magnificent trek in Bolivia from 6 to 7 days in the royal cordillera around the Illampu massif with several passes at more than 4500m
Backpacking Bolivia: our best travel tips
Welcome to Bolivia to discover the most beautiful landscapes of South America! (I swear this is true). We take you to the incredible Salar de Uyuni, the breathtaking lagoons and volcanoes in Sajama National Park, the beautiful small town of Sucre or the impressive La Paz.
Bolivia is also the country where Benoit first climbed the symbolic 6000m bar by reaching the top of the Parinacota volcano.
A favorite country of our world tour in which we hope to return as soon as possible to continue our discoveries.
- The Map of our articles in Bolivia
- Travelling to Bolivia
- When to visit Bolivia
- Bolivia tour: our unmissables
- Trip to Peru and Bolivia: Can we combine the 2 destinations?
- Trip to Bolivia: Money and Budget
- Practical information for a trip to Bolivia
- Useful resources for a trip to Bolivia
- Our Bolivia Travel Video
- Our blog posts about Bolivia
The Map of our articles in Bolivia
In all we spent a month in Bolivia and wrote 6 blog articles about this South American country. You will find all our articles at the end of this page, but if you prefer to see the articles on a map you can simply click on the button below to display our map of Bolivia.
Travelling to Bolivia
First thing: it's a great idea! :) It is most probably the country where we have been most impressed in terms of landscapes and especially in terms of variety.
Visa for Bolivia
Administrative level Bolivia is quite simple: for French, Swiss, UK or Belgian nationals there is no need for a visa to enter Bolivia if the stay is less than 90 days.
A stamp is applied to the passport on arrival (by land or air) and allows a tourist stay of up to 3 months.
For US citizens, a visa is required. The visa can be done on arrival and requires the following:
- a hotel reservation for the first nights / or a letter of invitation
- sufficient funds to travel
The visa issued is valid for 10 years and allow multiple territory entries.
Flights to Bolivia
For our part, we arrived in Bolivia by land (we were arriving from Peru) and also left by land for Chile. If you plan to arrive by plane then there is a good chance you will land in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. At the moment there are no direct flights to Bolivia from France, Switzerland or Belgium, so your flight will have to be with a stopover (often in Spain, Brazil, Panama or Colombia).
Benoit's parents had joined us there when they came to spend a holiday with us while we were on our round the world trip.
In terms of budget, it costs about 650€ to 900€ for a return flight.
Then, for some reason that escapes me a little... it seems that we regularly find cheaper flights to Santa Cruz de la Sierra than for La Paz... In other words, to find the best rate my advice is to enter "Bolivia" as the destination country when you do your research on Skyscanner. Feel free to put "France" or "UK" or "Switzerland" as a starting point as well.... By putting the whole country you can see the prices from the different departure airports and sometimes it is better to take a train to change city and benefit from a promotion.
When to visit Bolivia?
The first thing to know is that since Bolivia is in the southern hemisphere, it means that the seasons are reversed: winter here is summer there and vice versa.
The second thing to know is that due to the variety of landscapes but also altitudes there is no one single climate rule.
Personally I recommend that you come in the so-called "dry" season, i.e. during the southern winter which extends between March/April and November. It is quite possible to come between November and March, but it is likely to rain much more often. Seeing Uyuni's salar under a line of water seems magical, but you have to know that if it rains too much then the salar will not be accessible at all!
We arrived in Bolivia at the end of August and it was great. During the austral winter, temperatures can be cool (especially at altitude and in the Salar) but this is acceptable if you bring good jackets and a hat (and a pair of leggings);)
Bolivia tour: our unmissables
We are far from having seen everything in Bolivia... For example, the whole Amazonian part is totally unknown to us! But if we were to give you our best recommendations in the things we have seen then it would be:
- The Uyuni salt flats: A pure wonder! Seriously, don't miss it! And if you come here, don't be shy in the number of days you want to spend there. We had done a 4-day tour and were amazed. 3 days is also good... less??? it would be a real pity and frustrating to have only such a small glimpse! Our article on Uyuni
- Sajama: The gem of the northwest of the country. It is a region that is less touristy because it is not necessarily ultra easily accessible, but it was a great favorite of our trip to Bolivia. Our article on Sajama.
- The ascent of Parinacota: That was Ben's big dream on this trip! He wanted to climb to a peak at more than 6000m (19'600 ft) and it is the Parinacota that he chose. Located in Sajama National Park on the border with Chile, this experience was one of the highlights of his trip. See the article
- La Paz: a truly unique city that must be seen at least for one day for its unique topography! After that, if you are short in time and prefer nature over cities, then that's clearly where I would cut off days of visits.
Trip to Peru and Bolivia: Can we combine the 2 destinations?
