Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. I repeat, Bolivia is the POOREST country is South America. Sure everything is cheap but you will be paying with it in terms of comfort and health. During my two weeks in Bolivia I did not meet a single traveler whose stomach was unaffected by Bolivian cuisine, which will be something fried in recycled oil. Do not come here unless there is something specific you want to see, like the Potosi mine or the spectacular Salar de Uyuni.
Could this be the ugliest country in South America? I’m confident the answer is yes. The girls here have very round, chubby faces with prominent features and jet black hair. Their bodies can be best compared to a can of Coke. This look doesn’t do the Bolivian men so bad, who seem to have an Erik Estrada look going. Prettier girls exist in the east of the country like in the city of Santa Cruz. Don’t come here for the girls or nightlife.
Basic set lunch: $1.25
Bottle of big beer: $1.25
Internet per hour: $0.40
Hostel dorm bed per night: $3.00
Nice steak dinner: $5.00
Short taxi ride: $0.75
Postcard stamp: $0.90
I felt relatively safe outside in medium-sized cities. Take usual precautions and watch out for the tourist / fake policeman scam where a friendly English speaker you meet gets in “trouble” with a “cop” that results in you being robbed of your credit cards.
If you're only going to visit only Bolivia then I recommend you get this guide, which is far more detailed than the continental guide above, with options that cater to a range of budgets instead of only the shoestring backpacking crowd. Also it gives more respectable treatment to small cities and towns that the larger guide breezes over with a paragraph or two.
South America On A Shoestring Guidebook
This is the guidebook that I used in my six month trip in South America. The maps are excellent, the information is complete and thorough, and the reviews are accurate, which is why it's often called "the bible" by many travelers. The only problem is that everyone else has this book so if you are the type of person that wants to hit the isolated small towns you will be disappointed. My advice is to use this book for its maps and information on getting from city to city, but talk to the locals and other travelers for those isolated gems that Lonely Planet for some reason didn't find worthy to include.
Spanish For Beginners
My copy of this book is so beat up and weathered it's disintegrating before my eyes. I took it with me to South America because I loved how it was organized in a logical way that kept me motivated to keep studying. Lessons start short and easy and increase in complexity as you tackle frustrating readings that help take you to the next level. The only downside of this book is that it was originally published in 1957 so some of the vocabulary is very dated. Still, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern equivalent of this book whose teachings approach the same quality. Last time I checked you can grab a used copy from Amazon for less than a dollar.
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