Average cost p/day: US$35
Time frame: 1-2 weeks
Perceived as one of the ‘rougher’ countries in South America, Bolivia is about as cheap as it gets. But don’t expect too much in terms of quality when it comes to food! If you’re into books, definitely read Marching Powder by Rusty Young before you go or during your travels. This will give you a really interesting insight into the corruption of the justice system here.
The salt flats are a must! And don’t miss out on a chance to zoom down Death Road on a mountain bike. If you’re really into bike riding, there’s heaps more rides you can do around the country, too!
WHERE TO GO
By far the most quirky and culturally fascinating city in South America, La Paz is great fun! If a bit odd. At the witches markets, they sell potions and claim to put a curse on you if you take pictures without their permission. But the craziest thing is the preserved llama babies and foetuses hanging from every stall. These are used as an offering to the gods, often buried beneath new houses (at a time they used to use humans as sacrifice, but this is obviously illegal…so they’ve moved on to llamas) Be sure to check out the San Pedro prison, made famous by Marching Powder (mentioned above) and for an insight into Bolivian culture and history, go on the free walking tour. One of the best walking tours I’ve ever done!
Done as a day trip from La Paz, Death Road is an adventure for the brave. A windy and rocky path, only a few metres wide, that descends down the mountainside, makes this a popular spot for mountain biking. As you make your way down, your guide will tell you horror stories of people who’ve been injured or killed on the trail. To be fair – it was mostly people who were doing something stupid like racing or taking selfies. Throughout the ride, you’ll cycle under waterfalls and through river crossings, as well as stopping for many photo opportunities. Read about my journey down Death Road here.
There is one main reason why people visit Potosi: to see the mines! 7500 miners work down there each day and roughly 9 million of them have died in the last century; currently averaging 4 per day. The life expectancy of a miner is only 35-40 years, not only because of accidents but because of diseases caused by being down there eight hours a day. A tour of the mines is a fascinating insight into the life of a miner, but certinaly not suitable for those prone to claustrophobia.
The salt flats is a huge 12000 sq km desert of salt! It used to be a lake, but when it dried up it left all its salt behind, creating an endless white desert. Tours of the salt flats start from Uyuni, either doing a return day trip or a multi-day trip that ends up in Chile, offering the opportunity to see much more diverse scenery. The salt flats are a popular spot for clever perspective photos, where you can pretend you’re drinking a HUGE bottle of vino or ride on the back of a toy llama.
You can also visit Lake Titicaca and the Amazon Jungle while in Bolivia, however I did both of these things in Peru.