Best Things To Do in Bolivia: Backpacking Bolivia Travel Guide
Endless picturesque landscapes, amazing dinosaur footprints and beautiful rock formations are waiting for you in Bolivia. When traveling to South America, you’ll be able to pass this beautiful country. If you’re up for an experience of a lifetime, this country is the best place to go!
Backpacking Bolivia can be an amazing experience and can be done on a budget. In fact, it is one of the cheapest countries in South America to travel around. However, due to its not-so-good image to the rest of the world, it might be the last place you would go to in your South American trip. But did you know that you can actually have the best times of your life in this unique country? Continue reading our Bolivia travel guide to know why backpacking Bolivia is a must and all the things to do in Bolivia!
Bolivia Travel Guide
Before Backpacking Bolivia
Currency and ATMs in Bolivia
Up until 1963, the currency of Bolivia is Boliviano, and then it was changed to Bolivian Peso. But in 1986, it was changed back to Bolivian Boliviano (BOB) because of the New Economy Policy.
More or less, 1 USD = 6.91 BOB. There are many currency exchange outlets all over the Bolivia. However, you might find it hard to exchange your own country’s currency to BOB so it’s better to have your currency exchanged to USD first.
There are a lot of ATMs in the country and it is always near banks. Always keep that in mind so you will not have a hard time finding where to withdraw your money. Click here to know the exact exchange rate.
Health and safety in Bolivia
As a responsible traveler, it is a must to visit a doctor in your country to have vaccines. Routine vaccines like MMR vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, polio vaccine should be up to date before traveling. Bolivia’s rural areas lack proper sanitation so make sure to bring insect repellents.
Bolivians are calm and relaxed, but we recommend for you to be mindful and be careful when walking around at night. Personally, I found Bolivia a pretty safe country, one of the safest in South America.
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Visa for Bolivia
Bolivia’s visa policy has three groups- 1,2, and 3. Those countries that belong to Group 1 may enter Bolivia without visa. For Group 2, these countries may have to secure a visa upon arrival. And for Group 3, they must apply for further authorization from a Bolivian Embassy.
Some countries including Philippines, New Zealand and Australia are in Group 1. United States of America and China belong to Group 2. Click this to see which group your country belongs to.
How to get to Bolivia
There are many airports around the country, but there are three main airports that are popular to travelers because of their locations. These are the El Alto International Airport, Jorge Wilsterman International Airport and Viru Viru International Airport. If you are going to Bolivia by plane, take a look here to know where you can find the best deals!
Transportation around Bolivia
The cheapest way to move around is by bus. Prices are so affordable inside the city that you can get a ride for less than $1 USD. For long distance buses, you can get $5-6 USD for a night bus backpacking Bolivia and you will save a night of accommodation at the same time.
Like other countries, the most basic and simplest way to get around the city is by taxi. As every tourist or traveler, you should always be cautious and aware when taking a taxi. Make sure to ask a local an idea of how much the fare is in advance.
In Bolivia, Radio Taxis are the safest option, but you can also use those ride sharing apps that I think, is the safest and most convenient way. Currently, there are 4 Cable Cars in Bolivia which is located exactly in La Paz. The cable car is the most popular for both locals and tourists. It offers a great view of the city.
Weather/Best time to Visit Bolivia
The best time to visit Bolivia is during the months of May to October. This is because the dry weather brings sapphire skies and less travel disruptions.
Keep in mind that this period is also the peak season for tourism, where attractions are busier and prices go up. Though majority of the festivals fall from February to April, this is not the best time for tourist. Carnivals and Easter fall on this months resulting heavy traffic and closed attractions.
If you are up for adventure including trekking and hiking, the best months for you June to July. In this months, days are shorter but usually sunny, and the skies are crystal clear.
Daily Budget to visit Bolivia
If you’re a traveler on a budget, the daily expenses for you is a total of $20-30 USD. This budget includes budget beds, tour admission, transportation and food for that day. The budget can go higher if you wish more comfort or eating in good restaurants.
If you are the type of tourist that is very much in the adventurous side, Bolivia offers a great condition for camping. There are a few places that serves as camping grounds. Most of the rates in this places cost up to $7-$11 per night.
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION BEFORE YOUR TRIP WITH BOOKING.
