|Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 06 January 2011
Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
See our terrorism abroad page.
Safety and Security - Crime
Be vigilant and cautious about your surroundings on arrival and while travelling in Bolivia because of the number of violent crimes against foreign nationals, including British visitors. Exercise caution when choosing which type of transport to travel in. Look out for established transport companies and ask widely for guidance - avoid people offering cheaper transport. During 2008, Copocabana in particular was a regular starting point of violent, and sometimes life-threatening, attacks and abductions.
Be aware of the risk of so called ‘express kidnappings’ - short-term, opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim - that are occurring in Bolivia. Victims are normally selected at random and held while criminals empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards, or use their credit cards. Once the criminals have managed to obtain money from the ATM for two or three days, the victim is usually quickly released. Foreign visitors are particularly vulnerable when entering Bolivia on overland border points with Peru and Chile, such as Desaguadero and Copacabana, and in transit to La Paz. Visitors travelling from Copacabana to La Paz should try to use direct buses. All travellers should exercise caution on arrival, especially in the Cementerio General area in La Paz where a number of incidents have been reported. There have also been incidents in the Sopocachi area of La Paz, and cases of tourists being choked unconscious and robbed.
Beware of individuals offering help at taxi points at bus terminals where many thieves work in teams throughout the day and night to distract their victims. They are quick and effective once they have a target in view. If you do use a taxi look out for a "radio taxi" (identifiable by the telephone number prominently displayed on the vehicle's roof), and make a note of the taxi's registration number and telephone number before starting your journey. Such taxis should carry no other passengers. ‘Express kidnappings’ have occurred in taxis taken in La Paz. Phone for a taxi service that is registered with the authorities.
Exercise caution around transport in tourist sites such as Rurrenabaque, as cases of attacks on lone travellers taking motorbike taxis have been reported.
Some criminals pose as police officers and act in collusion with bogus taxi drivers to target foreigners on arrival. Their tactics have included using bogus police stations to fool victims. If you suspect that impostors are targeting you, note that you cannot be searched without a written order from a state prosecutor.
Petty criminals are common in central La Paz and other destinations popular with tourists, e.g. Sagarnaga. They are a common danger, especially on buses and in crowded areas and we have received numerous reports of bags being stolen.
Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items, especially bankcards, in a safe location. Keep a copy of your passport, in case you lose the original, to facilitate a more rapid replacement. You should carry some form of identification at all times; a photocopy of your passport is sufficient. See Identification section for further details.
See our victims of crime abroad page.
See our River and Sea Safety page.
Be aware that illegal bars exist in Bolivia. You may be detained for questioning if caught at a clandestine establishment, particularly if drugs are found at its location.
Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine. In their efforts to control the production, the government have harsh penalties for those caught trafficking or in possession. The minimum sentence is eight years. Be very careful with your luggage and belongings and avoid any contact with prohibited drugs.
Be careful especially when carrying cameras or binoculars when travelling off the beaten track, particularly in coca-growing areas such as the Chapare and the Yungas.
Check before taking photographs of the local population.
Homosexuality 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.
See our Your Trip page.
Entry Requirements - Visas
As a British visitor to Bolivia, you do not need a visa. The length of stay permitted on entering Bolivia is 30 days. This can be extended for a further 60 days, at no extra charge, provided you apply before the end of the 30 day period at the Department of Immigration offices throughout the country. The Department of Immigration has imposed an annual limit for tourists of 91 days stay in Bolivia without a visa. If you want to stay longer seek advice from Bolivian Consulate or the Department of Immigration office in La Paz at Avenida Camacho No. 1468.
Entry Requirements - Passport validity
Passports should have a validity of at least six months from the date of arrival in Bolivia.
Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
For information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Bolivian Embassy in London.
Medical facilities in the largest cities are good and they are acceptable in the main tourist areas. Outside those areas facilities may not be to the standards expected.
Health - Bubonic Plague
As of 17 August 2010, there are reports of a suspected localised outbreak of bubonic plague in Apolo, in northern La Paz province.
Health - Dengue Fever
Dengue Fever is common to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. There were 7080 confirmed cases in Bolivia in 2009. In May 2010 the Ministry of Health reported 582 confirmed cases and one death so far this year as compared to 25 deaths in 2009. All Departments have been affected by Dengue Fever, Santa Cruz with 35% of cases, Beni with 26% of cases, La Paz with19% of cases and Tarija with16% of cases. Take extra precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.
Health - Yellow Fever
Foreigners entering areas, which have been designated 'high risk' for Yellow Fever need a valid Yellow Fever certificate. These areas include all of the regions of Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, and much of Cochabamba, Tarija and northern La Paz departments. The highland region of the country, including the cities of La Paz, Potosi and Oruro, Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni, is not affected. When outbreaks occur, the government sets up vaccination points at police checkpoints. At each of these, you may be vaccinated if you do not hold a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
The Bolivian authorities are requesting that all travellers should show valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificates
There is a high incidence of malaria in lowland tropical areas (Beni and Pando) and the area known as Chaco in the south (Yacuiba, Paracari). There have also been outbreaks of leptospirosis in rural areas of Chuquisaca.
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 7,900 adults aged 15 or over in Bolivia were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.2% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.
Seek medical advice before travelling to Bolivia and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
See our travel health page.
Floods and landslides, especially in mountainous areas, are a regular feature of the Bolivian rainy season, which runs from November to March. Roads are frequently impassable for days at a time. (See Local Travel section for the latest situation).
General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our travel insurance page. Some activities, such as mountain biking, are classified as hazardous and may be excluded in personal insurance policies.
If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our When Things Go Wrong page.
General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
Police and immigration officials sporadically carry out checks of tourist’s identification (including examining entry stamps and disembarkation cards). You should carry some form of identification at all times in case it is requested by the police or immigration. If you do not have any form of ID with you at the time of the request they may hold you for several hours whilst trying to confirm your identity. You can carry photocopies of the relevant pages from your passport, which are sufficient for these purposes, ensuring that you keep the original in a safe place. Should you lose your passport or other documents, the Consular Section of the British Embassy will do their best to help you with replacements. For this reason, you are advised to keep separately a photocopy of your passport and also register with the British Embassy (through LOCATE) on arrival.
General - Passports
The British Embassy in Bolivia does not have the facility to issue full passports. You are advised to check the validity of your passport and, if necessary, to renew it before travelling. Ensure that you enter next of kin details in the back page of your passport. The Embassy no longer accepts applications for new Full Validity Passports. Since 28 September 2009, applicants must submit their applications direct to the UK Passport Service for the Americas and Caribbean at the British Embassy in Washington. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for receipt of the new passport. If you lose a passport while in Bolivia, you must report this immediately to the police and obtain a police report. The British Embassy in La Paz is able to issue Emergency Travel Documents to facilitate onward travel in an emergency.
General - Money
Banking facilities are good in all of the main Bolivian cities. You can access your money via ATMs, which cater for Visa, Cirrus, and Mastercard.
General - Consular Assistance Statistics
30 British nationals required consular assistance in Bolivia in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010. for the following types of incident: three deaths; ten hospitalisations. During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (103 cases).