Condoriri Trek & Huayna Potosi Climb

Detailed Itinerary

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Introduction

Combine the stunning Condoriri trek with a climb of the spectacular and straightforward Huayna Potosi peak.

Join us for some superb high altitude hiking and mountaineering in Bolivia.

Hikers love walking and hiking in the majestic Cordillera Real mountain range. This area is great for spotting condors and Real’s outline resembles this iconic Andean bird taking off.

We walk up close to beautiful glaciers, lakes and are always accompanied by mountain views on the trails.

This fully-supported hike runs smoothly thanks to our professional guides, a cook, pack animals and full support staff team.

 

More on Condoriri trek and Huayna Potosi

Having spent most of the trek above 4,500m/14,764ft, you will be well acclimatised for our next goal.

Huayna Potosi (6,088m/19,974ft) itself is a relatively easy ascent for such a high peak. It is the perfect Andean mountain for novice or experienced mountaineers.

The summit provides amazing views of La Paz, El Alto, Illimani, Mururata, the Amazon Basin, Condoriri, the Cordillera Real, Altiplano and even Lake Titicaca.

Read our blog with tips and advice on how to make it to the summit.

Trip Highlights

  • Stunning mountain views of the Cordillera Real.
  • Remote Andean valleys.
  • Ascent of 6,088m Huayna Potosi.
  • Get up close to the Condoriri mountains, glaciers and lakes.

Condoriri and Huayna Potosi Itinerary

Day 1: Drive La Paz to Rinconada, trek to Laguna Jurikhota (4,700m), camp (L,D)

Transfer from La Paz to Palcoco (2 hours), an agricultural farming community.

From here we head off to Palcoco valley, and travel through here for 40 minutes to arrive at Rinconada (4,400m/14,436ft). We have lunch here and then set off hiking.

It’s three hours trek from here to our destination, Laguna Jurikhota (4,700m/15,420ft).

Here we camp, at the base of the glaciers of Ala Oeste.

Day 2: Condoriri glacier, Austria pass (5,150m) to Laguna Chiarkhota, camp (B,L,D)

Today we’ll be up well over 5,000m/16,404ft as we hike over a pass to Laguna Chiarkhota (4,650m/15,256ft).

After breakfast we head up to 4,900m/16,076ft to take a close-up look at the Condoriri glacier. We get a good look at frozen lakes and the seracs here. Seracs are blocks or columns of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier.

From here we push up and over the Austria pass (5,150m/16,896ft) and enjoy its views, before descending to Laguna Chiarkhota (4,650m/15,256ft) where we set up camp following today’s 6-hour trek.

Day 3: Hike to Maria Lloco, camp (B,L,D)

A similar length of trek today (6 hours), we start out after a lovely breakfast along a path that traverses lakes and abandoned mines.

These lovely distractions help pass the time until we arrive at Maria Lloco, a campsite with incredible views.

Our base will be facing the spectacular east face of our goal, Huayna Potosi.

Day 4: Short trek to Huayna Potosi base camp (B,L,D)

A four-hour uphill trek to start the day to reach a high pass of 5,050m/16,568ft, Paso Milluni.

From here we can see the snows that surrounds the glaciated peak of Huayna Potosi (6,088m/19,974ft).

We descend rapidly on the other side of the pass for about 90 minutes to get to the basic mountain refuge at the foot of Huayna Potosi (4,760m/15,627ft), for a warming cup of tea and a chance to relax.

Day 5: Trek from base camp to mountain refuge (5,130m) (B,L,D)

After breakfast, we start trekking up a rocky track through the morraines of Huayna Potosi. This is typical of walks in to the base of glaciers in a high mountain environment and does not require the use of any climbing equipment.

After two to three hours we arrive at Refugio Rocas (5,200m/17,060ft), located right near the glacier base, where we will cook up some supper and spend a short night.

This is an extremely basic mountain refuge.

Day 6: Trek from refuge to summit (6,088m), return to La Paz (B,L)

After breakfast at 1am, we will prepare our mountain gear to start our summit climb at 02.00.

