Thursday 18 September 2014

Where we stayed – Bolivia

Bolivia is the cheapest country in South America. Depending on your budget you can find cheaper places to stay than those listed here. Alternatively, you can splash out a little bit and stay in some very nice places. Our choices were largely above complete budget, but were, on the whole, great value for money.

Copacabana – Fresh off the bus from Puno, Peru, we headed to La Cúpula to see if they had any rooms, as the hostel had been recommended to us by travellers we’d met in Peru. Walking into the hostel past the hammocks and communal outside areas with outstanding views over Lake Titicaca, we understood straightaway why it had been recommended to us. 

We were shown a couple of rooms, including one of the suites. James was feeling a bit cheeky and so offered the equivalent of about £30 for the suite (US$50). Given it was out of season and towards the end of the day, his cheek paid off and we were rewarded with this beautiful room, complete with breathtaking views of the lake, a small kitchen and to top it off a jacuzzi!

Even if you don’t get the suite (which we didn’t when we stayed back here after overnighting on the Isla del Sol), the hostel is very nice and recommended. For Bolivia, it is a little pricey and you can get much cheaper elsewhere, but we were very pleased with our choice!

Beautiful views from the Isla del Sol
Isla del Sol – After walking from one side of Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca to the other, we arrived in Yumani, where there are numerous small hostels. We checked out a few and bargained for the best price we could get, which was 50 bolivianos (£5/$8) for a private double room with shared bathroom. This only came from a bit of bargaining and the first price we were offered was double that. It was pretty basic, but it worked for us for the night. I can’t remember the name of the hotel, but it was on the left, as you are walking down the steps towards the port. However, there were plenty of places to stay, so we’d just recommend having a look around and seeing if you can haggle for a good price. And don’t forget to eat at Las Velas (see description of the restaurant in this post on being vegetarian in Bolivia).

La Paz – We found accommodation in La Paz a bit weird. The choice seemed to be party hostels or hotels with not much atmosphere. We were feeling a bit old for the party hostels and after spending a morning touring the main other options, we went with “Cruz de los Andes”. This was well located very near to the witches market. We had a double room, with private bathroom and breakfast for 330 Bolivianos a night (Approx £33/$48). There was a useful travel agency in the reception of the hotel, the breakfast was good and the wifi reasonable. The staff were also pretty helpful. It wasn’t great for meeting other travellers though and so probably not a good option if you’re by yourself.

We have since spoken to people who stayed at Loki hostel, which although is a party hostel, the layout of the place means that even if it’s going crazy in the bar area, it’s not too loud in the bedrooms and your can sleep.

Wild Rover is infamous in La Paz for being the party hostel, if that’s what you are after. We met some fellow Brits who had stayed in Wild Rover in La Paz for 10 days and didn’t leave the hostel, choosing to party, eat and sleep there!

Rurrenabaque - We booked our trip with Madidi Travel into the Bolivian jungle, while in La Paz. Our deal with them included one overnight stay in Rurrenabque in a hotel called Santa Ana. We added an extra night there on our way back from the jungle for 100 Bolivianos for a double room with private bathroom (£10/$15). The service there wasn't overly friendly and they'd lost our booking when we came back, even though we'd paid. But the rooms were clean and the communal areas very green and full of trees. 

Serere Reserve - We spent our time in the Bolivian jungle in the Serere Reserve and pretty little airy wooden huts. There were no real walls to the huts, just wire netting to keep out the mosquitos. Each hut had its own secluded spot, so it still felt very private and it was lovely to wake up to the sounds and sights of the jungle. We paid about £300 (approx $500) each for our jungle trek, which included a return flight from La Paz, a night's accommodation in Rurrenabaque, 3 nights accommodation in the jungle and all of our food, while we were there.

Sucre - We stayed in Sucre for 3 and half weeks and divided our time there between CasArte, Casa Verde and a homestay that we organised through Sucre Spanish School, where we were taking lessons.

