Lovers of the outdoors have been hit hard by the lock-down measures taken all over the world, their souls itching to get back on the trail, climb a mountain, explore a river in an unknown jungle, bathe in a pristine waterfall after a hike in the forest. Bolivia is one of the best countries in South America to travel to if you love ecotourism, nature and the outdoors, named in the New York Times as one of the places to visit in 2020.
In this post, we tell you all about the best places in Bolivia to travel to if you are looking for a post-lockdown immersion in the Great Outdoors.
Samaipata is a small town about three hours away from the city of Santa Cruz, on the foothills of the Amboro National Park, a natural reservation known for its biodiversity and amazing, contrasting landscapes. The town itself is very quaint and offers an array of restaurants and lodging to fit every taste and budget.
The town is rife with tourist agencies where you can book all kinds of experiences, from hiking to the waterfalls, to climbing up to the Condor´s Nest, to exploring the Amboro National Park or The Fort, an Incan archeological site that was named Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
San Ignacio de Velasco
San Ignacio de Velasco is a town on the Chiquitos Missions Circuit in the department of Santa Cruz. It is one of the towns founded by Jesuit priests in colonial times, which have become famous for the blending of indigenous and western cultures, the architecture of its amazing churches, named Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and traditions in music, dance and fabrication of classical instruments that are still alive today.
Best of all, San Ignacio is the entry gate to the incredible Noel Kempf Mercado Park, a pristine natural reservation so off the beaten path that many travelers recommend it as the only one in South America where you can actually hike for days without meeting another soul. Incredible wildlife, waterfalls, mountains and jungle, all in one amazing destination.
You can travel to San Ignacio de Velasco by train from Santa Cruz easily and afordably, online with the most reliable payment platforms, and book a tour to the Noel Kempf Mercado park from there.
Riberalta is a town on the departmento of Beni, a tropical region of Bolivia known for its rain forest tropical climate and many options for eco-tours through the tropical rivers and jungle. Riberalta is the place to go if you don´t flintch from tarantulas, like to see pink dolphins as well as alligators and will enjoy sleeping under a mosquitoe net.
Traveling to Riveralta is not as easy and affordable as the first two options, but very much worth it. To travel to Riberalta, you have two options; either do it bu bus or plane. To travel to Riberalta by plane, you will take a plane from one of the major Bolivan cities (La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz). It is unlikely that you will find a direct flight, so you will probably make a scale in Trinidad, the department´s capital, before arriving in Riberalta. It is even possible you will need to change planes, depending on where you are arriving from.
If you choose to travel by bus, you can take one from the Bus Terminal of Santa Cruz or La Paz. Be aware that the highway conditions are very poor, making the trip very long, even though the actual distance between Riberalta and any major city is not that big (La Paz and Riberalta, for example, are separated by 922 km, but the trip takes about 30 hours). If you don´t mind a long bus trip, the views are gorgeous.
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In our last post, we told you about some of the ways in which traveling will change once the measures taken to control the spread of covid-19 are reversed. Today, we are back to tell you about a few more changes you can expect, so you can begin planing your first gettaway after lock-down.
Packing a suitcase:
The health crisis the world is going through implies that a lot of emphasis has been put on personal hygiene and dissinfection, with recomendations that people should wash and their hands several times a day and takng measures to prevent contamination. For a person who is traveling, this probably means carrying alcohol in gel or any other type of hand sanitizer, wet wipes with dissinfecting components, even latex gloves and face masks. You will probably start packing these items in your suitcase, and airlines might have to allow passengers to carry liquids on board. It is also likely that you will be packing your favorite, fashion face masks so prevention doesn´t cramp your style. Facemasks have become an essensial item, and they are on they way to becoming a fashion statement, as well.
It is also likely that thermometers and fever medicine will also become indispensable carry-on items.
It is very likely that you will need more to travel than just your visa and passport in order to go abroad. At lest for a few months after the quarantene, you may need to carry some sort of sanitary ID stating you are immune, be it because you have been vaccinates, (once there is a vaccine) or because you have recovered from the virus. In the film Contagion, there was this wristband with a code bar stating the person´s sanitary status when crossing borders. Some thing like that may be rutine in the more technologicaly advanced countries.
3. Priorities when choosing a place to stay and how to travel:
When you plan your trip, you will have more than just confort and amenities in mind. Passengers and guests will want to know the health and hygiene protocols and practices of each transportation company and hotel: how often do they dissinfect the surfaces, with what chemicals, how do they control air quality, how they limit unnecesarry interaction with other guests and passengers. And this is exactly what service providers will begin to advertise to get more people to book with their company. For example, it is likely that companies such as Airbnb will see a fall in their reservations, as people choose to stay in hotels with established and standardized health and sanitary protocols.
4. Flexibilization of tickets:
The current health crisis caused many sudden borders closing and trips and flights being cancelled. When these measures let up in the future, it is likelly that transportation companies will be more flexible with the cancellation and change of tickets. This, in the understanding that there could be new surges in some countries, which could lead again to the sudden cancellation of trips and closing of borders. It may also be that passengers are less willing to make a trip if they have cold simptoms, even if it is not covid-19, and may prefer to change the date of the trip or cancell (traveling with cold will not be socially acceptable for some time).
