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Bolivia

Bolivia is a beautiful, geographically rich in diversity, and multiethnic country in the heart of South America. It is surrounded by Brazil to the northeast, Peru to the northwest, Paraguay to the southwest, Argentina and Chile to the south. It shares with Peru control of Lake Titicaca (Lago Titicaca), the world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,821 m).

Regions

Cities

  • La Paz — the administrative capital and seat of the government
  • Cochabamba — the country's third-largest city, with a pleasant, moderate climate
  • Oruro — famous for its carnival
  • Potosí — once one of the wealthiest cities in the world due to its silver mines
  • Santa Cruz — the second-largest and most affluent city of Bolivia
  • Sucre — the constitutional capital and seat of judiciary
  • Tarija— The Festival of Wine is held annually in Tarija

Other destinations

  • Chacaltaya & Huayna Potosi — the world's highest ski resort and Bolivia's most popular mountain climb
  • Isla del Sol — Located in the south part of Titicaca Lake. A remote island in the middle of the lake. Astonishing landscapes and very old ruins from Inca period make this location a good place to find peace.
  • Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos — six remote towns of the Gran Chaco founded by the Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries. The region where towns are situated is called Chiquitania and is well worth a visit not just for the Missions, but for the beautiful nature as well.
  • Madidi National Park — Located a few miles North of Apolo, is one of the world's most extensive biodiversity reserves. Its humid tropical climate has spawned one of Bolivia’s richest woodlands.
  • Noel Kempff Mercado National Park — impossibly remote and even more impossibly beautiful Amazonian park, home to the stunning Cataratas Arcoiris waterfall
  • Quime - Raunchy and friendly mountain village surrounded by high mountains of the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz, between La Paz & Cochabamba, with mines, waterfalls, native cloud forest and 31 Aimara indigenous communities. Exploration hiking. Most convenient of Bolivia's valley towns to get to.
  • Sajama National Park — beautiful Andean landscapes and Bolivia's highest mountain, Nevada Sajama
  • Salar de Uyuni — the spectacular landscapes along the largest salt flats in the world
  • Sorata — Hikers' destination, also close to San Pedro caves, which host a nice lagoon
  • Tiwanaku — Ancient ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Yungas region to be reached via bicycle on El Camino de Muerte, the World's Most Dangerous Road, leading through dramatic high altitude cliffside jungle terrain or by walking on El Choro Trek through the climate zones from La Paz to Coroico

Understand

Sometimes referred to as the Tibet of South America, Bolivia is one of the most "remote" countries in the Western Hemisphere; except for the navigable Paraguay River stretching to the distant Atlantic, Bolivia and Paraguay are the only two landlocked nations in the Americas. It is also the most indigenous country in the Americas, with 60% of its population being of pure Native American ancestry.

History

Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simón Bolívar, 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 2000s, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and drug use. Current goals include attracting foreign investment, strengthening the hygiene system, and waging an anti-corruption campaign on poor citizens.

The current president is Evo Morales, who won majority in a 2005 election and was inaugurated at the historical Tiwanaku archeological sites. Morales and his party, the Movement for Socialism, were re-elected in 2009, with another majority. President Morales is the first Native leader of Bolivia since before the Spanish conquest, and he has concentrated on promoting the welfare of long-neglected Native people, so he is very popular with the Native majority, but those of European descent, who are concentrated in parts of the Tropical Lowlands, are in many instances strongly opposed to him and his policies. The protesters often shut down streets in La Paz, specifically the area surrounding the Plaza Murillo, and install blockades along major inter-city travel routes. If you are traveling between cities by bus, it can be common for the trip to be stalled by several hours due to these protests. Sometimes pickets of miners last several days between bigger cities and there are just no buses leaving in some directions.

Culture

Bolivia has a greater percentage of Native people than any other country in the Americas. They are mostly Quechua and Aymara people (the Spaniards wiped out the Incan aristocracy when they conquered the Andes). You may have seen Quechua people in your city selling colorful shawls and sweaters or heard a Quechua ensemble playing traditional music. But while many Andeans have to go abroad to seek a better life, more of them are still here, and their culture continues to live.

Climate

Bolivia's climate remains relatively similar from one climatic zone to another. It ranges from humid and tropical to slightly humid and tropical. 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 during the months of April and May. The summer months in Bolivia are November through March. The weather is typically warmer and wetter during these months. April through October, the winter months, are typically colder and drier.

