10% tip is appreciated. Budget for about $25 for food per person per day.
As for tipping, you can tip porters a — per bag. You don’t need to tip taxi drivers. Professional tour guides appreciate a $5 tip per day, and drivers $2 to $3 per day. For exceptional private guides, you may want to tip $10.
Shop for: traditional Bolivian music CDs, hats, and textiles.