Bolivia is no doubt the most unique country I’ve ever visited. The indigenous culture is very strong and the country feels so authentic. It has so much diversity and you can climb a 6,000-meter mountain one day and be in the Amazon the next. Bolivia is home to some of the best art in South America and some wild political history. You can relax in the UNESCO city of Sucre or take in the chaos in the world’s highest capital. Here are the most important things to know before traveling to the beautiful country of Bolivia!
1. Smoking is Allowed Inside Bars
In a return to the past, you can smoke inside Bolivian bars and nightclubs. Be ready for your clothes to smell after a night out.
2. The Exchange Rate for Dollars is very Good
If you’re coming directly from the U.S., Ecuador, or Peru (can withdraw dollars cheaply here), I suggest bringing dollars into Bolivia. The exchange rate for dollars is almost equal to the official bank rate. Bolivia is a cash-based society, and ATMs have high fees and low withdrawal limits.
3. BNB 24 Is the ATM with the Highest Withdrawal Limit
Nearly all Bolivian ATMs only allow you to withdraw 500 bolivianos at a time, but with BNB 24 you can withdraw 2,000 bolivianos at once.
4. The Rainy Season Is from December to March
Heavy rain in the Bolivian Andes is frequent during these months and landslides are not uncommon. However, this is the best time to visit the magical Uyuni Salt Flats. The driest months are May to September and this is the best time to visit Bolivia.
5. Entel is Your Best Option for a SIM Card
According to Bolivians, Entel has better coverage than the other companies. They are in high demand and many corner stores in the cities falsely advertise that they sell Entel SIMs. Your best bet is to head to an official Entel store. Buy all the data you need when you purchase a SIM card because the cost to recharge is fairly expensive.
6. Americans Need to Pay $160 for a Visa on Arrival
The Bolivian government is not a fan of the U.S., so Americans have to pay $160 for a visa on arrival. Make sure to read the entry requirements carefully, as people do get turned away at the border for not having the necessary documents.
7. A Tourist Visa Is Only Valid for 30 Days
Unlike most South American countries where 90 days is normal, you only get 30 days in Bolivia. But, you can extend at an immigration office in La Paz or Sucre for up to 90 days if a month of traveling in Bolivia isn’t enough time.
8. It’s More Expensive Than Advertised
Between the visa fee, expensive flights in and out of the country, and a relatively high cost of alcohol, Bolivia didn’t live up to the “cheapest country to backpack in South America” tag. These costs do get offset by cheap transportation and accommodation. It’s by no means an expensive country, but it’s not as cheap as Colombia or Argentina.