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This country comparison features Ecuador vs. Bolivia in a battle of attractions, capitals and nature. This showdown will help you decide which South American country you should visit.
I recently spent three months traveling through South America to check off my bucket list items, Machu Picchu and Easter Island.
After reviewing flights and route options, I decided to fly into Ecuador and explore the country on my way to Machu Picchu in Peru and then travel through Bolivia on my way to Santiago, Chile for my flight to Easter Island.
Ecuador and Bolivia were add-on destinations from which I didn’t know what to expect. They are often overlooked for their popular neighbor, Peru. After my experience, I highly encourage friends to visit these less-traversed countries.
To help you decide which country is better suited for your travel style and preferences. This Ecuador vs. Bolivia country comparison will compare:
- Tourist Attractions
- Ease of Tourism
- Capital Cities
- Nature and Hiking
Without any further ado, let’s start this showdown!
I plan my travels based on landmarks I want to see and activities I want to do. The most common question I’m asked about any destination is “what did you do?!”
Because of the significant importance placed on tourist attractions, I thought that’s the perfect place to begin.
Some of the top tourist attractions in Ecuador are…
- Galápagos Islands
- Yasuní Biosphere Reserve or any other part of the Ecuadorian Amazon
- Cotopaxi Volcano
- Quilotoa Crater Lake
- Otavalo Market
- Equator Monument (Ciudad Mitad del Mundo)
- Waterfalls in Baños
- Casa del Arbol (Swing) in Baños
- El Cajas National Park
- Homero Ortega P & Hijos “Panama” Hat Store and Museum in Cuenca
Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats in Bolivia
So, what about Bolivia? Some of the top tourist attractions to fill your Bolivian itinerary are…
- Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats)
- Madidi National Park or any other part of the Bolivian Amazon
- Lake Titicaca
- Bike Yungas Road (Death Road)
- UNESCO World Heritage City, Sucre
- Witches Markets in La Paz
- Moon Valley
- Torotoro National Park
- Vineyards and Distilleries in Tarija
- Red Rock formations in Tupiza
This one is a tough decision. Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands and Bolivia’s Salt Flats are both bucket list worthy attractions.
Bolivia has a slight edge because of affordability. Additionally, Bolivia has a greater diversity in landscape and unique tourist attractions.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia Tourist Attractions Winner: Bolivia
Ease of Tourism
To enjoy the tourist attraction that each country offers, you’ll need to be able to visit the attraction. Luckily, most people do not require a visa prior to visiting Ecuador or Bolivia for a stay of up to 90 days.
Note: this is a new policy as of December 20, 2019, U.S. citizens no longer need a visa to enter Bolivia for tourism. Entry is granted for 30, 60, or 90 days at the discretion of the Bolivian immigration officer at the port of entry.
Once you’ve arrived, both Bolivia and Ecuador are home to several tour and bus companies. With multiple options for day trips and transportation, you can cater your trip to your preferences.
If you don’t want to worry about the details, Intrepid Tours offers multi-day tours in both Bolivia and Ecuador.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia East of Tourism Winner: Tie
The colorful La Paz cemetery that doubles as an art market
In both Ecuador and Bolivia, busses are the most common mode of transportation. The roads are similar, winding through the Andes mountain range in both countries.
In my experience, Bolivian drivers take more risks and are more aggressive than Ecuadorian drivers.
Hopefully you don’t need to visit the hospitals or health care in Ecuador or Bolivia because neither performs well on the World Health Organization’s ranking of each country’s health systems.
Ecuador came in at #111 while Bolivia followed at #126. Personally, I didn’t experience Bolivia’s healthcare system, but in Ecuador I had a quick, positive experience receiving the yellow fever vaccination.
Banks and ATMs are available throughout both countries. If you are traveling from the United States, it is convenient that Ecuador uses the American Dollar for currency. Bolivia uses the boliviano.
