Bolivia, officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia is a landlocked country located in central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the west. Its geography is varied from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon Basin.
The Bolivian population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians and Africans. The main language spoken is Spanish, although the Guarani, Aymara and Quechua languages are also common and all four, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official. The large number of different cultures within Bolivia has contributed greatly to a wide diversity in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
Time zone: The time zone is UTC/GMT -4 hours und and Bolivia has no daylight saving!!
International calling code: +591
Currency: In Bolivia the local currency is the Bolivian Boliviano (BOB). The Boliviano is not easily found outside Bolivia therefore it is better to bring U$D or €uro which can be changed easily (be careful not to bring bills that are in some way damaged) or use your credit card to withdraw cash.
Security: Bolivia is generally a safe country! However, like anywhere, wherever there are tourists there are pickpockets. Furthermore, Bolivia is a very poor country, if you wag your money bundles and fine jewellery; you attract the weak souls - here as elsewhere. Stay alert and do not let your bags and valuables unattended.
Shopping: Almost everything is cheaper in Bolivia. You can often find good deals on art, fabrics, clothes, leather, musical instruments etc. Let the seller give you a first offer and then you can start negotiating.
Gastronomy: The traditional Bolivian cuisine is often very fat and the portions are huge. When in altitude you may not have the same appetite and often one portion serves two people. We recommend dishes, such as the Pique Macho, empanadas, chuño (dried potatoes), chicha (corn cider), chairo (chuño soup), Saice (minced meat with rice in sauce), etc.
Climate: The climate and weather in Bolivia vary as greatly as the country's many regions, although when speaking of weather, Bolivians typically refer only to two seasons (the rainy season and dry season) as usually there is no gradual entry into either winter or summer. Changes in temperatures and weather are typically as brusque as the changes in topography from one region to the next. Temperatures depend primarily on elevation. Tropical Lowlands: To the East (from Pando, down through Beni and Santa Cruz to parts of northern Tarija) the climate is usually very hot, humid and often rainy between late September and May. December and January are the hottest months of the year. Summer days are humid and sticky. Nights are warm and musky, often filled with a moist fruity aroma as winds carry the scent of the tropical jungle into the cities. Northwest Valleys: The country’s northwest valley region (called the Yungas, or the jungles, North of La Paz going toward Pando) is surprisingly hot and humid, considering the altitude. It is the cloudiest, rainiest and most humid region of Bolivia. In this region the Bolivian climate and local weather are similar to that of the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz with even more precipitation per year. Temperatures drop as the elevation increases. At altitudes higher than 2000 meters above sea level it sometimes snows and at 4600 meters the mountains are permanently capped by snow. Above 5500 meters the climate is similar to that of polar regions and there are some glaciers present. Central Valleys: The central valley’s - Cochabamba, parts of Chuquisaca and western Tarija - are temperate to cool. Temperatures are pleasant during the day, but it can get quite cold at night. This region, although high (averaging 1200-1500 meters above sea level) is also rather humid. Bolivia’s valleys are very fertile and covered in dense forest. The rainy season is long and sustained. Altiplano and higher: On the shores of Lake Titicaca, and higher (Potosí), temperatures can reach a balmy 27°C/80°F at midday, but normally by early afternoon a sweater is necessary and the nights are cold. Because of the altitude, the sun feels especially strong here and sunscreen should be worn throughout the entire day. On the Altiplano the winds are cold and harsh and moisturizer or sunscreen (and Chap Stick) are important to prevent both sunburn and windburn. Temperatures in and around the Salar de Uyuni and the South Lipez can drop to -20°C/-4°F. Travellers arriving from the Northern Hemisphere must remember that the seasons are reversed in Bolivia. Keep in mind that in the Southern Hemisphere seasons (and climate) are reversed, or the “opposite” of those in the North, with the hottest months (our summer) being November to February and the coldest months (our winter) being May to July.
Altitude: To be in top form on the Altiplano, it is necessary to acclimatize well. Many visitors complain of headaches, fatigue, nausea or loss of appetite because of the altitude – others remain completely unaffected! In any case, it is advisable to plan for a few days in La Paz, to get used to the altitude. You can i.e. start with a visit to the Lake Titicaca. Make sure that you drink plenty of water before arriving at El Alto airport and avoid physical strain when you leave the airport.
Comfort: Even if the roads in Bolivia have gotten better over the years please note that many of our tours brings you off the beaten track and to the most remote areas of the country – travelling can therefore be a bit rough at times. The accommodation depends on your chosen comfort level however, in some areas there is no choice and accommodation will be basic. In some areas you will not have hot water, heating or light after 22h00 because the generators are turned off during the night –and in some areas you will not have any hot water, heating or light at all!! Is it important that you are able to see this as part of the adventure, and that this only brings you closer to the culture. On the Altiplano it can get very cold during the winter months and a good sleeping bag is a must.
Last but not least...: The unforeseen happens – and nowhere more than in South America - your flight might be late or the bus brakes down! Remember that life works at a different pace here, and people do not have the same sense of timekeeping as at home - people do not expect you to be on time! Try to accept this as part of the charm of travelling in a relaxed country. We always include extra time to allow for these things, sometimes too much and sometimes not enough; in both cases we try to ensure that you have a great trip.