Tips and recommendations
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a) When arriving to the high-altitude, it is strongly recommended, to take it easy on the first day and avoid physical activity. Also, upon arriving, try drinking coca tea, which will help with the altitude sickness.
b) Banks are open Monday to Fridays, from 9:00 to 16:00. The official currency is the boliviano. It comes in: coins of (10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2, 5 Bolivianos coins); bills of (10, 20, 50, 100, 200 Bolivianos). There are many false bills in Bolivia, but by following these simple measures you won’t have any problems. Check the bill’s watermark, see if there is a silver line on the bill, the bill’s texture, that the small writing is readable and the bill’s condition is a good condition, not torn, etc.
c) Whenever possible, always begin the conversation with the Bolivians, first in Spanish. They will appreciate your effort. Generally, young adults speak some English but the older ones may not understand. In rural areas, almost nobody speaks English and in some areas, little no Spanish is spoken.
d) When trying to exchange money, look for an official place, as it offers the best rate. Many of the money exchangers on the street give a bad rate and they are known for stealing.
e) Never accept from a stranger any type of packages, envelopes or items even if they seem to be nice. Constantly, be alert when moving through areas with a high concentration of people, as pick pocketing is common, even in areas where there are police and tourist information booths.
f) There are no rules about tipping in Bolivia. Generally, if you are pleased with the service received, it is acceptable to show your appreciation, by a small monetary gift.
g) It is possible to drive in Bolivia; you can use your country’s valid driver license during the time of your tourist visa.
h) If you are in a road protest or blockade, try and keep calm. Normally, these types of blockades are inoffensive; their only purpose is to delay people’s arrival to their destination. It is wise to avoid getting too close to those protesting.
Bolivia is without hesitation one of South America’s safest countries, but occasionally there are peaceful protests, strikes, blockades and demonstrations. It is wise to avoid these, as they can quickly turn violent.
It’s important to be aware of bus stations and most crowded public places, tourist areas and isolated areas, especially during the night. Here are some recommendations to avoid having trouble.
Fake police officers: These are criminals who uses false badges, they will ask for your passport and tell you that you need to get into a taxi with them and go to the headquarters. Don’t go.
Thieves: You have to take care of your belongings, especially your electronics devices and wallet, take care whenever you’re leaving banks or money exchange places.
Pills: Do not accept any drink or food from strangers, some criminals uses pills or powders to get you to fall asleep and then steal your things.
Human-trafficking: If you travel with kids, you have to have special care of them in bus stations and markets. These places are usual spots used by the type of criminals who take advantage of chaos for kidnapping children.
Robbery: You need to avoid places unknown, empty, unlighted or where alcohol is being sold or consumed, since around these places criminals are waiting to attack.
Lost items: Carry money and identifications separately in order to avoid losing it all, and it’s also good to have a photocopy of your visa and your passport. Making a road trip, or while having a taxi ride, it’s better to carry with your person things you consider valuable, than putting them in the back of the car. Also don’t leave money or jewelry in lodgings. Finally, in every moment you should carry your ID and also to have knowledge of your hotel, travel agency and consulate or embassy`s addresses and phone numbers.
Having local meals in Bolivia is a wonderful experience. However, you have to be aware to go to only recommend restaurants. Unless you have a very strong stomach, eating on the street may not be so gratifying. In fact you should only have cooked food and drink only bottled water. The most common sickness among tourist in Bolivia is diarrhea caused by contaminated water or food. If symptoms are more than 2 days, you should go find medical attention.
Before travelling to Bolivia, make sure you are in good health. It’s a good idea to get a medical check before leaving your country, to get all the vaccines needed and also having a good international health insurance. A traveler who is going abroad with an illness must carry a letter describing all treatments and prescription medications.
In the eastern part of the country, you must spray mosquito repellent on your skin and clothes. With regard to the clothing, you have to wear long sleeves and pants within the boots.
It’s highly recommended to use a mosquito net over your bed, particularly in the nights and also check the nets on windows and doors; they have to be well placed. In rainy season (November to April) it’s important to keep yourself informed about any break out of dengue fever in Bolivia.
In western Bolivia, the Andes Mountain Range is located, which is mostly free from insects. To prevent altitude sickness (locally known as “sorojchi pill” can be purchased )at all pharmacies. As well, the UV radiation is stronger due to high altitude, which increases the risk of getting sun burned.
WEATHER IN BOLIVIA
Summer time (November to April) is rainy season, road transport could be slightly more difficult, in some regions might be impossible. The best time to explore all the country is during winter (May to October). Both cities with extreme weather are unbearably hot such as, Puerto Suarez, plus windy and freezing Uyuni, but weather may change dramatically at any time and place.