Thus, you will want to know the cancellation and change policies of every company before booking. When you buy your bus or train tickets online to travel around South America, for example, with Tickets Bolivia, you can cancel your tickets for a refund with 48 hours anticipation. You can also change the date or leave the date of the trip pending for an entire year at no extra cost.
At Tickets Bolivia, we will work with transportation companies so they meet all standards, and will inform our clients about the quality of their services. Our commitment is to provide all the information our clients need when planing their trips.
Meanwhile, lets stay connected! Follow us in Facebook to keep informed in real time about the re-opening of borders and routes in the next weeks.
Just like social and commercial interaction, traveling will not be the same when the crisis caused by covid-19 passes. We will and will not go back to “normal”.
The world is going through a crisis such as we haven´t seen in our lifetimes; closed borders in every continent, hundreds of thousands of cancelled trips, passengers stuck abroad without a way to come home and many stimied plans. This, without mentioning the thousands of lives lost and the fear and anxiety many of us are feeling. Just remember, as the saying goes, this too, shall pass.
No matter what country we are living in, the lock-down imposed to control the spread of covid-19, the situation demands that we postpone plans and dreams in order to stay at home to keep the curve of illness at sustainable levels. We will come out of this, of course, and we will travel again, to feel the joy of looking out a train window, a incredible landscape flowing by, or the vertigo of an airplane takeoff, the wonder of steping into a new city for the first time. We will travel again, but some things won´t be the same.
In this post, we tell you about three of many thigs that will probably will change in the way we travel in the near future.
We will travel more within our own country
It is very likely that national tourism and travel will be the first to recover when lock-down measures are lifted, since national travel will not have to deal with national borders, which may still be difficult to cross for many months.
Probably, we will have to take this opportunity to travel within our countries, not only due to sanitary restrictions that will exist for international travel, but also to help recover the economy of national tourism and travel, which will have been strongly hit by the crisis. It will be an opportunity to get to know these tourist destinations in your country that you have been neglecting.
We will travel more by land
Airlines are amont the industries that will be most hit by this sanitary crisis and the masures to contain it. Once they are able to operate again, they will probably have to fly with emptier seats (no more middle seats for a while) in order to limit passenger interaction. This might cause a significant increase in prices. Not to mention the husstle at airports; if lines were tortuous before, can you imagine when you add sanitary checks?
On the other hand, one of the effects of this crisis, which has stopped many industries is the recovery of ecosystems and the decrease in pollution and contamination of the environment. When we get out of this crisis, it will be hard to go back to “normal” with no awareness of how our “normal” affects the earth and, eventually, our hability to live on it. We will probably be more concious than ever of our carbon footprint and the effecto on the environment of the desitions we make when traveling.
Therefore, it is likely we will choose train travel more often, since it is the most eco-efficient way to go) instead of planes for longer trips, whenever possible. We will likely choose bus or train for shorter, national trips as well, since they have a much lower rate of pollution per passenger than air travel.
We will buy our tickets online
Like in many other socia and comertial interactions, traveler´s will chose more often to avoid handling chash, not out of a fear of getting robbed, but out of a fear of holding this object that changes hands hundreds of times and may be a hard-to-sterilize source of contamination.
Also, buying ht etickets over the Internet allows you to avoid crowded places, such as land terminals, which will also protect you agains the propagation of infectious deseases. You can buy online bus and train tickets for Bolivia, Chile and Peru easily and safely.
So, despite the fact that many things will probably change in the mid-term, such as where we choose to travel and by what means, and how we purchase tickets, we are certain we will travel again, in a more sustainable way than before.
Samaipata is one of the best kept secrets of the Bolivian low-lands. This little town two hours away from the city of Santa Cruz has become very popular in the last years among both national and international tourists due to its warm climate year-round, diversity of landscapes and restaurants, with an array of cultural and tourist activities to choose from. One of its main attractions is how close it is to the Samaipata Fort, a pre-colonial arqueological site where different cultures, such as the Chané and Inca come together, declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In this blog, we’ll tell you all about:
What makes Samaipata an amazing tourist destination
How to travel to Samaipata easily from any part of Bolivia
You can travel to Samaipata by bus easily from Bolivia’s main cities (Santa Cruz, Sucre, Cochabamba and La Paz) though mostly paved highways and different degrees of confort; from confortable lie-flat buses to shared cabs and vans. The prices vary, as well, and there is an option for every budget.
Bolivia is a country of incredible diversity: from highlands and salt flats at 4000 meters above sea level, the only place where Royal Quinoa can be grown and potato species are counted in the hundreds, to the tropics where hundreds of species of fruits and vegetables thrive; from the traditions of indigenous ingredients and preparations to the influence of French, Spanish and German immigrants.
Despite its rich culinary heritage, Bolivia has been slow in standing out as a culinary tourist destination. The truth is, industries such as wine, beer, coffee and chocolate have shown incredible development in the last decades, with many brands winning several international awards. Gourmet restaurants have also flourished in the main cities, such as La Paz and Santa Cruz, complementing the vibrant street-food scene across the country. The best part? Eating in Bolivia is cheaper than anywhere else in the region, so you can really have a foodie feast on a budget.
