Bolivia

Bolivia

image: bolivia manBolivia is a country of unique qualities, unpredicatable and extreme, it needs no embellishment to entice its visitors. Reaching from the depths of the Amazon to the highest city in the world, Bolivia spans such a scale of diversity in its landscape, culture and climate that visitors are constantly confronted with new challenges and awe inspiring experiences. In only a matter of hours, you are able to travel from the lure of pink dolphins and piranaha fish, in the balmy heat of the Yungas, to the alpacas and llamas, in the cold chill of the Antiplano.

Although economically, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, it stands out from its neighbours as perhaps the country richest in its range of natural qualities and its untold secrets. It is this secrecy that is perhaps the strongest attraction to Bolivia for the independant traveller. Landlocked between Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, Bolivia has managed to escape mainstream tourist interest. Here, Bolivia sits quietly retaining its mystery and sense of adventure.

Cash

Thse currency in Bolivia is Bolivianos. Rough conversions as of 2002:

$1 US = 7 Bolivianos
£1 = 10 Bolivianos
EURO = 6 Bolivianos

For accurate conversion rates consult your local currency exchange bureau.

You will find that travel, food and accomodation are all very cheap in Bolivia compared to the prices in America and Europe; Bolivia is also cheaper than other South American countries with a meal and basic room for the night easily attainable for $5 or less.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Bolivia. Travellers Cheques are certainly the safest way to carry your money whilst travelling and it is advisable buy your cheques in US dollars rather than sterling.

Climate

The Best time to travel is between May and November. The rainy season is from December to March, however you will find that the climate varies extremely depending on which region you are in.

The Northern Antiplano is the region with the harshest climate due to its high altitudes, yet despite this it houses 70% of the population. The Antiplano is subject to harsh winds, strong sunlight and chilly weather and in Winter (June- August ) temperatures can sink as far as -25C To the North East and further South are the Lowlands, the Yungas and the Puna Plains. These regions are much more fertile and have a tropical climate with high average temperatures and high levels of humidity, especially in the valleys.

Dress

As you might expect, due to the extreme diversity of climate across Bolivia, it is advisable to bring a wardrobe that can be easily adapted to the different ranges of temperature. However this is not as stressful as it sounds; for the colder places there are plenty of warm clothes to buy in Bolivia, very cheaply! The alpaca wool products are especially good as they are plentiful and extremely warm. A hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are not just advisable but essential in the Antiplano.

Visas

A visa is not required for tourist visits of up to 90 days by nationals of most EU countries, USA, Canada, Australia, most South American countries and some Caribbean countries.

Health

It is important to be aware of the effects of altitude and to take time to adjust properly when travelling from lower altitudes to higher. Ignorance of this can lead to altitude sickness or ‘soroche’ which can be extremely unpleasant and can make you seriously ill.
In order to adjust, it is advisable to be slow in your movements and take time to relax. Coca tea, which is abundant in Bolivia is a useful remedy for altitude sickness symptoms.
If you suffer from heart or lung complaints and are travelling to the high altitudes you must seek medical advice before travelling to Bolivia.

The advisable vaccinations for Bolivia are; Typhoid, paratyphoid, hepatitis ‘A’, tetanus and polio. There are areas in Bolivia that are infected with Yellow Fever such as Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and the subtropical regions. Before visiting the country you will need a yellow fever vaccination. As well as this, if you are arriving in Bolivia from other countries which are infected with yellow fever, a vaccination certificate will be required.

Bolivian tap water is not safe to drink and water precautions should be taken.

Travel

Travelling around Bolivia is without a doubt an enjoyable and fascinating experience, however it is also one which can at times demand an immense patience from the traveller. Only 4% of roads are paved, a statistic that you will find hard to ignore once you are there. This can often make for quite a harrowing journey and some roads in particular are not advisable for the faint hearted. Many Bolivian buses do tend to break down at some point on a long journey, however you will see that these events often turn into amusing and spirited occasions as all the passengers tend to pull together with the drivers and help the journey get back on its way.
The buses leave from central bus terminals, but not necessarily on a regular basis. Make sure that you investigate the bus times and days of travel in advance, otherwise you are liable to be stranded in one place for quite some time.

The majority of cars on the road are taxis or taxi vans. Bolivia does not have many private cars so taxi travel is cheap. The taxi tariff is fixed, although to make more profit on a journey it is not unusual for the Bolivian drivers to try and get as many passengers into the car as possible.

Another way of travelling around Bolivia is by internal flights. These can be obtained at about $100 for a one way journey or there is a special pass that costs $200 for four flights. You should ask around for these deals and prices in the travel agents in La Paz.

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