We have regularly been asked the question whether Bolivia and Peru could be combined. So on a long journey: of course! That is what we had done.
On the other hand, I prefer to tell you that if you plan 2 weeks of vacation it seems like a no-brainer (or even exhausting). The journeys are long and not always ultra comfortable... So really if you want to combine the 2 countries, I recommend you to plan at least 3 weeks and limit yourself to regions that are not too far from each other.
An idea for a 3-week itinerary could be:
- Arriving in La Paz (3 days), then a night bus to Uyuni
- Visit of Uyuni, the salar and the south lipez, 4 days
- Bus to Potosi or Sucre, 2-3 days on site
- Night bus to return to La Paz and continue on Lake Titicaca
- 2 days at Lake Titicaca then a night bus to Cusco (we had made this trip in the other direction)
- Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, 4-5 days
- Night bus to Lima and city tour, 2 days
- Return flight from Lima
You see it, even if you do a "light" program, it's a lot over 3 weeks... In short, I would rather encourage you to take your time and favour one or the other country.
After that, there are tours that propose to do it in 2 weeks including a lot of internal flights (the flights are not very expensive), but personally doing 5 or 6 flights withing 2 weeks seems like a total ecological aberration, so I don't recommend you consider this option.
Trip to Bolivia: Money and Budget
The Bolivian Currency
In Bolivia the currency is called Boliviano (abbreviated Bs).
The exchange rate for this currency is relatively stable and generally fluctuates at 7.2-7.5 Bs per €1.
Card payments are possible in some hotels and good restaurants, but overall it is clearly better to plan cash rather than cards in Bolivia. Rather than leaving with large amounts of money in € or $, you are advised to turn to a bank free of charge for withdrawals.
There are many ATMs and during our visit we did not have the slightest problem to withdraw, international cards are well accepted. To limit bank charges, we advise you to make sure you do not have any charges with your bank, or to subscribe to an online bank like N26.
Travel budget in Bolivia
Bolivia is a very cheap country. To tell you the truth, this has been one of the countries where we spent the least during our world tour (in terms of quality/price ratio).
In total we had a budget of 21.1€ per day and per person in Bolivia.
This budget includes many excursions (4 days at The Salar, the ascent of Parinacota, etc.). In addition, we had Ben's parents visiting us for 2 weeks, which pushed us to spend a little more than usual because we chose "a little better" accommodation and we ate less street food.
See our detailed Bolivia budget
Practical information for a trip to Bolivia
Time Zone: Bolivia is located in the UTC -4 spindle in summer. This means that when it is noon in France, it is 6am in Bolivia. Note: In Bolivia there is no summer or winter time.
Official language in Bolivia: The official language of Bolivia is Spanish. If you have the basics, it will be with that that you will be able to communicate most easily. After that, it should be noted that in Bolivia there are still many indigenous languages spoken (there are more than 30). But to tell you the truth, it is relatively unlikely that you will start speaking Queshua or Aymara... in words, Spanish is your best bet as english is only known by locals in touristic areas.
Sockets: The power sockets in Bolivia are of type A/C. In the A's we can use our European chargers, but for the C's you will need a universal adapter (See on Amazon).
Internet: This is more complicated.... :) No, in reality, the Internet is very present in Bolivia in hotels and guesthouses. On the other hand, the speed is often quite limited. Things change over the years, but Bolivia is and remains one of the countries in South America with the worst internet connections. For our part we had always managed to access our emails, but on the other hand for the upload of photos we clearly waited until we were in Chile to make our backups. ;)
Health in Bolivia: Bolivia is not really the most advanced country in terms of medical technology. In case of a problem you will always find a doctor or a pharmacy, but this is clearly not the cutting edge of medicine. In other words, for Bolivia it is really important to have a good travel insurance. You don't have insurance? Have a look at our travel insurance comparison. The insurances presented are those we recommend for a round the world trip, but they can also be taken for shorter stays at advantageous rates.
The most important health-related risk is probably hygiene and water! It is clearly in Bolivia that we have encountered the most intestinal problems. Nothing dramatic, we reassure ourselves, but let's say that the tourista was never far away. ;) In other words, never drink tap water, avoid ice cubes and, more generally, eat only well-cooked food or fruits that can be peeled.
Useful resources for a trip to Bolivia
- Skyscanner: the reference to find and book a flight
- Hotelscombined: The best site to compare hotel prices
- Travel guides: The Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide
- Make sure to have a good travel insurance as well! See our full travel insurances review here
Our Bolivia Travel Video
Our video dates from 2015 and is not quite what we might call the great achievement :) (to say the least), but it will still give you a great overview of our trip. And if you want to come and see the videos we're making now, don't hesitate to come and subscribe toOur Youtube channel.
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