Only a few US and European airlines offer direct flights to Bolivia, so airfares are high. There are direct services to most major South American cities and the flights to/from Chile and Peru are the cheapest. Santa Cruz is an increasingly popular entry point from Western European hubs. Due to altitude-related costs, it is more expensive to fly into La Paz than Santa Cruz. High season for most fares is from early June to late August, and from mid-December to mid-February.
Bolivia’s principal international airports are La Paz’ El Alto International Airport, formerly known as John F Kennedy Memorial, and Santa Cruz’s Viru-Viru International.
The bigger airlines operate international flights and have offices in La Paz and Santa Cruz.
Taxes and fuel levies can significantly increase air-travel costs and push up ticket prices. Save money by using online aggregators and deal sites or make a cost-saving flight/land connection via Lima, Cuzco, Santiago or Buenos Aires.
Round-the-world (RTW) tickets can be real bargains if you are traveling to South America from the other side of the world. Generally put together by airline alliances, RTW tickets allow you a limited period (usually a year) in which to circumnavigate the globe.
An alternative to a RTW ticket is one put together by a travel agent. These tickets are more expensive than airline RTW fares, but you get to choose your itinerary.
Travel agents can also combine tickets from two low-cost airlines to offer multidestination fares that are cheaper than a RTW ticket and allow for two stops on the way to and from South America.
Travel between Australasia and South America isn't cheap, so it makes sense to consider a RTW ticket or travel via Buenos Aires or Santiago. Fares via the US are considerably more expensive. The most direct routes are from Sydney to Santiago on LAN/Qantas, or to Buenos Aires with Qantas/LAN and Aerolíneas Argentinas.
The best places in Europe for cheap airfares are student travel agencies (you don’t have to be a student to use them) and online aggregators.
BOA flies four times a week between Santa Cruz and Madrid.
BOA connects La Paz to São Paulo and Buenos Aires several times a week, via Santa Cruz. Aerolíneas Argentinas flies daily between Santa Cruz and Buenos Aires, and Gol flies between Santa Cruz and Rio de Janeiro (among other destinations). Amaszonas has a daily service between Cuzco and La Paz.
LAN Airlines connects La Paz with Santiago daily and there are connecting flights to Iquique. Brazilian-owned TAM connects Santa Cruz with Asuncíon, Paraguay and onward to Brazilian destinations. LAN Airlines flies from La Paz to Cuzco (often via Lima) several times a week.
From London, all flights go via the USA or other South American countries. Save money by booking online or with a RTW ticket.
Tickets from North American gateways may have restrictions. Occasionally there’s a two-week advance-purchase requirement, and you must usually stay at least one week and no longer than three months (prices can double for longer periods). Some airlines will not let you board without a visa, regardless of whether or not you intend to buy one on arrival. Departures from Miami offer the cheapest options.
Most flights from Canada involve connecting via a US gateway such as Miami or Los Angeles.
Departure taxes vary according to the airport and destination. Some are payable at the airport, some are included in ticket prices. Domestic departure taxes range from B$11 to B$15. International departure tax is US$25. Some airports also levy a municipal tax of up to B$7.
Some fares include a stopover in the USA. Note if you're traveling through New York (JFK) or Miami you must pass through American immigration procedures, even if you aren't visiting the USA. That means you’ll either need to have a US visa or be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which is open to Australians, New Zealanders and most Western Europeans, unless you’re traveling on a non-accredited airline (which include most Latin American airlines).