National holidays

  • January 1 - New Year's Day
  • January 22 - Founding of the Plurinational State Day
  • May 1 - Labor Day
  • June 21 - Willkakuti (official holiday)
  • August 6 - Independence Day
  • November 2 - All Soul's Day
  • December 25 - Christmas

When the holiday falls on a Sunday, sometimes the holiday is moved to the following Monday. There are also departmental holidays.

Get in

The following nationalities will not need a visa for short stays of less than 90 days as tourists: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany,Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

Most people who do need tourist visas can obtain them on arrival, except for the following nationalities:

All business travellers and persons wishing to stay longer than 90 days in a year must obtain a visa in advance.

Unless you are under the age of 1, you will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to apply for a visa.

Arriving overland from Peru, US citizen tourist visas can be obtained at the border. They require a visa application form, a copy of the passport, a copy of yellow fever vaccination, a copy of an itinerary leaving Bolivia, evidence of economic solvency, a hotel reservation or written invitation, and a 4cm X 4cm or "passport sized" photo. A US$135 fee is also required, payable in freshly minted cash. Any old or marked bills will not be accepted. There are photocopy machines at the border crossing.

By plane

The main airports are located in La Paz to the western side of the country and in Santa Cruz to the east.

The arrival plan must be based mostly in the purpose of your visit to the country; you have to remember that La Paz receives most of their visitors due to the immense culture and heritage from the Incas and other indigenous cultures from the Andean region, and therefore from La Paz it is easier to move to the Tiwanaku ruins, Oruro’s carnival, Potosí’s mines, Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, Los Yungas valley and the Andes Mountains; since La Paz is the seat of government all the embassies and foreign organizations have their headquarters in the city, which is useful in case of an emergency.

On the other side, Santa Cruz with a warmer weather could become a good location for doing business visit other alternatives in tourism like the Misiones, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park or visit the eastern cities. There are also some foreign consulates in Santa Cruz.

The cities in the south and central Bolivia, like CochabambaTarija and Sucre also offer a very rich experience; there are several ways to get to these cities from La Paz or Santa Cruz.

From Europe

Regular flights are booked from Madrid (Barajas) to Viru Viru in Santa Cruz service provided by companies like Boliviana de Aviación and Air Europa; the cost could go from €800-1200 to other higher prices depending on the class and duration.

From Latin America

Other airlines that fly into Bolivia from other Latin American countries include LAN from Santiago via Iquique and from Lima. It is also now possible to fly between Cusco and La Paz with Amaszonas and Peruvian Airlines, making circular itineraries possible where you enter Bolivia from Peru across Lake Titicaca and then fly back into Peru. TAM Mercosur flies from São Paulo, Brazil and Buenos Aires via Asunción. Copa Airlines has begun to fly to Santa Cruz from Panama City. Avianca also flies to Lima and Bogotá. Gol Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas also fly directly to Santa Cruz.

From the USA

There are departures from Miami to La Paz and Santa Cruz on American Airlines. Once you have your international flight booked - it's far easier and cheaper to organize your internal flights from the point of departure.

By train

In 2014, portions of the Bolivian rail network were acquired by a Chilean company called La Empresa Ferroviaria Andina S.A. (FCA). Many discontinued passenger services appear to have been restarted. Check the FCA website for details.

  • From Brazil, a train connects the Bolivian border town of Puerto Quijarro with Santa Cruz. The fast and slow train takes 13 hours and 17 hours respectively.
  • From Argentina, a train connects the Bolivian border town of Villazón (across from La Quiaca) to Uyuni (9-12hours). Tupiza is at the midpoint 4 hours from Villazón.
  • From Chile, a train connects Calama with Uyuni (13 or 18 hours). Since this is a cargo train with passenger carriage attached, expect rough ride through exceptional scenery. (Calama - Antofagasta segment of the railway appears to not have passenger service) The other trans-national railway with Chile terminating at Arica also does not carry passengers.

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 major cities (e.g., Santa CruzLa PazCochabamba, Sucre) are paved. A 4x4 is strongly encouraged when traveling 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 driver's license is required but most times EU or US driver's licenses will be accepted. There are frequent police 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. There are sites to check times online but as always in Bolivia, it pays to check on the ground in advance as well.

There is a bus that runs from Juliaca and Puno in Peru to Copacabana.

By boat

Passenger ferries on Lake Titicaca no longer exist.

