It’s said that the biggest fear one has it that of public peaking. For me, my biggest fear is not having cellular service, and not being able to connect while on the go.
So, how does one connect while in Bolivia
Some quick tips to staying connected while on the go:
Bolivia has three cellphone companies, Entel, Tigo, and Viva. All three have outlets on practically every block in major cities. There are internet cafés practically everywhere, they typically cost about Bs3/hour, or about $US0.50/hour. If you have a smartphone (unlocked if you bring it from home) it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network (pretty good quality 3G most of the time, don’t expect any coverage in the most remote areas).
You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer (watch carefully how much you use if you don’t want to bust your budget!). If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still buy packages for minutes to call. Please note that SMS messages sent from Bolivia to other countries don’t always get delivered. Buy your SIM card (called chip in Spanish) at an official outlet of the company. Entel seems to be the most popular one. SIM cards can be bought elsewhere but cost more.
At the outlet they will also help you set up your phone. Be advised that you will need a “2G chip” for a normal phone and a “4G chip” for a smartphone if you want to use the internet. While traditional payphones still exist, you can also make local calls for 1Bs ($0.15) from cellular phones at kiosks. If you are staying for a while, consider buying SIM cards for your cellphones.
They are quite cheap and you get good network coverage in all main cities and towns. Bolivia uses GSM 1900 frequency, so check, if your cell phone supports this one (older European phones don’t). You can buy a cell phone in Bolivia for as cheap as Bs 200. To call from Entel use: For local landline – 010-citycode-number, i.e. for La Paz 010-2-number. For international landline or mobile – 0010-countrycode-number. Entel offers something similar to “packages” – these may be cost savers, ie if you mainly want to use cell phone to call international mobiles. A “package” entails you a fixed number of minutes of a smaller rate to call some area.
To buy such a “package” you have to have required amount of cash in your phone card. You call a special number (some automatic service) and make a sequence of choices (by reading instructions on the screen and pressing numbers). After buying you have to use your minutes the same day. Call gets automatically disconnected when minutes expire. Using Skype from Internet cafes (there are a lot of these) may be an option, but microphones are screwed-up in most places thus making this option difficult. In Uyuni, for example, most internet cafés will not allow using Skype or, in case it is a wifi network, they will switch it off if they see you using Skype. They want you to use their phone service instead. You can send a postcard (Bs 9 to Europe) to your loved ones from post offices.
Other tips on staying connected while in Bolivia? Please add your comments and tips.