What is it like to live in Bolivia? A very conflictive country
Hello, I am George Dummer and today I am telling you about my experience, I was living in Bolivia for 3 years and I will tell you the good and the bad of Bolivia, if you are interested in coming to Bolivia either for tourism or work, keep reading this article, Thanks to the blog administrator for giving me a space on this website since we work together in both Bolivia and Peru, I currently reside in Boston, United States.
Living in Bolivia 3 years
I would not have to put the issue of altitude since an infusion of coca or chamomile is enough to calm altitude sickness, that is the first thing he recommends when you arrive in La Paz, Bolivia, it is inevitable to talk about politics because in La Paz it is the political center of Bolivia and determines the events of each day. I will tell you details that you will not be able to find in any other blog or video, I was longer in the Capital of La Paz, although I will also tell you something about the city of Santa Cruz.
When someone from abroad hears about Bolivia, the first thing that comes to mind is a poor country in the highlands with a cold climate, it is true that it is a poor country but not all its climate is cold, Bolivia is a country with three regions and three different climates: Altiplano, Valleys and Amazonia, the latter being the largest region, the altiplano draws the world's attention because the Administrative Capital is there, as for the cold I do not worry since it is the same as Boston in winter season.
At La Paz airport
When you are about to land at the La Paz airport you can see 2 completely different cities, the city of El Alto is on a plain while La Paz is located in a hole, a kind of crater, when you arrive at the airport the first thing You must do is take a taxi from a recognized transport company, the airport is located in the city of El Alto. The airport is located in the city of El Alto, its mass transportation is minivans a bit uncomfortable but faster than buses.
Be careful in La Ceja
La Ceja is a commercial area, it is only meters from the airport, all transport passes through these roads, this is a place where you should be more careful, this area is where assaults and much worse things occur, at night it is more dangerous on one of those nights we had to walk to the airport on foot because there was no public transport for protests in the streets, those streets are in brothels along with dozens of bars and drunks in the streets. If you are thinking of going to this place, do not do it alone, especially if you are a foreigner.
The cable car is a means of transport present throughout the city of La Paz, you can transport yourself much faster and enjoy the landscape especially in winter when snow falls.
Slums and exclusive areas
In three years I was able to observe that there are two types of areas, the city of El Alto is a very poor city and the Zona Sur is where more affluent people reside, in this exclusive area are the embassies of different countries, from bankers, famous personalities These are some of the residences present, I was in an apartment in the center of the city.
Politics and conflicts
Bolivia is a very conflictive country in terms of politics, it is mandatory to at least read the news since there are constantly protests and blockades in the streets prevent you from free transit, you would be surprised at the things that I could observe just by walking through its streets, this is a list that I made about protests that are present in each year:
- They protest salary increases or claiming a bonus
- Better budgets for schools
- Protest for the release of a union leader
- To request the resignation of some corrupt authority
- Protests because the quotas for admission to an academic institution ran out
- To ask for justice for some crime
La Paz is one of the most stressful cities and apparently its citizens are used to it, I don't see that it is wrong to protest but to make their claims heard, some block the streets with stones, believe it or not, people use dynamite and rockets to protest. It seems that it is totally legal in Bolivia, it is one of the things that surprised me and hated the most, so I could see that when conflicts are not resolved they end up facing blows.
Bolivia is one of those countries that is choosing to follow the communist model of Cuba or Venezuela, it does not matter if its government is corrupt, its people do not care, as long as the government does not get into the pockets of Bolivians. The United States Embassy was expelled from Bolivia by its government. I do not want to talk about it since it is quite complicated and long, I could also observe excessive political propaganda in their media, in short it was the reason for subscribing to Netflix.
It is cheap to live in Bolivia and I liked that
Surely it is one of the things you heard, well let me tell you that yes, they also have more gasoline, it has a price of Bs3 and Bs4 which is less than a dollar, they have a variety of Creole foods among some dishes that I remember are the ají de fideo, silpancho, majadito and chairo, have a price of $2 to $3.
The lifestyle was very cheap and I was planning to open a small Marketing company, but I was faced with bureaucracy and taxes, Bolivia has one of the highest taxes in Latin America and there are no clear incentives for investment.
Sports and Culture
How could it be otherwise, the official sport in Bolivia is soccer, in La Paz they have a small stadium where their national teams meet, in terms of museums or theaters I only had the opportunity to enter the Museum of Musical Instruments They don't have big museums but they do have a huge culture, then I visited the ruins of Tiwanaku a place where one of the oldest cultures in America lived, I was curious as Giorgio A. Tsoukalos from History Channel visited this place, which I didn't like It was that these archaeological ruins are very unprotected, the managers of the place are only interested in charging, you see people drinking and climbing these archaeological ruins.
A pizza and a burger
There are pizzas from $30 to $40 a Burger King Combo Whopper has the price of $7, in other places you can find a hamburger for $3 there is still a lot to taste in Bolivia but I have not tried Chola Sandwich is a kind of submarine sandwich.
Parties and joy in the streets
Folklore is present in all regions of this country, every month you can see small folk festivals in streets or avenues, in February the carnival begins, that's where thousands of dancers fill the main avenues to squander joy and culture, there is another party similar on the anniversary of the public university which is usually in the month of July.
Difference between La Paz and Santa Cruz
La Paz is located in the western region next to the Andes mountain ranges and that is why its climate is colder, temperatures are usually from 23 °F to 77 °F, Santa Cruz is a city that is located in the area Eastern with a warmer climate with temperatures from 80 °F to 86 °F, Santa Cruz is the most dynamic of the Bolivian economy and much larger than La Paz, both regions have different cultures and traditions which makes it a multicultural country but at the same time it has become a political excuse to confront these two regions. In a future article I will tell you more about Santa Cruz because I don't want to bore you.
As for your cops
When you see a policeman you feel safe at least that's what I thought, in two trips to Tiwanaku and Copacabana we met policemen on the way who were looking for all kinds of excuses to give us a fine and even lock us up in jail, luckily we were going With a Bolivian guide who was able to solve it with a bribe, apparently the driver were used to this type of treatment or perhaps it was not our lucky day.
Your Health System
We discovered that receiving medical attention in Bolivia is not free, now I tell you about my experience, in one of my trips to the Valle de la Luna in La Paz, I suffered an ankle accident when I fell through a crack in the ground, it did not seem very serious until I could not walk well for a few days, I called an ambulance to the nearest hospital but they told me that I did not have an ambulance for that type of accident they insisted that I had to go personally to get a ticket to the hospital and then they treated me, first you have to pay to be treated if you have no money they refer you to another hospital where there is a long line to receive medical attention. I finally decided to go to a private clinic.
Why did I decide to leave Bolivia?
At the end of 2019, social conflicts worsened in Bolivia, people were fed up with electoral fraud and the corrupt government, in this conflict dozens of Bolivians died, there were even shouts of civil war from its citizens, they were very tense moments, in January 2020 my friends called me from Germany and they were very concerned about the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic and they insisted that I return to Boston and they were right, I was not prepared for a quarantine, when the conflicts stopped I decided to return home with good and bad experiences.
The next time I return to Bolivia it will be only to visit the Salar de Uyuni, it was the only thing I had to do, that is a summary of the things I remember most about Bolivia in three years.