Accessible Travel

The sad fact is that Bolivia’s infrastructure is ill-equipped for travelers with disabilities. You will, however, see locals overcoming myriad obstacles and challenges while making their daily rounds. If you encounter difficulties yourself, you’ll likely find locals willing to go out of their way to lend a hand. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

Gentle haggling is usually fine at markets and some negotiation is common if arranging a service such as renting a taxi for a day. Use your judgement and decide if the price seems fair; attempts to bargain hard may become uncomfortable. Bear in mind that many Bolivians have very little money, and arguing over a dollar or two probably isn't worth it.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Crime against tourists is on the increase in Bolivia, especially in La Paz and, to a lesser extent, Cochabamba, Copacabana and Oruro.
  • There is a strong tradition of social protest in Bolivia and demonstrations are a regular occurrence. While generally peaceful, they can turn threatening in nature: agitated protesters throw stones and rocks and police occasionally use force and tear gas to disperse crowds.
  • Note that the mine tours in Potosí, bike trips outside La Paz and 4WD excursions around Salar de Uyuni can be dangerous. Some agencies are willing to forgo safety, so choose carefully.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
  • British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (travel.gc.ca)
  • US State Department (www.travel.state.gov)

Scams

Scams are commonplace and fake police, false tourist police and ‘helpful’ locals are on the rise. Be aware, too, of circulating counterfeit banknotes.

Bribes

Bribes are illegal in Bolivia, but common. People stopped for minor traffic violations or more serious infractions sometimes ask if they can ‘pay the fine now.’ Watch out for false police – authentic police officers will always wear a uniform and will never force you to show them your passport, insist you get in a taxi with them, or search you in public.

Protests

Bloqueos (roadblocks) and strikes by transportation workers often lead to road closures and long delays. When there is an ongoing dispute, bus services between certain towns may be canceled indefinitely. Keep an eye on the news and ask around to find out if there are any trouble spots that might disrupt your travel plans. Be careful using taxis during transportation strikes – you may end up at the receiving end of a rock, pelted by protesters at those who are not in sympathy with them.

Flooding

The rainy season means flooding, landslides and road washouts, which in turn means more delays. Getting stuck overnight behind a landslide can happen; you’ll be a happier camper with ample food, drink and warm clothes on hand.

Discount Cards

International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC; www.isic.org) An international network of specialist student travel organizations and the body behind the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which gives carrier discounts on a few services in Bolivia.

Electricity

Electricity Most electricity currents are 220V AC, at 50Hz. Most plugs and sockets are the two-pin, round-prong variety, but a few anomalous American-style two-pin, parallel flat-pronged sockets exist.

Embassies & Consulates

Emergency & Important Numbers

Country Code591
International Access Code00
Ambulance118
Fire119
Operator104

Entry & Exit Formalities

If you have your documents in order and are willing to answer a few questions about the aim of your visit, entering Bolivia should be a breeze. If crossing at a small border post, you may be asked to pay an ‘exit fee.’ In most cases, such fees are strictly unofficial, but it's easier just to pay them anyway.

Note that more remote Bolivian border opening times can be unreliable at best and it is worth checking with a migración (immigration) office in the nearest major town. If you plan to cross the border outside the stated hours, or at a point where there is no border post, you can usually obtain an exit/entry stamp from the nearest migración office on departure or arrival.

Customs Regulations

  • When entering Bolivia you can bring in most articles duty-free provided you can convince customs that they are for personal use.
  • There’s a loosely enforced duty-free allowance of 200 cigarettes and 1L of alcohol per person.

Visas

US citizens need a visa to visit Bolivia. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and most European countries do not need a visa.

