Country guides South & Central America
220-230 volts, and 50-60Hz. US flat-bladed, two-pin plugs and two-pin plugs with round grounding are used.
Though Spanish is an official language, only 60 to 70 percent of the people actually speak it, often as a second language. Many indigenous languages, such as Quechua and Aymara, are also official.
The official currency is the Bolivian Boliviano (BOB), which is divided into 100 cents (centavos). Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change in the main centres, at banks and hotels - banks are generally considered the best places to exchange currency. Main centres accept USD, but travellers will need cash when they journey to more remote areas.
Banking facilities are good in the main cities and ATMs cater for Visa and MasterCard. Major credit cards such as MasterCard, Dinersclub, Visa, and American Express are accepted in shops, restaurants and the bigger hotels.
A service charge is typically added to restaurant and hotel bills in Bolivia, but it is customary to add a five to 10 percent tip for good service over and above this charge. Porters at hotels expect small tips and drivers are only tipped if hired for a full day.
Altitude sickness is the most common complaint in Bolivia, with much of the country lying above 10,000 feet (3,050m). Yellow fever vaccinations are advised as outbreaks do occur, particularly after flooding, and it's a requirement for those entering from infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country, as is dengue fever. It's best to only drink bottled water, and avoid undercooked meat and unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended as medical facilities are generally not of a high standard.
Bolivia is generally a safe destination, though visitors should be vigilant at all times. Pick-pocketing takes place on buses and in crowded areas. Travellers should avoid unlicensed guides and stay away from political demonstrations. Floods and mudslides from heavy rainfall may also strongly affect transport.
In conversation, rural Bolivians should be referred to as campesinos rather than Indians, as the later is seen as offensive. 'Machismo' is very much alive and husband and wife roles within the family are very traditional. Homosexuality is frowned upon, particularly in the Altiplano. Formal occasions call for a suit and tie for men, while women should wear dresses. It's also expected to call those older than you 'Señor' and 'Señora' as a polite sign of respect.
Relationship building is important is Bolivia, so getting down to business might take some time. Foreigners should remember not to rush things. Negotiations are generally quite slow, and face-to-face communication is preferred over phone calls or written communications. For these reasons, foreigners should be prepared to make many trips before reaching an agreement. Punctuality is expected, even if the meeting doesn't start on time, and schedules are often just a guideline. Consequently, meetings are fairly unstructured and deadlines are often unimportant.
Business people are expected to wear suits. Meetings begin and end with handshakes, with custom demanding that men wait for women to extend a hand first. It's important to include a person's professional title in the greeting if applicable. Otherwise, it's polite to use Señor (Mr) or Señora (Mrs) with a surname. Business cards should also include any academic qualifications, and should have one side translated into Spanish.
Unfortunately, women are generally considered subordinate in the workplace and visiting businesswomen should emphasise their qualifications and work experience. Office hours are generally 8:30am to 6:30pm, Monday to Friday, with a long break over lunch.
Travellers to Bolivia over the age of 18 years can bring the following items into the country without incurring customs duty: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 500 grams of tobacco, 3 litres of alcohol and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.
Newly purchased goods to the value of $1,000 per person are also duty free. Travellers departing from the country should note that it is illegal to leave with the following items without prior written permission from the appropriate local authority: pre-Colombian artefacts, historical paintings, items of Spanish colonial architecture and history, and native textiles.
The international access code for Bolivia is +591. Mobile phones operate on a GSM network, with providers including Entel Movil, Tigo and Viva, while internet usage by the general population is on rise.
Passport & Visa
All visitors travelling by air should have return tickets and all required documents for their next destination, as well as sufficient funds to see them through their stay. All travellers arriving from yellow fever risk areas must show valid yellow fever vaccination certificates on entry to Bolivia. Those who qualify for visas on arrival need to carry all the required documentation translated into Spanish and should confirm these requirements in advance. Travellers who do not have the required fee, documents and photographs for a visa to be issued will be denied entry.
US nationals must have a valid passport and a visa to enter Bolivia. A visa is obtainable on arrival for a fee payable in cash only, with an invitation letter Bolivian Immigration Authorities (DIGEMIG), a printed hotel reservation, a printed return/onward ticket, and a printed itinerary. The visa is valid for a stay of no more than 30 days.
UK nationals holding valid passports do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
Canadians require a valid passport, but a visa is not necessary for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
Australians need a valid passport, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
South Africans require a valid passport on arrival and a visa to enter Bolivia. Visas can be issued on arrival for a fee in cash only, with an invitation letter Bolivian Immigration Authorities (DIGEMIG), a printed hotel reservation, a printed return/onward ticket, and a printed itinerary. Visas can also be obtained at http://www.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/. The visa is valid for a stay of no more than 90 days.
Irish nationals need a valid passport, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
New Zealanders need a valid passport, but do not require a visa for a touristic stay of up to 90 days.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism, La Paz: +591 2 2200910 or http://www.minculturas.gob.bo/Bolivian emergency numbers are 120 (police), 165 (ambulance) and 119 (fire department).
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Bolivian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 483 4410.
Bolivian Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7235 4255.
Bolivian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 5730.
Bolivian Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9247 4235.
Honorary Consulate of Bolivia, Johannesburg, South Africa: +27 11 646 1408.
Embassies / consulates in Bolivia
United States Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 216 8000.
British Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 243 3424.
Canadian Embassy, La Paz: +591 2 241 5141.
Australian Consulate, La Paz: +591 2 2115655
South African Embassy, Lima, Peru (responsible for Bolivia): +511 612 4848.
Consulate of Ireland, La Paz: +591 2 242 1408.