Santa Cruz (or Santa Cruz de la Sierra) is the most populous city and heart of the second most populous metropolitan area in Bolivia, and is the capital of the department of Santa Cruz. It is considered the most economically prosperous city in the country.
If you arrive during carnival 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.
The bus station listed in the Santa Cruz web site is no longer in use. The new one is a 15 Bs taxi fare from the centre of town. Of the three hostels listed with 24 hour reception, the only one that does is on tres pasos, a couple of km out of the city center.
The "death train" (so named because of its history in transporting Yellow Fever victims) runs on bumpy tracks from Quijarro, close to Corumbá on the Brazilian side. There is a variety of different trains offering different classes and prices. The journey takes 24 hours. The most comfortable option, with cama seats, is the "Ferrobus" (Tues, Thurs, Sat) which at time of writing (April 2010) cost 250Bs per person. Contrary to what is written in many guidebooks, tickets can be purchased days in advance at the station (Terminal Bimodal). Biting insects are plentiful, so get repellent before you go.
The railway between Santa Cruz and Quijarro is operated by Ferroviaria Oriental S.A. .
From Corumbá the bus-ride to Sao Paulo takes about 24 hours more.
Viru Viru International Airport (IATA: VVI, ICAO: SLVR) is Bolivia's largest and most modern airport, and a hub for BOA. They offer direct flights from Madrid, Miami and Washington to Santa Cruz a few times a week. To get into downtown Santa Cruz from the airport you have two options. The first is to take a taxi that will charge you 55bs (~$8). This is probably the easiest and most comfortable way (and the only option at night) to get into town, but if you are on a tight budget the second option is a "micro" or mini-bus that waits outside the front doors of the airport until it fills up, the fare for the bus is only 5bs (~$.80). When leaving Bolivia from Viru Viru one has to pay the tax of 25 USD (airport use or so).
El Trompillo Airport (IATA: SRZ, ICAO: SLET) is the city's older airport, and is used by military operated TAM airlines for internal flights (to Cochabamba and Sucre, for example) and Aerocon (to Tarija and Trinidad for example). Trompillo very close to the city center, and is thus a cheaper taxi ride. Micros also pass by the airport, exit the departure hall and walk down the road to the right until you reach an intersection. Cross the street and wait for Micro 40 or 42. The information counter in the airport provides helpful information and distributes free maps.
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 - etc. there are daily flights). American Airlines has daily service to and from Miami.
There 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.
There is a new road from Puerto Quijarro/Corumbá to Santa Cruz. A bus ride costs around 110Bs daytime (no AC) and around 140Bs nighttime (with AC). The bus ride takes 12 hours and is faster than the ferrobus that takes 16 hours. Buses at daytime leaves to Santa Cruz around ~11AM.
International buses run to Sao Paulo, Corumba and Campo Grande in Brazil; Asuncion in Paraguay and also to Peru via La Paz.
Flechabus has a daily service to Buenos Aires, it departs from Santa Cruz at 19:00.
The Bolivia Vice-Ministry of Tourisum has a bus schedules on their website: . Look under Destinations and the area you are interested in traveling.
Micros 17 and 18 circulate the first ring, Micros 72 and 73 circualate 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. The fare for most micros has gone up to 1.80bs in 2011, but some of the ones that go further charge more, and the one that goes to the airport charges 5bs.
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 2bs.
In 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.
A good and reliable tour agency is Dutch owned Ruta Verde. They are located 3 blocks from the plaza, Calle 21 de Mayo 332.
Santa Cruz hosts one of the most famous soccer academy in the world. "Academia de Futbol Tahuichi Aguilera". Their unique and original way of training young soccer players to become professionals in the future. They train in rivers and ran through mountains of sand. Young players from all over the world come to this academy to experience its training method.
Yvaga Guazú park
Yvaga Guazú (tel. 3527971, www.parqueyvagaguazu.org) - nature park, where you can see different plants and animals, which you'd encounter if you went to national parks like Amboró or Noel Kempff Mercado. If you don't have time for these national parks, Yvaga Guazú is a place to go. It's out of the city, at the 12,5 km mark on the double way to La Guardia. To go there, go to the 1st ring (primero nillo) and catch a micro with a red front (2 Bs). To return, catch a red front micro going to the bus terminal (Terminal Bimodal). 70 Bs for a guided (Spanish) excursion.
Piraí river - means much to the people of Santa Cruz. The water is muddy. In the dry season the river is sunken so you can easily cross it by foot or motorbike. A lot of people are gathering here to socialize, cool of and picnic. Nearby Cabañas Río Piraí offer some very typical camba food.
CineCenter, (on the 2nd Ring). A 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.edit
Estadio Ramón Tahuichi Aguilera (Main Stadium), (inside the 1st Ring). Hosts football games and the occasional high-profile concert. Can get crowded during The Clasico when Santa Cruz's two main football teams, Oriente Petrolero and Blooming, play against each other. Use caution when at the stadium due to often drunk and rowdy fans.edit
Bowling, (downtown). Bowling alley. Bowling shoes can be rented there, which is not included in the price per hour. There is a food and beverage kiosk inside.Expensive. edit
Plaza 24 de Septiembre (Principal Plaza). The 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/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, where you can get a nice view of the plaza from above.edit
There are several good restaurants in the north of the city. One of the main clusters of restaurants is spread around Avenida Monseñor Rivero.
El Aljibe 4 blocks from the central square, on the corner between Potosí and Ñuflo de Chavez, Tel (591-3) 335 2277, Mon-Sat 11:30-15:00 and 18:00-23:30, Sundays and holidays 11:30-16:00. 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 35 bolivianos 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 50 bolivianos 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 6 or 7 bolivianos each depending on the filling (the Lechón, or suckling pig, filling is one of the richest).
