Two days before entering the country of Bolivia I decided to check the requirements to enter the country as an American Citizen. What a shocker that was to see everything we had to have prepared at the border! Most other nationalities can just cross the border and receive a stamp no problem. But for US citizens here is the list of everything you need before arriving to the Bolivian border.
1) As Americans we are one of the only nationalities that have to pay for a Bolivian Visa. It will cost $160 in crisp US cash. Alot of ATMS in Peru will dispense US dollars which really helps this situation since it is the only time you will need to pull out USD during your travels. You need to make sure to store your cash in a book or something that will keep it perfectly straight. They will check every corner of every bill and will refuse any that are bent.
2) Your exit flight or bus ticket to show when you are leaving the country. Now for this one I may have lied. If you book a flight off of Expedia.com you have 24 hours to cancel your flight and get 100% of your money back. So what I did was buy a flight out of La Paz three weeks after we were going to arrive and saved them as PDFs and then immediately cancelled the flight. Later I printed them out which you can do at one of the many internet cafes in every city in Peru. This is a bit of a white lie but hey if you are traveling long term who wants to be tied down to a certain day and time you have to leave? As Americans as well we get a 10 year visa that is good 90 days a year for 30 days at a time. So at least now you know where you will go for every vacation for the next decade.
3) Your hostel itinerary for your entire stay. Again, I may have lied. What I did was book all of our hostels off booking.com and made sure to book places that had free cancellation policies. (There is a filter that selects places with free cancellation when searching on the website). I booked random places in four different cities in Bolivia and saved them all as PDFs before cancelling every reservation and then printing out the PDFS.
4) Your bank statement. You will need to prove that you have the funds to enter the country. For that all you need to do is print off your bank statement that shows your full name and your ready to go. If you have multiple bank accounts just print off the one that has the most money in it.
5) Two copies of your passport. They were a bit hesitant that my copies were in black and white but they still accepted it. Just try to get it printed in color if you can.
6) Two passport photos. Yes, they will need two; one for keepsakes and one for the Sworn Statement.
7) Sworn Statement for Visa Application. You will need to print this off online and fill it out before getting to the border. It is quick and easy to fill out and you can find the application here.
What they didnt ask for but you need just in case.
1) Yellow Fever Vaccine. This vaccine was a requirement I read online that I needed before entering the country and they didn't even ask for proof of it. Just in case, have it on your carry on across the border in case they do.
There was one other American couple that was crossing the border with us and we of course made the whole bus have to wait until we were cleared to cross. Don't feel intimidated by it. Even with the visa hassle this country is one I truly am happy I spent time in and would recommend anybody to just go through the few hours it takes to prepare and enjoy your time in this awesome country!
If you have any questions you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I started my year long backpacking trip through South America what I researched the most was costs of what it is was like to backpack through each country. I spent around 35 days total in Peru (although I do wish I spent more time) and have recorded some of the prices and broke them down for to give yourself an idea of what you should expect to pay!
35 Days traveling Peru = $1,200 USD
Cities Visited = 6
Bus Costs: Bus prices will vary upon every city, every bus company and time of when you buy your ticket. The best advice I can give is go to different agencies that are usually in the main touristy part of each town (usually around an area called Plaza de Armas) and ask for prices and most importantly times of when buses leave. Then head to the bus terminal by public bus, taxi or walk an hour or two before they depart. You will find an endless amount of tour agencies all trying to fill in last minute seats. Many of times we pre bought bus tickets and regretted it by seeing them half the price once we arrived. If you do want to buy with an agency always barter and if anyone says free wifi for the whole bus ride... liar!
Hostel Costs: My method for finding hostels to stay in was to go the two sites Booking and Hostelworld. From there I would filter the sorting from cheapest to most expensive and pick the best reviewed cheapest accommodations. The most we ever spent for a hostel or shared room between three people was $11 each! Sometimes it was cheaper to get our own private room than a shared hostel room which was great since you need that balance when traveling for a long time!
Tours: Peru is the country of tours and we took full advantage of that. I have links to all of the Youtube Videos I created for each tour with prices! Check them out to get the full experience.
Booze Costs: Ah sweet, sweet Pisco Sours. When going out to drink it was usually Pisco Sour mixes we bought or made at the hostels or beer. I would estimate beer ranges from $2-3 for a cheap beer but if you head to breweries in Lima or Arequipa or fancier bars in Cusco expect to pay around $4-$7 per nice beer or cocktail. Once we figured out the recipe for a traditional Pisco Sour it became so much fun to learnt make on our own!
