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Travel Security Advice for Bolivia

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America.  Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in quality.  The capital is La Paz, accessible by Bolivia’s international airport in El Alto.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bolivia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

Effective December 1, 2007, U.S. citizens seeking to enter Bolivia as tourists must have an entry visa.  Travelers may make application for Bolivian tourist visas by mail or in person at Bolivian consulates in the U.S., as well as at Bolivian ports of entry, such as at Bolivia’s international airports and at land border crossings. Bolivian tourist visas are valid for five years from the date of issuance and allow the bearer to enter the country three times in a year for a cumulative stay of not more than ninety days per year. The cost of the tourist visa is US$135.

A tourist applying for their visa at Bolivian consulates in the U.S. can pay the US$135 fee in cash, by deposit to the Bolivian consulate’s bank account or by money order and must submit the following: a Bolivian visa application form with a 4x4 centimeters color photograph, a passport with an expiration date of not less than six months, evidence of a hotel reservation or a letter of invitation in Spanish, proof of economic solvency (credit card, cash or a current bank statement), and an International Vaccination Certificate for yellow fever.

Tourists applying for their visa at a port of entry such as Bolivia’s international airports and land border crossings must pay this fee in cash to immigration authorities.  In addition to the US$135 fee, the applicant must present a passport with an expiration date of not less than six months, evidence of a hotel reservation or a letter of invitation in Spanish, proof of economic solvency (credit card, cash or a current bank statement), and an International Vaccination Certificate for yellow fever.  It is recommended to have the Bolivian visa application form with a 4x4 centimeter color photograph as well, as there have been instances where airlines will not allow travelers to board a flight to Bolivia without this.

Please visit the Embassy of Bolivia web site, under Servicios Consulares, for the most current visa information.

U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz or at the Consular Agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.  The new passport together with the original police report of the loss or theft must be presented at a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart.   For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy’s web site.

An exit tax of US$24 is charged when departing Bolivia by air.  This information is subject to change and should be verified through the Bolivian embassy or nearest consulate. Travelers with Bolivian citizenship or residency pay an additional fee upon departure.  While the Bolivian government does not currently require travelers to purchase round-trip air tickets in order to enter the country, some airlines have required travelers to purchase round-trip tickets prior to boarding aircraft bound for Bolivia.  Some tourists arriving by land report that immigration officials did not place entry stamps in their passports, causing problems at checkpoints and upon departure.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS WHO ARE BOLIVIAN CITIZENS OR RESIDENTS:

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian government requires that minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a travel permit issued by the Juzgado del Menor. To obtain the permit, the parent(s) or legal guardian must present a copy of the minor’s birth certificate, a current photograph, and sign the authorization at the Juzgado del Menor. If one or the two parents are not present to sign the travel permit at the Juzgado del Menor, written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian specifically granting permission to obtain the permit to travel alone with one parent or with a third party is required.  When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization.

If documents are prepared in the United States, the documents must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian embassy or consulate within the United States.  If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required.  This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

The new visa requirement states that unaccompanied minors traveling to Bolivia must present an official Parental Authorization and Consent Certificate duly provided by the appropriate authorities.  Until the Government of Bolivia provides further specifics on this document, we recommend that all unaccompanied minors to Bolivia carry a letter of permission from their parents or legal guardians authorizing travel.

The country-wide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110.  The corresponding number for the fire department is 119.  The National Tourism Police have offices in several cities throughout Bolivia which provide free assistance to tourists.  These services may include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables.  National Tourism Police locations and/or telephone numbers include:

• La Paz - Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, Planta Baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-5016, open 24 hours per day, seven days a week. 
• Cochabamba - Plaza 14 de Septiembre, Edificio Prefectura, tel. (4) 451-0023, open 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week.
• Santa Cruz – (3) 336-9595
• Oruro – (2) 525-0144
• Chuquisaca – 800-1164
• Tarija – (4) 663-9011
• Beni – none available
• Pando – (3) 842-4418
• Potosi – 738-57963 (This is a cell phone; there is no permanent telephone at the station.)