Papa Jack is very impressive and new (2011) 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 resturant). The prices around 50 Bolivianos 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 (somewhere between av. Beni and av. Alemana), Tel: 342-7864. Excellent outdoor style restuarant 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.
Cabañas Río Piraí (thatch-roofed restaurants at the Piraí river) offer very authentic clay oven-baked camba food (i.e. banana leaf-wrapped empanadas, zonzo). Live music. Locals like the place very much. Ask people around the main square, how to get there.
There are two vegetarian restaurants to be found in one single street. The service isn´t great, but hardcore veggies will be happy there. East from the plaza around 4 blocks. You pay by weight in one, the other has seconds at 12Bs.
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 Center, 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...edit
Los Lomitos:. A delicious steakhouse offering a mix of traditional Argentine and Bolivian cuisine for a good price.edit
Fridolin. is a lovely pastry and coffee bistro that has excellent desserts. The savory food is however not-that-great and very expensive (30Bs. for a very small pizza).edit
Alexander's Cafe:, (2 locations: on Junín, 1 block West of central Plaza; and on Avenida Monseñor Rivero.). 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. edit
Yogenfruz, (Located in the Cine Center food court and also on the Monseñor...). Sells 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.edit
yogurberry, Ayacucho 181 (A block west of the main square), . Another good place for frozen yogurt.edit
Bits and Cream, (Canoto, inside Cine Center, near the central Plaza). Similar 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!edit
Pollo Moderno. Don'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.edit
El Mandarin, (Avenida Irala). Delicious 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.edit
Café 24, (On SE corner of main plaza). Breakfast (mediocre, 22Bs.), 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. edit
Kiwi's Coffee, Calle Potosi #395 (downtown, between Calle Warnes and Calle Republiquteas), ☎ 3227748. M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 9AM-9PM, Su 3PM-9PM. Offers 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.Moderate. edit
Plaza Rock Cafe, (upstairs by the Principal Plaza). Open 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-memorabelia and has footage from rock concerts projected onto the walls, making it a nice place for rock afficionados.Expensive. edit
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 located two and a half blocks far from the main Plaza. A during-the-week runner is the Irish Pub at the main Plaza.
Equipetrol is the party place, try any club or disco there.
Av. Monseñor Rivero is a popular boulevard if you want a coffee or a drink.
Bar Lorca, (On the corner of the main Plaza, next to the cathedral and Cafe 24). Very 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.edit
Café 24, (On SE corner of main plaza). As 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.edit
La Bodeguita, (Calle Castelnau, off Monseñor Rivero). Based 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 edit
Duda Bar, Florida 228 (Between Spain St and 21 de Mayo St), ☎ 76025522, . A a 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.edit
Supermarkets 5 main supermarket chain service the population. Prices are genrally higher than in the Europe since a 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 qualitiy 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. Recently opened accessories store Hevea Bolivia Accessories offers stylish handbags and accessories ( you guessed it) in its own shop /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.
Alojamiento Viajero - basic rooms with hard beds for 20 Bs. Next to the Samaipata Taxi company.
Ambar Hostel (Ambar Hostel), calle Mercado 554 (@ Isoso) (5 Blocks from main plaza), ☎ +591 3 3358959, . checkin: 11:00; checkout: 11:00 (owner will knock on your door if you are expected to leave). Cheap place 5 blocks from the plaza. Clean and large rooms, pool but no water in it, 2 BBQ areas, but no charcoal or implements. Could be an awesome place, but is just a cheap one. No breakfast. 5Bs charge to use the kitchen.single private room = 30 Bs.. edit
Hotel Suecia - double rooms from 80 bolivianos
Jodanga Backpackers Hostel - pool, Jacuzzi, pool table, cable TV, kitchen, breakfast included, WiFi and computers - dorms from 70 Bs . Strictly enforced rules but fair, clean and well-run. Barrio los Choferes, calle El Fuerte #1380, zona del Parque Urbano.
Residencial Bolivar, (Calle Sucre @ Aroma). checkin: 12:00; checkout: 12:00. Nice place for a great price. The interior is a lush jungle plaza, complete with a friendly flightless toucan named Simone, who´ll even jump onto your arm. Breakfast is included and is bread, eggs, fruit and juice.shared dorm = 80 Bs.. edit
Residencial 7 de Mayo - just outside of the bus and train station (Terminal Bimodal). Double rooms 60 bolivianos, single - 30 Bs. The staff at the reception may be ignorant. There are also other hostels around (in the same or neighboring building).
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 $18.
Hotel Tropical Inn Calle España 351, 3 blocks 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 200 Bs, Doubles for 240 Bs.
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 144 Bs. 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, but wasn't working when we checked. "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 $25.
Hotel Lido, C/ 21 de Mayo esq. Cuellar #527, ☎ 591-3-3363555, . Hotel 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.edit
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. Its 10 US dollars/hour but if you stay longer, they will give you a discount. Its suprisingly very clean and more comfortable than expected.
Expresso Samaipata (Av. Omar Chavez Ortiz 1147 esquina Soliz de Olguin - Telf. 333-5067). From the terminal take the bus number 8 to get there. They leave with at least 4 passengers, 30Bs. Takes 3 hours.
El Fuerte (2do Anillo Av. Grgota esq. Aruma - Telf. 359-8958). 25 Bs.
There are buses to Asunción, Paraguay. The trip takes around 23hrs. Daily departures in the evening from the Nuevo Terminal. Around $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 throught the Chaco is quite good, but the trip is very long.