Introduction to Bolivia

Did you know that Yungas Road, called “World’s Most Dangerous Road”, is a 61-69 kilometre road leading from La Paz to Coroico? It is legendary and favorite attraction for mountain bikers, who admire to 40-mile-long of downhill riding. Bolivia is also famous for Inca Trails, which name comes from three trails: The Choro, Takesi and Yunga Cruz.

When you travel to Bolivia, you should know that the family is an undeniable value and the point of the social life in Bolivia. Most of generations still live together in the same house. You can say that you are "chocho", which means happy.

When you visit Bolivia then you should try the most popular food: salteñas, pique a lo macho, api con buñuelos.

Find out more about Bolivia, its culture and traditions below!

Country local name: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia
Government type: republic
Capital: La Paz (administrative capital); Sucre (constitutional capital)
Time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 6th August 1825 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 6th August (1825)
Population: 10,631,486 (July 2014 est.)
Ethnic Groups: Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, white 15%
Languages: Spanish (official) 60.7%, Quechua (official) 21.2%, Aymara (official) 14.6%, Guarani (official), foreign languages 2.4%, other 1.2%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5%
Terrain: rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rio Paraguay 90 m
highest point: Nevado Sajama 6,542 m
Natural resources: tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower
Agriculture – products: quinoa, soybeans, coffee, coca, cotton, corn, sugarcane, rice, potatoes; Brazil nuts; timber
Industries: mining, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing, jewelry
Exports: natural gas, soybeans and soy products, crude petroleum, zinc ore, tin
Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 09:30-19:00, usually with a long lunch break from 12:00-14:00.
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever (2013)
Climate: varies with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid
Natural hazards: flooding in the northeast (March to April)


Bolivia has two seasons: winter and summer. In spite of temperature differences between day and night, the climate is temperate.

High season (winter) from May to October is the best time for tourism, and visiting the highland areas. Days are mostly sunny and dry, but nights slightly colder and the temperature may reach below freezing.  

Low season (summer) from November to March, is also the wettest season, and landslides are possible in mountainous areas. Climbing, trekking and biking can be tedious and dangerous in these conditions.

Bolivia has an interesting history, and many religious festivals, which mainly occur from May to October (La Paz, Carnival of Oruro or Santa Cruz). August to October is the perfect time to visit Salar de Uyuni and its great for  bargain hunters.

Bolivian cuisine is very varied. The local speciality of food and drink varies depending on region (highlands, lowlands and the Altiplano), but in general cuisine may be called “meat and potatoes”.

In big cities, markets and restaurants offer quite cheap prices.
The biggest variation of foods can be found in La Paz. Restaurants, pizzerias, fast food, Chinese restaurants (chifas) can be found here. You can also find high-end eateries and restaurants which offer possibility to eat spit-roast chicken.

You can also try Aymaran cuisine, which is predominantly carbohydrates, - the dish is full of potatoes, rice, quinoa and meat (mutton and Ilama).

Through access to Lake Titicaca, seafood can be served in restaurants. Tropical food (yucca and plantain are staples) with beef occurs in the lowlands tends.

The most popular foods, which are a must:
Salteñas – ingredients: meat, vegetables, sauce, hard boiled egg. You can find it in Sucre.
Pique a lo macho – ingredients: chunks of meat, spicy sauce, tomatoes, onion, potatoes
Api con buñuelos – sweet, thick maize drink with cinnamon, served with deep fried pancakes

If you like tastey street food, you have to try: Anticucho (ingredients: beef hearts on a skewer, potatoes, spicy corn sauce), Salchipapa (ingredients: thinly sliced sausage, potatoes), Choripan (ingredients: chorizo sandwich, grilled onions, lots of sauce).

There is a large range of food for vegetarians, based on eggs.

If you want to drink something typical like Coca-Cola or Sprite, you can find it almost everywhere.
If you are interested in alcohol, you can discover the wine-making industry in Bolivia. “Wines at altitude” from La Conceptión label garther international plaudits.
It’s possible to try wines from Argentina and Chile, too.

Juices and smoothies: Zumo (fresh-squeezed pure fruit juices), Jugo (fresh fruit juice with water or milk added), Mocochinchi (sweet peach cider), Linaza (flaxseed refreshing, healthy drink).

Popular tea: Mate (a herbal tea).

Popular beers: Paceña (made in La Paz), Huari, Taquiña (from Cochabamba), Potosina (from Potosi).


Thanks to Simon Bolivar (a leader in the Spanish American war of independence) was established the name of Bolivia.
The name Sucre also comes from the General surname.
The motto of the country is "Unity is strength".
The route from La Paz to Coroico is called the most dangerous road in the world, serious accidents occur on average once every two weeks.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat.
Salar is salt flat in Spanish. Uyuni originates from the Aymara language and means a pen (enclosure).



