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  • Overview

    Known as the 'Tibet of the Americas', Bolivia is the highest andmost remote country in South America. The landlocked destinationincludes the East Andes Mountain Range and the Altiplano HighlandPlateau, where most of its people live.

    Bolivia's history spans the ancient Aymara, who lived on LakeTiticaca, the Altiplano's Inca Empire and the Spanish conquest inthe 16th century. Visitors can still see traces of thesecivilisations in the country's ruins, museums and colonialcities.

    Culture lovers should note that Bolivia has one of thecontinent's most concentrated indigenous populations who, for themost part, have retained their traditional way of life. Visitorswill encounter authentic houses, age-old agricultural methods andancient weaving techniques. Haunting panpipe melodies ride theAltiplano's crisp mountain air, while livelier tunes fire up thewarmer lowlands.

    Thrill seekers will relish the country's dramatic geography.Explorers can track wildlife in the Amazonian Basin or drive theSalar de Uyuni's surreal landscape. They can also venture to theworld's highest navigable lake, Titicaca, scramble through muddyshafts in the silver mines of Potosi and hike in the magnificentAndes.

    Home to ancient indigenous tribes and spellbinding biodiversity,Bolivia offers the thrill of the unbeaten track. Adventuroustravellers will come alive in the country's wilderness, which hassomething for every bent. Indeed, visitors can brave the AmazonBasin's sticky heat, explore parched desert, or scale ruggedmountains, packing coca leaves to remedy altitude sickness.

    Lake Titicaca is a must for nature lovers. So too is thebreath-taking Salar de Uyuni: the world's largest salt flat. TheEduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve is full ofotherworldly landscapes.

    History buffs will enjoy the Spanish colonial town of Sucre, andexposure to the country's tribes, who still live as they have forcenturies. The terror-inducing Yungus Road is another of thedestination's gems, and is known as the world's most dangerousroad.

    On a cautionary note, travellers should plan their itinerarieswith Bolivia's lack of infrastructure in mind. Tourists generallyhave a richer experience by visiting one or two interestingregions, instead of trying to see more in a single trip.

    Iglesia de San Francisco

    People congregate in this imposing church's plaza, which is amixture of neo-classical Spanish and mestizo architecture.Construction began in 1549 and only finished in the mid-18thcentury. Oftentimes, travellers will see colourful Quecha or Aymarawedding processions on Saturday mornings, leading to and from thechurch. The plaza is a wonderful place to pass the time and watchBolivian life unfold on any day of the week. Visitors should climbthe atmospheric stairway to the fabulous rooftop and enjoy thegreat views of the city.

    San Francisco Cathedral, La Paz San Francisco Cathedral, La Paz Anakin
    The Witches’ Market (Mercado de Brujas)

    Mercado de Brujas (the Witches' Market) offers tourists a trulyBolivian experience. Situated in a maze of narrow alleys in La Paz,it stocks an unusual collection of merchandise, including charms,potions, and herbs used in Aymara traditions. The traditionalmarket scene stretches around it, selling a huge a variety ofeveryday goods, as well as Andean art and handicrafts. Visitors canexpect to see yatiri (witch doctors), who wear dark hats and carrypouches of coca for fortune telling.

    The Witches' Market, La Paz The Witches' Market, La Paz Alexson Scheppa Peisino (AlexSP)
    Museo de Coca (Coca Museum)

    The museum covers the role of coca in Bolivia's culture andtraditions. Visitors will learn about the leaf's healingproperties, its use in Andean religious ceremonies, its chemicalbreakdown and different species. They will also canvas its use bysoft-drink and pharmaceutical companies, and how it is turned intococaine. Actually, one of the institution's missions in to counterthe plant's cocaine-related stigma. Among other things, guests willleave knowing how to correctly chew coca leaves, which will allowthem to feel its stimulating effects.