Entry Requirements

  • Your passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of entry.
  • Charging of unofficial 'administration fees,' particularly at remote borders is not unusual. The path of least resistance is to just pay and go.
  • US citizens need a visa to visit Bolivia (a 90-day visa valid for 10 years costs US$160). Theoretically it is possible to obtain the visa upon arrival in Bolivia, but some airlines will not let you board your flight without one and the US embassy advises to get a visa before traveling.
  • Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, most European countries and most South American countries do not need a visa and will be granted an entry stamp valid for 30 days.
  • If you want to stay longer, you can get a free 30-day extension at the immigration office in any major city. The maximum time travelers are permitted to stay is 90 days.
  • Overstayers can be forced to pay a fine – payable at the immigration office or airport – and may face ribbons of red tape at the border or airport when leaving the country.
  • In addition to a valid passport and visa, citizens of some African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries may require ‘official permission’ from the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs before a visa will be issued.
  • Personal documents – passports and visas – must be carried at all times, especially in lowland regions. It’s safest to carry photocopies rather than originals, but if you are going anywhere near a border area (even if you don’t actually cross) you should have your real passport with you.
Vaccination Certificates

Border agents may or may not request a yellow-fever vaccination certificate, but there are occasional checkpoints heading into the lowlands, where you will need to produce a certificate. Some neighboring countries, including Brazil, require anyone entering from Bolivia to have proof of a yellow-fever vaccination. If necessary, a jab can often be administered at the border but it is preferable to take care of this at home.

Etiquette

  • Greetings A handshake is the most usual form of greeting. When meeting, people will usually say buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening).
  • Forms of Address It is common to use señor/señora and the usted form of address (using usted and the corresponding verb forms rather than for the word you) with people you don't know well. On the altiplano, some locals will use amigo/amiga, which is intended to show friendliness.
  • Photographs Ask permission to take photographs of people, especially in rural areas.
  • Politics It's fine to express well-informed opinions and Bolivians are generally happy to talk about their political views. Naturally you should be tactful and avoid being overtly critical of the country.
  • Eating When passing the table of diners who are seated in a restaurant, it's common to say buen provecho (enjoy your meal).

Insurance

A good travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical mishaps is important. A wide variety of policies is available: shop around and scrutinize the fine print. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities,’ which can include skiing, motorcycling, mountain biking and even trekking. Check that the policy covers ambulances and emergency airlift evacuations.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Nearly every corner of Bolivia has a cyber cafe and wi-fi is now standard in most midrange and top-end hotels (and many cafes).
  • Rates run from B$4 to B$6 per hour.
  • In remote areas, internet access is sometimes only possible via a cell-phone signal. Consider buying a local chip/SIM with data.

LGBT Travellers

  • Bolivia's 2009 constitution is one of the first in the world to expressly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, however homosexuality is still not widely accepted by the populace and gay marriage and same-sex unions are illegal.
  • LGBT+ bars and venues are limited to larger cities, especially Santa Cruz and La Paz (check out Open Mind Club), but these are still somewhat clandestine affairs. Sharing a room is no problem – but discretion is suggested.
  • LGBT+ rights lobby groups are active in La Paz, Cochabamba and most visibly in progressive Santa Cruz, which held Bolivia’s first Gay Pride march in 2001.
  • La Paz is known for La Familia Galán, the capital’s most fabulous group of cross-dressing queens who aim to educate Bolivians around issues of sexuality and gender through theater performances.
  • Mujeres Creando (www.mujerescreando.org) is a feminist activist group based in La Paz that promotes the rights of oppressed groups.

Maps

Maps are available in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz through Los Amigos del Libro and some bookstores. Government 1:50,000 topographical and specialty sheets are available from the Instituto Geográfico Militar (IGM), with offices in most major cities.

Media

  • Newspapers International periodicals are sold in bigger cities. Popular reads include La Razón (www.la-razon.com), the nation’s biggest daily newspaper; El Correo del Sur (www.correodelsur.com) in Sucre; El Deber (www.eldeber.com.bo) in Santa Cruz.
  • Radio Try Bolivia Web Radio (www.boliviaweb.com/radio) for a 24/7 stream of Andean artists or Radio Panamericana (www.panamericana.bo).
  • Television A decent grasp of at least Spanish is required to watch the local TV. Cable TV with international stations is available in most upmarket hotels.

Money

Cash is king, dollars are better than euros; watch for counterfeits. ATMs and credit cards accepted in cities and many towns.

