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Bolivia FAQs

About Bolivia

Is Bolivia safe?

The following links offer information that will allow you to decide for yourself if Bolivia is safe.

The British website contains more information and is written in a friendlier manner.

Should you choose to travel with us, please know that we take your safety seriously. In fact, we take many steps to help ensure your safety:

  • We start before you arrive. Llama Expeditions’ founder Diane Valenti personally checks out each itinerary.
  • When you arrive, we meet you at the airport, assist with the transfer to your hotel, and help you check in.
  • The hotel in La Paz is located in a neighborhood within easy walking distance of numerous dining choices.
  • Our guides are certified by the American Red Cross in first aid.

When is the best time to go to Bolivia?

High season is during our summer—June through August. However, shoulder season, April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall, is an even better time to visit Bolivia because it is not as cold.

What is the weather like?

The weather depends on the location and the time of year. From April through October, the sun can be quite strong and the temperatures quite cold, especially at night.

You can easily check the weather before your trip to get an idea of what to expect.

We will also send you a packing list to help ensure that you come prepared.

What documents do I need to travel to Bolivia?

US citizens need a passport with 6+ months of validity remaining to enter Bolivia.

US citizens also need a Visa. You can get your Visa at the border when you arrive.

You will need the following:

  • Passport photo
  • Copy of a credit card, both front and back, for proof of economic solvency
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccine if you are traveling from Peru
  • Completed Sworn Statement for Visa Application paperwork
  • $135 in exact change – bills should be new if possible, clean, not torn, scrunched, or written on
  • Passport with 6+ months of validity
  • Copy of your passport
  • Itinerary and plane ticket

It is your responsibility to check on current entrance requirements with local immigration offices or the Bolivian embassy.

Is the electricity the same as in the US?

You can plug in Apple devices (iphone, Mac) without a problem in Bolivia.

You will need to bring a converter and an adapter in order to plug in other devices (camera battery chargers, blow dryers, etc.)

In the salt flat and high desert of Uyuni, some of the hotels are off the grid. This means that they use solar panels to generate electricity. As a result, they limit their use of electricity to a few hours a day.

We recommend that you bring a headlamp type of flashlight so you can see what you are doing while your hands remain free.

Is there heat in the hotels?

The hotel we work with in La Paz has a space heater in each room that works quite well.

Many of the hotels in Uyuni, technically speaking, have heat. But, it is hard to feel. This means it is important to bring lots of layers, including a hat, neck warmer, and gloves for inside the hotel.

Also, while the beds have lots of blankets, it is hard to heat up a cold bed if you are already cold. We recommend that you pack a sleeping bag to put under the blankets. And, we also recommend that you pack a hot water bottle. You can put the hot water bottle in your sleeping bag so it is toasty warm when you get in.

Finally, if you are the cold type, you might want to pack hand and feet warmers that you can put in your gloves and socks if you get really cold.

Are there hot showers?

The hotel we work with in La Paz definitely has hot showers.

The hotels we work with in Uyuni have hot showers, too. The most remote hotels only have hot showers during the late afternoon/early evening, though. This is because these hotels are off the grid and use solar panels to heat the water. If you wait till morning to shower, the water will be cold.

Will I need immunizations for my trip to Bolivia?

You should check the CDC website to see which immunizations are currently recommended.

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About Our Adventure

Who goes on this type of adventure?

Most of our guests are like you. They are interested in doing more than observing the world from the window of a tour bus.

Most are couples, singles, and families from the US. However, we welcome travelers from all over the world.

This adventure, however, is extraordinary for photographers! One of our guests was even invited to enter a photo he took on our Bolivia adventure in a NYC art gallery showing!

That said; you must be in good physical condition to participate in this adventure. We will be taking you well off-the–beaten path at very high altitudes. Medical attention is not readily available.

Finally, all of our groups are private. So, you needn’t worry about whether you’ll get along with a group of strangers on our adventures.

Is this adventure a good choice if I am traveling alone?

Absolutely!

You’ll benefit from our expertise. For example, you won’t have to worry about winding up in a roach-infested hotel or giving directions to a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English.

And, you’ll have one of our super knowledgeable and fun guides all to yourself.

Is this adventure suitable for children?

Our Bolivia adventure is not suitable for young children.

We take you well off-the–beaten path at very high altitudes. Medical attention is not readily available.

Also, little children tend to get squirmy sitting in the Jeep as we drive between sights on nonexistent roads.

