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.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TRAVELLING IN SOUTH AMERICA
Citizens many European countries don’t need visa to enter Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador or Brazil.
Citizens of Canada don’t need visa to enter Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina or Ecuador but will need a visa to enter Brazil.
Citizens of the US don’t need visa to enter Peru, Chile, Argentina or Ecuador but will need visa to enter Brazil or Bolivia.
Citizens of Australia don’t need visa to enter Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina or Ecuador but will need visa to enter Brazil.
Citizens of New Zealand don’t need visa to enter Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador or Brazil.
For the countries where you don’t need visa entry is granted on presentation of a passport valid for more than six months, a return air/bus ticket and proof of funds to support yourself for the duration of the stay. For the latest information on your specific visa requirements you should contact the local Embassy or Consulate of the country you will be travelling to well in advance of your planned date of travel.
Attention if you travel through the USA:
All Visa Waiver Program travellers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the U.S. without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. See important information the Visa Waiver Program here: Visa Waiver Each traveller is responsible for having the correct travel documentation.
You should always contract your attending physician before departure to enquire about which vaccinations are required in the country or countries you will be travelling to. It is recommended to be updated with the universal vaccines (diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, hepatitis B). Traditional vaccines against yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A are recommended. The vaccine against yellow fever is required for entry to most Latin American countries. Vaccination against typhoid is recommended for extended stays and hepatitis A for those who are not naturally immune. Vaccination against rabies is recommended for long stays (especially expatriates).
Depending on your chosen option:
- Spanish speaking guides: private or group tours with different local Spanish speaking guides (no tour leader)
- English speaking guides: private or group tours with different local English speaking guides (no tour leader)
- French, German, Italian or Russian speaking guides: private or group tours with local guides in chosen language (no tour leader)
- English, Spanish or French speaking tour leader: Private tours with tour leader in chosen language
- German, Italian or Russian speaking tour leader: Private tours with tour leader in chosen language
Tour leader: His role is to make sure that everything goes smoothly during the tour and that each individual and the group as a whole are safe. In case of problems or dangers he is the only decision maker.
Local guides: Local guides in chosen language and all transfers and transport between towns, bus or train stations, airports and hotels are of course undertaken by a member of our team (in Spanish) as indicated in your program.
Transfers and transport are undertaken in bus, 4x4 vehicles, minibus, plane or boat. The vehicles used will depend on the size of the group and the nature of the expeditions. Arrival and departure times by bus, plane, boat, train or car are subject to changes and under no circumstances can Lipiko Tours be held responsible for any delays.
Accommodation is either in hotel, hostal, shelter, home stay or camping depending on your program. When sleeping in a hotel or hostel you will always have a private room (double room could be shared, otherwise you will need to reserve a single room which has an added cost), private bathroom and in some cases heating. However when sleeping in shelters there is very little comfort; shelters have dorms (6 people in one room), shared toilet and bathroom and no heating. In winter there is usually no water (frozen) to take a shower so it’s a good idea to bring wet wipes. The beds will have sheets and blankets but it’s always best to bring a sleeping bag especially during winter. Attention: We will only provide you with a list of hotels approx. 3 weeks before departure as depending on the departure date hotels might change.
Heating and hot water:
In large cities heating and hot water is usually not a problem and is readily available. Eco Lodges in the countryside are often equipped with solar panels to heat water but of course it’s possible that they are not working and the heating neither. For nights in shelters or home stays there is neither hot water nor heating. Very remote hotels (i.e. South Lipez and Salar de Uyuni) the supply of hot water and heating is not always regular. In case of problems or failure of this type of service (heating and hot water) Lipiko Tours cannot be held responsible and we recommend you to contact the reception in the hotel to make sure that water and/or heating is either turned on or repaired in case it’s not working.
For lunch (where included) it will either be a lunch box or a hot meal and for dinner (where included) you will be served a hot meal. Drinks are not included and as a precaution you should never drink tap water – only bottled. During the discovery tours it’s usually easy to purchase bottled drinks.