Protests, strikes, and other civic actions may occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level.  This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other major political events.  While protest actions generally begin peacefully, the potential for violence exists and is typically exacerbated by protesters' alcohol consumption.  The police have used tear gas to break up protests.  In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they have reacted with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks, and occasionally, have used explosives.

The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned.  Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.  Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Numerous roadblocks and demonstrations have led to the disruption of service at the El Alto Airport in La Paz, the Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz, and the airport in Trinidad. These incidents involved the cancellation and/or diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers.  U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service into and out of La Paz and other airports.  U.S. citizens should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates.

U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to “run” a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm.  Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances.  Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water.  The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least a two-week supply of drinking water and canned food at home in case roadblocks affect supplies.  For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) web.  That web site includes a Spanish language version.

U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591) (2) 216-8246 or the U.S. Consular Agencies in Cochabamba at (591) (4) 411-6313 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. Consular Agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  Registration may be done online and in advance of travel.  Information on registering may be found at the Department of State's travel registration web site.

Increased political and social tensions in Bolivia have recently led to violent protests and marches throughout Bolivia.  In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto.  These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba, and other towns and villages in the Altiplano.  In January 2007, political and social strife in Cochabamba led to violent confrontations, resulting in three confirmed deaths and over one hundred injured.  A U.S. citizen was among those injured.  In November 2007, there were serious violent disturbances in Sucre which left hundreds injured and claimed the lives of three individuals.

In the Chapare region, between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and the Yungas region, northeast of La Paz, violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.  Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests.  In June 2008 Chapare cocaleros expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from the region, arguing that it conspired against the Bolivian government, thereby increasing the potential for hostility against U.S. citizens in this region.  U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions should maintain a very low profile, take security precautions, and are encouraged to check with the American Citizens Service unit of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel.

In September 2008, escalating civil unrest led to demonstrations and blockades in the departments of Beni, Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, Pando and Tarija.  Road access to the airports of Trompillo and Viru Viru in Santa Cruz were blocked, and the airports in Riberalta, Trinidad, and Guayaramerín in the department of Beni were closed by civic groups.  Civic groups in Santa Cruz took over and ransacked government buildings, destroying many U.S. passports pending service at Bolivian immigration offices.  The Consular Agencies in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba were closed temporarily.  The Bolivian government declared the U.S. ambassador persona non grata.and for over a month, the U.S. Embassy allowed non-essential personnel and family members to leave Bolivia at U.S. government expense.  The Embassy encouraged all U.S. citizens to consider leaving Bolivia.  Security concerns led to the temporary suspension of Peace Corps activities in Bolivia, the removal of all volunteers, and the closure of most of its offices. The Bolivian government subsequently expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Bolivia as of January 2009.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of StateBureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Travelers interested in the most recent information provided to U.S. citizens who are registered with the Embassy should visit the U.S. Embassy La Paz.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crimes, such as pick-pocketing, assaults following ATM withdrawals, and theft from parked vehicles, occur with some frequency in Bolivia.  U.S. citizens have also had backpacks, passports and other property stolen at bus terminals or while traveling on buses as well as at internet cafes and in other situations where the U.S. citizen is distracted or the property left unattended.  Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common.  Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized.

An increasing problem is when travelers enter a hailed taxi with all the usual markings, yet within a few blocks the taxi pulls over, one or two men jump in the back, the travelers are tied up, sometimes beaten, robbed, and forced to withdraw money with their ATM card.  In one recent incident, the victims were held overnight so money could be withdrawn both days from the ATM and one of the victims was raped.  Therefore, it is recommended that visitors call radio taxis rather than flagging a taxi from the street, or check with a hotel to see if there are registered drivers parked outside.