ATMs

  • All sizeable towns have cajeros automáticos (ATMs) – usually Banco Nacional de Bolivia, Banco Fassil, Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz and Banco Unión.
  • They dispense bolivianos in 50 and 100 notes (sometimes US dollars as well) on Visa, MasterCard, Plus and Cirrus cards.
  • In smaller towns, the local bank Prodem is a good option for cash advances on Visa and MasterCard (3% to 6% commission charged) but the service is sometimes unreliable.
  • Don’t rely on ATMs; always carry some cash with you, especially if venturing into rural areas.

Counterfeits

  • Counterfeit bolivianos and US dollars are less common than they used to be, but it still happens more often than you’d like.
  • If a bill looks excessively tatty don’t accept it, because nobody else will.
  • Torn notes are still legal tender, but unless both halves of a repaired banknote bear identical serial numbers, the note is worthless.

Credit Cards & Cash Advances

  • Brand-name plastic – such as Visa, MasterCard and (less often) American Express – may be used in larger cities at the better hotels, restaurants and tour agencies.

Currency

  • Bolivia uses the boliviano (B$), divided into 100 centavos.
  • Most prices are pegged to the US dollar.
  • Often called pesos (the currency was changed from pesos to bolivianos in 1987).
  • Only crisp US dollar bills are accepted (they are the currency for savings).
  • Boliviano notes: 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200.
  • Coins: one, two and five bolivianos as well as 10, 20 and 50 centavos.
  • Bolivianos are extremely difficult to unload outside the country. Change them before you leave.

Exchanging Money

  • Currency may be exchanged at casas de cambio (exchange bureaux) and at some banks in larger cities. Occasionally travel agencies, hotels and sometimes tourist stores will change money, but at a price.
  • Visitors fare best with US dollars; it's hard to change euros or British pounds, and rates are poor.
  • Cambistas (street money changers) operate in most cities but only change cash dollars, paying roughly the same as casas de cambio. They’re convenient but beware of rip-offs and counterfeit notes.
  • The rate for cash doesn’t vary much from place to place, and there is no black-market rate.
  • Currencies of neighboring countries may be exchanged in border areas and at casas de cambio in La Paz.

International Transfers

To transfer money from abroad use the following.

  • Western Union (www.westernunion.com).
  • Money Gram (www.moneygram.com).
  • Your bank can also wire money to a cooperating Bolivian bank; it may take a couple of business days.
  • PayPal (www.paypal.com) Increasingly used to make bank transfers to pay for hotels.

A Note About Prices

Though we give generally give prices in bolivianos, many higher-end hotels, travel agencies and tour operators will only quote prices in US dollars. Where this is the case the price is given as quoted. The currency is fairly stable.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1B$5.03
CanadaC$1B$5.22
Europe€1B$7.86
Japan¥100B$6.25
New ZealandNZ$1B$4.55
UK£1B$8.81
USUS$1B$6.91

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Tipping

  • Restaurants Service is not usually included in the bill; leave 10% to 15%.
  • Tours Guides are grateful for tips (10% to 20% is the norm); remember that their wage is often much lower than the tour price.
  • Taxis Tipping is not expected, though it's common to round up.

Opening Hours

Take care of business on weekdays. Nearly all businesses close for lunch, usually from noon to 2:30pm.

Banks Standard hours 9am–4pm or 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am–noon or 5pm Saturday.

Shops Weekdays 10am–7pm but sometimes close for lunch noon–2pm. Open 10am–noon or 5pm Saturdays.

Restaurants Hours vary, but are generally open for breakfast (8am–10am), lunch (noon–3pm) and dinner (6pm–10pm or 11pm) daily.

Photography

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography is full of helpful tips for photography while on the road.

  • Some Bolivians are willing photo subjects, others may be superstitious about your camera and/or your motives. Ask permission to photograph if a candid shot can’t be made; if permission is denied, you should neither insist nor snap a picture. Be sensitive to the wishes of locals.
  • Many children will ask for payment, often after you’ve taken their photo. A few bolivianos will suffice.
  • Avoid taking photographs of political rallies, military facilities or police – they are not noted for their sense of humor or understanding.
  • La Paz is generally the best place to buy equipment and to look for repairs.

