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Destination Bolivia

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Travel Tips: Budget Travel in Bolivia

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

La Paz is a lively city and great budget travel destination to explore for a few days. Souvenirs are some of the cheapest in Latin America. People often spend days browsing the markets of Calle Sagarnaga for souvenirs, trekking gear and other random finds such as unique instruments or custom made leather goods. Food can be extremely cheap. Clothing is reasonably priced.

Very cheap but good quality leather goods such as custom made jackets are located throughout the city. A variety of leather purses and shoes are also plentiful. In general, souvenirs and goods on Sagarnaga are the most expensive. To avoid tourist prices, head further up the hill past Illampu. There are clothing stores and stalls along Tumusla between Plaza Eguino and Garita de Lima. Fresh produce, personal beauty items, and electronics galore can be found along Max Paredes and the surrounding streets.

The markets of El Alto have anything and everything for sale. Here, it is possible to find recycled clothing or parts to build an entire car or even a house. I have seen everything from used socks to new cars being sold in the markets of El Alto which takes over a large part of city every Thursday and Saturday. This market, called “16 de Julio,” is worth exploring if you are in the area. Make sure and watch your belongings due to pick pockets. Do not wear flashy clothing or bring expensive electronics.

 El Alto market shopping

 El Alto market vendors selling chicken, fruit, toys and movies

For cheap food, eat where the locals eat. Filling 3-course lunches can be found in the Mercado Lanza or other small restaurants for about 15 Bolivianos or US $2. These restaurants are probably best avoided for anyone with a sensitive stomach but travelers often frequent these restaurants without problems. 

Market prices around La Paz:

2 Bolivianos (US $0.30)

  • Bus ticket - on the La Paz public bus or mini buses
  • 4 bananas
  • Snacks - peanuts, beans or small chocolates from street stands
  • Disposable tissues
  • Glass of juice - juices being sold from a glasses in street stands
  • Coke or soda - in glass bottles from markets or street stands

4 Bolivianos (US $0.60)

  • Tucumana - a deep fried Bolivian version of an empanada 
  • Saltena - sweet and juicy meat and potato filled snack
  • Cake / pastry - desserts from small stands
  • Bottled water - 600 ml (20 oz) 
  • Avocado sandwich - found in cafeteria stalls inside the Mercado Lanza

7-10 Bolivianos (US $1 - 1.50)

  • Bag of apples - roughly a dozen small apples
  • Non-alcoholic drink - in central tourist restaurants
  • 10 pack of pain medicine - tylenol, ibuprofin, paracetamol or similar 
  • 10 pack of throat drops 
  • Phone credit - local credit for texts, internet 
  • Burger and fries - from street stands that pop-up at night
  • Fruit smoothie - from Mercado Lanza or street stands
  • Gloves - basic pair of gloves
  • Leg warmers - knit pair from touristy shops 
  • Taxi - price for a ride within the city center 

25 Bolivianos (US $3.50)

  • 2 or 3 course lunch - including soup, main and sometimes dessert (many restaurants offer this for 15 or 20 Bolivianos)
  • Shampoo or conditioner - fairly expensive but most brands are imported from the US or Europe
  • Deodorant
  • Women's haircut - nothing fancy but a decent trim with layers
  • Wine - decent Bolivian wine from a small shop / stand
  • Taxi - price for a ride to Zona Sur or the south end of town which takes approximately 20-30 minutes depending on traffic
  • Beer or wine - from most restaurants or clubs (imported drinks and spirts with mixers tend to be more)
  • Dessert - from a midrange or upscale restaurant in town
  • Pillow - souvenir pillow covers from the markets
  • Hat - souvenir knit hats
  • Scarf - souvenir small knit scarf

70 - 100 Bolivianos (US $10-15)

  • Dinner w/ beverage - average price at most midrange and nice tourist restaurants in the city
  • Day tour to Chacaltaya and Valle de la Luna (basic budget tour)
  • Private accomodation - in a hostel
  • Jacket - Northface or similar knockoff light jacket or fleece
  • "Alpaca" sweater - most likely not made from alpaca but decent sweaters that make nice gifts regardless
  • Shoes - basic pair of tennis shoes
  • Jeans - decent pair (leggings and t-shirts will be less)
  • Purse - a small but nice leather purse
  

400-500 Bolivianos (US $60-70)

  • Death Road tour - price from mid-range tour operators
  • 1 night in a hotel - price for a mid-range hotel in La Paz
  • Leather jacket - quality and price varies but many shops offer custom leather jackets in this price range 
  • Leather purse / backpack 

1000 Bolivianos (US $150)

  • 2 or 3 day mountain climbing tour - Huayna Potosi or other climb including transportation, food, guide and most gear
  • 20 hours of private Spanish lessons - price for a popular language school in town but group and private tutors can cost much less

La Paz is overflowing with shops, markets, restaurants, street stalls and tour agencies. Shopping in La Paz can seem a bit overwhelming at first but we hope this guide will help! 

