Despite the losses of territory which have occurred during the last 100 years or so, Bolivia remains the fifth largest country in South America, with a land area of more than 1,000,000 square kilometers . This enormous territory is divided into a number of distinct and very different geographical regions. The western part of the country is high and generally mountainous, with two prominent ranges of mountains, each of them running north to south. These two ranges are part of the Andean Chain and each of them includes peaks of over 6000 metres. The Cordillera Occidental lies along the extreme western edge of the country, whilst the Cordillera Real (and to the south of this an extension of the range known as the Cordillera Central) is situated between 100 and 200 kilometres to the east. Between these two ranges is the high, arid and desolate plain of the altiplano which is at a height of between 3500 and 4000 metres. At the northern end of the altiplano, on the border with Peru, is Lake Titicaca, 170 kilometres long and almost 100 kilometres across, which is the highest navigable lake in the world. To the east of the Cordillera Real and the Cordillera Central lies the vast lowland area of the Amazon Basin, which make up half of Bolivia’s total land area. The lowest parts of the Bolivian Amazon Basin are only a few hundred metres above sea-level. Moisture from the Amazon Basin wells up against the ramparts of the Andes to the west and is deposited as rain on the foothills which are, as a result, the most fertile and productive areas of Bolivia. In the north these foothills are known as the Yungas, whilst to the south they are known as the Highland Valleys.
The time in Bolivia is GMT - 5 hours.
There are three official languages of Bolivia; Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. Spanish is the easiest language to get along with and it will pay dividends if you learn some easy phrases before you go. Spanish is widely spoken in towns and cities and although Quechua & Aymara are spoken in the remoter mountain regions, most people will speak or understand Spanish. We recommend you take a pocket phrase book and learn some basics such as common greetings.
Bolivia’s dry and sunny winter season lasts from the end of April to October, and during this period the weather can be expected to be excellent for trekking and climbing. The days are relatively warm, up to a maximum of 20°C / 68°F - although it can feel warmer than this in the strong sunlight. Night-time temperatures will drop to around freezing point above 3500m. / 11,500ft. whilst above 4500m. / 15,000ft. the temperature can vary from 20°C / 68°F to minus 20°C / -4°F during a 24 hour period.
The unit of currency in Bolivia is the Boliviano. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Bolivianos) outside the country. Credit and debit cards can be used to obtain cash at ATMs in La Paz .If you are bringing your travel money this should be in the form of cash US dollars, as you will be changing the majority of your money on the day of your arrival and travellers cheques can sometimes be difficult to change. Credit cards can also be used to purchase some goods and at some restaurants in La Paz.
Nationals of EU countries and of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and South Africa, need only a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and a return or onward journey ticket, for entry into Bolivia. A Tourist Card valid for 30 days stay, is issued on arrival in La Paz and this should be kept safe until it is requested on departure. Please note that if you intend to travel to Bolivia via the USA you must have a machine readable passport. Even if you are merely in transit through a US airport you will not be allowed to travel if you do not have a machine readable passport. Also note that if you have any convictions (including driving convictions) you cannot enter or transit through the USA without a pre-arranged visa.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, & Hepatitis ‘A'. Malaria prophylaxis is not recommended for this trip unless you intend to visit the rainforest as an extension to your trip.A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Trekking and Climbing in the Andes. Val Pitkethly and Kate Harper.
Bolivia - a Travel Survival Kit. Lightbody.
Eight Feet in the Andes. Dervla Murphy.
South American Handbook.
Latin America Spanish phrasebook - Lonely Planet.
BOCR Liam O'Brien. 1:135,000 Cordillera Real. This map can be bought in La Paz.
Lonely Planet - www.lonelyplanet.com
Rough Guides - www.roughguides.com