Everything you need to know about Carnival en Bolivia

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bjaglin via Wikimedia Commons

Every year around February-early March comes Carnival. A festive Christian tradition which takes place the days leading to Lent. Carnival is celebrated around the world with parades and public celebrations. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous parties around the world but Carnival is celebrated in most Christian and Orthodox countries with each its own traditions. Here in Bolivia, Carnival comes with its own set of customs and is well worth the visit.

The best place to enjoy Bolivia’s carnival season is in Oruro. Located in western Bolivia, 230 km south of La Paz, this small mining town is fairly quiet the rest of the year but turns into one of the largest and most visited places in South America. This year, Carnival of Oruro will take place between Saturday 2 March and Tuesday 5 March. The Oruro Carnival takes place over four days from Saturday to Tuesday, with the main celebrations taking place Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday is the Great Pilgrimage to the Socavón and the Entry of the Corso is on Sunday.

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Rotcivrosas via Wikimedia Commons

The main dance performed, originally from Oruro, is the Diablada – the dance of the devil – which is performed alongside other traditional Bolivian dances including morenadas, caporales and tinkus. The parade runs from morning until late at night, until Shrove Tuesday. Over 50 parade groups dance, sing, and play music over a four kilometer-long course. The Carnival parade passes through the Plaza 10 de Febrero square. At the different sectors there are stands where you can get a seat after paying a fee.

The 2019 Carnival procession in Oruro will start on Bolívar Street, maintaining the route of the previous years: Calle Pagador, Aroma until 6 de Agosto, Calle Bolívar, and then will continue to La Plata, Adolfo Mier and Presidente Montes, Bolívar to La Petot, Adolfo Mier, Avenida Civica “Sanjinés Vincentti”, Junín and finally culminating at the Socavón Sanctuary. The procession finishes inside the Socavon cathedral in the center of town.

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Abcletras via Wikimedia Commons

Oruro’s carnival was declared in 2001 “Masterpieces of Oral Heritage and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO and attracts more than 400,000 people each year, involving 30,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians. The city of Oruro receives almost twice the number of inhabitants come for Carnival. For this reason, it is highly recommended to reserve the accommodation with months, if not a year, in advance. During these days the hotel occupancy reaches 100%. It is also possible to sleep in rooms rented by local families. The prices of any accommodation during the carnival is a lot higher than during the rest of the year and you may have to share accommodation.

In the rest of the country, celebrations are held involving traditional dances and water wars. Prepare yourself for being randomly targeted (or not so randomly if you are a foreigner) and being attacked with water balloons and water guns. This tradition started over a century ago when people started filling eggs with water and throwing them at other people in weirdly violent displays of fun. The warmer the weather, the more popular are these games, and nowadays, cities like Sucre and Cochabamba turn into full-on water wars. La Paz and Oruro are not excluded from the fun despite the colder weather. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, on the east side of the country, tropical weather allows a Brazilian-type Carnival, with Comparsas dancing traditional songs in matching uniforms.

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Viviana Rishe via Unsplash

How to get there

Carnival can be experienced all around Bolivia, and wherever you are, you will have the opportunity to watch dancing parades and to be attacked by strangers with water balloons, but if you are looking to experience the frenzy and overindulgence of Oruro’s carnival, there are many ways to get there.

Most cities will have direct buses to Oruro. La Paz to Oruro is a 3.5 hour long journey. You can also take the train from Uyuni. The train leaves on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

There is another option for this year’s celebration. Ferroviaria Andina announced that the ‘Tren Carnavalero) (Carnaval Train) will be made available this year and includes throughout the day (in the train and in Oruro):

  • Pick up from different locations throughout the city of La Paz and El Alto
  • Seats in Executive Class, with reclining seats, blankets and pillow
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Snacks
  • Open bar with beer, fernet, rhum, singani, vodka
  • Individual and covered seats to watch the parade in Oruro on Av. 6 de Agosto y Bolívar
  • Two of the wagons will be turned into a Discotheque
  • Security/Guides/First Aid/Cloakroom/Teas and coffee
  • 30 additional bathrooms
  • An exclusive fireworks show and the possibility of dancing with the ‘Diablada ferroviaria’

The train leaves from Viacha but the journey includes the transfer from La Paz and El Alto. Departure is on Friday 1st March at 11pm to arrive at 6am in Oruro. The train then leaves Oruro on the Sunday at 12am.

For more information and to book bus and train tickets, visit Tickets Bolivia.

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Everything You Need To Know About Alasitas

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Caleidoscopic – via Wikimedia Commons

Every year on 24th January starts the annual Alasitas festival which takes place in La Paz and lasts for a month displaying stalls covered in miniature versions of houses, money bills, cereal boxes, passports, iPhone, diplomas, and all the items one may aspire to acquire during the year.

Alasitas is a place where one can also look for love in the shape of a rooster or a hen. To ensure that you will find love during that year, the rooster/hen has to be given to you. You cannot purchase it yourself. The birds have come to represent love and they come in different colors, each representing something: black ones are for widowers, yellow (or gold) are for people looking for a rich partner, white ones represent purity and the red ones are more passionate. Some of them even have professions and different qualities depending on what you look in a partner.

