BOLIVIA

This is a hidden gem in South America and a country that you must visit during your lifetime. The scenery that you will come across will seem fake it is so incredible. The people are so kind and you will make new friends in no time. The food is delicious and cheap, you won’t want to stop eating!

When to Go

During the winter months, May to October, is Bolivia’s dry season. At this time you will get clearer skies, less mosquitos, but the nights will be significantly colder. Prices during these times for excursions and tours may also be higher. During the summer months of November to March, it is rainy season and the lands will be lusher and you will get warmer weather. Be aware though, if you head over during the rainy season, roads may get flooded which may affect your travel route and even where you can go on some tours.

Getting There

You will likely have to connect in order to get to Bolivia if coming from North America. The only direct flight to the country from North America is out of Miami. Boliviana de Aviacion and American Airlines fly this route. Connecting flights from the US and Canada will go through Lima or Panama City. Oddly, Santa Cruz de la Sierra’s airport (VVI) is where the majority of the international flights fly into, and they connect to La Paz if that’s where you’re headed.

Visa Information

Passports must be valid for at least 6 months to enter Bolivia. Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Japanese do not need a visa to visit Bolivia for tourist purposes and can stay up to 90 days. But Americans do need a visa. Americans can apply for a 90-day visa valid for 5 years for a price of $160US upon arrival. If applying for a visa, make sure to have your flight confirmation as well as accommodation confirmation printed as the immigration office will ask for this.

Currency & Payment

In Bolivia they use Bolivian Boliviano ($b). $1US is equal to approximately $b7. $1CAD is equal to approximately $b5.30. Make sure to bring cash with you as ATM’s are hard to come by. It is best to bring USD as they provide you with the best rate, and make sure they are in pristine condition with no tears otherwise exchange booths will not take them. If you do use ATM’s you may find yourself limited to pulling large amounts of money. What I found though was that if you click “Spanish” instead of “English” on the first screen, you are able to pull a larger amount.

 

Salar de Uyuni - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Before you Go

  • Starting March 2, 2017, the Bolivian authorities made the Yellow Fever vaccination a requirement to enter Bolivia. You are required to show a Yellow Fever certificate of vaccination upon entry. Because there is a shortage of the Yellow Fever vaccination in North America, I heard that the Bolivian authorities have suspended the policy for now. If you are entering the country from a border where mosquitos are prevalent, you will be asked to show the vaccination. Kanoo Tours posted a lot of information about this topic. You can read more about it here.
  • If flying into the country, you must have proof that you are exiting the country and a confirmation for your first night stay in the country.
  • Pack warm clothes! This is a country that is very high in altitude and therefore gets very cold, especially at night. You can pack one less sweater though because you won’t be able to help purchase a $10 alpaca sweater!
  • If prone to altitude sickness, make sure to pack some medicine. Although you can find coca leaves and coca tea everywhere which is a good cure for this as well.
  • If you will be in Bolivia for a while, it is worthwhile to purchase a SIM card. There are three main cell providers in Bolivia: Entel, Tigo and Viva. The one that has the best coverage is Entel (but it won’t be as good as what you are used to). A SIM card should cost no more than Bs.15. And make sure that whoever you purchase it from registers the SIM for you because you need to do this in order for it to work. When you register your SIM, have them put your data onto your phone as well. You can purchase 1GB for Bs.50 which if only using emails and surfing the web should last you a while. You can purchase credit at any convenience shop as well.
  • Buses can get cancelled due to heavy rain so keep that in mind while traveling during the rainy season peak times (March and April).
  • You must pay for all public toilets here. It usually is only Bs.1-2 though. Make sure you carry toilet paper with you too. And it cannot be flushed down the toilet, here you need to throw it in the trashcan.
  • If taking the bus around, you will need to pay an extra Bs.2.50 at each bus terminal you depart from. You just have to go to a booth and pay to receive a small ticket that they will check on the bus before you depart.
  • There is no international departure tax when you leave the country, only for Bolivians and permanent residents. But they will charge you departure taxes for domestic flights. The cost will vary based on the airport but on average it should be around Bs.25.

 

LA PAZ

Sitting at over 4000m high, you may find yourself out of breath quickly in Bolivia’s capital. You only need a few days here to see the city and test the countries “death road”, if you dare!

