Backpacking in Bolivia

I went backpacking in Bolivia as part of a larger backpacking trip through South America. In my post, Top Travel Circuits: South America,  you’ll find breakdowns that include budgets, overall itineraries, and a packing list. This post focuses more on things to do and places to see in Bolivia specifically. 

 

backpacking in bolivia

Beautiful Bolivia

After spending some time in Argentina, I made my way to Bolivia. The bus trip to the border was fantastic, the border crossing, however, was not. I crossed at the La Quiaca/Villazon border. Crossing the border on foot was odd. People seemed to be coming and going with little to no order involved. 

Upon entering Argentina, I was specifically told I needed to keep my little piece of paper and give it to customs upon exiting. But I couldn’t find customs! After a few minutes of walking around confused, I heard a knock on a window. It was tinted, so I couldn’t see in. Eventually, a man came outside and motioned for me to come in. Turns out this tiny little building with little to no signage was where I needed to go to get my passport stamped. While I’m not sure what the agreements are between the peoples of Argentina and Bolivia, I found it strange that people could walk so freely across the border. 

A few moments later, I was stamped and good to go, and now in Villazon, Bolivia. 

My travel guidebook, “South America on a Shoestring“, had told me there was going to be a train. Visible train tracks made me think there was a train. A website where one could purchase tickets made me think there was a train. A train schedule listed on the side of a building made me think there was a train. 

Well guess what?

There’s no damn train. 

Turns out, the train station had washed away in a flood a few years earlier. 

So, after wasting loads of time wandering around this town (there really isn’t much to see or do), I got on what seemed like the longest bus ride ever to Uyuni.

Uyuni

 

This bus ride was in stark contrast to the bus I had just taken in Argentina. It was freezing with no heating and no toilet. As I was not planning on taking a bus, (esp. one like this), I was ill-prepared. The others on the bus, most locals, had sleeping bags and blankets and coats. Ever since this trip I’ve refused to backpack without some kind of packable blanket or jacket.

Roughly eight hours later I arrived in Uyuni. There wasn’t much of a first impression as it the middle of the night, freezing, and everything was closed. It took maybe 20 minutes to find my hostel, and after excessive knocking, I was in and ready for bed. Thankfully, I had already had a hostel booked, as unexpectantly showing up at that time would’ve been a disaster.

 

The main reason for visiting Uyuni was to check out the Salt Flats. The town is crawling with tour companies to take you there, and armed with some new friends from the hostel we were off to compare prices. 

Grouping up with other people is a great way to be able to negoiate prices and save money with tour companies.

Once we decided on our company and time frames we explore the city for a while and did some shopping. There are quite a few good food joints around, and I highly suggest getting some kind of alpaca scarf or sweater – they’re so cozy!

The tour was to leave early the following day. It started off with a tower of a locomotive cemetery, and then off to the salt flats, along with some great photo ops in the Dalí Valley. There is a one night or multinight tour, and unless you’re really into rocks, cactuses, or lengthy perspective bending photoshoots, the one night tour is all you need.

La Paz

 

La Paz is a beautiful city that I can’t wait to visit again. The city is set in a canyon, and at 3650 metres, is the highest capital city in the world. Due to this, expect to feel out of breath and a little bit dizzy when you first get there. Even if you’re in super good shape, the altitude and sidewalks that are stairwells could get to you (or so I’m told, I was busy dying after walking a few blocks). 

Beyond the city both literally and figuratively taking your breath away, there’s lots to see and do in this city. Whilst here, I was staying at a party hostel, Loki. It’s a chain that I stayed at both in La Paz and in Cusco, Peru and had an amazing time. There’s events going on, but it’s quiet enough if you want to sleep, and no one forces/strongly encourages you to participate in anything if you’re not feeling it. Oh, and there’s more than just pub crawls. 

At an event office attached to the hostel, I booked the cycling trip down Death Road with Barracuda Biking. This was an amazing trip. Starting off, it seems easy. Wide, paved roads. But then, they get smaller and smaller and only a thin path remains. While it was frightening, I found the bus ride back up even scarier – at least a bike isn’t very wide! We stopped at one point so we could see that you wouldn’t even be able to get off the bus, it’s just cliff if you open the door!

backpacking in bolivia

Rurrenabaque

Rurrenabaque, or Rurre, is a starting point for tours into the Bolivian Amazon. It is a much more cost-effective options to check out the world’s largest tropical rainforest than visiting from Brazil. The tours are straightforward to sign up with, and it is cheapest if done from La Paz. 

Many tours will include your flight from La Paz, accommodation and a tour. This isn’t some kind of tour where you sit on a bus the whole time either. 

You start off on a tiny plane and land in a tiny airport. From there, you hop on a bus/van/truck/whatever is available, and head into town. Depending on your tour and package, your accommodation could be anything from a nice hotel to a hole in the wall. I went with a group where we stayed in hostel, had bunk beds, and it was just fine. As someone who is a beacon for mosquitoes, the mosquito nets on the beds were good too. Also, don’t forget to bring LOTS of bug spray and make sure your shots are up to date.

While in Rurrenabaque, I was able to go on a boat cruise in the Amazon river, fish for (and eat!) piranha, see all kinds of wildlife and swim with pink(ish) dolphins! 

 

backpacking in bolivia

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By | 2017-11-14T16:06:15+00:00 November 14th, 2017|Bolivia, budget, South America, Travel|0 Comments

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