Santa Cruz boasts a multicultural heritage thanks to the many indigenous groups that make up the local population. The “Cruceños” are very proud of their traditions that are still kept alive to this day - in particular in the local gastronomy that can be explored every year during the Traditional Food Festival in September. In addition to the traditional cuisine, people living in or visiting Santa Cruz can enjoy concerts, exhibitions and handcrafts.
Downtown Santa Cruz, the so-called Casco Viejo with its main square Plaza 24 de Septiembre, is the most lively and crowded area of the city. It is home to the cathedral clock tower, famous for its breathtaking views. In this neighborhood, expats can experience the local lifestyle by visiting many cafés, shops and museums. The iconic and bustling open markets are not to be missed, nor is the Santa Cruz Cultural center, which hosts exhibits, concerts and shows. Other interesting museums that everyone living in Santa Cruz should visit at least once are the Modern Art Museum, the Museum of Independence, the Guaraní Museum and the Regional Museum of History.
Despite the wide range of cultural venues, the landscapes and natural sceneries of Santa Cruz are worth indulging in. Pristine local nature can be enjoyed at the Parque Ecologico Yvaga Guazu and the Bothanical Garden. Insights into the rich biodiversity of Bolivia can be explored at the Espejillos, a paradisiac park 35 km away from downtown Santa Cruz, and the strange phenomenon of inexplicable sand dunes at Lomas de Arena.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Bolivia and when living in Santa Cruz you should be prepared to celebrate the victory of either Oriente Petrolero or Blooming in the local match “el clasico”.
Moving around the city of Santa Cruz is relatively straight-forward thanks to the unique structure made of circular streets (“anillos” or rings) perpendicularly intersected by “radiales”. This helps people orient themselves and ease the circulation of vehicles.
The best and cheapest option is public transportation. The Terminal Bimodal, 1.5 km from the city center, is both a bus and train station. “Flotas” are long-distance buses that connect Santa Cruz with other main cities and “micros” are mini-buses for local transportation. They also connect the city center with the Viru Viru International Airport. Moreover, “trufis” and “volteros” are shared taxis that follow specific routes.
Taxis are numerous and cheap, however, you should expect to pay an extra fee for a night ride.
If expats want to drive in Bolivia they need a valid driving license, insurance and an international driving permit. Due to the general bad condition of the streets, it is advisable to be particularly careful when driving outside Santa Cruz in the more remote towns or in mountainous areas.
In order to rent a car in Santa Cruz, you need to be at least 25 years old and have had your driving license for more than one year. If you want to take your own foreign-plated car to Bolivia, it cannot be more than 5 years old (2 years from January 2016) for environmental reasons. Also, you will have to pay an import tax depending on the brand and technical features of the vehicle. You will need to present the title of ownership and a declaration that the car has been imported for your personal use.
The “cambas” are generally peaceful people and Bolivia has the lowest crime rate of all Latin America. In Santa Cruz the crime rate is still considered high on the local Department of State's threat scale. In Santa Cruz, violent crime is rare, however, petty crimes, especially carjacking and vehicle theft, are very common. Pickpocketing is also a major problem, especially in the airport.
Criminals sometimes target tourists and expats by pretending to be taxi-drivers or police officers. You should therefore be particularly careful and be aware that official taxis have a sticker with an identification number and sometimes the name of the company on the roof. In addition, be cautious of “police officers” approaching you on the street and asking for your documents.