11 days (only Bolivia), Aug '11
Kind of travel:
Me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel
05th- 15th Aug 2011 (only Bolivia)
Do I need a visa:
no, just the passport to get a colourfull medium size stamp
How many km:
1600 km (only Bolivia)
How I moved:
bus is the main mean of transport being frequent and well organised,
but the train lovers shouldn't miss the Uyuni- Oruro
train. Few times we hitch hiked without any problems- Domestic
flights are convenient and frrequent (La Paz- Sucre: 60€
pp). Salar de Uyuni has no other mean than an organised jeep
share among 6 people (75€, 3 days).
Freezing or baking:
August is winter time so be equipped for the real coldness:
Sucre is warm (13C- 26C), but Potosi and Uyuni are colder (4C-16C),
while it's in the Salar your resistance will be tested (till
-8C). In particular what makes lfe harder is the lack of heating
system in the hotels or the unreliable hot water.
Guesthouse generally were not so impressive, mainly for the
frequent lack of hot water and heating system, at least they
were cheap like hell (7- 17€ double)
First of all I loved everything of Bolivia: the Salar and Laguna
Colorada are jaw dropping, the mines in Potosi more than impressive
and La Paz with its traditionally dressed women (Cholitas) and
its location is charming. The last bt not the least the madness
of the car blessing in Copacabana (sunday morning) has been
Night buses are cold like hell (thank to A/C), people don't
want to be photographed even if asked kindly, the country is
full of stray dogs, and waiting 40 min at the restaurant for
a soup is the norm.
We got impressed by how much Bolivia is cheap: accommodation
from 8-17€ for a double, meals from 6-7€, also taxi
are amazingly cheap (0.8€ per 15min) at the end for a total
of 33€ per day pp. making Bolivia one of the cheapst country
I've travelled in.
Pickpocketing unfortunately is popular in particular in La Paz,
hence pay attention, since they use many tricks. When moving
through the Salar by jeep be patient: we punctured 5 times!
When planning your itinerary consider time-buffers and backup
plans, since strikes (blocadus) are quite frequent
you do need:
Warm clothes (thermal pants) and sleeping bag is a must in particular
for the Salar, then don't forget your flash lamp.
IMPRESSIONS OF BOLIVIA
From the backpacking standpoint Bolivia'll exceed your brighter
expectations; first of all it's really an authentic country
from the traditional standpoint; even the the capital you'll
se so many women wearing traditional dresses ('Cholitas') hanging
Then what about the environmental variety? from the world most
amazing mountains landscapes, to the wild Amazon Forest.. what's
missing is just the sea shore but Lake Tititicaca makes a great
And what about the cheapness? We were immediately impressed
by the low prices; in fact we made it at South Est Asia cost
level, and if you have other travelling experiences in South
America you'll be well aware is definitely not a low budget
place (Brazil for instance)s
Having said this, if for travelling Bolivia is a kind of paradise,
it might be not for those living there; it's the poorest country
in South America and Bolivians frequently protests against the
government with strikes (blocadu) that could mine easily your
plan if no time buffer is allowed. The only thing Bolivians
have to damp the hard life seems to be Coca leaves, and you'll
have plenty of opportunities to test them.
TRAVEL IN BOLIVIA
| 2 night
Juan and Laguna Colorada)
in the 75€pp
4h on foot
It has been a long haul
from Milan to La Paz stopping over in London, Chicago and Miami
but at least we paid the ticket 1.150€! (return from Lima)
We particularly liked La Paz, mostly built on the steep walls
of a valley at 3.600m with it's highest part (airport included)
at 4.000m. We were quite surprised by the number of women wearing
the traditional colourfull dresses (Cholitas), inf act the town
has an authentic Bolivian atmosphere.
