Sunday, June 13, 2010

Packing List

"Pack light" is my mantra for going to Bolivia. Try to keep it to one bag, under 50 lbs. to avoid the overweight fees that the airlines will charge you. Here are some tips to help you along.

For those of you who have never been to Bolivia before, you may be surprised by the number of things you can buy there that are familiar from shopping in North American stores. You can get your Old Spice deoderant, for example, your Head and Shoulders and Crest Super Whitening. So when packing for Bolivia, don't feel you have to bring jumbo sizes of every product you might need.

It's also very easy, and cheap, to buy clothes. If you've ever donated anything to Goodwill, maybe dropped your old jeans in one of those big metal boxes in the supermarket parking lot, thinking they would be given to some poor homeless person, think agin. Your jeans were bundled with thousands of other pieces of donated clothing and sold in bulk to international clothing vendors, who in turn sold them to distributors in various countries around the world. They were then bought by local dealers who, in Bolivia, sell them in stores and market stalls. So if you find yourself in need of clothing, you may be able to buy back your old jeans while you're there.

You will also see people wearing t-shirts with English-language logos, having no idea what their shirts say. I once stopped a guy in the street who was wearing a Rutgers t-shirt, but he had no affiliation to Rutgers and thought I was kind of crazy for stopping him.

Here are the top five items that you should buy, which may be harder to find in Bolivia. Some of these things may indeed be available there, but they are things you want to have immediately upon arrival.

5. Hat - It is extremely sunny in Bolivia, and you should bring a broad-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun's rays. You can of course buy hats in Bolivia (see image), but some of these are less useful than others for sun protection. Along these same lines, get yourself some...

4. Sunscreen - You will want to slather yourself with this whenever you go out.

3. Reading material - Finding good books in English is almost impossible in Bolivia. Bring along a few good novels, to while away an evening, time spent in travel, and so on. If you are not in the habit of reading for pleasure, this is a good time to start.

2. Shoes - Of course you can buy shoes in Bolivia. But Bolivian shoes are stiff, uncomfortable, and tend to be kind of dressy. Bring comfortable, sturdy walking shoes. You will need them.

1. Imodium - I don't really need to explain this one, do I? Remember, don't drink the water. And don't eat the lettuce.

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