bolivia

Bolivia travel safety

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Travel safety in Bolivia

General travel safety in Bolivia on a scale of 1 to 4 — where 1 is safe and 4 is dangerous. Data compiled on the basis of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

Country
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Bolivia

Updates

Updated: 11 Nov 2019 • Still current at: 2 Dec 2019

Status

LEVEL 3 - Reconsider your need to travel

Reconsider your need to travel due to the volatile security and political situation.

travel safety map
Update 2 December 2019 • Source: dfat.gov.au

Safety and security tips

Precautions

You should be especially careful when walking around tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sagarnaga Street, the San Francisco Church vicinity and the historical Jaen Street, and when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as the Muela del Diablo. When travelling near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, in Los Yungas and on the Inca trails, remain in large groups and only join tours organized by reputable tour operators. You should remain alert to your surroundings at all times. Dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and carrying large sums of money, and keep cellphones, cameras and other electronic equipment out of sight. Never leave your belongings, such as bags and backpacks, unattended. Secure your passport and valuables in a safe place. Never travel alone, especially at night. Do not allow anyone else in your taxi. Special attention should be paid when taking a taxi to and from airports. Withdraw or exchange money at automated teller machines (ATMs) during daylight hours only or inside reputable financial institutions and hotels. The Copacabana–Desaguadero route should be avoided after 2 PM When travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, take direct buses to avoid transferring at the Desaguadero border crossing. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Never hand over your passport to anyone. Carefully research medical clinics if you plan to travel to Bolivia for medical services.

Road safety

Road conditions and road safety in Bolivia are very poor. Most drivers lack formal training and have a general disregard for traffic laws. Poorly maintained vehicles, unlit vehicles speeding at night, drunk drivers, minimal signage, ongoing and poorly marked road construction, potholes and unfavourable weather conditions (resulting in landslides) can also make road travel hazardous. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Although the major population centres of Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Sucre are connected by improved highways, many roads in Bolivia are unpaved and in poor condition. For trips outside major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Avoid driving at night, when erratic driving and dark roads increase the danger. Roadblocks are common throughout Bolivia and can cause significant disruptions to transportation, even in remote parts of the country. More information on roads to avoid is available from the Bolivian Highway Administration.

Adventure tourism

Uyuni tours, jungle expeditions, boat trips, mountain biking and other adventure activities should only be undertaken with a well-established company. There are no official minimum safety standards for tour operators in Bolivia. Safety features in vehicles and on small boats used in river and lake excursions are not always reliable. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them. Spiritual cleansing and ayahuasca ceremonies, offered by shamans and other individuals, involve taking substances that can cause medical complications and severely impair cognitive and physical abilities. The ceremonies often take place in remote areas with no access to medical facilities. These services are not regulated and there is no way to assess the safety of the services, operators or shamans.

Public transportation

Public transportation, including buses, trains, shared taxis and mini-buses, is unsafe. Local and intercity buses are frequently involved in traffic accidents, especially overnight buses. Accidents involving less reputable, poorly maintained tourist buses have resulted in injuries and fatalities. Use only tour buses operated by well-known companies for trips. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of a bus or its driver, refrain from using it. Do not hail taxis in the street and decline transportation from people offering a cheaper fare. It is recommended to call radio taxi companies that are registered with authorities from a landline or from a hotel.

Taxis

Taxis are generally poorly maintained. Make a note of the taxi's registration and telephone numbers before you set off. Radio taxis are identifiable by the telephone number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle's roof, and those registered with the Mayor's office should have a yellow sticker in one of their windows. This type of taxi should carry no other passengers. Avoid taking motorbike taxis.

Women's safety

Incidents of sexual assault, including rape, have been reported throughout the country, including at clubs and hostels. Female travellers should be cautious when dealing with strangers and new acquaintances. Lock your room when you return to your hotel/hostel. Avoid dark or non-tourist areas at night. Instead try to be around larger crowds, whether they are fellow tourists or local citizens. In addition, don't flash money or valuables in public. Doing so may make you a potential victim of criminal activity.

Scams

Organized robbery occurs. Criminals operating in groups will distract victims by staging a fight, starting a conversation, offering help, blocking a sidewalk or throwing an object or liquid on the victims, while accomplices steal from them. Individuals have been lured by very young children to a location where they are then robbed. Criminals often pose as police officers and then ask to examine the traveller's belongings or ask the traveller to accompany them to a bogus police station set up by scam artists and seizes documents, debit cards and credit cards. Sometimes criminal posing as a taxi driver or another passenger to be robbed. Radio taxis hailed on the street have also been involved in express kidnappings. Criminals posing as tourists approach the traveller and offer to share transportation (usually a taxi), which proceeds to a remote place where the traveller is robbed. Tourists travelling to Bolivia have fallen victim to scams in which cocaine is hidden inside objects or luggage that they have been asked to bring back by an acquaintance. There are reported cases of this scam being perpetrated through dating websites. The new Internet acquaintance asks the foreigner to go to Bolivia, on the pretext of picking up personal belongings or legal documents on his or her behalf. When police determine that the backpack or briefcase allegedly containing the acquaintances belongings or documents contains cocaine, the foreign citizen is detained at the airport and subsequently sent to a Bolivian prison.