We stayed in La Paz a couple of days at the Hotel Colonial (17€
double) before flying to Sucre (1.5h, 60€ pp), where in
turn we stack in our sleeping bag at the Hotel Charchas (14€
doulbe). The town is defined as the most elegant town of Bolivia
and it's also its cultural hearth since where Indipendence was
declared. The town is plenty of white churches to be visited
and in particular I liked the 'Convento De San Felipe Neri'
(you have to ring), where you can climb the roof and than the
stample to enjoy a great view of the town, without mention the
beauty of the place itself. Beside we visited also the Parque
Cretacico, the place where dinosaurous footprints have been
found: if you have a kid this is the right place to go.
Since relatively speaking Sucre sits in the lowlands (2700m),
despite being winter, it was really warm reaching the temperature
It took just 4h by bus to reach again 4.000m in the town of
Potosi, known for what's one of the main highlights of Bolivia:
In fact nearby the town there is 'Cerro Rico', a mountains completely
dug by undreds of narrow tuunels (a kind of Emmental Cheese)
searching for silver or thin. We easiliy organised the tour
through our hostel (Koala Den) in the night for the following
At 9.00am we were already wearing a complete miner outfit, boots
and flash lamp included. Then our guide took us to buy some
gifts for the miners: explosive, coca, gloves, water.... at
the beginning I thought it was just a trick to make the tourists
spend in the shops, only later I realised how such stuffs are
badly needed by the guy working there.
We (4 people) entered the caves walking for 3h in narrow tunnels,
sometimes so small we had to crawl (70cm high) with temperature
up to 45C, till the level where miners were working.
I warn the tour is not for faint hearted or an entertainment
park for kids; apart of the phisical effort (narrow tunnels,
unbearable hotness and unbearable dusty air), what makes it
really impressice are the people digging for hours at such conditions.
Once you see them you wont' be surprised , working there they
live at most 10 years dieing for lung Silicosys.
The following day we set out to Uyuni through a looong 7h bus
In Uyuni there's the feeling of a remote place where young (and
not) backpackers are departurting or arriving from the Salar,
that's why there no lack of travel agencies, hotels and restaurant
but the whole built without spoiling the atmosphere.
The town is small built around the station,a few wide avanues
swipen by the cold wind. We settled at the Kori Wasi guesthouse
(10€ double) a cute place but don't expect warm rooms.
Asking advice around to the other travellers, we quickly organise
the 3 days tour in the Salar in the agency :'Alkaya Expedeciones'
for 75€pp (see
travel tip for details). and we bought the bus ticket to
return to La Paz after the tour (most of the buses where already
The tour has been amazing: we were 6 people + driver+ a cooker
(woman). Besides the two of us, there were two German girls
and an Israeli couple, nice people and great time all together!
(Thanks Mona, Iagmur, Eli and Itav!)
The first day we crossed the white Salar De Uyuni reaching the
Isla Del Pescado, a strange hill plenty of cactus (even 1.000
years old) in the middle of the Salar. Then we reached San Juan
where we spent overnight in an hotel built by salt (even the
floor was made of salt).
The following day we drove to the Laguna Colorada, a red lake
where hundreds of red flamingoes live: there is an alien like
atmosphere, as being on another planet. However the wind made
the coldness quite unbearable so be equiped. We slept in a very
basic guesthouse (a kind of long hut made out of mud) where
due to the obvious lack of heating system, although being in
the sleeping and coverd by 4 wool blankets, we wore all the
clothes we had.
The third day we set out at 4 am with -8C stopping by the hot
spring (only the braves managed to try) andLaguna Verde, a little
disappointing since more than green was grey and not so interesting
compared to the Laguna Colorada, but this may be up to the season.
Finally we reached the border with Chile where we dropped off
the Israeli couple setting back to Uyuni by an looong 7h drive.
We were in Uyuni at 6.00pm and the same evenign we got the bus
pulling in La Paz at 6.30am. Then we headed to Copacabana where
we arrived after 4h at 11.00am. (there's a quick boat tranfer
before reaching the town).
It was Sunday morning and by chance in front of the cathedral
we attended to what has been one of the most funny thing we
saw in the whole travel: the car blessing. Lliterally hundres
of cars, minivans, trucks heaviliy decorated with flowers, piles
of fake dollars, colourfull garlands, hanging beers bottles...maybe
some big altar supporting a Virgin Mary statue.... everything
available in any of the many stalls in the square. Then after
a long queu the cars were blessed (around 30 per shift), even
on the motor opening the bonnet to the priest. The conclusion
was the picture of the whole family with the priest and the
launch of noisy crackers among the crowd.