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juhauski72 – via Wikimedia Commons

Everything purchased at the fair needs to be blessed by priests and then offered to the Ekeko, the Andean God of Abundance. He’s easily recognizable by the bags of goods he carries, the chullo (traditional hat) and the cigarettes he’s smoking.

Other traditional and typical items people purchase are golden toads which represent Pachamama (Mother Earth) and are meant to bring fortune and prosperity to your home. Suitcases filled with money are also popular implying that money won’t be missing and that there will be opportunities to travel during the year. Food is another common purchase people make, with miniature boxes of pasta, rice, quinoa and other staples that you can buy.

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lilapagola – via Wikimedia Commons

Alasitas is popular festival that mixes indigenous beliefs and Catholicism, tradition and modernity, illustrating perfectly Bolivia’s complexities and idiosyncrasies. On the first day of Alasitas, at around 12:00pm people gather in and around the churches to have their items blessed by the Catholic priests in a vibrant display of syncretism. And it’s also more than that; Alasitas is a fun, convivial place with food and games, enjoyable for the whole family, where one can also find hand-crafted and artisan goods. Make sure to go and try the plato paceño, a local specialty with corn, cheese, meet and fava beans, and the unmissable api con pastel, a purple-corn drink accompanied by a deep-fried cheese empanada.

Alasitas can be enjoyed throughout the city during 30days, especially on the first day but the fair is held in Parque Urbano in La Paz. The fair then moves to Santa Cruz in September, where it also stays for a month.

If you are travelling in Bolivia in January/February or September make sure not to miss the Alasitas fair. You can easily travel to La Paz and Santa Cruz and plan ahead your trip with Tickets Bolivia.

10 Essentials Items to Pack when Traveling to Bolivia

alien_atacama
Via Wikimedia Commons

Here is a guide on essential things to bring to Bolivia, whether you are traveling to La Paz or Santa Cruz; the altiplano or the jungle.

Warm clothes/Layers

Bringing layers is a must when traveling to Bolivia. Even during the summer months temperatures can be surprisingly chilly because of the rainy weather. Keep in mind that summer is the rainy season and winter the dry season. And in winter, temperatures go really low at night while it is deceptively warm during the day. Whatever the season, temperatures can change drastically throughout the day.

Some parts of the country are warmer but if you are traveling by bus, especially night buses, it can get very cold despite having a heating system. Most buses (semi lie-flat and lie-flat) have it but be aware that sometimes drivers might not put it on or it may not work. Temperatures get very low so be prepared!

The opposite is also true in the warmer parts of the country where it can get really hot. So if you are traveling to Santa Cruz from La Paz in bus, prepare layers as the weather will go from cold to hot during the journey.

Waterproof clothing

As mentioned above, the summer months (between November and March) are the rainy seasons, rains may make traveling difficult, if not impossible, and it can rain at any time, in any part of the country. You can carry an umbrella in the city, but if hiking, better to have waterproof clothing at any time, and layers. The rain can be unpredictable and be accompanied by a sudden change in temperature.

Altitude sickness medication

If landing in La Paz from sea level, or any place of lower altitude, it is essential to take some time to acclimatize. Especially considering that journeys to La Paz are often long and tiring, and accompanied with jet lag. It usually takes 2 or 3 days to acclimatize and longer if one plans to travel to a higher altitude and to hike.

The only way to help prevent altitude sickness is by taking Acetazolamide (Diamox) which is prescribed by your doctor and should be taken a few days before arriving. Altitude sickness varies depending on the individual and you may not need anything. Most of the time, that’s the case. But in case your time is limited or you have experienced altitude sickness before, do ask your doctor about it.

Vaccination card

You’ll need the Yellow Fever vaccination if you are traveling to Bolivia. You may not be asked to show it when entering the country but it may be asked at a later time, especially when trying to travel to other countries who request the yellow fever vaccination. Bolivia is listed as Yellow Fever high risk country, and without the certification, other countries may not let you in.

Plane tickets/proof of onward travel

When traveling to Bolivia you will have to show either a return ticket or a proof of onward travel. This may be asked if you need a visa to enter the country but it may also be asked by the migration officer when entering the country (some airlines may not let you board if you don’t have it). If you are unsure of your travel plans, you can always book online a bus ticket to Peru or Chile from La Paz, which can be amended or cancelled at a later time, depending on your plans.

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Lion Hirth from Wikimedia Commons

Sunglasses

This is absolutely essential especially if going to the Salar de Uyuni. Not wearing sunglasses on the salt flat might permanently damage the eye and it is better to bring your own.

Flashlight

In case the power goes off but it’s also helpful at night, while doing the Uyuni 3-day tour, the second night doesn’t usually have electricity during the night. Also in night buses it can be useful to have a source of light if you drop something in the bus.

