12 Truths Expats Learn About Bolivia

Bolivian mother | © M M / Flickr
Bolivian mother | © M M / Flickr
Photo of Harry Stewart
26 January 2018

Expatriating to Bolivia is no easy feat, with mountains of paperwork, a puzzling new culture, and all the pitfalls of a poverty-stricken country to contend with. Yet those who have lived here share a series of learned truths which are infinitely more perceivable through the lens of an outsider. Here’s everything you need to know.

Things never happen on time

Nothing ever happens when it’s supposed to in Bolivia. Even more than elsewhere in Latin America, business deadlines are entirely fluid and start times of social meetups are open to interpretation.

Bad roads in Bolivia | © Gatol fotografia/Flickr

Patience is a virtue

Bolivians have to queue endlessly for menial tasks the rest of the world can do online. And after such endless queueing, it’s completely normal to be inexplicably ordered to come back another day.

Elderly Bolivian | © Gatol fotografia / Flickr

Protests are a way of life

Protests are the primary method of political discourse in Bolivia, with roadblocks and dynamite taking precedence over tactful negotiation. Expats in Bolivia know their travel plans depend entirely on the political climate at the time, and that citywide blockades are a great excuse to take a day off work.

Bolivian police | © Eneas De Troya/Flickr

The dangers are exaggerated

Bolivia has an unjust reputation in the western world, considered by many to be a lawless no-mans-land where murder and kidnapping are the norm. In reality, it’s among the safest countries on the continent.

Local woman wearing traditional clothing in front of a store in a street of the city of La Paz, in Bolivia | © Peek Creative Collective/Shutterstock

Todo es posible, nada es seguro

“Anything is possible, nothing is certain” is a worthy motto to live by in this vast, unpredictable land.

Train with graffiti | © Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

There are no road rules

To be fair, there probably is an old book of traffic rules buried somewhere in the Legislative Assembly in La Paz. Nevertheless, your gung-ho driver will pay little notice as he speeds through a red light on the wrong side of the road without a seatbelt.

Bus, La Paz | © Gatol fotografia / Flickr

Safety is an afterthought

Whether it be shoddy construction work, drunken bus drivers, or ill-equipped adventure tourism outfits, profit sadly comes before safety in much of this largely under legislated land.

Bolivian bus trip | © Michael Fernando Jauregui Schiffelmann/Flickr

Parties are important

Bolivians love their fiestas, at times getting so inebriated they are unable to stand or speak. With numerous booze-fueled festivals taking place all throughout the year, drunkenness is a near-constant state for some.

Bolivian parade | © APPhotograph / Pixabay

Folklorico is life

Each area has their own distinct music and dance, a source of regional pride held dear to the people’s hearts. But during Bolivia’s ubiquitous entradas, these contrasting genres blend together seamlessly to proudly form Bolivia’s national folkloric identity.

Entrada | © 677920/pixabay

Food is a source of pride

Bolivians adore their national cuisine, often even more than delicacies from abroad. And despite appearing rather unappetizing at times, some of it is surprisingly good.

Bolivian food | © Jim McIntosh / Flickr

The people are wonderfully warm

Once you get to know them, Bolivians are incredibly friendly and warm, despite perhaps seeming a little aloof at first.

Bolivian mother | © M M / Flickr

Bolivia is bloody crazy

Whether it be punching on for Pachamama, prisons that produce cocaine, or a festival to worship skulls, there’s no doubt Bolivia is among the maddest nations on earth. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tinku festival, Macha, Bolivia | © Guttorm Flatabø/Flickr

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