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Cochabamba, located at 2,500 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Valley, is the third-largest city of Bolivia, and the capital of the department by the same name. It is called the garden city of the flowers of Bolivia.
To travellers, Cochabamba is known best for its open-air market (claimed to be the largest of South America), and as an intermediate stop in overland journeys between La Paz and Santa Cruz.
Cochabamba is a city of contrasts because in the downtown area and its surroundings there are places such as Plaza Colon or Plaza 14 de Septiembre which are generally of modern architecture and contrast with the still existing colonial buildings that are scattered throughout the entire city, surrounded by agricultural fields and valuable pre-Inca traces. You can enjoy this city visiting the Christ of the Concord (Cristo de la Concordia), located in the Hill of San Pedro, with a spectacular view of Cochabamba.
Another highlight is the Palacio Portales, built by order of the Bolivian “Baron of tin”, Simón Patiño, between 1915 and 1927, a sumptuous residence or palace in French-style that now serves as an educational and cultural center. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, designed by the French architect Eugène Bliault, as a replica of the surroundings of the Palace de Versailles. You an also visit a very interesting museum, the Archaeological Museum of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón, with its archeological, ethnographic and paleontological sections.
The weather in Cochabamba is typical of the Bolivian altiplano: moderately warm to hot by day, cool to cold by night. The city receives very little rain.
Cochabamba lies at the crossing of four of Bolivia's major roads. Consequently, it can be reached fairly easily from any direction.
Jorge Wilstermann International Airport (IATA: CBB) is the country's most modern airfield. It offers domestic flights to La Paz and Santa Cruz and, at the time of writing this article, international flights to Buenos Aires and Asuncion.
Cochabamba is not serviced by what little remains of the Bolivian railroad system.
Bolivian roads require good driving skills and steel nerves. Expect potholes, poor surfaces (most roads are unpaved), and a mix of all conceivable types of vehicles. Take extra gas, because service stations in between cities are non-existent. The Administradora Boliviana de Carreteras keeps an excellent realtime website detailing road conditions: see the general Bolivia article.
A variety of bus companies from all directions offers connections to and from Cochabamba. La Paz-Cochabamba is an overnight journey; Oruro can be reached in about six hours, Sucre in twelve, while Santa Cruz also takes a bit more than twelve hours. Beware of pickpockets on all busses. Stow your luggage in the belly of the bus, and keep valuables on your body.
Cochabamba is pretty safe overall. In the evening, it is advisable to stay in the center and avoid the market terrain or the outskirts, especially if you don't speak Spanish and/or if you look like a western tourist.
Despite being the third-largets city of Bolivia, the center of Cochabamba is compact and you can get around easily on foot.
The common fare consists of carbon hydrates (typically corn, manioc or derived products) and meat: do not expect to get too many vegetables. The fruit juices sold on the market are excellent, and very cheap.
Do not drink the tap water!! Semapa is in the process of radically improving the tap water distribution in Cochabamba, but until their monster project is finished, it is recommended to stick to bottled water instead.
Or, you could try one of the many excellent Bolivian beers. The local brew, Tarquiña is pretty good, although not quite as good as La Paceña from La Paz.
Cochabamba features a large choice of budget accommodation in and close to the city centre. Most of these establishments are clean and safe. Be wary of the incredibly cheap places near the market, which may not even meet budget travellers' standards of quality.
|Residencial Concordia||Avenida Aroma E-437||HOSTEL||-|
|HI-Hostal Versalles||Av. Ayacucho No: S-0714 entre C. Aroma y L. Cabrera||Hostel||61|
|Ambassador Hotel||Calle España N-0349||Hotel||-|
|Americana Hotel||Esteban Arce 788||Hotel||-|
|Hostal Jordan||25 DE MAYO S-0651 entre Uruguay y Ladislao Cabrera||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostal Maya Bolivia||Calle Colombia al Oeste 710 Entre calles Suipacha y Costanera||GUESTHOUSE||73|
|Puka Killa||Circunvalacion 2 entre final Pando y Luis Calvo||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal Gina´s||Mexico 346 entre España y 25 de Mayo Plaza Colon - El Prado||Hostel||74|
|Cabana Las Lilas||Tiquipaya Cochabamba||HOSTEL||74|
|Turismo Rural Campo Aventura||Corani Pampa||HOTEL||-|
There are internet cafés practically everywhere, they typically cost about 3Bs/hour, or about $0.50 per hour. Wifi is not as common as in many other Latin American countries, but more and more places offer it now, either free (sometimes for a limited amount of time) or at a cost. Avoid using your cellphone (with your home SIM card) when there is no wifi, as that's extremely expensive.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Bolivia is: 591. To make an international call from Bolivia, the code is: 0010. Emergency numbers include 110 (police), 118 (ambulance) and 119 (fire). Note that 911 forwards to the police (110).
Bolivia has three cellphone companies, Entel, Tigo, and Viva. If you are staying for a while, consider buying SIM cards for your cellphone. They are quite cheap and you get good network coverage in all main cities and towns. Entel sells good-priced international call possibilities for their SIMs. For example, you can buy 10 minutes for Bs20 (to be used in one day, disconnects automatically after expiration). You will need to register the SIM card at a local office of the telecom. You will need a photocopy of your passport and the mobile phone that you will use.
Practically every single town in Bolivia has an Entel office (almost always located in the main plaza). From here, you can make local, long-distance, and international calls. It's actually much more economical to make your international calls from an Entel office than to use an international calling card. To make local calls from a public phone, you need a phone card. You can buy them at any Entel office or any kiosk on the street. The average local call costs about Bs2 for 3 minutes.
Correos Bolivia is the national postal service of the country. It offers a wide range of services at very reasonable prices. Services, speed and reliability are not up to the level it should be though and it can take several weeks for a simple card to arrive in Europe or North America. Most post offices in Bolivia are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8:00pm, Saturday from 8:30am to 6:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am to noon. It costs Bs5 to mail a letter to the United States, Bs7 to Australia, and Bs6 to Europe. From time to time, you can buy stamps at kiosks and newspaper stands. There are no public mailboxes, so you'll have to mail your letter from the post office. If you want to send packages overseas it's best to use an international courier company like DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS, as they offer fast and reliable services at competitive prices.
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