Work and Travel in Bolivia
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN BOLIVIA FOR TRAVELLERS
Working in Bolivia is a popular option for working travellers in South America. If you want to work and travel in this part of the world it can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Understand that volunteer work in Bolivia is in abundance because of the high level of poverty throughout the country.
Volunteers who want to work and travel in Bolivia should consider the fact that English is little spoken here. All volunteers should consider learning basic Spanish. It will give you a better chance of being chosen for a short-term job in Bolivia, and the rest of South America.
The best places for tourists to volunteer are Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Tarija, and La Paz Sucre. It’s easier to get around here and the higher level of prosperity and infrastructure will give you a better experience. These departments also come with a temperate climate, making volunteer work far less seasonal than the other areas of the country.
Consider where you want to volunteer in Bolivia before you come here. Working a job in the Altiplano region, for example, will put you 2,500 metres above sea level. Travellers should make sure to brace themselves for altitude sickness. The Wanderlust blog (http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/blogs/i-wish-id-known/know-before-you-go-bolivia) advises travellers to arrive a couple of days in advance of any work so as to adjust to the new conditions.
Volunteer jobs in the farming and building industries will mean lots of outdoor work, so you should consider protecting yourself against mosquitoes and making sure your vaccinations are up to date.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR BOLIVIA
For most Europeans, Bolivia follows the same visa policy as the rest of South America. You don’t need a visa prior to arriving in Bolivia. The same thing doesn’t apply for volunteers, though. According to Bolivia Bella (http://www.boliviabella.com/visa.html), you need to get a separate volunteer visa even if you’re planning to stay for less than 90 days. Staying for more than 90 days may require you to apply for residency at the Embassy of Bolivia (http://www.embassyofbolivia.nl/node/907) for your nationality, even if you happen to be just volunteering and not planning to live there.
There are many countries, including the United States, where it’s not possible to extend your visa when you’re already there. Furthermore, in the case of working travellers from the United States, you will have to pay for a visa on-arrival.
There are also some exceptions for certain European countries. For example, Russians who want to work and travel in Bolivia will have to pay for a visa on arrival.
Volunteers from Australia and New Zealand are able to enter the country without the need to pay for a visa, but they will still have to apply for a volunteer visa.
The Bolivian government considers volunteers, students, and temporary workers as the same category. Most volunteers in Bolivia agree that acquiring the volunteer visa is a relatively painless process. You can apply for one at any Bolivian consulate in the world.
What they mainly want to check is that you have enough money to support yourself, so they can ensure you won’t be staying long-term.
We highly recommend you don’t attempt to volunteer in Bolivia whilst using a typical tourist visa.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN BOLIVIA
You have to remember that the start of the spring season will be difficult to travel in because it falls during part of the rainy season. The rainy season in the Bolivian lowlands can reduce the number of jobs for travellers because torrential downpours can make the roads difficult to travel on. Be aware that most spring work in Bolivia will take place in the major tourist areas.
Outdoor work generally only starts in late spring time, when shoulder season starts, and the weather becomes more predictable.
Many farms and eco projects in the Bolivian Amazon will start to open their doors at this time of year. Most of the work tends to involve preparing for high season and cleaning up areas affected by the heavy rainy season.
Summer in Bolivia sees the start of the high season, which can last all the way until October. Anyone looking to work and travel in Bolivia will find that this is when jobs in the hospitality industry begin to open their doors. The influx of tourists to South America will see hostels, hotels, and cafes opening their doors again.
You can even get a job maintaining apartments (https://www.workingtraveller.com/work/apartment-at-the-center/) in residential areas.. This will give you a chance to live in an area not frequented by tourists, offering you a more authentic view of the country.
The influx of tourists means that many eco projects in the Amazon will be desperate for volunteers. Unqualified working travellers will be able to take on general maintenance work at various eco lodges and reserves. There are registered volunteer organisations crying out for qualified veterinarians and other qualified travellers for roles like this, due to the lack of local talent.
Due to it being the main tourist season, you’ll find that this is the time when many short-term English teaching jobs in Bolivia pop up. These take place all other the country and you might be exclusively teaching English or you might be exchanging English for Spanish.
If you are volunteering in Bolivia (http://www.bolivianlife.com/volunteering-in-bolivia/) during autumn you’ll find the second shoulder season of the year a great time to work because of the stable weather patterns all over the country. Most jobs in autumn tend to be in the tourism industry, as most projects elsewhere either have volunteers or they’re reducing their operations in time for the rainy season to start again.
Unfortunately, most agricultural work here isn’t available to foreigners outside of organic farms. Low-skilled jobs tend to be taken up by locals who desperately need employment in an impoverished country.
From November onwards the rainy season makes many parts of the country difficult to travel around. The only specific winter position in Bolivia is in the country’s tiny skiing industry. The world’s highest ski resort on Chacaltaya Mountain is close to La Paz and has broken all records.
Occasionally, volunteer positions do pop up here, but time might be running out for this ski resort. The skiing in the Bolivian Andes (http://www.andes.org.uk/andes-ski-information/ski-north.asp) faces a desperate future because in ten years scientists say the snow could stop coming due to global warming.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN BOLIVIA
Foreigners working in Bolivia will find that the majority of people are happy that you’re there, particularly if you’re using skills that aren’t available locally. In the more remote areas you’ll find that the main reaction is surprise that you’re there. Take note that to really interact with the locals you will have to learn Spanish as English is almost non-existent outside the cities.