Santa Cruz de la Sierra Travel Information

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The Basics

Time: GMT -4.

Electricity: 220-230 volts, and 50-60Hz. US flat-bladed, two-pin plugs and two-pin plugs with round grounding are used.

Money: 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.

Currency Exchange Rates

BOB 1.00 = AUD 0.21 CAD 0.20 EUR 0.13 NZD 0.22 GBP 0.11 USD 0.15 ZAR 2.09
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: 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.

Entry requirements:

Entry requirements for Americans: 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.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals holding valid passports do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a valid passport, but a visa is not necessary for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australians need a valid passport, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for South Africans: 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.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealanders need a valid passport, but do not require a visa for a touristic stay of up to 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: 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.

Travel Health: Altitude sickness is the most common complaint in Bolivia, with much of the country lying above 10,000 feet (3,050m). This is particularly relevant to diabetics and those with heart complaints or chest problems, who should seek advice before travelling to Bolivia. Travellers should take Acetazolamide (Diamox) or drink coca tea to alleviate symptoms. The usual list of health precautions goes for Bolivia. Yellow fever vaccination is advised, as outbreaks do occur, particularly after flooding, and it is a requirement for those entering from infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country, and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and a vaccination for typhoid should be considered if travelling to rural areas. Additionally, sanitation and hygiene are poor in some areas, so travellers should be wary of what is eaten. It's best to avoid under-cooked meat and unpeeled fruit and vegetables, and to only drink bottled water. Comprehensive medical insurance is strongly recommended as medical facilities are generally not of a high standard in Bolivia.

Tipping: 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.

Safety Information: Bolivia is generally a safe destination, though visitors should be vigilant at all times. Pick-pocketing takes place on buses and in crowded areas, as it does in Europe. Female tourists should avoid taking jungle and pampas tours on their own and should always avoid unlicensed guides. Travellers should stay away from political demonstrations. Most crimes in Bolivia are non-confrontational. Otherwise, months of heavy rainfall are usually responsible for flooding and mudslides throughout the country, which can severely affect transport.

Local Customs: In conversation, rural Bolivians should be referred to as campesinos (subsistence farmers) rather than Indians. 'Machismo' is very much alive and husband and wife roles within the family are very traditional. Homosexuality is frowned upon, particularly in the Altiplano.

Business: 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.

Communications: The international access code for Bolivia is +591. The outgoing code depends on what network is used (e.g. 0010 for Entel, or 0013 for Boliviatel), which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for La Paz is 2, but the access code to make a call within the country from another area also depends on what network is used. Mobile phones operate on a GSM network.

Duty free: 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.

Tour operator G.A.P Adventures has for the past 14 years specialised in unique, small group, grassroots adventure travel experiences in the world's most wild places, going off the beaten track into the heart of the destination to meet the locals who call it home. G.A.P. Adventures offers several expeditions to the Bolivian Amazon and Andes.
Intrepid Travel, one of the world's leading suppliers of small group adventures, focuses on getting off the beaten track, interacting with the locals and having real life experiences throughout Bolivia.