The normal route is not particularly technical though it does help if you have previous high mountain experience and experience of use of an ice-axe and crampons.

The ascent presents two steep sections, the first at 5,700m/18,700ft, and the second at 5,900m/19,357ft.

We will be roped up at all times and the guides will be instructing in how best to move all the way up.

After 5-6 hours we will reach the summit (6,088m/19,974ft) and enjoy an incredible 360º view.

Returning to high camp (3 hours), we have a quick lunch and return to base camp (1 hour) from where we return by vehicle to La Paz, arriving there late afternoon.


What's Included?

English speaking trek guide, cook, mules or llamas for kit transport, cook and dining tent, all group camping equipment, private transport to and from the trek, meals and water, Condoriri entrance fees, refugio fees, mountain guide.

What's Not Included?

International flights (we can look for these for you), travel insurance, sleeping bag, mountain clothes, items of a personal nature and tips, La Paz hotels


Accommodation

On the trek, we use two-man, high mountain tents. There is a dining tent and toilets are a mix of toilet tent and latrines.

On the climb we use two local mountain refuges on this route – both are basic.

Tour Staff

All guides are certified, bilingual, English-speaking guides who have worked with us for many years.

Cooks, mule drivers and additional staff are all from the local communities and we have worked with them for a long time.


Meals

Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.

You wake early, usually around 07.00. Breakfast is served in a dining tent, and consists of hot drinks, porridge, toast, jams and bread, and your guide will explain the day’s plans.

Lunch is usually around 13.00 and can feature soups, meats, salads and fish, with vegetarian options and hot drinks too.

The campsites are comfortable and around 17.00 hot drinks, popcorn and other snacks are served to help you recover energy.

Dinner is served around 19.30, and will feature pasta, quinoa, mashed potatoes, meat, fish or vegetarian options, followed by hot drinks and a pudding.

Activity Level

The trip is open to anyone with a positive attitude, but the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy it as climbing at high altitude is always a breath-taker.

We spend several days walking at high altitude, going over high passes, and spend a large amount of time above 4,500m/14,764ft.

You need to have a very good level of fitness for this trip, as summiting a peak higher than 6,000m/19,685ft requires fitness and determination.

You will need to have spent a good few days acclimatising in La Paz (3,655m/11,911ft) or higher, as well as doing some acclimatisation walks to higher altitudes – please ask.



Practical Information

An introduction to Bolivia

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.

Geography of Bolivia

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.

Weather in Bolivia

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.

Visas for Bolivia

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.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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When planning for the extreme climatic conditions encountered on high peaks in the Andes, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers.

Layers should have the following qualities:

 

  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat);
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).

 

First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.

 

Note that it’s our extremities that stand to suffer the most, and on high Andean peaks the poorly-equipped mountaineer is at risk of becoming frostbitten. Hence, much thought should be given to deciding how best to protect hands, feet and head.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Feet

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax)
  • 4 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support. Given the extreme cold, plastic mountaineering boots (e.g. Koflach) are also required. These are indispensable. (see ‘TECHNICAL KIT’ below)
  • Gaiters (1 pair), heavy and large enough to fit over plastic boots.
  • Trainers/sandals, for city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.

 

Legs

  • Base layer leggings (1-2 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (1 pair).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.

 

Body

  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/T-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun.
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic) with hood. For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.
  • 1-2 sports bras/tanks (for women)

 

Head and neck

  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Balaclava/full-face ski mask (1)
  • Sunglasses with UV filter and nose and side-pieces.
  • 1 pair of glacier compatible sunglasses (full coverage – ask salesperson if you are not sure)
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna  – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • 1 cap with visor

 

Hands

For the extreme cold, we recommend a 3-layer scheme:

  • 1 pair of Gore-Tex shell gloves
  • 2 pairs of removable fleece glove liners
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).

 

Technical kit

  • Large backpack (80-90 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • You will need another bag to store belongings left at hotel during expedition.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Plastic mountaineering boots (you can rent these)
  • Crampons, strap-on or step-in (can be rented)
  • Walking ice axe (can be rented)
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles. (can be rented).