La Paz - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

City Transportation

If you arrive at the La Paz airport, it is very cheap to get to the city center. The airport is located in Alto, which is about a 30 minute drive (depending on traffic) to the city center. A cab will cost you about Bs.70-80 but you can sometimes negotiate and share with other people and pay only Bs.40-50 per location. An alternative option to get to the city center is to take the airport minibus that will drop you off at Plaza San Francisco for only Bs.4 per person. When you exit the airport, walk to your right and you will see a stop with a bunch of locals lining up to take the minibus.

If you are staying in the tourist district, near the city center, you likely won’t have to take transportation anywhere because it is easy to walk everywhere. Taxis aren’t too expensive there and you can also negotiate prices. They also have Uber. Prices will be the same as normal taxis but Uber tends to be safer. If you need to get around the city (maybe to catch the Teleferico, or if you want to see another area), you can also take one of the thousands of minibuses you will see driving around. They leave from all of the main areas: Juarista Eguino (which is right next to the Inca’s Room Hotel), Plaza San Francisco, Plaza Murillo, etc. These only cost Bs.2 to take. You need to look at the signs on the windows to see where the minibuses are going. You can even jump in one in the middle of the road if it is going your way. It is easier to take these if you speak Spanish though.

The La Paz airport offers a place to sleep and relax, called the Onkel Inn. Here you can rent a bed by the hour or rent Netflix of PlayStation in the lounge by the hour. You can either have a private room, which costs Bs.80 for one hour or a shared room, which costs Bs.60 for one hour. The TV room with Netflix and PlayStation rents for Bs.40 per hour. They have Wi-Fi here as well as luggage storage.

Where to Stay

I personally liked the tourist area, near San Francisco square. Everything is walking distance from there but the streets are always filled with cars and people. The Sopocachi area is a bit nicer, cleaner, and a bit safer. There is also less traffic. It is about 15 minute walk to the main area of the city.

  • Incas Room Hotel – I highly recommend staying here. It is right in the center of all the action, a close walk to everything and the rooms are great. They offer single, double and quadruple rooms as well as suites and every room has its own bathroom with hot water! Suites include a microwave, kettle and fridge in addition. Rooms are cleaned daily and the price includes breakfast. Book ahead online here or you can, just show up when you arrive and if the hotel isn’t very busy they will have promotional pricing. Hot and cold filtered water is also offered in the lobby which is a nice addition. The Wi-Fi speed is very good as well and is available in all the rooms. Because this isn’t a hostel, you unfortunately can’t just rent one bed in a quadruple. But if there are four of you, it will come out to only about $11US per person. A double room cost $34US and a single room $20US.
  • Wild Rover Hostel or Loki Hostel – if you are looking to party every night, these are the places to stay. It isn’t a quiet place to stay and get rest though. A bed in a 6-person dorm will cost around Bs.80 per night. Also, if you get unlucky with a dorm in the back of the building, the shared washroom is outside and it can get very cold stepping out of the shower.
  • Casa Fusion – located in the Sopocachi area, this is a good option if budget isn’t an issue. Rooms start at $85US and the Teleferico is around the corner away. But it is about a 30 minute walk to the city center.
  • Camino Real Aparthotel & Spa – this is a nice and safe accommodation choice but also pretty expensive. Unless budget really isn’t an issue, I would recommend staying elsewhere. Each room has its own mini kitchen and they have a gym, sauna and spa, but prices start at $120US per night.
La Paz Sites - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Do

