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.
A great central plaza, and mild and comfortable climate, plus dinosaur footprints and excursions to the surrounding countryside.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Biocentro Güembé Outdoor center near Santa Cruz with a butterfly farm, orchid exhibitions and natural pools.
- Mi Teleférico 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
- If you plan on driving, bring your car seat from home