Country: Plurinational State of Bolivia (Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia) Capital: La Paz (Political Capital); Sucre (Constitutional Capital) Official Languages: Spanish (main language); followed by Aymara, Quechua and 34 other languages Government: Presidential Constitutional Republic (continued democratic governments since 1982) Business Hours: Monday to Friday 8:00 â€“ 12:00am and 2:30 â€“ 6:30pm Currency: Bolivianos (Bs) Exchange rate: Bs.6.96/US$ (constant last 2 years) Bs.9.21/Euro (average of last 3 months) Time zone: UTC-4 (English) GMT-4 (Spanish) Population (2012): 10.50 Million people Surface of the country: 1.10 Million Square Kilometers Location of Bolivia: In the center of South America, sharing extensive borders with Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Religion: Mainly catholic with a minority of evangelicals Climate: Great variation depending on the region Organizations of which Bolivia is a member Bolivia is a member of the United Nations Organization (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), G77, Organization of American States (OAS), Andean Community (CAN), Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), Grupo Rio, MERCOSUR (associate member), International Development Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Trade Agreements signed by Bolivia Multilateral Agreements: World Trade Organization (WTO) 12 Sep 1995 Andean Community (CAN) 26 May 1969 Free trade Agreements: Mexico (ACE 66) 17 May 2010 MERCOSUR (ACE 36) 17 Nov 1996 Chile (AAP.CE. No.22) 06 Apr 1993 (partial preferential Agreement)
DOING BUSINESS IN BOLIVIA
Business Culture and Ethics
The cultural difference that is predominant between Latin America countries, of which Bolivia is no exception, and Europe, USA and even Asia is that of time. The concept of time is very much different in Bolivia and can often be difficult to deal with. In addition, the quality of the information may very often be less precise as expected. Of course, most wineries have executives that have specialized abroad and understand very well the European concept of time.
After Spanish, the expected language for doing business in Bolivia is English. Most winery executives are fluent in English being able to communicate all matters about wine in a clear and understandable manner.
Bolivians are kind, gentle people, who are concerned for each other’s welfare. Friendship is a very important value. The family is the central unit in the social system. Education is valued, but still not achievable for all people.
Do’s and Don’ts
It is very important that you try to gain a respect for, and understanding of, the cultural differences. One way to do this is to read about Bolivia before you come. Here are a few tips for lessening that culture shock and helping you figure out some common social situations.
- Greeting is an important part of Bolivian culture. One should always acknowledge all the people in a room when you enter or leave it. You can do this by looking at each person and saying “buenos dÃas/tardes/noches“, shaking hands or by a simple kiss on the right cheek.
- It is considered rude to stretch, yawn or burp in front of someone.
- Although punctuality is not a high priority in Bolivia, visitors should be punctual for business meetings. However, meetings rarely start on time.
- Take the time to get to know your Bolivian customers and colleagues. Personal relationships are vital to corporate success.
- Deadlines are not considered important.
- More than one meeting may be necessary to negotiate and close a deal. Plan on making several trips to complete business transaction, since face-to-face communication is preferred over phone calls, faxes and e-mail.
- The pace of business negotiations is generally much slower than in Europe or the United States. Never attempt to rush a deal. Applying pressure may cause a deal to fail. Remain low key.
- A contract is not finished until an agreement is reached on all parts. Each part is subject to re-negotiation until the entire contract is signed.
- If there is a mat or rag in a doorway take the hint and use it to clean your feet.
- If someone is eating and leave the table you should say “provecho” â€“ “permiso” and if it is said to you, respond with “gracias“. The same “permiso” should be used when you enter or leave a group or meeting.
- Bolivians in general, are quiet people – so be aware of the volume of your voice especially when in groups of foreigners.
- Drinking is a part of almost all fiestas, weddings, baptisms and even Todos Santos and Bolivians can often times be very insistent that you join in. If you don’t feel up to having a few cups with them it may be best not to attend the event. It may work to say you are “mal de estomago” (sick) but the social pressure will still be there.
- Never touch food or eat anything with your fingers. Even fruit is eaten with a fruit knife and fork.
- It is polite to eat everything on your plate. Complimenting the food will be viewed as a request for more food. Wait until the dinner is over if you don’t want more.
- Dress for Men: In La Paz, a dark, two-piece suit is best. A lightweight suit is more common in Santa Cruz. Follow your Bolivian colleague’s lead with regard to wearing ties and removing jackets in the summer.
- Dress for Women: suits, dresses, skirts and blouses.
- Do not wear shorts in cities.
