Santa Cruz (city, Bolivia)Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is a boomtown whose population has increased tenfold in the last 25 years, it is almost in the center of Bolivia and is the capital city of the department of Santa Cruz. It lies at one end of the Death Train's line.
HistoryFor its first 400 years Santa Cruz was very poor and far from potential markets to be able to grow at all. It shares this with the rest of eastern, northern and south eastern Bolivia for most of its history, up until some 50 years ago when a paved road was opened and the possibility of markets opened which summed with some royalties from oil production they also started receiving served as seed to one of the fastest growing cities and economies in the continent. Growth was slow to start but after some 20 years it was spectacular. Today it is difficult to imagine this city and provincial towns of the department for what they really were some 25 or 50 years ago.
ClimateIn contrast to La Paz and the other major Bolivian cities located high in the Andes, Santa Cruz lies at an altitude of 416 meters, and its climate is distinctly tropical. Santa Cruz is furrowed by drainage ditches.
If you arrive during carnival (during February, sometimes March) it is almost impossible to change money as everything except markets, restaurants and internet cafes are closed. Traders will accept U.S. dollars but at half the going rate. Also be prepared to be pelted with ink filled water balloons, soaked with water bombs and covered in string spray. Wear clothes you don`t mind having permanently stained.
By busThere are many bus companies from another cities, like Cochabamba, La Paz, Sucre, Trinidad, that go to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. You can arrive from La Paz in about 18 hours, and it takes about 10 hours from Cochabamba.
To and from the Brazilian border in Corumba/Puerto Quijarro is cheaper and faster (10 hr and tickets from Bs. 40) than the famous death train.
Asunción (Paraguay) – The bus is extremely slow (the Transchaco Highway is only paved as far as the Bolivian border), buses generally travel only at night - meaning that you miss out on any views of the Chaco, and roadblocks on the Bolivian side of the border can cause your journey time to double. There is at least one bus daily. The trip takes 21-24 hr, costs US$40-60 (bargain if you can), and flights might actually only be marginally more expensive, depending on the time of booking. Any intermediate exit or boarding (like or Villamontes) will likely cost the same as the complete trip. But if your nerves are strong, you will get the price down bargaining directly with the bus driver.
A taxi from the bus terminal to the center will cost about Bs. 12.
By trainThe "death train" (so named because of its history in transporting Yellow Fever victims) runs on bumpy tracks from Puerto Quijarro, close to Corumbá on the Brazilian side. There is a variety of different trains offering different classes and prices. The journey takes 13-17 hr. The most comfortable option, with cama seats, is the "Ferrobus" (Tu Th Sa) which costs Bs. 235 per person (Jul 2019). Expreso Oriental needs longer, but only costs Bs. 70. Tickets can be purchased days in advance at the station (Terminal Bimodal) or online (ticktsBolivia.com, plus a US$7 fee). Biting insects are plentiful, so get repellent before you go. It's also a good idea to have blankets or a sleeping bag with you in the colder months of June-August.
The railway between Santa Cruz and Puerto Quijarro is operated by Ferroviaria Oriental S.A..
For crossing the border see Puerto Quijarro.
From Corumbá the bus-ride to Sao Paulo takes about another 24 hr.
Viru Viru International AirportBolivia's largest and most modern airport, and a hub for BoA. International flights on BoA travel to Madrid, São Paulo, and Buenos Aires with other destinations on the horizon. AeroSur is no longer operational. American Airlines flies direct to Miami. Other options include a variety of destinations via Panama, and LATAM and Avianca also fly to Santa Cruz. Gol Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas also offer flights to São Paulo and Buenos Aires, respectively. Air Europa also flies direct to Madrid.
El Trompillo AirportThe city's older airport, and is used by military operated Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM) airlines for internal flights (to Cochabamba and Sucre, for example) and Aerocon (to Tarija and Trinidad for example). Major airlines have daily flights to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, mainly from La Paz (about 4 flights per day: early in the morning, in the afternoon, early in the evening and late in the night). From Cochabamba (about 2 flights per day). Flights to international cities is also daily, (Sao Paulo, Brasil - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Lima, Peru - there are daily flights). American Airlines has daily service to and from Miami.
About Bolivian airlines and flying within Bolivia: Bolivia#Get_around
By busMicros 17 and 18 travel the first ring, Micros 72 and 73 travel the second ring. To get to the center from Parque Urbano take Micro 69 or 100. You can pick up a map of all the bus routes from many "librerias" or bookstores downtown. There is also a great mobile app called Cruzero (both for iOS and Android) which contains route maps of all micros. It can also find you an optimal route if you just select the source and the destination on the city map. There is a website with the same content as well: http://cruzero.net/.
