Apply common sense and take precautions that apply elsewhere. All tourists should be careful when selecting a travel guide and never accept medication from unverifiable sources. At night try to use "radio taxis" as fake cabs are common and robbings and even rapes do occur. It is a good idea to register with the consulate of your country of residence upon entry into the country. And it is also helpful learn at least basic Spanish to keep yourself a little safe.
Beware of a scam involving 'non-uniformed' policemen asking for your passport and permit; official policemen will always be satisfied with a copy of your passport and a copy of your Bolivian visa on your passport. In the event that the con-artists requesting this get aggressive do not hesitate to scream, yell, or do something to attract the attention of passers by. This will usually be enough to scare them away.
The 'improvements' made to Yungas Road the famous highway to death have made the experience of traversing it go from emotionally harrowing to finger-biting, and Bolivian bus drivers seem all too confident when crossing it. Make sure to look for a reputable driver/bus line from other travelers if you do decide to make this trip.
Be careful of cars when crossing the streets particularly at roundabouts. Cars go quite "chaotic". There are usually no lane marking and minimal signage.
It may be not safe to carry a big amount of cash with you. Instead, consider carrying just enough cash for a couple of next stops and a bank card to "fill up the tank" be careful: smaller and not-so-touristy towns have no ATMs. Take some "international" i.e. $US or € currency for a safe start. As a safety measure you can take "secondary" bank card with you leaving "primary" at home pre-filling it with amount of money according to your travel estimate and adding some more - for unexpected cases. If you are running out you may contact your relatives at home to log in into your e-bank account and move some more money to your "secondary" card. It may be wise to attach some sticky stripes of paper to your card with some fake PIN written in unclear manner i.e. only segments of digits visible - other segments are to "guess" - if you lose your card and somebody enters a wrong PIN 3 times, your bank will probably block the card.
Some parts of Bolivia like La Paz 3650, Potosí 4010, Oruro 3950 and the Lake Titicaca region are high altitude, so adequate precautions against "sorojchi" altitude sickness should be taken.
At local pharmacies they sell sorojchi pills, that are supposed to help with altitude problems. It has painkillers as well as natural herbs to help cope with the symptoms of "sorojchi". In many parts of the Altiplano you can purchase coca leaves, which are reputed to be useful against soroche. Coca tea "mate de coca" is available in tea bags in many markets.
However, severe cases of high altitude disease can be treated at the High Altitude Pathology Institute at Clinica IPPA (http://altitudeclinic.com). This Clinic has the most advanced technology including a hyperoxic/hypoxic adaptation chamber. In addition, the sun's ultraviolet rays are much stronger -- up to 20 times -- than at sea level. A sun hat, sunglasses, and skin protection sunblock or long sleeves are advised.
You can't usually drink tap water in Bolivia. There's plenty of bottled water being sold in the stores. One note though: if you're not a Coca-Cola company very strong in Bolivia fan, in some towns you may have trouble getting water from other manufacturer.
Yellow fevervaccination is recommended for those who plan on spending time in the Bolivian Amazon. It must be taken 10 days prior to the person’s arrival into the country if the visitor plans to visit rural areas.
Malariaprophylaxis is recommended if the visitor plans to visit tropical-rural areas.
As a preventive measure, taking the following vaccines is recommended: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Tetanus, Diphtheria and Measles Booster-Vaccines.
There is a number of adventure activities to do when in Bolivia. Paragliding can be done in both Cochabamba and La Paz. There is also the possibility of doing some mountain climbing, mountaineering and trekking. It is recommended when participating in these type of activities to use companies with a known safety record. Andesxtremo has offices both in Cochabamba and La Paz. In Cochabamba you can find them at calle la paz # 138 entre ayacucho y junin Phone: 4523392, 70721520, 60365816. In La Paz Francisco Bedregal 2962, entre Victor Sanjinés y Pedro Guerra, Nuestra Señora de La Paz Phone:70193392. Other adventure activities that can be done while in Bolivia include white water rafting in and around el Chapare three hours from the city of Cochabamba. If you find yourself in Santa Cruz you can also go skydiving, there is only one company that does this and they can be found at El Trompillo airport in Santa Cruz.
