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Bolivia Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT -4.

Electricity

220-230 volts, and 50-60Hz. US flat-bladed, two-pin plugs and two-pin plugs with round grounding are used.

Language

Spanish is an official language, but only 60 to 70 percent of the people actually speak it, and then often only as a second language. There are also many indigenous languages which are official, such as Quechua and Aymara.

Travel Health

Altitude sickness is the most common complaint in Bolivia, with much of the country lying above 10,000 feet (3,050m). This is particularly relevant to diabetics and those with heart complaints or chest problems, who should seek advice before travelling to Bolivia. Take Acetazolamide (Diamox) or drink coca tea or beer to alleviate symptoms.

The usual list of health precautions goes for Bolivia. Yellow fever vaccination is advised, as outbreaks do occur, particularly after flooding, and it is a requirement for those entering from infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country, and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and a vaccination for typhoid should be considered if travelling to rural areas.

Additionally, sanitation and hygiene are poor in some areas so be wary of what is eaten: avoid under-cooked meat and unpeeled fruit and vegetables, and only drink bottled water. Comprehensive medical insurance is strongly recommended as medical facilities are generally not of a high standard in Bolivia.

Tipping

A service charge is typically added to restaurant and hotel bills in Bolivia, but it is customary to add a five to 10 percent tip for good service over and above this charge. Porters at hotels expect small tips and drivers are only tipped if hired for a full day.

Safety Information

Street protests and strikes often affect La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz as well as regions of the Central Highlands (Altiplano) and the Yungus. Main tourist centres may be affected and visitors should keep informed about the political climate. Strikes also often disrupt transport to and from the international airport in La Paz and along other main roads. Travellers should avoid demonstrations and not attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks, and monitor the local media.

Although Bolivia is generally a safe country, visitors should still be vigilant at all times. Pick-pocketing on buses or in crowded areas is common and baggage theft occurs at stations. Many thieves work in teams to distract their victims. Female tourists should avoid taking jungle and pampas tours on their own and always avoid unlicensed guides. Express kidnappings are also on the increase and travellers should be vigilant at all times.

Additionally, months of heavy rainfall are usually responsible for flooding and mudslides throughout the country, which can severely affect transport.

Local Customs

In conversation rural Bolivians should be referred to as campesinos (subsistence farmers) rather than Indians. 'Machismo' is very much alive and husband and wife roles within the family are very traditional. Homosexuality is frowned upon, particularly in the Altiplano.

Business

Relationship building in Bolivia is important and getting down to business might take some time, so do not rush things. Negotiations are generally quite slow, and face-to-face communication is preferred over phone calls or written communications. Therefore, be prepared to make many trips before a deal can be made. Punctuality is expected, even if the meeting doesn't start on time, and schedules are often just a guideline - as a result, meetings are fairly unstructured and deadlines are not generally considered important.

Business people are expected to wear suits. Meetings begin and end with handshakes, although one should wait for a woman to extend her hand first. It is important to include a person's professional title in the greeting if applicable, otherwise use Señor (Mr) or Señora (Mrs) with their surname. Business cards should also include any academic qualifications, and should have one side translated into Spanish.

Unfortunately, women are generally considered subordinate in the workplace and visiting businesswomen should emphasise their qualifications and work experience. Office hours are generally 8:30am to 6:30pm, Monday to Friday, with a long break over lunch.

Communications

The international access code for Bolivia is +591. The outgoing code depends on what network is used (e.g. 0010 for Entel, or 0013 for Boliviatel), which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for La Paz is 2, but the access code to make a call within the country from another area also depends on what network is used.

Mobile phones operate on a GSM network, and internet cafés are widely available in La Paz and other major tourist areas.

Duty Free

Travellers to Bolivia over the age of 18 years can bring the following items into the country without incurring customs duty: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 500 grams of tobacco, 3 litres of alcohol and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.

Newly purchased goods to the value of $1,000 per person are also duty free. Travellers departing from the country should note that it is illegal to leave with the following items without prior written permission from the appropriate local authority: pre-Colombian artefacts, historical paintings, items of Spanish colonial architecture and history, and native textiles.

Become our Bolivia Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Bolivia travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Bolivia or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

G.A.P. Adventures

Tour operator G.A.P Adventures has for the past 14 years specialised in unique, small group, grassroots adventure travel experiences in the world's most wild places, going off the beaten track into the heart of the destination to meet the locals who call it home. G.A.P. Adventures offers several expeditions to the Bolivian Amazon and Andes.

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Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel, one of the world's leading suppliers of small group adventures, focuses on getting off the beaten track, interacting with the locals and having real life experiences throughout Bolivia.

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