In this post, we imagine a Bolivia street food tour around the country´s best cities to eat, telling you about the street-foods you can´t miss and how to eat them safely. Check out next week’s posts in this series for a full report about gourmet food and restaurants in Bolivia. Let´s get started!
Street food in Bolivia is delicious, varied and easy on the wallet. Nevertheless, as a tourist, you should be careful to eat only in places where cleanliness and food safety is guaranteed. Also, some dishes are spicy and others come with spicy sauces, so be careful if you can’t hold your chili.
Any self-respecting foodie in a Bolivia street-food tour should start in La Paz, the seat of government in Bolivia, a city located at 3,600 meters above sea level where you can taste the following dishes:
These baked pockets of goodness are originally from Argentina and became very popular first in Sucre and Potosi, since their size and shape made them perfect for taking to the mines as a hearty lunch. But it was in La Paz that their current recipe was perfected, making them the juicy, meaty, somewhat spicy, golden-crusted dish they are today. Here is the practical info you need to know:
Although the original salteña is stuffed with red meat, salteñas now come with a variety of stuffings, like pork and chicken.
As opposed to many other street-foods in Bolivia, some salteñerías offer vegetarian salteñas, so you can enjoy them even if meats are not part of your diet.
You can always spot a person eating salteñas for the first time, from the way the juice splatters all over their clothes. If you don’t want half your food to end up on your shirt, check out this demonstrative video.
Though the best are in La Paz, you can also find salteñas in Sucre, Cochabamba and Potosi, in the mornings, between 10:00 and 14:00.
If you want to avoid getting sick, don’t buy them from food carts on the street. Stick to salteñerias (special restaurants that sell salteñas). The price should be between 6.5 and 8.0 Bolivianos (around one US Dollar)
The best restaurants are Salteñas Chuquisaqueñas (La Paz), La Paceña (La Paz), El Patio (Sucre), and Los Castores (Cochabamba)
Other Bolivian street foods you must try in La Paz are:
Sandwich de Chola: a traditional sandwich made from pork. Though you can get it at many street-cars around the city, go to the Las Cholas park for the freshest sandwich.
Tucumanas: Similar to Salteñas, these are fried, not baked, and come with a variety of sauces to garnish. Remember to never eat them from street cars, only restaurants. Tucumanas del Prado are the most popular and tasty.
From La Paz, you can take a bus to Cochabambafor the next stop in your foodie Bolivia street food tour. Cochabamba is a city in the heart of Bolivian valleys, located at an altitude of 2,600 meters above sea level. The city is the third largest in Bolivia, but the unchallenged capital of eating, with many traditional dishes and a culture of eating abundantly. Here are the street foods you must try:
Anticuchos are a very traditional street-food in Bolivia and Peru, with the vendors coming out at around 7 pm to perform the spectacle of igniting their grills and starting to cook the meat and potatoes in metal skewers. In Peru, the meat can be anything from beef to seafood. In Bolivia, anticuchos are made only from thinly sliced beef heart. The meat and potatoes are first marinated in spices, then grilled in skewers and finally covered in a creamy sauce made from yellow chili and peanuts. Here is all the information you need:
Don´t be turned off by the heart meat. When thinly sliced and well-cooked, the meat becomes incredibly tasty and with great texture. Do make sure you ask your vendor to cook the meat well, as this improves the texture and is also safest on your stomach.
There is almost no choice but to eat anticuchos from street cars, as restaurants that offer this dish are almost non-existent. For a really traditional place in La Paz go to Las Velas, a market that specializes in anticuchos. In Cochabamba, go to Las Islas.
Vegan anticucho options are currently few. Some vegetarian restaurants offer anticuchos from vegetable meats, such as seitan, which taste incredibly good. In La Paz, Try La Ventanita. In Cochabamba, your best bet is Nina Café Bistró Vegetariano.
Anticuchos are a staple of nightlife, and anticucheras are rife on the streets of Cochabamba and La Paz from 7 pm to 4 am on weekends.
Expect to pay between 10 and 12 Bolivianos for a portion. The portions are not large, just the meat that fits in a mid-size skewer and two small potatoes. If you´re hungry, you will probably need two. Or three.
The creamy, yellow sauce that anticuchos are covered in is spicy. Just how spicy varies, so you may want a taste of it before your food gets covered in it. Also, obviously, steer CLEAR of it if you have a peanut allergy.
Other street-food to try in Cochabamba:
Trancapecho: literally means “stuck in your chest”, this sandwich has rice, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoe, a fried egg and a thin piece of beef or chicken
Humintas: Quite similar to tamales, humintas are a dough made from ground corn mixed with anise seed and cheese, wrapped in corn leaves and either boiled or baked to a creamy goodness.
The next stop in our foodie Bolivia street food tour is Santa Cruz. You can easily take a bus from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz, the capital of the Bolivian lowlands. Here are the street-foods in Santa Cruz you need to try:
Sonso and cuñape
Street food in the low-lands, such as Santa Cruz, is dominated by cheesy pastries made with yucca, sold in street-cars and bakeries. They are baked (or grilled) fresh every day and offered between 3 pm and 7 pm, so you can eat them with a cup of coffee. More details coming right up:
Sonso is a mixture of mashed yucca, cheese and butter, which can be baked or grilled in wood skewers over hot coals in street cars. The taste and texture are absolutely sublime
Cuñape is a similar pastry, made not from mashed yucca but from yucca flour mixed with cheese and butter, and baked in special ovens
Happily for vegetarians, no meat goes into these!