Bolivia has three cellphone companies, Entel, Tigo, and Viva. All three have outlets on practically every block in major cities. There are internet cafés practically everywhere, they typically cost about BOB3/hour, or about USD0.50/hour.
If you have a smartphone unlocked if you bring it from home it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network pretty good quality 3G most of the time, don't expect any coverage in the most remote areas. You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer watch carefully how much you use if you don't want to bust your budget!. If you don't have a smartphone, you can still buy packages for minutes to call. Please note that SMS messages sent from Bolivia to other countries don't always get delivered. Buy your SIM card called chip in Spanish at an official outlet of the company. Entel seems to be the most popular one. SIM cards can be bought elsewhere but cost more. At the outlet they will also help you set up your phone. Be advised that you will need a "2G chip" for a normal phone and a "4G chip" for a smartphone if you want to use the internet.
While traditional payphones still exist, you can also make local calls for BOB1 USD0.15 from cellular phones at kiosks.
If you are staying for a while, consider buying SIM cards for your cellphones. They are quite cheap and you get good network coverage in all main cities and towns. Bolivia uses GSM 1900 frequency, so check, if your cell phone supports this one older European phones don't. You can buy a cell phone in Bolivia for as cheap as BOB200.
To call from Entel use:
For local landline - 010-citycode-number, i.e. for La Paz 010-2-number.
For international landline or mobile - 0010-countrycode-number.
Entel offers something similar to "packages" - these may be cost savers, ie if you mainly want to use cell phone to call international mobiles. A "package" entails you a fixed number of minutes of a smaller rate to call some area. To buy such a "package" you have to have required amount of cash in your phone card. You call a special number some automatic service and make a sequence of choices by reading instructions on the screen and pressing numbers. After buying you have to use your minutes the same day. Call gets automatically disconnected when minutes expire.
Using Skype from Internet cafes there are a lot of these may be an option, but microphones are screwed-up in most places thus making this option difficult. In Uyuni, for example, most internet cafés will not allow using Skype or, in case it is a Wi-Fi network, they will switch it off if they see you using Skype. They want you to use their phone service instead.
You can send a postcard BOB9 to Europe to your loved ones from post offices.
Bolivia has 37 official languages -of which Spanish often called Castellano, Quechua, and Aymara are the main ones. In rural areas, many people do not speak Spanish. Nevertheless, you should be able to get by with some basic Castellano. Bolivia is one of the best places in which to learn or practice your Spanish because of their very clean, deliberate accent. There are many options for studying Spanish in Bolivia, and they are usually very good often, the program includes a very good homestay component.
Do not use the word "indio" in Bolivia to describe indigenous people. It is considered offensive. The term they use is "campesino" which translates to peasant or "indígena". "Cholo" is a campesino who moved to the city, and though originally derogatory, has become more of a symbol of indigenous power. Nevertheless, some locals still use the word cholo as a derogative term.
Also, keep in mind the stark cultural and racial differences between the "cambas" of the Llanos in the east, who are white and mestizo and the "collas" of the Andes in the west who are Native American. They tend to not be on good terms and have been even more fiercely divided in recent years since the election of Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president. The two peoples tend to be very defensive about their side of Bolivia, so discussing your travel to the other cultural region of the country may be seen as insulting. In Santa Cruz, where society is much more Westernized, associating with indigenous culture is frowned upon, whereas in La Paz and elsewhere, it is quite the contrary.
It is also good to keep in mind that the Bolivian culture is very warm and friendly. That being said, it is very rude not to say Buen Día or Buenos Días to passerbys in the streets. It also customary give up your seat on a city bus for someone older than you, or a woman. Which people will do for you if you look a little bit older.
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