Overland Bolivia Travel

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Visiting Bolivia[edit]

Bolivia is a spectacular and harsh country to visit. Many Overlanders consider the Salt Flats and Atacama Desert a standout highlight of South America. Borders are simple and safety is not a big concern.

Entering Bolivia with a Car or Motorbike[edit]

Correct as of: June 2014

Required Paperwork[edit]

  • Passport of registered owner (original and one copy)
  • Vehicle registration (original and one copy)
  • Insurance (it appears some people are asked for this, most are not)

Process at border[edit]

(For people, see Bolivia Visa and Passport requirements at the World Travel Guide)

  • The owner of the vehicle gains entry at Immigration (Migración), usually with a tourist card, including a stamp in their Passport.
  • The owner must show the new passport stamp and original vehicle registration to Customs (Aduana).
  • The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.
  • The police might record the information from your new temporary import permit before you leave the border and stamp the other side of the permit. They might also ask you if you have all the required items in your car (including wheel chocks and insurance). If you say you don't, they will ask for a "voluntary contribution" = bribe. Say politely you don't understand, take the stamped permit and leave.

Cost of entry[edit]

Free for the vehicle.
USA Citizens $135.00 USD

Permitted length of stay[edit]

Usually the same as the owner, which is 30 days for most Nationalities.

Extension of stay[edit]

Unknown.
Describe the process to extend the permitted length of entry for the vehicle, if possible.

Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country[edit]

You can store your vehicle and leave the country, so long as you return and exit the country before the temporary import permit expires.

Exiting with a vehicle[edit]

  • The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs.
  • The registered owner is stamped out of Bolivia at immigration.

Driving in Bolivia[edit]

Recommended books for Overlanding in Bolivia[edit]

Lonely Planet Bolivia (travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Bolivia (travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet, Greg Benchwick, Paul Smith
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
by LifeRemotely.com
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
Bolivia: Tread Your Own Path (footprint Bolivia Handbo...
Bolivia: Tread Your Own Path (footprint Bolivia Handbo...
by Robert Kunstaetter, Daisy Kunstaetter

Insurance requirements[edit]

Insurance is mandatory in Bolivia, however it's difficult to purchase because the vehicle will not be in the Bolivian computer system. Many people simply show the police SOAT insurance (Seguro Obligatorio Automóviles Transito) from another country (i.e. Ecuador or Colombia)

Cost of insurance[edit]

About $10.00 USD for a year (vehicle type: casa rodante).

Where to purchase insurance[edit]

Delta Brokers, small passage on Loaza street in La Paz, GPS: S16.499098 W68.1333 (about $10.00 USD for a year for a casa rodante)

UPDATE: Buying SOAT in La Paz, Bolivia (not available at the northern border, not sure about south). Delta Brokers, mentioned above, could not sell to us. Go to Seguros Illimani, Edificio Villanueva, Av. Camacho. It's a narrow, quite dark and unsigned, passageway that is right next door to Banco Bisa (left side of the bank entrance). Illimani is on second floor. It is half a block from the Seguros Illimani head office, the address of which is cited on other travellers' blogs as the place to buy SOAT, but you actually have to go to this sub-office. The head office is 10th floor, Edificio Mariscal de Ayacucho, Callé Loayza n: 233. GPS - S: 16,49881 W: 68,13324

July 2014: I was able to buy a policy at Delta Brokers, small passage on Loaza street in La Paz, GPS: S16.499098 W68.1333, address Edificio Mariscal de Ayacucho, Callé Loayza n: 233. The policy they sold me supposedly covers Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile and cost $130.00 USD for 12 months for a 4x4 camper. It is issued by Illimani which has offices in the same building. I went in to see them in the morning and had to return late afternoon. The policy does not seem to cover very much but hopefully will meet the minimum insurance requirements.

Driving license[edit]

Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.

Driving side of road[edit]

Right,
Right hand drive vehicles are permitted. Police or checkpoints that say otherwise are bribing you.

Mandatory items in vehicle[edit]

Two safety triangles, a first aid kit and fire extinguisher are mandatory and a very good idea.
If you do not have these items with you, the Police will have an extra excuse to bribe you.