Crime

Petty theft, including pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common in large cities. Foreigners are frequently targeted by thieves. Robbery and assaults occur at tourist destinations. In the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, police presence has intensified due to the increase in drug-related crimes. The situation is also tense in areas along Bolivia's border with Peru. Under Bolivian law, you are not obliged to follow a police officer unless he or she has a formal written request from a judge with your name on it, and any search or seizure must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the prosecutor. If you suspect you are being targeting in such a scam where criminals faking as a "police officer", call the Tourism Police toll-free at 800 14 0081. Express kidnappings do occur, where tourists are held for ransom, often in a car, and robbed or forced to use their bank cards to withdraw cash, are committed by organized gangs and occur throughout the country, but most frequently in major cities, such as La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and when travelling between them. Be particularly vigilant when entering Bolivia at all land border crossings with Argentina, Chile and Peru. There is a high level of crime on buses, in taxis and at transportation hubs. Exercise vigilance in La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal (located on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte). Car theft and auto-parts theft is a problem throughout Bolivia. Keep valuables in the trunk and park your car in a supervised lot, if possible.

Update 1 November 2020

Emergency calls

  • Police911 or 110
  • Fire911 or 119
  • Ambulance911 or 118

Embassy of us

American Embassy in La Paz

Address

Avenida Arce 2780

CityLa Paz
Telephone(+591) 2 216 8000
Fax(+591) 2 216 8111
Website
E-mail-
Consular and diplomatic assistance for citizens of United States • Update 3 November 2020

Local law and culture

Culture

You should be careful when travelling with cameras and communication devices, particularly in remote areas, as some locals may find the presence of photographers intrusive. Ask for permission before you photograph people.

LGBT

Homosexuality in Bolivia is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the majority of Bolivians, more so in the Altiplano than in Santa Cruz, where attitudes tend to be more liberal.

Illegal drugs

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is severely punished. Bolivian drug laws feature a zero tolerance policy and do not differentiate between intentional and unintentional drug smuggling. Drugs can be hidden in ways that are not clear to the naked eye, including being dissolved into clothing or fabric. Do not carry objects or luggage for other people. Do not, under any circumstance, carry a stranger's baggage. If you are visiting non-tourist locations, especially cocoa-growing areas, exercise great vigilance and do not carry a camera or binoculars.

Driving

An International Driving Permit is required to rent a vehicle. If you are involved in a traffic accident, stay at the scene until local police arrive. Attempting to leave the scene violates Bolivian law.

Update 1 November 2020

Vaccinations and medications

A doctor's consultation is required prior to any vaccinations being administered. This section is for informational purposes and does not exhaust all issues related to vaccination. Please contact your doctor for complete information on this subject.

Stay Healthy and Safe

Act in advance of to prevent. Check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor at least 4-8 weeks before your trip to get vaccines or medicines you may need.

All travelers

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Some vaccinations may also be required in Bolivia.

Before each trip, it is worth making sure that we are up to date with the routine vaccinations. These include vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chickenpox, polio and flu.

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Reduce your exposure to germs

Most travelers

Get travel vaccines and medicines because there is a risk of these diseases in the country you are visiting.

Hepatitis A is a digestive disease caused by the hepatitis A virus and is closely related to a lack of good hygiene.

It can be asymptomatic, moderate, or very severe.

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Eat and drink safely

Typhoid fever is an acute, systemic infectious disease caused by Salmonella typhi.

The source of the infection may include dirty water, raw fruits, vegetables, dairy products, as well as dirt containing bacteria.

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Eat and drink safely

Some travelers

Vaccinations and medications that may be recommended under certain conditions, depending on where you will be, the length of your stay and the nature of your stay.

Hepatitis B is a disease caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Infection occurs through contact of injured skin or mucous membranes with virus-infected blood or other secretions (e.g. during sexual contact, through contaminated needles or as a result of medical procedures).

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Avoid sharing body fluids
  • Avoid non-sterile medical or cosmetic equipment

Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

Prevention
  • Take antimalarial meds
  • Prevent bug bites
Estimated relative risk of malaria in Bolivia

Niskie

Areas with malaria

All areas <2500 m (8202 ft). None in the city of La Paz

Rabies is an acute infectious disease caused by neurotrophic viruses from the rhabdovirus family.

The infection is most often caused by biting a sick animal or other contact of its saliva with mucous membranes, conjunctiva or damaged skin.

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Keep away from animals

Yellow fever is an acute viral disease which is transmitted by virus-infected mosquitoes.

Prevention
  • Get vaccinated
  • Prevent bug bites
Vaccination requirements

Required if traveling from a country with risk of YFV transmission and ≥1 year of age.

Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We have made every effort to ensure that the information presented reliably reflects the general safety situation in a given place. However, the data is provided for informational purposes only and we do not take responsibility for any damages or losses resulting from incorrect risk assessment. Before each trip, we recommend checking the current situation in the country of destination on the websites of the relevant Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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