My route: Uyuni-Potosi-Sucre-Cochabamba-La Paz-Copacabana.
Bolivia is, and probably always will be, one of the most diverse, colorful and amazing county I have ever visit. I felt in love with the landscape, people and atmosphere as soon as I crossed the border on the desert between Chile and Bolivia. It was one of 17th countries I visited during my six months backpacking trip through South and Central America up to Mexico. Even planning this trip at home I already knew it will be my favorite destination, the one I will remember forever, and it happened to be one indeed. In this section I will quickly tell you about my experience, but my main goal is to give you, especially I am targeting solo female backpackers, as many tips as possible and to give you an overall look at prices, transport and food.
Few words to start.
Probably the hardest thing to deal with in Bolivia, and pretty much every Latin country, is zero to minimum English speaking people around. I have to admit that it was hard at times with my limited Spanish. I even felt like Italian sometimes with all my extra gesticulations I was using. That’s right Italians…you do that! You really have to learn basics to travel around; otherwise you may miss or lose on loads of things around you. Thought in most hotels, hostels receptionists speak English, it’s not guaranteed and remember, they are not going to be with you everywhere. But here’s something to cheer you up, Bolivia is one of the cheapest places in South America, I think only Paraguay is cheaper, so enjoy…… If you need a new clothes-buy them, that’s the place to get them. Don’t waste your time in the hostel kitchen to cook, you can get an amazing main meal for 1£, usually with drink and sometimes even with the soup. Trips are very affordable too, even that I prefer always to do everything on my own, I bought few and I was very pleased with them, plus I met other travelers too. Prices are depending on season, agency and your negotiation skills, but let’s say one day trip to the jungle can cost 20-30 £, including all meals, transport, guide. Ha…almost forgot how important negotiation is. Try to do it if possible, especially with travel agents, you can always get discount. I never done it while buying food or meals, simply as It was cheap already and I was even paying more, just as I felt they deserved it from us, tourists. But hey…do what you want!
Transport, well when it comes to transport you wallet is happy, but your back not so. Buses are cheap as hell, but that reflects on the comfort you get. There is not much choice around too, well..loads of companies, but with the same standard buses (as of Feb 2016). No need to look around too much, check just few to get the cheapest price (they don’t differ that much neither) and buy a ticket. Average bus ride for 8h will cost you no more than 8£. In 80% there will be no toilet, or there will be one, but permanently closed to public view :D. Don’t cry, bus driver will be stopping very often, next to the toilets, restaurants and shops to stuck up on food. Your intake and outtake will be well taken care of on the road. You don’t even have to go to the shop; there will be loads of colorful ladies in the bus to sell all kind of food and drinks. From hot meat, corns (my fav, miss them with all my heart), vegetarian or meaty delicious pastry to nuts, all kind of fruits, and sweets. Try pastry, they are all homemade and extremely delicious!!! Anyway, even that I mention how uncomfortable buses can be with minimum recline chair, there will be nothing more amazing and beautiful than what you will see through the window on the road. Landscape is just breath-taking…you think you are getting from A to B, but what you’re really doing is having an amazing cheap trip thought the Andes, valleys and jungle.
Now few worlds about city transport. Don’t hesitate to take a taxi if you need one. It’s very very cheap, but always remember to agree on the price before getting in. For example 5km will cost you around 1.5-2 pounds. Buses and minibuses are way cheaper, difficult to get your head around, but once you master it, just go for it! For example in La Paz, you will be shock how they do run, but they always have a destination shown on the front window and they do go to the main “backpacker interest” places, so chill out. From minibus you can get off where you want and get in, where you want, just wave your hand or tell the driver to stop. They will cost you around 0.20£.
Hostels and hotels are very cheap too. Usually I was paying max 5£ per night. In one of the best Hotels with balcony and view on Titicaca lake in Copacabana I paid 20£, oh well I needed that. There is loads of places to stay around…I mean looooads. It is a backpacker land, so you will not look for too long to find a place you like. Bolivia is elevated, so the temperature range tend to be the lowest in South America, that’s why in most hostels you will get a hot water, so enjoy till last, as in other countries that’s like a rare pleasure.
At the beginning of my trip (in Brazil, Argentina and Chile) I was using a booking.com, but I quickly discovered that I am just paying more, as of booking.com fesses, so do look yourself or look online and then just go there. There is hardly any hotel, hostel that is fully booked. As I said its loads of them, especially in the city canter and near all bus stations, so you won’t end up walking with your backpack for too long.
Maps.me. Please do get a maps.me app. It saved my life many many times. You can use maps with no internet connection and even, as because it uses a GPS, it will show you your location in most of the places. Plus it has hostels, shops and all places of interest on it, witch make it easier to find your way around.
Food in Bolivia is like a dream. I loved it a lot, I guess I still do and sometimes I have these wet dreams about it, but it’s not a culinary side, so I will spare you writing much about it, however it’s cheap, homemade, delicious and it’s available on every corner. Always go to the big markets (Mercado) to eat. Everything is there and usually (in every place I visited so far was like that) is divided in sections with fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes (but not everywhere), cosmetics and food areas. Oh public toilets are there too. Well to be honest they are very dirty, smelly and not nice in general, but please don’t act with your nose up. It is a third world country, people live in this condition and often don’t have a choice. Think how lucky and fortunate you are and, damn, don’t show your ignorance to them. Don’t be an idiot. Well anyway, coming back to my favorite topic, please do visit Mercado and try the food there. Its amazing, different and very very cheap, as I wrote above, the average price for the main meal and drink is 1£. Though it’s not much of vegetarian range there, you can find something anyway. Otherwise you can have a delicious meat (chicken, beef) with salad and rice or potatoes. Pasta is very popular too! The most amazing thing is that you will eat with locals. They are all very nice and they will always talk to you. I really would like to highlight places like that, as usually I was the only traveler there and that gave me the chance to truly experience life of Bolivians and atmosphere. Don’t be scared and don’t listen to that bullshit about food poisoning, upset tummy etc. For the whole 6 months (and trust me I ate the cheapest street food, sometimes even sitting on my ass on the street) and I’ve never ever experience anything like that!! Be brave and don’t behave like from royal family, but if you are like that, then Bolivia is not definitely for you!!
Amigos. Girls, now you can relax, finally. There will non to minimum harassment form Latinos in Bolivia towards you. It’s very interesting about that place and I still don’t understand why. I think Nicaragua and Salvador are on the top of the list, when sometimes I was wishing I could just give them a good old face palm. But let’s take it, enjoy it and walk around without unwanted attention. At the same time I felt like Bolivia is the safest place too.