Wet wipes

Not just in Bolivia, but these are always useful when traveling long journeys and for freshening up after overnight buses.

Toilet paper

Always carry toilet paper, but don’t forget to put it in the bin, not the toilet.

Books

The scenery is beautiful wherever you are traveling in Bolivia but long-distance buses can be very long, especially during the daytime so don’t hesitate to bring a book or your kindle, or to have podcasts ready. Bus journeys in journey can take up to 20 hours.

 

A Week In La Paz – 15 Things To Do In And Around The City

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La Paz, Bolivia, By Dan Lundberg via Wikimedia Commons

La Paz is often a city where travelers stop briefly coming from Macchu Pichu and heading to the Salar of Uyuni (or vice versa). A necessary stop, it’s can also be too short considering all the attractions the city and its surroundings have to offer. Here we’ll look at some of the popular activities and some of the less-known ones that one can do in and around the city of La Paz.

1 – Walk around the city – 1 to 2 days

La Paz is relatively easy to navigate by foot due to its size, most places can be walked to but the steep streets and altitude can make it hard to catch your breath. It is however, well worth it to see the city by foot and to get lost in winding alleyways and colonial streets. One of the most charming colonial streets in La Paz is Calle Jaen. The narrow cobblestone street has several colorful buildings dating back to the 18th century, and is home to many small museums, shops and restaurants. You can also walk to one of the many lookouts around the city: the Mirador Killi Killi and Mirador Laikakota are the most popular ones offering panoramic views of the city.

To get a real feel of the city and historic center, including its museums and lookouts, it’s good to count 2 days to explore the whole city while adjusting to the altitude.

2 – Mi Teleférico: La Paz’s Cable Car System – A couple of hours

For the best views of La Paz, and an original and more relaxing way to discover the city, hop on the teleférico. The cable car system is La Paz’s new transport system and counts now 8 lines with 2 more planned. Views are spectacular and give you an idea how never-ending and growing the city is.

To circle around the city in cable-car, count a couple of hours. You can also take the teleferico to El Alto in the blue line and see from above the second largest city in Bolivia.

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Death Road, By GilCahana via Wikimedia Commons

3 – Cycle Death Road – 1 day

One of the most popular activities for those spending some time in La Paz, and who are looking for a thrilling adventure, is the bike ride along what used to be one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The ride starts up in the mountain and takes you down into the Yungas, a semi-tropical area offering a vibrant contrast to the cold and snowy peaks.

Riding down the Death Road takes the whole day and can be strenuous. Make sure to book with a safe and reputable company.

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Tiwanaku

4 – Tiwanaku – 1 day

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Tiwanaku is an ancient archaeological site named after one of the most important civilizations prior to the Inca Empire. Tiwanaku is about 2 hours from La Paz and makes for a pleasant short day-trip crossing the Altiplano. You can book a bus to Tiwanaku with Tickets Bolivia or take a public transport from the General Cemetery.

5 – Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) – Half a day

The Moon Valley is just a short ride out of La Paz on the way to Mallasa. The landscape has  been formed as a result of erosion and has a surreal, unique feel. The walk around the rugged landscape can take up to an hour. You can reach Mallasa by public transport or taxi from the center of La Paz.

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Valle de la Luna, La Paz

6 – Huayna Potosi – 2 to 3 days

Huayna Potosi is the most popular mountain to climb in Bolivia, it is only 25 km north of La Paz in the Cordillera Real, and can be climbed by (acclimatized) beginners. The climb can be done in two or three days. The peak is at 6,088 meters above sea level.

It is highly recommendable to spend at least 3-6 days adjusting to the altitude in La Paz prior to climbing Huayna Potosi. People attempting the climb should also be healthy and physically fit. Whilst experience is not required to climb Huayna Potosi, underestimating the mountain by not properly acclimatizing or skipping the training day when you’re not an experienced climber, can not only prevent you from reaching the summit but can be life threatening.

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Walk up to Huayna Potosi, By Princiar, from Wikimedia Commons

7 – Cementerio General La Paz – 1 to 2 hours

Spread over the equivalent of 15 city blocks, the predominant sites are rows of individual concrete compartments, each set in structures over four stories high with building facades painted with colorful murals. For an authentic cultural experience visit on November 2, the Day of the Dead, when the whole city goes to the cemetery to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer around. Relatives organize parties, lunches, and family gatherings in front of their loved ones, and even play songs to the dead.

8 – El Alto – Half a day

One of the fastest growing cities in Bolivia and the second largest city in Bolivia, El Alto is popular for it’s open air market, the Feria 16 de Julio which takes place on Thursdays and Sundays. There you can find everything from furniture to clothes and car parts. You can easily access the feria by teleférico. On these days, you can also attend there a Cholita wrestling match.

9 – Watch a football match at Estadio Hernando Siles – A few hours

One of the highest professional stadiums in the world, Estadio Hernando Siles is worth a visit. Situated at an impressive altitude 3,637 meters above sea level, the premier football venue has a capacity of 41,143 seats. The best way to catch a game is to head to Estadio Hernando Siles on match day (Wednesdays at 7pm or Sundays at 3pm) and purchase a ticket. Nights get very cold and there is not much cover, so make sure to wear warm clothes and bring a waterproof jacket.