Do you have age limits?

We accept bookings from guests aged 21 to 70.

However, depending on the traveler and the adventure, we will book travelers outside of that age range.

That said; you must be in good physical condition to participate in this adventure. We take you well off-the–beaten path at very high altitudes. Medical attention is not readily available.

How many people do you put in a Jeep?

Our Bolivia adventure is essentially a Jeep safari across the salt flat and through the high desert.

Since you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in the Jeep, we like to make sure that you are comfortable. We limit the number of guests to 3 to 4 per Jeep.

What are the qualifications of your guides?

Our guides are phenomenal! Many have become personal friends.

All of our guides are licensed by the Bolivian government and have many years of experience leading adventures.

They all have first aid training and many have earned a Wilderness First Responder certificate.

Our guides speak both English and Spanish.

They love what they do and are thrilled to have the opportunity to show you their homeland.

Are hotels included in the cost of your trip?

Most definitely.

We will take care of all hotel reservations during the trip.

Check out the itinerary for specific information on the hotels.

What are the hotels like?

The boutique hotel we work with in La Paz is located in a charming neighborhood within walking distance of numerous dining choices.

The hotels we work with in Uyuni are the best that the area has to offer. These hotels offer heat, hot showers, and electricity. Since these hotels are remote, though, heat, electricity, and hot water are limited. See questions about electricity, heat, and hot showers, above.

One thing to note—whenever possible, our hotels are locally owned. We work with Bolivian-owned hotels to ensure your tourist dollars remain in Bolivia and benefit Bolivians.

Why are your trips more expensive than others I've seen for Uyuni?

Our trips are more expensive for the following reasons.

  • We work with the best hotels in Uyuni. Guests on less expensive trips are often staying in hotels that have no heat and no showers.
  • We include three good meals a day. Guests on less expensive trips are often eating cold spaghetti.
  • We limit the number of guests to 3 to 4 per Jeep. Guests on less expensive trips are often squeezed 6 to a Jeep
  • Our trip includes guides and drivers. Guests on less expensive trips often only have a Spanish-speaking driver.
  • We focus on safety. This means our Jeeps are well maintained. We travel with a satellite phone in case we run into a problem. And, we have oxygen in case someone gets altitude sick. Guests on less expensive trips are often working with companies that do not take these precautions.

What is philanthropic adventure travel?

As a part of your adventure, we take you off the beaten path to visit a non-profit project. You can see who we work with on the Giving Back in Bolivia page of our website.

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Getting to Bolivia

Are international flights included in the cost of the adventure?

No. You’ll need to purchase your airline tickets to and from Bolivia.

Are domestic flights included in the cost of the adventure?

No. You’ll need to purchase your domestic airline tickets.

However, we’ll tell you what flights you need to take so that you can make sure you are in the right place at the right time.

What should I do if I am concerned about carbon offsetting?

We share your concern.

In fact, we purchase carbon offsets on your behalf for air travel included in the itinerary.

Which airport do I need to fly into?

You’ll need to fly into El Alto International Airport in La Paz.

How do I get from the airport to the hotel?

One of our guides will meet you at the airport.

Look for your name on a sign when you exit the baggage claim area.

Your guide will escort you to the hotel and assist you with check in.

What do I need to do when coming through customs when I enter Bolivia?

During the flight to La Paz, the flight attendant will give you a Bolivia entrance form.

You’ll need to complete the form to show, along with your passport, to the customs officer. The customs officer may also ask to see your itinerary, return flight ticket, and a copy of your credit card.

The customs officer will ask how long you plan to be in Bolivia.

Normally, the officer will stamp your passport indicating a permissible stay of 60 to 90 days.

The officer will return both your passport and the customs entry form.

If you do not have a Visa yet, you will be able to get your Bolivian Visa at the border. See Visa question above.

What do I do with the entry form?

You need to keep the entry form to show the customs officer when you leave Bolivia.

Keep it with your passport so that you don’t lose it!

Is there a departure tax?

Yes. Travelers leaving Bolivia must pay a departure tax.

This tax is almost always included in the cost of your plane ticket. If it is not included in your plane ticket, there are several ATMs in the airport that you can use to get cash to pay the departure tax.


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Money Matters

What is the currency of Bolivia?

The boliviano is the currency of Bolivia.

How can I obtain bolivianos to use in Bolivia?

