Yay! I’m super happy that we managed to keep to our budget in February. Granted, it was a short month and yes, Bolivia is possibly one of the cheapest countries in the world, but still, it is a good feeling.
Micellaneous spending eating up our budget in February
The area we spent the most money in during February is the ‘other’ section for possibly the first time since we began travelling. This is mainly because we were making the most of the low prices of the country and decided to do some shopping.
In March, we plan to do a lot of hiking – mainly doing the famous Inca Trail in Peru and we really needed new hiking boots. Dave’s had long since fallen apart and he’d thrown them away and mine were more work boots than hiking boots and they kept giving me blisters.
We found a store in La Paz and to the irratation of the shop keepers spent about an hour trying on all the shoes they had. Eventually we walked away with two really good pairs that cost us less than US$200.
I realised what a bargain we’d got when we met a woman from Holland a few days later and she said she’d paid more than 200 euros for the same brand of shoe (Merrel) back home – and that was just for one pair!
We’ve really noticed that in each country, items are set at the price people can afford. For example, we also bought a pair of waterproof lightweight hiking trousers for Dave and they cost less than US$50. In Australia you’d pay at least US$100.
Watch out for the tax man in Bolivia
We had a strange experience when we went shopping for our hiking gear in La Paz when the shopkeeper gave us a discount for paying in cash and we didn’t receive a receipt.
A couple of stores later we were walking out of another shop and a man and a woman approached us, speaking in Spanish. We said we didn’t really understand what they were saying and then in broken English they asked us where we’d bought our gear and held up tax office badges.
The name of the store was written on the bag and so we told them. Then they demanded we take them to the shop. We felt annoyed because we didn’t want to get the shop keeper in trouble. Anyway, it turns out the shop owner was avoiding paying his tax, which is why we didn’t get a receipt (and why we received a discount!) He wrote us a receipt when the tax officials escorted us there and we left, but 10 minutes later when we walked past they were still accosting him.
We learned today that they get fined 10 times the prices of the goods for not paaying the tax – so that’s US$2,000! We felt really bad… but what can you do?
Now we try and always ask for a tax receipt but even so, many shop keepers will still just laugh it off!
One of the reasons why we made our budget this month is because we spent two weeks working 20 minutes outside of La Paz in Valle de la Luna. A beautiful area in a mountainous region, we used the days to write at a nearby hotel cafe because the internet was pretty shitty where we were staying.
Eating at the cafe each day was obviously an added expense but because that was all we were spending our money on it didn’t really add up to much.
The family who we were staying with through Airbnb were wonderful and we spent 840 bolivianos (US$117) for two week’s worth of Spanish lessons, being taught each morning by the mum of the house. Yvonne was lovely and we really learnt a lot – we’re trying to keep our Spanish up by revising each morning now and we’re really starting to understand a lot more of what people say to us which is helpful.
One night we went out to Alisitas – a festival in La Paz where everything is sold in miniture to bring you good luck for the coming year. But more about that in another blog. Then we went to a couple of amazing bars before getting home at around 3am.
We realised Dave had flipped the lock and our key wouldn’t turn in it, so we tried to break in through the window. In Dave’s drunken haze, he smashed the glass so we had to pay for it to be repaired.
The window was more than a metre long and guess how much it cost to repair it? Less than US$14.
We couldn’t believe it. In Australia it would’ve cost at least US$200. Once again – we get ripped off in the West!
Like everything in Bolivia, going on tours is cheap and although we stayed in one place and worked for two weeks, we also had a lot of fun going out.
We went on the Potosi mining tour, which although shocking gave us an insight into the poorer side of Bolivian culture.
We also went on a day trip to Tiwanaku which is a couple of hours bus ride out of La Paz. The area is full of ancient ruins from before the time of the Incas and our guide was brilliant so it was really fascinating. Only 5% of the area has been uncovered which is a bit of a shame because it would’ve been even more interesting to see the rest.
We also went hiking near where we were staying in Valle de la Luna. The mountains are created out of clay which give it a deep red colour and the rain has made it shape into some out-there formations.
We also climbed the hills adjacent to Copacabana, where you have to pay a small fee, and took a ferry across to Isla del Sol where you have to pay to hike around the island. But the beauty and serenity of the place is certainly worth the US$7 odd dollars you pay for the privilege.
We also spent about US$15 buying around 10 new release DVDs and although pirated they’re of excellent quality and so we’ve managed to catch up on all the films we’ve been wanting to see but haven’t been able to since we’ve been travelling.
The internet in Bolivia is SHIT and although many cafes advertise wifi it’s often dreadfully slow or non-existent. This is because all of the signals have to be sent to the USA via satellite before the message is transmitted. The country is meant to be getting a new satellite in January 2015 so hopefully the internet speed will improve then.
Because the wifi was so terrible everywhere we stayed, we had to spend around US$20 in internet cafes.
Other boring costs included getting our laundry done which cost around US$12 a pop, and paying for toilets which you have to do at every public toilet in Bolivia.
Both March and April are going to be expensive months. This month we’ll be hiking the Inca Trail to Mauchu Picchu and everyone has told us how expensive it’ll be. However, I’ve been commissioned to write an article on ‘Finding a cheap tour for an Inca Trail hike’ so it’s my mission to find the best deal. The lowest we’ve been quoted so far in US$250 per person for a four day hike which I think is very reasonable. The most has been US$660.
We’re going to the Galapagos in April and everyone knows it’s extremely expensive although totally worth it. We’ve been lucky enough to score some work with a luxury cruise company and so we’ll be going on a four day luxury cruise in return for coverage of the tour. We’re super excited. Even though this will significantly reduce our costs on the Galapagos, we still had to buy the flights to get there (around US$800 for the two of us) and we want to dive when we’re there so that’ll be an added expense. (But one which I’m sure will certainly be worth it!)
So I’m guessing we’ll need some luck to not go over our travel budget for the coming months.
Have you travelled through Bolivia? How much did you spend?
Breakdown of our expenses for our budget in February:
|Public transport (buses and taxis) and parking||165.72|