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Latest travel advice for Bolivia including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-02-13T16:49:35.273+00:00: Latest update: Summary - removal of information and advice on water shortages affecting La Paz

UK health authorities have classified Bolivia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Social conflict is common in Bolivia and blockades may occur along the main roads. Public transport can be disrupted at very short notice and strikes may result in widespread road blockades, including on roads to and from airports. You should never try to cross a blockade. See Road travel and Road blockades. You should avoid large crowds and demonstrations.

There is a risk of ‘express kidnappings’. Take care when travelling around Bolivia, particularly when you first arrive. If you take a taxi, use a registered company. See Crime

18,300 British nationals visited Bolivia in 2015. Most visits are trouble free.

There is a low threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

Carry a photocopy of your passport, including the personal details, entry stamp and disembarkation card with you at all times in case it is requested by immigration officials or the police. See Local Laws and Customs

Parts of Bolivia, including La Paz are at high altitude. See Health

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

Be vigilant at all times while travelling around. There have been a number of reported crimes against foreign nationals.

When choosing your transport, use established companies and seek local advice.

Petty crime is common in central La Paz and other popular tourist destinations, on buses and in crowded areas. Don’t leave your bag or belongings unattended. Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items in a safe place.

There has been an increase in the number of robberies involving taxis in the city of Santa Cruz and La Paz. If you do use a taxi choose a ‘radio taxi’, which is identifiable by the telephone number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle’s roof. If possible, request a taxi by phone, make a note of the taxi’s registration number and telephone number before you set off. This type of taxi should carry no other passengers.

A list of taxi companies registered with the Mayor’s office in La Paz is available in this news article. According to the Mayor’s office, registered taxis display a sticker on their windscreen or windows.

Criminals sometimes impersonate police officers and act in collusion with bogus taxis to target foreigners. False police ID cards, uniforms and even false police stations have been used to fool victims. The criminal pretends to be a friendly tourist. A bogus police officer then approaches and asks for passports and other information. The victim is then persuaded to get into a taxi where he/she is robbed or taken to cash points to withdraw money.

Be vigilant and call local authorities if you suspect that impostors are targeting you. You can’t be searched without a written order from a state prosecutor. The Tourist Police toll-free number is 800-14-0081.

Beware of individuals offering help at taxi points and at bus terminals where thieves work in teams to distract their victims.

There is a general risk of ‘express kidnappings’ - short-term, opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash. Victims are normally selected at random and held for up to several days while criminals use stolen bank or credit cards. Foreign visitors are particularly vulnerable when entering Bolivia at overland border points with Peru, Chile and Argentina. If you are travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, try to use direct buses. Take particular care on arrival, especially in the Cementerio General, area in La Paz where a number of incidents have been reported. There have also been reports of similar incidents in the Sopocachi area of La Paz.

Take care around transport in tourist sites such as Rurrenabaque. Attacks on lone travellers taking motorbike taxis have been reported.

Female travellers should be vigilant inside clubs and hostels. Rape and sexual assault incidents have been reported. Be cautious if you’re approached by strangers and if possible, lock your room when you return to your hotel/hostel.

Petty crime is common in central La Paz and other popular tourist destinations like Sagarnaga Street, on buses and in other crowded areas.

Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items in a safe place.

Adventure Tourism

Bolivia offers a number of adventure activities, including mountain biking, salt flat tours and jungle expeditions. There are no official minimum standards for tour operators. Seek local advice and only use reputable companies. Check your travel insurance policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

For mountain biking on the so-called ‘Death Road’, from La Paz to Coroico through the Yungas Valley, make sure bicycles are in good condition and guides are fully equipped with safety equipment and first-aid kits.

Prison tours

Avoid prison tours. They are illegal and unsafe. There are no guarantees for your safety inside prison premises.

Road travel

You will need an International Driving Permit to hire a car. You must carry this with you at all times when driving.

Road travel can be dangerous due to poor road conditions, local driving techniques and the condition of vehicles on the road. There have been a number of recent accidents involving public transport, especially long distance buses, in which British nationals have been affected. Bus drivers drive for well over the time permitted in comparison with European laws.

Weather conditions can seriously affect your ability to travel. During the rainy season (November to March) there is risk of landslides and roads can be severely affected. Check with the Bolivian road authority website on the state of the roads and seek local advice before you set out.

There is little control of vehicle maintenance and serious accidents occur on the main tourist routes Some of Bolivia’s principal roads are paved, but of variable quality. Most roads are unpaved rough tracks. 4-wheel drive vehicles are often the best means of transport, especially during the rainy season. Broken-down vehicles with no warning lights are a frequent hazard on roads at night.

Many taxis and most of the bus companies don’t meet European standards and rarely have seat belts.

Road blockades

Groups often use road blockades as a form of protest, without warning. Don’t attempt to cross these blockades. The Bolivian road authority website gives up-to-date information on which roads are blocked.

Air Travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The rainy season may affect air travel; flights may be delayed or cancelled at short notice. Contact your airline to confirm your flight schedule.

A civil airline accident in 2013 at Riberalta airport in the Beni department highlighted a lack of safety and rescue capability in many of Bolivia’s airports, with airports outside the departmental capitals less likely to possess fire and rescue equipment.

