Santa Cruz (de la Sierra) is the capital of the department of the same name in South-Eastern Bolivia. As its name suggests, the city is located at the foot of the Sierra, on the Pirai River, where the Andes Mountain Range makes way for the tropical forest floor. Its diverse landscape reflects the multifaceted nature of the city: an encounter of cultures, traditions and languages that makes moving to Santa Cruz a unique and adventurous experience.
Originally a Spanish colony, the city of Santa Cruz is estimated to have – according to the latest national statistics – 1.6 million inhabitants, thus being bigger than the capital city La Paz and the economic hub of Bolivia. The expat community is not as large as in other major South American cities, but the locals are welcoming and hospitable (in fact, they are often referred to as “cambas”, an indigenous word for “friends”), and integration should not be too difficult.
The official language is Spanish, and it is advisable for all expats planning on moving to Santa Cruz to learn it. However, Bolivia has the highest percentage of indigenous people in South American and as a result some local languages are commonly spoken as well: in Santa Cruz, Chiquitanos and Guarani-speakers are particularly numerous.
Santa Cruz is located in the lowlands, which are characterized by hot, tropical and sub-tropical climates - different from the rest of the country. The city has a balmy climate, with temperatures typically ranging from 15°C to 31°C, and pleasant, not too extreme weather that expats are likely to enjoy.
The warm season in Santa Cruz (September-March) has an average temperature of 30°C, with March being characterized by high humidity (around 98%).Thunderstorms are very common during this season, especially in December and January.
The cold season, from May to July, is relatively short. The average temperature in Santa Cruz is around 26°C and July is the coldest month, with temperatures falling to 15°C. In this season, cold winds from Argentina called “surazos” can suddenly drastically change the temperature; along with thunderstorms, this is probably the most unpleasant aspect of the local weather for expats that are not used to the sub-tropical climate.
Nationals of the countries belonging to this exemption list do not need a tourist visa in order to stay in Bolivia for up to 90 days. Nationals of countries not included on this list should apply for a tourist visa from their country of origin. In order to do this, they must provide documents that prove the nature of the visit (accommodation booking confirmation, flight ticket with return within 90 days and itinerary for example), as well as, a passport with at least 6 months validity. If you enter the country on a tourist visa you will not be allowed to apply for a residence visa later on.
Other temporary visas available are the student visa and the specific purpose visa (visa de objeto determinado). In these cases, there are no exceptions and nationals of every country have to apply for it. A letter of intent from the receiving Bolivian institution must be provided along with evidence of the nature of the stay.
For stays longer than 90 days, expats have to apply for a residence visa, either temporary or indefinite. The visa for temporary stay requires the applicant to already have a special purpose visa and a valid reason for staying in Bolivia (a work contract or certificate of study should prove it), as well as, a passport, criminal record certificate, proof of address, application for temporary residence and a letter to the Under Secretary of Migration. A visa for indefinite residence can also be acquired under specific conditions after two years of residence in Bolivia.
There are several Bolivian embassies around the world; information about their locations can be found online.