CasArte was a lovely building. All of the walls of the interconnecting courtyards are painted a beautiful clean white like many of the buildings of Bolivia's white city. The main courtyard where they serve breakfast is never overcrowded and perfect for meeting and chatting to other guests. The 15 rooms are spacious and the artwork dotted around the place gives the hostal a relaxed feel. The wifi, as in many places in Bolivia is a little slow, but the location was great and staff friendly. We paid 240 Bolivianos a night (approx £24/$32).

We'd only booked 3 nights at CasArte and when we tried to extend, we discovered they didn't have any room, so we moved on to Casa Verde, where we were welcomed by Belgian expat Rene. This place was lovely and came complete with a pool in the main courtyard! The breakfast was delicious and included eggs, fruit, cereal, yoghurt and even bacon for the meat-eaters. It was the best hostel breakfast in Bolivia and perhaps the whole of South America. The wifi was also probably the best in Bolivia! We stayed here for over 2 weeks of our stay in Sucre and had a discounted price for staying so long. The standard price for a double room, with private bathroom was 240 Bolivianos a night.

The pretty facade of Casa Verde
Our homestay in Sucre: We enjoyed our week with a local family in Sucre, where practiced our Spanish and ate with a local family. The husband was a semi-retired doctor and the wife had worked at the university. Their children and long since flown the nest, leaving behind a rather sizeable property with plenty of guest rooms. We had the penthouse suite, with a beautiful view of the city

The view from our balcony at the homestay
Potosí: For our two days in this mining town, we stayed in the Koala Den - a friendly hostel just minutes from the centre of town. James made friends with the resident kittens there and it was very easy to chat with other travellers in the communal areas. 

The kitchen was too small though for the number of guests and we had to wait about an hour to use the cooker. When we arrived with no booking, there were no private rooms left, so we took a four bed dorm for our first night Recommended (although, maybe eat out!).

Uyuni: We don't have the fondest memories of our hotel in Uyuni, as we got sick while we were there and the hotel (like most of them there) didn't have central heating, so we had to brave the cold (and it was very cold) to get out of our warm beds to run to the bathroom all through the night. Our experience of being ill meant that we forgot to note down the name (and it was not particularly notable anyway!) There are plenty of accommodation options in Uyuni and if you don't mind too much where you stay, you don't need to book in advance. Moreover, few hotels and hostels seem to appear on sites like hostelworld, making it harder to book in advance. 

Salt Flats tour: We went on our 3 day salt flat tour with Red Planet. We paid approximately £100 each ($160) for the tour, which included two nights accommodation and all food. All of the reviews warned of the very basic (and cold) accommodation - this was true of all salt flats tours and not just Red Planet. Our first night in the salt hotel was perfectly pleasant. We had a private room with private bathroom - although I think the type of room your get can be a bit pot luck depending on how many guests are booked in. 

Bedroom in the salt hotel

Our second night was much more basic and we had to share. The toilet was not too pleasant and there was no shower. However, we stayed right by a hot spring, which we used until about midnight. The hot spring was so warm that even when we got out we stayed warm for ages. That combined with the thick sleeping back and hot water bottle provided by Red Planet meant that I was not at all cold on the second night, despite the fact that there was frost on the inside of the window when we woke up!


La Cúpula, Calle Michel Perez 1-3, Copacabana, Bolivia. From Plaza Sucre, head north one block and turn left onto Michel Perez and keep walking. You’ll find it!
Cruz de los Andes, Calle Aroma 216, La Paz, Bolivia (close to the witches market)
Madidi Travel - La Paz office, Calle Linares 968, La Paz, Bolivia (really close to the witches market)
Santa Ana, Calle Avoroa, between Vaca Diez and Campero, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
CasArte, Calle JM Serrano 256, Sucre, Bolivia
Casa Verde, Potosi 374, Sucre, Bolivia
Koala Den, Calle Junin 56, Potosi, Boliva
Red Planet, 155 Santa Cruz Av, Uyuni, Bolivia

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