How to get wifi in Bolivia
For us travelers, one of the problems we often experience is not having to connect to the internet or WI-Fi, especially in remote places. Luckily, Bolivia offers a lot of alternatives where we will be able to connect to WI-FI. Most of the cafes and restaurants in the city offer WI-FI connections, where you’ll be able to connect and update.
There are 3 local sims you can choose from. You can buy 1GB of data for as low as $3, valid for 30 days
Bolivia Travel Itinerary
Most travelers will end up traveling to La Paz first for their Bolivia trip because of the cheap flight price towards there. If you only have limited time to spend in Bolivia, we recommend you travel by land. Having limited time visiting the country, Lake Titicaca is the best place to start.
You’ll have to stay at least one night at Lake Titicaca, or you can stay at a few different places. You can stay in the lakeside town of Copacabana for you to able to experience the beautiful sunset of Isla del Sol.
From Lake Titicaca, you can get to La Paz by bus, for a few hour trip only. La Paz is one of the capitals of the country and it is one of the biggest cities. There’s a lot of things to do and see around La Paz, these includes the famous Death Road bicycle trip. Tourists visiting Bolivia shouldn’t leave without seeing the beauty of Salar de Uyuni.
Places to visit in Bolivia
Copacabana and Isla del Sol
There is the belief that the name is from the Aymara kota kahuana, meaning “view of the lake”. This town is a destination for tourist, a place in the country where you can watch the sunset over Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is the main Bolivian town in the shore of Lake Titicaca.
Isla del Sol is famous to most tourist, it is a place where according to the legend the first Inca was born. Tourist are able to rent boats, for them to reach Isla del Sol, wherein tourists can rent hotels to relax. However, those boats offer back and forth for tourists that only stay at noon.
Also, avoid visiting there during Easter holiday week because the city is full of tourists. Sacred incas ruins is in the North part of the Island, so better check their schedule before heading there. And this city is also well known for its famous white cathedral and amazing sunset. The climate in town is chilly throughout the course of the year because of its high altitude.
Sucre is also one of the capitals of Bolivia, where you’ll be able to see the country’s beautiful colonial architecture. The city is one of the most stunning city in the country for most of the tourists. Another known name for the city in “White City”, because it is one of the cleanest cities in the country.
Since it is becoming an attractive destination for travelers, it’s also popular for being cheap. There are many things to do in the Sucre, such as visiting museums and hiking, and sightseeing beautiful landscapes. Central Market is the place where you’ll be able to find street stalls or food stalls that sell delicacy. The cemetery is also a popular spot in Sucre.
Sucre is the perfect city to stop and spend a few days, even for learning Spanish if that´s something that you are interested.
La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia. Unlike other cities in Bolivia, La Paz lacks colonial beauty but the city is still worth visiting. The city has its own set of highlights, such as the famous cable cars. While riding the cable car, you’ll be able to see the beauty of the whole city, while also avoiding traffic.
There are also many hiking and trekking trips available for tourists. Huayna Pototsi is one of the peaks tourists can climb. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to go biking to the famous Death Road.CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACCOMODATION BEFORE YOUR TRIP TO LA PAZ WITH BOOKING.
Cochabamba is one of the least visited cities in Bolivia. Despite this, the city has lots to offer that tourists should not miss. The city’s spring-climate all year around makes it an ideal place to visit. The city is the fourth largest city in Bolivia, with a population of 600,000 people. Locals or residents are known as Cochalas, or as Cochambinos. The city is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” or “The Garden City” because of its spring-like temperature.
The city is one of Bolivia’s most economical and social progressive cities. The cities industrial hub produces products the can be exported to different countries. The construction of the city has been increasing in the last couple of years.
The City of Uyuni is in the Southwest region of Bolivia. There’s a little agriculture in the area because of its water supply. The city serves the main gateway for tourists in visiting the world’s largest salt flats.
Also, you may visit the train cemetery for its antique trails. Those train lines, built by British engineers and are mostly used by mining companies.
Rurrenabaque is the Amazon of Bolivia. “Rurre” is a shorten-term name of the town. It is a small town in the North Bolivia. It has an easy access to Madidi National Park inside the rainforest, that is why it is famous with tourist. You’ll be able to reach the town by bus or airplane. A total of 18 hours when you travel by bus and a total of 45 minutes by airplane. There is a new road on this route for easy access rather than taking the route of Death Road.