You can expect to pay around 5 Bolivianos for a portion on the street. Some upscale bakeries and coffee shops offer them, as well, at a slightly higher price.
Although, traditionally, these foods come from Santa Cruz, you will be able to find them at some coffee shops and bakeries in La Paz, Sucre and Cochabamba, as well.
Other street food in Bolivia you can´t miss, by city:
Sucre: You can´t leave without trying the sausage. The best place is in Choricería 7 lunares. Also, you can´t miss the nation-famous Sandra´s Ice Cream you can buy at El Parque. Really, the best ice cream you will eat in Bolivia.
Oruro: Api with pastel is a traditional meal that is originally from Oruro, but that you can enjoy in La Paz, Sucre, Cochabamba and Potosí, as well. Api is a sweet, hot beverage made from the flour of purple corn, and it comes with a pastry made from fried wheat flour and cheese. In cold weather, nothing gets you warmer.
We hope the information is useful. Happy traveling and tasty eating!
We get it. When you’re planning a trip abroad, you want to know what to expect regarding safety. Is terrorism a problem? Could I be kidnapped? Might I be pick-pocketed or robbed at gunpoint? Should I steer clear of specific places? Can I drink the tap water?
We got you covered. We live here in Bolivia, so we can give you first-hand information regarding all-things-safety in this country. And, because we don´t want you to just take our word for it, we will share with you links to official international reports as well. This way, at the end of this post you will have a clear picture of what to do and not do in order to travel safely through Bolivia in 2020. We admit, it’s a little long, but very thorough. Feel free to just read the parts you´re most concerned about, we won’t take offense.
A little context
So, Bolivia is a pretty safe country for locals and tourists alike. With a total population of 10 million people, its largest cities (La Paz and Santa Cruz) have no more than 2 million inhabitants each, meaning that, under normal conditions, they don’t have the crime rates of larger cities like Sao Paulo or Lima or Bogotá.
Nevertheless, the country went through a rough couple of months in October and November of last year after accusations that the national election had been rigged to favor then-president Evo Morales. 21 days of protests followed, resulting in the president’s resignation. This led to another two weeks of social conflict with 30 protesters losing their lives. The country has since entered a period of pacification, and the transitional government has called elections for the third of May. There have been absolutely no violent protests nor significant violence in the country since November, 2019. Nevertheless, tourism has seen a steep decline, which is sadly having a negative impact on the economy.
Is Bolivia a dangerous country?
In terms of 2019’s Global Peace Index, Bolivia ranks 85 out of 163 countries. This is moderate, and it means tourists should exercise common sense when visiting, but no extreme measures need to be taken to stay safe. For us locals, crime rates are mostly related to property theft and domestic or personal disputes. There is some gang violence in certain neighborhoods in the larger cities, but this has never had an effect on tourists or visitors. In general, Bolivia ranks medium in terms of danger, according to most of the reports we could find. Don´t take our word for it, check out this report by World Population Review, showing Bolivia is a safer country than the United States, for example, and this this other safety report by Atlas And Boots.
Be prepared to travel safely through Bolivia
In order to travel safely through any country, you must exercise caution and know what to expect. We found a cool guide of Things Not To Do in Bolivia in order to have a better tourist experience, and think you might find it useful. As for us, we have prepared a list of actual events that you might encounter while traveling through Bolivia, from food poisoning to road blockades (nope, no terrorism or hostage situations), and how to avoid and cope with them.
Pick-pocketing and theft:
Petty theft and stolen items: Bolivia, like any country that struggles with poverty, has it´s share of thieves and pickpockets. In order to avoid being separated from your belongings, keep your valuables close, especially in Santa Cruz and La Paz. If at a hotel or hostel, leave your valuables in a safe. Don´t walk around the street with your cellphone or other valuables in sight, and try not to use ATMs at night or in deserted places.
Scams: Watch out for fake police officers claiming they want to check your passport or search you for any reason. Real police officers are always in uniform, and they DO NOT carry out random searches of tourists. In any case, make sure you travel with your passport complete with visa stamps and have a photocopy of it with you at all times. Do not pick up large amounts of money you find on the street, it may be part of a common, intricate scam where you end up handing over your wallet to the thief. You won’t be hurt, but you’ll feel pretty foolish.
Drugs: Not judging how you choose to entertain yourself, but in Bolivia, if you get involved in cocaine and get caught, the minimum sentence is 8 years and you might wait in jail for more than two years just waiting for a trial. Why risk it? Obviously, do not leave your luggage unattended in airports, train stations and bus terminals to avoid getting stuff planted.
It’s legal for farmers to grow coca leaf in Bolivia, but if you´re traveling around areas where coca leaf is grown, such as Los Yungas and the Chapare region, be careful taking pictures. Farmers may not like it.
Food: Many tourists from first-world countries suffer some kind of food poisoning when traveling around Bolivia from eating street-food. So, in general, you shouldn’t taste the delicious, spicy, juicy street-food in Bolivia (which is a shame but, you know, health first and all). Make sure you eat at restaurants that display their sanitary certifications and look clean. For extra caution, avoid eating any raw vegetables and peel all your fruit. And wash your hands! But we’re sure we don’t have to tell you that.