Recipe link here!
Street Food: When you are looking for food on the go don't be shy from the street food that is served all over Peru in every town or city. The food can range from unknown meat with rice and salad, potatoes, empanadas, bread stuffed with anything you can imagine, soups, deserts you name it. My favorite go to was empanadas and they usually have Carne (beef), Pollo, (chicken) or vegetariano (vegetarian). The price usually usually varies between 1-3 soles which is .30-$1 USD! Sometimes for lunch or dinner we would just go to 2-3 different street vendors and call that gourmet. You might get sick once or twice (I never did from the street food only once in Peru from a fried fish at a restaurant in Paracas!) so put your fear aside and embrace it. You tastebuds won't regret it.
Breakfasts: When looking online at hostels or at tour packages you will notice many of them offer free continental breakfasts! Don't be surprised when bread becomes a daily staple to you. At most places it was usually just coffee, jam, butter and bread but a few hostels would offer more! Sometimes we would have eggs, tea, yogurt, or even fruit! If you are worried of getting over that type of breakfast fast head to the local market the day prior and pick up some tomatoes, eggs, avocados and fruit yourself to fancy it up a bit.
Lunch: The best choice to do in every city that has one is eat at the Central Market (mercado central) for lunch! Almost all of the places have a set menu called Menu Del Dia (Menu of the day) that range for from 5-12 soles if you are eating where the local eat (that is $2-$4!). Most of the meals will come with an entree of soup and from there you will have rice or beans with possibly a little salad and the main course of chicken, fish, beef or vegetarian option. Lunch is my favorite time of day to go out since it is way cheaper than going out to dinner and breakfast is usually free or small. Don't be surprised as well by how big the food portions are either! We would usually order two lunches and split it between three people.
Dinner: Dinner in Peru is more expensive than lunch but there are more varieties to your choices. Get ready for random pizza shops, rice and meat dishes, and really unhealthy choices. The best city to have dinner in Cusco because of the wide variety of different cuisines they serve. In Lima, eat seafood for every meal because they are known for having some of the best ceviche in the world and I can stand by that statement. Dinner can range from $6-$10 a person depending on if it is local mom and pop shop or a more western type restaurant.
Groceries: Cooking is the best option for travelers on a tight budget. I would say don't cook lunch as the cost of eating at the central market verse making your own dish will be around the same cost and just cook dinner. We always made rice, vegetables and sometimes our own soups and they were healthier then going out to eat which is good when fried food surrounds you! You can get four tomatoes for $1USD, the biggest avocados in your life for around .60 and rice for $3 that will last you more than three meals split between friends. Head to the market and get ready to barter if you want.
Atm Fees: For my travels I have the US Bank debit card ($2.50+3% of transaction fees everytime you pul out cash) and Wells Fargo debit card ($5 flat everytime you pull out cash) and my boyfriend has the Chase Debit Card ($5 flat overtime you pull out cash.) All three cards I would not recommend for traveling. Matt's parents will be visiting in June 2017 and they are bringing me a Capitol One Debit card I ordered because it has no foreign ATM fees! The fees add up very quickly and since most Peruvian banks give you a limit of pulling out 200-400 soles at a time you will have to do multiple transactions which is multiple fees coming your way.. I would recommend going to Scotiabank to pull out cash! They are the only bank I found that doesn't give an extra ATM fee for pulling out cash.
Have any tips or tricks you would like to share? Comment below and let me know!
When I backpacked Southeast Asia in 2014 I had zero travel apps on my phone. I survived completely without them but once I landed in Lima, Peru in March 2017 to start my year long travels I met other travelers that told me the apps they have been using that have made their trips so much easier. So this post is all about what you should download on your phone before you take off and how they have helped me!
Finding A Place To Stay
This app has been a lifesaver for me on my travels. In Peru I booked almost all of our places with booking because it ranges everything from hostels to private rooms to hotels to homestays. My trick is to always filter everything from low to high and find one of the cheapest best reviewed places. Reading other peoples experiences about a place will completely make or break a stay for us. In Bolivia and Chile I haven't been using booking as much, instead I use the maps function and figure out where a few different cheap hostels are located that are all in the same neighborhood. From there I screenshot a few of the names and where they are on the map and once we get off a bus into a new city we walk towards them. Click here to book your first booking and get $20 off!
