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12 Tips and Tricks for First-Timers Travelling to Bolivia
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12 Tips and Tricks for First-Timers Travelling to Bolivia

Picture of Harry Stewart
Updated: 9 May 2018
Bolivia can be a challenge for newcomers, with frustrations such as unreliable schedules, puzzling local customs, and testing climatic conditions to contend with at every turn. Worry not, for Culture Trip has put together a list of 12 tips and tricks to help you navigate the country with ease.

Bring plenty of warm clothes

Bolivia gets cold, especially in the Altiplano during the winter months when nighttime temperatures can plummet as low as -20C (-04F).

Bolivia Salt Flats
Hot springs near Uyuni | © Anthony Tong Lee/ Flickr

And bring them on the bus with you

With overnight temperatures dipping well below freezing on unheated Bolivian buses (and windows that may or may not close), bringing some extra layers onboard can feel like a matter of life and death.

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Bolivian bus | © Manuel Menal/Flickr

Don’t rush

There is plenty to explore in this vast land-locked nation, so don’t try to squeeze everything in on a whirlwind tour. Most backpackers aim for a month, although to venture well off the beaten path would require considerably more.

Bolivia desert salt flats
Bolivia Speed Limit | © RomanBader / pixabay

Petty theft happens

We don’t want to cause alarm, but a few folks in Bolivia would love to sneakily relieve you of your belongings, just like anywhere else. Keep an eye on your bags at all times and store valuables in an inside pocket. Above all, be aware that distraction is a pickpocket’s best friend.

Bolivia
Bolivia | © mezzotint / Shutterstock

Learn a bit of the lingo

Outside the tourism industry, and indeed at times within it, Bolivians don’t tend to speak much English. Learn at least a few phrases such as “dos cervezas, por favor” if you plan on traveling the country in comfort.

Elderly Bolivian
Elderly Bolivian | © Gatol fotografia / Flickr

Consider getting a bus pass

Bolivia Hop makes traversing Bolivia that much easier by offering bilingual guides and door-to-door services at every step of the way.

Bus Bolivia
Bolivia Hop | Courtesy of Bolivia Hop

Make sure your visas are in order

Americans need a tourist visa to enter, which can be obtained at the border on arrival. Officially, you need to bring a 2×2 inch passport photo, a valid passport, a letter of invitation or hotel reservations, a travel itinerary showing outward travel, a bank statement or credit card to demonstrate financial solvency, and US$160 in crisp undamaged bills. In reality, most border guards are only interested in your passport and the condition of your cash.

There have been occasional reports of Americans being turned away on entry despite having their paperwork in order, although this is rarely the case.

Some nationalities must acquire a visa in advance while others obtain one for free on entry.

Bolivia Border
Bolivian Immigration | © Robin Fernandes/Flickr

Cash is king

Credit cards are slowly becoming more widely accepted, though most local businesses still only accept cash. Luckily, ATMs are abundant in major towns and many don’t charge additional withdrawal fees.

Bolivia Cash ATM
BCP ATM Bolivia | © AgainErick/Wikipedia

Keep a flexible schedule

Unexpected illnesses, protests, and weather events can cause havoc on meticulously planned itineraries, so it’s always wise to keep a few flex days up your sleeve.

Bolivia bus travel landslide
Landslide in Bolivia | © Peter Collins/Flickr

Patience is a virtue

Nothing ever happens on time in Bolivia, with delays of an hour or more being entirely commonplace. To avoid spending your entire trip feeling frustrated, just accept this is how things are and go with the flow.

Train Bolivia
Bolivia train travel | © paramita/Flickr

Get out of the cities

The highlight of Bolivia is her unrivaled naturaleza, with a plethora of snow-capped peaks, kaleidoscopic landscapes, and dense Amazon jungle to explore.

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Nevado Sajama | © Rav_ / Pixabay

Altitude is everywhere

At least in the western half of the country, that is. Take it easy while acclimatizing and try to ascend to the highest locales one step at a time.

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Trekking in the Cordillera Real, Bolivia | © chesterphotography/pixabay