Post

In 2018 the Bolivian post service Ecobol (Empresa Correos de Bolivia) was closed (with a backlog of post left undelivered) and the government created the Agencia Nacional de Correos (www.oopp.gob.bo/agbc). Mail sent from bigger cities is more reliable than that sent from small towns. Expect delays!

  • To mail an international parcel take it open to the post office so that the contents can be inspected. After inspection close it yourself (take what you need with you) before handing it over.
  • You may be asked to fill in some official forms detailing the contents of the package. Avoid being too detailed, and don't explicitly mention items that might be attractive to thieves.
  • The cost of sending the package depends on its weight. If you are offered the chance to 'register' the package for a small cost, then take it, it doesn't guarantee much, but at least it gives you some kind of leg to stand on if it subsequently disappears.
  • Avoid sending anything valuable by standard mail, use an international courier, such as DHL (www.dhl.com). It's more expensive, but it will get to where you send it.

Parcels

  • To mail an international parcel take it open to the post office so that the contents can be inspected. After inspection close it yourself (take what you need with you) before handing it over.
  • You may be asked to fill in some official forms detailing the contents of the package. Avoid being too detailed, and don't explicitly mention items that might be attractive to thieves.
  • The cost of sending the package depends on its weight. If you are offered insurance take it, it doesn't guarantee much, but at least it gives you some kind of leg to stand on if it subsequently disappears.
  • Avoid sending anything valuable by standard mail, use an international courier. Its more expensive, but it will get to where you send it.

In some cities, you might have your parcels checked by customs at the post office; in cities without in-house customs agents, you may have to trek across town to the aduana (customs office). A parcel’s chances of arriving at its destination are inversely proportional to its declared value, and to the number of ‘inspections’ to which it is subjected.

Receiving Mail

Reliable and free lista de correos (poste restante) is available in larger cities. Mail should be addressed to you c/o Lista de Correos (Poste Restante), Correo Central, La Paz (or whatever city), Bolivia. Using only a first initial and capitalizing your entire last name will help avoid confusion. Mail is often sorted into foreign and Bolivian stacks, so those with Latin surnames should check the local stack as well as checking for your first name. La Paz holds poste restante for two months. You will need your passport to collect the mail.

Public Holidays

Public holidays vary from province to province. The following are celebrated nationally.

Año Nuevo (New Year’s Day) January 1

Día del Estado Plurinacional (Celebrates new constitution) January 22

Carnaval February/March

Semana Santa (Good Friday) March/April

Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) May 1

Corpus Christi May/June

Año Nuevo Andino Amazónico y del Chaco (Andean New Year) June 21

Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) August 6

Día de los Muertos (All Souls’ Day) November 2

Navidad (Christmas) December 25

Departmental Holidays

Not about to be outdone by its neighbors, each department has its own holiday.

Oruro February 10

Tarija April 15

Chuquisaca May 25

La Paz July 16

Cochabamba September 14

Santa Cruz September 24

Pando October 11

Potosí November 10

Beni November 18

Smoking

  • Smoking Banned in certain public spaces, including on public transportation, in health-care facilities and government offices, but there is no law against smoking in restaurants, cafes, bars or offices. Many hotels forbid smoking in rooms.

Taxes & Refunds

IVA (Value Added Tax) is nearly always included in the price in shops and restaurants. Foreign tourists who are staying in Bolivia for less than 60 days are exempt from paying IVA for hotel rooms, but hotels often add the charge to your bill anyway. Remind them that you are a foreign tourist and ask them to remove the tax.

Telephone

Local SIM cards should work in cell phones that are not tied to a single network. Make sure your phone has triband network capabilities. Roaming rates can be high. Kiosks often have telephones that charge B$1 for brief local calls.

Dialing in to the Telephone Network

Numbers Líneas fijas (landlines) have seven digits; cellular numbers have eight digits.

Area codes Each department (region) has its own single-digit area code which must be used when dialing from another region or to another city, regardless of whether it’s the same area code as the one you’re in. The department codes are as follows.

2La Paz, Oruro, Potosí
3Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando
4Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Tarija

Public phones Dialing landlines from public phones (often located in small convenience stores and kiosks, or local call centers known as puntos) is easy; ask the cashier for advice.