10 – Chacaltaya – Half a day

The glacier on Chacaltaya served as Bolivia’s only ski resort. It was the world’s highest lift-served ski area and the northernmost in South America. The mountain is also popular with amateur mountaineers, as the road stops only 200 meters from the summit.

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Chacaltaya, Via Wikimedia Commons

11 – Lake Titicaca – 2 to 3 days

The town of Copacabana, on the shore of Lake Titicaca, is only 3-4 hours away from La Paz and is an easy weekend trip. From Copacabana you can access the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. You can book a bus to and from Copacabana with Tickets Bolivia.

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View of Lake Titicaca

12 – Muela del Diablo – 4 to 8 hours

An iconic feature of the La Paz landscape, Muela del Diablo (or Devil’s Molar), situated at 3,852 meters above sea level, is a great tourist attraction ideal for hiking and soaking in spectacular views of La Paz and the valley.

The walk up to the Muela from the Pedregal neighborhood south of La Paz can take up to 2 hours, you can also access the Muela from Mallasa and Jupapina on the other side of the valley. If you do choose the later option be aware that it is a full day hike, taking around 6 hours to walk between Pedregal and Mallasa. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and sun/wind protection.

13 – Valle de las Animas/Palca Canyon – 1 day

Just a short distance to the east of the largest city of Bolivia La Paz is another natural wonder – the Palca canyon. Here you can admire the imposing rock towers and enjoy the stunning scenery and views of the Illimani.

You can access the valley with public transport from the city or organize a tour with a travel company. Entrance to the area is free and you can easily hike from the Valle de las Animas to the Palca Canyon in 2-3 hours.

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View from the Choro Trail, By Hmorisse , from Wikimedia Commons

14 – El Choro – 3 days

The pre-Columbian El Choro trek begins an hour outside of La Paz, at La Cumbre, and ends in the tropical Yungas. It’s a fairly easy trek, although you’ll want to refrain if you have knee problems. With a exception of some flat and steeply inclined segments, it’s mainly downhill, descending from 4,900 to 1,350 meters above sea level. It can be done in two or three days and you don’t have to book it through a travel agency.

15 – Takesi – 2 days

One of the most impressive Inca trails in the Andes, Takesi is a 40 kilometer road linking the vast Altiplano plateau with the sub-tropical Yungas. Used by the Incas as a communication and transport link, Takesi remains one of the finest remaining paved roads in the region. Starting in the town of Ventilla at a height of 3,200 meters, the road rises to 4,640 meters before descending to 2,200 meters. One of the easiest Inca treks in Bolivia, the Takesi trail, while still demanding, is mostly downhill, and can be done in 2 days.

Getting Around: How to Travel in Bolivia

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By Bus

The most popular and easy way of traveling in Bolivia is by bus. Because of the country’s size and road conditions it can take over 7 hours to do less than 400 kilometers. Tickets can be purchased the very same day directly at the bus terminal but for travelers coming from abroad and trying to plan ahead their journey, it is now possible to book in advance online bus tickets with Tickets Bolivia.

Traveling in Bolivia is generally safe but can be quite unreliable, especially during the rainy season and public holidays. Some buses are not necessarily well-maintained, causing discomfort, breakdowns and delays and there are reports of drunk drivers. For this reason it is essential to travel with the safest and most reliable bus companies.

Also when booking a bus, travelers will have a choice of seats: Bus normal, Bus Semi-Cama or Bus Cama (sometimes referred to as Bus Leito). Normal buses don’t usually have toilets on boards and don’t really offer much leg space. Semi-Cama buses usually recline up to 140°, have 4 rows of seats, heating but not necessarily toilets. Cama buses should recline up to 170°, have 3 rows of seats, toilets on board, heating and AC.

It’s also important to know that roadblocks, marches, protests and special days can affect your journey. Roadblocks can last a few hours but sometimes it can last up to a few days. In these cases there is not much the bus driver can do, and one must just be patient if no other alternative is provided.

TIPS

  • Always bring layers. The best bus companies usually have blankets for passengers, but temperatures in the Bolivian altiplano can be very cold, especially in July-August, and, if the heating doesn’t work, it can go as low as -15°C at night.
  • Bring snacks and water: Long distance buses always stop at least once, and some companies let vendors jump in the bus to sell snacks but it’s better to come prepared in case of any unexpected delay.
  • Where to seat: The back of the bus is the bumpiest and some roads are not paved. If you are prone to travel-sickness, better to avoid it and stay in the front of middle of the bus.
  • Plugs and WiFi: Even if advertised, it’s extremely unlikely that buses have WiFi, as most of the countryside doesn’t have phone service and very few buses in Bolivia are equipped with USB or plugs.

