Tag Archives: Bolivia

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23 Days in Bolivia – an Overview

Our stay in Bolivia was rather relaxing – we didn’t hit too many cities or do a lot of activities. We had to deal with getting our transportation letter from the US embassy, which was needed to enter the US as our Green cards were stolen. This required a lot of documentation and as a result we spent a lot of time at internet cafes getting everything together (our laptop was stolen too).

Itinerary

– Booked three day Salar De Uyuni tour from San Pedro De Atacama. Cross the Bolivia border on day 1 and ended the tour at Uyuni, Bolivia on Day 3 after visiting the salt flats of Uyuni.
Tupiza

– Got the 2 AM train from Uyuni to Tupiza @ 71 Bs/perso. Stayed @ Tupiza for 3 nights. Did a jeep tour; a bicycle adventure trip and a horse riding trip. Used Tupiza Tours for Jeep tour, Alexander tours for the bicycle. Met with a fellow traveler we met way back in Salento and enjoyed a few hours with him.
– From Tupiza, took a but to Potosi, an old colonial city known for its silver mines. I didnt want to go exploring a mine, but Swami did. Really enjoyed walking around plaza major and market.
– Next stop, Sucre. Loved Sucre! Sucre is lower (2800 masl only!), the climate is warmer (relatively), the city is lovely and old and there is very good veg food to be found. The market is a treasure trove! We were in constant email contact with the US embassy and getting documents ready, so no sightseeing, only internet cafes. 馃榾 Split our stay between forrestero and hostal colon. Colon was so cute!
– From Sucre, boarded a very comfortable overnight bus to La Paz. Wandered around La Paz’s hilly streets while awaiting our appointment at the US embassy. Once that got through, we headed out to Copacabana to spend some time at Lago Titicaca.
– Isla Del Sol, the island on Lake Titicaca can only be reached via boat from Copacabana. Spent a peaceful night there.
– It was back to La Paz where we started unwinding and getting ready for the trip back to California.

Highlights:

– Salar De Uyuni is not to be missed! Its an otherwordly experience out there on the Altiplano.
– Sucre is a beautiful town and one can easily spend a few days here.
– La Paz is a big, modern city, but there is so much to see and do. Just walk around town and maybe do a trek in the nearby mountains. The food is great and hotels are really cheap.
– Isla del sol is cold and really isolated. A great place to unwind or write, but the food leaves a lot to be desired, especially for veg folks.
– Bolivians are unfailingly polite. Everyone says por favor and gracias to EVERYONE, irrespective of social status. Even the cops are incredibly patient during traffic bottlenecks.
– No Hare Krishna restaurants anywhere in the country!

Check out:

– La Paz: plaza murillo and plaza san francisco
– Shop  @ calle sagarnaga and linares
– Calle mercadores just off plaza murillo
– For B 2.50, try api at Mercado Lanza. Dont miss – we only found this in Bolivia.
– Really tasty tofu sandwiches at Namaste Restaurant
– Hitch a ride on one of those shared van-taxis with barely any leg room.
– Museums in La Paz are really cheap and nice way to spend an afternoon.
– Cholita wrestling
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A Guide to La Paz Bolivia

We spent a lot of time in La Paz, Bolivia. Nearly 10 days in all. We had to go early to the US embassy to get our transportation letters (having lost our green cards) and our flight back home wasn’t departing until 10 days later. We did take a side trip to Copacabana and Isla Del Sol, but we still had a lot of time to spare.

La Paz is incredibly hilly, cold, high, bustling with life and activity and a great place to walk around. We did take a side trip to Copacabana and Isla Del Sol, but we still had a lot of time to spare.


This was the聽last stop on our backpacking journey, so we were taking it easy and not doing anything hectic. Also, I was getting a bit stressed out that the trip was ending. I wasn’t sure what I had to look forward to – in terms of my career, in terms of living in India etc.
The view from Valle Del Luna
La Paz street scene
Here’s a recap of what we did in La Paz, if you have a lot of time to kill:
– We walked a lot. A LOT!! We walked tens of blocks every day and it was amazing. La Paz is extremely hilly and this is a superb workout.
– Spend time at Plaza Murillo. Plaza Murillo is the central plaza and one my favorite ways to spend time in any new Latin American city. People actually come here in droves in the evening and relax after the day’s work is done. I can never imagine this in Silicon Valley, where we’d still be at the office or heading home to watch Netflix or browse the web.
– From Plaza Murillo, walk to Mercado Lanza. Explore the labyrinth like multi-level shopping and living center. The shops are categorized by food, breakfast, meals, artisanal stuff, beauty products and everything under the sun.
– In the breakfast stalls, get Api every morning. Get the purple one, not the yellow one. Its a porridge made out of purple maize and is highly addictive.
– Palta sandwiches. I am a huge fan of palta sandwiches, ask any of the breakfast booths to make this for you.
– Walk up from Mercado Lanza on Calle Sagarnaga. Plenty of great souvenir shopping on this road. Check out all the side streets. We wandered a ways once and I happened to look up, only to spot a vegetarian restaurant out of the blue.
– Get a haircut! I got a great haircut for 45 Bs which included the wash, set and cut. Swami’s was much cheaper, but I went to a salon in the mall.
– We explored all the veg restaurants. We’d walk many blocks to each of them and just enjoy the process.
– Valle del luna. Nice day trip from the plaza. A nice hike there too.
– Check out Cholita wrestling. Hilarious Bolivian wrestling, where mean-looking women come to fight turned out in perfect Bolivian traditional wear, skirt and all. It is not advisable to go alone as the areas safety looked questionable, but with a tour organized by your hotel.
A street market scene at night
Mercado Lanza – must go for people watching and getting a dose of local living
In one of the ‘booths’ in mercado Lanza
Api – super tasty porridge like drink made from purple maize
Tiny stalls on the main road for selling stuff
Palta (avocado)聽sandwiches are very easy to find and the vegetarian’s budget lifesaver
Cholita Wrestling – highly entertaining female wrestling

