A fascinating country both geographically and culturally, with a wealth of outdoor adventures, but don't go there primarily for the skiing.
- 1 Climate
- 2 Getting There
- 3 Cultural Info
- 4 Health and Safety
- 5 Resources
Two main climatic zones. The altiplano is a high, cold, arid region where most of the population live. Down to the eastern side of the Andes lies hot steamy dense tropical rainforest and pampas wetlands.
Thre is a small ski area called Chacaltaya. Its snowfield is small and shrinking. Tourists only go there to say they have skied at the highest ski area in the world.
Fly to Santiago (Chile) or Buenos Aires (Argentina) and get connecting international flight to La Paz, Bolivia, from there.
Visas and Documentation
Arriving at El Alto airport (4000m above sea level) will literally take your breath away - and the views are spectacular also. It is one of the few places where the plane actually DE-pressurises and your ears pop when the doors open on the tarmac. Taxi to the city should cost less than US$10 for a couple of people plus luggage. Ask to be taken to Calle Sagarnaga ("CAR-yay sa-GAR-naga") which is the main tourist street with lots of cheap hotels. No need to book ahead, there will be rooms available somewhere.
Customs and Quarantine
The people are mostly of Aymara stock, the native Andean people. They are tough, rugged people and reserved towards foreigners, but courteous and rarely threatening. Making it clear you are not from the USA is usually a good starting point in any conversation. Few people speak much English. A basic knowledge of spanish is very helpful and will not only make your trip more fun, it will make it more safe. Remember Spainish is the second language of most of the native people who still speak their native tongue at home.
July 16 is the regional holiday of the La Paz province. This day tends to be the focus for demonstrations and protest road blocks. This is always an internal matter and tourists are not under any threat, despite the sometimes alarming scenes you may see outside your hotel. Keep a low profile though, and do not expect to travel anywhere on the bus system until things calm down (as it always does).
Bus links between major cities usually go smoothly. Buses to smaller towns are an experience where you need patience and a sense of humour.
Food and Drink
Food is pretty bland. Nothing to write home about. Coca leaf is a local tradition, either chewing it as per the locals, or in a tea infusion which is more palatable to tourists. It is said to help altitude sickness.
Technology and Networks
Internet cafes sprout everywhere it seems, even in the jungle.
Money / Credit Cards
The local currency is the Boliviano. Bring a good supply of small denomination US cash (i.e. $1 and $5 greenbacks). To cash a travellers cheque is a lengthy process involving long queues at a central bank, and only on certain days. It is rare to be able to use a credit card to charge things as you can at home. But you can put your credit card into positive balance before leaving home, and get local cash out of ATM's in La Paz and other big cities.
Up to you.
Health and Safety
Remember altitude sickness. Take it easy in La Paz for a few days after arrival. Do not go higher until you are well adjusted. Get hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations before departure. Also make sure tetanus is up to date. Yellow fever is only a health risk if you are going into the jungle. But even if you do not go to the jungle, you need to have had the vaccine in order to re-enter Australia, so that makes it pretty much compulsory. Sort this out well before departure. Malaria is only an issue down in the Amazon jungle. Talk to a doctor about this if planning a trip down there. Do not drink the tap water. Boil all drinking water, or drink commercial bottled water only.
There are English speaking doctors in lower La Paz. The Australian consulate may be able to help you. Make sure you have travel medical insurance.
- Information source: Wikipedia
- Information source: Template:Source skicomau
- Travel Warnings : Smart Traveller
- Bolivia Travel Guide : Gotolatin.com
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