Full country name: Republic of Bolivia
Area: 1,098,580 sq km (428,446 sq mi)
Capital city: La Paz (pop 2,406,377) and Sucre (pop 132,000)
People: 30% Quechua Indian, 25% mestizo, 30% Aymará Indian, approx 15% European (principally Spanish)
Language: Spanish but most Indians speak either Quechua or Aymará; composite dialects of Spanish-Aymará and Spanish-Quechua are also widely spoken
Religion: 95% Roman Catholic, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist)
GDP: US$24.2 billion
GDP per capita: US$3000
Annual growth: 3%
Major industries: Agriculture, narcotics, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing, tin mining, natural gas
Major trading partners: USA, Brazil, Japan
Visas: Regulations change frequently, but currently citizens of most EU countries can stay 90 days without a visa; citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and Israel can stay 30 days without a visa. Most other nationalities require a visa in advance - usually issued for a 30-day stay.
Health risks: Altitude sickness, Chagas disease, cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, malaria, polio, rabies, tetanus, typhoid, yellow-fever
Time: GMT/UTC minus 4 hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz (except in La Paz which has 110V & 220V, 50Hz)
Weights & measures: Metric
When to Go
Bolivia lies in the southern hemisphere; winter runs from May to October and summer from November to April. The most important climatic factor to remember is that it's generally wet in the summer and dry in the winter. While the highlands and altiplano can be cold in the winter and wet in the summer, the only serious barrier to travel will be the odd road washout. In the tropical lowlands, however, summer can be miserable with mud, steamy heat, bugs and relentless downpours. Travel is difficult, and services may be stifled by mud and flooding. Also consider that the high tourist season falls in the winter (late June to early September), due not only to climatic factors, but also to the timing of European and North American summer holidays and the fact that it's also Bolivia's major fiesta season. This means that both overseas visitors and lots of South Americans are traveling during this period.
LAND & CLIMATE
Region: South America
Neighbours: Bolivia shares a border with five other countries: Brazil on the north and east, Paraguay on the southeast, Argentina on the south, and Chile and Peru on the west.
Size Comparison: More than four times larger than Ecuador
Bolivia is one of two South American countries without direct access to the sea. Its principal physical feature is the Andes mountain range, which extends generally north to south across western Bolivia. Near the border with Chile is the Cordillera Occidental, or western range, and on the northeast is the Cordillera Real, the main range. Bolivia has three distinct regions: the altiplano, or plateau region, which lies between the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Central; the yungas, a series of forested and well-watered valleys embracing the eastern Andes slopes and valleys; and the llanos, or the AmazonGran Chaco lowlands, which stretch east and northeast from the mountains. They contain large grassy tracts and, along the rivers, dense tropical forests. Much of this region becomes swampland during the wet season (December through February); large areas, however, lie above the flood line and provide rich grazing lands. In the southeast, separated from the Amazonian plains by the Chiquitos highlands, are the dry, semitropical plains of the Gran Chaco.
Major Rivers and Lakes
Four rivers drain Bolivia’s northern and northeastern valleys and plains: the Río Beni and its main affluent, the Río Madre de Dios; the Rio Guaporé, which forms part of the boundary with Brazil; and the Río Mamoré. In the southeast, the Río Pilcomayo flows through the Gran Chaco region to feed the Río Paraguay, eventually draining into the Río de la Plata.
The Altiplano contains freshwater Lago Titicaca, the world’s highest, large navigable lake which Bolivia shares with neighboring Peru. The Desaguadero River, outlet for Lago Titicaca, feeds Lago Poopó, a saltwater lake, to the southeast.
Weather and Climate
Although Bolivia lies entirely within the tropics, its varied elevation gives it a wide range of climate types. In the higher elevations, conditions are cold and dry but generally healthful, in spite of the cutting winds, the thinness of the atmosphere, and the daily temperature extremes. The climate is warmer in the lower-lying regions. Mean annual temperatures range from about 8°C (about 46°F) in the Altiplano to about 26°C (about 79°F) in the eastern lowlands.
Deforestation is a critical threat to the health of Bolivia's environment. The country's rain forests are extremely rich in biodiversity, with a high proportion of endemic plant species. Bolivia has 48 million hectares (119 million acres) of forestland, covering 44.6 percent (1995) of the country's land area. During the 1980s about 800,000 hectares (about 2 million acres) were lost to deforestation each year. Between 1990 and 1995 another 3 million hectares (7 million acres) of forest were lost. Bolivia's forests are cleared primarily for cropland, for livestock grazing, and for tropical timber, which is harvested for export.
A small minority of Bolivia's population resides in the huge rain forests of the lowlands. These people depend on livestock raising and agriculture for their livelihood. Overgrazing and the use of traditional farming techniques such as slash-and-burn agriculture have led not only to deforestation, but also to soil erosion and a consequent loss of soil fertility. Because the rain forests make up such a large percentage of the country's total land area, the government is trying to draw a larger segment of the population to the area, thereby exacerbating the problem.
Bolivia protects 14.4 percent (1997) of its land area in parks or other reserves. It was the first country to enter into a debt-for-nature swap, a type of agreement allowing developing countries to pay off national debt through nature conservation. Bolivia's swap covered about 800,000 hectares (about 2 million acres), mostly of rain forest.
Bolivia is party to treaties concerning biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, tropical timber, and wetlands.