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. Do not try to go around or through blockades (usually of stones, burning tires, or lumber). Strikers may throw rocks at your vehicle if you try to pass the blockade. Violence has sometimes been reported. Many strikes only last a day or two. There is a government website with a live map showing which roads are closed or affected by landslides.

By bus

Bus transportation in Bolivia is a nice cheap way to get to see the beautiful scenery while traveling to your destination. Unfortunately the buses often travel solely at night. Keep in mind that roads are occasionally blocked due to protests, often for several days. So ask several companies at the terminal if you hear about blockades, unless you are willing to spend a few days sleeping on the bus.

Bus travel is usually pretty cheap. Estimate that it will cost you about US$1 for every hour of travel (it's easier to find travel times online than actual price quotes). Prices do change based on supply and demand. Sometimes you can get a deal by waiting until the last minute to buy. Hawkers are constantly crying out destinations in the bigger bus stations cajoling potential riders to take their bus line.

On average, bus companies are not-that-great to decent, but some are just really bad. It is recommended not to travel with Urus, as they drive less safely than others, and include many many stops which unnecessarily prolong the ride.

By plane

Flying within Bolivia is quick and fairly economical. BoA connects most major cities.

  • Boliviana de Aviación - BoA - the national airline of Bolivia. Provides economical travel between the main cities of Bolivia. You can book your tickets online or at BoA-offices in Santa CruzLa Paz or Cochabamba. Main office in Cochabamba, Calle Jordán #202 esq. Nataniel Aguirre. email: ventasweb@boa.bo phone: +591 901 10 50 10 fax: +591 4 4116477
  • Ecojet flies the usual major city routes, but it also has flights to Riberalta and Guayaramerin in Bení. Call Center can be reached at phone: +591 901 10 50 55 (not a toll-free call)

By train

On some routes, the roads are in such a dire condition that the train becomes the alternative of choice. Trains are more comfortable than one would expect, having for example reclinable seats. The trip from Oruro to Uyuni is especially beautiful, with the train going literally through an Andean lake on the way. The train is especially good for trips to the Salar de Uyuni and the Pantanal.

Coming from La Paz, you need to take a three-hour bus ride to Oruro to catch the train. It's best to book your tickets a few days before your trip. In La Paz booking office is at Fernando Guachalla No. 494, at the corner with Sánchez Lima (between the Plaza del Estudiante and Plaza Abaroa). Main stops are UyuniTupiza and Villazon, on the Argentine border. Information here: [1].

Between Santa Cruz and the Pantanal it is more straightfoward to organize a trip. Just go to the Terminal Bimodal in Santa Cruz (see the Santa Cruz page for details), or the train station on the border in Puerto Quijarro. The train is also convenient for trips to the Jesuit Missions. Check the website [2] for timetables.

By taxi

For longer trips between towns and cities that aren't served by bus, shared taxis are common. Shared taxis are not safe for tourists, especially if you are solo female traveller.

Talk

Bolivia has 37 official languages -of which Spanish (often called Castellano), Quechua, and Aymara are the main ones. In rural areas, many people do not speak Spanish. Nevertheless, you should be able to get by with some basic Castellano. Bolivia is one of the best places in which to learn or 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 a very good homestay component).

See

Bolivia has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the eastern department of Santa Cruz there are the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, the Inca site El Fuerte in Samaipata and the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos. Near the capital there is Tiwanaku, an archeological site with the remains of an pre-Incan city. Finally there are Sucre and Potosí, two cities founded by the Spanish in the 16th century.

Furthermore Bolivia has the world's largest salt flat Salar de Uyuni, a portion of Lake Titicaca with Isla del Sol and being located in the middle of the Andes — mountain peaks higher than 6,000m.

Do

  • The Death Road:from La Cumbre to Coroico. A mountainbike tour of 64km where you'll be able to see the diversity of Bolivia. Leave from La Cumbre at 5000m, in a cold and windy environment, and get to Coroico, in a wet and tropical environment.
  • Explore the Provinces: Bolivia is a place to explore, it is mostly still untouched. The people are friendly in the countryside. There are hundreds of off the map, mostly out-of-the-guide places to go in Bolivia, and far more exciting than what the tour agencies and guide books offer. In the La Paz department for example you can easily catch transport to places like Pelechuco, the east side of Lake Titicaca, Achacachi, Isla del Sol, or Quime, not to mention scores of other villages and small towns. The free govt. tour agencies at the Plaza Estudiantes or Prado can help you find transport anywhere and tell you about it.