The fare for most micros is Bs. 2, but some of the ones that go further charge more, and the one that goes to the airport charges Bs. 6.
Shared taxis circulate the rings as well, they are called "trufis". Look for the signs on the roof. Faster than Micros and more comfortable because you can actually sit down. The fare for most trufis is Bs. 2.
By taxiTaxis in Santa Cruz are relatively expensive to other Bolivian cities. Make sure to settle on a price with a driver before heading to your destination. Fares may be anywhere between Bs. 20-40. Prices to the airport may be between Bs. 60-90.
Uber has been operating in Santa Cruz. Fares are very competitive with radio taxis or taxis hailed from the street with cars generally in good condition with air conditioning. Option to pay in cash also available. Easy Taxi is another app-based service.
- El Rio Pirai - this is the river that symbolizes so much to Santa Cruz citizens.
- Monseñor Rivero (Boulevard Cruceño) - this is where most people spend the late afternoon portion of the days; starting at 17:00.
- La Plaza - go on a Sunday, at around 23:00... just feel the breeze, relax, and close your eyes. Also, and
Beyond the cityIn Santa Cruz you can book some great excursions, like a trekking in Park Amboro, Noel Kempff, a river boat trip in the Amazon region, cultural excursions to the Jesuit Missions etc.
Climb the church towerOf the Cathedral of Santa Cruz.
Jardín Botánico MunicipalNot so big but quite pleasant zoo focused on South American animals. There is a food court and some kiosks inside. Many micros pass by the entrance, e.g. the one to Cotoca.
Sloths of CotocaGo sloth "hunting" with your camera at the plaza of Cotoca and try if you can spot the 6ish sloths in the treetops without the help of the locals. Basically, they are high up in the trees, not moving and looking like a roundish part of the tree, but sometimes you can catch a face or their fingers. You probably will never see them move much, this is just the expectation you have from various documentaries about them, a slowly moving sloth.
- Biocentro & Resort Güembé. Nature park with a big aviary, butterfly conservatory, monkey island, monkey enclosure and some other animals. There are also a few swimming pools and a restaurant. It's a few km out of Santa Cruz, but there is a shuttle bus from Ventura Mall going there every day at 10.00, 11.00, 12.00 and 13.00 (as of April 2018). Single fare Bs. 10. The bus stops at Cuarto Anillo street just in front of the mall. The stop is not signposted, but the bus has some Güembé labels on it. There are also return buses at 14.30 and 16.45. Entrance fee to the park is Bs. 140 which is a bit pricey for the value you get, but having said that the aviary is really nice and the whole area is really well-maintained.
CineCenterA movie theater complex with a variety of film offerings, a food court, shopping mall, and some high-end cafes and restaurants. It also has a 3D movie theater, a video arcade, and an indoor playground for small children. A good place to go especially on Sundays.
Estadio Ramón Tahuichi AguileraHosts soccer games and the occasional high-profile concert. Can get crowded during The Clasico when Santa Cruz's two main soccer teams, Oriente Petrolero and Blooming, play against each other. Use caution when at the stadium due to often drunk and rowdy fans.
BowlingBowling alley. Bowling shoes can be rented there, which is not included in the price per hour. There is a food and beverage kiosk inside.
Plaza 24 de SeptiembreThe city's main plaza, where locals and tourists alike gather to hang out and observe each other. There are benches and small tables to play chess at, there are numerous pidgeons to feed, and several cafes and restaurants surrounding it. The city's main cathedral is here and is quite beautiful. During the day you can pay to enter the cathedral's small museum and climb to the top of the belltower (Bs 3), where you can get a nice view of the plaza from above.
Cabañas del Rio PiraiLittle houses close to the river, where people entertain, and where you can taste some local dishes.
Around the city
Yvaga Guazu parkPeople say, vegetation in Yvaga Guazu resembles vegetation in big national parks like Madidi, Noel Kempf Mercado, etc. So, if you can't visit these parks, try to visit Yvaga Guazu. They have guides in Spanish.
Lomas de ArenaQuite impressive sand desert. You can walk over sand dunes, watch birds and ants (termites?). There is a marketplace close to the ticket office, you can buy water and food. From the ticket office to the desert is a 7.5 km road (single, you won't get lost) to the desert, takes 1.5 hr to walk but you can ask for a "mototaxi".