Please feel free to ask us any questions about prices, attractions, accomodation or cuisine in La Paz. We're here to help. 

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Extreme Mountain Climbing in Bolivia

  
  
  
  
  
  

Huayna Potosi is one of the most popular mountain climbs in Bolivia and is often called the world's easiest 6000 meter climb (19,685 feet). That being said, no 6000 meter climb is easy. Huayna Potosi is an easier 6000 meter climb than most mountains because it is located just under 2 hours from La Paz, offers decent accommodation and does not require a lot of technical climbing. Plus, the actual climb from high camp is only about 1100 meters (3,608 feet) and takes about 5-6 hours. 

Huayna Potosi in Bolivia

View of Huayna Potosi 

Last Friday I started a 3 day mountaineering tour with Altitud6000. I chose this company because of their reviews on TripAdvisor and also because of pricing, availability and all around helpfulness. Many tour companies in La Paz offer 2 or 3 day tours but I highly recommend the 3 day tours for acclimatization. I met many climbers along the way that did not reach the summit, even on 3 day tours. 

The 3 day tour to Huayna Potosi with Altitud6000 is currently 1400 Bolivianos ($202 US). This price is 30-40% higher than some of the other tour operators in town but I believe it was worth it. This company has great guides, good food and they provided ALL of the necessary equipment. 

On the morning of Friday, July 18, I arrived to their office at 8:30 am. I met some of the guides and other climbers and then was off on my 3 day adventure! They took us to their off-site storage location just a few blocks away. Here they gave us our equipment. We were fitted with everything that we needed for our climb. I was given 2 pairs of gloves (inner and outer), thermal fleece pants, waterproof pants, a shell jacket, headlamp, boots, crampons, gaitors and even wool socks to wear with the boots. 

After trying all of our gear we were driven up to base camp on Huayna Potosi. Base camp is exactly that, a base camp. No luxuries but a comfortable stay with a dining area and cabin full of bunks. We were given lunch and then set off to the nearby glacier to practice walking with crampons, using an ice axe and try ice climbing. There were 12 people in my group and this was everyone's first time attempting to climb a 6000 meter mountain. This was my first time even wearing a harness or crampons. 

Group of climbers on Huayna Potosi in Bolivia

My amazing group hiking up to Rock Camp

On the second day we woke up early and hiked to the upper camp. Once at the upper camp, altitude 5130 meters, we were literally stuffed with food for about 6 hours straight. We were given mid-morning tea with cookies, crackers and bread followed by a massive lunch of burgers and fries. They gave us mid-afternoon tea with more snacks followed by chicken soup and a plate of trout and potatoes. Throughout the day we were advised to drink coca tea to help with the altitude. All of this before 6 pm. After 6 pm it was lights out and time for bed. With the altitude and unusual sleep schedule, most people in the camp did not sleep well. 

On Sunday we woke up at 12:30 am! We had just enough time to carb load with bread and cake before getting ready. By 1:30 am we set off into the darkness with our trekking gear, water, snacks and cameras. We assembled at the base of the climb and put on our crampons and gaiters in the dark. The climbers were assigned to a guide, 2 per guide, and tethered to the guide for the duration of the climb. 

A short time into our hike we could see the lights of El Alto between nearby peaks. Between the sparkly fresh snow, city lights and moonlight, the views were absolutely stunning. Our tour guides kept a slow and steady pace and stopped us approximately every 45 minutes to give us hot tea and chocolate. 

We passed over crevasses and next to massive glaciers which were hard to see in the dark. We continued to climb through the night. No one in our group had any major issues with the altitude or other issues during the climb. 

The ascent took about 6 hours. Our entire group of 12 made it to the summit of 6,088 meters (19,974 feet)! Unfortunately we didn't quite make it to the summit for sunrise but the views were stunning regardless. We only spent a few minutes at the top to take pictures, admire the view and congratulate each other before heading back down. 

View from the top of Huayna Potosi in Bolivia

View from the top of Huayna Potosi 

We used all of our energy and adrenaline for the ascent but the descent was the most difficult part of the climb. At this point the sun was shining and we could see the steepness of the ridges and the depth of the crevasses we had crossed in the dark of night.

This was by far one of the best experiences of my life. I highly recommend a trip to Huayna Potosi or another 6000 meter peak for active travelers passing through the beautiful Andes Mountain range area. Altitud6000 was also a wonderful company to use. I found them highly professional but also a lot of fun. This was one of those experiences that I will never forget.

 

Please don't hesitate to contact us about adventures in Bolivia. 

We would love to help you book your perfect trip!

 

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10 Strange Foods to Try While Traveling

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

1. Haggis - Scotland

This dish is the national dish of Scotland. Haggis is a large sausage filled with various sheep organs including lungs, heart and liver. The filling is mixed with a variety of spices, onion, oats and then stuffed into sheep stomach for casing. The sausage is then simmered for a few hours to cook thoroughly.  Supposedly it tastes like a nicely seasoned sausage.

