Be prepared for your dream holiday to Bolivia with our helpful information.
From money advice to visas, from inoculations to which plugs to take, below you’ll find a wide range of travel tips, advice and information that will help you get ready to explore Bolivia.
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Land-locked Bolivia is a country of dramatic landscapes and fascinating native cultures and traditions.
The Altiplano or “High Plain”, averaging 3,800m, is its most populous region. The vast, luminous plateau is flanked to east and west by parallel Andean ranges.
La Paz, the world’s highest capital, lies in a deep canyon at the edge of the Altiplano, and at the foot of Illimani (6,400m). It is a striking city for its dramatic setting and its strong Indian character.
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. It was sacred to the Incas; according to legend, their founding emperor-gods rose from these waters to give birth to their empire. Just south of the lake stands the sacred pre-Inca site of Tiahuanaco.
On the south-western Altiplano are the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world. Here, the shimmering white salt pan and deep blue sky combine to create a truly magical spectacle.
The stunning Cordillera Real is a mountain range dominated by huge snow peaks, including Illimani and Illampu (6,380m). The Real divides the northern Altiplano from the tropical forests to the east. The Cordillera Real’s eastern slopes are characterized by the deep, sub-tropical Yungas gorges.
Further south, the tropical Chapare is the agricultural heart of Bolivia. East of this band of high forests and plantations lies Bolivia’s Oriente, a vast swathe of Amazonian jungle and savanna accounting for 2/3 of the country and featuring some of the last untouched wilderness on earth.
In the north-eastern Department of Beni, some 50% of the country’s mammals and birds reside. Below, and in no special order, we outline some of the top places to go and things to do.
Bolivia lies within the tropics, between latitudes 10º and 22º south. The climate, as varied as its geography, is affected by latitude and, especially, by altitude.
The best time to travel is the winter (dry season) between May and Oct when, typically, weather systems over the Andes are stable, and overall you can expect bright sunny days and cold clear nights. Most of the rain falls from Dec to March. Climate can be divided into these distinct zones:
The Andes and the Altiplano
There is relatively little precipitation on the Altiplano, especially in the dry season – most rainfall is from Dec to March. However, there is periodical, localised rain on high peaks and valleys all year round.
The further south and west you go on the Altiplano, the drier are the conditions; around Uyuni, semi-arid conditions prevail. The Andean sun’s rays are very strong.
Temperature-wise, the Andes and Altiplano experience significant fluctuations over a single day. At 4,000m, the pre-dawn temperature can drop to -15ºC, while noon temperatures at the same location can reach 20ºC.
Southerly cold winds mean the southern Altiplano is not only drier, but also noticeably colder and windier than the north (pre-dawn temperatures at Uyuni in July regularly drop to -20ºC).
On treks in the Cordillera Real in the dry season, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m (where pre-dawn temperatures sometimes reach -15ºC); warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings. Conditions are generally dry, but note that mountain weather is fickle and localised, and precipitation is not unusual in the dry season.
Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.
The city of La Paz (3,630m) is relatively sheltered. Average high/low temperatures range from 1-17ºC in June and July (coldest months) to 6-19ºC in Nov and Dec (warmest months). In June and July, it rarely rains more than 1 or 2 days per month, while in January there are on average 15 wet days.
The tropical lowlands & yunga (Amazon)
Year-round, weather conditions in the Amazon basin are hot and humid and always with the chance of rain.
There is a ‘cooler’, drier winter season between May and October. During this ‘dry season’, the average daytime high temperature is between 25-31°C and the average nighttime low is between 16-22°C.
In the dry season, heavy downpours typically occur every few days.
Note that around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Bolivia’s northern lowlands – occurs in the wet season, Nov-April.
On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – surazos – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9°C. (Surazos usually last between 1 and 3 days).
The Yungas shares the same dry/wet months but varies from quite wet to very wet depending on whether it is the ‘dry’ or rainy season. Average temperature is 24°C.
British nationals do not need a visa for Bolivia. You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.
Non-UK citizens are advised to contact their Embassy for up-to-date visa advice.
Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.
However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.
On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).
To avoid AMS, you should:
We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Bolivia visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.
Malaria risk is present throughout the year in Bolivia’s Amazon areas.
Malaria risk also present in all areas below 2,500m and in the departments of Santa Cruz, northern Beni and Pando, especially in the localities of Guayaramerin and Riberalta.
Official name: Republic of Bolivia
Country population: 10,700,000
Capital city: Sucre (1.6 million)
Largest cities: Santa Cruz, La Paz, Cochabamba, El Alto, Sucre
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymará (official)
Latitude/Longitude: 17º S, 65º W
Official currency: Boliviano
Major industries: Mining, gas, tin, textiles
Time zone: GMT-4
Festival: Carnaval de Oruro
Culture, dances and music.