- FEXPOCRUZ - Feria Exposicion de Santa Cruz / Exposition fairs
- Gobierno Municipal de Santa Cruz de la Sierra / City hall - general tourism information
- Gobierno Departamental de Santa Cruz / Local government - general tourism information available
El Aljibephone: +591 3 335 22774 blocks from the central square, on the corner between Potosí and Ñuflo de Chavez. Very good place to try delicious Camba food in a beautiful setting. The restaurant is named for the traditional style well it has in its central courtyard (aljibe in Guaraní). Costs about Bs. 35 per main dish. The Majao del Pato (spicy rice dish with duck, egg and bananas) is very tasty, as is the Locro de Gallina (hearty chicken soup). Popular with locals.
- Capri many locations including Avenida Monseñor Rivero and Avenida Melchor Pinto. Excellent pizzeria with Italian-style pizza. Owned by an Argentinian of Italian descent. Pizzas cost around Bs. 50 each and are large enough to share between two people.
- Empanaderia Las Charcas on Avenida Melchor Pinto. One of the best empanaderias in the centre. They are fried while you wait and cost Bs. 6 or 7 each depending on the filling (the Lechón, or suckling pig, filling is one of the richest).
- Papa Jack is very impressive restaurant located in an ally near Avenida Monseñor Rivero. It is very clean and modern, and has many types of food in it (their definition -casual restaurant). The prices around Bs. 50 per person.
- Picolo's is one of the local favorites. There, you can get some of the best ice cream in Santa Cruz. Look for the small Jesus statute on your tourist maps, most of them are in the Avenida Monseñór Rivero.
- Casa del Camba on the second ring, Tel: 342-7864. Excellent outdoor style restaurant with option to eat indoors as well. Has live music and dance floor with a traditional Santa Cruz atmosphere. Very good service, clean and reasonably priced. Friday and Saturdays are busy it can handle a lot of people.
- Michelango's, Calle Warnes and Chuquisaca. Serves excellent Italian style food in a great atmosphere.
- The Irish Pub in the main plaza is a great place for meeting other tourists, locals, watching sports on TV and enjoying good food, beer, music and a cozy atmosphere. Service is slow but there is a pleasant terrace that has a good view of the main plaza. Does not have Guinness or any beer other than the usual lagers.
- Cada Dia, Calle Pilar, between Melchor Pinto and Ballivian, just outside of the first ring. Vegetarian Taiwanese buffet for about Bs. 35 a kilo. Lots of food that runs low towards the end of lunch. Sometimes, though rarely, serves meat dishes, just ask the friendly staff. Great for take out. Lunch only.
- Vegetarian Center "Cuerpomente", Aroma 64 | Between Bolivar and Sucre in Centro. Great vegan and vegetarian food for Bs. 49 a kilo, large variety with a huge salad bar and friendly staff. Only open for lunch.
- Another good tip for small snacks and eating are the Cafeterias, Cake and Ice stores in the Avenida Ayacucho (more or less the corner España) - Dumbo is quite good.
Design Centeraddress: Second Ring between René Moreno St. and Monseñor Santiestevan St.There is a big food court with a lot of fast-food options: from vegetarian salads to Argentine-style grilled steaks. Inside the mall, you can also found several stores of famous brands: Calvin Klein, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch.
Los Lomitos:A delicious steakhouse offering a mix of traditional Argentine and Bolivian cuisine for a good price.
FridolinA lovely pastry and coffee bistro that has excellent desserts. The savory food is however not-that-great and very expensive (Bs 30 for a very small pizza).
Alexander's Cafe:A slightly pricey but delicious café that offers good food (including vegetarian options) and fair trade coffee. Like Starbucks, it's a great place to hang out for a few hours with their WiFi. Service is sometimes slow.
YogenfruzSells wonderful frozen yogurt that rivals all the other ice cream shops in the city! You can choose your fruit and watch them make it for you.
Bits and CreamSimilar to Cold Stone Creamery in America, you pick you flavors of ice cream, toppings and they will mix it up for you. Sometimes they even throw your ice cream across the room and catch it for you!
Pollo ModernoDon't miss out on the chance to eat what most Bolivian families go out to eat for! Though restaurants selling pollo a la broasted abound, this is just one particularly good one. Chicken comes with rice, platano, and French fries.
El MandarinDelicious Chinese food, offering excellent service and a clean, pleasing atmosphere. Other great choices include Shanghai (Avenida 26 de febrero #27) and Palacio del Dragón (Avenida Irala 679, tel. (591) 3-3335340.
