Bolivian Quirks – The Weird & Wonderful of Bolivia

We’ve now entered Peru, the land of the Incas. Bolivia has been left behind in the dust, literally! Boy did we come across some Bolivian quirks during our time there!  We thought now would be a good time to provide a list of those oddities experienced during our three weeks or so in Bolivia.  We’ve decided not to put it on this list but the very poor internet speeds in Bolivia have frustrated our blogging attempts. Brazil and even Peru are definitely ahead in the internet game.  Right onto the quirks:-

Bolivian Quirks
1. Prices of products

Bolivia seems to have an issue with putting prices on its products in shops.  Presumably this is to encourage communication and potentially negotiation but for the price savvy traveller looking for a bargain this is very unhelpful. In addition to no price we came across two alternative methods of pricing in supermarkets; unlike the UK in having the shelf labelled with a price Bolivia opted for either every single time individually priced or a sheet listing the product prices stuck up on a wall. Weird!

2. HIMYM car alarms

Now only a few people will understand this.  There is a particular episode of one of our favourite TV shows (S2 E15 of How I Met Your Mother) in which the characters are kept awake by a ridiculously annoying car alarm. We were astounded to discover that nearly every car in Bolivia has this alarm! We have added a clip below to show you.

3. Parades

Bolivia loves a parade! Everyone knows that at festivals or holy days most countries in the world put on some kind of large scale parade involving traditional costumes, dancing or the bearing of religious artifacts. We’re not talking about those kinds of parades here. We are talking about mostly school children and school bands walking around the streets of a city/town bringing the traffic to a standstill, whilst the proud parents walk alongside. Some of the children carry lanterns that may or may not be lit. Whilst in Potosi for two days we saw about six parades!

Bolivian quirks - parade

4. Dogs

Walking around the streets of Bolivia you will be joined by at least one or two “wild” dogs casually going about their day. Crossing roads, sunbathing and not really paying any attention to humans. These are not really wild but appear to be the Bolivian alternative to talking your pet dog for a walk: just let it roam the streets. The solitary wanderers do join up with others and large packs can be spotted which ate quite scary when the start barking at you!

5. Snack sellers

There are (mostly women) snack sellers everywhere. But that isn’t what is quirky. Its their interaction with bus passengers that baffles us. We witnessed the sellers running round the buses and selling drinks, ice creams and cakes through the window as the bus was pulling away from where it had stopped. Also rather than service stations long distance buses tend to stop and let two or three sellers on to walk up and down the isle touting their wares!

6. Cholas

One thing you will see everywhere are the impressively dressed Cholas (or “Cholitas”), the indigenous Aymara or Quecha ladies. The main aspects of their dress are heavily layered colourful skirts, a long shawl, lots of jewellery and a bowler hats. To find out a little more about them read our post on Cholita Wrestling.

7. Market cafés

One of our favourite things to do in Bolivia was go to a local market to buy our fruit and veg. “That isn’t strange” I hear you saying and yes you are correct, but the market cafes are. Either upstairs on in a different section of the market you will find women in pinnys standing over steaming pots of soup and a pan or two, offering cooked meals at outrageously cheap prices, which can be eaten on canteen style wooden table and benches. These are usually full with locals eating.

Bolivian quirks - market cafe

8. Honking taxis

If there’s one sound you wont fail to hear in Bolivian towns and does the honking of taxi horns. Their are no give way signs on the road so taxis (and other vehicles) honk when approaching corners. They also honk when someone is on the road, when they are changing lanes or going round corners or just generally because they can!

9. Exterior of buildings

Looking at the majority of buildings (outside the pretty city centres) such as houses and shops you will notice that the brick and messy mortar/cement joins are exposed all the way round. For some reason Bolivians don’t go in for external rendering. In Bolivia, there’s definitely an attitude of “appearance doesn’t matter”. As westerners we just aren’t used to this. It makes areas look poorer than perhaps they actually are. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I suppose.

Bolivian quirks - unrendered buildings

10. Dual street names

In Bolivia there are a variety a peoples including the indigenous Quecha and Aymara. As a result will often find that street names have two different titles. One name will be in Spanish and another name in the indigenous language. This can be quite confusing when reading maps.

Have you been to Bolivia? What Bolivian quirks did you come across? Get in touch below, we’d love to hear from you.

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