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South America : Bolivia
Quick Facts
CapitalLa Paz (seat of government); Sucre (legal capital and seat of judiciary)
Currencyboliviano (BOB)
Areatotal: 1,098,580 sq km
water: 14,190 sq km
land: 1,084,390 sq km
Population8,445,134 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)
ReligionRoman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist)

Bolivia is a landlocked country in Central South America. It is surrounded by Brazil to the northeast, Peru to the northwest, Chile to the southeast, Argentina and Paraguay to the south. It shares control of Lake Titicaca (Lago Titicaca), the world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru.

Sometimes referred to as the Tibet of the Americas, Bolivia is one of the most remote countries in the western hemisphere. It is also the most indigenous, with 60% of its population being of pure Native American ancestry.

Map of BoliviaMap of Bolivia
Map of Bolivia

bolivia Travel Guide :



  • The Altiplano
  • The Andes (Bolivia)Andes
  • The Chaco
  • The Highland Valleys (Bolivia)Highland Valleys
  • The Tropical Lowlands (Bolivia)Tropical Lowlands
  • The Yungas and ChapareYungas and Chapare
Administrative divisions 
9 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); ChuquisacaChuquisaca, Cochabamba (department)Cochabamba , BeniBeni, La Paz (department)La Paz, Oruro, PandoPando, PotosiPotosi, Santa Cruz, TarijaTarija


  • La Paz - Capital (seat of government);
  • Sucre - (legal capital and seat of judiciary)
  • Santa Cruz - the second-largest, and most affluent, city.
  • Cochabamba - the country's third-largest city, with a pleasant climate and the best food.
  • Potosí - once one of the wealthiest cities in the world due to its silver mines.
  • Oruro - famous for its carnival
  • Samaipata - El fuerte
Ports and harbors 
Puerto AguirrePuerto Aguirre (on the Paraguay/Parana waterway, at the Bolivia/Brazil border); also, Bolivia has free port privileges in maritime ports in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay

Other destinations

  • TiwanakuTiwanaku - ancient ruins, a UNESCO world heritage site
  • Uyuni - starting point for trips to the spectacular Salar de Uyuni (the largest slat flats in the world) and the Laguna Colorado and Laguna Verde
  • Copacabana - a small resort town on Lake Titicaca
  • Coroico - set in a jungle valley, and accessible via the World's Most Dangerous Road
  • RurrenabaqueRurrenabaque - a popular base for jungle and pampa trips.
  • Madidi National Park - located few miles North of Apolo (La Paz)Apolo, is one of the world?s most extensive biodiversity reserves. Its humid tropical climate has spawned one of Bolivia?s richest woodlands.


The official tourism website ( of Bolivia has useful information for planning your trip.



Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon Bolivar, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups. Comparatively democratic civilian rule was established in the 1980s, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and drug production. Current goals include attracting foreign investment, strengthening the educational system, continuing the privatization program, and waging an anti-corruption campaign.



Bolivia's climate varies with altitude from humid and tropical to cold and semiarid. In most parts of the country winters are dry and summers are somewhat wet. Despite its tropical latitude, the altitude of cities like La Paz keeps things cool, and warm clothing is advised year-round.


Get in


By plane

The national carrier Lloyd Aereo Boliviano 1 ( has regular flights to La Paz and Santa Cruz from major South American cities. There are also has direct flights to Santa Cruz from Miami, Washington D.C., and Madrid. AeroSur 2 ( also has connections from Buenos Aires and São Paulo.


By train

There are many train lines in Bolivia, each with varying degrees of quality and efficiency. However, adequate transportation via train can be found.


By car

- It is common for tourists to travel through a land border at the north-east of Chile/ South-West of Bolivia.

- Keep in mind that only about 5% of all the roads in Bolivia are paved. However, most major routes between cities are paved (Aka big cites, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre) . 4x4 is particularly required when off the flatter altiplano. Be aware that in mountainous regions traffic sometimes switches sides of the road. This is to ensure the driver has a better view of the dangerous drops.

- An international drivers license is required but *most* times EU or US drivers licenses will be accepted. There are frequent polica controls on the road and tolls to be paid for road use.


By bus

There are many options for traveling from Argentina to Bolivia by bus. Check out the Bolivian Embassy's website in Argentina ( ) for specific options.


By boat

It is common for tourists to arrive in Bolivia by boat, by navigating from the port city of Puno, Peru, over Lake Titicaca.


Get around

Transportation strikes (bloqueos) are a common occurrence in Bolivia, so try to keep tuned to local news. Strikes often affect local taxis as well as long-distance buses; airlines are generally unaffected.


By plane

Flying within in Bolivia is quick and fairly economical. Lloyd and AeroSur connect most major cities.


By bus

Bus transportation in Bolivia is a nice cheap way to get to see the beautiful scenery while traveling to your destination. Occasionally, mind that the road from La Paz to Cochabamba is blocked due to protests, often for several days. So, if you are planning to use the bus, you should also be willing to spend a few days sleeping on the bus. Also be wary of the "World's Most Dangerous Road" that goes from La Paz to the Amazon. Bus travel is usually pretty cheap. Estimate that it will cost you about 1 USD for every hour of travel (its easier to find travel times online that actual price quotes).


By taxi

For longer trips between towns and cities that aren't served by bus, shared taxis are common.



