Soaring in the clouds, Bolivia is colorful like an Indian homespun rug – the colonial capital of La Paz and the cities of the Incas, the salt desert of Uyuni and Death Road, authentic music and no less authentic football. All about holidays in Bolivia: maps, photos, tours and attractions.
Speaking of Bolivia, you will certainly have to use a bunch of superlative adjectives. “The best” is not an advertising move of a travel agent and not a figment of the imagination of an admiring tourist, but the true truth of life. Let’s start with the fact that Bolivia is the most mountainous, the most isolated from the rest of the world and the most multinational country in the Southern Hemisphere – 37 official languages! Among other things, here are the driest, wettest and most saline parts of the earth’s surface. In addition, it is one of the richest in natural resources and at the same time, alas, one of the poorest countries in the world. By the way, the largest number of coups and counter-coups took place in Bolivia: more than 200 since 1825!
Arriving in Bolivia, you can enjoy the view of the peaks of the Cordillera soaring in the clouds, exploring the Inca cities lost in the middle of the emerald plateaus, immerse yourself in the contemplation of the silent Uyuni salt desert, almost go deaf from the chirping of exotic birds in the humid jungle of the Amazon basin… and then decorously stroll through the cozy colonial the streets of Sucre and, to be honest, try coca leaves (exclusively as part of an acquaintance with the ancestor of Coca-Cola, don’t think about it!). And in order not to freeze in snowy Russia, be sure to buy a pair of fluffy socks made of alpaca wool!
Cities and regions
According to Wholevehicles, the official capital is Sucre, the actual center of the country and the seat of government offices is La Paz.
The main cities are Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba, El Alto. All the details about the cities and resorts of Bolivia are on the page “Subtleties of tourism”.
There are two types of hotels in Bolivia – local and international chains. The former, as a rule, tend to undeservedly “attribute” an extra star to themselves, while the level of the latter fully corresponds to the declared one. For those who are tired of standard hotel rooms, there is a unique opportunity to spend their holidays in an unusual hotel made of salt, which is located on the territory of a dry lake in the south of the Altiplano plain. Many guests even taste the items, wanting to verify the authenticity of the material.
Money and currency exchange
The country’s monetary unit is the Boliviano (BOB), in 1 Boliviano there are 100 centavos. Current exchange rate: 1 BOB = 8.37 RUB (1 USD = 6.89 BOB, 1 EUR = 7.25 BOB).
It is better to take US dollars or EUR to Bolivia, and the former are more readily accepted for exchange. You can exchange currency at the airport upon arrival, at bank branches, specialized exchange offices casas de cambio, some travel agencies and large tourist-oriented shops. The rate is approximately the same everywhere, but at airport exchange points it is traditionally the least profitable. Only a few “exchangers” in La Paz and Santa Cruz work until late, so it is better not to leave exchange operations for the evening. In extreme cases, you can use the services of “cambists” – street money changers, and then only for a small amount.
In large and medium-sized cities, you can withdraw cash from a plastic card at ATMs (cajero automatico). Banknotes are issued in 50 and 100 BOB and in some cases US dollars. The opportunity to see an ATM in provincial towns is reduced to almost zero.
Traveler’s checks can only be cashed in major cities in Bolivia. The usual commission is 5%.
Climate of Bolivia
There is no single climatic zone in Bolivia, as the diversity of altitudes and landscapes is quite significant. In general, a tropical and subequatorial climate is observed on the plains, and sharply continental in the mountainous regions. On the eastern tropical plains in the summer (and in Bolivia it is directly opposite to the Russian one and lasts from September to February), the thermometer shows +32… +34 ° C, it often rains heavily. In winter, a comfortable temperature of +20…+22 °C reigns here. On the Altiplano plateau, in the west of the country, temperatures range from +13 to +20 °C. In winter, temperature fluctuations are extremely strong here: during the day it can be very hot, and at night it is noticeably cold. In mountainous cities, such as La Paz, the thermometer shows +5…+11 °C throughout the year.
Bolivia’s two “poles” of extreme temperatures are Puerto Suarez, with its scorching heat, and the salty Uyuni Desert, known for icy, piercing winds. Moreover, both can be felt within the same season.
The most comfortable time for traveling around the territory of Bolivia is from May to October, and the month most “flooded” with foreign and local tourists is August.
See also the current weather forecast in the cities of Bolivia.
Shopping and souvenirs
Shops are open from 8-8:30 to 19:00 with a break for lunch, which each owner sets independently. Tourist shops are open until late in the evening, and some supermarkets in both capitals are open around the clock.
For every three Bolivians there is a llama, so there is no shortage of wool in the country. Not surprisingly, there are products made from the wool of the llama and its closest relative, the alpaca, for every taste – from cute socks with Indian motifs to coats, blankets and carpets. It is better to buy them in high-mountainous regions, as they say, “from the machine”. In general, there are a lot of souvenirs here – each of the national cultures of the numerous nationalities of Bolivia creates its own authentic little things. It is worth paying attention to wood products, ceramics, textiles, tablecloths, knitted shoulder bags – all of exceptionally bright colors.