Bolivia Visa for Indian Citizens (from Santiago, Chile) AND Visa on Arrival for Indian Citizens

Indian citizens/ passport holders will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Bolivia is a very easy country to enter. If you are an Indian passport holder like us, you will know the pain of independent travel which is taken for granted by other backpackers. I hope that this post will encourage you to visit the beautiful country of Bolivia.  The next time we travel to South America, we will definitely visit Bolivia, if only to endorse their hassle free visa policy.
Bolivia has visa on arrival for a fee (please verify the latest fee by calling La Paz airport) AND offers a FREE visa at its consulates world wide.
We obtained our Bolivia visa at the embassy in Santiago, Chile not once but TWICE. Once before our passports were stolen and once more with our new passports. On both occasions, our experience at the Bolivian embassy was quick, pleasant and smooth.

Documents Required

Documents produced during our first visit:

路         Completed application form
路         Copy of yellow fever certificate
路         Copy of most recent bank statement
路         Cost = Free!! (remember, Americans pay $140)
路         Overall time taken: 20 minutes
路         Questions asked: None
This was the most incredibly hassle free visa experience in our life. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the consul guy just proceeded to stamp my passport within minutes of producing our document, and with a smile. We were told that extension is possible in Bolivia and is easy to do.

Losing the visa and getting it again

Unfortunately, fate would soon have its way with us and we would end up using our most important belongings in Calama, Chile. We had to return to Santiago to receive a new passport from the Indian embassy. So we went to the Bolivian embassy once again. This time, we told the consul officer about our loss and were greeted with disbelief. He pointed us to a young Bolivian lady present there and said to us “It will take her two months to get a new passport if she loses hers. You guys are lucky.”
We were able to provide most of our documents, except the yellow fever certificate, which was also stolen. These guys were awesome though – they patiently dug through their records and found our previous visa and made us several copies of our yellow fever certificates.

Bolivia Visa on Arrival at the border (overland between San Pedro de Atacama and Uyuni) – a different experience

Bolivia does offer visa on arrival for Indians, but for a fee. If you are landing at La Paz airport, this is a great option. But if you are overlanding, getting it from a consulate is really easy and preferable any day.
I traveled with an Indian guy from Chile to Bolivia near San Pedro de Atacama. So I wanted to write about his visa on arrival experience to enter Bolivia. I already had a Bolivia visa from Santiago, so my case was very straight forward.
This person was only going to Bolivia on a four day guided tour and was returning to Chile at the end of it, so this experience may not apply to everyone. We all booked the tour in San Pedro and I was going to continue to stay in Bolivia. All the tour operators in San Pedro will tell you that you can get visa at the border and show you a chart that says how much the visa costs. According to the chart, it costs $30 for us. So, at the border, this Indian guy was told that they cannot issue the visa there and that he would have to get it at Uyuni (the nearest city to the border). They did not stamp his passport. At Uyuni, he goes to the Migracion office and asks them for visa. They say that he can pay the fee and they only give him a stamped tourist card for 4 days. They don’t stamp his passport. They take the $30 and there is absolutely no receipt for it. At the end of four days, they let him get out without another stamp. We all think that this is a quick way to make an undocumented $30 and that this has happened before. Spanish was a big problem here and no one spoke English, so I guess if he insisted and knew how to, he would have had a proper visa on his passport at the border or at Uyuni. This border is nothing more than a small shed in the middle of nowhere, so I am not surprised that they did not have the facilities to issue a visa.
So yes, Bolivia VOA at border is definitely possible. However,
  • Please be sure you get your passport & your tourist card (a little form you fill out at the entrance) stamped and a receipt for your fee. Be persistent!
  • We have been asked elsewhere in Bolivia by Migracion people to show our passports (they do random checks in hotels) and they look for all these stamps.
  • Write out some important statements in Spanish to use at the border (important)
  • If you are part of a tour group, ensure you communicate this to your tour guide at the destination. They will be an important resource in helping you with communication.