La Paz is utter mayhem. Throngs of people darting along skinny pavements dodging noisy cars, market stalls, buses, pollution and dogs everywhere. Oh and food. There are street vendors every few steps selling everything from ice cream, jellies, juices, curious drinks that come in plastic bags, to burgers, hot dogs and chewing gum.
There is a multi-level market in the town centre where micro restaurants sell hot meals, juices and sundaes. Walking through it is sensory overload as you take in various smells and the vendors yell for your business. It’s the perfect spot to grab lunch very cheaply.
It’s easy to eat for less than $5 a day in La Paz if you are a bit adventurous and can speak a couple of Spanish words! Here are some examples of what we ate.
Breakfast was free at our hostel and is free at many other hostels and hotels around La Paz, a definitely win if you’re eating on a budget.
The typical hostel breakfast in Peru and Bolivia seems to be bread and jam. Cereal, yoghurt, cheese and fruit are included occasionally, if you’re extra lucky.
Here are two examples of a cheap market lunch. The first are Pappas Rellenas (‘stuffed potatoes’), which originally come from Peru but are common in the Bolivian Andes.
They are balls of mashed potato which are stuffed with meat and and egg or cheese, coated with a flour batter and deep fried.
Cost: 6 Bolivianos each or $1.20 Australian
After the Pappas Rellenas we were keen for some fruit, so we grabbed fruit salads with yoghurt.
Cost: 8 Bolivianos each or $1.60 Australian. Total cost for lunch that day was $2.80.
On our second market lunch day we had a set menu with a soup starter:
My Spanish wasn’t good enough to really understand what the second courses were (although I could see the chicken had run out) so I picked randomly and we ended up with mystery meat, rice and salad.
The marinade on the meat was mouthwatering, but unfortunately the texture of the meat itself was really weird and I had a minor freak out and couldn’t eat it. So Andrew finished mine! It was probably just liver or something, which I am unaccustomed to.
Cost: 9 Bolivianos or $1.80 for both courses
At night inconspicuous metal boxes dotted along the street are opened up and transformed into bright, sizzling food stalls. Disclaimer: the food they sell isn’t particularly healthy, but it is delicious.
Salchipapa is made of french fries topped with pan-fried pieces of sausage as well as ketchup and mayo if you like.
Cost: 8 Bolivianos or $1.60 to share
The other common street food is burgers, with or without a meat patty, an egg, some fried veggies and occasionally fries inside.
Cost: 6 Bolivianos or $1.20
Lunch on the first day $2.80 + burger $1.20 + Salchipapa $1.60 = $5.60
Lunch on the second day $1.80 + burger $1.20 + Salchipapa $1.60 = $4.60
Not bad! I guess this kind of gives you an idea of how we can continue to travel if we find cheap stuff to eat. The fruit and veg markets are also very cheap and we have been cooking for ourselves as well.
What do you think of the food in Bolivia? Would you eat it?