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Bolivia currency: Top 5 quirky facts 

What is Bolivia currency called?

Bolivia’s currency is the Bolivian boliviano, abbreviated as BOB (ISO 4217 code). Its symbol is Bs. 

Pronounced as “bo-lee-vee-ano,” this currency was reintroduced in 1987, replacing the previous peso at a rate of one million to one. 

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Mount Illimani, the guardian of La Paz, Bolivia. Its peaks barely illuminated by the last rays of daylight. The city already lit up.

A brief history of Bolivia’s currency

Bolivia’s relationship with its currency has seen significant transitions, reflecting changes in the nation’s economy. The Bolivian Boliviano was introduced in 1864, effectively replacing the Bolivian peso. 

This initial incarnation of the currency aligned Bolivia more closely with international currency standards prevalent at the time.

However, because of economic challenges, the Peso Boliviano replaced the original Boliviano in 1963. 

This change was part of broader monetary reforms initiated by the Banco Central de Bolivia (Central Bank of Bolivia) to stabilise the economy. The Peso Boliviano endured severe inflation throughout the 1980s, undermining its value.

In response to the escalating inflation crisis, the Boliviano was reintroduced in 1987, replacing the Peso Boliviano at a conversion rate of one million old pesos to one new Boliviano. This strategic move was crucial for stabilising the economy and restoring confidence in the national currency.

Current Bolivian Bolivianos banknote series.

Bolivian banknotes 

Bolivian banknotes are a vibrant tapestry of the country’s cultural and historical legacy, each denomination crafted to showcase distinct aspects of Bolivia’s identity. Here’s a closer look at how these banknotes reflect Bolivia’s rich heritage.

  • 10 Bolivianos: The front features Bolivian patriots José Santos Vargas, Apiaguaiki Tumpa, and Eustaquio Méndez. On the reverse side, you’ll find a captivating depiction of Isla del Pescado, a unique island in the middle of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. The note also features artistic representations of a hummingbird and the Queen of the Andes plant, a towering cactus native to the high altitudes of the Andes and symbolizes the remarkable flora of Bolivia. 
  • 20 Bolivianos: This note displays Genoveva Ríos, Tomás Katari, and Pedro Ignacio Muiba on the front, with a black caiman illustrated on the back.
  • 50 Bolivianos: The front features portraits of José Manuel Baca, Bruno Racua, and Pablo Zárate, notable figures in Bolivian history. The reverse side of the note showcases the Nevado Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak, along with depictions of the Andean flamingo and quinoa, highlighting the rich biodiversity and agricultural heritage of the region.
  • 100 Bolivianos: Juana Azurduy de Padilla, Alejo Calatayud, and Antonio José de Sucre grace the front, and the Arco Iris Waterfalls, local flora, and a Hyacinth Macaw are depicted on the back.
  • 200 Bolivianos: Túpac Katari, Bartolina Sisa, and Simón Bolivar are on the front, with the Tiwanaku site, native flora, and the Andean Mountain Cat featured on the back.

These banknotes reflect a rich tapestry of Bolivia’s revolutionary history, natural beauty, and cultural symbols. Each denomination is distinct in colour and design, making the currency a practical tool and a celebration of the nation’s identity.

Bolivian coins 

Like the banknotes, Bolivian coins are rich in cultural symbols and reflect the national pride and heritage of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. Here’s a detailed look at the current series of Bolivian coins:

  • 1 Boliviano: This coin prominently features the national coat of arms, surrounded by the motto “La Unión es la Fuerza” (Unity is Strength), reflecting a central theme of national unity.
  • 2 Bolivianos: Similar to the 1 Boliviano, this coin also features the national coat of arms and the unity motto, reinforcing themes of national pride and cohesion.
  • 5 Bolivianos: This is a bimetallic coin with a distinctive two-material design featuring copper at its centre and stainless steel at its edges. Like the other denominations, it carries the national motto and coat of arms, symbolising the country’s heritage and values.

The 10, 20, and 50 centavos coins are part of the currency system but are less frequently used in daily transactions owing to their low value. 

Each coin denomination serves as legal tender and as a reminder of Bolivia’s national values and identity. Consistent design themes across denominations underline the national motto and the importance of the coat of arms.​

The currency’s reintroduction has played a vital role in Bolivia’s economic transactions, especially in major cities like La Paz. It remains a cornerstone of the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s financial system.

As digital transactions become more commonplace, credit cards have become a common method for managing finances, although Boliviano coins remain essential for everyday cash transactions.

altiplano, Bolivia

Where else in the world uses Bolivian currency?

The Bolivian Boliviano (BOB) is used exclusively in Bolivia and is not an official currency outside its borders.

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Currency in Bolivia – 5 fascinating facts 

  1. Dual series circulation: Bolivia has the unique peculiarity of circulating two series of banknotes concurrently. The older 1987 series and the newer 2018 series both serve as legal tender, featuring distinct designs and security features tailored to reflect Bolivia’s rich cultural heritage and modern economic stability.
  2. The naming history: The Bolivian boliviano is named after Simón Bolívar, a revolutionary leader who played a key role in Latin America’s quest for independence from the Spanish Empire. This ties the currency not just to Bolivia but to a broader historical narrative of liberation throughout Latin America.
  3. Bimetallic coins: One of the quirkiest features of Bolivian currency is the 5 Bolivianos coin, which is bimetallic. This means it consists of two different metals, giving it a distinctive look. The centre is made of bronze-plated steel, surrounded by a stainless steel ring, reflecting a blend of tradition and durability.
  4. Unusual denominations: Unlike many countries that phase out smaller denominations because of inflation, Bolivia still issues coins in denominations as low as 10, 20, and 50 centavos. These coins feature the national motto “La Unión es la Fuerza” (Unity is Strength), emphasising the importance of unity and strength through their monetary system.
  5. International design influence: Interestingly, Bolivian banknotes are printed and minted abroad. This is common among several countries, which outsource currency production to specialised foreign companies to benefit from advanced security features and reduce costs. 
Wild Llamas in front of a mountain range in Bolivia

FAQs

Because Bolivian currency isn’t as globally recognised as the euro or the US dollar, many people are uncertain what to ask for when they need to exchange money.

People often search for “Bolivia currency”, “currency in Bolivia”, “Bolivian money”, etc., when in fact, what they’re looking for is the Bolivian boliviano. – Now you know for next time!

Yes, exchange your pounds for Bolivian bolivianos quickly and simply; we’ve got you covered!

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If you’re around Heathrow, you’re in for a treat! Drop by our travel money shop to collect your Bolivian currency directly. We strive to make the process as convenient as possible for you.

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We’re committed to offering great rates for your leftover bolivianos. Your leftover currency is valuable, and we are committed to ensuring you receive the best value for it. 

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