  • Go on the Red Cap walking tour of the city. It runs daily at 11am and 2pm out of the Plaza San Pedro and lasts about 3 hours. It used to be free but now costs Bs.20 plus tip for the guides. It is a pretty good tour and you learn a lot about the history of the city. This is good to do one of the first days in town.
  • Bike down death road – one of the most dangerous road in the world. Gravity is the most reliable company to go with. Their bikes are in very good conditions with big tires. This is a road that (before renovated) killed about 200 people per year. But don’t worry – there haven’t been many deaths since and this company takes good care of you. This is a full day trip, and you start very high in the mountains where you will see snow. With Gravity, it will cost you around Bs850 (~$125US) to do this trip. Other companies will offer the same experience for less, but it is best to go with the most reliable one.
  • Ride the Teleferico around the city. It only costs Bs.3 for a one way ride and you can get some of the best views. They currently have 3 lines running, the red, yellow and green. I suggest heading over to the Chuqi Apu Liberator, taking a round trip up to the top of el Alto on the yellow line. At the top, there isn’t really a lookout so take your pictures on the gondola, but there is a Pollos Copacabana fast food restaurant where you can get a pretty good view of the city. Once back down at the Chuqi Apu Liberator stop, get off and purchase another one way ticket to the end of the green line and get off at the Irpawi stop. You will get to see the whole city this way and it will only cost you Bs.9 total. From the Irapawi stop, you can take a shared van back to Plaza San Francisco, or another main location in the city center for only Bs.2.
  • Shop at the Mercado de Brujas. Here you will find a ton of souvenir shops, with lots of good things to purchase. Make sure you negotiate the prices though! A llama sweater should cost no more than Bs.70, a large scarf, Bs.35 and a small scarf Bs.15.
  • Visit the Coca Museum (el Museo de Coca) within the streets of the Mercado de Brujas. It costs Bs.15 to get in and it is open daily from 10am to 7pm. The give you a book in English that you read while walking around the small museum. It is very interesting if you have an extra hour!
  • DO NOT go on the prison tour. The official prison tour stopped about 10 years ago and now it is a scam if you find people offering this. The prison in town is run by the criminals inside it and they are known to rob tourists and keep them hostage inside.
  • If in town on a Sunday or Thursday, check out the Cholitas Wrestling if you have spare time. It only costs Bs.70 to go. Book with one of the agencies around town but the agency inside Inca’s Room Hotel will only charge you Bs.70 when most others will charge Bs.80. You will either find it just stupid, or funny and stupid. The price includes transportation to and from the city center of La Paz (ask if they pick up from your hotel), the ticket, a souvenir, and a snack and drink. The bus leaves at 3:30pm and will arrive back in town at around 8pm. It takes quite a bit of time because it is located in El Alto. The show is about an hour and a half long.
  • Get some spa treatments at Belleza Divina Spa (+591 75234880 – whatapp works). Massages are only Bs.80 per hour (cheaper if you do more hours or you can negotiate if many of you). They also offer waxing and manicures and pedicures.

Where to Eat & Drink

Near Plaza San Francisco, there are many restaurants that serve pizza and pasta. They are quite expensive (for Bolivia) and don’t seem that great. Here are a few places to get some local foods.

  • Mercado Lanza – a local covered market (in a building) right in Plaza San Francisco. Here you can find good local foods and juices for cheap! They have delicious avocado sandwiches as well. Don’t pay more than Bs.5 or 6 for an avocado sandwich and Bs.7 for a fruit juice. If you get a fruit juice, they usually refill up your glass with all the leftover that didn’t fit the first time. You can also find empanadas here for about Bs.2 (medium sized) and places that serve actual meals with meat or fish.
  • Rodriguez Market (Sundays only) – here you will see all the locals purchasing their groceries as well as other products. You will also be able to find some very good street foods stands within and around the market. A full fried trout with corn, potatoes and plantains will cost you only Bs.18.
  • Natur Center Vegetarian Restaurant – located on Calle Murillo N˚752, this delicious vegetarian restaurant that costs only Bs.20 to eat at. You get a salad, a soup and a choice of your main course (whatever the menu is that day). Although vegetarian, it will fill you up!

 

COPACABANA

Resting on the coast of Lago Titicaca, this is an easy rest stop on the way to or from Peru but is also a town to check out if you are just traveling around Bolivia. Lago Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the highest lake in the world and is worth the visit.

Copacabana - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Getting There

In order to get to Copacabana, you have to take a bus. Tourist buses leave daily at 7:30am and 10:30pm from the La Paz Bus Terminal. These cost Bs.30. You can purchase your ticket an hour before the departure time at the station and that should be fine. You can also take a local bus for half the price but they will be less safe and comfortable. These leave every half hour though but you will need to go to the cemetery (which is further from the center of town) to catch it.

Leaving Copacabana to La Paz, the same tourist buses leave from the Plaza Sucre at 1:30pm and 5:30pm. There are also many buses that go to Peru from here as the border is just a short drive away.

City Transportation

The town is so small, you can walk everywhere. You can walk from where the buses drop you off to any place of accommodation.

