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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

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

Travel Health

Altitude sickness is the most common complaint in Bolivia, with much of the country lying above 10,000 feet (3,050m). Yellow fever vaccinations are advised as outbreaks do occur, particularly after flooding, and it's a requirement for those entering from infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country, as is dengue fever. It's best to only drink bottled water, and avoid undercooked meat and unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended as medical facilities are generally not of a high standard.

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

Bolivia is generally a safe destination, though visitors should be vigilant at all times. Pick-pocketing takes place on buses and in crowded areas. Travellers should avoid unlicensed guides and stay away from political demonstrations. Floods and mudslides from heavy rainfall may also strongly affect transport.

Local Customs

In conversation, rural Bolivians should be referred to as campesinos rather than Indians, as the later is seen as offensive. 'Machismo' is very much alive and husband and wife roles within the family are very traditional. Homosexuality is frowned upon, particularly in the Altiplano. Formal occasions call for a suit and tie for men, while women should wear dresses. It's also expected to call those older than you 'Señor' and 'Señora' as a polite sign of respect.

Business

Relationship building is important is Bolivia, so getting down to business might take some time. Foreigners should remember not to rush things. Negotiations are generally quite slow, and face-to-face communication is preferred over phone calls or written communications. For these reasons, foreigners should be prepared to make many trips before reaching an agreement. Punctuality is expected, even if the meeting doesn't start on time, and schedules are often just a guideline. Consequently, meetings are fairly unstructured and deadlines are often unimportant.

Business people are expected to wear suits. Meetings begin and end with handshakes, with custom demanding that men wait for women to extend a hand first. It's important to include a person's professional title in the greeting if applicable. Otherwise, it's polite to use Señor (Mr) or Señora (Mrs) with a 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. Mobile phones operate on a GSM network, with providers including Entel Movil, Tigo and Viva, while internet usage by the general population is on rise.

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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