Placing calls To make a call to another landline within the same city, simply dial the seven-digit number. If you’re calling another region, dial 0 plus the single-digit area code followed by the seven-digit number, eg 02-123-4567. If calling a cell phone, ask the cashier for instructions; most puntos have different phones for calls to cellulars and landlines, so you may have to swap cabins if calling both.

International calls For international calls, you must first dial 00 followed by a country code, area code (without the first 0) and the telephone number.

International Calls

Bolivia international dialing code591
International access code00

Internet Calls

Most internet places have Skype installed, which you can use at no extra cost – you just have to pay for the time online. WhatsApp messages and calls can be a convenient (and free) way to communicate and even make hotel and tour reservations.

Mobile Phones

  • Cellular SIM cards are cheap, include credit and are available from larger carrier outlets as well as small private phone shops.
  • Make sure your phone has triband network capabilities.

Getting a local SIM

When buying a local SIM card, activate the number and check that the phone works before purchasing. To top up your call amount, buy cards (ask for crédito, ie credit) from the numerous kiosks or puntos (local call centers with public phones) in any city or town.

Time

Bolivian time is four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and an hour ahead of the US Eastern Standard Time. The 24-hour clock is commonly used. Some examples of global times are given in the table below.

La Paznoon
San Francisco8am
New York11am
London4pm
Sydney2am (next day)
Auckland4am (next day)

Toilets

  • Toilet humor becomes the norm in Bolivia. First and foremost, you’ll have to learn to live with the fact that facilities are nonexistent on nearly all buses (except for a few of the luxury ones).
  • Smelly, poorly maintained baños públicos (public toilets) abound and charge about B$1 in populated areas and B$5 in the wilderness, such as near the Salar de Uyuni.
  • Carry toilet paper with you wherever you go, at all times!
  • Toilet paper isn’t flushed down any Bolivian toilet – use the wastebaskets provided.
  • Use the facilities at your hotel before heading out.
  • Some budget hotels and hostels can be stingy with toilet paper. It's best to always come armed with your own.

Tourist Information

  • Bolivian tourism has really taken off in recent years, but the industry and its associated infrastructure is still in its formative stages.
  • InfoTur (www.visitbolivia.org) offices are found in most of the major tourist destinations. The amount of printed material available and the level of attention from staff can vary from place to place, and from visit to visit. Don't expect a lengthy conversation if you go just before lunch for example. Note that the posted opening hours are not always followed.
  • Ministerio de Culturas y Turismo Provides a register of official operators in the tourist industry.
  • There is plenty of competition between tourist operators in the most popular destinations and this is often reflected in their website content, driving the urge to provide more information to make the company more attractive. This can be a useful research tool, provided you remember the context the information is provided in!

Travel with Children

From llama-dotted mountains and lunar-like landscapes to boat trips through steamy jungles, Bolivia offers adventures that will leave an imprint on young travelers. Visiting Bolivia is a one-of-a kind cultural experience, and while traveling with children poses some challenges, the rewards are great.

Best Region for Kids

  • Amazon Basin

Wildlife spotting and riverboat trips in Parque Nacional Madidi, with accommodations in family-friendly ecolodges.

  • Sucre

A great central plaza, and mild and comfortable climate, plus dinosaur footprints and excursions to the surrounding countryside.

  • Tupiza

There are Wild West adventures to be had in the countryside surrounding this laid-back town, with plenty of options for day-trip excursions by horseback, bicycle or jeep. At 2850m, the altitude is manageable.

  • Santa Cruz

Kid-friendly outings abound, with botanical gardens, butterfly farms and zoos within easy reach of the city center. There are plenty of eating options for fussy diners as well as malls selling any items you might need.

  • Samaipata

Day trips to El Fuerte ruins, a pleasant climate and plenty of choice of accommodations, from campsites to hotels.

  • La Paz

Kids will love the children's museum and cable cars, but be sure to acclimatize carefully, it's high up here!

