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Bolivia & Huyana Potosi General Info

Arrival/ background information

This expedition is based in the hectic city of La Paz and the nearby mountains of the Cordillera Real, Bolivia's highest and most extensive mountain range. The city has a spectacular setting in a deep canyon on the edge of the high plateau known as the 'Altiplano' with magnificent views to the huge mountain Illimani. The international airport is located at almost 4100m.

The city itself is located at about 3650m in altitude, making it the worlds highest 'de facto' capitol city. Most tourists struggle with the altitude when they arrive here, so the first couple of days are spent acclimatising to the thin air.

During the winter climbing season, day time temperatures are pleasant, but it gets cold at night at this height.

There is plenty to do and see in La Paz, but like all major cities in the developing world, it is important that you keep your wits about you when walking the streets. Of all the major South American cities I have visited, La Paz seems to be the most crime-ridden and I have heard regular report of robbery and pick pocketing (although violence against tourists is unusual). Avoid carrying bank cards and large quantities of cash whenever possible, avoid obvious displays of wealth and bling and travel by taxi, particularly after dark. One particular problem in La Paz is tourists being approached by false police officers in plain clothes. Be aware that ONLY uniformed police officers are allowed to approach tourists. False officials should be dealt with appropriately!

Flights, visas and travel

La Paz is reached by various major airlines such as KLM, Delta and United. Book early your flight early. Don't forget, if you intend to transit through the USA an ESTA is required.

The airport is located 45 mins drive from the centre of the city.

From La Paz, the trailhead to the Condoriri trailhead is a bumpy 2hr drive.

Citizens of the EU and US are able to visit Bolivia for any period up to 90 days with a tourist visa. This is given to visitors on their arrival in the country. Citizens from other countries should check with the Bolivian Consulate in their country of residence

Currency and Money

The currency of Bolivia is the Bolivar. There are plenty of ATM's in the city and at the airport which accept most major credit and debit cards, so there is no need to change money in advance.

Things are cheap in Bolivia. Expect to pay no more that 100 Bolivars for a good meal at a top restaurant or 25 Bolivars for a taxi ride.

Tips

Tipping you mountain crew is optional. If you are happy with the service, a tip of about 100 - 200 Bolivars per climber is appropriate. As ever, it is a good idea to bring along your old mountain clothing, boots and equipment to donate to the guides and porters.

Electricity

Wall sockets in Bolivia require ungrounded two-prong plugs, and supply 110 volts, 60 hertz. Appliances with 3 prongs or an enlarged prong will require an adapter.

Season

During the high season, the weather in the mountains is cold, clear and very stable.

The ideal time for climbing in Bolivia is during the dry season, which is between May and October (+/- 2 weeks). It is colder during these months but the skies are clearer and there is less loose snow on the slopes. It is usually possible to climb during the months of March, April and November but the weather is less guaranteed. It is not advisable to climb between December and February.

Health/ altitude and vaccinations

Bolivia is one of South America's poorest countries and standards of hygiene are poor. It is possible you may get an upset stomach or gut at some stage. To minimise the risk pay close attention to your personal hygiene. It is a good idea to avoid tap water, unwashed fruit, ice and all seafood. As a rule of thumb, only eat food that has been thoroughly cooked and avoid raw fruit that can't be peeled. Avoid street food like the plague. Vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid, polio and hepatitis are needed. Malaria and yellow fever precautions are not necessary as we won't be visiting mosquito infested areas.

For all information on recommended inoculations and anti-malarial regimes, you should contact MASTA (Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad) www.masta.org for the most up to date information.

La Paz is situated at 3,650 metres above sea level, and the peaks our expeditions cover vary between 5,000m and 6500m. As such it is important to allow time for acclimatisation. High altitude affects people due to the drop in atmospheric pressure and lower level of oxygen found at these heights. It is difficult to predict exactly how much time you will needs to acclimatise, as it varies from person to person and does not depend on level of fitness or health.
Familiarise yourself with the symptoms and effects of AMS prior to departure.

Accommodation

In La Paz, we use good quality, comfortable hotels (usually the Camion Real Hotel, 5*). In the mountains, we use refugios where possible, but you should plan for a couple of nights camping. It can be bitterly cold at night on the trail. You'll need a good sleeping bag and camping mat.

When climbing Huyana Potosi we make use of the surprisingly comfortable Refugio Huyana Potosi at the foot of the mountain, which offers good meals, a log fire and bunk beds. We also make use of the surprisingly uncomfortable high hut at 5300m, which is a tin-can containing bunk beds and cooking facilities.