In many large US cities, there are foreign exchange offices that will provide you with foreign currency in exchange for US dollars.

American Express Travel offices also provide the same service.

However, make sure to call ahead as it may take them a few days to obtain the bolivianos needed to make the exchange.

A simple way to obtain bolivianos is to use one of the ATMs in the airport when you arrive in La Paz. The ATMs in Bolivia dispense both US dollars and bolivianos. Simply select the latter to withdraw money from your account in bolivianos.

Be aware that some ATMs in Bolivia do not automatically release your card when they dispense cash. You may need to request card return by pushing a button. Always take an extra few seconds to verify that you have your card before you walk away.

Many ATMs have instructions in English, and your guide can also help you use the machine if necessary.

Make sure to talk with your bank before you leave for Bolivia. You should find out what, if any, fees you’ll be charged.

Also, have your bank note the dates you will be in Bolivia to avoid problems with your ATM card. Just in case there is a problem, you should get the number of the bank to call from Bolivia. There is often a different customer service number to call from overseas.

Can I use my credit card?

Credit cards are accepted in many hotels, restaurants, and shops in major cities such as La Paz and Uyuni. However, in more remote areas and in the artisan markets, cash is still king.

Some hotels and restaurants also charge a different price if you use a credit card. They will add an 8 to 10 percent surcharge to the bill. In these situations, clearly, using cash is preferable.

You should check with your credit card company before you leave for Bolivia to find out what, if any, fees they will charge if you use your card in Bolivia.

Be sure that your credit card company notes the dates you will be in Bolivia to avoid problems with your credit card. Just in case there is a problem, get the number of the credit card company to call from Bolivia. There is often a different customer service number to call from overseas.

Can I use my ATM card?

There are ATMs with directions in English readily available in La Paz and Uyuni, and at the airport.

If you are not sure if you will find an ATM at a particular place, check with your guide.

The ATMs in Bolivia dispense both US dollars and bolivianos. Simply select the latter to withdraw money from your account in bolivianos.

Be aware that some ATMs in Bolivia do not automatically release your card when they dispense cash. You may need to request card return by pushing a button. Always take an extra few seconds to verify that you have your card before you walk away.

Many ATMs have instructions in English, and your guide can also help you use the machine if necessary.

Make sure to talk with your bank before you leave for Bolivia. You should find out what, if any, fees you’ll be charged.

Also have your bank note the dates you will be in Bolivia to avoid the possibility of having problems using your ATM card. Just in case there is a problem, you should also get the number of the bank to call from Bolivia. There is often a different customer service number to call from overseas.

What is the exchange rate?

The exchange rate changes daily.

You can check the exchange rate online. The boliviano is BOB.

How much should I budget beyond the cost of my trip?

How much additional money you need to budget beyond the cost of the trip is really up to you.

You can get an excellent lunch for about $10 to $15 on the days it is not included.

And, a dinner with a drink at a very nice restaurant typically won’t run more than $25 to $30.

Shopping really depends on your taste.

How much should I tip?

It is customary to tip 10% of the total bill in restaurants.

Tip according to your heart—but you may find the following guidelines helpful:

RoleTransferPer Day
Guide$2/personLa Paz $2/personUyuni $5/person
Driver$2/personLa Paz $2/personUyuni $2/person

Are US dollars accepted?

US dollars can be easily exchanged and are accepted in some situations.

However, dollars must be in good condition. If they are crinkled, ripped or overly worn, they will not be accepted, even for exchange.

US dollars in denominations of less than $20 are also more easily exchanged and accepted.


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Staying Healthy

What can I do to avoid getting sick?

Make sure to drink only bottled or purified water. And, use bottled or purified water to brush your teeth.

Bottled water is readily available. When you purchase bottled water, make sure the seal is intact. Also, many of the hotels provide a pitcher of purified water in the rooms.

Request your drinks without ice. And, avoid eating uncooked food or food purchased from street vendors.

Use hand sanitizer to wash your hands frequently.

How concerned should I be about the possibility of altitude sickness?

Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you will suffer from altitude sickness. It is a genetic condition. So, no amount of getting in shape will help.

You should discuss your concerns with your doctor. He or she may prescribe medication to help prepare your body for the transition to a higher altitude or to cope with the effects of mild altitude sickness once you are there.

For more information about altitude sickness symptoms and prevention, check out this highly informative website on high altitude medicine.