IMPORTANT: Bus terminals in Bolivia will ask passengers to pay for a small terminal tax called usually: Uso de Terminal. It usually costs Bs 2-2,50 and needs to purchased before boarding the bus. That fee is not included in your bus ticket.

For the best and most reliable bus companies, book your bus online here with Tickets Bolivia.

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By Train

If you plan to travel to Bolivia, one of the safest and most comfortable options is to do it by train. It’s also an efficient way to connect to one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations: the Salar de Uyuni.

Traveling by train offers many advantages. It’s a comfortable and environment-friendly, and it can help avoid road blockades and other issues that may arise with bus travel. There are two train companies in Bolivia which offer train service: Ferroviaria Andina in the west of the country and Ferroviaria Oriental who covers routes from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro and Yacuiba.

The most popular train route is from Oruro to Villazon, which goes via Uyuni:

1 Expreso del Sur Oruro – Uyuni

Uyuni – Villazon

Tues/Fri 14:30 Hrs

Tues/Fri 21:40 Hrs

2 Villazon – Uyuni

Uyuni – Oruro

Wed/Sat 15:30 Hrs

Wed/Sat 23:50 Hrs

3 Wara Wara del Sur Oruro – Uyuni

Uyuni – Villazon

Wed/Sun 19:00 Hrs

Mon/Thu 2:50 Hrs

4 Villazon – Uyuni

Uyuni – Oruro

Mon/Thu 15:30 Hr

Tue/Fri 1:45 Hrs

  • For the most up-to-date information on routes and schedule of Ferroviaria Andina visit http://www.fca.com.bo/
  • For the most up-to-date information on routes and schedule of Ferroviaria Oriental visit  http://www.fo.com.bo

TIPS

  • Make sure to be at the train station at least 30 minutes before departure.
  • Train tickets are in high demand all year long, but especially in the months of July-August and December-February. Book in advance in order to guarantee your trip!
  • Buy your tickets online right here: https://www.ticketsbolivia.com/
  • The Uyuni-Villazon section of the railway is currently under repair but a bimodal service (Bus+Train) will be made available from 15 December 2018 to 30 January 2019. The full service will reopen later in 2019.

By Plane

The fastest way to travel in Bolivia is by plane. There are three Bolivian airlines that cover most cities in the territory:

Others

It is possible to rent a car to travel; prices for one-day rental start at USD 50-100.

You can also take local minibuses for trips under 4 hours but be aware that they don’t follow a schedule and leave when they are full. These minibuses don’t usually leave from the main bus terminal and have alternate departure points throughout the city. They make regular stops to pick and drop passengers along the way.

Going to Bolivia: A Guide to the Visa Entry Requirements

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Lake Titicaca at the Bolivia-Peru border. By Jonathan Lewis via Wikimedia Commons

Bolivia is a beautiful, diverse and surprising country. There you can visit the Uyuni Salt Flats, the Amazon rain forest, travel across Lake Titicaca, hike in the Cordillera Real and much more. Here you will find all the information you need regarding entry into the country and visa requirements.

Visa Requirements

First of all, you will need a valid passport for ID. Countries which you can travel to and from Bolivia with only a national ID are Colombia, Peru, Ecuador (CAN – Andean Community) and Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay (MERCOSUR).

All business travelers and persons wishing to stay longer than 90 days per calendar year must obtain a visa in advance. Please note that migration officers at the border stamp passports for 30 days and that if you want to stay longer you will need to get it extended before leaving the country. This British_passport_(european_community)can be done at one of the Dirección general de migración offices (Directorate General of Immigration).

Tourists who overstay, or who forget to extend their 30-day visa will have to pay, upon leaving the country, a daily fee of about 25 bolivianos (about $3.70 USD).

Regarding tourist or visitor visa requirements, countries are divided in three groups: (the list of countries in groups can be found here. Please note that this list can be subject to change)

GROUP 1 and nationals of MERCOSUR and CAN (Andean Community):

Passport holders from any of these countries do not require a visa or need to pay any kind of fee upon entering Bolivia as tourists (if you’re traveling for business or studies please see below). The only requirement is that you present a valid passport with a minimum validity of 6 months. You will have the right to stay in the country 90 days per calendar year (but will initially receive 30 days which can be extended).

GROUP 2:

Passport holders from any of these countries need to apply for a visa either at a Bolivian embassy or directly at the border. Obtaining a visa at the Bolivian embassy in advance is free of charge, however if you opt to get your visa at the border, a $95 USD fee will apply.

Tourist Visa for citizens of the countries in Group II, have an admission period of 30 days after the date of entry. The admission period may be extended at the offices of the Directorate General of Immigration.

GROUP 3:

Passport holders from countries in group 3 will need to apply for a visa prior to their arrival in Bolivia. Tourist Visa for citizens of the countries in Group 3, have an admission period of 30 days after the date of entry. The admission period may be extended at the offices of the Directorate General of Immigration.

The Cost of a Tourist Visa is $30.00 USD. Processing time is 3-5 weeks.

EXCEPTION: US CITIZENS

US citizens require a tourist visa to enter Bolivia. Americans can apply for a visa either at a Bolivian embassy or consulate, or at the border.