Buy

Money

The national currency is the Bolíviano (ISO code: BOB), denoted Bs.

Bills come in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10; coins are in 5, 2, and 1 Bolivianos, and 50, 20, and you will find sometimes 10 centavos (1/10 of a Boliviano). Bills larger than Bs50 can be hard to break in smaller stores or vendors, but a quick phone call or internet session at an Internet Café (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. Expect to negotiate for a favorable exchange rate, as most vendors will try to make money off a tourist.

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

Banco de Credito is a good bank to take cash from. Banco Union should be avoided if possible as it charges a 5% surcharge (as of May 2012), although they do not make any mention of this.

Tipping

Service charges are included with the bill. Still, a small tip, around 5% or so, is sometimes given, and is considered polite.

Eat

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 common. 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 ll'ajwa, a spicy sauce similar to Mexican salsa.

Almuerzo is very popular during the mid-day meal and usually consists of an appetizer (entrada), soup, main dish (segundo), and dessert. Walk around many streets around Bolivian cities and you'll see the day's menu for that restaurant. Most have at least 2 main dish options to choose from. Almuerzos run anywhere between Bs15-25 depending on the restaurant or 'pension'.

Some notable Bolivian dishes:

  • Pique a lo macho - grilled chunks of meat in a slightly spicy sauce 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 (Similar to wiener schnitzel).
  • Picante de Pollo - the degree of spiciness depends on the cook/chef
  • Fritanga (Bolivian style fried pork)

Street food and snacks:

  • Anticucho - Beef hearts grilled on a skewer, served with potatoes and a spicy peanut sauce
  • Salchipapa - Thinly sliced sausage fried with potatoes
  • Choripan - Chorizo (spicy sausage) sandwich, served with grilled onions and lots of sauce

Mid-Morning snacks typically consists of any of several of meat-filled buns:

  • Salteña - A baked bun filled with meat and potatoes in a slightly sweet or spicy 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.

Many people also start off the day with some concoction involving fruit:

  • Ensalada de frutas - Many different fruits chopped in a bowl of yogurt. Very filling. Some stalls may have honey, nuts or gelatin on top, if you like.

Vegetarians will find decent to very good options in Gringo-places around the country. But also at market places, there are good vegetarian options on offer (usually potatoes, rice, fried egg and salad for about 7Bs.) In bigger cities, there are some (decent to good) fully vegetarian restaurants.

Drink

Juice bars appear at most markets. Shakes (either with water or milk) are 2 Bs2-3. Locals can be seen to drink Vitaminico an egg, beer and sugar concoction or "Vitima" which includes coca leaves.

  • Licuado - Water or milk blended with your favorite fruit combination. A big spoonful of sugar will be added unless you specifically ask them not to. Try the milk and papaya licuado. You should probably ask whether the water added is from botella (bottle) or from the tap (not recommended).
  • Vitaminico - Don't ask what's in here. Many fruits, milk, sugar, a shot of beer, and, if you wish, a whole egg (with shell).
  • Mocochinchi - A drink made by brewing peaches and spices together in water. Very good but some people are turned off by the shriveled peach which is typically served with each glass.
  • Api - A traditional corn-based drink usually found in the open-air markets. If you didn't know it was corn you'd never guess it though because this stuff is good.

Alcohol

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 goddess.

  • 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. Orange Cocktails are a popular drink too!

Tarija is located at 1924 meters above sea level, and is known for it's wine-making, vast vineyards, and award-winning wines. Hence you can visit and taste wine at its beautiful wineries, such as: Campos De Solana, Kohlberg, Casa Vieja, Valle De Concepción, and Casa Real, where the famous Singani is made.

Sleep

Offering a favorable exchange for Western tourists, lodging can be found at very reasonable prices throughout the country, from hostels to luxury hotels. Most basic are Alojamientos (at Bs40-50 per night).

Stay safe

Apply common sense and take precautions that apply elsewhere. All tourists should be careful when selecting a travel guide and never accept medication from unverifiable sources. Women tourists should be cautious when traveling alone. At night try to use "radio taxis" as fake cabs are common and robbings and even rapes do occur. It is a good idea to register with the consulate of your country of residence upon entry into the country. And it is also helpful learn at least basic Spanish to keep yourself a little safe.

