Highway and Road System: Inter-departamental travel is relatively easy within Bolivia. Highways and roads connect most major cities and smaller towns and villages. Due to the fact that Bolivia’s roads are mostly dirt or gravel, some access to certain areas is dependent on the season. During the rainy season most remote towns and villages can be cut off for days or even weeks if the rains are to severe. The major highways between the largest cities are paved, most secondary cities have paved roads linking larger cities and all major cities have plenty of paved roads throughout them as well. There are new roads being built every year so little by little there are paved roads to most of the regions that are of any economic significance. Be prepared for rough and weather-dependent road conditions that will affect departure and arrival of scheduled services.
Air: All departamental capitals, major cities and many smaller towns are serviced by national airlines and small private airlines which provide daily service to most parts of Bolivia. Smaller private airplanes are also available for hire from private pilots in most major cities. Best bet is to check with your travel agent especially if there are any last minute deals or if in Bolivia, head to the airport or deal with a local travel agency.
Land: Travel by private vehicle, bus, truck, motorcycle and taxi are readily available from most cities and towns. Prices usually reflect the level of service, but not always. The most expensive being private vehicle and the cheapest being in the back of an open truck-exposed to the elements. Comfortable Pullman-type buses are abundant and one can travel in comfort to most destinations in Bolivia.
Rail: The rail system in Bolivia is limited and concentrates travel in the highlands and valleys and in the eastern lowlands. One can travel by rail to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
Water: The many rivers in the Upper Amazon basin provide the only means of travel to and from many points in the tropics due to a lack of roads and the impenetrable geography. Double decker river boats ply most major rivers and smaller boats with outboard motors can get you to most villages.
Safety and Security: It is safe to say that Bolivia has been and is still one of the most peaceful, safe and hospitable countries in the Americas. We are fortunate that guerrilas are not part of this society and extreme crimes are not the rule but the exception. Hundreds of thousands of tourists per year have been travelling to Bolivia for decades and have experienced warm hospitality, charming people and a welcome hand. Bolivians in general can be said to be very polite and helpful and always welcome people from all over the world.
Police: There is the national police which wears a green uniform and has various departments like the Transit, Radio Patrol and others divisions. They are often mistaken for the army because of the green-colored uniform. They are helpful with most travelers’ needs across the country. There is a division called the Tourism Police that help and protect the many tourists that visit Bolivia.
Food and Water: Since Bolivia is still a developing country, travelers still need to develop a common sense approach to travel and diet while visiting Bolivia, especially in more remote areas. Be aware that your body and the organisms living in your stomach and intestines are used to one type of diet and when you travel that diet changes and so stomach upsets or worse may be a result. Some people travelling to more developed countries have run into the same problems as people coming here. In the larger cities and towns food and beverages served in reputable restaurants will generally be safe to eat and drink. If you are not sure, “boil it or peel it” is a safe course of action. In general, it’s best to stay with bottled beverages or boiled drinks and maintain yourself hydrated as much as possible, especially in the highlands and the tropics. If you are not sure, either treat it chemically or physically with a quality water filter that kills and removes bacterias and some viruses. But, by all means do not think that it’s all going to make you ill. Psycologically you’re not helping your body and system and for sure you will be missing out on a culinary spectacle that Bolivia is well-known for. Experiment and try everything; eat and drink and use common sense. The food and drink of this country is quite varied, unique and delicious and is part of what makes Bolivia so special.
Hospitals and Clinics: All major cities and towns of any reasonable size will have hospitals and clinics available to the public. The clinics tend to be better than hospitals in most cases as they are privately owned and operated. Thus their services and doctors are not dependent on the local governments for funding, supplies, training, personnel and equipment.
Film and Photography: Bolivia is a photographer’s shangri-la. It offers everything from the high Andes with it’s glaciers and rugged summits to magical Lake Titicaca and the vast undulating Altiplano. From the many temperate valleys to the deserts it has variety and an incredible array of geographic spectacles. In the tropics are the jungles, savannahs, rivers and wildlife that will leave you breathless. And within all these regions live a great variety of people whose customs, religions and way of life are open to countless photographic opportunities. Be sensitive to their privacy and wishes if they don’t wan’t to be photographed. Please ask first, and if they do not want you to take a picture or film them, don’t. And by all means do not pay for photos as you are creating a bad example and negative precedent for the next photographer after you. Bring plenty of film or compact flash cards (more than you think you’ll need), electronic storage device, extra batteries, a variety of lenses from wide-angle to telephoto and a rugged camera bag to protect your equipment. A small sturdy tripod is also good as well as a dedicated flash unit. The quality of light is wonderful in the highlands and Amazon and everywhere in between and will make for spectacular photos. A polarizing filter may help but learn its pros and cons before using it indiscrimenately. Film (slide and negative) is readily available in the major cities and fairly priced as well as compact flash cards and digital cameras. Most consumer and prosumer photo equipment is available but make sure you get some proper documents with it with a guarantee before you buy. Batteries that fit most photo cameras are available as well.
Embassies: Are located in the city of La Paz and some may have consulates in the major cities of Cochabamba or Santa Cruz. Check with the Bolivian Embassy of your country for specific information.
Visas: Requirements for all countries change with frequency so you must contact the Bolivian Embassy in your country to get the latest details. Currently American citizens DO NOT NEED a visa to enter Bolivia, IF you are coming as a tourist, and you get your entry stamp upon arrival. Your passport should have validity for at least 3 months beyond your entrance date to Bolivia. A minimum 30-day stay is allowed when you arrive in Bolivia and the Immigration officer will stamp your passport and give you a green stub of the Immigration document you are supposed to fill out upon entry. * DO NOT LOOSE THIS GREEN PIECE OF PAPER! You will need it to exit Bolivia. This 30-day period can be extended to 90 days at the Immigration Department in downtown La Paz and other major cities. Some countries require you have visas to enter their country as well, so make sure you have their required visas before trying to enter from Bolivia. You can obtain visas in the Embassies or consulates within Bolivia for other countries.
Documents: In order to enter or leave Bolivia you must have your documents in order. Legally, anyone entering Bolivia should have proof of onward passage and/or sufficient funds for their estimated length of stay in Bolivia. It is recommended that you make photocopies of all your important documents and travel with those copies as well as your originals – in separate areas of your luggage just in case.
Money: The currency in Bolivia is called a Boliviano. It is divided into 100 cents (centavos). The Boliviano comes in paper notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 Bolivianos. The coins are in centavos of 10, 20, 50, 1 Boliviano and 2 Bolivianos. To change money one can go to Casas de Cambio (money exchange houses), or to the money changers on the street. Banks will change money for you even if you don’t have a bank account. Traveler’s checks can be changed at the Casas de Cambio, banks, hotels or travel agencies (with proof of identity – usually a passport) and possibly some retail businessess if you purchase something. Credit cards are widely accepted today and most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, rent-a-car agencies, airlines, and other businesses will accept them but they all will add a small percentage for the credit card fee they are charged by credit card companies. If you don’t want to pay that small fee you will likely not get to use your card, so check beforehand. Money machines (ATM’s) are quite abundant and credit cards, money/check cards can be used if they are within the systems shared by most international banks.