The Coronilla Hill, a Cochabamba landmark adjacent to the main bus terminal and near several markets, hostels, and restaurants, has become an increasingly dangerous place for tourists and local citizens alike.  The local police, tourist authorities, and press have declared the area off limits and cautioned people to enter the area at their own peril.  U.S. citizens have been assaulted in the area.  The police have made several sweeps of the area in an attempt to bring the population of street people, most of whom are reportedly drug addicts and alcohol abusers, under control.  Nonetheless, incidents of crime continue.  Police reports indicate that the thieves in that area have gone from purse snatching and burglary to increasingly violent assaults on passersby.  The Embassy therefore recommends that U.S. citizens avoid this area.

Beginning in June 2007, the U.S. Embassy began receiving reports of U.S. citizens traveling by bus from Copacabana to La Paz being kidnapped and robbed of their ATM cards and other valuables.  This crime reportedly involves U.S. citizens taking an evening bus from Copacabana.  While the bus is scheduled to stop at the La Paz bus terminal, the driver will stop short of that location, typically near the General Cemetery late at night.  Disembarking and disoriented passengers then have little option but to hail a waiting taxi.  Thieves in collusion with the taxi driver enter the taxi to blindfold and coerce the victim(s) into surrendering cash, cameras, ATM cards, and other valuables.  U.S. citizens traveling from Copacabana should try to arrive during daylight hours, verify the final destination, and buy tickets directly at the Copacabana bus terminal rather than from third parties.

Bolivian police state that there are several organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified. There have been reports of “fake police” -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists including U.S. citizens.  Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the “fiscal” or prosecutor to detain a suspect.  Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal.  The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present.  If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz or nearest U.S. Consular Agency (in Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).

According to press reports, criminals using the “fake police” method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists, including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz.  The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white car with taxi markings offer taxi services to the potential victim.  They focus on European/U.S. tourists who are not wearing a traditional “trekker” backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags.  A few blocks after the potential victim boards the “taxi” another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the “taxi” with the potential victim.  With all the accomplices then in place, the fake police stop the “taxi,” search the passengers, and rob the victim.  As part of this scam, the fake police may take the victim to a fake police station.

A similar variation also introduces a “tourist” to the victims.  This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street.  The “tourist” will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner.  After a period of time, the fake police intercept the victims and the “tourist.”  At this point, the fake police discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the “tourist.”  The entire group is then taken to the fake police station, and the fake police seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims.  The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.

Another technique again introduces a “tourist” to the victims.  This “tourist” can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims.  This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the “tourist” is to build the trust of the victims.  Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the “tourist” suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi).  The “taxi” picks up the victims and the “tourist” and delivers the group to a safe house in the area.  At this point the victims are informed that they have been kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.

Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card.  The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006.  During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.

In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility.  The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing.  Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid.  All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise caution.  Visitors should be suspicious of all “coincidences” that can happen on a trip.  If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.

Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. There has been a remarkable increase of stolen passports in the past year.  Visitors should always keep passports, air tickets and other valuable items in a safe location and carry photocopies of relevant pages from passports since visitors are required to carry some form of identification at all times.  Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, internet café, etc.

Many tourists traveling to and from the Uyuni Salt Plains by bus have also reported that the assistant to the bus driver walks around the bus before departure forcing travelers to place their backpacks and other carry-ons in the overhead rack for the duration of the trip.  Upon arrival to destination the travelers realize that their belongings have been stolen from the overhead rack.
In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance.  While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees.  In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area.  To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag.

At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi.  The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi.  While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables.  This is particularly true in “choke and rob” assaults where the victims, including U.S. citizens, reported being choked from behind until they lost consciousness and later awoke to find all of their possessions gone.  These assaults have happened during both day and night.  Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.

