Bolivia Travel Guide

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The Country

Nature has bestowed bountiful gifts on Bolivia, a country that never fails to astound visitors, exceeding every expectation. The dimensions of time and space are different in this huge and diverse land of challenging highlands, peaceful valleys and exuberant tropics, where adventure begins at any corner. Arriving to Bolivia is like taking a journey back in time, although the environment is harmonious and the infrastructure comfortable.

Being the most indigenous country in South America, Bolivia’s vibrant culture reflects a long and rich heritage which can be shared by all visitors, offering them a genuine glimpse of South American life. A pristine environment, smiling people, healthy, fresh and delicious cuisine, need to be experienced to understand why Bolivia is a truly exceptional destination.

Government: Bolivia has a Representative Democratic Plurinational State
Capital: Sucre (constitutional), La Paz (administrative) 

Area

With an area of 1.098.581 sq. Kilometres, (425.807 sq. Miles), Bolivia is a landlocked country divided in 3 geographical zones; Highplateau, Valleys and Tropics. The largest geographical areas are valleys & tropics, but the major condensation of population is on the Highplateau. 

Buses

Overland transportation is well served by bus with Chile, Argentina and Brazil and also on regular schedules with Peru.

Within Bolivia to the main cities the overland transport can also reach all the most important Cities, but it is not recommended for tourism due the distances and the local bus service is not so good discomfort and distance should be considered.

Car Rental

Most of the local big car rentals companies operates in the major cities, they required a valid international drivers licence, copy of passport and a credit card with enough founds.

Due we do not recommend tourism to drive them self’s in Bolivia the traffic can be chaotic and some of the streets are not properly signed it can be challenging to drive along the locals.

Climate

Bolivia presents a full range of climates: cool on the highlands, mild in the valleys and warm on the flat lowlands. Generally, there are 3 months of rain (Dec.- Feb.), and 9 months of crystal blue skies and sunshine. In the highlands the climate is dry, which makes any temperature more comfortable.

Cruise Ships

Bolivia is an Mediterranean country, but we have the highest navigable Lake in the world; Lake Titicaca, our main attraction known as the “Sacred Lake of the Incas” is the highest navigable lake of the world, surrounded by the magnificent Royal Range of the Andes. Emerging from its sapphire blue colour are located the legendary Sun and Moon Islands, cradle of the Inca Empire, as well as the Urus Iruitos Floating Islands, the Sustainable Tourism Project of Quewaya, and the Islands of Pariti, Kalauta and Quewaya. Our Hydrofoils assure any visitor an unforgettable experience.

Customs & Immigration

At any entrance to Bolivia, you must handle your valid passport for six more months of the entrance date and visa if required. Most of the European countries don’t need visa to enter Bolivia.

Diving

N/A

Dress

La Paz and the Highlands in Bolivia are known for changing weather and the sun shines during the whole year through. It is cold in the morning and evening and temperate during the day. From November through March it rains some days, but never too long, please protect with waterproof clothing.

For the Tropical area such the Amazon basin, light clothes are recommended. Always use flat shoes, hat, sun protector and comfortable clothing. Bolivians dress casually even when going out for dinner to a Restaurant.

Shopping

Shopping in La Paz and Santa Cruz is a most fantastic experience; tapestries and knitted woven clothing of both -llama and alpaca wool- fashion clothing , antiques, gold and silver jewelry, curiosities, a tip for La Paz; Sagárnaga Street is the best place for discovering all unique souvenirs.

And you can always visit the Local Malls allover the country for fashion clothing as well for jewelry in a very good prices.

Eating Out - Food & Drink

Bolivian food is well known for its varied and tasty flavour. Typical meals are: “Quinua Soup”, “Peanut Soup”, “Sajta de Pollo”, Lake Titicaca Trout and “Pejerrey”. The “Salteña” is a typical turnover pie to enjoy before lunch. Taste Bolivian beer, one of the best in the world.

Electrical Current

110 and 220 volts, 50 cycles

Guide Books

Most of the major guidebooks series publish titles that cover Bolivia that been printed in the last 2 years are ok, due Bolivia had a boom in tourism there are much new information to consider.

Health & Insurance

Bolivia has a very good network of private hospitals in the most important cities, but medical and travel insurance are advised.