Café 24Breakfast (mediocre, Bs. 22), juices, sandwiches, salads, wine, espresso, etc. Has good Argentinian style empanadas. Nice atmosphere to while away the hours with their WiFi. Can get smoky but has a separate non-smoking room.
Kiwi's Coffeephone: +591 3227748address: Calle Potosi #395Offers quality hot and cold beverages, including great iced cappuccinos, accompanied by fresh pastries for a moderate price. English-speaking environment. Has a New Zealand theme, and is cozy and comfortable with sofa seating available. The only smoking permitted indoors are shishas or hookahs (Arabic water pipes) which can be rented. Also has WiFi internet available.
Plaza Rock CafeOpen late and often hosting live rock music, this little bar is great at night. It offers light food, coffee, and lots of alcohol. It is decorated with rock-memorabilia and has footage from rock concerts projected onto the walls, making it a nice place for rock aficionados.
- Equipetrol – this is the neighborhood where all the night life happens! Try any club or disco there.
- Avenida Busch is a good place to start a longer night. There are several Pubs there and you are still close to the center. If you want some classic italian cappuccino, espresso, frappuccino or croissant there is the "Espresso del Oriente" Cafe-Pub on Bolivar Street 272 2½ blocks from the main Plaza. A during-the-week runner is the Irish pub at the main Plaza.
- Av. Monseñor Rivero is a popular boulevard if you want a coffee or a drink.
Bar LorcaVery beautiful bar with a large courtyard and Moorish tiles. Has a stage and live music on most nights. Good selection of cocktails and also has a food menu. Free WiFi.
Café 24As well as being a cafe/bistro during the day this turns into quite a nice little bar during the night. Good selection of drinks and there is frequently live music.
La BodeguitaBased on Hemingway's favorite haunt in La Habana, this is a pleasant Cuban bar. Good place to drink mojitos and Cuba libres while listening to live Cuban music (varies depending on the night but they sometimes have Nueva Trova, as well as the ubiquitous Buena Vista Social Club Covers). Cheaper than most of the places actually on Monseñor Rivero
phone: +591 76025522address: Florida 228A very old beautiful house in downtown Santa Cruz. The decoration is eclectic, kitsch but very cute. The art collections is provided by local artists, it is always changing. “Cachivachero” also, but with taste.
La Feria Barrio LindoPreviously not a very clean place, but now polished up. You will be amazed of how cheap clothing and food is in here... A must see!
- Supermarkets – 5 main supermarket chain service the population. Prices are generally higher than in the Europe since a great part of the available groceries is imported. Same applies for cosmetics and accessories. IC Norte, Fidalga, Hipermaxi, HiperPlaza and SLAN basically offer the same range of producuts and none is significantly better or cheaper than the other. The Hipermaxi in Av. Banzer has usually freshly baked goods , the Fidalga on the other side of the street is pretty new and has a nice food court.
- Clothes, furniture, etc. – In this section as well a great deal of the products is imported resulting in a higher price than usual in western countries. Cheaper, second hand articles can be found in the markets of La Ramada or Los Pozos. There are no big stores such as BestBuy or IKEA that offer this kind of secondary need products in a large scale environment.
- Souvenirs – Although tyipical Bolivian Souvenirs can be found cheaper and in better quality and variety in the Andean region, Santa Cruz offers those as well mainly around the main Plaza 24 de Septiembre. Typically Oriental Bolivian products can be found there as well. A nice alternative is the handicrafts market on Sundays behind the main church in the so called Manzana 1. Accessories store Hevea Bolivia Accessories offers stylish handbags and accessories (you guessed it) in its own workshop made from recycled tire inner tubes. Direction is Calle Nuflo de Chavez #715, almost first ring.
There are some hotels close to the bus terminal which is a bit further away from the center. A large Bolivia hotels and hostels directory is www.boliviahostels.com, they offer accommodation all over the country and you can make reservations for free.
- Cheaper alojamientos and hospedajes are located across the First Ring Road down smaller streets near Calle Mercado. Rooms here run around Bs. 40-60 for a single without a fan, or Bs. 60-90 for a single with a fan. The area can be a little rough after dark, mostly later at night. It would be recommendable to look for a place to stay here in the daylight.
- Alojamiento Viajero - basic rooms with hard beds for Bs. 20. Next to the Samaipata Taxi company.
Hotel Turistaphone: +591 3 3358959address: calle Mercado 554Clean place in centro near the First Ring. Breakfast, good wifi. Cheaper than other offerings in centro, though maybe not quite as nice.
