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.

The epic lakes and mountains of Bolivia's South West

The epic lakes and mountains of Bolivia’s South West

 

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.

 

The sun comes up over the Salar de Uyuni

The sun comes up over the Salar de Uyuni

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.

 

We love Bolivia!

We love Bolivia!

 

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.

 

Lake Titicaca

 

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.

 

One of the lovely churches in Sucre

One of the lovely churches in Sucre

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.

 

Taking a break on the Potosi mine tour

Taking a break on the Potosi mine tour

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.

 

Sunset on the Isla del Sol

Sunset on the Isla del Sol

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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9 Responses

    • Maddie

      I don’t think we’ve met a single person here that has had anything bad to say about Bolivia, it’s a fascinating place.

      Reply
  1. Sam

    We were in Bolivia just in May and June, and we felt very much the same about it as you guys! It actually really surprised us, as we were also quite ignorant about the country before arriving. We feel exactly the same way about the hostels, though and we also loved Sucre. Did you stay at Casa Verde B&B there? We loved that place; it was easily our favourite accommodation in Bolivia! I really love the picture of the sun rising over the salt flats but at first I thought it was a picture taken from a plane above the clouds!
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    Reply
    • Maddie

      Very spookily we did stay in Casa Verde for our anniversary treat! So lovely with the most amazing breakfasts 🙂 Sucre is one of those places that I could have happily lived in for a little while, such a gorgeous town.

      Reply
      • Sam

        The breakfasts really were great! We actually tried at first to find an apartment to rent in Sucre for a month or so, but there didn’t seem to be much market for it, so gave us. Plus the dryness of the air made it difficult for my partner’s eczema, so we ended up moving on, but it could be a lovely place to settle for a short while.
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  2. Philip Deaton

    I think the main reason that the culture is changing at a slower rate is because they are poorer. From my experience, the poorer the country, the more intact their culture. This leaves the moral dilemma – are you happy they are poor and have their culture , or do you hope that they will develop, become richer and as a consequence lose their culture? My guess is most of the locals would take the latter. Did you see any old women taking a dump on the street? that was one of my lasting memories 😀

    Reply
    • Maddie

      You make a fair point but seeing Peru and Bolivia side by side today you can see there is a difference in wealth but not a huge enough gap to warrant such different approaches to culture. Cities like Sucre and La Paz are fairly cosmopolitan but they still have a very traditional feel with the markets, street seller and people in traditional clothing. In Peru we’ve found it a bit more forced.

      We had the wonderful experience of stopping in a town on a night bus that your brother has since named p**s town, there were actually toilets but one local lady just squatted straight outside the bus even with people saying ‘signora no, bano!’ Always a pleasure a 2am!

      Reply

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