Roads[edit]

General Road quality[edit]

Roads in Bolivia are typically very poor quality. Only a few major highways are paved, everything else is gravel that ranges is commonly rutted, full of pot holes and extremely dusty. Be prepared for some very, very difficult driving conditions.

Road signs[edit]

Road signs do exist, but are far from common. Most towns have at least one sign stating the name of the town and distances to the next towns.

Toll roads[edit]

All paved roads at tolled, you can expect to pay around $b15.00 BOB every 50 - 100km

Bribery in Bolivia[edit]

Police bribery is extremely common in Bolivia. The Police will try many different tactics to get money from you, often mentioning a "voluntary donation".
See the bribery tips page for advice.

Checkpoints[edit]

Police checkpoints are very common in Bolivia, where the Police are trying to stop the spread of stolen vehicles. Where a barrier blocks the road you will be asked to go inside and present your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border. They may also ask if you have the Mandatory items with you. It is extremely common to encounter bribery at these checkpoints. They will ask for money in a variety of ways, usually in a friendly, non-threatening way. See the bribery tips page for advice.

Traveling with pets[edit]

Unknown.
List the entry requirements and anything else required to travel with a pet.

Gas and Diesel price in Bolivia[edit]

Last updated: July 2013

Foreigners are supposed to pay a "surcharge" to purchase gas and diesel, which is triple the listed price.
Some people have reported this is only enforced within 100km of a border, and you can certainly haggle and say "sin factura".
Others have been forced to pay the higher price regardless.

The prices listed here are the local price. Expect to pay three times more if you can not haggle the price down

Currency and unit to display:

Gasoline Grade Price
Regular $b3.40 BOB per Liter
Diesel $b3.70 BOB per Liter

Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency[edit]

Line-ups to purchase gasoline and purchase limits are a very common occurrence in Bolivia. Purchase a full tank of gas at every opportunity.
Gas stations are frequent, except south of the Salar de Uyuni towards Chile.

Gas and Diesel Quality[edit]

Gasoline and Diesel are generally thought of as extremely poor quality. Gasoline is thought to have a very low octane rating, and diesel is likely high is sulfur.

Safety and Security Considerations[edit]

Driving at night[edit]

Driving at night is not recommended.

  • Extremely poor road quality means potholes, washouts and other hazards are common.
  • Dangerous driving such as tailgating, overtaking around blind corners and excessive speeding are common.
  • There can be many objects on and around the road that are nearly impossible to see at night, such as livestock, people, slow moving carts, cars with no lights, etc.

Vehicle parking[edit]

Parking vehicles on the street in smaller towns during the day is typically OK. Find a secure parking lot in big cities and at night. Cost is around 5 Bolivianos per night.

Special driving considerations[edit]

The roads in Bolivia are notoriously bad, so be extra watchful for road hazards like potholes, washouts and bad roads in general.
Drugs and related problems are increasing around Santa Cruz, probably the most dangerous part of Bolivia. The roads to Brazil in the East are more dangerous than elsewhere in the country.

Security advisories and information[edit]

Camping in Bolivia[edit]

Camping is not common or popular in Bolivia, though a few hostels in touristy areas have camping to cater for backpackers.
There is a new fully-equipped campsite in Jupapina near La Paz which offers a beautiful natural setting but within easy teach of the city. http://www.colibricamping.com
Prices for camping at hostels fluctuates with the tourist seasons - check a backpacker guide book.
Many Overland travelers roadside camp on the Salar de Uyuni and further South, and consider it safe enough. Note the overnight temperatures can be extremely low.

Camping guide books[edit]

No specific book exists, though the usual backpacker guide books mention when a hostel has camping facilities.

Drinking water[edit]

Tap water in Bolivia is not safe to drink. Every corner store sells 1 and 2 liter bottles, while 20 liter bottles are extremely difficult to find (possibly only available in La Paz).

Navigation[edit]

Paper maps[edit]

Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Bolivia

Bolivia
Bolivia
by Reise Know-How Verlag
Bolivia: National Geographic: Adventure Map (national ...
Bolivia: National Geographic: Adventure Map (national ...
by National Geographic Maps - Adventure
Bolivia Travel Map
Bolivia Travel Map
by Multi Mapping Ltd

Maps of Bolivia are difficult to find, and road conditions change daily. Purchase maps before arriving in Bolivia.