- Hotel Suecia - double rooms from Bs. 80
Jodanga Backpackers HostelPool, Jacuzzi, pool table, cable TV, kitchen, breakfast included, WiFi and computers - dorms from Bs. 70. Strictly enforced rules but fair, clean and well-run.
- Residencial 7 de Mayo - double rooms Bs. 60
- Hotel Bibosi Junín 218, 1 block west of main square. Cheaper rooms are small and dark with only a fan, while more expensive rooms have air con and more light. Includes breakfast, cable TV, WiFi. Singles from $19.
- Hotel Amazonas Junín 214. It is located in Downtown, Some rooms have balconies, other windows, and for those who want to avoid noise, it has indoor rooms. Includes cable Tv, WiFi, it's a good simple choice. Singles from US$18.
- Residencial 7 de Mayo, next to the new Bus-Terminal (Ismael Montes/Interradial) - double rooms with shared bathrooms: Bs. 60
Hotel Tropical Innaddress: Calle España 351, 3Blocks northwest of main plaza. Tel: 334-6666. Probably the best value 3-star hotel in central Santa Cruz. Clean, large wood-paneled rooms with good beds and A/C. Some rooms have views. All have cable TV, WiFi on every floor. Friendly staff, breakfast on roof included. Singles for Bs. 200, Doubles for Bs. 240.
- Hotel Copacabana Junín 217, 1 block west of the main plaza. Tel: 336-2770. Across the street from Amazonas and Bibosi. Friendly staff, clean and modern rooms with cable TV and WiFi throughout. Rooms are small, however, and the cheaper ones don't offer much privacy. Rooms with fans start at Bs. 144. for a single. Rooms with AirCon more. Simple continental breakfast included.
- Hotel Viru Viru - Junín 338, 2 blocks West of main plaza. Tel: 333-5298. A bit run-down, entire place needs sprucing up. Supposedly has WiFi. "Breakfast" included, offerings of which are typically gone by 8:30AM. Most rooms have cable TV and air con. The big selling point of this hotel, however, is the pool - the only hotel in town in this price range to have one. Nice on those stifling hot Santa Cruz days. Singles start at US$25.
phone: +591 3-3363555address: C/ 21 de Mayo esq. Cuellar #527Hotel Lido offers single room, double room, triple room, family room, matrimonial room and suite with air-conditioning, cable TV and internet access. Its facilities and services include restaurant, fitness room/gym, room service and airport transfer.
- Senses Boutique Hotel Calle Rene Moreno esq Plaza 24 Septiembre. Claims to be Santa Cruz's only boutique hotel. Overlooks the main plaza and the rooftop bar/restaurant offers a direct view on to the cathedral. Rooftop pool. Decorated in a minimal style. Multi-lingual staff.
If you have a layover in Viru Viru, you can rent a room in the airport if you want to take a nap or if you get in late and have an early flight the next morning. It's called en-kma and is a small dorm style room with wi-fi, bed, mini-fridge, tv, and air conditioning. It's US$10/hour but if you stay longer, they will give you a discount. It's surprisingly very clean and more comfortable than expected.
- Do not go beyond the fourth ring "El Cuarto Anillo" alone with or without a car.
- Do not participate in political demonstrations before finding out more.
- One very positive thing about Santa Cruz is that it is mostly dog-free.
A good internet cafe is at the corner of Avenida Cañoto and Buenos Aires. Its hyperfast, air conditioned and cheap.
Cheap call centers can be found everywhere in the city. Tel Viva use communication over the internet and charge Bs. 0.50/minute.
- Samaipata – A small town in the mountains 2 hr away, old and beautiful. It has El Fuerte ruins and other attractions. Shared taxis leave from:
- Expresso Samaipata (Av. Omar Chavez Ortiz 1147 esquina Soliz de Olguin - Tel. 333-5067). From the terminal take the bus number 8 to get there. They leave with at least 4 passengers, Bs 30. Takes 3 hr.
- El Fuerte (2do Anillo Av. Grgota esq. Aruma - Tel. 359-8958). Bs. 25.
- Asunción, Paraguay – There are buses, and the trip takes around 23 hr. Daily departures in the evening from the Nuevo Terminal. US$40-50 for a bus including food (bargain as much as you can). The travel agencies will not hesitate to lie to sell you a ticket and an old seat will become a "cama". Expect 15 to 18 police checks on the way, especially in Paraguay. The road through the Chaco is quite good, but the trip is very long.
- Corumbá, Brazil – Take the famous Death Train to the Brazilian border and from there head west into Brazil or south into Paraguay. See Get in (By train) for more details.