Haggis the national dish of Scotland

Photo by Kim Traynor

 

2. Hakarl - Iceland

This dish is made from cured decomposed shark. Hakarl is a delicacy in Iceland which many locals enjoy. The process involves burying the meat underground for three months then letting it air dry for 5 months. The smell is very similar to the taste. Rotten fish sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

3. Rocky mountain oysters - USA

Rocky mountain oysters are a contradiction. They are not seafood at all. Rocky mountain oysters are actually bull testicles. The testicles of male cows are often removed to keep the bulls from being too aggressive. The testicles are commonly breaded with flour and spices and then served fried. They are considered a delicacy and some people believe they are an aphrodisiac.  

4. Black ivory coffee - Thailand

This coffee is made from coffee beans that have been ingested by elephants. These beans are then plucked from the droppings. After being picked they are sun dried and roasted.  This coffee is supposed to have a very smooth but earthy flavor. This coffee is also one of the most expensive types of coffee in the world. The beans are marketed as being “naturally refined” Thai Arabica beans.

5. Fried spiders - Cambodia

Afraid of spiders? Maybe eating a spider will change your opinion. Fried spiders are considered a delicacy in Cambodia. These critters are crispy on the outside after they have been fried but remain gooey on the inside. They are also seasoned for nice flavor.

 Fried spiders Cambodia

Photo by: www.viajar24h.com

6. Sannakji - Korea

This dish consists of baby octopus drizzled in oil. The catch though is that the freshly caught octopus tentacles are still squirming. Consumers need to thoroughly chew their food to avoid choking. It is possible for the tentacles to suction to mouths or throats.

7. Caldo de cardan - Bolivia

This soup, common in Bolivia, is known as an aphrodisiac. The main ingredient in this soup is bull penis. The bull parts must be cooked for approximately 12 hour for best results. During cooking the broth becomes infused with flavor. The soup is a good remedy for back and joint pain.  It is also believed to cure hangovers and combat fatigue.

8. Century eggs - China

Century eggs are so aptly named because they have been preserved for a century! Okay, not really. Generally, century eggs have been preserved for a few weeks to a few months. This delicacy is usually made by soaking chicken or duck eggs in a saline solution. The egg yolks become a dark yellow color with the consistency of cream cheese. The egg whites turn a black color and have a jelly like texture. They have a strong odor but generally taste like hard boiled eggs.

Century eggs from China

Photo by: Kowloonese

 

9. Escamoles - Mexico 

Escamoles are ant larvae that live in the roots of certain cactuses. These ants are harvested and often eaten in tacos. They are considered a delicacy in Mexico and referred to as “insect caviar”. They are said to have a buttery and nutty taste.

10. Casu Marzu - Italy

This cheese is found in the Sardinia region of Italy. It is not your average moldy cheese. This cheese is made from sheep’s milk but the interesting part is that the cheese is completely rotten. The cheese is left open to allow flies to lay eggs in the cheese. The larvae feed on the cheese which accelerates the decomposition process.

This food is actually illegal in Italy because it can cause health issues. Sometimes the larvae do not die after being ingested and can cause intestinal problems. Regardless, the cheese is still enjoyed, especially during special occasion events. 

Read our blog posts about food in Bolivia for more information:

Bolivian Food

Travel Tips: Advice for Your Trip to Bolivia

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

So you've decided to visit Bolivia! Now what? Here are some travel tips, preparation advice and general tips to ensure you enjoy your trip to La Paz. 

Preparation

It is essential to research your destination thoroughly before your vacation. Read our blog post about vacation planning for more vacation research and preparation tips. 

It is important to know the local currency and conversion rates. If possible bring a small amount of local currency from your home bank before your vacation begins so you have some local currency. Generally speaking, ATM rates at bus stations and airports give the worst transaction rates. We recommend avoiding exchanging money on arrival if possible. 

Check your home country's travel alerts or register for alerts before going abroad. Many countries have travel alert notification programs through the embassy or some government department. 

Be sure to check the voltage and adapter requirements before you travel. I brought a travel hairdryer that was not dual voltage which was a complete waste of space in my luggage. Many of the outlets in South America are general usage and fit appliances from Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia but I still recommend bringing a universal adapter just in case. 

It is also beneficial to plan your daytrips or tours in advance. Many top tourists attractions in South America, such as Machu Picchu, can sell out weeks or months in advance during the busy season.

Also remember to research events. There are hundreds of festivals throughout Bolivia and South America that are unforgettable experiences. It would be a shame to miss La Paz's biggest festival, the Gran Poder, if you happen to be in the region. 

Stunning costumes from the Gran Poder in La Paz Bolivia

Dancers in La Paz's Gran Poder Festival

Flights

Arrive at the airport early to avoid last minute stress. There is nothing worse than running to catch an international flight and in turn worrying about missing two, three or four connecting flights.

Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to take on and off for security and during the flight.

Although carry on bags generally save you money, they are also stressful to deal with on long journeys. American Airlines international flights (such as Miami to La Paz) offer 2 free checked bags per passenger. You should be able to get away with just using a small carry-on with essentials. Bring a change of clothes just in case the airlines loses your luggage which is all too common.