What can I do to help acclimatize once I am at altitude?
The first day, you should rest, eat lightly, avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of water. The hotel in La Paz offers coca tea in the lobby. This tea can help you adjust to the altitude.

What should I do if I feel poorly at altitude?

You should let your guide know that you are feeling poorly immediately. Even if you think you ate something that caused an upset stomach or diarrhea, assume that it is altitude sickness if you are at altitude. Symptoms of altitude sickness include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your guide may recommend some actions you can take, such as resting, drinking coca tea, or eating a little soup, until the feeling passes.

Your guide can also administer oxygen if you are feeling particularly poorly.

What other health and well-being issues should I be concerned about?

The Bolivian sun is quite strong. So, bring plenty of sun block, a good pair of sunglasses, and a sun hat. Long-sleeved shirts and pants also offer additional protection from the sun.

In addition, the drivers in Bolivia are more aggressive than they are in the US. Never assume that you have the right of way as a pedestrian. Look carefully and avoid distractions when crossing the streets. A good rule of thumb is to cross the street when a crowd of locals does, if at all possible.

Can I refill my prescriptions in Bolivia?

Not all medicines are available in Bolivia. You should bring the quantities of all prescription medications you will need in the original bottles.

What medications and other first aid supplies should I bring?

The CDC website contains a comprehensive list of first aid supplies international travelers should pack.

What are the public restrooms like?

The public restrooms are generally quite clean. However, they may not all stock toilet paper or have running water. In addition, some restrooms are set up so that you need to get toilet paper at a main receptacle before you enter the stall. Carry small packets of Kleenex to keep in your pocket, just in case. Hand sanitizer can also be very helpful.

Regardless of whether you use a public restroom or the bathroom in your hotel, restaurant, or even the airport, you will need to put all toilet paper in the waste basket provided. Bolivia’s sewage system can’t handle toilet paper or other items being flushed.

Will my health insurance work in Bolivia?

Most US-based health insurance will not cover you in Bolivia. As a result, you’ll need to buy travel insurance to cover you while you travel in Bolivia.

Travel insurance companies have several different levels of policies. Make sure the policy options you select covers you for all of the activities you plan to take part in during your trip. If not, you may find yourself in the unhappy position of having to pay a hefty medical bill.

Travel insurance is required to participate in all of our adventures.


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Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

Can I drink the water?

You can’t drink the tap water in Bolivia. However, bottled water is readily available and many hotels provide a pitcher of purified water in the room that you can use to brush your teeth, drink, and refill your water bottle.

Can I eat fresh fruits and vegetables?

Many restaurants in areas frequented by tourists are now washing their fresh fruits and vegetables with purified water, which makes them safe to eat. Just to be safe, though, always ask first.

Can I have ice in my drinks?

Many restaurants in areas frequented by tourists now use purified water to make ice. You should always ask first to be sure this is the case in the restaurant you are patronizing. We recommend that you avoid ice in your drinks.

How will I know if something I ate or drank made me sick?

You may not know if it was something you ate or drank that was the culprit. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also symptoms of altitude sickness.

If you experience any of these symptoms when you are at altitude, assume that they have been caused by altitude sickness and let your guide know. He or she can suggest steps you might take to alleviate these symptoms.

Can special diets be arranged?

Yes, we can accommodate special diets if you let us know your requirements ahead of time. Please let us know about your special diet needs on your Trip Application.

Are all meals included?

Most, but not all, meals are included. We include the meals that we feel most certain that you’ll be hungry to eat given your itinerary for that day.

What are the meals like?

Meals in Bolivia are simple. We have a picnic lunch when we visit the salt flat and high desert. The hotels provide breakfast and dinner.

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Traveling Within Bolivia

Which airlines do you recommend for flights within Bolivia?

We recommend that our guests fly on Amazonas for flights to Uyuni.

What other forms of transportation are used?

In addition to flying, you will travel by private car or van, and Jeep.

What other transportation costs will I incur during the trip?

The only additional transportation cost you may incur on our adventure is for checked baggage, depending on current airline rules.

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Staying in Touch

How can I stay in touch while I am in Bolivia?

You can easily access WiFi in La Paz and Uyuni.

Once you get out onto the salt flat and into the high desert, though, both WiFi access and cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent.

Will I be able to recharge my cell phone and laptop?

Yes, if you bring a 2-pin plug adapter and a voltage transformer to use in Bolivia. Bolivia’s electricity is 220 volts, 60 cycles. You can buy this equipment at travel stores. You may also wish to bring extra batteries for cameras.