Tap water: While the tap water in urban areas is supposed to be potable, and many locals actually do drink it, it’s really better not to risk it as a tourist. So, drink boiled water or bottled water only. You can brush your teeth and wash vegetables with tap water in urban areas at no risk, but if in the countryside, wash your teeth with bottled water, too.
Altitude sickness: Many of Bolivia’s most popular tourist attractions, like the Uyuni Salt Flats,Potosi, Sucre,La Paz,andLake Titicaca lie at altitudes between 2,500 and 5000 meters above sea level, so yes, altitude sickness is something you must prepare for. Thankfully, you can do that just by following a couple of good tips. Check out this thorough report on how to cope with altitude sickness in order to travel through Bolivia safely without missing out on any of its great destinations.
Tour safety: Make sure you research your tour agency beforehand. Uyuni Salt Flat, trekking, rivers, mine tours, jungle tours, Bolivia offers some great adventure opportunities, but please always make sure the agency meets international safety standards. Many agencies might offer better prices at a cost to safety. So, again, safety first, right? Check out this listing of many certified tour options. Also, be responsible yourself. For example, don´t get wasted the night before a downhill biking tour down the Death Road if you would rather not break an arm.
Diseases: If traveling around tropical areas of Bolivia and low-lands, make sure to cover up against mosquitoes with long sleeves and pants, and bring repellent. Malaria and dengue fever are a risk, especially during the rainy season, between November and February.
Road blocks: Roadblocks are somewhat common in Bolivia. The people in many rural communities and even in some cities block the roads and highways in protest. Mostly, you can know at least a day beforehand when a road will be blocked to take alternative measures, but it may happen that the blockade is upon you without warning. If this happens, you may have to walk to the point of blockade in order to take a cab or bike to your final destination. Or, the bus you travel on may take an alternative route, which could delay your time of arrival. How to cope? First, stay informed of possible road blockades by watching news and asking around. You can check out this map, which is updated constantly, and shows all Bolivian highways and marks road blockades. Secondly, travel with water and snacks, and enough warm clothes to deal with any situation. Wear comfortable shoes in case you have to walk long distances. Carry cash with you in case you have to pay for a cab or other transportation. And book your connecting buses and flights with enough time in between, so in the case of unforeseen circumstances you don´t miss your next flight or bus: at least four hours, just to be safe.
Peaceful (but annoying) protests: Protests are common in the cities of Bolivia, but especially La Paz. They are usually sit-ins or marches through the city´s main streets and can block traffic for about an hour. Violence is not common during such protests, but it is best to avoid them. In case you get stuck in traffic due to a protest, be patient. You can either get out and walk the rest of the way, or stay in the car and wait it out. But if you need to catch a bus or plane, remember to leave with enough time to make it. A protest can add one or two hours to your commuting time.
Natural disasters: No earthquakes or snowstorms in Bolivia, no hurricanes or tornadoes, but rainy season between November and February means flooding, landslides and road washouts, which could mean delays when traveling by land and even airplane. Traveling by land, you could get stuck overnight behind a landslide so, again, stay informed regarding transit and always travel with enough food, water and warm clothes.
Local transportation: If you want to take a cab, call it from your hotel, or take official cabs from airports and bus terminals, which clearly display their phone number and the company they belong to. Try not to take cabs from the street, and never take a cab that does not display the name of the company and phone number overhead. When using a minibus (vans with multiple passengers) or city bus, make sure you don’t get distracted, as pickpockets love to, well, pick your pockets in these vehicles.
Terminals and train stations: Always and in any country, be extra careful at transport hubs. You are most vulnerable when carrying all your belongings with you. Don´t get distracted by people offering to help with your luggage or ask you for directions. And don´t leave your stuff unattended. We think it’s helpful to know what to expect. Here is a page where you can find the addresses and description of most bus and train stations in Bolivia, including phone numbers.
Traveling by bus: Traveling by bus is safe in Bolivia, but common sense must be used. To avoid things getting stolen, which is rare but can happen, don´t put a laptop or other valuables in the overhead bin if its a long trip and you’ll fall asleep. Valuables should always be kept on you when traveling by bus. Nobody steals luggage from the luggage compartment in buses, so relax, as long as you have a ticket for the luggage you left in there, it should be safe. There is also no risk of buses being robbed on the highway. The most exciting thing that can happen to you on a bus trip in Bolivia is a flat tire or a road blockade (see above). Nevertheless, try to buy your tickets from good, responsible, experienced bus companies, which are sure to keep their buses in good working conditions. Informal or cheaper bus companies might not make sure their drivers are rested and prepared for driving long distances, may not hire two drivers to take turns driving, ensuring safety, and the maintenance to their buses might not be enough to ensure a good trip. Check out this link to buy tickets in advance and check out the best bus and train companies in order to travel safely through Bolivia by land.
We hope this information was useful. Have a safe trip and enjoy Bolivia!
If you are a lover of music and travel, if you are keen on getting to know those places still off the international tourist radar, then this post is for you. I’ll tell you all about the Chiquitos Circuit, the amazing music festival held there every two years, and how you can travel easily from Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz, to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train.