Famous for tourist for its tour going to Selva (a Spanish name for jungle/rainforest), you’ll be able to reach the spot only by foot or boat. There are a lot of agencies in town that offer this tour. The town is a starting point for ecotourism for the country.
Also Eco-Lodges are available around the area that tourist may use. Their Fiesta falls on the 2nd day of February. Fiesta de Rurre is the day for La Virgen de Candelaria.
Holy Cross of the Mountain Range known as Sta Cruz. It is the largest city in Bolivia and the capital of the Santa Cruz department. It is in the tropical lowland of Bolivia, so it is warm all year round but expect to experience cold winds for a while.
Bolivia began to mix which resulted the cities population being mestizo. There are a lot of spots for tourist in the city, such as museums, cultural centers and galleries. Despite of its rapid growth, the city’s traditions and culture are still preserved.
Coroico is a town in Nor Yungas Province and the locals are known as Coroicans. There is a cave that still exists below the church on the main plaza of Coroico. The cave was discovered by settlers in 18th century because of a powerful lightning storms. The Fiesta of the town falls in the 20th of October, named the Fiesta of the Virgin.
The weather in Coroico is perfect for hiking, warm during the day and refreshing at night. Make sure you bring mosquito spray when going to Coroico.
The capital city and a municipality of the department of Potosi in Bolivia. The city of Potosi became the Imperial City and is one of the highest cities in the world- over 4,000 meters in altitude. It´s nice walking around the town because of the weather. Although it´s not very touristic, most of the tourists go there to visit the mines.
Things to do in Bolivia
Biking across the North Yungas Road
Yungas Road known as the “Death Road”, listed as one of the most dangerous routes. The roads first climb is up to 4650 meters at what’s called the La Cumbre Pass. This is one of the longest downhill stretches in the world. The road is only 3.5 meters wide and has many unpaved sections. One side of the road is solid rock, the other side a 600-metre abyss.
Go visit Salar de Uyuni
What to see a long span of salt flats? Going to Salar de Uyuni may be one of the best things to do in Bolivia. The seemingly endless landscape of salt is left up by pre-historic stretches as far as anyone can see. In fact, it is the largest salt flat in the entire world!
You have to visit in a day tour and if you have time you can do a tour spending 3 days in Uyuni. The experience is amazing and you will get amazing pictures too!
Go ride the Teleferico
This is the highest cable car system not only in Bolivia but in the world! The cable car is a big hit for both local and tourists, because of its spectacular view of the city. It is the best transportation in La Paz to avoid traffic. You may wander around the city to chill and watch incredible vistas around you. Do not leave La Paz without going to spots such as Jean streets that has a gorgeous architecture.
Wander around Museo del Tesoro
Known at the “Treasure Museum”, Museo del Tesoro was built in one of the oldest homes in the city of Sucre. The Museum houses tons of metals and precious stones found in Bolivia. There are different areas inside the museums- mining, architecture, accessories and geology. Most of the time, you can buy quality jewelries inside the Museum. This is the best place to buy souvenirs that you can take home to your country.
Go see the Witch Market
The Witch Market is located in La Paz. However, you might feel uncomfortable in this area of the city. You’ll notice loads of strange items like owl feathers, dried snakes and random tonics but there are also a lot of souvenirs being sold here that would amaze tourists.
Go over to Laguna Colorado
Laguna Colorado is about 14000 feet above sea level. The first thing for you to see is the shallow Salt Lake. The red sediment and algae is the reason why it is color red. You will find it more breathtaking when it’s sunset time, because of the mixture of the color of the sky and the water.
Keep in your mind that there are local flamingoes too in the area. Since the spot is famous to tourists, the only downside of the place is that it has lots of litters. So as a responsible traveler, make sure to take your trash back with you or throw it in the proper bins.
Go see the sunset at Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Luna is the remains of clay and sandstone mountains that was battered over time by strong winds and rains. It is totally one of the best things to do in Bolivia especially when you love seeing gorgeous landscapes. The maze of canyons and stalagmites is really unique and bizarre.
Learn Spanish in Bolivia
Since not everyone in Bolivia knows how to speak English, foreigners that are traveling or living in the city must study the Spanish Language, well at least the basic ones. Bolivia is the best country for people studying Spanish because it is one of the clearest and most neutral accents in Latin America. People in Bolivia are very friendly and are very patient with people who want to study their language.
You can expect to pay $4 per hour for you to learn Spanish in Bolivia. There are many Spanish schools found all over Bolivia and the prices are the same although they vary in quality.
