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Santa Cruz, Bolivia - The City Of Rings, The Other Bolivia

Bolivia experiences and stories by a backpacker - Aug 2008 May 2009 Jun 2012 Sep 2015   » View Photoset (26 Photos)

The first time I came to Santa Cruz was on a long 18hr bus haul from Salta in Argentina. I knew Santa Cruz was known as the 'city of rings' and that it would be quite warm, but that's about all. I also didn't realise that it was the weekend of the Bolivian vote of confidence referendum 2008 for the President Evo Morales and that all shops, bars and clubs would be closed. I stayed at a great hostel away from the center of town that had a pool and nice areas to hang out and relax. They also had in-house Spanish lessons for which I signed up for 6hrs worth for $200 Bolivianos. There were a couple of professional photographers staying at the hostel who were going out and taking pictures of the political activity that was going on around the central city. The main plaza was full of tents, activists and protests, but it was still safe to wander around the area and have a look around. There is the Irish bar and restaurant in the plaza and other good restaurants. The streets surrounding the plaza are not really that attractive and Santa Cruz in general is not what I would call a beautiful city. Over the weekend of the referendum I lay pretty low generally. I went out with some people from the hostel. We went to this strip where the Bolivians park their cars and utes and all compete to have the loudest music and they party on the street. There were beer bottles everywhere on the ground and a lot of crazyness. We were in the main plaza in the middle of some political speeches and the riot squad were arriving to break it up, so we moved out of there quite smartly. Santa Cruz is known to be the pretty girl capital of Bolivia but a pretty girl from La Paz told me on a plane that although that may be true, they don't have many thinking skills. After about a week of doing very little in Santa Cruz I booked a flight with the military airline TAM to Cochabamba which left from Aeropuerto El Trompillo, near the city center. The 2nd time in Santa Cruz was just for one night to take the so-called Death Train (Ferroviaria Oriental) to Quijarro on the border of Brazil enroute to Corumba and the Pantanal. But first I needed a yellow fever vaccination. I went to the main plaza and on one side is the tourist office. I needed to ask where I could get the vaccination. They told me to go to the hospital by taxi, so off I went. When I got there I tried to work out which of the 3 or 4 desks I was supposed to go to. I managed to work things out and handed over my passport and sat waiting for my injection. After a little while the girl at the desk called me over and gave me my yellow fever certificate and passport. I said, but what about the injection? She said I didn't need that, I just needed the certificate. So I asked again about the injection and she said again that all I needed was the approved and stamped certificate, which is what I now had! The Brazilian border control never questioned it but later the Peruvian border police laughed and required a bribe of $10 Soles to stamp it when I presented it to them when crossing into Ecuador. In 2012 I passed through Santa Cruz again. I had come up by bus from the Gran Chaco in Paraguay, an 18hr trip. I stayed the night in a budget hotel across the road from the bus terminal. I took a taxi to El Trompillo Airport to again buy a plane ticket with TAM for early the next morning to La Paz. El Trompillo Airport has no ATM machine, you need to take cash to buy a ticket. In 2015 I flew into Santa Cruz from Cochabamba and spent 5 nights in the city. I enjoyed most of my time at a great hostel with a pool. I did explore the city somewhat but it really is not a great city for sights. Here's a warning to all! I was contacted via my Facebook page a few weeks before arriving in Santa Cruz by a guy who lived there and wanted to meet me and show me around. He said he loved my photography! He came to the hostel and we talked for a while out on the street and he bought me an ice-cream. That night he took myself and my girlfriend out to a show that turned out to be on the next night, so we went to the mall for food instead. He was so friendly and helpful and invited me to his cousins house the next day to play guitars, he said bring your camera. After getting back to the hostel that night after the mall I realised it was just too much too soon, too helpful and too friendly. Something was just not right! In the morning when he made contact to go to his cousins I secretly tested him to see if he was legit. He had said he loved my website and photos. I asked him which places he liked my photos of the best. He named a couple of places so I checked my web stats and saw that nobody from Santa Cruz had visited these pages in months. Got him! Liar! I made an excuse not to go out with him and never heard from or saw him again. Watch out for people who are overly helpful and friendly, don't trust them! Santa Cruz is not that safe. From Santa Cruz I flew southward to Tarija, 55mins.

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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Santa Cruz, Bolivia:

