At the convergence of the Beni River and the steep foothills of the Andes, at the edge of the endless expanse of the Amazon, the remote town of Rurrenabaque is the gateway for Bolivian jungle adventures.
When to Visit Rurrenabaque
Rurrenabaque enjoys a hot and very humid climate all year long, with an average temperature of 27°C.
Summer is from November-March, and is hotter and wetter – flooding is common, and there is more disruption to road travel and flights.
Winter from April-October, is slightly cooler with less chance of rain. As the rivers shrink, animals tend to cluster in smaller areas, making this a great time for spotting wildlife in the pampas.
If you plan on visiting during this time, bring extra layers – cold fronts known as surazos travel up from Patagonia and the temperature can drop to around 12°C without warning!
The national currency is the Boliviano, which is worth about US $0.15, GBP £0.10 or Euro €0.12.
There are currently no ATMs in Rurrenabaque, so bring plenty of cash with you. US dollars and Euros can be exchanged for Bolivianos at several places around town, including the FIE Bank, Moskkito’s Bar, PRODEM and Hotel Beni. If you are really stuck, FIE, PRODEM and Sissy Tours can give cash advances on Visa and MasterCard, though expect to pay a hefty commission.
Hotels and restaurants usually only accept cash. Tour operators are increasingly starting to accept card payments – again, with a commission of around 5%.
Visas and Entry Requirements for Rurrenabaque
There are no special entrance requirements for Rurrenabaque, apart from the standard Bolivia entry requirements:
- Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry, and you must have a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate.
- US citizens will need to purchase a tourist visa, valid for 90 days, for US $160. You can apply for this at consulates in the States, or purchase it in cash directly upon arrival in Bolivia. You will need a passport, photo, proof of funds and evidence of a hotel reservation.
- British, Australian, Canadian and other EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Bolivia, though you will need a passport valid for at least six months, and a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate. Entry is automatically granted for 30 days, though this can be extended to 60 or 90 at an immigration office.
Note: This information is often updated, so it would be a good idea to consult the Bolivian embassy in your country before your trip.
Spanish is the local language – though the indigenous languages of Quechua and Tacana are still spoken in the local communities. Spanish speakers should have no problem with the clear Spanish spoken here, though some local words are used – in particular for food and drink, and the names of birds and animals.
Most operators can offer tours in English, and some also have Hebrew and French-speaking guides or translators – check when you make your reservation.
Expect someone from your hotel to speak a little English, at least enough to get you checkin in and comfortable.
Most any restaurant in town will have a menu in English.
Bolivia has USA-style “Type A” plugs with two flat pins. The voltage is 220 or 230. If your electronics work in the US, they’ll work here.
Rurrenabaque is a small town and it is possible to walk almost everywhere. If the tropical climate gets too much, motorcycle taxis are abundant and should cost no more than Bs. 3 to get to any spot in town. You can also take a moto to the swimming pools up the hill, which will cost around Bs. 10 each way.
A scheduled minibus takes passengers between the airport and the Amaszonas office for Bs. 6 – you will be told what time it leaves when you confirm your flight.
Another fun way to explore the town and its surroundings is by renting a bike from Dolphins Travel on C. Avaroa.
There is a 3G tower near town, so you can expect to get service on your smartphone. Wifi is becoming more popular in cafes and hotels around town, but expect service to be slow and unreliable.
There are many cheap Internet cafes in Rurrenabaque, though the connection is generally very slow. Café de la Jungla on C. Comercio and Casa de Campo on C. Vaca Diez have fairly reliable wireless connections for customers.
Luna Lounge on Calle Comercio has a modest but servicable book exchange.
Before traveling to Rurrenabaque, it is a very good idea to get a vaccination against hepatitis A and typhoid, as well as making sure that you have up-to-date immunizations for tetanus, polio and diphtheria. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is also required for entry into the country.
Malaria is not common here, but many visitors take anti-malarial tablets as a precaution. Prevention against insect bites is important, as dengue exists in this region. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers in the jungle, check that your room has screened windows or mosquito nets over the bed, and use insect repellent, particularly at dusk.
Many visitors to Bolivia suffer from mild upset stomachs, so it’s worth bringing anti-diarrhea medication and antibiotics just in case, as well as any prescription medications and basic treatments such as Paracetamol or aspirin.
Rurrenabaque has several pharmacies, and many drugs can be bought over the counter. In more serious cases, there is a hospital on C. Ayacucho near C. Tarija, and several clinics around town.
Tap water is absolutely not suitable for drinking unless it has been boiled, and you should check that fruit juices and ice are made using bottled water.
Rurrenabaque is generally a very safe town – the kind of place where locals leave their doors open. That said, take the same precautions you would anywhere else to avoid pickpockets and petty thefts. If you run into difficulties, the Tourism Police office is located on the Plaza Central.
Safety standards on tours and public transport have improved in recent years. When booking a tour, check that your guide carries a first aid kit, and that life jackets are provided on the boats.
Refer to the US State Department page about Bolivia for any travel warning or current safety concerns.
It is not a bad idea to look into travel insurance option that includes medical evacuation in case of emergencies. Travel insurance tends to be very inexpensive but can be a game changer if you encounter any serious illness on your trip.
What to Pack for Bolivia
- High SPF sunscreen
- Insect repellent
- Simple first aid kit with anti-diarrheal, pain killer, aloe, band aids, etc.
- Spare or rechargeable batteries and a charger
- Waterproof bags to protect equipment on boat rides
- Electric plug adaptors for US-style two flat pin plugs
- Antiseptic hand sanitizer
- Binoculars for birding/wildlife in the jungle and pampas
- Light walking shoes or boots – rubber boots are usually provided on jungle and pampas tours
- Sandals or other light shoes
- Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
- Long-sleeved shirt and long trousers to protect against insect bites and sunburn
- Bathing suit
- Warm layers if visiting between May and September
- Sun hat/cap