A Solo Traveler's Guide to Bolivia
Traveling on your own is a great way to see the world. It allows for unlimited flexibility with travel plans, a better likelihood of meeting new people and a unique opportunity to learn more about yourself and develop as a person. There are pitfalls, however, and solo travel in Bolivia is no exception. Read on to learn everything you need to know about going it alone in this enchanting South American nation.
Bolivia has an unfair reputation of being a dangerous place to travel. In reality, with a little common sense and precaution, almost all travelers leave the country with nothing but positive experiences. Don’t get too complacent though, because being on your own makes you an easier target for opportunistic thieves, most of whom prefer to rob their victims through distraction rather than force. Always keep a close eye on your gear when in public, preferably with bags and cameras wrapped around your body at all times. Be extremely wary of strangers who try to clean some kind of mess from your clothes as they are almost certainly trying to distract you while a colleague lifts your wallet. Overnight buses can be problematic, so ensure valuables are safety tucked away in an inside pocket before falling asleep. Finally, don’t trust anyone posing as a policeman and insisting on searching you or demanding money, these are common fake police scammers who love to target solo travelers. Having said all that, there are plenty of genuine helpful and friendly people throughout Bolivia, so don’t allow paranoia to ruin your trip.
Learn some lingo
The amount of time worth investing in learning Spanish is directly proportional to the amount of time spent in the continent. A quick holiday of a few weeks or so really only warrants a phrasebook and the willingness to partake in some creative hand gestures, while those backpacking around for months or years should seriously consider knuckling down and learning the language. Sucre is widely considered the best place to take Spanish classes in South America and doubles as a great way for solo travelers to meet new travel buddies. Having even a basic grasp of the language makes traveling alone infinitely easier, not to mention it allows for meaningful interaction with the locals, and after all, that is what travel is really about.
It’s surprisingly easy to get around Bolivia on your own, even without a strong knowledge of the language. Long buses journeys can be arduous for the uninitiated, so consider flying if budget allows. Otherwise, buses, vans and trains can whisk the solo traveler anywhere they need to be without need of a prior reservation. For convenience sake, check out ticketsbolivia who facilitate the pre-purchase of most overland journeys online, saving considerable time and hassle.
A lot of places in Bolivia charge per person rather than per room, meaning traveling alone doesn’t have to be an extra expense. Younger and more social travelers usually prefer to stay in gringo orientated backpacker hostels which provide a great opportunity to interact with like-minded travelers. If hostels aren’t your thing, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful local alojamientos (simple hotels) that offer great value private rooms away from noisy tourists. Those with more money could of course opt for an upmarket boutique hotel instead. There really is a place to stay for everybody and every budget in Bolivia.
While most places of interest can be visited more cheaply by going it alone, many solo travelers prefer to jump on a tour for the companionship and social interaction it provides. Travel agencies are plentiful throughout Bolivia’s tourist hot spots, most of whom are able to form a group on the traveler’s behalf.
Trekking and mountaineering
For safety reasons, it’s never a good idea to head out into the wilderness alone. Search and rescue resources are extremely limited throughout the country, trails are often poorly marked and populated areas can be few and far between. Solo travelers looking to get up close with nature should either form a group with travelers they meet along the way or sign up for a tour at a local agency.
Dealing with loneliness
It’s normal to feel lonely at times when traveling on your own. Not every day can be a wild party with newfound friends, but how much time a traveler spends alone is ultimately up to them. Break out of your comfort zone and force yourself to chat to random tourists and locals. Some will be more receptive than others, but the more people you talk to the more likely you are to find new friends or travel companions. If you’re still having trouble, there is a weekly language exchange in all major Bolivian cities on Tuesdays called Parlana which is a great way to meet new people.