Your luggage will be transported either by plane, car, boat, and bus or carried by mules/porters (during the treks). It is important that you limit your luggage to 20kg/44lb during the discovery tours and to 8kg/18lb during treks and mountain climbing tours. In some cases for national flights the baggage limit is 15kg/33lb. In case you have more than the allowed limit you will have to pay the surcharge directly upon check-in.
Special trek: If the luggage limit advised by Lipiko Tours is not respected the customer is responsible for any extra charges i.e. payment of extra porters and/or mules and any other expenses that occur because of this (mule driver, food and accommodation of mule drivers and/or porters). The payment for extra mules and/or porters will have to be paid upfront directly to the person in charge of the tour.
Bolivia 220/230V* 50 Hz A & C * La Paz & Viacha 115V
Chile 220V 50 Hz C & L
Peru 220V* 60 Hz* A & C * Talara 110/220V; Arequipa 50 Hz
Argentina 220V 50 Hz C & I
Brazil 110/220V 60 Hz A, B, C, D, & G
Ecuador 120-127V* 60 Hz A, B, C, D *120/240V in certain rural areas
List of plug and socket types
Photos/Videos: Make sure you bring extra memory cards and batteries. It is not always easy to get batteries charged so try to limit the use of functions that consume a lot of energy.
Remember that we are always available to answer any unanswered questions you might have about your tour to South America. Don’t hesitate to contact us if in doubt and we wish you a great tour with Lipiko Tours.
Which clothes to pack obviously depends on the country and area you will be visiting as well as the type of travel you will be undertaken. Below we have prepared a list which includes travel to both cold and hot areas.
When packing your bags remember that your clothes should be breathable and offer both isolation and protection.
Here a non-exhaustive list:
- 3 T-shirts (breathable)
- 5 pairs of underwear (warm and breathable)
- 1-2 long sleeved casual shirts (i.e. fleece)
- 2 trekking trousers – the ones you can zip off at the legs are perfect and can be used as shorts.
- 1 fleece jacket
- 1 thick jacket
- 1 waterproof jacket
- Warm hat, scarf and gloves
- Warm, long underwear
- 5-7 pairs of socks (warm and comfortable)
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 lightweight, fast drying towel
- Trekking boots or shoes; the most important is that you are comfortable in your shoes – avoid buying new boots/shoes that you will be wearing for the first time during the trip. They should be waterproof, light with a nonslip sole and should provide good ankle support.
- 1 pair of sandals
- A small toilet bag (avoid shampoo and liquid soap that don’t handle pressure changes well)
- A good pair of sunglasses (protection 3 is recommended as a minimum and 4 for treks above 4000m/13.120ft)
- Sunscreen (high protection) and special lip protection
- Insect repellent
- Head torch (don’t forget extra batteries)
- Water flask
- Walking cane (for trekking)
- Toilet paper
- Extra pair of shoelaces
- Travel sewing kit
- A small Swiss knife (don’t forget to put this in your checked luggage during air travel)
- Wet wipes
- Survival blanket
- A big plastic bag to cover your bag for rain protection
- A lighter (to burn toilet paper – with caution)
- A copy of your passport and other important documents
- Sleeping bag – choose a good sleeping bag that goes to -15°C/5°F and don’t forget a liner
- Personal first aid kit (a group first aid kit will be provided but should only be used in case of emergency)
NB: You might not need all of the above mentioned material and you should adjust the list to your particular tour.
You should divide our belongings into 2 bags; a backpack in which you will carry the things you need during the day and a second bigger bag which you will have access to in the evenings and mornings. During the tour your luggage can be transported by car, bus, mules etc. and should be adapted to these transport conditions. Lipiko Tours cannot be held responsible in case of wear and tear.
Unfortunately dishonest people can be found everywhere so you should always take care of your luggage and personal documents. Where available we suggest you use the safety boxes in the hotels. Lipiko Tours cannot be held responsible in case of any loss of property.