More things to do in Bolivia
Visit the Great Train Graveyard
The place is a cemetery for trains. The place is found in the deserted outskirts of Uyuni. Known as an important transportation hub in South America, most trains you’ll able to see here are dated back early to 20th century.
Since it is a must for tourist to visit this spot, you must know you’ll expect to be drowned with crowds of people. It is best to visit the place early morning or the evening where tourists are already gone or haven’t arrived yet. The place is walkable from the center of Uyuni.
Trekking in the Mountains of Bolivia
There are many trekking and climbing tours available in Bolivia. Bolivia has a very diverse range of environments. Much trekking and all the climbing takes place in the mountainous areas of La paz. The fact that La Paz has an altitude of 3600 meters makes it ideal for hiking and trekking. In Bolivia there are many possibilities for trekking. There are some classic trails routes in Bolivia. Trekking duration ranges for 1 day up to a 15 days.
Visit Alto Market in La Paz
This is one of the busiest market in the world. The view of the market is very rustic. Visiting Alto Market is worth it because you can buy everything there. It’s a good opportunity for sightseeing or window-shopping. Locals are very nice and approachable here.
Prices for clothes and food are cheap, too! You can also get amazing views of the city of La Paz from the market so it’s really a must-visit place for tourists.
Walk around the footsteps of Che Guevara
It is the dusty village of La Higuer and unique in every way. Having fewer than 20 houses, the village is small enough for tourists to walk around for a certain amount of time. Tourists go here because of the village town and passion.
Explore the Amazon of Bolivia
There are many budget-friendly options for exploring the rainforest. The “Amazon of Bolivia” is as biologically diverse as Brazil’s. Pampas tours are the cheapest options for travelers. You’ll see the wildlife including alligators, squirrel, monkey, and giant rodent capybara. The Rainforest lacks trees but it means it’s much easier to spot wildlife.
Food to try in Bolivia
It is one of the famous delicacies of Bolivia. You’ll be able to buy salteña throughout the country. It is the type of baked empanada from Bolivia. Salteñas are savory pastries filled with beef, pork or chicken mixed in a sweet, slightly spicy sauce. You can find them as street food everywhere where you can have 2-3 salteñas for $1 USD.
It is a typical Bolivian food that is also available throughout the country. It is a heaped plate consisting of bite-sized pieces of beef, and French fry-cut potatoes. Smaller portions of this food are simply called pique, and pique macho is actually a huge portion. The dish is traditionally spicy hot because of pimiento. In their Urban legend, the person who’ll finish this plate by their self is called Macho.
It´s a popular inexpensive meat dish that originated during the pre-Columbian era. Anticuchos can be found on the street-carts and street food stalls around the country. It can be made of any type of meat, most popular is the beef heart. It often comes with a boiled potato or bread.
Majadito is one of the most famous dishes in Bolivia. The word “Majau” means smashed meat and “ito” is a Spanish suffix. Majadito is a traditional dish found in all nine departments of Bolivia. The original majadito was toasted and boiled rice.
Festivals in Bolivia
Ferea de las Alasitas, is a month-long festival, where locals buy miniature items to be offered to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance to bring fortunate and happiness to their lives.
On the 24th day of January, people from all around the country will gather in La Paz. The are many stores in the city that sell their products for a cheaper price. During February, La Paz markets have a long line of stalls which sells smalls items. Tiny items include main draw card, handcraft ceramic and leather goods that are offered to Ekeko.
The Carnaval of Oruro is a religious festival dating back more than 200 years ago. The festival demonstrates the ongoing Pagan-Catholic blend of religious practice in the region. It starts with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon. Marching bands compete simultaneously in the Grotto on Sunday. This is for greeting the Virgin. The highlight of the festival is the three-day-and-three-night parade of 48 groups.
Most Catholic nations all over the world celebrate Semana Santa (or Holy Week), and Bolivia is one of them. Semana Santa is celebrated lively, featuring food, music, dance and religious processions. The main celebration takes places during Thursday.
This is when Churches throughout the city open their doors to a stream of devotees who come to light candles, pray and sing hymns. One of the most important traditions of the week is the accent of Churuquella Hill.
How do you find Bolivia in this article? We would love to know your thoughts! Please share with us your experiences, stories, and insights. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends if you loved it!
Thank you and happy travels! 🙂
About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.