Without a doubt Bolivia has been our favourite country during the South America leg of the trip. The scenery is spectacular, the cities stunning and the people are clinging to their culture with all their might. We felt that northern Argentina was very heavily influenced by European culture and Peru doesn’t have the same commitment to its heritage but Bolivia, most of it was like stepping back in time.
I was fairly ignorant when it came to Bolivia before we actually arrived in South America but as I thumbed through guidebooks and read blogs it became rapidly apparent that this country packed a punch. The people were like a breath of fresh air and as soon as we crossed over from the Argentinian border we felt an incredible welcome that stayed with us during the whole stay. In the simplest terms it has just felt completely genuine, you know when you’re watching a movie that’s set in South America and it’s usually all fiestas, parades and parties with bright colours and amazing music? I thought this was all the magic of Hollywood but in Bolivia it’s happening every day, we joked that we could count on one hand how many days we hadn’t seen a parade or party.
Stats for Bolivia
24 days on the road, our budget was £45 ($b 470.25 Bolivianos) per day.
£45.48 ($b 475.26 Bolivianos) TOTAL spend per day
£16.45 ($b 171.55 Bolivianos) per day on accommodation
£10.02 ($b 104.79 Bolivianos) per day on food
£3.29 ($b 34.41 Bolivianos) per day on transport
£13.31 ($b 139.17 Bolivianos) per day on activities
If you want value for money in South America head to Bolivia. Accommodation is cheap, buses are very reasonable and the long distance carriers are just as good as in Argentina. You can pick up a three course meal in any market for a few pounds and activities are affordable even for the most budget conscious of backpackers.
Where we slept
8 nights in hotels – If a hotel worked out roughly the same price as a hostel room then we would allow ourselves the slight upgrade. Accommodation in Bolivia is very cheap in comparison to other countries on the continent.
13 nights in hostels – I won’t lie to you, hostels in Bolivia are extremely hit and miss. You can get really lucky like we did on a few occasions but there are also a lot of very average places. Main complaints – lack of hot water and heating, horrendous mattresses that feel like you’re sleeping on a beanbag, terrible wifi and zero toilet paper. With any luck these things don’t all happen in the same place!
1 night on a sleeper bus – We were seriously worried about buses in Bolivia and had heard all sorts of horror stories, they were actually really good and much better than what we’d experienced in Asia. We only took one night bus but it was a cama suite (the seats go all the way flat into a bed) for only £13pp. The long distance day buses we took were very cheap, comfortable and we didn’t have any scary drivers.
2 nights in a B&B – Our first wedding anniversary fell when we were visiting Sucre so we decided to treat ourselves to a couple of nights in a lovely B&B. It really makes me laugh that my idea of treating myself now is spending $30 per night on a room.
Top experiences in Bolivia
The South West Circuit
Never mind top experiences in Bolivia, this rates as one of the best experiences of my life! It’s so hard to put it into words and I’m sure the photos don’t do it justice but you can read about our experience here and here. What I will say is that if you’re ever in Bolivia please don’t miss this, it is absolutely incredible.
After spending a few weeks exploring the picturesque but busy cities of Bolivia we were ready for a break and decided to get away from it all by spending a few nights on the Isla del Sol. It’s somewhere that most people visit on a day trip but if you can spare a couple of days it is a wonderful place to really relax and switch off. Read about our experience here.
Hanging out with lovely folks in Sucre
I loved our time in Sucre. This beautiful colonial gem had a real livable feel to it and we did little but wander around marveling at the buildings and stuffing our faces with delicious food. The real highlight for us was that we stayed in a great hostel that felt like we were visiting a friend’s house. We met some fantastic people and ended up making great friends with a lovely German couple who we’ve continued to explore with as we’ve journeyed north to Peru. Read about Sucre here.
Potosi mine tour
An incredibly hard but rewarding experience. I can’t ever remember being so glad to see daylight as I was when we finally emerged from 2 hours of exploring the mines in Potosi. It’s a harsh existence that those men live every day and it’s very worthwhile seeing it for yourself. Read about Potosi here.
Just like anywhere else in the world Bolivia is changing, but not at the same rate as its neighbours and this is a great gift for visitors. Make the most of this and head off to get a glimpse of this wonderful country and its fantastic culture.
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