Thinking of traveling to Bolivia in the near future?
You won’t regret it.
There are plenty of amazing places to explore in Bolivia, from the sky-high capital city, La Paz, to the gorgeous, otherworldly salt flats of Uyuni.
Before you visit, though, there are several things you should consider.
Here are our top Bolivia travel tips to know before you go:
1. Plan for Plans Changing
Bolivia is an adventurer’s dream destination, with its diverse environments and scenes. You have the mountains, the cities, the vast, open salt flats, and more.
But Bolivia is also a place where plans need to be revised at a moment’s notice. Domestic flights often get cancelled, protests in the cities may lead to closures, and altitude sickness may make the trip worse for you than you had imagined.
Also, the climates (yes, plural) can be confusing. Bolivia is fully in the tropics, but you have a wide range of temperatures and climates at any given time somewhere in Bolivia. You can get pleasant, warm weather in places such as Lake Titicaca and the Oriente plains, especially in the hotter months. However, the western Andes region can have frigid, arctic temperatures on the same day. This means you’ll have to be wise in what you pack to go to Bolivia.
Also, between December and February, plan for lots of rain, though you shouldn’t rule out rainfall in other months, either.
Related Read: How to Pack Light for Backpacking
2. Prepare for Long Bus Trips
Traveling overland by bus from point to point is a great option for backpackers. Not only do you get the cheapest prices, but you avoid the problem-plagued domestic flights and see some great scenery out the window while you’re at it!
However, if you take a bus, they can get quite lengthy. Here are a few example routes:
- Cochabamba to Sucre – 8h 0m (though it’s only 128 miles!)
- La Paz to Villazón – 15h 30m
- Oruro to Villazón – 14h 0m
Bolivian bus drivers tend to stop very infrequently, so the first thing to remember is to not drink too much. You won’t know when you’ll get a rest stop! Also, plan if you can for overnight buses, as you can sleep through most of it (though you’ll lose the passing landscapes). Oh, and you don’t need a hostel or hotel for that night!
Finally, choose the upgraded “cama” bus seat, as this one reclines quite far back, giving you the best chances of getting a fitful sleep.
3. Stay Safe
As in any place you visit, standard safety precautions should be followed to ensure a safe trip to Bolivia.
If you’re going out in La Paz or another town, keep your passport locked away in your hotel room’s safe while keeping a copy of your passport or passport card on your person.
Often, especially in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosí, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, you may come across anti-government protests or other political demonstrations. Steer clear, as these can get out of hand quickly!
Though you may want to take your time and drive from place to place in Bolivia yourself by renting a car, be careful. Roads in Bolivia can be quite dangerous due to the high altitude, mountainous characteristics of much of the country. On top of that, many roads are in poor condition.
Finally, stay away from drugs in Bolivia! Though it may be fun while you’re traveling with friends, don’t risk it. The penalties can include hefty fines, being banned from the country, and even jail time! And you don’t want to visit a Bolivian jail.
4. Pack the Right Adaptor
Bolivia’s power outlets may get confusing for you.
Most of Bolivia has switched over to using the C type plug that much of Europe uses (220-230 volts, 50-60 Hz). However, some older buildings, particularly in the capital, may use the North American A type plug (110-120 volts).
For travelers from Europe or North America, this means you may require a voltage converter on top of the standard plug socket adaptor. To be prepared, call your hostel or hotel in advance to inquire about their plug types, if possible.
5. Respect the Environment
There’s no two ways about it – Bolivia is a beautiful country.
But just look at that image above. If you look closely, in the center towards the bottom edge, you’ll see a crushed soda can. Some past traveler left that there.
It’s unfortunate, for sure. However, you can play your part and keep Bolivia beautiful for future generations by simply not doing something like that. Also, if you ever see a can or other discarded piece of trash while backpacking through Bolivia, perhaps pick it up if it’s safe and sanitary for you to do so!
Well, that’s all our Bolivia travel tips for now, and we hope you enjoy your trip to South America and this gem of a country! Got any questions, feedback, or other travel tips for Bolivia to share with us? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!