Travel Bolivia: South America on a small budget

Amazing experience in Bolivia!

My boyfriend and I have been travelling South America on a small budget for the past seven months! I am italian and he is french and we are 28 years old. We have lived in the UK for the past 4 years, working as a children nurse and as an engineer respectively. We then decided to quit everything and go travelling. We set our budget at 45 euros per day for the two of us, and that’s including accommodation, transport, activities etc and it is possible! We met a lot of travelers travelling on a higher budget and few travelling on a smaller one.

We started our travel in Brazil and from there we have travelled south to Paraguay, north of Argentina, Uruguay (taking a boat from Buenos Aires), then to Chile passing from Mendoza to Santiago. Here we took a flight to Punta Arenas, in the Chillean Patagonia (quite cheap flight deal compared to the route Buenos Aires-Ushuaia) and from Punta Arenas we headed north crossing the whole Patagonia, zigzaging in between Chile and Argentina. Finally we reached our current location: Bolivia.

Travel Route South America
Travel Route South America

What to do in Bolivia

We reached Bolivia passing through San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, where we took a 3 day tour to the Salar de Uyuni. Taking a tour is the safest option according to many locals as there have been cases of belongings being stolen at the border crossing if you pass it on your own (including cars being stolen!). The tour ended in Uyuni, where we directly took a bus to Potosí (it is not worth it to stay in Uyuni, apart from the Salar, there isn’t much more). In Potosí, we embraced the cultural visit of a mine before heading to Sucre! Beautiful town! You can easily spend a week there and many travellers take spanish lessons here as it is a bit cheaper than elsewhere! We then travelled to Samaipata, a small and cozy traveler village next to Santa Cruz, with the idea of heading to Cochabamba straight after. Here we met Maria, a german girl, who told us about Chuchini, an eco friendly lodge in the jungle near Trinidad. She had spent a week there as a volunteer. At this time, my boyfriend and I had been thinking to do a jungle experience in Rurrenbaque, north east of La Paz. After thinking about all the pros and cons we decided to head to Chuchini instead! Our choice was mainly based on the fact that Trinidad is less touristic and we thought we would have had a more real jungle experience in Chuchini, compared to the touristic Rurrenbaque. I can’t say what is best as we have not been to Rurrenbaque, but our stay in Chuchini was amazing!

Travel Advice Bolivia: Salar Uyuni
Travel Advice Bolivia: Salar Uyuni

The place is run by a swiss-bolivian couple who are living in the lodge with their two children. The place is located 14 km from Trinidad, in front of a lagoon (where the tours start from) and close to the jungle.
Efrem (called Ibis) and Miriam are really nice hosts and their children are very friendly too and you can spend hours playing with them!
Both Miriam and Efrem are very easy going and made me feel comfortable! Efrem has lived all his life in Chuchini, he is a veterinary and knows a lot about animals and plants. During the tours and the walks in the jungle he really looks for wild animals and other things to show you, such as strange plants and fruits. He is really caring about the flora and the fauna and tries his best to preserve it (he is also very funny!). In Chuchini you can easily see monkeys, alligators, pink dolphins, piranhas and many different types of birds, such as toucan and macaw parrots. There are pumas and jaguar in the jungle too, but they’re quite difficult to spot.

Volunteer in Bolivia, Chuchini Trinidad

Volunteer in Bolivia
Volunteering in Bolivia

You can experience Chuchini as a tourist, or as a volunteer. It’s up to you! If you are short of time then I recommend to go as a tourist, while, if time is not a problem, then you can volunteer.
Being a volunteer in Chuchini is fun! During my stay I have helped picking fruit, cleaning the garden, attending guests, preparing the tables of the tourists for the meals and painting a mural on the main wall (you should definitely come and check it out!). Staying there I could see how the family really looks after their guests to try and make their experience unique!
Also as a volunteer, I felt I was well looked after. They try and make sure that all the volunteers take parts in different “tourist activities” such as seeing alligators, participating in tours for a reduced price, fishing, walking in the selva, using the zip line and the pedal boat to cruise over the lagoon!
Overall our experience was great! We were planning to spend a week in Chuchini but we ended up being there for 10 days (as we eventually had to leave to renew our visa! If not, we would have stayed longer!).

It is important to know that roads in Bolivia are not like in Europe!

It is important to know that roads in Bolivia are not like in Europe! We did everything by bus. The road in between Uyuni and Potosi is okaysh, a lot of turns but it didn’t feel unsafe. The road in between Potosi and Sucre instead is a bit dangerous (depending on the driver as well!) and it is full of turns, but we made it safely! The road in between Santa Cruz to Trinidad is good. You can reach Trinidad easily by night bus for 100 bob, although sometimes they do “bloqueo” (check with the transit police at the bus station to be sure). The road from Trinidad to La Paz is not good (the last part is actually the death road). Same for the road from La Paz to Rurrenbaque, which is why it is recommended to reach Rurrenabaque by flight. So, to make it short, if you are coming to Trinidad from Cochabamba, La Paz, or Rurrenabaque, consider taking a flight! Internal flights in Bolivia are relatively cheap. This is what we did when we left Chuchini. We took a flight to Cochabamba for 300 bolivianos, which is about 40 euros (and we only booked it 2 days earlier! ).

If you have any questions about our travel or about our experience in Chuchini you can contact us on Instagram at: @frenchitaliantraveller

Denise C. 28, italian
Erwan G. 28, french

Caiman Yacare
Caiman Yacare