 

Other expedition kit

  • Sleeping bag – a good warm bag (‘4-season’, minimum) and liner will be necessary for high-altitude camping.
  • Sleeping mat, a foam mat is provided
  • 2 x water bottles (2 litres each approx).
  • Pee bottle.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 40+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (Plus spare bulbs and batteries x 2 at least).
  • Penknife.
  • Thermos flask (1 litre) Stainless steel.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

 

All other non-personal trekking and camping equipment is provided, e.g. tents, cutlery etc.

Vaccinations for Bolivia

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Bolivia visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.

 

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.

  • Anti-malarial protection. Bolivia has chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria and it is important that you follow the prophylactic regime carefully. In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

Quick facts about Bolivia

 

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

Altitude

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:

  • Rest for a few hours on arrival at altitude and take it easy for the first couple of days. Note: you may feel fine on arrival and tempted to exert yourself as normal. Don’t be fooled: you might be benefiting from oxygen brought in your blood from sea level.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (altitude is a diuretic). Coca tea (mate de coca) helps alleviate symptoms.
  • Eat light meals, with high carbohydrate and low fat and protein content. Dine early, allowing digestion time pre-sleep.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the strong highland sun (UV rays are very powerful) – especially in the early stages – making sure you wear a broad brimmed sunhat. Apply lip-salve to prevent chapped lips.
  • Avoid or minimise consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid sleeping pills.
  • If you do get AMS: Rest, take non-aspirin painkillers (for headache) and coca tea. Symptoms should subside after a day or two.
  • Pregnant women, people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or blood disease or blood pressure problems, should consult their doctor before traveling to high altitude.

Bolivia Festivals

February/March (variable) 

Festival: Carnaval de Oruro

Culture, dances and music. 

Location: Oruro

 

April

Festival: Festival de la música   Barroca 

Baroque Music Festival

Location: Santa Cruz Missions

 

May/June (variable)

Festival: Entrada del Gran Poder

Religious festival – culture, mass dance

Location: La Paz

 

End of June

Festival: Chutillos

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades

Location: Potosi

 

15 August

Festival: Fiesta  virgen de   Urkupina 

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades

Location: Quillacollo, Cochabamba

 

Flight advice

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.

 

Flight connections

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.

 

Tickets

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).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with 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.

Be safe in Bolivia

Bolivia is generally safe, but crime is not unknown and travellers should take the precautions they would anywhere else, especially:

  • Leave paper valuables in hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day. Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • We suggest you do not exchange money on the street. Use either a casa de cambio (bureau de change) or bank / ATM.
  • Care is needed in La Paz and other cities. Only carry a daypack if you’re in a group. We suggest you carry this on your chest. Carry camera in bag, replacing after use.
  • Always take special care around markets, bus terminals and busy streets. Never carry a bag or valuables in these areas, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
  • Beware of distraction techniques.
  • At night, avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.

Food and drink in Bolivia

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.

 

Main dishes

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

Trucha                   Trout

 

Desserts 

Keke or torta        Cake

 

Drinks

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.

Money matters

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.

 

Local café/restaurant

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

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).

  • Airport porters: Minimum
  • Airport porters: 5 -8 Bs per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: 5-8 Bs per bag / per breakfast/ per night for cleaning staff.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: 20 – 40 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: 70 – 140 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Trek assistants/cooks: 35 – 70 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% of the bill.

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

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.

 

Plugs

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 C plug

Type A plug

Type A plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Bolivia is +591.

Regions have dialling codes:

2 – La Paz, Uyuni, Potosí

3 – Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni

4 – Cochabamba, Sucre

 

Landlines

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

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.

 

 

Mobile phones

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.

 

Internet

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.

 

Post

Ecobol is the national postal service.

 

Useful Spanish phrases

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.

 

Greetings:

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

 

Emergency:

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)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

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 Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

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.

Health and Safety

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.

Travel Insurance

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.

And lastly...

Many of our tours travel through remote areas.

We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.

Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.

This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.

Also, shared tours may include travellers from all over the world whose native language is not English.

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