Before deciding to visit Bolivia, we didn't have many preconceptions about the country, so we ended up being pleasantly surprised by it. There were certainly some things that really stood out to us about this country, either because we just weren't expecting them at all, or because of the contrast with the other countries in South America we'd been to before.
Considering its size, Bolivia is an amazingly diverse country. There's the Wild West landscapes of Tupiza, volcanoes and high-altitude multicoloured lakes, the famous Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world, the jungle in Samaipata and what is apparently the world's highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca.
The most pleasant parts of many of the cities we visited were often the central squares. This was especially the case in Santa Cruz, which was otherwise pretty ugly. Tarija, Sucre and La Paz all had multiple plazas, lined with pleasant cafés, and beautifully manicured gardens which served as the social hubs of the cities.
Chinese and Japanese Buses
Local buses in many of the cities seemed to be second hand and imported from China or Japan, and still bore inscriptions from their previous lives.
iPhones and Mobile Internet
Despite being one of the poorest countries in South America, we saw plenty of people with iPhones, and they were also advertised on billboard in some of the largest cities we went to. Also, while the wifi was probably the worst we've experienced so far in South America, the ease of access to mobile internet surprised us. We had a Bolivian sim and found the 3G often more reliable and faster than most wifi networks we used.
In Bolivia, lunch is an event. Seemingly everyone stops work at 12.30pm and goes out to eat, which after coming from Argentina, seemed incredibly early. We were once or twice caught out when we went to get lunch at 2 or 3pm and discovered that there was no more or very little left. Set menus for lunch are also incredibly cheap, surprisingly good (and usually vegetarian friendly!): you can often find a deal offering a soup, main, desert and drink for between 15 and 25Bs (£1.45-£2.40). We certainly did not expect to eat so well in Bolivia.
What has surprised you about Bolivia, or any other country you loved or hated?