The following day we took a boat harbouring after 3h in the
north part of the Isla Del Sol in the Titicaca lake (the holy
island where Incas are supposed to have been originated). Here
we trekked for 3h all the 9km trail at almost 3.000m (ok we
gasped a little) till the southern part, enjoying the great
view of the blue lake under the hot sun, chilled down by the
From Copacabana to the Peruvian border it's less then 30min
by bus and in further 3h we were in Puno.
EU citizens staying
less than 90 days don't require anything more than
their passport. It'll be stamped with a medium size
The currency is
the Bolivian Pesos; the official change rate.
Aug 2011). The pesos is very volatile versus the
euros, being more aligned to USD
I had Footprint
(Peru- Bolivia- Ecuador) and LP (7th April 2010 in
Italian) both very useful as usual.
I had the usual
vaccinations: ephatite A, B, typhus and tetanus; given
the season and the low temperature there's no need
for no risk for Malaria.
What should be your concern is the Altitude, in particular
if you land directly in La Paz (4.000m) you may feel
it. I had a strong headache for few days and there's
nothing you can really do against it beside avoid
doing any effort and getting some pill (Moment) for
the headache. The obvious suggestion is to come from
low altitude (i.e. from Lima) and getting slowly acquainted;
surely landing directly La Paz (as we did) is the
worst you can do.
- Bed-seats for night
Night travel buses can be tiring like hell, that's
why my suggestion is to invest sometihng more
to get a 1st class (semibed) place: seats are
wider, you can tilt them till 150deg (even if
not completely horizontal), fewer people, so chances
to sleep are higher. Still it'll be cold due to
the A/C but the bus company usually provides a
in La Paz
La Paz is a nice place where to spend a day,
but extreme attention is needed to the several
tricks used to robbed tourists. Don't panic,
there is nothing violent in the robbing: the
common scam is to shoot some water inside your
ear, and when you turn to understand what's
happening they empty your pocket on the opposite
SALAR DE UYUNI
the high season (July- Aug) popping up in
Uyuni and entering in any agency will almost
guarantee you the chance to leave the next
day, so don't worry about booking in advance.
Different issue is to understand the right
agency to rely on.
Few internet researches in the forum (i.e.:Lonely
Planet Thorn Tree) or asking in Uyuni to
the guys back from their trip is always
the best approach.
The standard 3 days tour is departs (10.00am)
and arrives (6.00pm) in Uyuni visiting:
day 1- Train cemetery, Salar De Uyuni, Isla
day 2- Laguna Colorada
day 3- Hot Springs, Laguna Verde, border
The agency will provide:
- jeep with driver and a cooker shared among
- accomodation (in very basic and cooold
- park entrance fee
- drinks at the guesthouse
The agency we used has been :'Alkaya
(Av Arce 346, tel/fax (591) 2-6932164, cel
72422140- 72427821, email: email@example.com)
We paid roughly 75€ pp for the whole
3 days, at the end we were satisfied with
the sevice so I reccomend them.
Pay attention to:
- not having a jeep shared with 7 people
- having warm clothes and a sleeping bag
(you can rent in Uyuni)
- if you are a couple you might be asked
to put all your stuffs in one bag
- carry your swimming suit if you feel to
enjoy hot springs
- have a flash lamp
- have your own music if you are an easy-boring
person spending hours and hours in a jeep
- book the night bus/train to La Paz well
in advance or you won't be able to leave
Uyuni once back from the tour
- the driver and the cooker are not touristic
guides and don't expect they'll spent more
than few words about what's around you,
regardless the language you speak
- don't expect a deluxe trip; breakdowns
and punctures are frequent (we punctured
5 times and got a break down). Be patient
- avoid getting the cheapest solution ever,
since margins are low also for them and
for sure during the trip you'll figure out
where the savings come from.