Bolivia FAQs

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[accordion-item title=”1. Do I need a Tourist Visa to enter Bolivia?”]

Yes. Travelers with a US passport DO REQUIRE a visa to visit any part of Bolivia. Canadian citizens do not need a visa.

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[accordion-item title=”2. What do I need to acquire my Visa for Bolivia?”]

  • You can purchase your Tourist Visas at the Border with American Dollars (Make sure the bills are crisp and pristine condition or else they will not accept them). The Visa is $160 and good for 5 years which is ridiculous considering you do not need it for 5 years, but that is all the Bolivian Government offers.
  • You can exchange money at the border, but we do not recommend exchanging too much because you will get much better rates in Copacabana and La Paz. You will definitely need Bolivianos to eat, buy things, etc. The good news is that Bolivia is very cheap!
  • You will basically need copies of everything – Passports, Hotel Reservations, Itinerary, and your Departure Flights.
  • You will need photos of yourselves with no glasses – the photos must be 4x4cm, which is basically the size of a passport photo.
  • You will also need to show your Credit Card.

We recommend that you get your Visa in Cusco prior to your arrival to the Bolivian border if possible. The process in Cusco is easy and only takes about an hour of your time.

I know this sounds complicated, but it is really quite simple and straight forward. They may not even ask for all of this, it depends on the border guard. The good news is that you DO NOT need yellow fever shots if you are not going into the jungle, but tis vaccination is obligatory if you are visiting the Amazon Jungle in Bolivia. If you are with a small group, they will probably move you through quickly.

This only applies to Americans because our government upset the Bolivian Government.

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[accordion-item title=”3. How is the weather in Bolivia?”]

In the high Andes the temperature depends on the sun. When the sun is out it can be pleasantly warm, but if the clouds cover the sun or you pass through the shadow of a tall building, the temperature will drop quickly and dramatically. Nights are quite cold. Plan to have layers of clothes which you may remove or put on as needed. In the lowlands and Amazon Jungle, it is almost always warm and humid.

Despite Bolivia’s varying climatic conditions, there are two distinct seasons:

The dry season (winter) is generally from May to October

Some characteristics of the dry season include:

  • Days are slightly shorter but usually sunny.
  • Nights are colder especially in the highlands during June and July.
  • Temperatures are less humid and more pleasant in the lowlands, however rain remains a possibility year round.
  • A few times a year, usually between May and August, cold fronts coming up from Patagonia sweep the country sending temperatures plummeting, even in the Amazon.

The rainy season (summer) is generally from November to March.

Some characteristics of rainy season include:

  • Days tend to be warm and humid in the east, mild in the south and dry in the west.
  • In the highlands evenings are especially pleasant.
  • Heavy rains are more prominent in the lowlands, causing huge areas to flood and become muddy, along with an increase in heat, humidity and mosquitoes.
  • The highlands are less affected by rain, however tracks do get muddy and cloudy days are more common.

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[accordion-item title=”4. Is it safe to travel in Bolivia?”]

Yes it is. Bolivians are very relaxed people and violent crime is extremely rare.  Although, travelers should still take the same precautions that they would in a major city in the US. Take common-sense precautions such as not going into unfamiliar areas alone, especially at night.

Petty theft is possible in busy tourist areas such as airports, markets, and other tourist sites, as it is in any city in the world, so be aware of your valuables and don’t leave them unattended. If you believe the Government warnings and Safety warnings in travel guides, they will scare you into never leaving your home. Just use common sense as you would in New York City.

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[accordion-item title=”5. Should I be worried about altitude sickness?”]

It depends. If you have health issues, you should check with your doctor before heading to high altitudes. You can also consider getting a prescription for altitude sickness medication from your doctor. Don’t worry too much because nearly everyone experiences a little altitude sickness. The lucky ones may have a headache for the first 24 hours, while others may endure several days of fatigue, nausea, and headaches. When up high, lay off the booze, limit physical activity, hydrate, drink lots of coca tea, suck coca hard candy, or chew coca leaves. If the headache persists, take an ibuprofen, hydrate some more, and sleep it off. Some hotels have oxygen, so don’t hesitate to ask for it. Many Hotels offer oxygen enrichment in the rooms to assist with the altitude.

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[accordion-item title=”6. Will I get sick?”]

Stomach bugs are a frequent problem for visitors, but if you avoid salads and only eat fruits that you peel, you’ll reduce your likelihood of suffering from one. Raw seafood dishes popular in Bolivia carry a risk, but are so tasty that it would be a shame to avoid them. Bring anti-diarrhea medicines and play it by ear, or tummy.

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[accordion-item title=”7. What type of government have?”]

Bolivia is a democratic Republic with three branches: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. It has embraced democracy many years ago yet still struggles with the peculiar model of democracy that, like many countries around the world, has ups and downs as it develops and grows into a system that strives to represent every citizen in the country equally.