Bring or wear a sweater that is easy to remove since airplane cabin temperature is usually cold but can be hot if you are in direct sunlight. Also bring socks to keep your feet warm during the flight.

Visa

Bolivia does not require a visa for EU passport holders, Canadians, Australians, Japanese or citizens visiting from other South American countries. 

Americans visiting Bolivia should print and fill-out a visa form to have upon arrival in Bolivia. A completed visa form, passport size photo and $135 cash are required. I was able to skip the line because I had all of my visa documents ready. Bring exact change and crisp bills to ensure your visa is processed without hassle.

More information about visas for Bolivia can be found on our blog here.

Taxis

It is fairly easy to find and take a taxi to the city from the airport of El Alto but I recommend arranging pickup from your hotel or hostel as most international flights into La Paz arrive very early in the morning. Most hostels and hotels, especially in La Paz, offer this service at a slightly higher rate than a standard taxi.

Hotels

Request a quiet room if you are a light sleeper. Hotels generally have a certain area or floor of the building is quiet and away from street traffic or in-house bars or restaurants. The streets of La Paz are very busy from approximately 9 am to 9 pm.

La Paz Bolivia The beautiful city of La Paz with a view of Mt. Illimani 

La Paz

Bring acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with headache pain from the altitude. Mild altitude issues are common in La Paz because people are generally not acclimatized. Also drink local coca tea which helps to alleviates symptoms of altitude sickness. 

Request extra blankets if necessary as La Paz does become very cold at night with temperatures approaching freezing year round even in the summer (northern hemisphere winter).

Bring or buy sunglasses as the strong sun can hurt your eyes and cause more headaches.

Drink a lot of water! Due to the altitude and sun it is very easy to become dehydrated. We recommend drinking bottled water throughout your trip. 

Other Tips

Taxi fare should be negotiated beforehand as taxi drivers do not use meters.

Last but not least, don’t forget to download our handy travel apps for smartphones or tablets. These travel apps will help you organize your documents and navigate the city. 

Most of all, don't forget to bring your camera and sense of adventure to explore this crazy, fascinating and beautiful country! 

Book a room for your stay in La Paz:

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6 Extraordinary Hotels You Need to See to Believe

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

With the increasing number of hotels and must-visit vacation destinations popping up every year, how do you choose a vacation spot or hotel? We have created a list of our favorite unique hotels around the world that are actually tourist attractions themselves. These hotels provide unique stays that should be at the top of your list of hotels to visit. Our favorite bucket list hotels include:

 

  • Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finland
  • Jules' Undersea Lodge in the United States
  • Hotel Palacio del Sal in Bolivia
  • The Underground Motel in Australia
  • Jumbo Stay in Stockholm
  • La Montana Magica Lodge in Chile

 

1. Kakslauttanen, Finland

A resort in northern Finland, the Kakslauttanen Resort, gives guests a chance to stay in snow igloos or glass igloos under the colorful and coveted Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Isn’t sleeping in an igloo every child’s dream at some point?

The snow igloos stay at a constant -3 to -6 degrees Celsius even when outside temperatures become unbearable.  The igloos are equiped with many blankets and sleeping bags to ensure guests stay comfortably warm during their stay. 

This same hotel chain also has glass igloo accommodations for up to 2 guests. According to their website, new igloos for the upcoming 2014-2015 northern lights season will be able to accommodate up to 4 guests. These igloos are fully heated and also have toilets. The sauna and showers are separate. These glass igloos give guests the best chance of catching a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. 

Northern lights at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort FinlandPhoto from Kakslauttanen Resort

2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Florida

Jules’ Undersea Lodge is located in Key Largo, Florida; approximately 30 feet below the surface of the ocean. The lodge consists of only 2 rooms but they can accommodate groups of up to 6 per night. A wonderful place to take the kids. This is the only under water hotel in the United States.

This hotel also offers scuba diving on site, just outside of the hotel. They even offer Open Water diving certifications. Visitors can also opt to visit the hotel for 3 hours if they do not wish to spend the night.

 Jules' Undersea Lodge

Photo from Jules' Undersea Lodge

3. Hotel Palacio del Sal

Hotel Palacio del Sal is the world’s first hotel built entirely out of salt. Everything from the walls to the floors to the ceilings are composed of salt.  It is located 25 kilometers from the town of Uyuni which is the location of the world’s largest salt flat, known as the Salar de Uyuni.

Every room has heat, electricity and a private bathroom. There are only 16 rooms in this hotel.  According to their website the hotel has been recently renovated and some of the décor and furniture are now also composed of salt. How many people can say they have stayed in a hotel made entirely of salt? This a great place to stay during an Uyuni trip.

Room made of salt in Uyuni BoliviaPhoto from Palacio del Sal

4. The Underground Motel

In the Australian Outback is a town that exists almost completely underground due to the heat. This town, Coober Pedy, is also the opal capital of the world; producing more than 70% of the world’s opals. Many homes are actually built into holes that were blasted out during opal mining.