The ancient Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, towns founded between 1691 and 1767 in the territories of the chiquitano indigenous people, are some of the most important monuments of Bolivia´s cultural and historic heritage. It is not only the amazing churches that mix indigenous and European imagery, showing off the intricate artistry of indigenous hands, nor the joy of watching children play in an orchestra with instruments they made themselves, nor the lush green forest surroundings that make the Chiquitos Circuit a destination to discover.
It is also the fact that, during the process of restoration of the Jesuit temples in the 70s, an enormous musical treasure was discovered: more than 9,000 sheets of religious music written between the XVII and XVIII centuries, both by European and indigenous composers.
This amazing discovery gave way to turning Chiquitos into the epicenter of the celebration of baroque music in South America, with the creation of the International Festival of Renaissance and Baroque Music “Misiones de Chiquitos”, which is organized by APAC and held in April every two years since 1996. And you can attend the festival easily, by traveling from Santa Cruz to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train.
For the international musicians of baroque music that come from all over the world to play at this festival, it is like going back in history in a cross-cultural experience. The music played is often arranged or composed by local indigenous musicians, a magical moment because of its cultural implications. Most of the concerts are held at no cost to the public and the the local communities participate actively in the Festival, as well as many music lovers who come just for the concerts. In fact, there are special tours offered for those who want to get to know the natural, cultural and historic richness of Bolivia and experience a tour for people who don’t like tours.
The towns of Chuiquitos are very special. Founded between 1696 and 1760, most of the churches have their original structure and facades and the works of art inside made by European and indigenous artists. But it is not just the temples that live on; despite the expulsion of the Jesuits in the year 1767 and the passing of time, the teachings, language, religious and pagan customs, the temples and the music have been kept intact. Thus, the towns are not ruins or museums, but live communities with the inheritance of a rich, complex historic past and a thriving mestizo culture.
In 1990, UNESCO declared six missions of Chiquitos Cultural Heritage of Humanity, naming them “living towns” for the living and thriving customs that have been kept alive by their communities. These towns are:
There are two main ways to travel from Santa Cruz to the Chuiquitos Circuit, and here we tell you all about it.
Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train
The trip from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train lasts around 6 hours, covering a distance of 272 km. San Jose is the capital of the province of Chiquitos, and it was the third town founded as a ministry of the Jesuits on March 19th, 1697. This town is well-known for its church, built of stone in the 17th century.
To travel from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chuiquitos by train, you take the train at the Station in Santa Cruz, located on Montes Av. Trains leave every day except on Saturdays. They arrive at the Train Station in San Jose, located on Gallardo Av. If you want to reserve the tickets and heck out times of departure and arrivals, click here: Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train
Santa Cruz to San Ignacio de Velasco By bus
San Ignacio de Velasco is one of the largest towns in the Chiquitos Circuit, and it lies at a distance of 471 km from the city of Santa Cruz. Trip data:
San Ignacio de Velasco was founded in 1748 by Jesuit missions at the foot of beautiful mountains and close to the Paragua River. The town is strategically located, making it the receptive center for tours to the Missionary Triangle: San Miguel, San Rafael and Santa Ana de Velasco.
We hope this information was useful and that you will plan your trip from Santa Cruz to Chiquitos by bus or train. If you are rather a nature lover than a megalomaniac, look out for our next blog, where we explain how to explore the Noel Kempf Mercado Park, one of the most remote and exotic national reservations, located at just 198 km from San Ignacio de Velasco. Cheers and good travels!
Should you be worried by altitude sickness? When does it start to become dangerous and how to prepare for it?
When traveling to Cusco or Puno in Peru, or La Paz and Uyuni in Bolivia it is important to come prepared as adjusting to the altitude can take some time and could affect your trip in Bolivia and Peru. Here are some tips to help you with this and some useful information.
Altitude sickness typically occurs only above 2,500 meters (8,000 ft), though some are affected at lower altitudes. Risk factors include a high degree of activity, and a rapid increase in elevation.
1. What are the effects of altitude
Altitude can affect anyone in some way. Your physical fitness has no impact on how the altitude difference will affect you so there is no need to go to the gym to prepare. The symptoms are roughly the same for everyone but it will impact people on different levels.
Out of breath
Severe altitude sickness is rare but if you think you are not adjusting well to the altitude, go see a doctor and travel to a lower altitude if required.
2. Can you prepare before?
The best way to prevent altitude sickness and be prepared for high altitude locations is by climbing slowly, by steps, allowing the body to adjust to the new altitude. If that is not possible and you are planning to trek or want to attempt a climb soon after arrival, taking acetazolamide can be used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Acetazolamide is also known as Diamox. Please consult with your doctor before taking it.
How to use Diamox Tablet
Acetazolamide should be taken 1 to 2 days before starting to climb. Continue taking it while you are climbing and for at least 48 hours after you have reached your final altitude. You may need to continue taking this medication while staying at the high altitude to control your symptoms.
