Bolivia is located in the true heart of South America between the ANDES and the AMAZON. This landlocked country shares borders with: Chile and Peru to the West, Brazil to the Northeast, Paraguay and Argentina to the South & South East.
Bolivia has an extension of 1.100.000 km2
9 million inhabitants according to the 2001 census
Sucre (La Paz city host the legislative and executive branches)
The main religion practiced is the Roman Catholicism mixed with Andean beliefs, rituals, and superstitions, especially in the countryside where most of the indigenous population lives. Nowadays, Christian churches have replaced Catholicism in several areas of the country side.
Castilian (generalized as Spanish). This Latin language was originally introduced by the Spaniards during the conquest and is the most widely used language
Aymara language is widely spoken in the Bolivian highlands and mountain valleys way before the Inca times.
Quechua was the Incas language and have been introduced in Bolivia around the 14 century by the Incas and - ironically - by the Spaniards themselves. This language is mostly spoken in the Bolivian temperate valleys and some areas in the highlands.
Tupi-Guaraní and other minor indigenous tongues are spoken in some areas of the Jungle and Chaco sides.
Anthropologists have estimated that there are dozens of other languages and dialects still spoken in remote areas of the country side.
Natural gas, minerals, agriculture and tourism are the main economic resources. Tourism and handicrafts export are just starting to become important industries. Last year, the main income of the country was from Soya beans exportations and tourism.
International dialing code
Country code (591). Area codes are: La Paz, Oruro and Potosi (2). Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz (3), Chuquisaca, Tarija and Cochabamba (4).
- Bolivia shares with Peru the highest navigable lake on earth. Lake Titicaca at 3.810 mt (12.496 Ft).
- Highest international Airport at “El Alto” at 4.100 mt (13.448 Ft).
- Highest mountain road at Volcano Uturunco up to 5820 mt (19089 Ft.).
- Biggest salt lake on earth, Uyuni, around 10.000 km² (3900 mi²).
- There are more volcanoes per square kilometer in the southern highlands than anywere else above the surface of the planet.
- Mount Sajama is the highest mountain of Bolivia at 6549 mt (21.480 Ft). As the summits is flat and as big as two football yards, it was the setting of the highest football game on earth when a British and a Bolivian teams played in 2001.
- Lake Huallatani in Quimsa Cruz range holds the record of altitude sailing, 4980 mt (16.334 Ft).
- The small lake at the top of Llucancahur volcano holds the record al altitude diving, 5916 m (19404 ft).
- The highest factory on earth is at Apacheta, “Terra” Boric Acid Factory, 5020 mt (16.465 Ft).
- There is a net of more than 30.000 Km (18.633 mi) of so called “Inca Roads”. They actually have been built by the previous Tiwanacu culture.
- “San Francisco Javier University”, in Sucre city, is the oldest of the continent. It was founded in 1624.
How to get there
Bolivia has two international airports in the cities of La Paz and Santa Cruz. Most major airlines have daily flights into either airport from most major cities in the Americas. Bolivia Aviacion, Avianca and Copa Airlines have direct flights from Miami to La Paz.
Flights from Europe can be taken via other cities in South America such as Lima, Santiago, Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires.
By Land you can take one of the following entry points:
- From Peru: by bus from Cuzco or Puno, or by train/bus combination from Cuzco.
- From Chile: by bus from Arica, Santiago, or Iquique.
- From Brazil: by bus from Corumbá
Passports (*) are required when travelling abroad for proper identification. Usually, hotels, banks, Money exchange houses, Post offices, and airports will require proof of passport
Contact the local Bolivian consulate or embassy for more information on proper entry requirements (VISA) since they vary depending on your nationality.
Most of the European countries citizens do not need a VISA to enter Bolivia while travelling as tourists. Since 2007 American citizens require VISA to enter Bolivia.
In general, Bolivia grants a 30-day free VISA upon entry to the country. You can obtain an extension of 30, 60 up to 90 days depending on your nationality and proper paper work. Working and study VISAS can also be obtained with completed requirements.
Tourists coming from a country where Yellow Fever is a risk (part of Africa, Central America and Caribbean) must show legal evidence of an up-to-date vaccine.
(*) When booking a Andean Summits trip, you have to provide us a photocopy of your passport and the “form” you get when entering into the country.
Safety & Dangers
Since 1982, Bolivia has had a Democratic government and the political situation has been very stable. Democratic system is slowly rooting into peoples minds.
As many other “third word countries”, Bolivia has a weak economy (hopefully to be improved by tourism and the recently found natural gas resources) which causes some protests against the government. Demonstrations and street blockades are relatively common in the country, normally peaceful and usually disappear within the hour.
