Amigos de Sucre

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Why it pays to speak Spanish

If you go into a shop in Europe, then the prices of the items on sale are usually on display. They are fixed an non-negotiable.

If you take a taxi in Europe, then the price is shown on the meter. It depends on the distance travelled and maybe the time of day.

In Bolivia, things work a bit differently. For a start, taxi fares are agreed in advance, and are normally a fixed price for anywhere within the local town, but per person. It is, however, possible to arrange a discount when travelling in a group and you fill the taxi up.

Then there are the shops and the markets – you can bargain with the vendors and arrange a lower price if, for example, you want to buy more than one item.

This obviously takes some getting used to, and is made easier if you can speak Spanish well enough. If you don’t, then your efforts will be less successful.

It is a fact of life in Bolivia, that tourists who speak Spanish (or at least attempt to) get a better deal when buying products and services.

But there is another factor in the buying equation that should not be ignored – being accompanied by a Bolivian. This can often knock the price down a little more.

And if know exactly what you want and can get a Bolivian friend to go into the shop on their own and buy it for you, you may even save an extra Boliviano on top.

I remember that a taxi ride in Sucre used to cost 3 Bolivianos per person, regardless of distance. For 3 people I could knock the price down to 7Bs, if one person was a Bolivian, they might even get it down to 6Bs.

In Cochabamba our Bolivian friends even stopped the taxis to ask them to take us for 1Bs/person. There were so many taxis in the queue (and we were 24 people in the group) that if a driver wouldn’t agree to the price, then they would just ask the next one. It worked!

So it really does pay to speak Spanish!

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