La Paz has an altitude of 3.800 mtrs. (12.540 feet). Taking the correct precautions, altitude should not bather. Consume light meals, drink a lot of water and avoid excess in drinking alcohol & smoking. Walk slowly; avoid climbing or any other heavy exercise. Hotels and restaurants provide “coca tea”, a native leaf which helps overcoming altitude problems. Some books suggest having a “sorojchi pill”, special for the altitude; please don’t consume it if you are allergic to aspirin

Language

Spanish, Aymara, Quechua and Guarani are official languages.

Media

There are no locally published English language newspapers in Bolivia, but hotels have cable TV, offered in English and Spanish programs, including the international news channels.

Money

1 boliviano=100 cents and it has a stable exchange since 2007 (US$1=7.09.) US dollars are a widely accepted payment option throughout Bolivia. Traveller’s checks in US$ are accepted in the main cities, but 10-15% lower rate. ATM access is available at all major cities. If you are travelling with euros we advise to change to the local currency or US dollars.

Banks & Credit Cards

Offices, Banks & Commerce schedules:

Crillon Tours: 07:30 to 20:00
Public Offices: 08:30 to 16:00
Banks: 09:00 to 12:00 & 14:30 to 17:00
Commerce: 09:30 to 12:30 & 14:30 to 19:00

Credit cards are accepted in most of the shops and restaurants in the main cities such as MasterCard and Visa, etc, if you are on the country side, cash are recommended.

Population

9,000,000 approximately

Public Holidays

New year (January 1st), Carnival (Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday), Good Friday, Labor Day (May 1st), Corpus Christi, La Paz holiday (July 16th), Independence Day (August 6th), All Saints Day (November 2nd) and Christmas (December 25th).

Railways

Travelling on trains in Bolivia is a great way to see everything between your point of origin and your destination. There are two railway systems in Bolivia with a total of 2290 miles (3685 kilometers) of track used by freight and passenger cars. The problem is that they are not connected to each other.

The Western Network (Red Occidental) of railway passenger transport in the Andes region of Bolivia was built beginning in 1877. It wasn't until 1976 that diesel engines replaced steam locomotives. It is called La Ferroviaria Andina (FCA). They have two lines: 'Expreso del Sur' and 'Wara Wara del Sur'. The first is a North to South line that runs from Oruro (a town about 3 hours South of the city of La Paz) to Uyuni to Atocha, to Tupiza toward the border of Argentina where it stops at Villazón.

The Eastern Network (Red Oriental) connects Santa Cruz with Sao Paulo, Brazil running eastward toward Quijarro, in the Pantanal on the other side of the border from Corumbá, Brazil. It also runs from Santa Cruz going South to Yacuiba on the Argentine border.

Taxis

Taxi in Bolivia are a safe way to travel small distance within the main cities, but make sure you take a “Radio Taxi” from your hotel, in this way you make shore you are in good hands.

Telephone Services

Police: 110
Tourist Police: 2225016

Medical Services

Clínica Alemana Avda: 6 de Agosto No. 2821 2432155
Clínica del Sur Calle: 7 Obrajes & Avda.Siles 2784002

Airlines

Main Office Airport
Aerosur: 16 de Julio 1616 11th F. 2312244 2817281-2817685
Amazonas: Avda Saavedra 1649 2220648
American Airlines: Plaza Venezuela 1440 2392009 2810114-2810115
Lan Chile: Avda. 16 de Julio 1566 2358377 2811917-2121961
LAB: Avda. Camacho 1456-1460 2371020/24 2810369
TACA: Paseo del Prado 1479 2313111 2822244
TAM: Mercosur Heriberto Gutiérrez 2323 2443442
Varig: Mariscal Santa Cruz 1392 2314040 2811925

Embassies

Australia: Avda. Arce & Montevideo 2440459 08:30-13:30
UK: Avda. Arce 2732 2433424 09:00-12:00
USA: Avda. Arce 2780 2430251 08:00-17:00

Time

Bolivia is 4 hours behind GMT and it is not subscribed to daylight savings time.

Vaccinations

If visitants go to tropical areas or some risky places in the valleys, they must have a yellow Fever shot, but it is not need it in the Highlands.