Where to Stay

  • Hostel Florencia – for a traveler on a budget, this is the place to stay. The family running the hostel is wonderful. They have single or multi-person rooms. Breakfast is included. It cost $10US for a single room a shared bathroom.
  • Hotel Utama – if you are traveling in a pair or have a bit more to spend per night, this hotel is a good deal. For a room with two twin beds with an ensuite bathroom, it costs $30US per night and a big breakfast is included. The hotel also provides free coca tea and bananas in the lobby.
Isla Del Sol - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Do

  • Take a day trip to Isla del Sol. If you have some time, you can also spend a night here as there are many good hikes on the island. If taking a day trip, it will cost Bs.30 to have the boat drop you off on the north part of the island and then bring you back from the south part. This is the best thing to do because you can hike from the north back to the south. You will also have to pay two community fees that are Bs.10 each while trekking across the island. To do this, you need to take the 8:30am boat to the island. It takes about 2 hours to get to the north part of the island. You will then catch the 4pm boat back to Copacabana. If you are staying overnight you can also take the 1:30pm boat over to the island. You can book your tickets with any agency. The boats leave from the Anchor monument.
  • Hike to the top of Cerro Calvaro. Here you will find some small monuments. It will take you about 40 minutes from the city center and it is a hike uphill. You will have a great view from the top.
  • Hike to the Horca Del Inca. This will take you about 30 minutes from the city center and the hike is uphill as well. You have to pay an entrance fee of Bs.10 to enter the site.
  • Walk around town and take a stroll down the local market.

Where to Eat & Drink

  • Food booths along the lake – for a cheaper delicious meal, head over to the local food stands along the lake. They are all numbered and are covered. Go to booth #12 called Aries. Order any of their trout dishes. They are delicious but my favorite was the one in garlic sauce. I ate here every day and one plate only costs Bs.25.
  • Vegetarian sandwich stand – in the mornings he is selling them by the port to go to Isla del Sol and after he moves to the main corner of Plaza Sucre where the buses pick up passengers. They are delicious and it’s worth purchasing one for your trip to Isla del Sol (because food there is expensive) or for a bus ride. A small sandwich is Bs.8 and a large is Bs.12.

 

SUCRE

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a very nice town that is great to spend one day in. It is a town to visit that will definitely fall within your budget and a great option for Spanish lessons, costing $4 per hour for a group class or $7 per hour for a private class.

Sucre - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Getting There

The most cost effective way to get here is to take a bus. If you are coming from La Paz, take the El Dorado night bus which will take about 13 hours. This is best bus and it offers a “full bed” seat (which reclines to about 160˚). The Trans Copacabana also offers a “full bed” seat. Trans Copacabana isn’t as good as El Dorado and so you are able to negotiate lower prices. If the bus isn’t full they can go as low as Bs.100. Buses going back to La Paz from Sucre leave at 7:30pm and 8pm. The El Dorado night buses leave La Paz at 7pm, 7:30pm and 8pm (7:30pm, 7:45pm and 8pm return). It will cost you around Bs.180 for this seat if you purchase it at the La Paz station or about Bs.200 if you purchase it with an agency. During peak times, buses can fill up quickly so try to book a day in advance if you can, but most of the time you should be OK booking a few hours before at the station. You can also purchase a ticket online through Kanoo Tours for a bit more and you will have a printed ticket confirmation. Make sure you go to the bathroom before boarding the bus because the toilet on the bus is only for emergency purposes and it will take a lot of negotiating for them to open it up!

You can also take a bus directly from Uyuni or Potosi if you are coming from the west. The best bus between Sucre and Uyuni is the 6 de Octubre bus which is semi-cama and quite comfortable. The chairs on the bus recline quite a bit. There are two busses that go daily, one at 9:30am and the other at 8:30pm. They both arrive at around 4am/pm. The bus costs Bs.70 and is direct. There are other buses offered that leave throughout the day to Potosi where you can then switch buses to go to Uyuni. You can just ask about these buses at the bus terminal.

I heard that there isn’t much in Potosi and it is worth skipping. If mining is of interest, they have mining tours but they get mixed reviews. Potosi is home to one of the biggest silver mine in the world, but while you tour the sites, it will still be active and you will see workers in action. This also means that accidents could happen and so the tours can be dangerous. The average miner here lives only 35 years and it will be depressing sight to take in.