Chocho – happy
la pichanga/es un pichanga – easy to do
ya pues/ya’ps – yes, of course !
no pues/no’ps – no, of course not !
uta – wow !
Estoy yesca – I have no money
Churo – something good, nice, positive
Morfar – to eat
¿Que va a llevar caserita/o? – What would you like to buy?
¡Velay! – you can use when you are surprised
estoy camote de ella – I am in love with her
macana – bad luck

·    Almost 80% of Bolivians are Roman Catholics. Catholicism was very important from the early years and connects with local folklore and customs.
·    The family is an undeniable value and the point of the social life. Most of generations still live together in the same house. Families are very traditional and have very strong bonds.
·    Good manners require handshake and direct eye contact as a form of greeting.
·    As a form of greeting you can use different phrases depending on the time of day: "buenos dias" (good morning), "buenas tardes" (good day), or "buenas noches"(good evening).
·    Bolivians usually stand close to each other while talking. Standing back away from the other person while speaking is considered as an impolite behavior.
·    While you greet with someone from internal relationship (family, friends) it is expected to share hugs, kiss on the cheek, pat each other on the shoulder or express affection through contact.
·    Bolivians use maternal and paternal surnames, but the father’s surname will be always the first and the one during the conversation.
·    Everyone gives gifts at birthdays, Christmas and New Year. What is important, it is willingness and good quality, not price. People usually don’t give scissors and knives, because that means desire to sever the relationship. The next advice issue is that people don’t choose yellow and purple flowers because it is negatively perceived. Generally gifts are not opened immediately.
·    During dining time don’t keep elbows on the table and always use cutlery. Additionally you should stay at the table for at least half an hour after a meal.
·    Bolivians are very formal in business way. You should address people using professional and academic titles with the surname, such as "Doctor" (medical doctor or Ph.D.), "Ingeniero" (engineer), "Licenciado" (lawyer or university degree). It is important to maintain a level of professionalism.
·    Time of the business meeting is not too specified. When the conversation will be considered as satisfactory then can be completed.

La Paz is  the world’s highest capital city. The location is stunning, in a deep canyon, which attains 3500metres. The main attraction is bustling street life where you can admire colonial palaces, churches, museums and hiking around the colorful streets of Calle Jaén.

Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest, perfectly salt lake, perfectly flat expanse of dazzling white is located around the high mountain peaks. Salar de Uyuni might be is the most extraordinary attraction of Bolivia.

Sucre – Bolivia is the most beautiful city, which combines serene dignity with a provincial charm and lively city. You can see there: Cal Orkco, Casa de la Libertad, Museo de Charcas, Museo de Arte Indigena and it’s perfect place to kick back in. Sucre has a varied history, which encourages people to study Spanish or volunteer.

Sorata – the sleepy town of Sorata is for weekend visitors. Hiking, climbing the mountains around and picturesque colonial village are the mainly attraction there. Sorata is located between La Paz and Lake Titicaca, about a 150 km northwest of La Paz.

Parque Nacional Madidi – national park in the upper Amazon River basin in Bolivia. There is a home for different species animals and plants in South America. The surface of the park covers almost nineteen thousand square kilometers.

Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa - is located in Sur Lípez Province. It is a unique reserve, which is a colorful haven for rare Andean wildlife. Additionally, it’s the most visited protected area in the world.

Tiwanaku – one of the most fascinating archeological sites in  South America. All of the monumental remains are the evidence of cultural and political significance of Andean civilization.

Potosí – the world’s highest city (elevation 13,290 feet – 4,050 metres). That’s the legendary silver-mining center, which it stands on barren plateau in the shadow of Patosí Mountain (popularly called “Rich Mountain”).

Tupiza – characterized by beautiful surroundings, a great place to relax, full of quebradas, cañones and valles. That is small, calm (life is slower than in other Bolivian towns), perfect place to go on horseback, head out for cowboy adventure, hiking, mountain bike or by jeep.

Isla del Sol – called “Island of the Sun” because of Inca mythology. Island is the largest on Lake Titicaca and part of Bolivian territory. The place is revered in view of created the sun and moon.

Oruro Carnaval – one of the biggest colorful, religious fiestas of South America’s held in the first week of February. Full of folklore dances, costumed dancers filling the street, musicians participating in the fiesta time and plenty of revelers enjoyed in drinking and indiscriminate water fighting.

Yungas Road – called “World’s Most Dangerous Road”, is a 61-69 kilometre road leading from La Paz to Coroico. It is legendary and favorite attraction for mountain bikers, who admire to 40-mile-long of downhill riding. It’s extreme danger to people travelling in vehicles.

Inca Trails – hike along the pre-Hispanic trails. The name “Inca Trail” comes from three trails: The Choro, Takesi and Yunga Cruz.

Mercado de Hechiceria – La Paz’s Witches’ Market is unusual market, which offers magical journey into the mysterious world of Aymara mysticism and herbal medicine.

The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos – are located in eastern Bolivia. Six churches with unique architecture, full of interesting history and Baroque or Renaissance music.

Read our stories from our trips to NEPAL and PERU combined with volunteering experience, which we made in 2016 and 2017 >>

Join our next volunteering trip in a group and spend 2 weeks far away! Read more HERE!