This snapshot, taken on
07/01/2011
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.
Advanced search
image
Travel & living abroad

South America and South Atlantic Islands

Bolivia

Flag of Bolivia
Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 06 January 2011

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary (removal of reference to General Strike) and Safety and Security - Local Travel - Blockades (removal of reference to negations with Civic Committee of Potosi). The overall level of the advice has not changed. There are no travel restrictions in place in Bolivia.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • There is a continual risk of public protests and strikes throughout Bolivia. Major roads can be blocked and public transport disrupted at very short notice. Although this means you will not be able to travel until the blockade is lifted, you should never try to cross a blockade due to the risk of violence. See Safety and Security - Local Travel.

  • The dispute in Potosi may flare up at any time.  Check news updates frequently and remain up to date on possible closure of key routes into and out of the cities of Potosi and Uyuni.

  • There is a risk of ‘express kidnappings’. Exercise caution when arriving in, and travelling around, Bolivia and be aware of the general risks of crime for visitors. Use a registered taxi firm if a taxi is required. See Safety and Security - Local Travel.

  • Road travel can be dangerous as a result of poor road conditions, local driving techniques and the condition of vehicles on the road. You should also be aware that weather conditions can seriously affect your ability to travel. See Safety and Security -  Local Travel - Road Travel.

  • Take extra precautions to prevent against mosquito bites because of the risk of Dengue Fever in Eastern departments. The Bolivian Government are now asking that foreigners travelling to areas away from the altiplano should have valid Yellow Fever certificates. See Health.

  • 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.

  • 30 British nationals required consular assistance in Bolivia in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010. See General - Consular Assistance Statistics. The British Embassy in La Paz does not issue full replacement passports. See General - Passports. You should register with the British Embassy using LOCATE.

  • You should carry a photocopy of your passport (including the entry stamp and disembarkation card) with you at all times in case it is requested by immigration officials or the police.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

Safety and security

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.

Safety and Security - Adventure Tourism
Bolivia offers a number of adventure activities, including mountain biking, salt flat tours and jungle expeditions. There are no government-implemented minimum standards for tour operators, so tourists should take care in choosing their operator, and check with recommendations from guide books and other travellers’ experiences. For mountain biking on the so-called 'Road of Death', ensure that the bicycles are in good condition, and that the guides are fully equipped with safety equipment and first-aid kits. check any exclusions to your travel insurance policy, to ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. When booking trips through tour operators, you are advised to use reputable companies.

Safety and Security - Prison Tours
The Embassy is aware that prison tours, particularly in San Pedro prison in La Paz, are widely advertised. These tours are against the prison rules. Bolivian prisons are guarded on the outside only - there are no police officers on guard within the prison walls, so if something should happen within the prison, the authorities could not guarantee your safety. As such, we advise against going on such tours due to the inherent danger present whilst within the prison. Bolivian authorities are aware that such tours exist and are making efforts to stop them.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
The
political situation in Bolivia means that there is a risk of public disturbances. Demonstrations, which could turn violent, can break out at short notice. Take care to avoid all demonstrations.

Social protest is the traditional way of gaining government attention to address local, regional and national issues of concern. Avoid all protests. Although most are peaceful, some can turn to violence. Strikes and demonstrations, of which there is a constant risk in Bolivia, can affect local travel including the interdepartmental bus routes.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Blockades
Up until 17 August, hundreds of tourists including British nationals were caught up in a 19 day blockade and unable to leave Potosi and Uyuni. The blockades have now been lifted.

Groups often use road blockades as a form of protest, and such blockades can arise with no warning. You should not to attempt to cross these blockades. There is a web-site (www.abc.gov.bo/vialidad) which gives up-to-date information on which roads are blocked.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
You will need an international driving licence to hire a car. You must carry your licence with you at all times when driving a vehicle.

During the rainy season (which runs from November to March) there is risk of roads being washed away or flooded. Check with the Bolivian road authority website (above) on the state of the roads.

There are moderate levels of traffic on both the main highways and unpaved roads. There is little control of vehicle road-worthiness and serious accidents do occur on the main tourist routes. Many drivers are poorly trained and commercial operators drive for well over the time permitted in comparison with European laws. Due to high levels of drinking and driving, there is a new law being prepared which has not yet come into effect. Some of Bolivia’s principal roads are paved, but of variable quality. Most roads are unpaved rough tracks, which are graded from time to time. 4-wheel drive vehicles are often the best means of transport, especially during the rainy season, which can make roads completely impassable for days. Broken-down vehicles with no warning lights are a frequent hazard on roads at night. 

In the main cities, taxis are plentiful and cheap (but see Crime section of this advice, relating to bogus taxi drivers). However many taxis do not meet European standards and rarely have seat belts. There have been a number of recent accidents involving public transport, especially long distance buses.

See our driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - River Travel
You can take boat trips on Lake Titicaca but you should be aware that the craft are often very basic.

See our River and Sea Safety page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Bolivia Country Profile

The political situation in Bolivia is tense and there is the risk that demonstrations and confrontations which have the potential to turn violent might break out at short notice. You should exercise caution and avoid large crowds. Border areas and other remote regions outside of urban centres can be subject to demonstrations which can flare up and be resolved at very short notice.

Local laws and customs

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

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.  

Health

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.

Natural disasters

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

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.

General - Identification
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).

Share this with:

Contacts

Bolivia, La Paz, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
Avenida Arce No.2732
Casilla (PO Box) 694

Telephone:

(591) (2) 243-3424

For emergencies outside working hours, contact the Embassy's duty officer mobile number 767 88822 (use prefix 591 if you are not dialing from Bolivia).

Fax:

(591) (2) 243-1073

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon–Thurs: 1230–1630 and 1730-2100
Fri: 1230–1730

Local Time:
Mon-Thurs: 0830-1230 and 1330-1700
Fri: 0830-1330

Website: http://ukinbolivia.fco.gov.uk/en/

register
 
Facebook - British abroad