    Address: Linares 906, La Paz Zona 1, Bolivia
    The Coca Leaf The Coca Leaf Dbotany
    Cooperative Mines of Cerro Rico

    Entering the mines is like stepping back in time, given thatcurrent mining conditions remain untouched by modern advances.Indeed, they're much the same as when the Spanish used Andeanpeasants as slave labourers to extract the rich silver deposit. Theexperience involves guided tours leading groups along the narrowtunnels and up rickety ladders, stopping along the way to chat toworking miners. Visitors won't struggle to find a tour operatoroffering trips out of Potosi, and the best guides tend to be formerminers. Travellers should also consider that these trips, thoughfascinating, are potentially dangerous. For ethical reasons,tourists should perhaps remember that many people in contemporaryBolivia have no choice but to accept this hazardous life.

    Mines of Cerro Rico idol Mines of Cerro Rico idol Ahron de Leeuw
    Museo de la Casa de la Moneda

    Spanish colonists used the Casa de la Moneda as their Royal MintHouse, where they turned the silver they mined into coins destinedfor Spain. The institution is one of Bolivia's best museums, andcovers the history of silver production in the country. Visitorswill encounter coins and coin stamps, and assemblies of mule-drivenwooden cogs that would beat silver into the right width forcoining. They will also see a fascinating collection of religiouspaintings from the Potosi school (Baroque artwork).

    Address: Ayacucho S/N, Villa Imperial de Potosí, Bolivia
    Opening time: 9am-12pm; 2.30pm-6.30pm - Tuesday to Sunday(closed onMondays).
    A silver Spanish coin A silver Spanish coin Jerry "Woody"
    Salar de Uyuni

    Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat, which existscourtesy of a prehistoric lake that went dry. This region is one ofBolivia's most spectacular natural attractions, and is aphotographer's delight. Its surreal landscape combines salt pans,wandering llamas and wind-eroded rock formations. A landmasscovered in towering cacti called, Isla de Pescadores (thePescadores Islands), lies in the middle. Laguna Colorada and LagunaVerde are other isolated marvels in Salar de Uyuni. One is afiery-red lake; the other is a deep blue. Both are inhabited byflamingos and surrounded by extinct volcanoes. Nearby Sol de Mananareeks of sulphurous gases from geysers, fumaroles and bubblingmud-pools. The village of Uyuni is located to the southeast of theSalar, and is the best base from which to explore the area.Travellers can arrange tours from there. 'Salt Hotels' around theperiphery of Salar are a unique form of accommodation, whereeverything (walls, furniture, etc.) is made from salt blocks cutfrom the flats.

    Salar de Uyuni Salar de Uyuni Judith Duk
    Tupiza

    Located in Potosi Department, Tupiza mining town serves as apopular base for tours of nearby San Vicente, which is the region'smajor drawcard. San Vicente's 'Wild West' history features ButchCassidy and the Sundance Kid: two of the world's most famousoutlaws. Both of them died in Tupiza after fleeing the US in 1901.They were gunned down by the Bolivian army. Organised tours fromTupiza lead tourists along the 'death trail' of Butch and Sundance,giving visitors the chance to follow the outlaws' last days. Thetrail leads all the way to their supposed final resting place.

    Tupiza Tupiza Pattr�n
    Rurrenabaque

    Rurrenabaque is one of the main starting points for eco-tours tothe Amazonian jungle and pampas. Perched between the surroundingjungle and the River Beni, this little frontier settlement is theloveliest of Bolivia's lowland villages. Many holidaymakers come toexplore the nearby Madidi National Park and Pampas, which are hometo caimans, macaws, monkeys, turtles, piranhas, pink dolphins,anacondas and capybaras (the world's largest rodents). Visitors canalso take dugout canoes down the river or simply enjoy therainforest's immense biodiversity. The terrain varies from mountaincloud forest to savannah.

    Capybaras Capybaras Warren H
    Yungas Road

    Yungas Road is not an attraction for the faint of heart. Dubbedthe 'El Camino de la Muerte' (Road of Death), it stretches betweenLa Paz and Coroica and claimed 200 to 300 lives every year until1994. Paraguayan prisoners built the road during the 1930s ChacoWar, and it has extreme drops of up to 2,000 feet (609m). TheYungas Road has since become a popular tourist destination amongthrill seekers, particularly mountain bikers. It remains dangerous,though, and trucks have serious problems passing each other.Crosses dot the road and mark where cars have plunged off the steepcliff. Drivers on Yungas Road must obey a strict set of rules, asrain and fog often reduce visibility and there are no guard rails.Contrary to normal Bolivian driving rules, drivers keep to theleft, and uphill vehicles always have the right of way. Yungas Roadhas been upgraded with many new safety measures in the last decade,but the original route, now called North Yungas Road, is still inuse by tourists.