The tourist visa for US citizens is valid for 10 years from the date of issue and the admission period per year is 90 days. A US citizen tourist visa holder will be able to use the visa for up to 3 each year.

The cost for the visa is $160 USD.

The process for US citizens and list of documents required is explained in more detail here and here.

OTHER TYPES OF VISA

If you need to stay in Bolivia for more than 90 days in a calendar year or if the purpose of your visit is not tourism then you will have to apply to the corresponding visa. Check with your local Bolivian embassy or consulate what the requirements are and allow for 3-5 weeks for them to process.

Crossing Borders

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Bolivia – Chile border (near San Pedro de Atacama/Hito Cajon) by Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons

Make sure you have your certificate of yellow fever vaccinations: It’s a country entry requirement. The government of Bolivia requires proof of yellow fever vaccination, especially if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever. Your yellow fever certificate may be asked when entering the country. The Ministry of Health of Bolivia also states that all travelers visiting yellow fever risk areas must carry proof of yellow fever vaccination. Risk areas are: the Oriente Boliviano, Beni, Chaco and the Amazon rain forest.

Sometimes you will be asked to present a return ticket or a proof that you will be leaving the country. Some airlines might not let you board without one or you may have to show it a the border.

If you are flying to Bolivia and landing in La Paz, be aware of the altitude as the airport is at 4,000 meters above sea level. You may experience a headache, dizziness and other symptoms related to the altitude. If these don’t disappear after a few day or become too severe, go to a clinic and/or descend to a lower altitude.

And now enjoy your stay in Bolivia! With TicketsBolivia.com you can book ahead your bus and train tickets within Bolivia and to neighboring countries.

Tiwanaku and Guaqui on the tourist train

The central train station in La Paz has become a monument to the distant memory of train travel. This experience today feels lost for the people who live in the city. However, few people know that the Andean Railway Company (FCA) offers a tourist trip by train to the towns of Tiwanaku and Guaqui on the second Sunday of each month. Transportation is roundtrip starting in the morning from the city of El Alto and returning the same date at night. This service allows you to visit two distinctive tourist attractions of La Paz: Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca.

To get to the starting point of the tourist train from the city of La Paz, we recommend taking a cable car to El Alto, from there you can take a radio taxi to the stop point of the train known as the Ingavi Regiment; This particular service has a cost of around 15 Bs. You can also get to the departure point of the train by taking a public transport service from the 2nd street of La Ceja in El Alto, any minibus that goes to Santiago II and the road to Oruro takes you to the Ingavi Regiment. You will notice that you are in the right place the moment you see the train parked at the center of a paved avenue. There you will see FCA service personnel who help people board the right car with your purchased tickets.

The train has three different types of wagons: Popular at 20 Bs., Saloon at 40 Bs. And Executive at 80 Bs. The main difference between the wagons are the seats; The executive car has reclining seats. All prices only include transportation service. On the same train, passengers can board the dining car for a breakfast while they arrive at their first stop.

Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku is a pre-Inca archaeological city located near Lake Titicaca. This tourist center attracts a lot of attention due to the technological level reached by the ancient Tiwanacotas considering that they lived there since 1500 a.C. coming to be formed in the spiritual and political center of the Tiwanacota empire around the year 200 AD. The maximum expression of their culture is shown in their ceramic work of precise cuts and characteristics, the various ceremonies they performed in the stone pyramids they built and the characteristic large monoliths carved from huge rocks.

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You arrive in Tiwanaku about two hours after the departure of the train. There you must buy an entrance that allows you to visit two museums and two archaeological sites of this pre-Inca empire. The train stops around an hour so everyone has time to visit these places. The price for this entry is 15 Bs. for people of Bolivian nationality and 100 Bs. for foreigners.

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We recommend you visit two of these four places due to the reduced time you have and taking into account the best that Tiwanaku has to offer. First, we recommend you visit the Tiwanakota museum behind the ceramic museum. There you can find the renowned monolith Benet, named after its discoverer, as well as knowing the history of the route of this famous monolith. You can also see other smaller monoliths. After that, we recommend a visit to the archaeological site across the street where you can see the great pyramid of Akapana, the Semi-subterranean Templete and the Temple of Kalasasaya with the famous Puerta del Sol, as well as other ceremonial spaces.

Guaqui

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The trip to Guaqui lasts an hour departing from Tiwanaku. Guaqui is a port town from where the multipurpose catamaran ship of the Bolivian Naval Force departs. This vessel has a capacity for 120 people and takes a walk on Lake Titicaca. The ride costs 40 Bs. Extra.

This municipality is becoming increasingly tourist thanks to this route by train. In Guaqui you can visit museums that show the history of Lake Titicaca and the customs of the Chiripa culture. You can also visit the main square and its church which are at 15 minute walk from the port.