City Transportation

To get around the city, it is best to walk. Nothing is that far from each other and this way you get to explore some of the streets you wouldn’t normally see. Taxis are very cheap here. If you arrive at the bus terminal, you shouldn’t pay more than Bs.5 to go anywhere.

Where to Stay

  • Casa Al Tronco Guesthouse – nice small guesthouse on the Recoleta hill run by Tania and Ebo with a beautiful view of the city. They offer rooms with an ensuite bathroom or rooms with a shared bathroom. There is also a large shared kitchen for all guests to use. A single room with a shared bathroom cost around $17US.
  • San Marino Royal Hotel (if budget isn’t an issue) – located right in the city center only a few blocks from the main plaza. They offer single and double rooms. The simplest room will cost around $55US.
  • Hostal España – located a few blocks from the main plaza, this colonial-styled home is not exactly a hostal. It is a hotel with large rooms, private bathrooms and balconies. Breakfast is included as well. A standard room for two people starts at around $45US.

What to Do

  • Go to the Central Market and see where the locals purchase all of their produce.
  • Walk to the Recoleta area where you will find a nice church and courtyard with a great view of the city. There is also a small souvenir market off one of the streets from the courtyard.
  • Walk around the city center and the main plaza (Plaza 25 de Mayo).
Sucre Market - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Where to Eat & Drink

  • Gourmet Mirador in Recoleta – here there is a great view of the city and they also have vegetarian options.
  • Central Market – here you will find some fresh juice stands, sandwich stands and on the 3rd floor some great places to pick and choose your foods and they have everything from soups, meat curries to fried fish.
  • Chocolates Para Ti – Sucre is known for their chocolates so stop by this chocolate shop to get your fix!

 

UYUNI

Home to the largest salt flats in the world, you must visit Uyuni and go on at least a three-day tour of the salar. You will be blown away by the variation of landscapes you will see, most of which look surreal.

Uyuni - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Getting There

You can either fly or take a bus to get to Uyuni. Amazonas and Boliviana de Aviacion are the airlines that offer these 50 minute flights from La Paz. There are multiple flights that leave daily. There is also one direct flight every Friday from Santa Cruz (VVI). A flight will cost about $70-90US one-way.

The most cost effective way to get to Uyuni is to take a night bus. Todo Turismo is the best bus provider for the route. They have buses daily leaving from La Paz at 9pm with semi-cama’s. The bus costs Bs.250 or Bs.300 if you want a bit more space. The bus has a washroom and they provide you with a hot dinner meal, a cold breakfast/snack in the morning and drinks (tea and water). There is also Wi-Fi (although spotty) and a movie is shown once the bus gets going. Because of this popular route, it is best to book at least a few days in advance. An alternative is to book online on Kanoo Tours website who can confirm your ticket and issue you a ticket. Todo Turismo also provides the same daily route to La Paz departing from Uyuni at 8pm. You can get dropped off at the airport at around 5:45am coming from Uyuni going to La Paz. They drop you off on the main street just outside the airport gate entrance though so you will likely have to pay an extra Bs.15 for a cab to the main terminal.

Where to Stay

  • Piedras Blancas Hostel – book this hostel ahead of time (at least a few days but a week is better) because they sell out quickly. It costs Bs.70 for a bed in a dorm or Bs.200 for a private room. Private rooms are decent and have own bathrooms with hot water. They also provide towels and free breakfast. Wi-Fi is decent but will be slow from 5-8pm once people get back from their tours. It will cost a bit more if you book online but it is worth it to reserve ahead of time. They also offer lockers to store your large bag while you go on the salt flats tour for Bs.3 per day. You need your own lock though. Some agencies will keep the large bags for you but it’s much safer to do it this way. If you are taking a night bus to another city the night you get back from the tour, or if you arrive on a night bus early in the morning and you need to take a shower, this hostel lets you use a shower for Bs.15 and they are clean with hot water. You can rent a towel for an additional Bs.5.
  • Hotel Jardines de Uyuni – if Budget isn’t an issue, this is a good clean hotel to stay at.
Laguna Charcota - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Do

You go to Uyuni to tour the salt flats. You can do a one-day tour but really try to do the three-day or four-day tour because it is worth it. The lower end tours cost Bs.700-800. The lowest I heard a tour go for is Bs.650. (If you book last minute in person, you can negotiate and get the lower prices). This includes 2 night accommodation, transportation and basic meals. The 4×4 cars that the tours use can fit up to 6 passengers. Tour leave every day at around 10am.