When taking an interdepartmental bus (say from La Paz to Cochabamba), do not accept snacks or drinks from nearby passengers. Even though most likely they may just want to be nice, there have been instances that passengers being drugged and robbed during nighttime trips. Say "no, gracias".

Stay healthy

Some parts of Bolivia like La Paz (3650), Potosí (4010), Oruro (3950) and the Lake Titicaca region are high altitude, so adequate precautions against "sorojchi" altitude sickness should be taken.

At local pharmacies they sell sorojchi pills, that are supposed to help with altitude problems. It has painkillers as well as natural herbs to help cope with the symptoms of "sorojchi". In many parts of the Altiplano you can purchase coca leaves, which are reputed to be useful against soroche. Coca tea ("mate de coca") is available in tea bags in many markets.

However, severe cases of high altitude disease can be treated at the High Altitude Pathology Institute at Clinica IPPA. This clinic has the most advanced technology including a hyperoxic/hypoxic adaptation chamber. 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.
  • Malaria prophylaxis is recommended 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.

Respect

Do not use the word "indio" in Bolivia to describe indigenous people. It is considered offensive. The term they use is "campesino" which translates to peasant or "indígena". A "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 derogatory term.

Also, keep in mind the stark cultural and racial differences between the "cambas" of the Llanos in the east, who are white and mestizo and the "collas" of the Andes in the west who are Native American. They tend to not be on good terms and have been even more fiercely divided since the election of Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president. The two peoples tend to be very defensive about their side of Bolivia, so discussing your travel to the other cultural region of the country may be seen as insulting. In Santa Cruz, where society is much more Westernized, associating with indigenous culture is frowned upon, whereas in La Paz and elsewhere, it is quite the contrary.

It is also good to keep in mind that the Bolivian culture is very warm and friendly. That being said, it is very rude not to say Buen Día or Buenos Días to passersby in the streets. It also customary to give up your seat on a city bus for someone older than you, or a woman. In turn, others will give their seats up for you if you look a little bit older than they are.

Connect

Bolivia has three cellphone companies, Entel, Tigo, and Viva. All three have outlets on practically every block in major cities. Internet cafés are becoming less prevalent with the spread of smart phones making internet access more accessible. However, one can still find a cyber café if you look. Cyber cafés typically cost about Bs3/hour, or about $0.50 per hour.

Many cafés have free wifi for customers, although the speed can vary depending on the number of users connected.

While traditional payphones still exist, you can also make local calls for Bs1 from cellular phones at kiosks.

If you are staying for a while, consider buying SIM cards for your cellphones. They are quite cheap and you get good network coverage in all main cities and towns. Entel sells good-priced international call possibilities for their SIMs, i.e. you can buy 10 mins for Bs20 (to be used in one day, disconnects automatically after expiration). You will need to register the SIM card at a local office of the telecom. You will need a photocopy of your passport and the mobile phone that you will use.

The Amateur Traveler talks to Michael Tieso about his recent trip to Bolivia. He was traveling from Argentina to Peru and at first Bolivia was just in the way, but he discovered a country worth seeing.

Sucre is an old colonial town in Bolivia and called the White City. I visited Bolivia recently including three nights in Sucre where I stayed at Hotel Villa Antigua, a true boutique hotel. Hotel Villa Antigua is [...]

The post BOLIVIA – Hotel Villa Antigua in Sucre: recommended for an authentic experience! appeared first on Chris Travel Blog.

If you want a bit of adventure, and to actually experience South American culture and landscape rather than just pass through it, take the first turnoff and hit the countryside. The following routes are among some of the journeys you’ll want to put on your South American road trip bucket list.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Death Road, Bolivia: “The most dangerous road in the world”

bolivia-death-road

Photo: Coen Wubbels

Much has been written about the Death Road, especially with regard to cycling it with a tour agency out of La Paz. Since Bolivia built a highway around it, the road is largely void of traffic and mostly used for tourism. The Death Road starts at an altitude of 9,800 feet, winds down into the rainforest, and ends at the town of Coroico at 5,000 feet. If you’re going to drive it, leave after 11am, when the cyclists have finished.