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[accordion-item title=”8. What is the environment like?”]

Since Bolivia is an under-developed country it has left most of its lands as they have been before recorded history. But, within the last twenty years, due to a growing population and other economic factors, there has been a tide of emigration and development from the highlands to the tropical lowlands in search of land and a brighter future. This has created a lot of development in once virgin areas in the tropics and put pressure in other similar areas that used to be vast wilderness.

Within the last twenty years the evolution of an environmental consciousness has arisen and the cataloging and protection of biologically diverse regions has taken place. Scientists and environmental groups worldwide have recognized that Bolivia has some of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. Within its borders lie the Andes Mountains, the vast Altiplano plateau, Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni (the world’s largest salt flat), virgin cloud forests in the Yungas, semi-tropical and tropical forests from the highland valleys to the eastern lowlands of the Amazon basin and the scrub forests and deserts of the Chaco in south-eastern Bolivia. All these regions have flora and fauna that live relatively undisturbed – and many that are not cataloged yet. There are about 30 national parks established in Bolivia.

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[accordion-item title=”9. What is the capital of Bolivia?”]

The official capital is Sucre (seat of the Judicial branch) but the de-facto and more well-known capital is La Paz (seat of the Executive & Legislative branches). It has an international airport, the embassies, many aid organizations and N.G.O.’s and is the headquarters for some of the largest businesses in the country.

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[accordion-item title=”10. What type of clothes should I bring?”]

Obviously this depends on your planned activity and where in Bolivia you will be travelling. One thing is for sure though: Travel light and be flexible with your possessions. If you are going to the highlands, then your needs will differ than if you are going to be in the tropics. If you are of the adventurous kind a backpack or pack with a hidden harness system is best. If you will be travelling in the cities and from hotel to hotel, then a regular hard case or duffel bag with a large and beefy zipper will be fine. A small daypack or shoulder bag is quite nice and very handy.

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[accordion-item title=”11. What type of electricity does Bolivia use?”]

Bolivia, like most of the world, uses the standard 220 volts at 50 cycles. However, in certain areas like La Paz and a few other areas in Bolivia, 110 volts at 50 cycles is also used (like the US and Canada). Be sure to ask before you plug in. If in doubt assume its 220 and use a converter, but be sure that it is for the intended purpose and the for the correct electrical appliance.

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[accordion-item title=”12. Can I make international calls from Bolivia?”]

The national telephone company, Entel, has national and international offices across the country. One can call internationally from all major cities and some smaller towns and villages. Faxes can also be sent easily. Prices vary depending on where you are. Cellular phones are quite popular and all major cities have the service from either Entel or other private phone companies. Cellular telephone service is available across the country and is quite modern and reliable. Phone cards are readily available and you can call anywhere in the world and solar-powered telephone booths can be found in the middle of nowhere. Little by little the Internet is making its way into remote areas and Internet Cafes are in all major and minor cities.  There is no lack of communication possibilities in Bolivia.

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[accordion-item title=”13. Is it safe to drink the water and eat the food?”]

Since Bolivia is still a developing country, travelers still need to develop a common sense approach to travel and diet while visiting Bolivia, especially in more remote areas. Be aware that your body and the organisms living in your digestive system are used to one type of diet and when you travel, your diet changes, so you may experience an upset stomach or worse. Some people traveling to more developed countries have run into the same problems as people going to Bolivia. In the larger cities and towns food and beverages served in reputable restaurants will generally be safe to eat and drink. If you are not sure, “boil it or peel it” is a safe course of action. In general, it is best to stay with bottled beverages or boiled drinks and maintain yourself hydrated as much as possible, especially in the highlands and the tropics. If you are not sure, either treat it chemically or physically with a quality water filter that kills and removes bacteria and viruses. But, by all means do not think that it is all going to make you ill. Psychologically you are not helping your body and system and for sure you will be missing out on a culinary spectacle that Bolivia is known for. Experiment and try everything; eat and drink and use common sense. The food and drink of this country are one of the things that what make it so special. Don’t miss out on some delicious local fare just because it looks strange!

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[accordion-item title=”14. What is the size and type of population?”]

The population is approximately 9 million people with a mixture of races and cultures. Approximately 60% are of pure Indian bloodlines, 35% are mestizo (a mixture of Spanish-South American and South American-Indian). They are known as cholos or cholas (male/female) and this name refers to people with Indian bloodlines that have emigrated to the cities and who may still wear some form of their original ethnic dress or costume. These same people who live in the countryside are referred to as campesinos or campesinas. Approximately 1% are of African ancestry, mostly descendants of the slaves during the Spanish conquest and colonial times that were used in the mines of Potosi and other regions that live in the Yungas region. The remaining 4% are made up of mostly European descent mostly from the Spanish and some Germans as well as other groups like Chinese, Korean, Indian and many different religious groups from all over the world.

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