The Republic of Bolivia is a land locked country surrounded by five others, and it is also one of the poorest countries in South America. Bolivia has two capital cities: Sucre, is the legal capital and seat of the judiciary; La Paz is the administrative capital, and it is here that you will find the government as well as foreign embassies. As well as impressive cities, Bolivia boasts utterly breathtaking scenery including extinct volcanic craters and lush jungles. It is an incredibly diverse country, ideal for the traveller seeking a varied adventure.
Currency: Bolivianos (Bs), Time zone: GMT -4 Official Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara Calling code: country code +591, international access code depends on which network is being used. Check with the provider.
The altitude keeps Bolivia a fairly temperate country and even at the warmest times of year the nights can get very, very cold indeed, with temperatures dropping below freezing during the winter. At lower altitudes, the weather is more typical of the tropics – warmer and more humid than higher areas. Clear skies mean that sunscreen is always a must, especially in the winter when skies are often clear and dry. The summer sees the start of the rainy season in November, which lasts through until around March.
Things to See and Do
As well as the hustle and bustle of the major cities, Bolivia offers some spectacular routes over which to trek, if hiking is your thing. The Salar de Uyuni are the world’s largest salt flats and are quite a sight to behold; if you feel adventurous there are some jungle hikes in the area around Coroico, which is accessible via the world’s most dangerous road!
If the local wildlife is of interest to you, the pampas trips, guided tours running out of Rurrenabaque through the jungle focussing on the animal life of the Amazon will be ideal. You can also pay a visit to the Madidi National Park, a ‘biodiversity reserve’ which boasts some beautiful woodland.
Lake Titicaca is an ever popular spot with the tourist trade and offers a perfect chance to grab some rest and relaxation. If you happen to be in Bolivia on their Independence Day on 6th August then Sucre is the place to be, the lively festival atmosphere throughout the celebrations is not to be missed.
Travel within Bolivia is in general reasonably priced and relatively straightforward although often not for the faint of heart. To travel long distances within the country the local airlines are probably the most convenient, not to mention quickest, method of getting around, although during the rainy summer months flights may often be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
Buses are the most common method of transport between cities and where one is not available taking a shared taxi is not unusual. In more rural areas the definition of “bus” can be a fairly loose one so don’t be surprised if you end up travelling with livestock on occasion! Fares are changeable so be sure to try and haggle to get the best deal.
Within the city licensed taxis and public busses are convenient ways of getting about. If in doubt as to the legitimacy of a taxi, be sure to make your way to the depot rather than hailing a cab on the street.
Travelling to the Jungle
If you intend to visit the Amazon at any time during your travels to Bolivia, it is advisable that you take Malaria medication as a prophylactic. In addition vaccination against Yellow Fever may be required. This is not provided as standard by many doctors or travel clinics so you will need to find where it is available and book well in advance for vaccinations.
Accommodation is relatively inexpensive within Bolivia, and easily found within the major cities. However the quality of room you get for a particular price can vary wildly so make sure you ask to see the room that you would be staying in (not a “similar” room) and fully inspect it before you sign the register.
It is recommended that before travelling to Bolivia you are immunised for Hepatitis A and B, and that vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria and measles are all up to date. Sunscreen is important no matter what the country but the high altitude of the majority of Bolivia means that the sun’s UV rays can be much more damaging than elsewhere.
Altitude sickness can be a problem for those travelling to the country for the first time. Altitude sickness will most often manifest as a mild headache or physical tiredness, although some people feel the effects of altitude much more strongly. It is important to keep hydrated and if you start to really suffer with it to seek out medical help.