 Isla del SolDepartamento de La Paz, BoliviaThe morning commute on Lake Titicaca’s Isla del Sol. 🐑🐑🐑

2. Transamazônica, Brazil: The longest road through the Amazon

Transamazônica, Brazil: The longest road through the Amazon

Photo: Coen Wubbels

The Trans-Amazonian Highway was built in the 1970s to open up the Amazon to the rest of Brazil. The name is somewhat misleading, as part of this 4,000km route cuts through the dry interior of Northeast Brazil (the easternmost city is João Pessoa), which is uninspiring to drive. The interesting part is the stretch through the Amazon: roughly speaking, from the infamous Belo Monte Dam project westbound to a village called Lábrea. Parts of this unpaved road may become impassable during the rainy season, when dust turns into slick red mud and bridges collapse. The best time of the year to drive it is July–Oct.

 Cânion do XingóDelmiro Gouveia, BrazilThis is the longest river – São Francisco’s River – in Brazil and in one of its parts (between the states of Alagoas, Bahia and Sergipe) there is a canyon that looks amazing. The easiest way and touristy way to reach this place is getting a tour from Aracaju city (Alagoas’ capital) with the bus and boat included. It costed 160 reais. But you can also go by car until where the boat leaves from (the town is called Canindé de São Francisco) and then take it to the river. Another cool thing about this place is the region itself: the canyon is located on the Brazilian Savannah which looks amazing especially during sunset ? From where the boat leaves you can go canoeing, go for a helicopter ride, eat local food, or do stand up surfing. The only one that is pricy is the helicopter one. #river #canyon #brazil #nature #sport

3. Carretera Austral. Chile. The sole road from north to south

 Los flamencos National ReserveSan Pedro de Atacama, ChileYeah, there’s thousands of flamingos here. They are cool. Check them out, take some photos, but then meander down the paths away from the tourists and feel wonderfully in the middle of nowhere, bathing in really pretty light and tranquility.

More than 600 miles of gravel road wind through scenery of rainforests, glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, and rivers. This is the only road connecting northern and southern Chile. It was largely constructed under Pinochet’s regime in the 1980s—initially it bore the name of Carretera General Augusto Pinochet.

Carretera austral de Tomas Sliva en 500px.com

Photo: tomassliva

4. Trans-Chaco highway, Paraquay: South America’s most unpredictable road

Cowboys doing their job de Laurenz Vorderwülbecke en 500px.com

Photo: laurenzvdw

For decades, roughly before 2009, this was known as South America’s worst road. Cars and buses could get stuck for days on end, especially in the mud during the rainy season. On this route, you can visit the Mennonite communities who arrived in the early 20th century and within two or three generations built affluent farming communities in the Chaco wilderness. Note that not all communities are keen on receiving visitors, so ask for permission before wandering about.

5. Ruta 40, Argentina: The most famous road in south america

Valle hermoso de Martin Benitez en 500px.com

Photo: benitezmartin

Some 3,000 miles separate La Quiaca in the north and Rio Gallegos in the south. You’ll see llamas and vicuñas on the altiplano and can stop for wine tours in Cafayate and Mendoza. Go now, as Argentina is paving Ruta 40 as I’m writing, which will facilitate driving but take away the sense of adventure and magic that Ruta 40 is so famous for.

 Los Pingüinos Natural MonumentPunta Arenas, ChileIf you’re in Punta Arenas this 5hr round trip is definitely worth checking out. Yeah, you’re with a bunch of other tourists, but the 130,000 Penguins located throughout the tiny island make up for it. #puntaarenas #patagonia

6. BR-319, BRAZIL: South America’s worst highway

BR-319, Brazil: South America's worst highway

Photo: Coen Wubbels

This 800km road runs from Porto Velho to Manaus. Like the Transamazônica, the BR-319 was built by Brazil’s military regime in the 1970s with the intent to open up the Amazon rainforest for economic purposes. However, as it was one of the first roads through the Amazon, know-how was minimal, and the road was built on swampland. This, together with annual floods that washed away dozens of bridges, contributed to the road falling into disuse. Nowadays, all trucks go by boat, and only the adventurous attempt it, camping rough along the way.

 Amazon Eco AdventuresManaus, BrazilMy first view of the mighty Amazon River as I fly into Manaus, Brazil. It was a very surreal feeling to say the least.

7. Salar de Utuni, Bolivia: South America’s smoothest road surface

 UyuniDaniel Campos, Bolivia#extreme

The world’s largest salt flat is technically not a road, but driving here is absolutely mind-blowing. The white ocean of salt is hemmed in by the Andes Mountains and looks like fresh snow that’s not yet been disturbed by footsteps. Most travelers visit the salt flat with an organized tour from Uyuni, but you can also rent a car and go on your own. The advantage is the opportunity you have to rough camp, which was one of our most overpowering experiences in South America. Note that Salar de Uyuni lies at 12,500 feet, so take measures to prevent altitude sickness.

