1. When is the best time to go to Bolivia?
Travelers can visit Bolivia any time of the year. Since much of Bolivia is located on the Altiplano, above 10,000 ft elevation, weather is particularly impacted by elevation. In the highlands, dry season runs from May to October and this is typically the time that most travelers visit. However, this is also the cooler time of year. Night time temperatures that can be cold any time of year can drop well below freezing at the height of the dry season in June, July and August. Shoulder seasons, April to June or September to November, will have slightly warmer temperatures and still tend to have limited rains so these can be a nice time to go as well. The salt desert can flood from December to March so we do not usually run our highlands tours during this time.
In the Amazon, temperatures are typically much warmer (80s-90s) year round, though frosts are not unheard of. These lowland areas also have a "dry" and "wet" season that follows the same months as the highlands. However, the dry season experiences regular showers and the wet season has periods of sunshine so nothing is absolute. Flights to the Amazon are more unpredictable during the wet season, so be sure to include an extra day in your itinerary in case of flight delays if you are traveling during this time.
2. What are the accommodations like?
In Bolivia, we have selected a variety of charming accommodations including traditional haciendas, rustic jungle lodges, simple desert dormitories, and comfortable city hotels with all of the modern conveniences. In general, we use small, family-run accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of each area instead of luxury chain resorts. For more information, check out our Bolivia Lodging
page to view pictures of our standard hotels/ lodges.
3. Are meals included?
Yes and no. We have tried to balance flexibility and convenience regarding meal options. For this reason, we include meals on any of our tour days when you are traveling off the beaten path where restaurant choices are limited. In the major towns, where there are a wide variety of restaurants, we generally do not include meals, to allow our travelers the flexibility of choosing their own food preferences. Your tour leader or hotel staff can recommend some great restaurant options. Your hotel will also provide a light continental breakfast on these days. Included meals are listed in parenthesis next to the tour itinerary on each tour page. An estimated meal budget can also be found under Personal Budgeting to the right of the itinerary on the tour pages.
4. What are the tour leaders like?
All of our tour leaders are exceptional! They are fluent in English and Spanish. Our tour leaders are from the local areas where they guide and are among the very best guides available in each region. All of our tour leaders treat our travelers like friends, showing visitors both the major highlights and the local treasures.
5. What type of transportation is used?
Our Bolivia tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans/ cars, comfortable tourist buses, flights, canoes, etc. We use a mix of private/ public transportation to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
6. What type of food is typical of Bolivia?
Staple foods in the highlands include potatoes, corn, rice, and meat dishes, often with a spicy sauce. In jungle areas, fresh fruits, fried plantains, and other vegetables are also common. Though vegetarians can be easily accommodated in all areas, options typically leave out the meat rather than adding vegetarian mainstays such as tofu, beans, or nuts.
7. Are these trips suitable for kids?
It depends. We recommend a minimum age of 12 on our Bolivian tours only because they are especially remote. Bolivia tends to attract fairly adventurous travelers and unless your kids have had substantial international travel experience in the past, the ruggedness of the climate, long transfers, and lack of electricity at some accommodations may be overwhelming.
For teens, Bolivia can provide an incredible experience with dramatic landscape formations, authentic cultural traditions, and lively colonial towns. Our Family Travel Page
has some helpful hints for making the most of your family vacation. We realize that you know your kids best so we will be happy to answer all of your questions and try to give you the most accurate impression of what to expect. However, please remember that these are adventure tours and flexibility is essential!
8. What is a typical group like on the Bolivia tours?
Since Bolivia is a relatively undiscovered destination, groups tend to be very small. These tours are a great choice for travelers seeking to get off the beaten path and travel in an area without a lot of other tourists. We run our tours with a minimum of two travelers so you may end up with a private guide for your chosen departure.
9. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Yes and no. As noted above, our Bolivian tours tend to attract very small groups so they are not the best options for solo travelers hoping to meet a diverse group of other travelers. Some departure dates may not be available, as they do not have the minimum number of travelers to depart. The Chalalan Lodge Amazon tour typically attracts travelers year round so this is the easiest tour to match up a solo traveler, especially if your travel dates are a little flexible.
10. Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in South America flights.
11. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?
We can arrange an airport transfer for you or you can take a local taxi. There is a transportation desk inside the airport that can help you arrange an official taxi when you arrive if desired.
12. How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary in Latin America to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, though some travelers report that ~$2-$10/ day for your guide and ~$1-$3/ day for your driver is common. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.
13. Are there any discounts available?
We offer select trip discounts periodically throughout the year. Check out our Travel Discounts
page for the latest offers and on-going discounts.
