You can get to the Amazon rainforest from several countries in South America thanks to its central location but visiting the Bolivian Amazon certainly has its perks.
Not only can you experience two sides to this magical destination (by boat or by trekking), you can also enjoy it for significantly cheaper than other countries (not looking at you Brazil).
From avoiding those pesky mosquitos to dressing for maximum comfort and aeration (yes it is as hot as you would imagine), here is everything you need to know before taking on the Amazon rainforest in Bolivia.
Tips for Visiting the Bolivian Amazon
1. When to go to the Bolivian Amazon
The best time to visit the Amazon is obviously during the dry season which in Bolivia is from October to May.
One month on either side of this is also sufficient but be sure to pack your rain gear.
We visited the Amazon in Bolivia in early April and were lucky enough to experience great weather.
The Pampas (wetlands) still had high water levels and so we enjoyed scenic boat rides through the trees and camped in hostels above alligator-infested waters.
2. How to get to the Amazon
There are two very different options to consider when getting to the Amazon from Bolivia’s capital of La Paz.
A. Get to the Amazon by Bus
Option one is certainly cheaper but a bit of a long and risky trip. You can take the 35-hour bus journey from La Paz along largely rocky and difficult roads.
Most websites and guidebooks recommend not taking this option though we met several people who did. The trip costs about $10 each way.
B. Flights to the Bolivian Amazon
Option two is to take a 30-minute flight from La Paz’s El Alto airport to Rurrenabaque with the airline Amaszonas.
Be prepared for a shaky propeller plane that only takes around 20 people per flight.
Try to get a window seat to take in the breathtaking views of the rainforest (it literally looks like the image of the Amazon you have pictured in your head since you were little).
Flights cost on average $150-200 USD per person return to La Paz.
3. Where to stay in the Amazon of Bolivia
Your accommodation in the Amazon will be included in your tour whether you decide to take the Pampas tour or the jungle trek.
As tours start early in the morning, it is likely you will spend a night in the town of Rurrenabaque.
We stayed at the Los Tucanes. It is a good, cheap and basic hotel in the city centre, known by all the tour agencies and an ideal pick-up location for your tour.
4. What tour to do in the Bolivian Amazon
You have two tour options from Rurrenabaque in Bolivia.
#1 The Pampas Tour
The Pampas Tour takes you through the wetlands of the Amazon in Bolivia. You will see lots of animals on this trip and will stay in accommodation on the river. You will spend most of your time in boats exploring the area.
Highlights of this tour include swimming with dolphins, going alligator spotting at night, feeding spider monkeys and getting up early to watch the sunrise over the rainforest.
#2 The Jungle Trek
The harder tour of the two is the jungle trek, though it offers a more traditional excursion into the rainforest.
You may see fewer animals on this tour but you will enjoy the beautiful interior of the Amazon and understand a lot of the different plants and trees that grow there. Many tours stay in lodges along the trek and you will experience the Amazon as you always imagined it.
Note that there are even more mosquitos here than in the Pampas and you will be expected to trek into the jungle (which is not always easy in that heat). However, the experience will cost you about a third of the price as it would in Brazil.
Something to note when on your tours is that there is little structure in place for health and safety.
Guides tend to be local and will encourage you to get up close and personal with the animals. Always be on your guard and let your guide know if you are uncomfortable (seriously, you don’t have to touch an anaconda or an alligator if you do not want to!).
5. Booking your tour to the Amazon in Bolivia
Tours can be booked in advance through operators in La Paz or upon arrival in Rurrenabaque. There are dozens of operators offering tours so you will have no problem securing a place.
How much does an Amazon Tour Cost in Bolivia?
Tours in general cost between $90 and $150 USD for three nights accommodation and four days in the Amazon including all meals and complimentary water.
You will be picked up at your accommodation if it is located in the town of Rurrenabaque and driven three hours into the Amazon to begin your tour.
It is recommended that you do not pay less than $90 USD for a tour that seems to be in or around the lowest price offered by agencies.
Booking a cheaper tour might mean unfair pay for your guides or the people working in your accommodation on the tour. You may also get bad quality food and lodging which, trust me, is simply not worth it.
Hot Tips for Booking a Bolivian Rainforest Tour
- Shop around when booking your tour to ensure that you get a company that promises your safety and the safety of the animals you may encounter on your trip.
- The best policy is a tour operator that does not encourage interaction with the animals in their natural habitats.
- Most tours offer an anaconda hunt in which guides encourage visitors to seek out snakes and pose with them for pictures.
- This is obviously problematic and best avoided if possible.
6. What to bring to the Amazon
Dressing for the Amazon is tricky because even though you want to wear as little as possible due to the heat, you also need to cover up so as not to be ravaged by mosquitos.
Therefore recommended clothes are light hiking trousers with detachable bottoms, light cotton string tops, light-colored shirts, shorts or flowy pants, and a rain jacket or poncho.
Water-proof hiking boots are necessary for the jungle treks but not essential for the Pampas tour. Swimwear, however, is essential for a trip into the wetlands (you don’t want to miss out swimming with dolphins now do you?).
Other items to bring include two bottles of high-DEET bug spray, a head-torch, flip flops, old shoes you don’t mind destroying, towel, malaria tablets, sun-screen, sun-hat or cap, and cash (there is no ATM in Rurrenabaque so this is essential).
All in all, an excursion into the Amazon is one of the most amazing things you can do during your time in South America. Take all the necessary steps and you will have a truly exhilarating experience you will never forget.