Responsible Travel in Bolivia
Bolivia offers visitors incredible landscapes, a great biodiversity and more than 20 national parks. In recent years, travellers are discovering more of its great riches and beauty. This brings along social and environmental challenges, but also opportunities. Here are some tips on how your visit to Bolivia can support local communities and the environment.
Research before going
Try to find some basic information on the local culture, politics, history and religion before going. This will help you with cultural sensitivity and it will make your trip much more rewarding because you will know where you want to go and what you want to see.
Choose the right operator
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America – so prices for hostels, tours and food are really low and travelling is cheap.
The search for the best deal and the amount of tour operators competing in the same market make it very tempting to compete for the lowest price. Although that might seem very practical for us, it isn’t really serving anyone.
Offering the cheapest tour means underpaying their drivers and guides. It also means that you are getting inferior quality equipment, bad service, no involvement and sometimes unsafe conditions.
- Always choose a local operator that uses local guides: this ensures your money goes into the Bolivian economy and supports local people. You can also check FindLocalTrips.com, which lets you compare operators’ itineraries and prices all in one location.
- Go for the fairest price, not the cheapest: search and compare several tour operators before making a choice. Try to think about what you are actually paying for and make sure quality equipment and fair wages is one of them.
- Do not book any illegal tours: wildlife hunting, prison visits, etc. are illegal. If you do run into a tour company that offers them, discourage other travellers from taking their tours through Tripadvisor and social media and contact specialized agencies that deal with this.
Go off the beaten path
Unlike Copacabana and Uyuni, some other incredible sites in Bolivia are often secluded and difficult to reach. Tourism in these areas is actually a great opportunity to improve infrastructure and stimulate local business, which helps locals to make money in their own communities instead of moving to the cities.
Bringing Tourism to small communities in the Amazon and the Andes also keeps big companies from engaging locals in economically destructive activities without any attention for the consequences.
Recently, Community-based tourism has become more available and more accessible in Bolivia and is even stimulated by the government. This type of tourism is managed by the community or on behalf of the community.
Some possibilities are:
- Volunteering programs: there are many volunteering opportunities in Bolivia, but not all of them are qualified or beneficial. If you want to do a volunteer program, do your research and pick one that is socially and environmentally responsible. there are for example wildlife volunteering programs that are actually glorified zoos that aren’t beneficial at all. Read our blog on volunteering in Bolivia for tips on how to find the program that suits you best.
- Eco-lodges: when looking for ecological stay the biggest challenge is green washing. Eco-lodges are usually quite expensive but the name can be put on anything so ask them specific questions on projects they do and how the lodge itself is ecological.
- Home stays: Staying in a local community for a night is a good way of supporting the local community and gives you a chance to learn about its customs. As with the other options, there is a lot of variation in price and quality.
It can be a little difficult to find the right information on the internet and to find options that are both affordable and beneficial for local communities and wildlife. But if you are willing to put in some extra work and if you are willing to put question marks behind what is advertised, you can find amazing places and really good programs.
The most important thing to remember when travelling is to keep your eyes open, to check where your money is going and to look for the fairest price around. In the end, travelling responsibly is a mindset that allows you balance your own pleasure and comfort with that of others.