3. What to do when you arrive
However, it is not absolutely necessary to take Diamox, or acetazolamide, before coming to Peru or Bolivia. In most situations, you can adjust by taking some time when arriving to a new height and avoiding certain things:
Do not exert yourself
Avoid smoking and drinking, and other intoxicating substances
Eat light meals
Some companies advertise over the counter medicine against high altitude sickness, these medicine (Sorojchi pills for example) only treat some of the symptoms, such as the headache and are made of aspirin, acetaminosalol (Salophen) – which is an analgesic – and caffeine. These pills don’t cure altitude sickness and you should check the composition before taking them.
Coca tea is also believed to help with altitude sickness, though there isn’t any evidence to support this. However, drinking coca tea wouldn’t hurt and coca’s analgesic properties would certainly help.
Ultimately, it is important for travelers arriving to Peru and Bolivia to understand the difference between Diamox, Sorojchi Pills and coca tea.
Check with your doctor before taking Diamox.
Sorojchi pills can help with the symptoms when you first arrive but are not a treatment for altitude sickness.
Like the pills coca tea may help alleviate some of the symptoms
If you are planning to trek or climb a peak, make sure to plan time to acclimatize to the altitude. And if it is not possible do check with your doctor for the best way to deal with it.
If strong symptoms of altitude sickness remain after a few days please check with a doctor.
The only treatment for high altitude sickness is to descend to a lower altitude.
Bus travel in Bolivia, or in flota, as it is called here, is one of the best ways to get around while on a budget. Buses cover most of Bolivia’s destinations and the most popular routes have frequent departures. Of course, bus travel in Bolivia is not without complications but the views and landscapes you will go through are well worth the effort. Here are our five tips for getting around the country safely and affordably.
Being prepared is important in order to enjoy traveling in Bolivia by bus. For example, know that if you will be traveling at night, especially through the altiplano, it can get very cold at night. Even if buses claim to have air conditioning or heating, they sometimes don’t. Or it isn’t working, so be sure to have blankets and/or warm clothes at hand if you need them. Likewise, if traveling by day through the lowlands it may get really hot and stuffy.
Also, be sure to always have water and some food when you travel. Snacks are rarely included with the bus ticket, so most buses stop at least once so passengers can go to the bathroom and buy food in small towns along the way. But, when traveling in Bolivia by bus there are many circumstances that could affect the length of your trip. For example road blocks, traffic or the bus breaking down. These issues are usually resolved within a few hours, but it is always best to be prepared in case you end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
2. Know what to expect
Bus companies and drivers are trying to make the most profit from each trip. And there are many people who live in villages along the highway who need to travel. So don’t be alarmed if the buses stop once in a while to pick up passengers off the road, even if there is no space on the bus. People are used to sitting on the floor or stairways. It’s cultural, it responds to a social and economic reality and this won’t change in the near future. There are also sometimes people who get on the bus in order to sell food, drink, candy, and miracle remedies.
Unfortunately, when traveling in Bolivia by bus, there a different types of situations that can cause a delay or the cancellation of your trip. The rainy season, between November and February/March can cause landslides, flooding and other complications on some routes. Accidents are rare but to avoid them companies and transit authorities will cancel departures. There is not much that can be done other than waiting for better conditions or taking a different, longer route. This is why, if you are traveling in Bolivia/Peru/Chile/Argentina during the rainy season be aware that this could happen and plan sufficient time to get to your destination, especially if you have a flight to take. Please note that during the rainy seasons it is common for flights to be cancelled too so, wherever your destination, don’t book close connections.
Bolivia has a strong protest culture. This can be particularly problematic when traveling Bolivia by bus. Long strikes (24 hours and longer) are usually announced but sometimes small communities will block major roads for a certain number of hours and without warning. Sometimes there is no alternative road and no other solution than to wait for the roadblock to lift. It may be possible to cross the blockade by foot and then take another method of transportation but only do that when there is no other solution. These situations vary a lot and the bus company will do what they can to help you get to your destination.
It is also common for buses to wait past their scheduled departure time to fill with passengers. This is especially the case for informal bus companies who do regional routes (La Paz-Copacabana for example). If this will upset you, ask before you buy or go to the bus terminal where formal companies operate on fixed schedules. You can consult approximate journey times and departure times at the counter of the bus companies, and also in websites like this one, but be aware that these can change on short notice. Never plan a connection with less than 2 hours between the trips .
3. Know where you’re sitting
Types of seats
There are three types of buses in Bolivia: Lie-flat (cama), semi-lie-flat (semi cama) and normal. Buses with lie-flat seats are the most comfortable, and are usually only available for long trips, more than three hours long. The seats recline between 160 and 170 degrees, depending on the bus. We definitely recommend these for long trips. Semi-lie-flat buses have seats that recline between 120 and 130 degrees, and are great on trips that cover shorter distances. Normal buses have seats that recline no more than 110 degrees, and are okay for traveling short distances on a budget. VIP buses with personalized TVs, WiFi, USB plugs and food are not very common in Bolivia yet, unlike its neighboring countries. Only a few bus companies have these types of buses.
Where to seat in the bus
When selecting a seat, know the pros and cons of each. Seats in the back of the bus may be warmer, good if you’re traveling along the highlands, but the trip may be bumpy, since you’re practically sitting on the back tires. You may have a smoother ride in the front but it can be colder. Also, if you select window seats, there is a chance a draft may slip through, so make sure to have warm clothes.