La Jara Backpackers Hostel, Santa Cruz, Bolivia - Large Photo
La Jara Backpackers Hostel, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (September 2015 - 4 nights) - Simply put, La Jara Backpackers Hostel is one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at in South America! It was extra good for me and my family because we had the suite! $55USD bought me the best room in the place, utterly and totally luxurious. Huge room with tiled floors, a huge king-sized bed, air-con, fridge, tv and dvd player, wifi, hot tub, shower, closets, mirrors, pictures on the walls, small private patio, couch and more. Add to that, there is a swimming pool and huge patio and lawn with shady trees and hammocks outside and the breakfast is great! Breakfast includes bread, cheese and ham, toast, eggs, fruit, juice, coffee and hot chocolate. They also have a guitar you can play, I enjoyed that! Beside the patio is a bar and their kitchen is fully equipped. There is a BBQ also. The staff are very nice, helpful and friendly. Clean and well managed. La Jara has it all and is only 10mins from the center of Santa Cruz. For the same price you pay in the center of town and get nothing for, gives you everything here. Of course they have dorms and cheaper private rooms too. There is no reason to stay in the city center in Santa Cruz. Don't cut yourself short, stay here and enjoy life! Highly recommended!
Hotel Copacabana, Santa Cruz, Bolivia - Large Photo
Hotel Copacabana, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (September 2015 - 1 night) - Located right near the central plaza in Santa Cruz but is overpriced with small rooms and the breakfast that is included includes nothing. I'm sorry but bread and jam, juice and coffee is not a breakfast. Eggs cost extra. Surely for $50USD you can give us some eggs? Hey hotels, please don't offer breakfast if you can't be bothered to give us a decent one! On a positive note, the staff were friendly and helpful, but there really is no need to stay right in the center of Santa Cruz, your better off getting a place a little out of the center and get 10x the value for your money!
Ikandire Residencial, Santa Cruz, Bolivia - Large Photo
Ikandire Residencial, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (September 2015 - 0 nights) - I went to much trouble to make a reservation at Ikandire Residencial the day before arriving in Santa Cruz only to find that on arrival they knew nothing about it! Turned out they have 2 hostels with exactly the same name, they are not even called Ikandire Residencial 1 and Ikandire Residencial 2, how confusing. 1 is located in the center, the other many blocks away in a dangerous and ugly part of the city. The women owner who made the booking didn't even bother telling me the correct address and didn't accept responsibility for the problem. After walking from the central hostel where I thought I would be staying to the ugly one, I gave her some strong words and left without even staying. I suggest you don't bother with this place at all, it's a waste of time and energy. Not recommended!
Jodanga Backpackers Hostel, Santa Cruz, Bolivia - Large Photo
Jodanga Backpackers Hostel, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Aug 2008 - 7 nights) - Probably the most well managed hostel I have been to! Its got many facilities and its very clean and the staff are very helpful and friendly. Not much of a party atmosphere but I guess it depends on the people who are staying. It would be nice if the music played over the speakers was different each day and also a bit more recent.

Distances & times (if available) from Santa Cruz (Bolivia) to:
 A : Santa Cruz to Quijarro on the Death Train - Bolivia 267 kms 267 kms straight distance | 3hrs 57mins 3hrs 57mins by car (286 kms) | 4hrs 44mins 4hrs 44mins by bus (286 kms) (286 kms)
 B : Cochabamba - Bolivia 314 kms 314 kms straight distance | 8hrs 58mins 8hrs 58mins by car (485 kms) | 10hrs 45mins 10hrs 45mins by bus (485 kms) (485 kms)
 C : Gran Chaco to Santa Cruz - Bolivia 329 kms 329 kms straight distance | 8hrs 15mins 8hrs 15mins by car (485 kms) | 9hrs 54mins 9hrs 54mins by bus (485 kms) (485 kms)
 D : Sucre - Bolivia 256 kms 256 kms straight distance | 11hrs 27mins 11hrs 27mins by car (502 kms) | 13hrs 44mins 13hrs 44mins by bus (502 kms) (502 kms)
 E : Potosi - Bolivia 331 kms 331 kms straight distance | 13hrs 49mins 13hrs 49mins by car (653 kms) | 16hrs 34mins 16hrs 34mins by bus (653 kms) (653 kms)
 F : Oruro - Bolivia 409 kms 409 kms straight distance | 12hrs 46mins 12hrs 46mins by car (696 kms) | 15hrs 19mins 15hrs 19mins by bus (696 kms) (696 kms)
 G : Tarija - Bolivia 447 kms 447 kms straight distance | 13hrs 16mins 13hrs 16mins by car (721 kms) | 15hrs 55mins 15hrs 55mins by bus (721 kms) (721 kms)
 H : Uyuni to Potosi - Bolivia 396 kms 396 kms straight distance | 15hrs 14mins 15hrs 14mins by car (745 kms) | 18hrs 16mins 18hrs 16mins by bus (745 kms) (745 kms)
 I : Bermejo & Aguas Blancas Border - Bolivia 564 kms 564 kms straight distance | 10hrs 51mins 10hrs 51mins by car (793 kms) | 13hrs 1min 13hrs 1min by bus (793 kms) (793 kms)
 J : La Paz - Bolivia 535 kms 535 kms straight distance | 14hrs 25mins 14hrs 25mins by car (846 kms) | 17hrs 18mins 17hrs 18mins by bus (846 kms) (846 kms)
 K : Tupiza - Bolivia 484 kms 484 kms straight distance | 17hrs 25mins 17hrs 25mins by car (899 kms) | 20hrs 54mins 20hrs 54mins by bus (899 kms) (899 kms)
 L : Villazon & Argentinian Border - Bolivia 539 kms 539 kms straight distance | 17hrs 1min 17hrs 1min by car (906 kms) | 20hrs 25mins 20hrs 25mins by bus (906 kms) (906 kms)
 M : Uyuni & the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) - Bolivia 479 kms 479 kms straight distance | 16hrs 40mins 16hrs 40mins by car (999 kms) | 20hrs 20hrs by bus (999 kms) (999 kms)
 N : Tupiza via Atocha to Uyuni - Bolivia 468 kms 468 kms straight distance | 19hrs 1min 19hrs 1min by car (1101 kms) | 22hrs 49mins 22hrs 49mins by bus (1101 kms) (1101 kms)
 O : La Quiaca & Bolivian Border - Argentina 540 kms 540 kms straight distance | 15hrs 48mins 15hrs 48mins by car (1202 kms) | 18hrs 57mins 18hrs 57mins by bus (1202 kms) (1202 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.
Videos from Santa Cruz, Bolivia:
The Tropical Plaza in Santa Cruz Video
The Tropical Plaza in Santa Cruz Video
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