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Having returned the ship, the train calls the passengers for their return to the city of El Alto. The return takes about three and a half hours. Once in El Alto you can take a radio taxi to the cable car to return to the city of La Paz. The lilac cable car, once it is inaugurated, will arrive a few blocks from the starting point of the tourist train reducing the difficulty and the excuses to visit these tourist places. Visit https://www.ticketsbolivia.com.bo/tours/tren -turistico-fca.php to buy your tickets online today through Tickets Bolivia.

Traveling from Cusco to Uyuni: how to do it

One of the most frecuent questions we get this time of the year is how do I travel from Cusco to Uyuni? Being two of the most popular tourist destinations in the region that are located relatively close to each another, it is amazing that there is no bus or train that offers a direct trip. But not all is lost. You can travel from Cusco to Uyuni by land affordably and comfortably. This is how:

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How do I get from Cusco to Uyuni?

The first step to get from Cusco to Uyuni by bus is reaching La Paz. There are many options for making this trip by bus. Sadly, there are no trains that covers this route. Tickets Bolivia works with Trans Salvador, Tour Peru and NC Internacional, dependable and quality bus companies. These are their schedules and reference prices (prices may vary according to the season):

Company Bus class Route Time of departure and arrival Prices in US Dollars
Trans Salvador Cama, tres filas Stops in Puno, migration in Desaguadero 22:00/13:00 33.58 US$
Trans Salvador Cama, 4 filas Stops in Puno, migration in Desaguadero 22:00/13:00 29.20 US$
Tour Peru Semi cama Stops in Puno, migration in Desaguadero 22:00/15:00 27.74 US$
NC Internacional Cama Stops in Puno, migration in Desaguadero 22:30/14:30 36.50 US$

The buses depart from the Cusco Bus Termial, located at the following address:

¡https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_cusco.php

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From La Paz to Uyuni by bus:

There are many bus companies that offer direct services to travel from La Paz to Uyuni. Tickets Bolivia works with Panasur, Cruz del Norte and Trans Omar. Their schedules are as follows:

Trans Omar has a semi lie -flat bus (seats recline 160 degrees) that leaves from La Paz to Uyuni every day at 20:00, arriving in Uyuni at 06:00 the next day. The service does not include meals, but the bus stops along the road so passengers can buy food and drink. Trans Omar also has a lie-flat bus (seats recline to 170 degrees) departing at the same time every day and arriving in Uyuni at 7:00 the next day.

Cruz del Norte has a Lie-Flat Bus. It departs 20.30 and arrives 06.30 the next day. The bus stops in Oruro.

Panasur has a bus from La Paz to Uyuni (lie-flat) that departs at 20:00 and arrives in Uyuni at 6:00 the next day. All buses depart from the bus terminal of La Paz, located at the following address: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_la_paz.php

The buses arrive in Uyuni at the following address: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_uyuni.php

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From Oruro to Uyuni by Train:

What is it about trains? With this option, the passenger travels from La Paz to Oruro by bus and then from Oruro to Uyuni by train. This option allows you to enjoy train traveling through the Bolivian altiplano, in an of itself an unforgettable experience. Buses from La Paz to Oruro depart every 30 minutes practically all day from the La Paz bus terminal (see map above). The trip takes 3 hours and you arrive in Oruro at the Bus terminal located at the following address: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_oruro.php

Once in Oruro, you must take a cab to the Train Station, located on Av. Velasco Galvarro on the corner of Aldana St. The trains that travel from Oruro to Uyuni are Wara Wara del Sur and Expreso del Sur. Wara Wara del Sur leaves Wednesdays and Sundays at 19:00, and arrives in Uyuni at 02:20 in the morning. Expreso del Sur leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays at 14:00, arriving in Uyuni at 21:20.

With all this info there is no reason to miss Uyuni if you are traveling to Cuzco and making the most of your trip. If you want to buy tickets online just click here: www.ticketsbolivia.com.bo

Have a nice trip!

Calama to Uyuni, there and back

Calama is a city on the shores of Loa river, in the region of Antofagasta, Chile. At an altitude of 2,260 m above sea level, the city has several tourist attractions. Calama is one of the driest cities in the world with average annual precipitation of just 5 mm (0.20 in). The Loa River is Chile’s longest, and flows through the city.  Tourists who want to visit the Uyuni Salt Flat from Chile usually come from Calama due to the short distance that separates these cities and the frequency of departures between the cities.

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Road to Calama, Chile

Uyuni, on the other hand, is Bolivia´s main tourist destination. It is the largest salt desert in the world and boasts an out of this world landscape that defies the senses. Visitors are not only awed by the salt flat itself, an endless desert of salt that was featured in the last Star Wars film as the planet Crait, but it also has surrounding attractions such as the red and green lagoons and the train cemetery.

If you want to travel from Calama to Uyuni or viceversa, read on.

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Uyuni Salt Flat during rain season

From Calama to Uyuni

In order to travel from Calama to Uyuni, you have to go to the Bus Terminal of Calama, located on Granaderos Av., #3051. Before boarding the bus, you must pay a small fee called Uso de Terminal for the terminal´s maintenance. The distance between Calama and Uyuni is 425 km and the trip takes 11 hours. The bus company Cruz del Norte has semi lie-flat buses that leave every day at 5:30 am and arrive in Uyuni at 15:00.