Bolivian Business image
Physically the country is landlocked, as it lost a large section of coastal territory to both Peru and Chile over 100 years ago remaining with no ports of its own. Politically the country has “tested” several models including forms of democracy, capitalism, fascism, dictatorships, and socialism in an attempt to find a suitable model that will benefit Bolivia’s population. This, unfortunately, has caused the economy in Bolivia to fluctuate greatly and thus it is often considered unstable and risky by foreign investors.
Culturally the country is diverse and there is great economic disparity between different social groups. Discontent amongst a large part of the country’s poor population has led to social unrest, road blocks, manifestations, strikes and other forms of expression that make it difficult to provide the all-important element of continuity businesses need in order to prosper.
For business people with great vision, these challenges are the reason Bolivia may actually continue to show great potential and be considered an interesting option for investment and growth. Despite the difficulties Bolivia faces, in 2008 Bolivia was named the world’s most entrepreneurial country and has ranked near the top in entrepreneurship often since then. Simply put, because so many industries are still new and relatively underdeveloped, it is possible for investments to be profitable.
The key to working in or with Bolivia may be the ability to envision possible future events and developments based on what is already known about the country’s political and economic environment.
An important point to note is that western and eastern Bolivia differ as greatly as night and day, both geographically and socially. The western, mountainous half has less industry and agriculture and the business focus is on government jobs and services, textiles, small-scale agriculture, mining, tourism and services. The eastern portion of the country is largely lush and tropical and geographically extensive. Large-scale agriculture, cattle ranching, industry, and exports are found here. Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest state, is the country’s financial, industrial and agricultural capital. Its people are very protective of its wealth of natural resources and have loudly voiced their concern over any national government intervention that might adversely affect their ability to participate successfully in global trade. Eastern Bolivians are eager to ensure Bolivia’s government provides the necessary environment for secure foreign investment which is why this department has headed the demand for financial autonomy. The region of Tarija and Cinti are in between western and eastern Bolivia, with eastern mentality but with less development.
INFORMATION ON WINE TRAVEL
Tourism Agencies in Bolivia
Magri TurismoÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (www.magriturismo.com)
Crillon ToursÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (www.titicaca.com)
TransturinÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (www.transturin.com)
Bolivia MilenariaÂ Â Â Â Â (www.boliviamilenaria.com)
Tourism Agency in UK to visit Bolivia
HighLives Holidays (www.highlives.co.uk)
Specialized in South America travel, from tailor-made toÂ small groups.
Visa policy of Bolivia
Citizens (ordinary passport holders) of specific countries and territories are eligible to visit Bolivia for tourism or business purposes without having to obtain a visa.
There are 3 groups of countries, countries whose citizens do not require a visa, countries whose citizens can obtain a visa on arrival and countries whose citizens must obtain visa in advance.
Citizens of the following 49 countries and territories may enter Bolivia without a visa for period of up to 90 days:
- European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta and Romania who must obtain a visa upon arrival), Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil. Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
Visa on arrival
Citizens of all other countries may obtain a visa for Bolivia valid for 90 days upon arrival for US$ 52. Nationals of the United States in order to obtain a visa on arrival must hold hotel reservation or letter of invitation and sufficient funds plus US$ 135 for visa in cash.
Nationals of Iran can obtain a visa on arrival for 30 days only at Cochabamba, La Paz, and Santa Cruz airports.
This is not applicable to nationals of the following countries and territories:
- Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Democratic Peopleâ€™s Republic of Korea, Laos, Libya, Macao, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Timor-Leste and Yemen.
How to arrive to Bolivia
The best way to arrive from Europe to Bolivia is by BOA (Bolivian airline) or Air Europa to the city of Santa Cruz (Viru Viru Airport) and take a connecting flight from Santa Cruz to the city of Tarija.Â You can also arrive to the city of La Paz (El Alto Airport) instead of Santa Cruz and connect to Tarija, but bear in mind that the airport lays at 4,000 meters above sea level.Â Â For connecting flights to Tarija from within Bolivia you can take BOA, Amaszonas or Ecojet.
The main airlines coming from the USA to the Bolivian cities of Santa Cruz and La Paz are BOA, American Airlines, TACA, AVIANCA and LAN.
How to arrive to the wineries
All wineries from the Central Valley of Tarija are either within the city or in the surroundings.Â The wineries of Cinti are about 2 to 2 Â½ hours by car going north from Tarija to Camargo in direction to Potosi.Â Â The wineries in Samaipata are about 2 Â½ hours by car west from the city of Santa Cruz.
The wine regions of Tarija can be seen in three to five days, the wineries in Cinti in one to two days and the wineries in Samaipata in one day.