The Underground Motel is one of the best ranked unground hotels in Coober Pedy. This hotel provides nice amenities and allows guests to spend a night or a few underground and experience how locals live. The motel was built in 1984 but has been recently updated to provide the best amenities and services. A continental breakfast is included for every guest. The rooms have natural ventilation so that guests stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Temperature underground stays relatively constant even with season weather changes.

5. Jumbo Stay, Stockholm

Jumbo Stay in Stockholm gives guests a chance to spend the night in a jumbo jet, an old 747, just a few minutes from the main Airport which is Arlanda International. There are 29 rooms in this hotel / hostel. One of the rooms is in the converted cockpit called the cockpit suite.

This hotel also features a lounge bar located within the plane.

Jumbo Stay SwedenImage from Jumbo Stay

6. La Montana Magica Lodge

This enchanting hotel is located in the Huilo Huilo reserve in the Chilean Patagonia Forest. This hotel looks like something from a fairy tale. It is a round mound shaped building covered in moss with a waterfall cascading from the top.

This lodge is connected to another hotel, Nothofagus Hotel and Spa. Guests who stay at the Montana Magica Lodge have access to the spa facilities in the adjoining building. Swimming pools, jacuzzis and saunas are on site. Nearby attractions include outdoor snow and lake adventures as well as spa packages. Stop by this lodge for a magical adventure. 

Montana magica lodge

 Image from La Montana Lodge 

 

 Find out more information about Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni:

  Salar de Uyuni Travel Guide

Travel Tips: How to Find Flights in Bolivia & South America

  
  
  
  
  
  

Most people find the process of purchasing a flight exhausting and frustrating. Airlines are notorious for terrible customer service, botched reservations, frustrating pricing and general lack of customer care. This article will provide tips on how to find the best flight deals in the least amount of time. 

Generally, international flights booked at least 6 weeks in advance are the cheapest. For internal flights the best deals are usually between 6 weeks and 3 weeks before your planned departure. However, some of the best flight deals are found a week or two before the flight as airlines drop prices to fill up empty seats at the last minute. For set international itineraries and departures I recommend booking your trip as far in advance as possible for the best deals and least amount of stress.

Airline research is tedious and it pays off to look at multiple sites for the best prices and itineraries. Some of my favorite airline search sites include:

  • STA travel
  • Hipmunk
  • TripAdvisor

STA travel

STA travel is a travel company targeted to students and young adults. They offer discounted flights for students or people under 26. Students and people under the age of 26 are considered "youths" and have access to discounted flights because of this. I was able to save approximately $300 on my one way flight to Sydney, Australia by booking with STA just 3 weeks before my departure. Supposedly you need to purchase their ISIC (International Student Identification Card) or IYTC (International Youth Travel Card) to be eligible to receive the discount. I purchased the card just because of the discounts offered with the card but never had to show proof of the card to board a flight. Their website is also useful for planning tours, purchasing international rail passes or planning work abroad or studies abroad.  

 

hipmunk

Hipmunk

Hipmunk is a somewhat new but useful site when researching flight prices and times. Hipmunk has an agony flight search setting that factors in price, duration, departure and arrival times when listing flight options. Most flights allow you to search by price which usually means listing flights that leave at the most inconvenient times. The agony search takes all of this into account and gives you the best options. Prices on hipmunk are generally the same as google flights, expedia, skyscanner and other search engines. 

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a travel powerhouse for anything travel related including hotels, attractions and flights. The TripAdvisor flight search allows users to search one-way flights, round-trip flights or multi-destination flights. Search parameters also let users search nearby airports or with flexible dates for the best prices. TripAdvisor also recommends nearby hotel deals and attractions. And of course, TripAdvisor provides reviews on hotels and companies so you know what to expect. 

 Flights in South America

Unfortunately there are no "budget" airlines, such as Ryanair or easyJet, that operate in South America. Flights in this region tend to be very expensive. A few airlines that operate in this area include:

  • Amazonas
  • LAN
  • Avianca

Amazonas

Amazonas is a La Paz based company with major hubs in Santa Cruz and La Paz. This airline serves many destinations in Bolivia and a few in Brazil and Peru. This airline offers affordable last minute flights to Rurrenabaque, Tarija, Uyuni and many other cities worth visiting in Boliva.

LAN

LAN is a Santiago, Chile based airline that operates in 31 countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. LAN is a reliable airline that has internal flights in South America and also long-haul international flights. In 2012 LAN airlines merged with TAM airlines which is the Brazilian part of the company that offers many flights to and from Brazil.

Avianca

Avianca airlines is the national airline of Columbia and is also a Star Alliance member. The hub airports include Bogota, San Salvador, El Salvador and Lima. Avianca is a reputable airline and is actually the second oldest airline still operating. Avianca has many routes throughout Latin America and also connects to Europe through Madrid as well various airports in North America

Want more information? 
 