At the moment few bus companies have online systems that allow to select a seat at the moment of the purchase. This means that when you book a bus ticket online, you can’t select a specific seat on most routes. When buying your tickets through TicketsBolivia, you can write to us after the booking and let us know your seating preference. If possible the bus company will do everything possible to accommodate each passenger.
4. Be safe
All arrival and departure times shown on our website correspond to local times. Whenever your bus leaves the terminal or arrives at night, between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am, be cautious. Do not take a taxi that does not have the proper registration and identification. Here is some information on how to recognize and avoid common scams in Peru and Bolivia.
Usually, the terminals have taxi companies that work with them and are certified. Sometimes, when your bus arrives very early, like 3:00 am, you have the option of staying on the bus until a safer time to leave, like 6:00 am. If you have any doubts about the location of the bus terminal you are leaving from or arriving at, you will find the complete list of terminals and maps on this link: https://ticketsbolivia.com/travel-board.php
Bolivia is a generally safe country where the same logic and common sense applies as anywhere else in the world and traveling around Bolivia by bus can be a real enriching and fun experience.
Look out the window, listen to some music, eat some snacks you wouldn’t otherwise, take the time to finally read that book or listen to that podcast and don’t be rushed to arrive at your next destination.
There are two train companies in Bolivia. Ferroviaria Andina and Ferroviaria Oriental. They only operate on a few routes in the country but provide a convenient alternative to buses on these routes. Villazon to Uyuni and Oruro to Uyuni by train are particularly popular routes In Bolivia. On the eastern part of the country, Ferroviaria Oriental covers Santa Cruz – Puerto Quijarro (border with Brazil) and Santa Cruz – Yacuiba (border with Argentina).
Find here all the train terminals in Bolivia and Peru.
Villazon to Uyuni by train
The city of Villazon is located on the border of Bolivia and Argentina. It is a commercial town, very busy with economic activity.
There are two types of trains
Wara Wara del Sur
Expreso del Sur
Please note that the Expreso del Sur train only has a Ferrobus class available at the moment. The business class is no longer available.
You can take the train from Villazon to Uyuni, there are four departures per week and the journey takes between 8 and 10 hours.
Days and time of departure
Price (in bolivianos)
Expreso del Sur – Ferrobus
Wednesday and Saturday – 15:30
Wara Wara del Sur
Monday and Thursday – 15:30
38 (popular) 56 (normal) 118 (executive)
Train schedule Villazon – Uyuni
Villazon to Tupiza by train
If you have time you can break your journey from Villazon to Uyuni by stopping in Tupiza. The train stops in Atocha and Tupiza but Tupiza is charming small town known for its warm climate, beautiful landscapes with spectacular rock formations such as the cañón del Inca. The train takes about 3 hours covering a distance of 91 km.
To travel from Villazon to Tupiza by train you must go to the train station located on Avenida Antofagasta. The Tupiza train station is located on Avenida Serrano and Calle Avaroa.
If you don’t want to take the train from Villazon to Tupiza, you can take a bus or a colectivo. Colectivos (shared taxis) leave every 30 minutes from the old bus terminal in Villazon.
Tupiza to Uyuni by train
The trips from Tupiza to Uyuni by train take around 6 hours crossing a distance of 207 km.
And back: Uyuni to Villazon by train
The train station in Uyuni is located there:
For your return trip, schedules and prices from Uyuni are the following:
Days and time of departure
Price (in bolivianos)
Expreso del Sur – Ferrobus
Tuesday and Friday – 21:40
Wara Wara del Sur
Monday and Thursday – 02:50
38 (popular) 56 (normal) 118 (executive)
Train schedule – Uyuni – Villazon
Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro by train
The train between Santa Cruz and Puerto Quijarro is sometimes called the ‘Death Train’. You can read here more about that particular route and origin of the name.
Days and time of departure
Price (in bolivianos
Expreso Oriental – Super Pullman
Monday, Wesdnesday, Friday – 13:20
Ferrobus – Lie-flat
Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday – 18:00
Schedule and prices from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro
The train from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro stops in San Jose de Chiquitos, Robore, Rivero Torrez and arrives in Puerto Quijerro at around 6:00 in the morning. The trip lasts between 13 and 16 hours depending on the train.
San Jose de Chiquitos
San Jose de Chiquitos, most commonly referred to as simply San Jose, is famous for being part of the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos. The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos are part of six of these former missions which were all designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. The International Festival of American Renaissance and Baroque Music takes place once every two years in over 20 Jesuit Mission towns of the Amazon jungle regions around Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
The next festival will take place from April 24 to May 3, 2020. the festival features over 1,000 musicians from Europe and Latin America in 100 concerts.
Border with Brazil
The train will stop in Puerto Quijarro a few kilometers from the border with Brasil. The Brazilian town on the other side of the border is Corumba.
To cross the border you will have to go to the border control post on the Bolivian side to leave the country and then cross over the border and repeat the process to enter Brazil. Make sure that you get your passport stamped on both sides.
Santa Cruz – Yacuiba by train
Yacuiba is a Bolivian town near the border with Argentina. To cross the border you will have to first go to the border control post on the Bolivian side to leave the country and then cross over the border to the Argentinian town of Salvador Mazza and repeat the process to enter Argentina.
The train takes about 16 hours and stops in Charagua, Boyuibe and Villamontes.