8. Wetlands of the pantanal, Brazil: South America’s best wildlife spotting

 PantanalFlorianópolis, BrazilLife along the world’s largest wetlands; The Pantanal in Southwestern Brazil is home to some incredible wildlife, including the piranhas these guys are fishing for. #fishing #brazil

The Pantanal, the largest inland wetland in the world, is one of the most pristine and biologically rich environments on the planet. With more than 200 species of fish, 120 species of mammals, almost 100 different reptiles, and at least 600 types of birds, it’s a favorite among birdwatchers, wildlife spotters, and lovers of fishing. Make sure you have permission from the fazendas (ranches) you’re bound tp cross the pantanal. A sturdy 4WD is a must.

 Praia da Lagoinha LesteFlorianópolis, BrazilThe views were well worth the hike from Lagoinha do Leste in Florianopolis, Brazil. This island has some of the most amazing beaches I have ever witnessed in my life. #Brazil #Floripa

Potosi is one of the world’s highest cities and lies in the High Andes of Bolivia. It’s famous for the Cerro Rico silver mine which made Potosi the richest city in the Americas of the [...]

The post BOLIVIA – Visiting Potosi? Stay at Hotel Coloso Potosi in luxury! appeared first on Chris Travel Blog.

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Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur regularly throughout Bolivia, often with little notice. Avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings, as they may turn violent. Do not attempt to cross roadblocks, even if they appear unattended, to avoid possible confrontation.

All roads in the border areas, especially along the Bolivia–Peru border, and roads leading to La Paz’s international airport (located in El Alto) are particularly vulnerable to blockades. 

Review your travel plans to determine if they will be affected by demonstrations or civil unrest, take personal security measures and monitor media reports.

Crime

You should remain alert to your surroundings at all times, dress down, avoid wearing jewellery or carrying large sums of money or credit cards, and keep cameras and electronic equipment out of sight. Secure your valuables in a hotel safe. Avoid small restaurants away from downtown and tourist areas.

Petty theft, including pickpocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft and auto parts theft, is common throughout large cities.

Organized robbery occurs. Typically, members of a group of thieves will distract victims by staging a fight, starting a conversation, blocking a sidewalk, or throwing an object or liquid on the victims, while others rob them.

Robbery and assaults occur at tourist destinations. You should be especially careful when walking around tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sarganaga Street, the San Francisco Church vicinity and the historical Jaen Street, and when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as La Muela del Diablo. When travelling near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, Los Yungas, and on the Inca trails, remain in large groups and only join tours organized by reputable tour operators.

Express kidnappings by organized gangs have been reported. Tourists are held for ransom, often in a car, and are robbed or forced to use their bank cards to withdraw cash. Radio taxis hailed on the street have been involved in such incidents. Do not allow anyone else in your taxi; they may be accomplices. Special attention should be paid when taking a taxi to and from airports. Express kidnappings occur most frequently in major cities such as La PazSanta Cruz and Cochabamba, and between Copacabana and Desaguadero (on the Peruvian border). The Copacabana–Desaguadero route should be avoided after 2 p.m. It is recommended to take direct buses from Copacabana to La Paz rather than to transfer buses at the Desaguadero border crossing.

Exercise vigilance in La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal (located on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte). In Cochabamba, avoid Coronilla Hill (adjacent to the main bus terminal); local authorities caution people to enter Coronilla Hill at their own risk, as assaults have been reported. Violent crimes and armed robberies against foreigners have also been reported in the Santa Cruz bus/train terminal.

Criminals often pose as police officers and then ask to examine the traveller’s belongings or ask the traveller to accompany them to a police station. Bogus police stations are sometimes set up to scam tourists. Under Bolivian law, you are not obliged to follow a police officer unless he or she has a formal written request from a judge with your name on it, and any search or seizure must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the prosecutor.

Criminals posing as tourists may approach the traveller and offer to share transportation (usually a taxi), which proceeds to a remote place where the traveller is robbed. In other cases, a criminal posing as a police officer intercepts the traveller interacting with an accomplice, who is posing as a tourist and carrying contraband material such as drugs. The “police officer” takes the traveller to a bogus police station and seizes documents, debit cards and credit cards.

