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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.