Bolivia for Kids

Bolivians love children and bringing your kids will do wonders for breaking down cultural barriers. But while families can and do visit Bolivia, be prepared to grapple with a number of potential obstacles, including the altitude of the altiplano, the sometimes inhospitable climate, poor levels of hygiene and a general lack of predictability – floods, snow and bloqueos (road blocks caused by political protests) might force you to change your plans. Be prepared to be flexible.

Dining Out

  • Restaurants rarely advertise children’s portions, but will often offer a child-sized serving at a lower price, or will allow two kids to share an adult meal.
  • Chose restaurants carefully, as food poisoning and diarrhea are common occurrences.
  • Bakeries selling fresh bread, buns and cakes are usually a safe option, and likely to be popular with kids; consider picking up a picnic to take with you on outings.
  • It's a good idea to stock up on snacks at city supermarkets before venturing into rural areas.
  • Tap water is not safe to drink.

Safety

  • Unfortunately, many tour operators in Bolivia do not adhere to necessary standards of safety and accidents do happen. Reputable agencies will be happy to show you their equipment and discuss the safety measures they have in place.
  • Look for parks or choose hotels with gardens where kids can safely run around.
  • Demonstrations, roadblocks and tear gas are not uncommon. Stay away from political protests.

On the Road

  • Bumpy roads and long distances can make for unhappy campers. Luckily, most of Bolivia's highways have been paved, making for quicker and more comfortable road travel.
  • Be mindful of road traffic. Road surfaces are often bad, and cars may swerve to avoid potholes.
  • Buses rarely have toilets, can be freezing cold and road traffic accidents are frequent. There is also a chance that a bus could be delayed by roadblocks.
  • On long-distance buses, children who occupy a seat will normally have to pay the full fare.
  • Trains can be a fun and more comfortable option with kids.
  • Flying may be the best option for your family, if your budget allows. Boliviana de Aviación (www.boa.bo) and Amaszonas (www.amaszonas.com) offer frequent, usually inexpensive flights between most Bolivian cities.

Altitude

  • It is particularly important to consider the effects of altitude when traveling with children.
  • Ascend slowly, allowing time for acclimatization. If coming from a lowland area, avoid flying into La Paz.
  • Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • Remember that young children may be unable to tell you if they are experiencing symptoms, so pay careful attention.
  • If your family experiences problems, move to a lower altitude.
  • Make sure your kids drink plenty of water and don't overexert themselves.

Children's Highlights

Outdoor Attractions

  • Biocentro Güembé Outdoor center near Santa Cruz with a butterfly farm, orchid exhibitions and natural pools.
  • Mi Teleferico Swing high on La Paz's 30km-long cable-car system.
  • Parque Cretacico Follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs at this park near Sucre.
  • Jardín Botánico These gardens are an easy day trip from Santa Cruz.
  • El Fuerte Pre-inca ruins with plenty of space to run around.

Animal Encounters

  • Parque Nacional Madidi Wildlife watching in the Amazon Basin.
  • Parque Nacional Sajama Llamas, alpacas and vicuña are among the animals here, but be sure to acclimatize.
  • Senda Verde Wildlife Sanctuary Fun place where humans are 'caged' and monkeys run free.
  • Zoológico Municipal Fauna Sudamericana Santa Cruz's zoo, near the city center.
  • Zoológico Andino Native Andean wildlife in Oruro.
  • Zoo El Refugio This refuge for rescued animals is near Samaipata.

Rainy Day Activities

  • Pipiripi La Paz's children’s museum, with interactive exhibits.
  • Museo Antropológico Eduardo López Rivas Dry but educational museum in Oruro.
  • Ventura Mall Modern mall with a food court, cinema and occasional kids' activities.

Family-Friendly Hotels

  • El Pueblito Kids will love this minivillage with a playground in Samaipata.
  • Hotel Los Tajibos Plush resort with a children's pool.
  • El Jardín Chilled-out gardens and space to camp in Samaipata.
  • Chalalán Ecolodge Memorable jungle experience in Parque Nacional Madidi.

Planning

There are a few things to consider before bringing your children to Bolivia. Think carefully about what you might need as clothing and equipment can be difficult to find outside the main cities, and are certainly more expensive.