In 2003 the elected president Gonzalo Sanches de Lozada was forced to resign and leave the country after several months of social unrest. The vice-president Carlos Mesa assumed the presidency, and brought back stability again.
After the last general elections on December 2005, Bolivia has become the first country in South America that has elected an Aymara as a president with almost 54% of the votes. This shows not only that the majority of our population is indigenous, but a deep democratic conviction that is rooting into people minds. We think that despite minor - and habitual - demonstrations, the political situation in Bolivia will remain stable for the following years.
Most of the roads and paths in the cities and villages (with the exception of some big city suburbs) are safe for tourist travelling. Carrying a backpack and other valuables does not necessarily pose a threat for assault. Generally speaking Bolivians are very amiable and generous.
Bolivia is one of the most peaceful, safe and hospitable countries in South America. Terrorism is not part of this society and extreme crimes are not the rule, but the exception.
Since there are some “pickpockets” and "scammers" on streets, we recommend that you carry your money, airline ticket, and passport in a belt or in a small travel bag which you can hang around your neck. We suggest that you leave your jewelry and other valuables at home or deposit them in a security box at the hotel.
Be aware of fake police that approach to you supposedly looking for drug dealers or tourist involve in drug consumption. You may be asked to board a “taxi” where your belongings will be stolen. They can be very convincing and get from their victims even their credit card pin numbers. Never get in a car that looks not as a police car.
We consider the following places dangerous and suggest our clients not to go to:
- Some areas in the “Chapare” (mid east of the country) where there are illegal Coca plantations and some strongholds of the cocaine Mafia.
If you are planning to travel independently, we advise the following:
- Almost all of the trails are unmarked.
- Current detailed maps of 1:50000 scales are available in La Paz but some of them have not been updated since the 1960’s.
- We can support you with adequate information, this as an addition to some services contracted from our agency (i.e. transportation, gear renting, maps, etc.)
- Even though the local people are quite friendly, we suggest that you keep your campsite at a respectable distance from the village, especially during “fiestas” as countrymen get unbelievably drunk.
- Unfortunately there is no proper legislation in Bolivia about tourism and anyone can open a tour operation office. There are lots of “travel agencies” at Sagarnaga Street in La Paz that offer very cheap services but with no guaranty at all (i.e. no trained guides, no proper equipment). The Tourist Police office is full of complains about those “companies”. And that is the highest level they get: to be a piece of paper with a complaint.
- Be very careful when signing in a trip, specially on trekking, mountaineering and mountain bike tours. Remember that you will get what you paid for!
- In case of theft, contact the “Tourism Police“ at (591-2) 222-5016 in La Paz. They will probably not help you getting your things back, but they will make an official police report for your insurance company.
Even though the Mountain Guides have been trained to make rescues in the mountains, there is not a formal Rescue System in the country, so expect to be on your own. You should have both air-evacuation and medical insurances.
American dollars can be exchanged into “Bolivianos” in the following places: airports, hotels, banks, money exchange houses, and of course, on the streets. Your American bill MUST be intact (i.e. no rips, no wrinkles, and fairly new), otherwise it will not be accepted. Other currencies must be changed at money exchange houses. (i.e. Mark, Franc, Peseta, etc.).
Credit cards such as: Master Card, Visa, and American Express are accepted in hotels, restaurants, and some stores. You can also get cash from them in most of the banks and cashier machines. Local commission varies from 1% to 3%. In case that your credit card is lost or stolen, you can call to the following numbers in La Paz: VISA or MASTER CARD 2318585, AMERICAN EXPRESS 0800-100160.
Traveler’s checks such as: American Express, Visa, Thomas Cook, Citibank, and Bank of America are accepted in banks and money exchange houses (very few stores will accept traveler’s checks). Do not sign them until the payment and make a photocopy of them in case you lose them. Local commission varies from 1 to 3 %.
It is recommended to carry your money, airline ticket, and passport in a belt or in a small travel bag, which you can hang around your neck. We recommend that you leave your jewelry and other valuables at home or deposit them in a security box at the hotel.
Phones can be found in almost every corner of the country. The best way to make national or international calls is by buying the ENTEL prepaid cards (Tarjeta única). Faxes can only be sent from major cities and towns. Cellular phones are widely used in major cities and work well enough in the western sides of the main Mountain ranges.
Cyber cafes for Electronic mailing and Internet access can be found in major cities & some towns like Uyuni, Sorata, Coroico, and Copacabana.
There are post services and courier companies in all major cities & towns. Letters and packages can be sent using a P.O. Box number (recommended) or the regular address.