Are you planning to travel to Bolivia? Maybe you’re already there! Here are a few things you need to know about this beautiful country that will make your travel easier.
We stayed three months in Bolivia, and though we didn’t go everywhere, we thought it would be a good idea to share our experiences and share some advice and general facts. This post is intended to help people who would like to travel in Bolivia plan their trip and make their stay easier.
$1=6.95 BoB (2012)
- Language: Learn Spanish! Almost no one speaks English (although many people speak Quechua or Aymara), and even when they understand English they often answer in Spanish.
- Electric plugs: Usually no more than two in a hotel room, so bring a multi-plug if you can.
- Showers: Typically electric, and the heater is located on the shower itself, just next to the water—so wear flip-flops (Buy Havaianas flip-flop) while shutting off the tap or do it with your towel to avoid an electric shock!
- People: The locals are nice, though not very expansive. Most of them will not treat you as a “tourist”.
- Transportation: Fly if you can. Otherwise, choose your bus company (they call it Flota) carefully.
- Driving: The roads are sometimes bad and the drivers not always sober. Subsequently, there are a lot of bus accidents.
Cochabamba city bus—these are safe!
- Train: Railways are rare. There is only one train from Oruro to Uyuni that we know of.
- “Bolivar” is a recommended bus company. Seats are comfortable enough to sleep if you take the sleeping bus (they call it Cama). You may consider buying All-in-One Travel Comfort Sleep Kit
- No toilets in buses, or if there is one they won’t open it. Usually they stop along the way.
- Toilets: “Baños” are easy to find, are typically clean and cost around 1 BoB (which includes toilet paper). Toilet paper should be thrown in the bin rather than in the toilets because they don’t have central drainage in Bolivia.
- Climate: Be prepared for all kinds of weather and temperatures. Take winter, summer, and rain clothes (we recommend Columbia Jacket), as well as “sun protection accessories,” depending on which regions of the country you plan to visit.
- Taxi: No taxi meters in Bolivia. Agree on the price before you get in the car.
- Food: More meat than vegetables (which are basically potatoes, manioc/yuca, and plantain).
What you’ll eat a lot of if you are vegetarian
- Almuerzo: Lunch is from 12 pm to 2 pm. After that, no almuerzo (they don’t have all day almuerzos), so don’t be late!
- Soup is to Bolivia what cheese is to France.
Sopa de mani (peanut soup)
- Sweets: Don’t expect much.
- Coffee: Bolivian coffee is delicious (in my opinion!).
- Hot Drinks: They drink a lot of Mate (coca leafs), which is also recommended for altitude sickness.
Mate herbal tea
- Alexander coffee shop is the local “Starbucks,” but you can’t find them everywhere (they are mainly in La Paz).
- Money: $1 = 6.95 BoB (2012). Bolivia is a cheap country in general. Make sure to take enough cash if you go to small villages, where they usually won’t have ATM machines.
- Money: Rates in banks are very close to rates in the street. Stay safe and use banks.
- Money: You can withdraw money from inside banks if you don’t want to use an ATM to withdraw a big amount. They will charge a percentage.
- Taxes: You have to pay a tax in bus stations and airports. Prices vary from 2 BoB to $25 (for “El Alto” International Airport).
- Altitude: We didn’t have any altitude related health problems, but you should take your time and walk slowly until you get used to it.
- Electronics: We didn’t use our Macbook Air in La Paz or any higher altitudes because we read that altitude can damage computers. However, we used our iPad everywhere without any problems.
- Internet is available everywhere in Internet cafes. Prices vary from city to city, but are typically between 2 BoB and 5 BoB per hour.
- Printers are sometimes hard to find. They are not always available, even in Internet cafes.
- Wi-Fi is not available in all hotels (especially cheap ones), and Internet is sometimes very slow.
- You can buy a mobile modem (starting from 200 BoB) and data plan (we paid 350 BoB for 20 GB/month with Tigo, but they have cheaper plans).
- Telephones are available everywhere, and local calls are cheap.
- Mobile phones: We bought a sim card “chip card” with Tigo company for 15BoB. You can top-up starting from 5 BoB. You have to register your phone number.
- Other communication companies are Entel (government company) and Viva.
- Bolivian wildlife is incredible. Bolivia is to South America what Kenya is to Africa.
- Music: Andean music is unfortunately rare (and typically only played for tourists!). We found this disappointing.
- Wherever you are, there is always a carnival around the corner. Ask the tourism office about cultural events, because no one will tell you about them spontaneously.
Cochabamba entrada universitaria carnival
- Pay attention while crossing the streets. If there’s a light, no problem. If not, cars won’t stop to let you cross.
- No sea in Bolivia (sniff sniff!).
- No McDonald’s in Bolivia.
- Pizzas are expensive compared to local food.
- Almost everything is closed from 12 pm to 3 pm because of almuerzo (lunch) and siesta (nap).
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