Former colonial cities like Sucre make delicious handmade chocolate. Among other edible souvenirs, we recommend purchasing a couple of coffee packs.
In addition, trekking enthusiasts bring from Bolivia high-quality and inexpensive uniforms of famous world brands and simpler brands. The choice here is very large.
Cuisine and restaurants
Bolivian cuisine is a huge number of national Indian dishes with tangible Spanish influences. Its three main pillars are meat, potatoes (cultivated by the Incas long before the arrival of the Spaniards) and corn. Bolivians eat beef, pork, alpaca and poultry. There are also dishes from river fish, and the population of the hinterland gladly absorbs rabbits and guinea pigs (!). The most popular cooking method is frying in a pan with plenty of oil or on the grill. By the way, barbecue is very common here. Dishes are certainly served with spicy lyahua or lokotos sauces. Of the national dishes, it is worth trying “pique-a-lo-macho” – grilled meat with potatoes and tomato-onion sauce, “silpancho” – steak with scrambled eggs on a “substrate” of rice and potatoes, “anticucho” – fried beef heart with potatoes and corn sauce, “Salchipapa” – chopped sausages with potatoes. For those who are horrified by the description of this completely unhealthy food, we recommend paying attention to the fruit salad “ensalada de frutas”: pieces of juicy fruits drowned in a bowl of fresh yogurt with honey or nuts.
The traditional alcoholic drink of Bolivia is chicha corn vodka, which is usually drunk from shallow bowls with a sloping base (so that it is impossible to drink without drinking to the bottom). Singani grape liquor is also popular; Bolivians use it to make a variety of cocktails. Fans of low-alcohol drinks will be offered local beer – the nationwide Pasenya, the better-quality Huari and the very weak El Inca.
You can dine in street eateries without fear – the food is cooked clean (although, of course, no one has yet canceled common sense). High-end restaurants can be found in major cities across the country. It is recommended to leave the standard 10% of the bill for tea.
Let us remind those who decide to chew coca leaves that in no case should they be swallowed – indigestion is guaranteed.
Entertainment and attractions in Bolivia
Bolivia is happily rich in a wide variety of attractions. In short, these are monuments of pre-Columbian civilizations, Spanish colonial architecture and breathtaking natural beauties. In addition, the authentic life of the numerous nationalities of the Indians of Bolivia cannot be attributed to the interesting things – dwellings, places of worship, holidays and festivals.
There are currently 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the territory of the country. These include: the city of Potosi – the capital of silver production, Jesuit missions on the lands of the Chiquitos Indians – the settlements of missionaries of the 17-18 centuries, who arrived to convert the natives to the “correct” faith, the historical center of Sucre, remarkable for its buildings of the colonial era, the archaeological parks “Tiahuanaco” and “El Fuerte” – the centers of pre-Hispanic Indian cultures, the national park “Noel-Kempff-Mercado”.
Lake Titicaca, which Bolivia shares with Peru, is another tourist destination. Located at an altitude of 3800 m above sea level, the lake is surrounded by emerald hills and mountains with snowy peaks. In addition, it is the highest navigable lake on the planet. There are several picturesque islands on the lake, each of which is famous for something: Uros, for example, is famous for floating islands that served as the prototype for Thor Heyerdahl’s boats, and the Inca Island is believed to be connected by underground tunnels with the capital of this civilization, Cusco.
The Uyuni salt desert is one of the most unusual landscapes on the planet. The desert stretches for 12 thousand square meters. km, the thickness of the salt cover reaches 10 m. It is crazy beautiful and absolute silence reigns here, and the sunset shadows seem to stretch for a kilometer.
Sucre and La Paz are great examples of colonial development. Graceful facades of strict Spanish style alternate here with snow-white buildings with majestic colonnades and flying domes.
Among other things, Bolivia is famous for its numerous Indian carnivals, of which the most popular are held in the towns of Copacabana (in honor of the Black Virgin, the patroness of the country) and Oruro, where the main character is San Miguel, known in the Western world under the name of the Archangel Michael.
Visa to Bolivia
On October 3, 2016, Bolivia joined the honorary society of Latin American countries that abolished visas for Russians. When crossing the border, it is enough to present a passport (be careful: its validity must be at least 6 months on the date of entry into the country) – and welcome to colorful La Paz, to the ruins of ancient civilizations and in the heart of incredibly beautiful mountains. You can stay in the country for up to 90 days every six months, so you can extend your enjoyment of one of the most picturesque countries in Latin America for as long as you wish.
At passport control, you must present a passport with a minimum validity of 6 months on the day of entry into the country. Employees of the passport service are extremely rarely interested in the presence of other documents, but it is useful to have return tickets and confirmation of hotel reservations on hand. A Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is only required when visiting tropical areas with a high risk of infection.
No one will ask for medical travel insurance at the border either, but for your own peace of mind it is better to arrange it in advance.
If you plan to stay in Bolivia for more than 90 days, you will need a visa, which must be applied for in advance at the consular section of the Bolivian Embassy in Russia.