Bolivia Risk Report
Security travel advice for Bolivia
Threat level: Low-Medium
The general travel safety advice for Bolivia is to remain vigilant especially in areas of La Paz, such as Sarganaga Street, the San Francisco Church vicinity and the historical Jaen Street. Extra care should be taken at La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal (located on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte). In Cochabamba, avoid Coronilla Hill the Copacabana–Desaguadero route, particularly after 2pm. There is a very low risk of a terrorist incident in Bolivia.
Recent Security Risk Events
The biggest recent threat within Bolivia is the ongoing drug trafficking disputes and high gang numbers. Most recently, police seized over 7 tonnes of cocaine in August 2016 which is believed to have been destined for the United States. Constant police operations seek to prevent the drug flow in and out of the country.
Bolivia does have its social issues. Public demonstrations and strikes often occur and these have been known to disrupt transportations and logistics, causing food and power shortages on a local level. Protests can also lead to road blockages, causing widespread disruption on the roads. Visitors to the country are advised not to get involved with or attend large political gatherings as they can turn heated and violent.
Distraction robberies are renowned; a fight is staged, liquid is thrown on the victim or a conversation with the victim to distract them whilst another thief robs the victim. Avoid getting involved if locals begin to gather or start to fight as this can be a ploy to drag you in.
There remains a risk of kidnapping in Bolivia which reflects the widespread issue in many of the countries in the north of continent. These kidnappings are normally targeted at wealthy individuals, so visitors should take care not to stand out or to wear expensive jewellery. Remain cautious throughout your stay.
A number of incidents have occurred where criminals have impersonated police officers in order to carry out robberies on tourists. This is often done by organised gangs to extort monies from their victims. False police ID cards, uniforms and in some cases false police stations have been used to fool victims.
Bolivia has remained for some time a “stable” country after the decades of military coups in the 1980s & 1990s. Being a land-locked country, it maintains close ties with its neighbours, especially Brazil through the export of petroleum gas.
Road travel is very dangerous once outside major cities. Roads are often in a very poor state and can be swept away in the rainy season. The standard of driving in Bolivia is very poor and travellers should always take great care when driving, especially at night although this is not advised in many rural areas.
Roadblocks do occur and disruptions to public transport when public demonstrations have been instigated. It is recommended that you avoid public transport, particularly buses, if at all possible.
Religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic)
Time now in Sucre:
Visitors to Bolivia from the UK do not require a visa for stays of up to 30 days. Visitors from the U.S. can obtain a visa on arrival. Further advice can be found here: Visa advice Bolivia
It is advised that visitors to Bolivia are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider vaccinating yourself against Yellow Fever.
Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travellers older than 9 months who are likely to visit areas below 2,300m east of the Andes Mountains. These areas include the entire departments of Beni, Pando, and Santa Cruz, and some areas in the departments of Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz and Tarija. You should check with your local health professional prior to your departure as the yellow fever vaccine is not suitable for all travellers.
Other health risks
It is advised that all visitors to Bolivia take precautions against Malaria including the use of Malaria mosquito nets and anti-Malaria medications. There have also been confirmed cases of the Zika virus, Chikungunya fever and Dengue fever in the country and suitable precautions are advised. All three diseases are transmitted to humans by mosquito bites and although there is no vaccine at present, taking precautions against bites can prevent contraction in the first place.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. There have been a number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold.
U.S. Embassy La Paz
Telephone: +591 2 2168 000
Telephone: +591 2 2168 246
Telephone: +591 4 4116 313 (Cochabamba)
Telephone: +591 3 3513 480 (Santa Cruz)
British Embassy La Paz
Avenida Arce No. 2732,
Telephone: +591 2 2433 424
Other useful info
Police emergency: 110
Fire emergency: 118
Medical emergency: 119
Medical emergency: 161 (UDEM)
Medical emergency: 169 (Cardiocruz-Emergencias Médicas)
An International Driving Permit is required for the driving of cars in Bolivia. This along with your passport should be on you at all times when driving. Failure to do so will result in detention and fines or both.