Area : 424,163 sq mi km2
Population : 10,907,778 estimated population in 2010 inhabitants
Jet Lag : GMT-5
The flight takes approximately 13 hrs. La Paz is 6,196 miles from London.
The El Alto airport of La Paz is 8.5 miles from the city centre. There is a shuttle service that does the trip in 20 minutes. In a taxi, allow £12 for the trip. International flights often arrive at Santa Cruz. Its airport is 10 miles from the town. Allow around £7 for a taxi. There is a bus service between 6:00am and 8.00pm.
There are currently no travel restrictions to Bolivia, however, before you go, check updates with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. There is the risk that demonstrations and confrontations might break out at short notice. You should exercise caution and avoid large crowds. Major roads can be blocked and public transport disrupted at very short notice. You should take care to avoid all public demonstrations which have the potential to turn violent.
Spanish is the official language, but it is only spoken by 60 to 70% of the population who often speak it as a second language. Quechua and Aymara are spoken by more than half of the Bolivians. Mixtures with Spanish are quite frequent. English will only be useful in the large tourist centres.
For a stay that does not exceed three months, a valid passport is sufficient. The entrance stamp that you will get upon arrival in Bolivia allows you to stay in the country for up to 30 days. This authorisation can be extended by the immigration services, for up to 90 days and for free. Beyond three months, you will be required to have a visa that you can get from the immigration department of the British consulate.
95% of the population is Catholic, however the religion is strongly influenced by Inca and Aymara beliefs. There is a Protestant minority.
The national currency is the Boliviano, or Bolis (BOB). 1 BOB = approximately £0.09 Sterling. With regards to cash and travellers cheques, it is better to bring small amounts of cash in US Dollars because neither the British Pound nor the Euro are generally accepted in banks or bureaux de change. You can also pay in US Dollars in large hotels, restaurants and shops. As for credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in banks, and you will find plenty of ATM machines in the main towns. For everyday expenses, try to keep small amounts of bolis in cash on you because exchanging money is an issue in remote regions. Banks are open from 8:30am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.
The plane remains the fastest method of visiting the country, although you should expect cancellations and frequent delays. This is also the best way to avoid the bus on very winding mountain roads that are particularly frightening between Sucre and Potosi. Finally, flying over the Andes is unforgettable. Three airlines go to the main towns in the country. Bolivia has about a dozen tarmacked airports, however, there are more than a thousand landing strips.
On the other hand, a 'Bolivian-style' trip in a lorry, with men and merchandise all piled up together, is very uncomfortable, even painful. This method of transport is, however, very cheap, and enables you to do some of the trip with Bolivians. However, it is better if you speak Spanish to be sure that the driver is going where you want to go.
Everything is relative, but transport by bus is nevertheless more comfortable. The road network covers a good part of the territory, however the condition of the roads leaves a lot to be desired. Over 32,240 miles, only 1,860 are tarmacked: the La Paz-Oruro-Cochabamba-Santa Cruz roads, and the Paz-Tambo Quemanda road in the direction of Chile. You should therefore expect arduous journeys. Most long-distance buses do the trip at night. The Pullmans buses, which connect the large towns, are much less wheezy than the rest of the fleet, and often in bad condition. Allow hours for the journey, as distances do not mean much here. Take blankets and warm clothes to protect yourself from cold at altitude.
You could hire a car to be more independent. You need to be 25 and have an international licence. Give preference to 4x4s if you are planning to drive on non-tarmacked roads. For those not used to driving in the mountains, you are recommended to take a vehicle with driver.
The rail network only covers the east and west of the country. Trains are generally slow. Allow for a 9 hour journey between La Paz and Potosi, 14 hours for Santa Cruz, and 4 hours for Copacabana.
The number of reported cases of dengue fever have been increasing a lot in the Amazonian regions of Bolivia. It is thus essential to take certain precautions: avoid taking painkillers made of aspirin; use all means possible to avoid bites; do not go to marshy areas or where there is stagnant water.
No vaccine is required although the yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitises A an B vaccinations are highly recommended. Last year, about a hundred cases of yellow fever were reported. Also take an anti-malaria treatment. Malaria is present in remote regions below an altitude of 2,500 metres, and in the North of the country, in the Amazon region. Certain people suffer from health problems due to the high altitude. To get used to it gradually, it is usually recommended to arrive into Santa Cruz airport, much lower than La Paz (3,600 metres). During your first few days, avoid physical effort and heavy meals washed down with drinks at night. The water is not drinkable, so drink bottled water.
110 and 220 V. Beware the variations in power that can damage electrical equipment. The plug's pins are round or rectangular. Therefore, you need to bring an adaptor.
Taxes will generally be included in your bill, but if you are happy with the service you have received, feel free to leave a tip as well, as this will always be appreciated.
To call Bolivia from the UK, dial 00 + 591 (country code) + town code (2 for La Paz, 3 for Santa Cruz, 42 for Cochabamba and 64 for Sucre) + n° of other party.
To call the interior of the country: 0 + town code + n° of other party.
From Bolivia to the UK: 00 44 + n° of other party.
106 Eaton Square, London SW1W 9AD.
Tel: (020) 7235 4248. Fax: (020) 7235 1286.
Ministry of Tourism
Avenida Juan de la Riva, edificio Mariscal Bolivian, in La Paz.
Tel: (00 591) (2) 36 74 63.
Avenida Arce No 2732, Casilla PO Box 694, La Paz. Tel: (591) (2) 2433424. Fax: (591) (2) 2431073.