Planning to travel Oruro? It’s the Folklore Capital of Bolivia and is best known for the Carnaval de Oruro and it’s Diablada (Devil Dance). Use this as a checklist of things you need to know about Oruro when planning your trip. Use the links for more information.
Before you go
1. Oruro is a small city of about 200,000 people. It is located about 3-4 hours by bus or car from the south of the city of La Paz, in the Andean Altiplano (highlands). Read more about the city of Oruro and the origins of Carnaval de Oruro here.
2. Be sure you can withstand high altitudes. Located over 12,000 feet above sea level Oruro may not be for people with heart conditions. The weather is cold too. Read about altitude sickness here and what you can do to get relief.
3. If you plan to travel Oruro for Carnival, which takes place in February or March of each year, book a hotel or hostel online through a trusted site at least three months in advance. If you try to find accommodations upon arrival, you may end up having to rent a room in someone’s house.
4. Bolivia's mining communities are very politically active. When they don't agree with something, their favorite form of protest is to block roads. Always stay attentive to the news before traveling anywhere on the Altiplano to be sure you don't get stuck before or behind a road block as they can become violent and frequently last for days. Also be sure your tour operator will refund your money or has a Plan B tour to offer if this happens.
What to take
1. Sunglasses. On the stark, arid Altiplano there are few trees for shade.
2. Sun block. The sun is strong so you’ll need this if you burn easily.
3. Moisturizer. This is an extremely arid region and your skin will dry out.
4. Bottled water. You can also purchase bottled water easily in stores. However, take some for the drive.
5. Warm clothing. In the highlands it is very windy. Although it may be warm during the day, nights are very cold. Dress in layers so you don't sweat or freeze. Oruro weather.
6. Sleeping bag. The more expensive hotels have heating but cheap hostels may not. Windchill factors make it feel even colder than it is.
7. Lots of cash. Oruro has plenty of money exchange houses and banks. However, few other establishments accept credit cards or travelers checks. Banks will help you withdraw cash from your credit card but aren't those interest rates extreme?
8. Rain jacket If you plan to travel Oruro during Carnaval, be aware that you will get wet. People often throw water balloons or spray foam on each other and on tourists. If you get wet you will be cold. Also, balloons tossed hard can be painful! The last time I was there I was sitting on the top seats of the Carnaval bleachers. Someone from the opposite bleachers threw a balloon with such force it knocked me backward and I fell 10 feet to the ground.
9. Proper cellphone. If you plan to bring your international cellphone, you should know Bolivia uses a different system than many countries. Read more about that below.
10. Cameras, batteries, battery chargers, cellphone charger, electric current converter and if you use a digital camera, extra memory cards. The electricity in Oruro is 220.
When to go
Oruro is located at over 3700 meters above sea level and it’s cold most of the year, although you may feel warm enough between noon and 3 p.m. to take off your jacket.
During the rainy season, between about November and April, the temperature is warmer. However, nights remain cold. Windchill factors make it feel colder than it is. In the winter, especially in June and July, temperatures can drop to well below freezing. The air is very dry and it doesn't rain. Bring lots of winter clothing during this time.
Click here to see the weather in Oruro today and for the next 15 days. Click here to see more about the climate in Bolivia.
Oruro is Bolivia’s Folklore Capital. The best time to travel Oruro is for the Carnaval de Oruro, the city’s biggest attraction, which takes place in February and sometimes in early March and lasts 3-5 days. Click here for other tourist attractions in Oruro you can visit during the remainder of the year.
In 2011 Carnaval will take place March 4-8 with March 4-6 being the three main days. In 2012 February 17-21. In 2013 it will be celebrated February 8-12, and in 2014 the dates are February 28-March 4.
1. The electricity in Oruro is 220V.
2. There are plenty of banks (bancos) and credit unions (cooperativas) in Oruro, as well as money exchange houses (casas de cambio) that exchange Dollars, Euros, and other international currencies.
3. Larger hotels and restaurants may accept credit cards. Most smaller ones and some hostels don’t. Here's more on Bolivian money.
4. There are many ENTEL, VIVA and TIGO "call centers" or kiosks where you can also place cellphone calls. There are also a a lot of cheap internet cafés. Some hostels don't have internet or WIFI. Most larger hotels do. If you plan to bring a cellphone with you, be aware that Bolivia is on a different grid and many overseas cellphones don't work here. If you choose to travel without one, here's how to place phone calls in Bolivia.
5. Be careful of "police officers" who ask to see your passport or documents. Still, by law you must carry your documentation at all times.
6. Many tour operators don't have English-speaking guides. If they do offer a translator, the translator costs extra.
7. Never accept a foreign bill, such as dollars, that have even the tiniest tear. No one will accept them from you.
8. The Immigration Office is located on Soria Galvarro street between Ayacucho and Cochabamba streets. The phone is 525-1923.
9. There is a tiny Tourist Information office just across the street to the train station. But it’s often closed and no one speaks English there.
10. There are several laundry services and dry cleaners. If your hotel or hostel itself doesn't offer this service, they can tell you who does laundry by the kilogram in town.
11. Oruro has a lot of pickpockets. Always carry your valuables or backpacks in FRONT of you and be sure all the zippers are closed at all times. Tourists are easy to spot and are often targets of scams. While one person distracts you, another steals from your pockets or handbags.
12. I recommend travel insurance if you're planning to travel Oruro.
13. Be careful about eating in the markets or at street stalls. Even the cooked food can make you ill. Oruro is not known for its hygiene!!! Meats are frequently not refrigerated.
14. If you need health care, call the Hospital General at 527-7408, the Hospital Obrero at 524-0920, the Centro de Salud at 527-7001, or the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) at 527-5948. Oruro has lots of pharmacies.
15. In an emergency dial the Police at 110. In a non-emergency situation call them at 525-1923.
How to Get There
You can get to Oruro by vehicle only at this time. You can take an inter-departmental bus line or a “vagoneta” which are small 8-9 passenger vans. Although there is a train station, the government has nationalized the train company and has not organized another to run the railways. Oruro also has an airport, but only small private planes and helicopters use it. We'll announce when trains begin running again.
The Terminal de Buses in Oruro is located at Calle Vacovik and Villarroel (591-2) 527-9535.
You can take a bus from La Paz at the Terminal de Buses located at Calle Uruguay - Plaza Antofagasta (591-2) 228-0551. There are several departures throughout the day beginning at about 6 am and ending at about 10 p.m. During Carnaval they run hourly almost 24 hours per day. There are at least 10 bus lines that offer the route. La Paz is 229 kilometers from Oruro and the road is paved the whole way. About 3.5 hours drive.
You can take a bus from Cochabamba at the Terminal de Buses located at Av. Ayacucho. Esq. Tarata (591-4) 423-4600. There are several departures throughout the day beginning at about 6 am and ending at about 10 p.m. During Carnaval they run hourly almost 24 hours per day. There are at least 5 bus lines that offer the route. Cochabamba is 230 kilometers from Oruro and the road is paved the whole way. About 4 hours drive.
You can take a bus from Potosi at the Terminal de Buses located on Av. Universitaria (591-2) 624-3361. There are three morning departures between 7 am and noon and two evening departures at about 9:30 or 10. Potosi is 330 kilometers from Oruro and parts of the road are not paved. About 7 hours drive.
You can take a bus from Sucre at the Terminal de Buses located at Calle Ostria Gutierrez (591-4) 644-1292. There are several departures throughout the day beginning at about 6 am and ending at about 10 p.m. There are at least 5 bus lines that offer the route. Sucre is 364 kilometers (10 hours) from Oruro and parts of the road are not paved.