I have met many other travelers that lived in private rooms or rented apartments long terms in different cities to get the feeling of living like a local and make little homes around the world. That is why I love Airbnb because of the different types of traditional and non traditional places you can rent. It's good to take a look at booking, hostelworld and Airbnb before booking a place especially longterm to give yourself many different options and make it specific to your needs and budget. Click here to book your first Airbnb and get up to $30 off!
A app used globally that many hostel owners sign up for! Everything from this app from the reviews, price range, maps function is easily usable and wanted when you are on the go and need a place to crash. Sometimes just like Booking I don't always book a place on the app but more find a few I like in the same neighborhood from hostelworld and walk to them after arriving in a new city.
I haven't had any luck yet with finding someone to host us but I am assuming it is because I only speak english in South America and because I am traveling as a couple. I have family and friends that have had different kinds of experiences and living situations from staying on a strangers couch, to someones floor to having a private guest room! The people you meet from this community are amazing. I used to hang out with the Couchsurfing Seattle group and it was great to go get drinks or go to the park where everyone has the same thing in common; the love of travel.
This app has been a lifesaver backpacking Chile! It is an offline map that is all community based. When we did our road trip in central Chile other people would mark on the app different places we could camp at for free or at a cost and different hostels, police checkpoints, good restaurants you name it. The places people talk about or write about are the only places that pop up on the map and that is how we found three places for free to sleep in our car when we were driving with no wifi or data. Completely recommend!
This app is an offline translator and it is extremely helpful when you are backpacking another country and don't know the main language. We have been in Spanish speaking countries for three months now and we are learning quite a bit but it is nice to be able to look up words in spanish to english or when you are trying to communicate with others switching the languages to know how to say something from english to spanish. This has helped us many of times and I carry my phone around now mostly to be able to use this app whenever.
This app is a lifesaver and I 100% recommend every person to get this! About one hour before we started our three night road trip in chile I remembered about this app another backpacker told me that has helped her on numerous occasions. You download the app and the map of the area you are currently in and get ready for the best offline GPS ever. We found out about this app after over a month and a half of using google maps (which hardly works in South America when you are offline) and just using free maps from bus stations. Now we still prefer using free maps but this app saved us on our road trip. We got lost a few times and were in the middle of a huge flood and this app helped us get to dirt backroads that worked perfectly to get us out of the flooded towns we were at. It does drain your battery that is the only downfall but completely worth not being lost. It also will give you directions when you are offline for walking or driving so you won't have to be worried about how to get back to your hostel late at night.
This lovely travel app is the first one I used and actually the one I used to book my flight from Seattle, WA, USA to Lima, Peru for $360. Yes it had two layovers and made it a 22 hour travel day but to save so much money compared to shorter flights that were a few hundred dollars more it was completely worth it. The special thing about this app is that you can put a 'Watch' on flights on certain days you are thinking of traveling and it will tell you when the best time to buy the cheapest ticket and when to wait. It will also tell you when prices will be slowing raising so you know to not hold off. We bought our flights a few months before taking off and couldn't believe how inexpensive it was. Completely happy with this app.
This is a great app to find the cheapest flights for where you want to go! Sometimes they will give some choices with really long layovers but it can save you hundreds of dollars.
This app is great just to see the timetables of when buses are leaving. The cheapest option by far is booking a bus an hour or two before they depart because bus companies are just trying to fill in their seats so take a look at when some of the buses are leaving for your destination and then just head your way to the bus terminal. We booked a bus once on this app and was a headache since we had to get a printed ticket and we were at a hostel with no printer. (Luckily found a photocopy place and had it printed out before our bus left).
We booked our Uyuni Salt Flats tour with the #1 tour bus company on the list and it was completely worth reading the reviews off TripAdvisor. From restaurants, tour agencies, attractions you name it; the reviews will help you on your decision making on what you want to do. Many companies in South America sell the same types of tours when they are all located in the same city so it is great to read about other people's good and bad experiences with different agencies so you know if you should trust the sales guy at the bus terminal that says there will be wifi for the whole bus ride (that is always 100% a lie.)
This is a great public transportation app when you are learning a new cities bus or metro system! This was completely useful in Santiago, Chile trying to navigate around such a big city. You can find out where you need to go when you are connected to wifi and then press start and begin your journey. The gps will still work and give directions so it is perfect to get across town and get pretend you know what your doing!
Have any other travel apps that you love that aren't on this list? Comment below and tell me what works best for you!