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2008 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Bolivia.

River travel

Boat trips on Lake Titicaca are available, but the craft are often very basic. The same is true of boats used for river excursions in jungle areas.

Political situation

The political situation in Bolivia is unpredictable. There is a risk that demonstrations will turn violent at short notice. You should avoid large crowds. Border areas and other remote regions can also be subject to demonstrations.

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.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Illegal bars exist in Bolivia. You may be detained for questioning if you are caught at one of these, particularly if drugs are found within the premises.

Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine. There are harsh penalties for those caught trafficking or in possession. The minimum sentence is 8 years and prison conditions are very basic. Be very careful with your luggage and belongings and avoid any contact with illegal 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 local people.

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.

Police and immigration officials sometimes carry out ID checks. You can keep a photocopy of the pages from your passport containing your personal details and the Bolivian immigration stamps with you, and leave the original document in a safe place.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas for visitors

British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Bolivia. The length of stay permitted on entering Bolivia is initially 30 days. This can be extended for a further 60 days, at no extra charge, as long as you apply before the end of the 30 day period at one of the Department of Immigration offices throughout the country. The Department of Immigration has imposed an annual limit for tourists of 90 days in Bolivia without a visa. If you want to stay for a longer period seek advice from the Bolivian Embassy in London or the Department of Immigration office in La Paz at Avenida Camacho No. 1468.

Your passport must contain an entry stamp, otherwise you’ll have to pay a fine to leave. If you enter Bolivia overland make sure your passport is stamped on both sides of the border, with an exit stamp from the country you are leaving and an entry stamp on the Bolivian side - you may need to ask for directions to the immigration office. The British Embassy can’t intervene in immigration issues. Make sure you get an entry stamp when you arrive in Bolivia.

Residence permits and other types of visas

The Bolivian Immigration authority Dirección General de Migración) has introduced new procedures and requirements for British nationals applying for residence permits and other types of visas in Bolivia. New requirements now include a police certificate of criminal records from the UK, which you can get from the Association of Chief Police Officers website. If you need any documents from the UK, get them translated into Spanish and legalised at the Bolivian Embassy in London.

Visit the Bolivian Immigration authority for more information.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Bolivia.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bolivia. Your ETD must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Bolivia.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

UK health authorities have classified Bolivia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Yellow fever vaccine should be given to travellers 9 months of age and older travelling to 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 Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz and Tarija departments. Yellow fever vaccine may not be suitable for some individuals so you should seek further advice from your GP, practice nurse or private travel clinic.

Certain medications prescribed for personal use in the UK are treated as narcotics in Bolivia, with severe penalties for import or export without a valid prescription from a doctor. You should refer to the list of controlled substances that are considered narcotics in Bolivia. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from a doctor describing the medical condition and any prescribed drugs. If you bring medicines with you, make sure they are in their original containers and clearly labelled.

Foreign nationals aren’t entitled to free medical treatment in Bolivian public hospitals. Public hospitals tend to be crowded and often don’t meet UK standards. Private healthcare facilities that work with international insurance companies are available in major cities. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from a doctor describing the medical condition and any prescribed drugs. If you bring medicines with you, make sure they are in their original containers and clearly labelled.

Dengue Fever is common to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Rain and flooding can lead to an increase in dengue carrying mosquitoes, leaving affected areas more vulnerable to dengue breakouts. Malaria is also common in lowland tropical areas (Beni and Pando) and the area known as Chaco in the south (Yacuiba, Paracari).

Some areas have been designated as ‘high risk’ for yellow fever. 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.

Local authorities have declared a health alert in the department of Santa Cruz due to a number of confirmed cases of Chikungunya virus. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Parts of Bolivia, including La Paz are at high altitude. This factsheet includes advice on how to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and what to do if you develop symptoms.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 118 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Floods and landslides, especially in mountainous areas, are a regular feature of the rainy season, which runs from November to March. Roads are frequently impassable for days at a time.

Money

Banking facilities are good in all main Bolivian cities. ATMs accept Visa, Maestro, and Mastercard.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy La Paz

    Title:British Embassy, La Paz
    Email:
    Address:

    Avenida Arce No. 2732
    La Paz
    La Paz
    Bolivia

    Contact: Switchboard: (591 2) 2433424
    Facsmile: (591 2) 2431073
    Visiting:Visa Section opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 12:00
    Passport collection hours: Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 12:00
    All visa enquiries are dealt with by VFS Global. Please visit their website
    http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/bolivia,
    which contains all the relevant information about visas for Bolivian residents as well as contact information for the international visa enquiry centre.

    Consular Section opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:00. Appointment required, except in emergencies.
    For any emergency involving a British citizen during holidays or out-of-office-hours, please call our switchboard and your call will be properly re-directed.

    General enquiries
    BELaPaz@fco.gov.uk
    Consular enquiries
    bolivia.consulate@fco.gov.uk
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)

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The latest news, travel advice, and information for Bolivia, updated regularly for all British travellers by the UK Foreign Office. Including British consulate and embassy addresses in Bolivia (La Paz).

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