 
Visas in Bolivia
The Best Travel Apps 
What to Bring
 
Packing Guide for Women
Vacation Planning Tips
2 Weeks in Bolivia
 
  
Send us an email if you have any questions. We would love to help you plan your trip to Bolvia!

Email Us

Turisbus: Bolivian Tour Innovation

  
  
  
  
  
  

Turisbus here at Grupo Rosario updates and creates tours every year. We are currently in the process of creating an entirely new day tour in and around La Paz. The proposed tour will run from the central market, a real working class market that not many tourists visit, up through El Alto and back down to La Paz in the newly opened and highest cable car system in the world.

The proposed tour involves a great deal of walking and gives people a chance to experience the challenges associated with living in such a steep city. In the morning, patrons leave on foot from Hotel Rosario and walk through the central markets of town where working class locals shop and run their businesses. There are many different sections of this market.  The first part of the tour winds through the cholitas market which is filled with colorful cholita clothing. The tour continues through a large open fruit market with fresh produce from El Alto. Then we walk through the electronics market that contains every electronic device imaginable. The last part of the market passes through the colorful costumes market area. This part of the tour involves many photo opportunities as well as insightful information about local customs, celebrations and history.  

La Paz cemetery

At this point we arrive at the cemetery and walk through the unique La Paz Cemetery while the tour guide provides information about burials and rituals in Bolivia. From here the bus will drive us up the hill to the Jach'a Kollo Lookout. This lookout point has a stunning 360 degree view of the city.

View of Illimani and La Paz Bolivia

After a short drive we begin our descent up the steepest parts of the city. Tourists rarely walk these narrow and steep working class neighborhoods but the views are some of the best in La Paz. At the end of the walk we are in the neighboring city of El Alto.

Once in El Alto we begin by walking through the Witches MarketThis witches market is rarely seen by tourists but is much better than the more touristy shops in La Paz. Because of the lack of tourism most of the locals do not want their picture taken.  The locals covered their faces with newspapers as I walked past with my camera hanging around my neck. The El Alto Witches Market is filled with fetuses – pigs, llamas, vicunas, bats lambs and others. Many of the shops sold potions for various ailments, pendants for protection and an assortment of items used in offerings. 

 

Witches market El Alto La Paz Bolivia

Just outside the market is a street with dozens of types of doctors or shamans although they prefer not to be called that today. For approximately 10 bolivianos you can have your fortune told by local shaman, known here as yatiri, about your future health, love, career or general fate.

Fortune telling by shamans in Bolivia

From here we drive to the cable car red line station. Our exploratory tour day was the official opening of the cable car system and we had a long wait in line. The cable car transports people to the heart of the city after a 10 minute cable car ride. This is a big change compared to the hour long drive back to the city with current traffic. 

The cable cars have a great view of the city, cemetery and Mt. Illimani. A really fun ride on the longest and highest cable car line in the world built by an Austrian company. 

Highest cable car system in the world in La Paz Bolivia

The driver will pick up everyone up at the cable car station and drop everyone off at Hotel Rosario in La Paz. We would invite everone to join us for lunch in our cafe, Jiwhaki Skyview Cafe.  

 

Please leave thoughts about the tour. Would you join us on this tour? What else would you like included on the tour? We would love your feedback! 

 

For more information about our tours please visit our website:

Turisbus Tours

Bolivia Packing Guide for Women

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

Unsure of what to pack for your trip to Bolivia? We can help!

Bolivia is a country full of diverse landscapes and weather. In the Amazonian jungle region, the weather is often hot and humid. High in the Andes Mountains the weather is extremely harsh and cold. The capital city of La Paz has varying weather depending on the time of day and season. During the winter the skies are generally clear with strong sunlight and the nights are very dry and chilly with the temperatures dropping well below freezing.

People in Bolivia generally wear casual but conservative clothing. Women wear blouses or sweaters and jeans. The men wear slacks or jeans and polos or dress shirts. Wearing trendy clothes with holes is not a common sight in Bolivia.

Women generally have a more difficult time packing for vacation than men so this post is for you, ladies! Whether you are traveling for a week or a year this list should get you through your trip.

Chacaltaya Bolivia the world's highest ski resortIt is extremely cold and windy on Chacaltaya (formerly the world's highest ski resort) 

Clothing

1 pair of jeans: a pair of jeans that is comfortable and can be worn hiking or dressed up for a nice evening out

1 pair of leggings: leggings are great to layer under jeans for cold climates, to sleep in or wear on their own

1 pair of shorts or capris: great for activities in warmer climates

3 t-shirts / tank tops: great for wearing around town on warm days, to sleep in or as base layers

1 long sleeve t-shirt: to wear on colder days or layer

1 cardigan: a versatile cardigan that can be worn around town or to a nice dinner

1 fleece: a warm fleece for cold nights or cold climates

1 shell: a thin waterproof/windproof shell is great for outdoor activities and unpredictable weather that can be layered over your fleece jacket

1 dress: a versatile dress that can be worn in tropical climates or out to dinner

