Holy shit I love Bolivia. Seriously this country is like some sort of backpacker paradise. Amazing attractions? Check. Cheap as chips food & accomodation? Check. Culture drastically different to what you will be accustomed to, resulting in some delightful culture shock? Check. People who patiently put up with your god-awful attempts to speak Espanol? Check…. most of the time.
While Peru seems to hog all the glory over here in the Andean part of the continent, most of it off the back of the awesomeness that is Machu Pichu, I reckon if I had to make a call as to my favourite country over this way I’d give the nod to Bolivia. Now don’t get me wrong, I love you Peru, I’m real happy for you, and I’ma let you finish, but Bolivia has some of the best tourist attractions of all time, of ALL TIME!!!
What I probably love most about Bolivia is it’s mind-blowing diversity. Cities like capital La Paz are hectic & bustling, while the deserts of the south west are so isolated you feel like you’re all alone in the middle of nowhere. There are steaming hot rainforests & the chilly altiplano. There are rugged high mountains and red & turquoise lakes teeming with flamingoes. You can lax out on islands in Lake Titicaca or ride a bike down the world’s most dangerous road. You can visit culture capitals like beautiful Sucre or head into the middle of the Amazon. There truly is something for everyone.
While it’s true that travel here can be a bit, shall we say “trying” at times (AKA frustrating as fuck), the rewards are so god-damned outstanding it’s totally worth the occasional hassle from people wanting money or buses being delayed for an hour or 10 – anyway that stuff’s all part of the experience. If you’re heading to South America & were thinking of skipping Bolivia, think again asshole, this is one little corner of Latin America you will not want to miss.
Highlights of Bolivia Travel
Practical Information for Bolivia Travel
Cost – let’s be clear on this, Bolivia is fucking cheap. You can get by on $20 a day easy, probably less if you’re a total tight-wad. Accommodation starts at around $5 for a dorm bed or $10 for a private room, you’re looking at $5-10 all up for a sit down meal with a drink or just a couple of bucks for some hearty food from the market. Transport & access to tourist attractions are ridiculously cheap too. This is definitely a country where a little goes a long way.
Safety – I’ve heard lots of people who have never been to Bolivia talking lots of smack about it being a dodgy & dangerous place, but I did not find it to be this way at all. Basic common sense applies – don’t carry round a massive stash of cash, don’t walk around lost late at night – but unless you actively go looking for trouble it’s unlikely you’ll end up in any.
English speaking situation – locals working in hostels, restaurants frequented by gringos or in other tourist services should speak pretty decent English, but outside of that you might struggle, particularly away from the main centres. Do yourself a favour & learn at least a few phrases in Spanish before you go, this will make your trip easier & the locals will at least appreciate the effort if you try to speak their language, even if you fuck it up royally.
Best time to visit – winter, which is roughly May-October, is actually the best time to visit since this is the dry season. What the fuck Bolivia, winter is the dry season, are you ‘aving a laugh or wot?
Money – local currency is Bolivianos, best way to get hold of them is from ATMs which are pretty much everywhere, but there are some notable exceptions (e.g. Rurrenabaque) where you’ll need to load up on cash before going.
Food – not fancy, but does the job. It’s all about quantity here, double-carbing is the norm, as is dubious meat that you’re not exactly sure what it is (often it will be llama, and surely no one feels bad about eating those creepy bastards). Anyway, it’s probably not going to win any awards for taste, but you sure as hell won’t starve.
Water – do your bowels a favour & stick to the bottled stuff, sold everywhere & dirt cheap. Probably okay to brush your teeth with tap water though, unless you are massively paranoid.
Getting around – buses go from everywhere to everywhere (probably), and in most cases will be your best bet. Quality ranges between okay to god-awful, as does the quality of the roads (actually they veer more towards the god-awful end of the spectrum), so prepare for some bumpy rides. Apparently Bolivia does have trains but someone forgot the minor detail of building some tracks for them to run on, so unless you’re going from Uyuni to Oruro you’re probably better off on the bus. Internal flights are an option, and are quite cheap, but are of course a viable option for pussies only.
Visas – free entry for all, some nationalities get 30 days, some get 90, I’m not going to list all nationalities here, Google is your friend.