Bolivia is a land of contrasts. That diversity is exemplified in what travelers should bring when planning a trip to the country. From the glacial Andes Mountain peaks to the humid tropical lowlands of the Amazon basin, what you will need for your trip to Bolivia depends greatly on what you plan to do here.
If you’re planning on staying La Paz, Copacabana and the surrounding Andean region, it is recommended to bring multiple layers of warm, moisture repellant clothing. Even in the winter when the temperatures are relatively cool, the altitude of the region means that when the sky is clear and the sun shining bright, the rays are strong and can get quite warm. As the sun comes down or in the shade however, the temperatures can drop rapidly into deep chill.
Remember to dress in layers. Base layers made out of lightweight polyester or a synthetic fabric manage moisture, middle layers of fleece or wool are meant for warmth and outer layers such as a rain or wind shell protect against the elements.
On either a city trip to La Paz, a relaxing lakeside excursion to Lake Titicaca or a more extreme outdoor oriented adventure, you’ll want to bring clothing a variety of lengths and weights. Comfortable walking shoes and a hat or cap are also essential.
As far as nightlife is concerned, restaurants and bars in La Paz and the country on the whole are pretty casual. Jeans, comfy shoes and a sweater are more than appropriate and acceptable. Unless you plan to attend a gala while you are here, it’s safe to leave the high heals and suits at home.
Aside from clothing to help you through the warmer days and cold nights, sun tan lotion and sunglasses will help protect against the strong sun present at such high altitudes like that of La Paz even during the winter season.
The necessities for Salar de Uyuni, Sucre and Potosi are quite similar to La Paz and Copacabana. The only main difference is that the nights can get even colder often dropping well below zero degrees. With most of the accommodations within the salt flats being pretty basic, the frigid air is especially cutting. An extra layer of warm underwear, socks and gloves will help you get through the cold nights.
On the other end of the spectrum in tropical Madidi National Park, Rurrenabaque, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz the weather is often hot and humid, requiring more light layers to get you through the day. Long sleeves and trousers are great in protecting against insect bites. Coupled with the humidity the rule of thumb is wear long layers, but the lighter the better. Comfortable shoes, if possible those of the waterproof variety, are beneficial for long day treks through the tropical regions and jungle.
The humid heat here can be overbearing and the sun is bright, so sunscreen with a high SPF and a cap to guard your head are helpful. Many of the anti-malarial prescriptions recommended for those visiting tropical areas in South America also cause extreme sun sensitivity and exaggerated sunburn reaction. In the low-laying regions of Bolivia such as Madidi, Rurrenabaque, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz there is a risk on acquiring an infectious disease such as Malaria or Dengue Fever through mosquito bites.
In addition to wearing long sleeves and pants, it is recommended to use an insect repellent with the chemical DEET to further protect yourself against mosquito bites. Anti-malarial prescriptions should also be obtained both in Bolivia and in your home country before visiting these regions.
For travel anywhere within Bolivia it is smart to bring any prescription medications you require with you from home, as the availability of some drugs in the country is not always dependable. Additionally, you’ll want to bring your camera, a charger and spare batteries for any electronics you like to use on your travels. Digital equipment in Bolivia can be expensive and is not always the most up to date.
A reusable water bottle will help ensure you always have clean water to drink, and you should be drinking plenty as both the heat in the tropics and altitude in the Andes can easily cause dehydration. Having a money belt to keep your valuables safe is also generally, just a smart habit to get into and a helpful thing to bring on your travels to Bolivia.
Bolivia is a diverse destination with lots of different places to explore. With a little preparation and knowing what to bring, your time in Bolivia will be unforgettable.