If you have an iPhone or an Apple computer, you may be able to plug these devices directly into the wall socket. Please check with an Apple authorized dealer first, though, to make sure that this will work for the device you bring.

How do I call the US from Bolivia?

To call the US, dial 1 and then the number you wish to dial. If you plan to call the US frequently, you may wish to purchase a calling card online before you leave. A calling card will allow you to make these calls more cheaply.

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Packing

How will I know what to bring?

We will send you a packing list appropriate to your trip.

Please leave expensive jewelry and other costly items at home. You do not want to unwittingly make yourself a potential target for pickpockets.

Are there limitations on suitcase weight or size?

For most of the trip, your luggage will travel in the back of a Jeep. So, no steamer trunks, please!

In addition, on domestic flights, you may need to pay additional fees for checked bags. As airline rules seem to constantly change, we can’t tell you with any certainty what the fees will be.

If I pack light, will I be able to do laundry during my trip?

It is very difficult to do laundry on this trip, even in the sink of your hotel. On most days, you will move from hotel-to-hotel. So, wet laundry may not have a chance to dry.

In addition, the cold temperatures make putting on damp clothing a bad idea. Better to wear dirty clothing than to shiver in clean ones.

What else should I bring?

Make sure to bring a copy of your passport, your ATM card, and any credit cards you are traveling with. Bringing another form of identification and a passport photo will also make it easier to replace your passport if it is lost or stolen.

You should also bring a list of phone numbers of your doctors at home, your credit card companies, your cell phone carrier, and your bank. Sometimes there is a different number to call if you are making the call from outside the US, so be sure that you have noted the correct number to call from Bolivia.

Also, take care to store copies of your documents and your important phone numbers separately from the documents themselves!


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Booking an Adventure

How far in advance should I book my adventure?

Accommodations in the salt flat and high desert are extremely limited. So, we recommend that you book 3 to 6 months in advance. Of course, you may always check with us for current availability.

How do I book an adventure with Llama Expeditions?

Simply send us an email at info@llamaexpeditions.com or call us at 1-415-701-7600 to let us which adventure you are interested in and when you’d like to go. We’ll send you all of the necessary paperwork to complete to make your reservation.

What about a deposit?

We’ll need a deposit of $500 per person when you submit your application. This deposit secures your place on the trip.

When is the final payment due?

We’ll need payment in full, by check or by credit card, 60 days prior to departure. This means that you’ll need to mail your check so that we receive it 60 days prior to the trip.

Unfortunately, we cannot make any exceptions.

What documents do I need to book the trip?

Besides payment, you must also send us:

  • A signed copy of the booking terms and conditions for each person traveling in your party 18 and older
  • Proof of travel insurance that covers each person in your party

Without these documents, we cannot accept your booking even if you have paid in full.

Can I change my mind and transfer to another trip or departure date?

You can change your mind and transfer to another trip up to 60 days prior to the departure date.

What are the penalties for cancelling my trip?

Date of CancellationPolicy
91 days or more prior to departureFull trip payment is refunded less a $200 per person administrative fee
61 to 90 days prior to departure75% per person of the trip payment is refunded
60 to 45 days prior to departure50% per person of the trip payment is refunded
44 to 0 days prior to departure0% per person of the trip payment is refunded

Will you refund the cost of any activities we don't participate in during the trip

No partial refunds will be given for unused hotel rooms, meals, sightseeing trips, transportation, or trekking arrangements for any reason whatsoever.

The Trip Cost is quoted as a package and credits are not given for services not used.

What happens if Llama Expeditions cancels the trip?

Llama Expeditions reserves the right to cancel the trip due to an inadequate group size or any other cause that will make the trip unfeasible for us to run. We will inform you 45 days prior to departure if we find that we have to cancel the trip.

If this is the case, we will refund 100% of the land cost of the trip. However, we are not responsible for any additional expenses you have incurred in preparing for the trip. (E.g., nonrefundable airline ticket purchases, visa fees, etc.)

Are trip delays and cost increases a possibility?

While they don’t happen often, trip delays and cost increases are a possibility.

The cost of trip delays is not included if any trip is delayed due to bad weather, trail conditions, river levels, road conditions, government intervention, civil unrest, illness, or any other situation that is out of our control or the control of our partners in Bolivia.

We guarantee the cost the adventure that we quote you for up to 60 days.


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