Bolivia has three official languages : Spanish (often called Castellano), Quechua phrasebookQuechua, and Aymara. In rural areas, many people do not speak Spanish. Nevertheless, you should be able to get by when some basic Castellano. Bolivia is one of the best places in which to learn/practice your Spanish because of their very clean, deliberate accent. There are many options for studying Spanish in Bolivia, and they are usually very good (often, the program includes very good homestay programs).



The national currency is the boliviano. As of January 2005, the exchange rate is generally Bs8/$USD. Bills come in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10; coins are in 5, 2, and 1 bolivianos, and 50, 20, and 10 centavos (1/100 of a boliviano). Bills larger than Bs20 can be hard to break, but a quick phone call or internet session at a Punto Entel (see Contact, below) will usually get you change.

Currency can be exchanged for US dollars and most South American currencies at casa de cambio agencies or street vendors.

U.S. dollars are widely accepted in hotels, tourist shops, and for large purchases.



The cuisine of Bolivia might be called the original "meat and potatoes" -- the latter (locally called papas from the Quechua) were first cultivated by the Inca before spreading throughout the world. The most common meat is beef, though chicken and llama are also easily found. Pork is relatively rare. Deep frying (chicharron) is a common method of cooking all sorts of meat, and fried chicken is a very popular quick dish; at times the smell permeates the streets of Bolivian cities. Guinea pigs (cuy) and rabbits (conejo) are eaten in rural areas, though you can sometimes find them in urban restaurants as well. A common condiment served with Bolivian meals is llajhua, a spicy sauce similar to Mexican salsa.

Some notable Bolivian dishes:

  • charque kan - llama jerky
  • pique macho - grilled chunks of meat with tomatoes and onion, on potatoes
  • silpancho - beef pounded to a thin, plate-sized patty, served on a bed of rice and potatoes, with a fried egg on top

Street food and snacks:

  • anticucho - beef hearts grilled on a skewer, served with potatoes and a spicy corn sauce
  • salchipapa - thinly sliced sausage fried with potatoes
  • choripan - chorizo (spicy sausage) sandwich, served with grilled onions and lots of sauce

Breakfast (desayuno) typically consists of any of several of meat-filled buns:

  • salteña - a baked bun filled with meat and potatoes in a slightly sweet sauce. Be careful when you take a bite, as the sauce will drip all over!
  • tucumana - like a salteña but fried
  • empanada - similar to a saltena, often filled with cheese as well as meat
  • cuñape - a small roll filled with cheese, similar to Brazilian pão de queijo. The bread is made from cassava flour.




Bolivia's traditional alcoholic drink is chicha, a whitish, sour brew made from fermented corn and drunk from a hemispherical bowl fashioned from a hollowed gourd (round-bottomed so you can't put it down). It's customary to spill a bit of chicha on the ground before and after drinking it as an offering to Pachamama, the Inca earth god.

Singani is a grape liquor that's mixed with Sprite or ginger ale with lime garnish to make a cocktail called chuflay.

There are a number of local beers, the largest being Paceña and its high-end brand Huari. El Inca is a very sweet low-alcohol beer.



Coca has been part of Andean culture for centuries, and chewing is still very common (and perfectly legal) in Bolivia. You should be able to buy a big bag of dried leaves at the local market. Coca is a stimulant, and it also suppresses hunger. Chewing a wad of leaves for a few minutes should bring slight numbness to your lips and throat. Remember the slogan (printed on souvenir T-shirts): La hoja de coca no es droga ("The coca leaf is not a drug"). But cocaine most definitely is an illegal drug.



- Offering a favourable exchange for Western tourists, lodging can be found at very reasonable prices throughout the country, from hostels to luxury hotels.



Visitors who will come to Bolivia for study are usually attracted to reclusiveness of a pointedly cultural country whom most have never visited.




Stay safe

There have been numerous reports of women tourists being drugged and raped during jungle excursions from RurrenabaqueRurrenabaque. All tourists should be careful when selecting a travel guide and never accept medication from unverifiable sources.

It is a good idea to register with the consulate of your country of residence upon entry into the country.


Stay healthy

Many parts of Bolivia including La Paz and the Lake Titicaca region are high altitude, so adequate precautions against altitude sickness should be taken. In addition, the sun's ultraviolet rays are much stronger -- up to 20 times -- than at sea level. A sun hat, sunglasses, and skin protection (sunblock or long sleeves) are advised.

  • Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those who plan on spending time in the Bolivian Amazon. It must be taken 10 days prior to the person?s arrival into the country if the visitor plans to visit rural areas.
  • The Malaria vaccine must also be administered if the visitor plans to visit tropical-rural areas.
  • As a preventive measure, taking the following vaccines is recommended: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Tetanus, Diphtheria and Measles Booster-Vaccines.


Do not use the word "indigena" or "indio" in Bolivia to describe indigenous people. It is considered offensive. The term they use is "campesino" which translates to farmer. "Cholo" is a campesino who moved to the city, and though originally derogatory, has become more of a symbol of indigenous power. Nevertheless, some locals still use the word cholo as a derogative term.



Bolivia's national phone company Entel has outlets on practically every block in major cities. Most Punto Entel shops also have internet-connected PCs, typically Bs4/hr.

While traditional payphones still exist, you can also make local calls for Bs1 from cellular phones at kiosks or "walking phone booths" - look for a guy in a green vest with a cellphone on a chain.

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