In 2001, female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tour guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region.  Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication, drugs, or drinks from unreliable sources.  The Embassy also has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico and hikers on Inca trails are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consular agency.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consular agency for assistance.  The embassy/consular agency staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, report stolen credit cards, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Bolivia is 110.  It is unlikely there will be an English speaker available, but the National Tourism Police in certain cities may provide English-language assistance in filing police reports for victims of crime.  See our Safety & Security Section above for further information.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Customs Information.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Throughout the country, both personal hygiene and sanitary practices in food handling are faA U.S. citizen who enters Bolivia with a tourist visa cannot get a different type of visa while in Bolivia.  S/he will need to go to the nearest Bolivian embassy or consulate to apply for a different type of visa.  Please see ourr below U.S. standards.  As a result, gastrointestinal illness is widespread among both local people and visitors.  Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality.  Ambulance services are limited to non-existent.  Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions.  Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia and prescription and over-the-counter medications are widely available.  Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free.  However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem.

Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses.  Dengue is endemic throughout Eastern Bolivia, including in Santa Cruz city.  Over 30,000 cases were reported in February 2009, representing a significantly increased incidence and part of a region-wide trend.  Although dengue is usually not a fatal disease, there have been a small number of fatalities.  News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.

High-altitude health risks: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information:  The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level.  Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi.  The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, even for those in excellent health.

Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudesCoca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia.  Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.

Women who know they are pregnant should not travel to these extreme altitudes.  The hypoxia (lack of oxygen) will put the growing baby at an unacceptable risk.   Those women who get pregnant at altitude should not leave the area for more than two weeks if they plan to return.

All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia upon arrival at high altitude.  Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate.  Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes.  Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival, and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: Thirty percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.  U.S. citizens with this condition have required urgent medical evacuation from La Paz to the U.S.

Heart disease: Any person who has heart disease, or known risk factors for heart disease, should consult their doctor about their risks of ascending to altitude, and whether any testing of their heart would be in order.  Even U.S. citizens who adjust well initially to the altitude in La Paz have subsequently suffered heart attacks and been hospitalized.

Lung disease: Anyone with emphysema should consult closely with their doctor and seriously reconsider coming to La Paz or surrounding, high-altitude areas.  Anyone with asthma should consult their doctor; mild asthma may be manageable at high altitude, but it is important to remember that emergency care and intensive respiratory care are very, very limited even in the city of La Paz, and are absent outside the city.  U.S. citizens with respiratory ailments have previously been medically evacuated from La Paz to other countries to receive medical treatment.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelersincluding detailed country-specific health information .

Bolivia has no HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Bolivia.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

U.S. citizens planning to drive in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver’s license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.

Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous.  Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved.  Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal.  Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm.  For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended.  Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out.  Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.

The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service.  Bus accidents, at times attributed to drunk drivers or mechanical failures, have caused scores of deaths and severe injuries.  In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, and on the Yungas road.  The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world.  Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intercity transportation.

From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe, but assaults have occurred and are increasing in frequency.  Please refer to the CRIME section for more information.  Petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur regularly.  For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to call radio taxis rather than flagging a taxi from the street, or check with a hotel to see whether there are registered drivers parked outside whenever possible.  U.S. citizens taking unlicensed taxis have reported being robbed and assaulted.

Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities.  Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law.  The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police.  Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. You may also visit the city of La Paz Municipal Government web site.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA's safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Bolivia.  U.S. citizens without internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consular agency.  By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the embassy or consular agency to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in la Paz is located at 2780 Avenida Arce, between Calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8 a.m.-5 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808. The U.S. Embassy in La Paz is open for U.S. citizen walk-in services Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and Friday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m., except U.S. and Bolivian holidays. Questions should be directed to the American Citizen Services email address or the general Consular Section email address.

There are two consular agencies in Bolivia which provide limited services to U.S. citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.

Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and on Friday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.

Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at 1122 Pando Avenue and Plaza de la Recoleta, Saal Building, Suites B and C (First Floor).  The Consular Agency may be reached by telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 448-9119. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open to the public Monday through Friday from 08:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bolivia dated December 2007, to update sections on Safety and Security, Crime, and Information for Victims of Crime.

 

 


 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information pertaining to Bolivia HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

Regards

The SW Team.........

 

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