  • Red Planet Tours – Bs.1300, for tours in English or Spanish. They have very good English speaking guides (you actually get a real guide and not just a driver). This company is known to have the best tours for English speaking travelers. You can book this online or in person at the office in town.
  • Esmeralda Tours – Bs.900 (but can negotiate down to Bs.700 the night before if the tour isn’t full). The office is located on Avenida Arce a few doors down from Piedras Blancas Hostel. Depending on the driver you get, he may not speak that much English. Your driver also will only be a driver, and not really a guide. He won’t tell you much about the history of the area. A really good tour for the price though and recommend it for people on a budget.
  • Alkara Tours – Bs.900 (but you can negotiate in person if last minute).

Agencies seem to group together if the cars aren’t full. So if you find another agency offering a lower price, it may be worth taking it. It will definitely save you money if you just show up in Uyuni the night before or the morning of and walk around to all the agencies to negotiate a last minute price. But do be aware the many of the lower end company’s drivers may not speak English.

Uyuni Tour - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

About the Tour

You visit many amazing sites on this tour including:

  • Uyuni Salt Flats and la Isla de Pescado (Isla Incahausi)
  • The Train Cemetary
  • Laguna Colorada
  • Laguna Chiarkota
  • Arbol de Piedras
  • Laguna Verde
  • Volcan Ollague
  • Dali Desert
  • Sol de Manana Geysers
  • Termas de Polques Hot Springs

Some tours will include one night stay in a salt hotel but make sure to ask about this before booking if it is something you want included. You will also need an additional Bs.150 to enter the nature reserve, Bs.30 to enter Isla Incahausi and Bs.6 for the Hot Spings. Some tours will also charge Bs.10 for the shower the first night (depending on where you stay). You also have the choice to return back to Uyuni at the end of the tour or get dropped off at the Chilean border.

Hot Springs - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Pack:

  • If you get cold easily, it is worth renting a sleeping bag for the extra Bs.50. Most operators provide this service.
  • Warm clothes! It gets very cold at night so make sure to bring layers. Thermals and dry fit type clothing are best. A fleece or down coat is also a good idea.
  • 1 pair of flip flops – they tell you that you don’t need these but they come in handy, especially if the salt flats is covered in water, it will save your other shoes.
  • 1 pair of sneakers or hiking boots
  • 2 or 3 pairs of pants, because the ones you will wear to the salt flats will get really dirty if it is wet.
  • 3 shirts (one for each day)
  • Toilet paper (enough for the whole trip)
  • Towel
  • Bathing suit (to swim in the hot springs)
  • Baby wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Snacks (the food isn’t very filling so I suggest bringing some bars, nuts and dried fruit)
  • Water (they provide water a meals but not during the day)
  • Pillowcase – you sleep in shared rooms and it’s a good idea to bring something to cover the pillow.

Where to Eat

  • Pizza is the popular item in town. It is also a really safe bet to go with before headed on a tour with no real bathrooms.
  • There are many street stands along the main roads. There is a gyro stand which is good as well as and egg sandwich stand. These will only cost you Bs.5-8.
  • Buy dried fruit on the streets. The stores are way more expensive. For a medium sized bag, it will cost you Bs.10 and they are the perfect snack to take on your tour.

 

RURRENABAQUE

Bolivia is home to over 500 different animals. A small part of the country is a part of the Amazon Jungle which is where you can find the majority of these animals. Rurrenabaque is located in the northern part of Bolivia, which is also the lowest part of the country, at about 200m above sea level.

Rurrenabaque - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Getting There

You can either fly or take a bus to get to here but it is worth spending the money on the flight because it is not a very comfortable bus ride and will take you about 18-24 hours. A flight will cost you around $180US round trip and is only a 30-40 minute flight from La Paz. The only company that flies there is Amazonas. Beware that these flights tend to get delayed a lot because of weather or plane problems (because they are very small planes). Amazonas is pretty flexible though and will happily help change your flight to accommodate the delays. Make sure you also have Bs.26 for the two departure taxes from the Rurrenabaque airport. If you are daring enough to take the bus, it costs Bs.90 one way.