The buses cross the border through Pisiga-Colchane, where passengers can clear customs and migration. You arrive in Uyuni at the bus terminal located on Arce Av.

If you want to book your tickets now, or to just explore the costs and payment options, just follow this link: calama to uyuni

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Calama, Chile

From Uyuni to Calama

For the return trip, from Uyuni to Calama, we have normal and semi lie-flat buses that leave from the Bus Terminal in Uyuni, located on Arce Av. The bus company Expreso 11 de Julio has buses that leave at 04:00 am and arrive in Calama at 15:00  in the afternoon. Their seats are normal, meaning they recline to 120 degrees.

The bus company Cruz del Norte leaves at 5:30 from the same bus terminal and arrives in Calama at 16:00 in the afternoon. Their buses are semi lie-flat, with seats that recline to 140 degrees.

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Uyuni, Bolivia

To book your tickets online for this route, and to see costs and other details, you can just click on this link: uyuni to calama

From Uyuni to Cusco by land

In a perfect world there would be a beautiful tourist train that could take you directly from Uyuni (Bolivia), the largest salt desert in the world, to Cusco (Peru), the colonial city that is the gateway to Machu Picchu, crossing smoothly the amazing landscapes of the Bolivian Altiplano and the lush valleys and forests of Peru, thus making sure you don´t miss two of the most breathtaking tourist destinations in South America.

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Uyuni Salt flat. Photo by Gaby Iturri

But no, the world is not perfect, and until the dream comes true, the trip from Uyuni to Cusco must be divided in at least two segments, or three, depending on your plans and wishes. You will need to travel from Uyuni to La Paz, either directly or with a stop in Oruro, and from there you can take a direct bus to Cusco. Keep on reading to find out all you need to know.

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La Paz, Bolivia

Uyuni to La Paz

The distance between Uyuni and La Paz is 731 km. La Paz is the largest city in Bolivia and is located at 3600 meters above sea level. You can travel from Uyuni to La Paz either by direct bus, or by a combination of train and bus. All buses headed for La Paz leave Uyuni at night, from the bus stop located on Cabrera Street, on the corner of Arce Av. The trip takes around 11 hours. In La Paz, the buses arrive at the main Bus Terminal, located on Uruguay Street on the corner of Peru Av.

There are several bus companies that work this route. Trans Omar leaves every day at 19:30 (lie-flat bus) and 20:00 (semi-lie flat bus), arriving in La Paz 11 hours later, between 6 and 7 am. The bus company Panasur leaves every day at 20:30 in semi lie-flat buses, ad arrives in La Paz at 06:00. Finally, Cruz del Norte leaves Uyuni at 20:30 and arrives in La Paz at 6:30 am. Their buses are also lie-flat. To book tickets with any of them or just to know more details, just follow this link: uyuni to la paz

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Uyuni Salt Flat

To go by train and bus, you have to take the train from Uyuni to Oruro and then continue by bus to La Paz. The train companies offering this service are: Expreso del Sur, which leaves on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Wara Wara del Sur, which leaves on Mondays and Thursdays. The trains offer Salon class and Executive class services, where Executive class is more expensive and has more comfortable seats, and amenities such as blankets and snack on board. All passengers have access to the dining car on the train.

The train leaves Uyuni from the station located arrives at the train station on Ferroviaria Av. on the corner of Arce Av. They arrive in Oruro at the train station located on Velasco Galvarro St. From there you can take a taxi to the bus station in Oruro in order to take a bus to La Paz. Buses leave every half an hour and the trip takes around three hours.

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Machu Picchu, Peru

La Paz to Cusco

Traveling from La Paz to Cuzco will enhance your tour through south America. The journey is about 12 hours, covering a distance of 640 km. In order to travel from La Paz to Cusco by bus you have two alternatives: you can go through the Bolivia-Peru border in Desaguadero, or you can go though Copacabana, crossing the border in Kasani. Desaguadero is a more direct route, while Copacabana is the more scenic route, taking your to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

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Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Three bus companies offer this service. The bus company Nuevo Continente has lie-flat buses that leave at 07:30 in the morning and arrive in Cusco at 21:30. Trans Salvador leaves every day at 16:30 and arrives in Cusco at 5:00 also in lie-flat buses.  And the company Tour Peru has semi lie-flat buses that leave every day at 16:30 and arrive in Cusco at 5:30. you can book tickets by following this link: la paz to cusco

Tips

You should know that in Bolivia, lie-flat buses have seats that recline to 160-170 degrees, not 180. Semi lie-flat buses recline to between 150 and 160 degrees, depending on the bus. This is important to keep in mind in order to keep your expectations realistic. The services on board usually include one snack on board, so you should make sure you take something to drink, blankets and more food on board, just to make sure your trip will be comfortable.

 We hope you found all the information useful. Have a nice trip!