For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

Accommodations

  • Many hotels have family rooms with three or four beds.
  • The most family-friendly hotels are resorts, with playgrounds and pools.
  • Remember that nights at high altitude are bitterly cold, and not all hotels are heated; be sure to check.
  • In warmer, lowland areas, consider camping; many hostels have space to pitch a tent and allow use of their facilities.
  • Cribs, diaper-changing facilities and childcare services are only available in the finest hotels in big cities.

What to Pack

  • First-aid kit including diarrhea tablets, rehydration salts, sunscreen, bug spray, adhesive plasters, thermometer and any medicines your child might need
  • High-factor sun protection
  • Required vaccination certificates, passports and visas
  • Snacks and favorite foods from home
  • Clothes for all weather and sunhat
  • Parental permission note if traveling solo
  • Baby carrier, as strollers are basically pointless
  • Favorite toys
  • Wipes
  • If you plan on driving, bring your car seat from home

Feature: Wildlife Watching

Bolivia's national parks are home to a mindbogglingly diverse array of wildlife, with mammal-spotting, reptile-monitoring and bird-watching possibilities that will exceed any young animal lover's wildest dreams.

In the Amazon Basin, Parque Nacional Madidi was revealed by a 2018 World Conservation Society study to be the most biodiverse natural area in the world. The fabulous ecolodges in the area are family friendly and the perfect launchpad for jungle adventures. Animals you might see include jaguars, sloths, pumas, spectacled bears, pink river dolphins and titi monkeys. Kids will no doubt love the elephant-nosed tapirs and lolloping giant anteater.

Residents of the Parque Nacional & Área de Uso Múltiple Amboró include elusive spectacled bears, jaguars, tapirs, peccaries and various monkeys, though mammals are not always easy to spot. Agencies in Samaipata can help put together a family-friendly itinerary.

Andean species including vicuñas, llamas and alpacas, as well as flighty flamingos, can be seen in the stark mountains of Parque Nacional Sajama. It sits at a lofty 4200m, so don't attempt to visit until you are fully acclimatized. The climate is harsh and accommodations are fairly basic. It is probably not a trip you would make with young children.

Volunteering

  • There are hundreds of voluntary and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Bolivia, making this a popular spot to volunteer.
  • Many of the opportunities follow the pay-to-volunteer model, and often include room and board, costing anywhere from US$200 to US$1000 per month. Options to do free volunteer work are more limited.
  • Research your placement carefully. Be aware that some profit organizations offer ‘internship’ or ‘volunteer’ opportunities, when in reality it’s unpaid work in exchange for free trips or activities.
  • Government-sponsored organizations or NGOs offer longer-term programs for which you receive an allowance, predeparture briefings and ongoing organizational support.
  • Church-affiliated or religious organizations offer short-term opportunities, often on a group basis.
  • Smaller volunteer organizations (sometimes profit-based) offer independent travelers the opportunity to work on community projects. These usually have a two- or four-week minimum for which you pay.
  • Animales SOS An animal-welfare group caring for mistreated or abused stray animals.
  • Sustainable Bolivia Cochabamba-based not-for-profit with a variety of volunteering programs, both short- and long-term, through 22 local organizations. Also offers Spanish language classes.
  • Volunteer Bolivia Arranges short- and long-term volunteer work, Spanish language classes in Cochabamba and homestay programs throughout Bolivia.
  • WWOOF Latin America (www.wwooflatinamerica.com) Sets you up with volunteer opportunities on organic farms.

International Programs

Amizade (www.amizade.org)

GoAbroad.com (www.goabroad.com/volunteer-abroad)

GVI (www.gvi.co.uk)

Real Gap (www.realgap.co.uk)

Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.co.uk)

UN Volunteers (www.unv.org)

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used.

Work

  • Teachers can try for private-school positions with the greatest demand in maths, science or social studies. New or unqualified teachers must forfeit two months’ salary in return for their training.
  • Other travelers find work in bars, hostels or with tour operators.
  • Centro Boliviano-Americano (www.cba.edu.bo) For paid work, qualified English-language teachers can try the professionally run Centro Boliviano-Americano in La Paz, with branches in other cities. Accredited teachers can expect to earn up to US$500 per month for a full-time position.