Before You Go

Make sure you change money and pull cash before you head up there because it may be difficult to find an ATM or money exchange. There is one ATM (Banco Union) in the city and it is located on the corner Comercio and Vaca Diez. There are no official money exchanges but there is one house that will change USD and Euros. They give you Bs.690 for $100US. The house is located on the corner of Avaroa and Santa Cruz.

Where to Stay

  • Hotel Oriental – highly recommend this hotel. It is a nice quaint hotel in the main square. Single rooms costs Bs.100, double rooms Bs.150, triple rooms Bs.210 and quadruple rooms Bs.280. Includes breakfast and has good Wi-Fi.
  • Hostal Pahuichi – here they only offer private rooms. These cost Bs.130 for 1 or 2 people.
  • Hostal Beni – here you can have shared or private rooms. A shared room for 2 people will only cost you Bs.60 but it is also a shared bathroom. The Wi-Fi doesn’t work in the rooms but in the common areas. A good options if you want to pay little but have a bit more privacy.
  • El Lobo Hostel or El Curichal Hostel – run by the same owner. I would avoid staying here if you can, unless you really don’t mind a somewhat dirty place with people who like to party. El Lobo is better out of the two but the rooms here have a curtain as one of the walls (they are open air rooms) and if it rains, the room gets all wet.
  • Hotel Akana – this is the nicest hotel in the city with private rooms going for Bs.300. Located in the main square, this is also the only hotel that has AC. They have good Wi-Fi and a pool.
Mashaquipe - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Do

Go on a pampas tour, or a jungle tour or both. For the pampas tour, if you go from April to October, it will be dry season and there will be almost no mosquitos. You can see more caimans (alligators), turtles, and land animals because there isn’t too much water. If you go from January to March, it will be the wet season and you will see more dolphins and piranhas. You will be able to navigate everywhere by boat. Sloths can be seen on the riverbanks because they need to dry off from the rain but there are also a lot of mosquitos at this time of year. There is not best time to go on a jungle tour. It is really just the luck of the draw for what you get to see. The jungle tour, which will be in the Madidi National Park, has more trekking, less bugs and more time to relax. The pampas tour, which will be in Santa Rosa del Yucuma, has more wildlife, more sun but also more bugs! Below are the companies I recommend to take a tour with.

  • Madidi – for the Jungle Tour
  • Mashaquipe – for the Pampas Tour. Ask for Nilo as your tour guide. He was awesome. He also does private tours around all the national parks in the country. If you are interested in hiring him, below is his contact info.
Pampas Animals - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

What to Pack

Because you are going to the jungle, it is very hot and humid which is very different from all the other areas of Bolivia. There are also a lot of insects here. This is a quick list of the essentials you will need to visit:

  • Insect Repellent and afterbite – you need lots and lots and lots of insect repellent, and you will for sure get bit if you go during the wet season so make sure to bring something to sooth the bites.
  • White or light colored long sleeve shirt and pants – this will save you from mosquito bites through your clothes! Mosquitos don’t like light colors.
  • Sandals and hiking shoes – hiking shoes are necessary for the jungle tours but the pampas tours provide you with rubber boots.
  • Sunscreen, sun glasses and a hat – more so for the pampas tour, you are always in the sun and will get burnt easily if not covered.
  • Flash light – to get around at night as most places only have a few hours of electricity per day.
  • Swimsuit – for the pampas tour if you want to swim with the dolphins.
  • Hair products and body soap. They provide hand soap and toilet paper but nothing more. They also provide towels.

Where to Eat & Drink

  • Just in front of the port, there is a lady who sells fresh homemade tamales every day at night. They are delicious and cost only Bs.3 each.
  • Get a fruit smoothie at the central market. Banana smoothies are great and are only Bs.4.
  • The bakery next to the Mashaquipe office, called Pandelaria Paris is delicious. They sell great pastries and pizzas for cheap.
  • Restaurant El Trapiche on Avaroa Street – great local food for very cheap. There is one old lady who home cooks for you! You will pay about Bs.15 for a full meal.
  • Juliano – for a good non-Bolivian meal. This will cost a bit more than your average Bolivian restaurant.
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