Some countries have rather appropriate names for their currencies, taking inspiration from the name of the country itself. This is certainly the case in Bolivia, where they have named their currency the boliviano. At least it makes it rather easy to remember!
Every boliviano is divided into 100 centavos, although these are also sometimes called cents. There are half a dozen coins in use, half of which are in centavos and half of which are in bolivianos. The centavo coins are the 10, 20 and 50 centavo coins, and these often have the letters Cvs in front of them to denote this particular subunit. The boliviano coins are the 1, 2 and 5 bolivianos, which often have the letters Bs in front of them so you will always be clear on what they are worth.
There are also a few banknotes used in the country, all of which are denominated in bolivianos. These are worth 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 bolivianos each.
The boliviano is actually quite an old currency, with the first instance of it appearing back in 1864. This was when it was brought in to replace the soles, which was the currency in use back then. Inflation took its toll on the currency though and it became worth much less than it had been originally. It finally bit the dust in 1963 when the new peso boliviano was introduced to replace it. While the name changed slightly the new currency was in reality brought in to devalue the old one, since 1,000 of the old boliviano were now worth one of the new ones.
If it had been hoped this would solve the inflation problem, those in the country must have been disappointed. This new currency only lasted just shy of 25 years before another new boliviano was introduced. This time the exchange rate between old and new wasn’t 1,000 to 1 – instead it was 1,000,000 to 1! However this time the new version of the boliviano seemed to stabilise, although inflation has periodically been an issue in the country. To this date the same boliviano is still in use.
Your best bet is not to worry about getting hold of the boliviano until you arrive in the country. However there are some things you can do before you leave home to make sure you are properly prepared.
For example you can take traveller’s cheques into the country with you, ideally denominated in US dollars. Indeed if you want to take cash with you as well (not a bad idea) make sure that is in US dollars too. This is the easiest currency to exchange for the local currency and although some other currencies are accepted, the dollar is the one that is least likely to give you any problems. In fact some of the Bolivian cities will have outlets that will accept US dollars anyway, so this gives you yet another way to pay for your goods.
Look out for casas de cambio, as these are bureaux de change. If you are staying in or visiting one of the big cities you can also try changing your cash in a bank. Cash machines seem to be rather hit and miss – while they should accept Visa cards for withdrawals this isn’t always the case. The rule of thumb should be not to rely on this as your sole means of getting money.
All you need here is access to a currency converter. Just use the ISO code – BOB in this case – to look for the boliviano with ease. If you cannot find it you might have to look for a more in-depth converter. Some of the more basic ones only have the most popular currencies on them and this can be one of those that is left out. For the most up-to-date information on exchange rates you should find a converter that is updated frequently, ideally several times a day. In addition it’s worth remembering that the actual exchange rate will vary depending on where you exchange your money once you are in the country itself.
If you are thinking about going to Bolivia for any reason it’s a good idea to find out more about the country first. There is an official website for the Bolivian Embassy in the UK at http://www.bolivianembassy.co.uk/; you should see a facility whereby you can change the language to English (or a variety of other languages) at the top right of the site.
You have to be particularly alert when travelling in Bolivia as crime can be an issue here. Areas that commonly see lots of tourists travelling around can be hotspots for crime, especially with regard to petty crimes such as pickpocketing. Criminals will go for the easiest targets so the best bet is to make sure you do not present yourself as one to them.
The usual measures apply here – make sure you keep the amount of cash you carry with you to a minimum. If you have any traveller’s cheques you should always have a separate note of their serial numbers in case anything should happen to them. Keep an eye on your bag and anything else you might have with you in the form of valuables too.
You should keep your passport and any other valuables you don’t need to carry around in your hotel safe. However do make sure you take a photocopy of your passport and the relevant details in it so you can carry this around with you. There are occasions where the police might ask to see it, so it’s best to be prepared.
Bolivia can be found in South America. Its boundaries stretch from Central America over to the western side, but it doesn’t quite reach as far as the western coastline, so it is a landlocked country. It shares its borders with several other countries, including Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru as you go round in a clockwise direction.
The so-called constitutional capital of the country is a place called Sucre, and there are some nice sights to see here, particularly with reference to the architecture. Take a look at such examples as the Basilica of San Francisco for example, not to mention the 17th century House of Freedom. However the government is located not in Sucre but in La Paz, which is arguably the more famous of the two cities. Certainly it is more appealing in terms of tourism too. There are plenty of museums there that each have a story to tell about the history of Bolivia in some way. Check out the Gold Museum, the National Museum of Archaeology and the Natural History Museum among others to learn something different at each one.
Elsewhere in Bolivia there are many other attractions you might want to add to your list of things to see. For example you shouldn’t miss the Laguna Verde, which literally translates into the Green Lake. You will see why this is the case when you get there, as the lake really is green. It is a salt water lake situated right at the bottom of a volcano, although thankfully there haven’t been any eruptions there in human memory so you should be safe!
Markets are popular in all kinds of places across the world, and Bolivia is no different. However it does have the Witches’ Market to share with its visitors, which is exactly what it sounds like. We doubt you will have seen a market like this before, which sells all kinds of things you can put in potions and spells if you are so minded. Wandering past the crowded stalls and shops is an amazing experience but perhaps not one for the faint of heart.
If you’d like to add a UNESCO World Heritage Site to your list, Tiwanaku should definitely be at the top. This is known as the Gate of the Sun and it is an archaeological site that dates back to pre-Columbian times. It is located far to the west of the country and is known and recognised by UNESCO as both a spiritual and political centre that defined the culture of the same name.
Bolivia certainly has some stunning sights and attractions to share with its many visitors. We have merely scratched the surface here – there are many others you can find out about and get information on prior to your visit.
The boliviano might take some getting used to just as any other currency does when you first start using it. But you will certainly find plenty of reasons to part with some cash while you are there – even if you resist doing so at the Witches’ Market mentioned above!