If you’ve chosen to backpack through Bolivia, you’re in for the experience of a lifetime. This South American country is a relatively untapped gem, meaning that the more intrepid you are, the more fun you’ll have. From the wondrous Salar de Uyuni to the terracotta-hued city of La Paz, your Bolivian adventure will leave you with no shortage of sights to fill your memories.

Backpackers tend to be a social bunch, so you shouldn’t have any issues meeting like-minded people on your travels through Bolivia. To ensure you have the best chance of meeting other travellers, we’ve put together some quick tips to help you out.

Backpacking Bolivia Girl

1. Strike up a conversation with the people in your hostel

The classic method of picking up a troupe of pals while travelling is via hostel chat. Very few people go backpacking if they aren’t willing or wanting to talk to fellow hostel-goers. All you really have to do is hang out in the common areas of the hostel and show your keenness to tag along with groups that are heading out to dinner or to party.

2. Pop in to English-speaking establishments and tourist sites

Sometimes, you just need the comfort of something familiar. You may not be able to find a McDonalds around every corner in Bolivia, but you will definitely find at least a handful of bars, restaurants, and cafes owned by foreigners or familiar companies in each major city.

Visit a nearby Starbucks, and strike up a conversation with some of the fellow English speakers who are there or the free wi-fi and indulging in the taste of home. Bars owned by local hostels are a fantastic meeting spot for travellers to make friends. Key tourist sites are also a good place to meet others while checking off items from your bucket list. Whether you’re strolling the lanes of the Witches’ Market in La Paz, or experiencing the nightlife in Santa Cruz, there’ll be plenty of like-minded tourists and backpackers around to introduce yourself to.

La Paz Tours

3. Wrap your tongue around the language

Meeting other travellers who speak your language is one thing – meeting native Bolivians is another entirely. Give yourself the best chance of really getting to know the land and its people by immersing yourself in as much Spanish as possible before arriving.

Thanks to modern-day technology, you don’t even have to take an expensive course or private tuition to get your Spanish up to conversation level. Apps such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone make it easy for total amateurs to gain a working knowledge of the language.

4. Stay with a Bolivian

Another great way to get up close and personal with Bolivians is to stay with them. Websites such as Airbnb provide plenty of opportunities to combine stellar accommodation with a complete cultural experience. Think of it as a mutual exchange; they’ll be interested in learning about your culture, too (which is why it’s a good idea to bring along a souvenir or two in your backpack!)

true local bolivia tours

5. Join a local tour

If you’re a little older or just not into the partying scene, then the hostel crowd may not be the company best suited for you. Instead, you might consider joining a tour to meet fellow backpackers and tourists. Keteka offers authentic local experiences with local knowledgeable guides to show you all the best sights.

You can choose to join a multi-day, all-inclusive tours like our group journey to the Uyuni Salt Flats. Or,  you can book day tours in each of the main regions of Bolivia. Either way, you’ll be able to see the sights in a definitively social setting.

Bolivian Salt Flat Tour

6. Take local transportation and strike a conversation

Long-haul journeys on trams, trains, and buses may be tiresome at times, but they also extend a prime opportunity to meet locals and tourists alike! Trust us: when you’re stuck on a bus for 13 hours, you’re bound to start talking with the person sat next to you in some capacity. You’ll find yourself exchanging your travel stories and advice with your new friend in no time. 

About the Author: Harper Reid is an Auckland-based freelance writer who loves backpacking and exploring unusual destinations throughout New Zealand and in neighbouring countries. Traveling to Europe is definitely on her bucket list. She has collaborated with various travel sites and hotels such as Tanoa Dateline. Visit Tumblr to read more of Harper’s travel articles.