    Yungus Road Yungus Road Toxane
    Huayna Potosi

    Located in the Cordellera Real range, Huayna Potosi is atremendous stop for adventurous travellers. The mountain is a mere15 miles (24km) north of La Paz and only around 1,000 people a yearmake it to the summit. Many of those who attempt the climb turnback due to cold temperatures and the high altitude. The climb canbe done in two daily stages and several difficult snow and iceroutes go up the face. Those who make it to the summit will berewarded with breath-taking views over the Cordillera Real range,Lake Titicaca and La Paz.

    Huayna Potos� Huayna Potos� revolution cycle
    Coroico

    Coroico is a relaxing, low-altitude spot where visitors canescape frigid highland nights. The trip from La Paz traverses theYungas Road, which makes for a photogenic and adrenalin-chargedentrance into this laid-back resort town. Perched atop the peak ofCerro Uchumachi, Coroico offers gorgeous views of orchards,forested canyons, cloud-covered mountain tops, and the snow-cappedpeaks of the Cordillera Real. Coroico is a good base for someinteresting hikes into the jungle and for mountain-biking tripsinto the local area, including guided descents of the precipitoushighway.

    Coroico, Bolivia Coroico, Bolivia Fernando Jauregui
    Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos

    The Jesuit Church sent missionaries to a number of Bolivia'srural areas in the 16th century, with instructions to 'civilise'and convert indigenous tribes. Today, travellers can visit thechurches they built and cultivated. Many vibrant villages liearound these beautiful colonial structures, which were collectivelydesignated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. The six historicmissions that remain intact are San Miguel, San Jose, Santa Ana,Concepcion, San Rafael, and San Francisco Javier. All of them arein the Chiquitania region near Santa Cruz. Many local touroperators offer packages that include visits to several villages,all within easy reach of the city.

    Jesuit Missions Jesuit Missions Bamse
    Samaipata

    The tiny village of Samaipata lies two hours' drive southwest ofSanta Cruz. Its home to an array of local tribes and some beautifulexamples of Spanish colonial architecture. Visitors will encounterseveral important attractions, including El Fuerte, which is a setof pre-Incan ruins designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and theLas Cuevas Waterfalls. Condor Mountain and the stunning AmboroNational Park are also nearby. Travellers should note thatSamaipata is the start and end point of the Che Guevara Trail,which visits sites of interest.

    Samaipata, Bolivia Samaipata, Bolivia Patrick Furlong
    Amboro National Park

    Amboro National Park is a nature reserve in central Bolivia. Itswildlife population includes more than 800 species of birds, andmany endangered animals such as the puma, jaguar and spectacledbear. Hikers will encounter a diverse terrain, which covers thenorthern Chaco, Andes foothills, and Amazon Basin. The region'sspectacular scenery features canyons, forests, mountains, rivers,and waterfalls. Visitors can pass the time birdwatching at LaChonta outlook, sunning themselves on the beaches of the SurutuRiver, or hiking the Yungas Mountains. Getting to the park isrelatively easy, given that it's only around 93 miles (150km)northwest of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. A number of tour operatorsoffer outings to Amboro and a range of activities in the park.

    Amboro National Park, Bolivia Amboro National Park, Bolivia Ángel M. Felicísimo

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Due to the altitude, Bolivia's climate is one of extremes, withwarm days and cold, sometimes freezing nights. Rain is heavy overthe summer months (November to March), and Bolivia can be becomevery humid (especially at lower altitudes). The climate variesdrastically between regions, so weather should be checked for eachdestination.

    The dry winter season (May to October) is the high season fortourism, and generally the best time to visit. That said, touristsshould check the best time to visit for the particular region andactivity they are planning, as the country has many differentclimatic zones.