GPS Maps of Bolivia[edit]

  • Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.[1]
  • Garmin: No map of Bolivia.[2]
  • TomTom: No map of Bolivia. [3]
  • Bolirut has pretty decent coverage [4]
  • Proyecto Mapear has great coverage and version 10.0 also includes Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay [5]

GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Bolivia[edit]

Special Overland Travel interests[edit]

  • The Salar de Uyuni - The breathtaking Salt Flats are high on the list of every Overlander traveling across South America. Purchasing gas in Uyuni can be difficult depending on the time of year, day of week and who serves you. When supply is limited you will almost certainly be charged the "tourist" rate (double the normal price) and will not be allowed to fill containers. Plan accordingly. Enter the salt flats in Colchani, a short but extremely dusty and bumpy ride from Uyuni. When entering or exiting the salt flats it's important to drive on the most worn tracks to avoid sinking into the very soft salt/mud/muck. Following the black tire tracks on the actual salt is the easiest way to navigate. Many people have also put their GPS tracks online so you can be sure to go the right way. [6] After leaving the salt flats, be sure to thoroughly wash the underside of your vehicle to remove the salt.
  • South to Chile through the Altiplano - Overlanders looking for further adventure can continue South from the Salar, cross the Atcama desert and finally arrive in Chile. The total distance between gas stations is approximately 615km[7], and takes around 1 week. There a no official gas stations along they way, only occasionally people selling on the side of the road from a container. Food and water are equally as scarce, so you must be prepared. Temperatures swing wildly from hot, dry days to extremely cold nights, well below freezing. Navigation is very difficult as roads are almost non-existent and signs even less likely. This discussion on the Horizons Unlimited Bulletin Board has a list of GPS way-points for the major places and required turns. This route is extremely remote and demanding on even a well-equipped 4x4 vehicle.

When taking this route, note that customs is on a turn off (over a hill and out of sight) 80Km before the immigration border post, and the actual border with Chile. At GPS:

  • Turn for Customs (Southbound) S22 24.958 W67 46.749
  • Turn for Customs (Northbound) S22 25.488 W67 46.426
  • Hito Cajon – Actual Customs Building S22 26.438 W67 48.346

Customers will keep the original vehicle permit and give you a stamped photo copy to take to Immigration. Many overlanders make this journey, you can read many trip reports such as Overland Guide to Bolivia’s Southwest Circuit | PanAm Notes, An Overlander’s Guide to Bolivia’s Southwest Circuit | fromalaskatobrazil, Bolivia's Southwest Circuit

  • The Road Of Death - The infamous South Yungas Road gained the title of "World's Most Dangerous Road" and is a popular detour for mountain biking tourists and Overland travelers. Drive with extreme caution on this road where honking your horn around every corner is highly advised.

Vehicle Maintenance[edit]

Dealers[edit]

4x4s / Trucks

Motorbikes

Local Garages[edit]

  • Ernesto Hug at Volks Auto Shop in La Paz speaks English and is very friendly and helpful.
  • Julio in Sucre is knowledgable and prices are very reasonable. This is a simple workshop, specialized in VW bugs and Kombis, but they do all kinds of vehicles, such as a Toyota Hiace 4x4. GPS: S19.04513 W65.24768. Shop is not marked, look for a larger gate between a copy shop and a dentist.

Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Bolivia[edit]

Buy
A foreigner can buy a Bolivian vehicle. If you plan on leaving Bolivia with the vehicle, make certain all the papers, including any insurance are in your name. This process is often so difficult most Bolivians simply leave the name of the previous owner on the paperwork - you will not be allowed leave the country without changing the ownership papers to your name.

Buy
Unknown.
Describe how a foreigner can sell a foreign-plated vehicle, or list not possible.'

References[edit]

  1. OpenStreetMap Bolivia
  2. Garmin coverage map
  3. TomTom Map availability
  4. Bolirut
  5. Proyecto Mapear
  6. Garmin track log
  7. The Uyuni Salt Flats to Chile Pt. 2

Helpful External links[edit]