Festival: Festival de la música Barroca
Baroque Music Festival
Location: Santa Cruz Missions
Festival: Entrada del Gran Poder
Religious festival – culture, mass dance
Location: La Paz
End of June
Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades
Festival: Fiesta virgen de Urkupina
Location: Quillacollo, Cochabamba
Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.
International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.
Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.
Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.
Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.
Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.
The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.
How do I check in?
Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.
If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).
To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.
Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.
Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).
The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.
More information can be found on their ESTA website.
Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.
Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.
This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).
Andean Trails has 25 years of experience of putting together the best South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Bolivia is generally safe, but crime is not unknown and travellers should take the precautions they would anywhere else, especially:
Don’t forget to read our blog about Bolivian food.
Starters & snacks
Salteña Hot beef or chicken pasties containing egg, a black olive and lots of gravy. Can be muy picante, medio picante or poco picante (very, quite or not very hot).
Empanada Cheese pasty.
Chairo A La Paz Soup with meat, veg, chuño and aji. Locals add llajua or halpahuayca, hot sauces set on the table.
Locro A tropical soup with rice, beef jerky or chicken, banana, potato and egg.
Anticucho Beef heart kebab on a skewer with boiled potato.
Palta reina Avocado filled with chicken salad.
Tamal or humita Ground maize steamed in banana or maize leaves, filled with meat or cheese; sometimes they are served sweet, with sugar instead of meat.
Thimpu A lamb soup/stew.
Plato paceño Fried cheese, potato, broad beans, corn & hot llajua sauce.
Sajta de pollo Hot spicy chicken with onion, potato and chuño.
Silpancho Fried breaded meat with rice, egg and banana.
Chicharron Deep fried pork.
Churrasco and Lomo Fillet or rump steak.
Parrillada Mixed grill
Pollo con papas Chicken and chips
Pejerrey White fish from Lake Titicaca
Keke or torta Cake
Singani Grape brandy. Bolivian national drink.
Chuflay Singani and 7 Up.
Chicha Fermented maize beer. Drunk mainly in rural areas of the Valleys around Cochabamba.
Cerveza Beer. Mainly lager, which is very popular. There are several regional brands such as Paceña.
Vino Wine. The best Bolivian wines are from Tarija. Some are very good, including La Concepcion. Good Chilean wines available locally include Undurraga and Casillero del Diablo. Wine is available in smarter restaurants and is served by the bottle (botella) and sometimes by the glass (copa).
Vino tinto Red wine.
Vino blanco White wine.
Agua mineral Mineral water, which is mainly drunk by foreigners so not usually available in rural areas. You will need to specify con gas (carbonated) or sin gas (non-carbonated)
Api A thick, hot drink made from red maize, cinnamon, cloves and lemon, served at dawn on the roadside – delicious and warming.
Mate Herbal tea, which has become very popular. The best known is mate de coca, which is often served to tourists on arrival in La Paz to ward off symptoms of altitude sickness. Many other herbal teas such as manzanilla (camomile), yerba luisa (lemon grass), yerba buena (mint), and inojo (dill) are available. Mate is usually served after lunch.
Jugos Juices. In the tropics, fruit juices such as carambola (star fruit) and tamarindo (tamarind) are delicious.
Currency & Money Exchange
Bolivia’s monetary unit is the “Bolivian Bolíviano”.
Most of your transactions will be in Bolivianos, but US dollars are often accepted, too, if they are small denomination, unmarked and undamaged bills. Try to take 5s, 10s and 20s.
ATM debit/credit cards are now increasingly used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees), and there are ATM (‘hole-in-the-wall’) machines widely available in major towns and cities.
In rural areas, make sure you stock up on reserves of Bolívianos before you go. Payments are most likely to be in cash and in the local currency.
When changing money, don’t change with street changers (cambistas). Use a bank or casa de cambio (bureau de change). Ask for ‘billetes chicos’ (small notes, i.e. 10/20/50 bolíviano notes) as obtaining change outside towns and cities can be difficult. Count your bolívianos carefully before handing over your US dollars, and look out for forged notes.
Exchange rate: USD 1 = 7 Bolívianos (approx.), June 2018.
Eating and drinking
Major towns and cities have a wide variety of food available.
There are a few top-end restaurants in La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, where you can easily spend more than USD 70pp upwards on food and wine.
Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Bolivia.
Beer/soft drink: USD 2
Menu del dia: USD 2-5
Coffee: USD 1
Tourist style restaurant
Beer/soft drink: USD 2-3
Main dish: USD 7 upwards
Coffee: USD 2
Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.
