This page is my overview of backpacking Bolivia, covering the country, some tips, general things to know, transport and accommodation options, general costs and my experience of the country.
There is no sugar-coating how rugged and raw Bolivia is; it is by far the cheapest of all south American countries as it’s one of the poorest in the region. This is a country that will challenge you mentally and definitely will challenge your lung capacity in some areas.
You’re not going to get excellent fine dining here, food is basic to say the least. The landscape and terrain is breathtaking but there will be long arduous bumpy journeys to cope with along with the altitude. (Some roads are very dangerous and rugged). Altitude will slap you in the face and if you’re not used it; altitude can a weird experience and a stomach churner. And the WiFi? Well lets just say that first dial up internet you had was quicker.
Have I put you off?
You see Bolivia is like a test to backpackers, if you can cope with the bare basics then you’re going to be in for a treat. Bolivia will treat you to it’s natural beauty, like Lake Titicaca in Copacabana and it will provide you the cheapest way into the Amazon rain-forest. Or for the adrenaline junkies of you out there, Bolivia has some amazing adventure activities, like white water rafting, climb some of the highest mountains in South America, mountain biking down the aptly names death road (there’s a reason it’s called that). And like Peru has Machu Picchu, Bolivia has the magical Uyuni salt flats.
A few tips:
- If you find yourself suffering from Altitude sickness chew coco leaves.
- Copacabana is a great place to just chill out and recharge your batteries. (Especially if you’ve come in from Peru)
- Book tours as close to the destination of the activity for it to be cheaper. I.E don’t book a salt flats tour in La Paz, do it in Sucre or Uyuni.
- Bolivian long distance buses don’t provide meals, bring your own snacks and plenty of water.
- Be prepared for bumpy arduous journeys.
- Always look locally for hostels and tour companies and haggle prices.
Some things to be wary of:
- Some Bolivian roads can be very dangerous.
- Altitude can make you feel drowsy and sick.
- Tour operators will try and over-charge you at first.
- This is a very poor country, although it’s generally safe as a tourist you do stick out so don’t flaunt personal belongings.
- You will be thoroughly checked for drugs if you’re flying out – Don’t be stupid and think you can get away with it.
Basic things to know:
Language spoken: Spanish
Is English spoken: Very little.
Currency: Bolivian boliviano
Cost of Backpacking Bolivia is – Very cheap
To check live rates click here XE.com
No visa needed for British tourists for stay of up to 30 days but can be extended for a further 60 days. Check GOV.UK for more information.
Check if your nationality needs a visa for Bolivia here.
Things to know when budgeting for Bolivia:
With Bolivia being one of the poorest countries in South America, traveling around it is very cheap. Bolivia is great to balance out your budget, compared to other South American countries which you might find turn out to be more expensive than you expect.
Like in most countries transport costs will burn a hole in your pocket, still cheaper than other countries though. Activities and tours will be the other cost that stands out, as they are generally priced in US dollars and obviously try to over charge tourists. You should always try and shop around and be confident to haggle and you will be surprised at how much the prices will drop.
Hostels and accommodation in general will not make a dent in your budget, I was able to stay in a couple of hotels for the same price as a dorm room in other other countries.
Food and drinks are so cheap, while in certain countries you have to live off the basic of foods in Bolivia you can have a big meal for next to nothing; the only problem is the food isn’t that great.
As you might have noticed I haven’t gone into specific pricing, as prices always change and information becomes irrelevant. However if you are looking to compare live prices here is a couple of good sites for live comparisons to help you: numbeo and expatisan.
With Bolivia being one of the poorest countries in South America it shouldn’t surprise you to know transport options are not the greatest or most comfortable. Although most of the major highways are decent, the locals roads are treacherous which makes long journeys extremely difficult especially when it’s been raining.
buses – Public transport is available but can be unreliable.
Trufis- Shorter buses that wait until they’re full and drive and around designated route.
Micros – Mini-vans that drive to from designated routes (very cheap)
Taxis – Safest way to travel locally but more expensive.
Buses – Private buses with three options: Cama premium (include fully reclining seats) Cama – Mid range, And semi-Cama, cheapest option.
Trains – The least popular mode of transport.
Flights – There are domestic flights available between certain cities, also need to fly to get to rurrenabaque for the Amazon Rain-forest.
Popular tour companies:
Cheaper option is to book tours in Bolivia. Do shop around and haggle for the best price.
Although Bolivia isn’t the most lavish of countries, it still attracts a fair amount of backpackers. There are a growing amount of hostels and accommodation options available especially in more touristy hotspots.
- Hostels – There are plenty of options available for shared dorms and private rooms (not the best standard of hostels in the world but this is Bolivia)
- Budget hotels – Cheap and not so cheerful rooms available.
- Hospedajes – Smaller an much more basic than hostels.
- Volunteering – live and work with a family or local community to get another perspective of life in Bolivia.
- Air Bnb – Becoming popular in cities like La Paz and Sucre
My overview of backpacking Bolivia:
My trip to Bolivia was tainted by the way I was feeling at the time. If you’ve read the pages on Colombia and Peru you will have seen my head started to turn, mentally I was getting drained from traveling for 6 years and Bolivia really suffered because of it. I was in a rush to get around it, although I enjoyed the places I went, I just wanted to get them over with so I could go home to England. something I never thought I would say.
However saying that the Uyuni salt flats were just breathtaking, well worth it and it wasn’t an over-hyped tourist attraction is was really a natural phenomenon.
Some of my highlights:
Santa Cruz because it was my last stop.
Actually feeling excited to go home for a prolonged amount of time for the first time in 6 years.
Some of my dislikes:
Being ill in La Paz.
Feeling drained from traveling and not being able to enjoy Bolivia as much as I could have.
Not wanting to be sociable.
Not being able to get to rurrenabaque for amazon rain-forest trip.
My route backpacking Bolivia:
My trip around South America concluded in Bolivia, and with that came what is the most relaxed border crossing I’ve ever had. From the border came a short trip to Copacabana and and my trip ended in Santa Cruz.