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Bolivia Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT -4.

Electricity

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

Language

Spanish is the official language, but only 60 to 70% of the people actually speak it, and then often only as a second language. The other main languages are Quechua and Aymar.

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, those with heart complaints or chest problems, who should seek advice before travelling to Bolivia. Take Acetazolamide (Diamox) or drink coca tea to alleviate symptoms. A yellow fever vaccination is strongly 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. 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. Medical insurance is strongly recommended.

Tipping

A service charge is normally added to restaurant and hotel bills but it is customary to add a 5 to 10% tip. Hotel porters also expect a small tip. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped unless they are hired for a full day, in which case 10% is acceptable.

Safety Information

Street protests and strikes often affect La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz as well as the regions of the Central Highlands (Altiplano) and the Yungus. Main tourist centres may be affected and visitors should keep up to date with current conditions. Strikes also often disrupt transport to and from the international airport in La Paz and to the regions. Travellers should avoid demonstrations and not attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks, and monitor the local media. Due to operational difficulties being experienced by national airline LAB, air travel in Bolivia can be disrupted and flights have been cancelled.

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. Penalties for drug possession are extremely severe and visitors should be vigilant with luggage and any belongings. Criminals posing as police officers and taxi drivers are targeting foreign tourists; there have been increasing incidents of robberies of this nature and visitors are warned to be cautious at all times. Violent attacks have occurred recently in Copacabana, especially targeting those travelling overland between Peru and Bolivia. Months of heavy rainfall are usually responsible for flooding and mudslides throughout the country, which can severely affect transport; the rainy season is usually from November to March.

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 and fairly unstructured; deadlines are not important. Business people are expected to wear suits. Meetings begin and end with handshakes, although 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 the surname. Business cards should also include any academic qualifications, and should have one side translated into Spanish; most business is conducted in Spanish and materials will need to be translated into Spanish. Women are considered insubordinate in the workplace and visiting businesswomen should ensure to 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 (e.g. (010)2 for Entel, or (013)2 for Boliviatel). Mobile phones operate on a GSM network. Internet cafes are widely available in La Paz and other 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: 100 cigarettes, 25 cigars and 200 grams of tobacco, 1 bottle of alcoholic beverage and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use. Technology such as cameras, laptops and cellphones are limited to one per person for personal use. Newly purchased goods to the value of US$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.

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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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