Visa

Most of the European countries don’t need visa to enter Bolivia, American citizen requires visa to enter Bolivia this can be obtain in the same Migration post at the entrance to Bolivia.

Religion 

No official religion in Bolivia, but freedom of worship and spiritual beliefs are constitutionally guaranteed. Most of Bolivians follow Catholicism and Pantheist ancestral religions.  

Transportation

There are 6 Airlines with direct or connecting flights to Bolivia; Taca, LAN, American Airlines, Copa, BOA, and Aerosur with all the neighbouring countries, USA, Europe and with Cuzco in Peru. Overland transportation is well served by train connections with Chile, Argentina and Brazil and also by buses on regular schedules with Peru, Chile and Argentina. The most important and panoramic local or international itineraries on arrival/departure are our Hydrofoils serving with daily cruises to/from La Paz to Puno and further to Cuzco.

Regular and private transportation from Arica to La Paz. Domestic transportation in Bolivia is not highly recommended.

Safety

Bolivia is a very safe place, but it is advisable to take international precautions. Leave your valuable, passport & tickets in the safety box of your hotel; All Hotels recommended by Crillon Tours have this service. Bolivian Police will never bother Tourists or ask passports on the streets. If somebody comes to you introducing themselves as “Police”, don’t follow them anywhere or give them any documents on the streets neither board any vehicle.

Culture

All around Bolivia, people are nice and hospitable, as long as visitors show the same qualities. The rhythm although is usually slower than in other latitudes, a national practice is to talk; relax and join the tradition, you can learn from the quite life in the “Andes”, and the loud life in the Amazon.

Duty Free

Only at International Airports in La Paz and Santa Cruz

History

Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire, becoming independent from Spain in 1825 and loosing later a large amount of territory for three neighboring nations; the exit to the Pacific by Chile (1879); the rubber rich province of Acre In 1903 and a few acres to Paraguay in 1938. In 1952, Bolivia held the first revolution in South America. In 1965 Ernesto "Che" Guevara led a guerrilla, but Bolivia's army captured and killed Che Guevara in October 8th, 1967. A string of military coups lasted 12 years and the country returned to democracy in 1982 with Hernan Siles Suazo. In 1993, the defender of free-market, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was elected President, being succeeded by the former dictator Hugo Banzer. While Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reservoir in South America, and with considerable oil reserves, the country has remained one of the poorest in the continent. In August 2002, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada again became president of Bolivia. In February 2003, he faced big riots and protests. In October, Sanchez de Lozada was forced to resign after two months of unrest and strikes after a popular rebellion. The Vice President, Carlos Mesa took over and in July 2004, held a referendum on the future of large reserves of natural gas from Bolivia. The referendum would sidestep the issue of nationalization of the gas companies and government control of foreign oil investment, called by the left and social movements of Bolivia. Carlos Mesa thought he has satisfied the strong anti-privatization sentiment of Bolivians without shutting the door to some form of privatization in the future. After massive protests, he has to resign and according to the Political Constitution of Bolivia, the President of the Supreme Court Eduardo Rodriguez became President. In December 2006, the Bolivian Indigenous Evo Morales Ayma won the presidential election with 54% of the votes. His two main initiatives were nationalizing the natural gas industry and to rewrite the Bolivian Constitution, for what he called for national elections and the Constituents ensured more rights for the indigenous people of Bolivia. On May 1, 2006, Morales announced the nationalization of the country's energy industry. On August 10, 2008, Evo Morales won a recall referendum with the 67%, a majority which endorsed the President and Vice President as the highest authorities of the country. This support will allow unprecedented Evo Morales reforms in favor of the majority, after the New Constitution was approved in January 2009.

On July 19th, 2010, President Evo Morales promulgated the Law of Autonomy and Decentralization, (LAD) one of the five structural laws mandated by the Constitution and the most important, as it will outline the new structure of the now called “Plurinational State”, regulating the Autonomic regime and the State bases of the territorial organization of the autonomous territorial entities. It also regulates the coordination between central and decentralized and autonomous local authorities and the transfer and delegation of powers. The central national level has the three powers of the State and the four autonomous regional government levels are: Departmental, Municipal, Regional and Indigenous, with legislative and executive power. The LAD also sets out the competences of each level of autonomy.