Local draft: 75 cents to wash down a few of their 1,200 varieties of chilies
What you'll save on: A bed in a bare-bones hostel will run $5 per night, and taking a leashed alpaca for a stroll is free.
Why here? Landlocked in a corner behind Pacific coast-hugging Peru and Chile, Bolivia remains an even greater bargain than backpacker sanctuaries like Cambodia. La Paz (elevation 12,000ft), the world's highest capital city, is where frugal long-term travelers crisscrossing South America hang their hats and regroup. Giveaway alcohol prices and all-night dance joints are a welcome reprieve from the city's hectic street scene.
Here, the mostly Roman Catholic country breaks from tradition with their version of America's WWE, Cholita wrestling, where empowered Bolivian ladies battle it out for your entertainment. Bolivia has the largest Native American population in South America and they invented the frugal existence. Although less than 10% of Bolivia's land is flat/fertile enough for growing crops farming is their primary occupation. Yet few Bolivians can afford the biggest crops -- in their case quinoa and coffee -- because they're worth far more as an export.
Andean natives never seem to be in a rush, probably because they maintain spiritual links to their 3,000-year-old ancestors. In the past 185 years they've had nearly 200 heads of state, so it's easy to assume that the current presidente on the Bolivian stamp doesn't have much time left. But in the cosmic sense, who does?
Affordable adventure: Once you stomach the $160 cost of a visa, everything, I mean everything, is ultra-cheap in one of South America's least-visited countries. If you need a break from La Paz's buzz or elevation, you're just a 30-mile drive (passing an eruption of majestic mountains) from sea-like Lake Titicaca where drowsy llama herds graze while cows sip from the trout-filled lake.
If you need a hedonistic binge: Mountain biking 45 miles down the treacherous road that connects Coroico to La Paz is a kaleidoscopic evolution of microclimates, and throws a bit of mud in your face. The aptly named "death road" was cut into the side of a mountain chain in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners. It connects the Amazonian rainforest to La Paz. You'll note that many vehicles have tumbled off the narrow dirt road and met their fates far below. The 11,000-plus-foot drop means riders segue from thin, chilly air to baking humidity. Many outfitters compete for your business. Oh yeah, La Paz has decent hospitals.