14. How far in advance should I book?
You can book your Bolivia tour at any time. Since Bolivia is relatively undiscovered, availability is often better for these tours than many of our other destinations. Even last minute bookings can often be accommodated! We usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that you book your tour, the sooner you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available.
15. Are tour dates flexible?
Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates listed on-line. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers as long as lodges/ hotels are available.
16. Can I extend or change my stay?
We can arrange an extension to Lake Titicaca, extra time in La Paz, a visit to the Tiahuanaco ruins, etc. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
17. What should I pack?
You will receive a detailed packing list after you book your tour. Expect varied weather in any area, particularly on the highlands tour. Pack plenty of layers and a sleeping bag for this tour. In the Amazon, expect bring comfortable, breathable clothes for hot days. Good walking shoes and sun protection are also a must for all Bolivia tours. At high elevation, it takes very little time to get a serious sunburn!
18. How concerned should I be about the altitude?
Altitude affects each traveler differently and until you have visited an area with high altitude, it is impossible to predict how your body will react. Commonly, our travelers report mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, or light-headedness during their first day or two at elevation.
Severe altitude sickness is rare. In this case, the best treatment is to go down in elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated to low altitude. Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. It is important to ask your doctor whether or not travel to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about prescription Diamox, a diuretic that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude more readily.
19. How safe is Bolivia?
Political demonstrations, strikes, and roadblocks occur with some frequency in Bolivia. Travelers should avoid these gatherings if possible. Petty theft is also common in busy tourist areas such as airports, markets, and other tourist sites so be aware of your valuables and don't leave them unattended. Your tour leader is from the local area and is an excellent source of information and advice. Check out the US State Department travel advisories for the latest information at: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
20. Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Bolivia. Bottled water is readily available for purchase at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. Don't forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well! Ice is not always made with boiled/ bottled water. Order your beverages without ice ("sin hielo") or ask your tour leader if the ice is safe in a particular restaurant.
21. Can I use US dollars, or do I need local currency? What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
Most restaurants, markets, and other service providers readily accept US dollars. They will generally give you change in local currency. The local currency is the Boliviano. Check out a Currency Converter like, http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/
, for the latest exchange rates.
22. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?
Most travelers bring a small amount of US cash with them and withdraw from ATMs as they need it along they way. ATMs are readily available in the larger towns and cities. Travelers can withdraw US dollars or local currency at fair exchange rates. Traveler's checks are fine, but they can be more difficult to exchange and you will usually receive a poorer rate or be charged an additional fee. Credit cards are accepted only in the larger restaurants and stores. Although it is helpful to bring a credit card along for emergencies, don't count on using it for most purchases.
23. Can I use my cell phone?
Check with your cell phone provider. Each company is different and they can give you the most up-to-date information.
24. Do I need a visa/passport?
All visitors must have a valid passport to enter Bolivia and proof of onward passage. We recommend checking all travelers' passports as soon as possible. Make sure passports are current. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your departure date.
The Bolivian government has announced that effective December 1, 2007, U.S. citizens seeking to enter Bolivia as tourists must first obtain an entry visa. Please contact the Bolivian Embassy in Washington or your nearest Bolivian consulate (see http://www.bolivia-usa.org/index.php?lang=en
). The phone number for the Bolivian Embassy in Washington, D.C. is (202) 232-4827 or (202) 232-4828. Entry requirements in Latin America change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler's responsibility to check with the consulate in your country for the most up-to-date visa and passport information.
25. What immunizations are recommended/ required?
A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers to the Bolivian Amazon and the region of Santa Cruz. This vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in Bolivia. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. However, those who are only visiting the Andean highlands in the eastern part of Bolivia do not need this vaccination. The vaccine is required for any travelers entering Bolivia from a country with a perceived risk (Peru is not considered a country with a risk). Please note that some countries, such as Costa Rica, require a yellow fever vaccination if traveling directly from Bolivia. Please check with the Center for Disease Control
for information for your onward travel from Bolivia.
26. What time zone is Bolivia?
Bolivia is four hours behind GMT (one hour ahead of EST). They do not observe daylight-savings time so during these months (April-October), Bolivia is on EST.
27. Do I need a converter/ adapter for the electricity?
Bolivia uses 220 volt, 50 cycle electricity in most locations (110 volt, 50 cycle in La Paz and a few other areas). Travelers will usually require a voltage converter for 110 volt devices. Ask the hotel to be sure of the voltage. Plugs are either the 2 pronged flat type found in the US or the 2 round prongs, bring an adapter just in case.
28. Is travel insurance recommended?
We work with a company called TravelGuard that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. They have two different types of insurance available, depending upon whether or not you will need the cancellation coverage. Check out our Once You're Booked
page for more information.