    El Alto International Airport
    Location: El Alto International Airport is situated 11 miles (18km)south west of La Paz.
    Time: GMT -4.
    Getting to the city: The Airport Coach leaves for La Paz every five minutes, andthere are bus ($1), and taxi services ($10) available.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a bank, bars, restaurant andduty-free shops, as well as access for those with disabilities.
    Santa Cruz Viru Viru International Airport
    Location: Santa Cruz de la Sierra
    Time: GMT -4.
    Getting to the city: There is a bus service to Santa Cruz from the airport, and railconnections available from the city.
    Car Rental: There are car rental facilities at Viru Viru airport such asEuropcar.
    Fascilities: The terminal contains a restaurant, snack bar, bank and currencyexchange, and an information desk.
    Parking There is long and short-term parking available at the airport,both covered and uncovered.
    Money:

    The official currency is the Bolivian Boliviano (BOB), which isdivided into 100 cents (centavos). Money can be exchanged atbureaux de change in the main centres, at banks and hotels - banksare generally considered the best places to exchange currency. Maincentres accept USD, but travellers will need cash when they journeyto more remote areas.

    Banking facilities are good in the main cities and ATMs caterfor Visa and MasterCard. Major credit cards such as MasterCard,Dinersclub, Visa, and American Express are accepted in shops,restaurants and the bigger hotels.

    Language:

    Though Spanish is an official language, only 60 to 70percent of the people actually speak it, often as a secondlanguage. Many indigenous languages, such as Quechua and Aymara,are also official.

    Electricity:

    220-230 volts, and 50-60Hz. US flat-bladed, two-pinplugs and two-pin plugs with round grounding areused.

    Entry Requirements:

    US nationals must have a valid passport and a visa to enterBolivia. A visa is obtainable on arrival for a fee payable in cashonly, with an invitation letter Bolivian Immigration Authorities(DIGEMIG), a printed hotel reservation, a printed return/onwardticket, and a printed itinerary. The visa is valid for a stay of nomore than 30 days.

    UK nationals holding valid passports do not need a visa forstays of up to 90 days.

    Canadians require a valid passport, but a visa is not necessaryfor touristic stays of up to 90 days.

    Australians need a valid passport, but do not require a visa fortouristic stays of up to 90 days.

    South Africans require a valid passport on arrival and a visa toenter Bolivia. Visas can be issued on arrival for a fee in cashonly, with an invitation letter Bolivian Immigration Authorities(DIGEMIG), a printed hotel reservation, a printed return/onwardticket, and a printed itinerary. Visas can also be obtained athttp://www.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/. The visa is valid for a stay ofno more than 90 days.

    Irish nationals need a valid passport, but do not require a visafor touristic stays of up to 90 days.

    US nationals must have a valid passport and a visa to enterBolivia. A visa is obtainable on arrival for a fee payable in cashonly, with an invitation letter Bolivian Immigration Authorities(DIGEMIG), a printed hotel reservation, a printed return/onwardticket, and a printed itinerary. The visa is valid for a stay of nomore than 30 days.

    New Zealanders need a valid passport, but do not require a visafor a touristic stay of up to 90 days.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    All visitors travelling by air should have return tickets andall required documents for their next destination, as well assufficient funds to see them through their stay. All travellersarriving from yellow fever risk areas must show valid yellow fevervaccination certificates on entry to Bolivia. Those who qualify forvisas on arrival need to carry all the required documentationtranslated into Spanish and should confirm these requirements inadvance. Travellers who do not have the required fee, documents andphotographs for a visa to be issued will be denied entry.

    Travel Health:

    Altitude sickness is the most common complaint in Bolivia, withmuch of the country lying above 10,000 feet (3,050m). This isparticularly relevant to diabetics and those with heart complaintsor chest problems, who should seek advice before travelling toBolivia. Travellers should take Acetazolamide (Diamox) or drinkcoca tea to alleviate symptoms.

    The usual list of health precautions goes for Bolivia. Yellowfever vaccination is advised, as outbreaks do occur, particularlyafter flooding, and it is a requirement for those entering frominfected areas. Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country,and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations are recommendedfor hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and a vaccination for typhoidshould be considered if travelling to rural areas.

    Additionally, sanitation and hygiene are poor in some areas, sotravellers should be wary of what is eaten. It's best to avoidunder-cooked meat and unpeeled fruit and vegetables, and to onlydrink bottled water. Comprehensive medical insurance is stronglyrecommended as medical facilities are generally not of a highstandard in Bolivia.

