One thing you learn when travelling is to exchange your money as little as possible. Every time you do, particularly at border crossings, you lose a sizable chunk of your money. So it was a surprise to find that in Sucre, this is not the case.
It may be due to the low cost of living here, or maybe the healthy competition (in parts of town, almost every store seems to offer currency exchange). Whatever the reason, you can exchange money here very cheaply. For example, it is currently possible to buy US dollars for 6.97 Bs per dollar and sell them for 6.92 Bs per dollar. This means the difference between the buy and sell price is only 0.7%, and therefore the commission on a Boliviano to Dollar conversion, or vice versa is only 0.35%.
You have several choices when it comes to converting money in Sucre:
Changing Money at the Bank
Bolivian banks perform money exchange services and are a safe, reliable way to convert your cash. However, they usually require you to have an account with them in order to do so, making this option unsuitable for visitors to the country.
Changing Money at a Casa de Cambio
Casas de Cambios, or currency exchange houses, are stores dedicated to currency conversion. They offer the biggest selection of currencies and hold the most money in various currencies. They also quote their rates on boards so you know exactly how much money to expect back. They are skilled at detecting forgeries and won’t accept them, meaning that you are unlikely to be given one in your change. The Casas de Cambios are a reliable place to exchange money and offer good rates. They are probably the best place for tourists to exchange money in Sucre.
Two Casas de Cambios that I’ve used and recommend are:
- Ambar, on Calle. San Alberto #7 (diagonally across the from the San Francisco Basilica). They are the most central casa I’ve used being just one block from Plaza 25 de Mayo, though I’ve found that they don’t hold a lot of US dollars, so if you want to buy US you may need to go elsewhere.
- Casa de Cambio España, on Calle España #134 (1 1/2 blocks from Plaza 25 de Mayo). They offer good rates and hold a decent amount of US dollars. This is my preferred place to do money exchange.
Changing Money at a Street Store
Plenty of stores (clothing stores, grocery stores, etc) have signs out advertising that they will exchange currency. This is particularly true in the streets around Mercado Central, where every other store seems to be willing to exchange money. Be aware that there is a risk of forgeries, bad exchange rates and short-changing when you deal with such stores (as is true elsewhere in the world). However, on the rare occasion that I’ve dealt with such stores I have been pleasantly surprised and have received a fair rate (comparable to that of the Casas de Cambios) and good quality notes. If you do have to use informal currency exchange services such as these, try to minimize the amount you exchange and know in advance how much you expect to receive.