1 swimsuit: there a variety of places where swimsuit will come in handy (Copacabana, Salar de Uyuni hot springs, etc)

5 pairs of underwear: enough to get you through a few days without needing laundry

4 pair of socks: 1 pair of socks should be durable and warm for hiking

2 bras: 1 comfortable but versatile bra and 1 sports bra for activities

 

Trail running shoes

Shoes

1 pair of trail running shoes: a decent pair of trail running shoes for everyday wear that is durable enough for hiking (some trail running shoes are also waterproof)

1 pair of comfortable sandals: 1 pair of comfortable sandals (functional vs fashionable depending on your itinerary)

Accessories

1 scarf: purchase a colorful souvenir scarf to dress up your outfits

1 sarong: acts as a blanket, towel, scarf

1 cross body purse: small but versatile purse for daily use that can hold a camera and bottle of water

1 backpack: a versatile bag that can be used for day tours or small weekend hiking trips

1 hat: warm hat for cold nights or trekking

1 pair of gloves

1 pair of sunglasses

Toiletries

Shampoo / Conditioner: It is difficult to find travel size toiletries in Bolivia

Face wipes: to remove makeup or freshen up after flights and buses

Face wash: to remove grime from the cities

I didn’t bring body wash but alternated my face wash and shampoo as body wash

SPF moisturizer: for daily moisture and sun protection from the harsh elements

Deodorant

Toothpaste / toothbrush

Tampons: very hard to find and surprisingly expensive

SPF lipbalm: the climate tends to dry out lips

Sunscreen


Electronics vendor La Paz Bolivia

Electronics in El Alto Bolivia

Electronics

Phone: my iPhone helped me navigate the city, keep track of itineraries, keep in touch with friends and family, take notes about destinations and people

Camera: bring a camera with multiple batteries and memory cards! You won’t want to miss all of the amazing scenery and activity in Bolivia. My camera battery often died during day trips and Ifilled an 8 GB memory card after a few weeks.

Chargers


Other Tips

I recommend leaving the jewelry at home. You are more likely to be the target of pickpockets or thieves if you wear flashy jewelry. There are, however, numerous jewelry vendors where you can purchase a nice souvenir pendant or earrings for a reasonable price to take home with you.

Souvenirs in Bolivia are beautiful and cheap. I recommend picking up hand-crafted hats, scarves, gloves and sweaters down here. Street vendors and markets throughout the cities and countryside offer reasonably priced items.

People often recommend a money belt due to pick pocketing. I never had an issues with pick pocketing but keep your valuables inside inner pockets or inside of front facing purses. Never leave a camera or phone in the pocket of your pants.

Bolivia is a beautiful country with diverse landscapes. Goods are cheap and plentiful down here. Don’t worry about bringing the perfect items because you can always purchase what you need. Bring only the essentials and your sense of adventure for an unforgettable trip to Bolivia! 

 

Download our Bolivia travel guide for more information:

Bolivia Travel Guide


Tiwanaku: Aymara New Year Sunrise Celebration

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

There are almost 2 million Aymara people that currently reside in Bolivia, Peru and Chile. This group of people have always been predominantly agriculture based. During the winter solstice or longest night of the year on June 21st the Aymara people celebrate the beginning of the new year and beginning of the new agricultural year. The new year celebration is called Machaq Mara in Aymara or Willka Kuti Retorno del Sol (Return of the Sun).

Willka Kuti is celebrated by watching the sunrise on the winter solstice and offering blessings to Inti (Sun God) and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Thousands of people gather at various sites throughout the region to offer blessings for the upcoming year.

Aymara flag Tiwanaku BoliviaAymara flag 

The largest celebration of the Aymara New Year in Bolivia is at Tiwanaku. The pre-Hispanic empire capital of Tiwanaku is a located 71 kilometers away from La Paz or about 1 ½ hours by bus or car. This region flourished between 400 AD and 1000 AD but the empire collapsed sometime during the 12th century possibly from a combination of climate change and political instability.

For visitors wishing to participate in the New Year it is possible to take an organized tour that departs from La Paz early on the morning of June 21st, take public transportation to the festival the day of, find accommodation in Tiwanaku the night before or celebrate all night like a local.

I opted to take a day tour from La Paz. The tour operator picked me up from my hotel at 4 o’clock in the morning. The streets of La Paz were very quiet and the drive lasted for approximately 1 ½ hours. During the drive the guide explained some the history of Tiwanaku and the Aymara culture.

La Paz Bolivia at nightLa Paz at night

We arrived at Tiwanaku around 5:30 am and the festivities were in full swing at this time. Groups of people were huddled around fires sharing singani, beer and coca tea. Some people were dancing to live music.

We sat in the van while our guide explained the offering process. The Andean cross is a 3-tiered cross that represents the 3 religious realms (upper, middle and lower worlds) and 3 corresponding religious animals (condor, puma and snake). Our guide brought an offering for the group for protection of the home, health and family. Her offering included llama fat instead of a fetus. Everyone in our group was given 3 coca leaves and 3 drops of alcohol to add to the  offering for personal protection. The number 3 represents the different religious realms.