Valleys have great weather during the whole year with little rain. High tourist season is from June to September, which equals with summer vacation in Europe and North America. This could be an advantage if you are looking for a cheap holiday, even if prices are slightly more elevated in comparison to the rest of the year.
HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS IN BOLIVIA
Money: Bolivian currency is the Boliviano. The exchange rate is 1 USD = 6, 96 Bs. It is wise is to carry both cash and credit card.
Electronics: The voltage in most Bolivian cities is 220V; however, in many rural areas is 110 V.
Internet: Easiest way to be online is to go to a “cybercafé” also called “café Internet”. All hotels have a business center with high-speed Internet access also Wi-Fi.
Cellphones: mobiles signals are strong in all cities but they may be poor on rural areas. Check your provider’s roaming services abroad if available in Bolivia if you’re planning to bring and use your cellphone here. Mobiles with GSM technology and others, usually works in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. If you have a cellphone with SIM card slot, it’s possible to buy a SIM Card in Bolivia at one of the many cellphone companies.
Altitude or Mountain sickness (Sorojchi)
Even if you don’t feel any different when exceeding 1,200 miles above sea level, it is always a good idea to be aware of the first symptoms, because they can become a threat to your health or a hospitalization. Altitude sickness symptoms are headache, dyspnea or difficulty on breathing and anorexia or lack of appetite, nausea, stomach -ache, weakness, fatigue and dizziness. To avoid major problems, you must follow these advices:
Take it easy on the first day, especially first 12 hours. Physical activities must be taken easily, this is more important for adults.
Don’t drink too much, in the altitude; there is an increase of tendency to fluid retention, giving more chances to pulmonary edema.
Eat just what you really need.
Avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Many hotels and some travel agencies in Bolivia, offer oxygen tanks to anybody having a hard time in the altitude or having a serious headache. If symptoms get worse, look for medical attention.
You have good health services in the larger cities, but in rural areas there aren’t too many recommendable options. In fact, medical services in rural zones may be deficient or inexistent. It’s possible to find a bilingual doctor in La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre and Santa Cruz. Also, drugstores in Bolivia are easy to find even in small towns, but not every one of them opens 24 hours a day. Standard drugs are always available, but labels and instructions may be in Spanish.
If your health insurance does not cover all costs abroad, it’s very important to consider getting a complementary health insurance. Find out in advance if your health insurance plan pays directly to the providers or get you a reimbursement of the expenses. You should know that in almost none medical service institution credit cards are accepted.
Here are answers to questions you might have been asking:
- As a foreigner, what kind of visa can I get for Bolivia?
- Transitory Stay for determined reason (tourism or visit), Studies, Work, Health, Family and transit.
- Temporary Stay: Studies; Work; Health; Family and Humanitarian aid.
- Permanent Residency Visa
- How can I get my migratory registration done?
Entering the country you have to fill out the form at the Andean Migratory Card, and you have to keep the bottom of the card with the official stamp, at the time you will leave the country you must hand over this paper.
- What should I do in order to apply for a Temporary Stay?
- If you belong to one of South American countries of Group 1 you should show up in any Migratory Office in the country and begin the process.
- If you belong to Group 2 or Group 3 you have to go to the Consular Visa after the compliance of requirements given by the authority in order to obtain a Temporary Stay. More information: www.migracion.gob.bo
- It is required to have any previous authorization to enter into Bolivian territory, if not for tourism?
According to the kind of –non touristic- activity you are going to make in Bolivia, you may apply for different types of Visa at the Bolivian embassy or consulate in your country of residence. If there is no Bolivian diplomatic representation in your country you may apply for a Visa in a neighboring country that represents your country.
- What are my rights as a foreign worker living legally in this country?
Bolivian legal provisions don’t distinguish between Bolivian workers and foreign workers; therefore, you have the same rights and obligations as any Bolivian worker.
- How much time do I have to reside in Bolivia to apply for Permanent Residency?
You have to have been in Bolivia at least three years. The Permanent Residency may be extended for spouse, son or daughter and also parents, even if they haven’t been residing for the required three years.
- How can I lose my Transitory or Temporal Stays, and Permanent Residency?
Migration authorities have the capability to cancel or abolish any kind of stay whenever you commit to any cause described on the Article 35, of Nº 370 Law of Migration.
- What if my time as a legal tourist in Bolivia expires?
You may show up in any migratory office in the country to regularize your migratory condition. There is a daily fine for this irregular stay.
- I have lost my Passport, what should i do?
First, you have to report this situation to the Tourist Police. I f you’ve been robbed, you should go to the police`s criminal department: Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Crimen – FELCC.
After, you have to process at your consulate or embassy, any provisional Passport or safe-conduct that demonstrates your identity as a foreigner.
Finally you have to present yourself at any migratory office in the country.