Our adventures in Bolivia

We’ve been traveling for almost 3.5 weeks now, and we just finished our second country: Bolivia. The “poorer nation” of South America has shown many faces during our one week trip. We had some mixed feelings after the visit, yet the finale was nevertheless outstanding.

Soon, there will be posts about:

  • surviving altitude in high capital La Paz
  • how (not) to bike the Death Road
  • the search for silver in Potosi
  • why never to skip Salar de Uyuni

Bolivia’s transportation network won’t win many awards: we were stuck for some hours in Copacabana (due to a car race), arriving 7 hours late in La Paz. On our way from La Paz to Potosi, we stumbled on the wrong night bus (yet, it said Potosi and marked the company’s name), chasing our correct bus with a taxi. Our final voyage from Potosi to Uyuni in a mini bus (30 people), had the actual “chicken bus” feeling, with people constantly getting on or off the bus (in random places), shouting loud and eating stuff for the entire 4.5h journey.

We were amazed by the city structure of La Paz, within and beyond a stray of mountain ranges, and we were glad to have done a Servas homestay with a real Bolivian family. Yet, we also saw the darker side of the city, being spit on at the local flea market (one way of trying to pick pocket) or seeing loads of 100 Bolivianos notes laying on a bus (another way of tricking “gringos”).
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to tell how the Death Road looks like. Some local villagers were blocking the roads for some days (something about government funding for a tractor), so we missed out on this adventure.

Smaller cities Sucre (lots of colonial style buildings) and Potosi (silver core of Bolivia) were a nice change to bustling La Paz, still only appetizers to THE place to be in Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni.

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The 3 day tour took us first throughout the salt flats (at 3600m), where one can really feel/hear (or not) total silence. After the funny pictures and videos, we made it on day 2 through the National Park: constantly driving via dirt/grind roads at 4000m to 4900m, surrounded by mountain ranges, active volcanoes and high ground lakes. The finale topped it all: at 4400m, splashing in 40 degrees natural hot springs surrounded by a clear sky full of stars.
After visiting the final lakes and volcanoes, we made it to Chile on day 3.

In total, we travelled approx. 1,600 km, all the way from Copacabana to La Paz, Sucre, Potosi and Uyuni, using 3 long distance buses, one shared car (Sucre) and one 6 person group tour (Salt Flats).

From a financial perspective, Bolivia may seem to be a poor country, yet for gringos/backpackers, it’s still in the same range as Peru. We saved some money because of the homestay, and because we could not join the Death Road Biking tour (approx 60 EUR pp). In total, we’re almost at 550 EUR (4,118 Bolivianos) or approx. 79 EUR per day for 2 persons, whereas we estimated around 630 EUR. It mostly consisted of the Salar de Uyuni tour and some more international (i.e pricey) food in La Paz/Potosi.

Time to travel in the thinnest yet longest country on earth: Chile!