After completing our offering, we ventured out into the cold and jumped in line for the ceremony. Luckily our group already had tickets so we were able to skip the long ticket line. By the time we arrived inside the ruins there was already a large crowd gathered. We waited patiently, huddled in blankets, for the sun to shine.

Just before 7:00 am, the first rays of light began casting beautiful red and pink shadows onto the land. It was hard to see the yatiri or actual offerings because the area was blocked off. We waited anxiously for the first rays of light nonetheless. Just after 7:00 am the first beams of light hit the crowd. Everyone in the crowd cheered and held their hands to the sun as the light came out from behind the clouds. We celebrated the sun, life and year 5522. It was a magical experience

Tiwanaku Bolivia Aymara New Year CelebrationFirst rays of light

After completion of the ceremony, people danced and cheered. There were news cameras and people everywhere. We had a few minutes to explore some of the ruins before we were rushed out of the ruins by military and police. The site re-charges for entry beginning at 9 am. Everyone that attended the ceremony had to be out of the ruins well before the re-opening. Certain tour companies do offer longer tours which allow people to spend the afternoon exploring the ruins and museums of Tiwanaku.  

Due to the crowds and time constraints, our tour shuttled us down the street to a small temple and statue. In this spot we made a small fire and gave our offering before we had breakfast at the nearby restaurant.

A yatiri in Bolivia at Tiwanaku

Local yatiri and burning of offerings

I highly recommend participating in the Willka Kuti on June 21st if there is a nearby celebration. It was a wonderful experience to participate in a sunrise celebration in 1600 year old ruins.

For more day tours in La Paz, visit our website:

Turisbus Tours

Travel Tips: Vacation Planning

  
  
  
  
  
  

 

Maybe you’ve seen stunning pictures of someone walking on water at the Salar de Uyuni or you’ve heard a friend talk about a trek on the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu for a check off the bucket list. Now you’ve decided to come to Latin America for your own adventure. Unsure of where to start your vacation planning? You’re not alone! A great place to start is with in depth travel research. A jungle trek trip during the wet season or a scuba diving trip during hurricane season can easily ruin a vacation.

Madidi National Park Madidi National Park by Michael Kessler

 

A great place to begin your research is with Rough Guides. One of my favorite and most useful sites for planning my travels has without a doubt been roughguides.com. Rough Guides has a variety of print based content for dozens of countries around the world. I found that the free website provides enough information.

The website offers varying itineraries to help you plan your trip. From single day essential highlights to multi-city or multi-country itineraries. Current itineraries in Bolivia include: Grand Tour 4-5 weeks, Nature and Wildlife 3 ½ weeks, Indigenous Culture and Spanish Colonialism 2 weeks.

They also provide essential travel tips for each country and several smaller cities. This is a great place to learn about weather and peak travel times as well as safety tips. The subsections of the website include the following: introduction, fact file, where to go, when to go, getting there, getting around, accommodation, food and drink, fiestas, outdoor activities, national parks, crime and safety, culture and etiquette, health, and travel essentials. 

One of my favorite sections of their website is the “Things Not to Miss” section which highlights 10-20 can’t miss locations, destinations, attractions or food specialties for a specific location. These photos will make you want to visit all of the best charms. The top attractions in Bolivia include the following: Madidi National Park, Salar de Uyuni, Tiwanaku, Potosi, folk music and dance, Oruro Carnival, La Paz, Eduardo Avaroa Reserve, La Paz’s Witches Market, biking the world’s most dangerous road, saltenas, the Inca Trail and a handful of other unique attractions.

Link to: Rough Guides

 

Tiwanaku Ruins Bolivia

Ruins at Tiwanaku 

 

Another great vacation planning website is lonely planet. Lonely planet is one of the original travel guidebook companies and offers a variety of content that is similar to Rough Guides and covers most major and minor cities and attractions in the world. One of the best features of the Lonely Planet website is the Thorn Tree forum section. The forums are overflowing with helpful information and common travel questions. I highly recommend browsing the lonely planet forums for packing tips, itinerary ideas, visa questions, local transportation questions, hostel or hotel recommendations or anything else that you can think of. If the forum doesn’t have an answer for your specific question already, feel free to ask your own questions. The travel community is all about sharing helpful tips and information. Someone will most likely provide more than adequate advice to answer your post questions.

Link to: Lonely Planet

For personal travel accounts of certain cities, be sure to check out travel blogs. A few of my favorite travel blogs with South America highlights include:

Wandering Trader - A blog operated by Marcello Arrambide who is a stock trader living abroad in over 80 countries in the past 5 years. This blog has a lot of great travel tips and the bloggers story is very interesting as well. 

Nomadic Samuel- A backpacker blog with a lot of great content in South America and Asia. 

 

We are always here to help plan your next vacation to Bolivia! Please do not hesitate to ask us questions about your upcoming trip.

For more travel tips, download our travel guide:

 

Bolivia Travel Guide

 

 

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