By Natalie Thomas
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
I decided to call Bolivia a hidden gem because I basically knew nothing about this wonderful country before my visit. A month prior to my trip, I was told the salt flats are amazing, everything is cheap, and I needed a visa to enter the country. That was about it. It was not until I actually arrived in Bolivia that my perspective changed...
If you are a traveler willing to step outside of your comfort zone and visit a place that is not only beautiful, but filled with culture and tradition, Bolivia is a great choice!
Even though I backpacked through Bolivia for about a week, I have A LOT to say about my visit - what do to, where to go, and how to get a visa (if you are from the US). First things first - obtaining a visa. I had a really hard time finding accurate information and felt stuck. I had no idea if I could get one upon arrival or I needed to apply for a visa in the United States.
It was a bit frustrating because at the time I was not a part of many nomad or expat FB groups, and the only information I found online was from a 2013 blog post saying “I will be fine” if I just show up at a Bolivian airport. However, since I did not have much time, I decided to take my chances and (hopefully) get a visa when I landed.
Before my trip, I made sure to thoroughly research all of the documentation needed when I arrived in Bolivia, and then I made sure to print out/bring all documents necessary. There is also a fee when entering - around $160 USD - so make sure you have this money ready to go. Even though it is a bit of a pain to pay, the country is SO CHEAP! This was by far more expensive then any of the tours I embarked on during my stay in Bolivia.
(I will write a blog post about what you need to get a visa upon arrival).
When traveling to Bolivia, I flew from Montevideo to Santa Cruz. Once I arrived in Santa Cruz, I was able to obtain my visa in about 20 minutes (easy!) Then from Santa Cruz, my friend and I took a taxi to our hostel.
I arrived in Bolivia at the beginning of April, and Santa Cruz was very hot during this time. The city itself is filled with culture, and we just took the day to explore - visited the cathedral and checked out local restaurants.
We wound up finding a nice place to eat called Republica - here I had a lovely kiwi-vodka tonic cocktail, prawn salad, and yummy cheese balls. (I believe for the food and two drinks, our total bill was $10 USD!) Bolivia is a third world country, so life here is quite different - but because of this, I really loved and cherished my experience. I really felt like I was in a different world, and loved learning about a country so unfamiliar from my own. And like I mentioned - beyond cheap!
(Ubers cost between $0.50 - $2 USD)
While in Santa Cruz, my travel buddy and I dropped off our passports at the Brazilian consulate. We were traveling to Brazil afterwards, and like Bolivia, US citizens need a visa to enter the country. Also like obtaining a Bolivia visa, we both made sure to bring all of our documents needed to get a Brazilian visa. Now unlike Bolivia, our Brazilian visa took five days to obtain. Because of the wait, we decided it would be a good idea to check out another city in Bolivia that was highly recommend - La Paz.
We had five days total to see both La Paz and Uyuni (Salt Flats) so we planned our trip accordingly (but very much on a whim). Since we were sin passports, we took our chances and headed to the airport to try and catch a flight to La Paz. We showed up at the very tiny airport, unsure of how we would ever be able to travel without passports! However, we got LUCKY. We were somehow able to book one way plane tickets from Santa Cruz to La Paz with just our US driver’s license and a photo copy of our passports (lol). The flight was around ~$60USD.
(Backpacking behind the scenes! What traveling really looks like...)
Check out more from Nat at https://www.thenowwithnat.com/