For background, Bolivia has a minimum salary of around USD 200 monthly for a 6 day 48 hour week. However in many of the lower paid jobs (eg waiters, porters etc) this is not always enforced.
This is a rough guideline, based on an approx. rate of USD 1 = Bolivianos 7 (Bs).
220 volts (110v in some hotels), 50 Hz.
Most cameras, phones and computers are dual or multi voltage and probably won’t need a convertor – please check before leaving.
Some items you may bring, such as hairdryers, may need a convertor. They may short if you use them without the correct convertor.
Bolivia mainly uses two-pin, round-prong Type C plugs, but a few flat-pronged Type A plugs can still be found.
Type C plug
Type A plug
The international code for Bolivia is +591.
Regions have dialling codes:
2 – La Paz, Uyuni, Potosí
3 – Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni
4 – Cochabamba, Sucre
Bolivia’s landlines have 7 digits. To call landline-landline in the same city, simply dial the 7 digit code, e.g. 1234567
If calling landline to another regional landline, dial 010, then the regional code minus its 0. e.g. 010 2 1234567 for La Paz.
If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. +591 2 1234567.
Mobiles have 8 digits. Confusingly, each mobile network operator has a dialling code, between 010 and 021.
If you are dialling Bolivian mobile to mobile in the same city, just dial the 8 digits e.g. 1234-5678.
If you are dialling to a mobile in another region, then dial the network operator code (not the regional code) then the number e.g. 010 1234-5678.
If using your own mobile phone to call a Bolivian mobile, dial the country code, then the 8 digit nunber e.g. +591 12345678.
If taking a mobile phone with you, check roaming rates with your operator before leaving – they can be very high.
A good way to avoid expensive charges is to bring own unlocked tri- or quad-band phone to Bolivia and then buy an inexpensive SIM chip with a local number. These are available in many kiosks and locutorios and offer ability to make cheap calls as well as affordable data for the internet.
You will also find touts in streets offering cheap phone calls to local numbers from mobile phones they carry.
There are lots of coin-operated public phones for making local calls, too.
Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi.
There are also a lot of ‘locutorios’ (internet cafes) in towns and cities. You can often make cheap calls home from here, use faxes etc.
Skype and other internet-based phone systems are also good ways to contact home.
More rural areas have slower connections – possibly satellite – look for Entel offices.
Ecobol is the national postal service.
Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.
Below are some basics to get you started.
Good morning Buenos días
How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good bye Adiós
Most frequently asked questions (theirs):
Where are you (plural) from? ¿De dónde eres (son)?
What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?
Where have you come from? ¿De dónde vienes?
Give me (frequent, unwelcome question) Dáme / regálame
Most frequent questions (yours):
How much is it? ¿Cuánto vale?
What is this place called? ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?
What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas?
Do you have a map? ¿Tienes un mapa?
In the street / places:
Where can I find a currency exchange? ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?
Where is there a cash machine? ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?
Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?
Where can I find a taxi? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?
Where can I find a Supermarket? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?
Where is the hospital? ¿Dónde esta el hospital?
Where can I find a restaurant? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?
In the hotel:
What floor am I on? ¿En qué piso estoy?
Where are the elevators/lifts? ¿Dónde están los ascensores?
How do I access the Internet? ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?
How do I call for room service? ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?
How do I call down to the front desk? ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?
In the restaurant:
A table for two/four please Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor
I would like to drink… Me gustaria tomar….
May I see a menu? Puedo ver la carta/menu?
I would like to order.. Me gustaria pedir…
Can you bring me the check/bill please. Me trae la cuenta por favor
I need help. Necesito ayuda.
I have lost my passport. He perdido mi pasaporte.
Someone stole my money. Alguien robó mi dinero
I have been robbed. Me han robado
I need to call the police. Necesito llamar a la policía
I need to call the (country) Embassy Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)
Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.
Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.
We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.
We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.
With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.
Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.
Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.
Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:
All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).
We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.
In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.
Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.
We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.
We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.
If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.
When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.
Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.
When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.
A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.
You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.
It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.
We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.
Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.
Ask a question and our expert in this area will have your answer.
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We had a great trip! It was so nice that everything was arranged and taken care off, so we could just enjoy it and spent time with the three of us. The whole trip was full of highlights and I could not name one thing I did not like.
M. Waaijenburg, Netherlands, 2016
» Bolivia Uyuni Salt Flats 4WD Tour
The Lares Trek! This was the most physically challenging thing I've ever done but also one of the most rewarding! The scenery was incredible, the guide was excellent, the food was comparable to a nice restaurant at every meal and the other trekkers will be long-time friends! I liked the small group size, the knowledge and professionalism of the guide and the very hard-working horsemen and cooks.
Julie Hewitt, USA, 2016
» Lares Valley: Alternative Trek To Machu Picchu
Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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