In the Chapare area between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and in the Yungas region, northeast of La Paz, violence and civil unrest, mainly associated with drug trafficking, may cause delays and risks to travellers. In the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, police presence has intensified due to increases in drug-related crimes. The situation is also tense in areas along Bolivia's border with Peru.

Scams

Canadians visiting Bolivia in order to undergo a surgical procedure have reported falling victim to scams by medical companies that insist on retaining passports as collateral. Once the procedure has been completed, the company attempts to extort more money from the patient before returning their passport. If your passport is inaccessible because of such a situation, you may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services.

Consult our page entitled Receiving Medical Care in Other Countries if you are contemplating undergoing a medical procedure in Bolivia.

Tourists travelling to Bolivia have fallen victim to scams in which cocaine is hidden inside objects or luggage that they have been asked to bring back by an acquaintance. There are reported cases of this scam being perpetrated through dating websites. The new Internet acquaintance asks the foreigner to go to Bolivia, on the pretext of picking up personal belongings or legal documents on his or her behalf. When police determine that the backpack or briefcase allegedly containing the acquaintance’s belongings or documents contains cocaine, the foreign citizen is detained at the airport and subsequently sent to a Bolivian prison. Drugs can be hidden in ways that are not clear to the naked eye, including being dissolved into clothing or fabric. Bolivian drug laws feature a zero tolerance policy and do not differentiate between intentional and unintentional drug smuggling. Exercise extreme caution when asked to carry objects or luggage for other people and do not, under any circumstance, carry luggage for a stranger.

Road travel

Road conditions in Bolivia are very poor. Although the major population centres of La PazSanta CruzCochabamba and Sucre are connected by improved highways, less than 5 percent of all roads in Bolivia are paved.

For trips outside major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Risks include most drivers' lack of formal training, unlit vehicles speeding at night and drunk drivers, including drivers of commercial buses. Weather conditions can also make road travel hazardous.

Roadblocks are a common occurrence throughout Bolivia and can cause significant disruptions to transportation, even in remote parts of the country. More information on roads to avoid is available from the Bolivian Highway Administration (in Spanish only).

Public transportation

Public transportation, including buses, trains, shared taxis and mini-buses, is unsafe. Use only tour buses from reputable companies for trips. Avoid extensive travel on foot.

Do not hail taxis on the street and decline transportation from people offering a cheaper fare. It is recommended to call known radio taxi companies from a landline.

Air travel

Travel plans may be affected by demonstrations or strikes. Prior to departure, check with your airlines to determine if there are delays or changes in flight schedules.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 110 for local police, 118 for ambulance services and 119 to reach the fire department. Dial (2) 222-5016 to contact the tourist police in La Paz. Some tourist police officers do speak English, but service in French is not available.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness)West Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal

Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Most clinics and hospitals in Bolivia accept payment in cash only.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is severely punished. Do not, under any circumstance, carry a stranger's baggage. If you are visiting non-tourist locations, especially coca-growing areas, exercise great vigilance and do not carry a camera or binoculars.

Laws

Imprisoned individuals may have to wait several years before their sentencing. Significant language barriers may arise and translators may not be provided free of charge to prisoners in Bolivia. Jail conditions are primitive, and prisoners have to pay for their cells and daily subsistence.

It is illegal to remove any item that the Bolivian government considers to be a national treasure, including pre-Columbian artifacts, certain historical paintings, items of Spanish colonial architecture and history, some native textiles, and certain flora, fauna and fossils. Any type of excavation for fossils or collecting fossils without prior written authorization is illegal.

Unlicensed bars in Bolivia are illegal and are known to sell drugs and, therefore, should not be frequented. You may be detained and questioned if the establishment is raided, even if you are not consuming illegal substances.

An International Driving Permit is required to rent a vehicle.

Culture

You should be careful when travelling with cameras and communication devices, particularly in remote areas, as some locals may find the presence of photographers intrusive. Ask for permission before you photograph people.

Money

The currency is the boliviano (BOB). It is almost impossible to exchange Canadian dollars (cash or traveller's cheques) in Bolivia. Use credit cards, U.S. dollars or bolivianos for purchases. Automated banking machines are available in major cities.

Climate

Travelling during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as many roads become impassable. In particular, the Uyuni Salt Flats become dangerous to navigate in the rainy season. Heavy rains may contribute to dangerous landslides. Water- and insect-borne diseases may also become a threat. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.