Impressive salt flats, cholitas, llamas, alpacas, witch doctors, chewing cocoa leaves, chaotic bus rides and extreme altitude living are the many things that come to mind about Bolivia. Enjoy the 25 facts and tips; Bolivian edition.
1) Great news budget travellers. Bolivian bank atms DO NOT charge any withdrawal fees. Nada, zero!
2) The highest amount of indigenous people in South America is in Bolivia. They make up more than half of the country's population.
3) Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. More than half of its people live in poverty.
4) Many tourists and bloggers had us believing the food in Bolivia to be bland and made up of a steak and potato diet. This wasn't true at all! In fact, they have quite the variety of vegetables to buy in grocery stores, and many different menu options in restaurants.
5) On a food note, the meat offered in grocery stores and markets did not look that good. We pretty much became vegetarians.
6) Dining at a mid to luxury level restaurant for lunch can set you back only $7 per person. This includes a chicken or meat dish with rice, soup and a coffee.
7) The highest lake in the world is shared by both Bolivia and Peru and is Lake Titicaca at an elevation of 12,507 feet (3,812 meters).
8) Isla del Sol which is found on Lake Titicaca, is a must stop if you are border crossing between Bolivia and Peru. Spend a few nights on the island and you will get a taste of authentic indigenous home cooked food, culture, farming and the day and lives of the native people.
9) You must try the trucha (trout) when on Isla del Sol. The fish is caught directly from Lake Titicaca. It is by far the best tasting trout I've had; and I eat a lot of fish! The descendants of the Incas culinary fish skills or the lake itself is to reward for this top experience.
10) Bus travel throughout Bolivia was quite a ride. To sum it up in a nutshell, it was chaotic, crowded, nerve-wrecking, cliff riding, hot, dusty, out of the ordinary, "am I going to survive" this, kind of a ride.
11) If you don't like the sound of the Bolivian bus experience, then your more well suited to take a taxido. This is basically a taxi car/van that goes to a destination once it fills up all the seats.
12) To add on to the "Bolivian bus experience," our friends travelling by an overnight bus witnessed people sleeping in the luggage compartments. Insane? not, in Bolivia!
13) Want to ride in luxury across Bolivia? Then todo turismo is the bus for you. It is a nice ride with air-conditioning, comfortable reclining seats and food included served by staff. The only concern with the overnight buses no matter how luxurious, is the safety of your belongings brought onto the bus. There was a robbery on our bus (stolen purse) and many other stories like this I heard from tourists travelling by overnight buses across the country.
14) Alpaca and llama clothing is much cheaper to buy than in Peru. You can pretty much buy anything made of alpaca or llama and most of it is handmade. For the record, this type of material will cost you big bucks back in Canada, so stock up!
15) The capital of Bolivia is Sucre. This is where you will find the president and government buildings. Also there is quite the population of wealthy locals, even by Western standards.
16) The majority of indigenous people living in Bolivia speak Quechuan; the most widely known language of the Incas.
17) The city of El Alto at an elevation of 13,615 ft (4150 m) is the second highest city in the world. The mining town of Potosi is the third highest town in the world at a height of 13,420 ft (4090 m).
18) Elevation above 2,100 m or 7000 ft is when the body starts to feel the effects of altitude change.
19) I felt like I was 500 lbs for the most part throughout Bolivia. I would periodically make a lot of stop up hills, breath heavily, heart pumping through my chest and simply out of breath! Your level of fitness has no correlation with how you handle high altitudes.
20) If your having elevation issues chew on some cocoa (cocaine) leaves! Or go buy some Sorojchi pills.
21) At high altitudes, the elevation body gas may be overwhelming for some. Avoid eating meat, and less food as your body digests and metabolises at a much slower rate.
22) An unknown Bolivian stomach bug took the life out of me; twice!!! It was awful and everyone we came in contact with caught it.
23) Cholitas are some of the coolest business owners you will meet not only in Bolivia, but the world!!! They have interesting clothing, top hats and some have gold teeth which is affiliated with being wealthy.
24) Trigger happy photographers beware! Cholitas and most locals in Bolivia do not like their photo taken. Some Bolivians believe a part of their soul will remain on earth (the photo) when they pass. Those less spiritual or superstitious will want money in exchange.
25) Most Bolivians are superstitious people. They use witch doctors and healers when in need.