If you haven't considered Bolivia is a travel destination, right now is the best time to do so. Yes, it might be a little far fetched when there are more appealing countries next to it. But the country has more concerning diverse untouched landscapes, peculiar culture and certainly a lot of cheap options.
Not all places offer you authenticity these days. Bolivia stands out in that regard, thankful to its neighbors. It is now the right moment to go backpacking Bolivia and indulge in the raw beauty of it.
As outstanding as the country’s culture and beauty are, the city might still shock you with its ways. The country isn't exactly developed or has an efficient infrastructure. At times you will find that even the basic necessities like toilets are not up to standard, but it gives you a thrill of exploring that you might not get elsewhere.
Here are a few things you are better off knowing as a guide to backpacking before your travel in Bolivia.
English is not common anywhere. You might find that hotels and restaurants in cities like La Paz and Sucre speak a bit but everywhere else, it would be a challenge to communicate properly in English.
Spanish is commonly spoken, and if you can utter at least the basic phrases, it would help you more than you would imagine.
Staying healthy in Bolivia is very crucial. The standards of sanitation and hygiene might be a lot different than what you are used to.
First thing not to do is drinking tap water. Try to get sealed bottled water and stick on it even in restaurants. When it comes to street food, get things that are made fresh in front of you. Also, carry medicines like Imodium, you never know how desperately you might need it.
Rambling through the markets and street food centers are among the top things to do in Bolivia, they also offer great options for meals. It is also a peephole to the local culture of the region. Look for the stalls where there is a crowd, and it is guaranteed that the food there would be freshly made and tasty too.
Both food and accommodation here are a lot cheaper. When it comes to hostels or hotels, it might be a little basic. It is wise to contact travelers who have previously visited and ask for advice on where to stay in Bolivia. Because there are sure to be a lot more options than what you find online. You will also get first-hand reviews from them. If you are going there and getting accommodation, always ask to see the room and bathroom first before you pay for it.
It is time to put away the misconceptions of Bolivia being totally unsafe for backpackers. It is just like any other place, and you need to be basically precautions. Keep your belongings safe to avoid pickpocketing and don’t hand over your passport to everyone who is dressed like Police. Always carry copies of your important documents rather than originals.
Another thing to notice is not to call taxis on the road. It is best to book one from the accommodation where you are staying. Try to avoid going out alone at night, especially when there are fewer people outside.
Bolivia's infrastructure is definitely no topnotch. The roads aren't that great, and so is public transportation. Even if it is a bit costly, go for mini buses rather than big ones. The reputable companies are El Dorado, Bolivar, and Trans Copacabana. It might be a bit more expensive, but for your own safety, these are the better choices.
Mostly, there won’t be toilets in buses. So when you get out to use the restroom when they take a toilet break, don't go out alone or if the place is deserted. If there is an option of domestic flights, choose that. Buses are not always punctual, and the journey could be extremely uncomfortable.
The most popular cities in Bolivia are all well over 2500 ft. So the first thing you might experience is altitude sickness. After few hours or maximum two days, you are sure to adapt to it.
While in the country, these are the best cities to jumpstart your journey.
At 3500 m above sea level, the administrative capital of Bolivia is just breathtaking. The buildings cascading down the valley and misty cold air are all worth the energy you think you would need to explore the city.
La Paz’s primary attraction is the city center with the San Francisco Church and the Plaza Mayor. You can frequently see cultural performances in this area. The Mercado Lanza is the place for fresh food markets and other random goodies. To the east, the alleyways will call you with the tony artisan shops and peculiar natural remedy shops that will make you more than curious.
Sucre Bolivia is the national capital in all the ways. It is brimming with traveler friendly cafes, restaurants, architecturally stunning buildings, and cultural museums. If all these weren't enough, the city is also bordered by Andean mountains.
Sucre is in a comfortable altitude of 2810m above sea level. The main historical incidents of Bolivia has left its long-standing remnants here. From the Casa de La Libertad to Parque Cretacico, the city is adorned by historical monuments.
Sucre also attracts the cool crowd with plenty of nice bars and delicious street food. To the outskirts, there are also few options for adventurous activities up in the mountains too.
What calls you to Rurrenabaque or Rurre is the mighty Amazon Rainforest. There is nothing much left apart from that there. It is barely a town but what more do you need other than the most complex ecosystem on earth.
The tours here are much cheaper than neighboring countries but might not be as fancy though.
Salar de Uyuni Bolivia is the major attraction here. A salt flat tour alone is necessary to get the essence of the region. It is better to visit from Tupiza rather than Uyuni. You can find overnight buses from La Paz, spend a day here and return.
Food and accommodation are overpriced, and it is not worth staying here as there is nothing much to explore other than the lake. Tupiza, on the other hand, is little more pleasant and even has few options for self-guided hikes along the rocky landscape.
Not the “at the Copa, Copacabana,” this is a much quieter lakeside region. But it offers one of the spectacular sunsets along the horizon of the largest lake in South America.
A boat trip from here will take you to Isla del Sol, where the Sun God was born according to the Incas. Ruins and views make this place worth visiting, but note that is its 4100m above sea level. But the whole thing is worth it for the incredible views from up above.
You might find this guide to backpacking Bolivia is pretty blunt, but sugarcoating things ain’t going to help you to take a trip.
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