    Tipping:

    A service charge is typically added to restaurant and hotelbills in Bolivia, but it is customary to add a five to 10 percenttip for good service over and above this charge. Porters at hotelsexpect small tips and drivers are only tipped if hired for a fullday.

    Safety Information:

    Bolivia is generally a safe destination, though visitors shouldbe vigilant at all times. Pick-pocketing takes place on buses andin crowded areas, as it does in Europe. Female tourists shouldavoid taking jungle and pampas tours on their own and should alwaysavoid unlicensed guides. Travellers should stay away from politicaldemonstrations. Most crimes in Bolivia are non-confrontational.

    Otherwise, months of heavy rainfall are usually responsible forflooding and mudslides throughout the country, which can severelyaffect transport.

    Note: 29/11/19

    Ongoing marches and protests have plagued Bolivia since October2019, when claims of electoral fraud in the 2019 general electionsurfaced. The unrest has caused violent confrontations and loss oflife, and there are recurring strikes, marches and roadblocks inmajor cities. Travellers should think carefully before planning avisit to the country.

    Local Customs:

    In conversation, rural Bolivians should be referred to ascampesinos (subsistence farmers) rather than Indians. 'Machismo' isvery much alive and husband and wife roles within the family arevery traditional. Homosexuality is frowned upon, particularly inthe Altiplano.

    Business:

    Relationship building is important is Bolivia, so getting downto business might take some time. Foreigners should remember not torush things. Negotiations are generally quite slow, andface-to-face communication is preferred over phone calls or writtencommunications. For these reasons, foreigners should be prepared tomake many trips before reaching an agreement. Punctuality isexpected, even if the meeting doesn't start on time, and schedulesare often just a guideline. Consequently, meetings are fairlyunstructured and deadlines are often unimportant.

    Business people are expected to wear suits. Meetings begin andend with handshakes, with custom demanding that men wait for womento extend a hand first. It's important to include a person'sprofessional title in the greeting if applicable. Otherwise, it'spolite to use Señor (Mr) or Señora (Mrs) with a surname. Businesscards should also include any academic qualifications, and shouldhave one side translated into Spanish.

    Unfortunately, women are generally considered subordinate in theworkplace and visiting businesswomen should emphasise theirqualifications and work experience. Office hours are generally8:30am to 6:30pm, Monday to Friday, with a long break overlunch.

    Communications:

    The international access code for Bolivia is +591. The outgoingcode depends on what network is used (e.g. 0010 for Entel, or 0013for Boliviatel), which is followed by the relevant country code(e.g. 001044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for La Paz is2, but the access code to make a call within the country fromanother area also depends on what network is used.

    Mobile phones operate on a GSM network.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers to Bolivia over the age of 18 years can bring thefollowing items into the country without incurring customs duty:400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 500 grams of tobacco, 3 litres ofalcohol and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.

    Newly purchased goods to the value of $1,000 per person are alsoduty free. Travellers departing from the country should note thatit is illegal to leave with the following items without priorwritten permission from the appropriate local authority:pre-Colombian artefacts, historical paintings, items of Spanishcolonial architecture and history, and native textiles.

    Useful Contacts:

    Ministry of Culture and Tourism, La Paz: +591 2 2200910 orhttp://www.minculturas.gob.bo/

    Bolivia Embassies:

    Bolivian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 4834410.

    Bolivian Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible forIreland): +44 20 7235 4255.

    Bolivian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 5730.

    Honorary Consulate of Bolivia, Johannesburg, South Africa: +2711 646 1408.

    Bolivian Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9247 4235.

    Foreign Embassies in Bolivia :

    United States Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 216 8000.

    British Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 243 3424.

    Canadian Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 241 5141.

    South African Embassy, Lima, Peru (responsible for Bolivia):+511 612 4848.

    Australian Consulate, La Paz: +591 2 2115655

    Consulate of Ireland, La Paz: +591 2 242 1408.

    Bolivia Emergency Numbers : Bolivian emergency numbers are 120 (police), 165(ambulance) and 119 (fire department).
    Bolivia