Supermarkets and grocery stores are found in both countries, but I recommend heading to the market where the locals shop. The produce is fresh, the prices are lower and you can experience the local’s daily life.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia Infrastructure Winner: Ecuador
Sleepy sea lion in the Galapagos Islands
Let’s take a closer look at the countries’ capital cities as the focus point of the comparison.
Bolivia begins with a leg ahead of the competition as it has two capital cities.
Sucre is the capital per the Bolivia Constitution and home to the judicial branch of government. The legislative and executive branches of government are in La Paz and therefore, La Paz is considered by many as the de facto (administrative) capital.
For the purposes of our comparison, we will consider La Paz the capital of Bolivia.
La Paz, Bolivia (11,942 ft) and Quito, Ecuador (9,350 ft) are the two highest capitals of all countries recognized by the United Nations. They also have similar climates.
Both countries have hectic traffic.
Quito tries to limit traffic by limiting the days on which each registered vehicle is able to drive on public roads. La Paz takes their public transportation to the skies with a cable car system. In 2020, the first line of Quito’s new underground rail transportation system will open.
In terms of things to do, both cities have numerous beautiful churches, museums, and viewpoints. In addition, La Paz is also full of unique attractions including moon valley, the witches market and cholita wrestling. The La Paz general cemetery doubles as an open air art museum and is a place of celebration.
Because of the many more things to do in La Paz, it is the clear winner in this category.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia Capital Cities Winner: Bolivia
Torotoro National Park in Bolivia
Nature and Hiking
Ecuador and Bolivia are geographically similar. They’re located on the Andes mountain range with the Amazon jungle covering the eastern half of both countries.
On the west, Ecuador reaches into the ocean while Bolivia is landlocked. Observations on the Galápagos Islands are what inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.
However, what Bolivia lacks in ocean, it makes up for with Lake Titicaca. Located along the northern border, Lake Titicaca is known as the highest navigable body of water.
Both countries have numerous national parks and hiking trails to explore.
In Ecuador, tourists hike El Caja National Park to see the Continental Divide, and in Bolivia, they hike Torotoro National Park to see Dinosaur tracks.
Even the capital city of each country offers nature to explore.
Quito, Ecuador has a challenging trek to summit Rucu Pichincha. While La Paz, Bolivia doesn’t have a similar trek as accessible within city limits, it does offer a walking path through Moon Valley.
Bolivia is full of unique land formations in addition to Moon Valley. On the Salt Flats tour, not only do you see the world’s largest salt flats, but you also see a red lagoon, geysers and cactus island. Red rock formations are found in Tupiza, Bolivia.
Because of the diversity of landscape, this category is awarded to Bolivia.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia Nature and Hiking Winner: Bolivia
Sunset in Cajas National Park in Ecuador
In both Ecuador and Bolivia, you need to be aware of your surroundings. The US Department of State travel advisories classify both countries as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.
This shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting these countries, but it does serve as a reminder to practice safe travel habits. Avoid demonstrations, always tell someone where you’re going and use a lock on your bag to prevent pickpockets.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia Safety Winner: Tie
An endless expanse of white at the Salar de Uyuni salt flats
And the Ecuador vs. Bolivia Travel Winner is…
By winning in the tourist attractions, capital cities and nature & hiking categories, Bolivia solidified this victory. Ecuador only won the infrastructure category. Both ease of tourism and safety were ties.
I was honestly surprised to see how much of a lead Bolivia took over Ecuador.
The truth is that each category was a close call. In this showdown, Bolivia comes out ahead because it simply has more to offer; however, what Ecuador offers are also bucket list items. I recommend you start planning a trip to both countries!
Ready to go?
Then, check out more food, nature, and cultural experiences in Bolivia to round out your itinerary. (Or, book this epic South America tour to see the entire continent and finish planning your trip in one click!).
This article is part of the Latin America Smackdown Series. Read the rest below:
Or, explore more from around the world in the complete Country Comparison Series!
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