25 Most Common Tourist Scams in Bolivia

Safety at La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosi, Quime, Santa Cruz, Sorata, Sucre, Tarija, Chacaltaya, Isla del Sol, Chacaltaya, Tiwanaku, Yungas
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Bolivia

Salar Uyuni

 

Bolivia is a beautiful country in South America that is bisected by the majestic Andes.

The country is also the home of the amazing Incan and pre-Incan empires filled with traditional colonial architecture, lush scenery and colorful Latin American culture.

Some of the main highlights here include trekking Inca trails, the gorgeous Lake Titicaca which straddles Peru and Bolivia as well as the vibrant capital La Paz and cities like Santa Cruz.

Unfortunately when it comes to crime and scams, Bolivia has the same issues as other countries in South America and one has to be careful around here.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself here!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Isla del Sol scams

Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol. Source: boldtravel.com

 

How it works:

To cross the Isla del Sol trail, you only have pay 10 Bolivianos at the start and 5 at the end.

However, the locals in between will go to great lengths to get as much money out of you as they can.

Some examples include:

  • One tourist tells of how someone tried charging him a fee for a rock, which he had simply picked up from the ground.
  • Another reported being pressured to pay after taking a picture of a wandering Lama.
  • In the middle, there are also many scammers who try to sell you “tickets” to proceed to the next part of the trail.

 

What to do:

Ignore these touts, though you have to be forceful in calling their bluff and stand your ground as they will continually harass you.

 

2. Fraudulent prison tour

 

How it works:

If you are looking forward to a San Pedro Prison tour, think again.

This notorious prison became famous following the book “Marching Powder” by Rusty Young.

Previously, tourists could take part in guided tours, although they were illegal and dangerous. However, reports indicate that the Prison is now completely off limits.

If you encounter locals claiming that they could get you in, that is most likely a scam!

 

What to do:

Decline the offer.

 

3. Fraudulent tour operators

 

How it works:

In Uyuni, lots of tour companies con visitors with false details about the tour, overcharging you and ultimately not delivering as promised.

Cases have been reported of people spending up to 3 days in the cold desert due to “car trouble”.

Some guides have been also reported to steal from tourists while others drive when drunk.

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tours and activities operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Bolivia with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

4. Fake tour guides

El Choro Inca Trail

El Choro Inca Trail. Source: incaworldbolivia.com

 

How it works:

Many visitors to Bolivia want to trek on the Inca trails as well as Rurrenabaque.

There have been reports however of visitors hiring a guide, only to be taken out into the middle of nowhere and then robbed.

 

What to do:

It is better to travel on these trails with a guide as it is more dangerous to hike alone.

You can find a licensed, reputable tours and activities operator which via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Bolivia with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

To determine if an operator is legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

Ways to verify an operator include:

  • Check their website, do they have a physical office, can other tourists vouch for them?
  • Ask them to take you to their office, get their business card, meet their colleagues for verification, etc.

 

5. Overcharging vendors

Witches Market

Witches Market. Source: sensingsouthamerica.files.wordpress.com

 

How it works:

Lots of vendors will attempt to fleece you by adding 100% mark-ups for items without any price tag.

Some will overcharge you even when the items come with price tags!

 

What to do:

To find out what is a fair price to pay, you can do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff.

If you do not wish to bargain, alternative options are to:

  • Use local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Fixed price shops: slightly higher prices than average, but you won’t be ripped off.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest day tours platform globally and in Bolivia): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

6. Black market junk

 

How it works:

At black markets, vendors will show you a genuine piece of equipment such as a phone, camera, laptop, or speakers selling at a cheap price.

That is the display item however.

Once you make payment, you will get a “brand new box” wrapped in cellophane. Once you get home however, you will discover that the box has been packed with plastic and junk.

 

What to do:

Avoid buying any electronic items from suspect sources in the black market. If the price is too good to be true, it generally is.

If you do however, check the item before leaving.

Ideally, only buy at licensed or reputable shops especially for big ticket items.

You can find these by doing some online research or by asking your hotel / hostel staff.

If you find this too time-consuming, other options available include:

  • Using local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest platform of day tours globally and in Bolivia): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

7. Pickpocketing

La Paz monument

La Paz monument

 

How it works:

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

Hotspots include:

  • Cities: La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Copacabana, Oruro
  • Crowded streets: Sagarnaga Street, San Francisco Church vicinity, historical Jaen Street), Calle Santa Cruz
  • Bus stations and on buses: near El Cementario
  • Festivals in Copacabana
  • Crowded markets: La Cancha

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Further, make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch, large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

8. Spilling scam

Bolivia town

Bolivia town

 

How it works:

A scam that can be found every around the world (e.g. US, Italy), this is one common scam you will find in Bolivia.

Usually it involves a scammer squirting mustard or ketchup on your clothes and then pointing out the stain.

They will then ask you to put your jacket and bags down and offer to clean you up.

Even if you were to say no, they will start rubbing your clothes as a way of distracting you.

While this is happening an accomplice will take the opportunity to steal from you or grab items like electronics or your bag.

This scam is prevalent both in areas like markets as well as restaurants or cafes where the scammers pose as well dressed patrons.

A twist on this scam is people throwing sand at you and then brushing it off and stealing from you.

 

What to do:

If you are approached by anyone who tries to tell you that you have something on our clothes then make sure they don’t touch you.

Try to get to a safe space while checking that your valuables are secure. Then, clean up the stain yourself and do not accept help.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, do arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to make it impossible to steal from you.

Finally, get a good good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers losses of valuables.

 

9. The dropped money scam

 

How it works:

This is another prevalent scam in Bolivia that takes place in areas such as Saranaga Street in La Paz.

It begins when a scammer drops some money in front of you and pretends not to notice. Another scammer will pick it up and then hand it to you as if it belongs to you.

When you take it the other scammer will come back and accuse you of stealing it and an argument will ensue.

As you are distracted another accomplice will then pick your pockets.

A twist on this scam is a local offering to share the money with you or encouraging you to pull out your own wallet to see if the money is yours.

Either way the aim of the scam is to distract and then steal from you.

 

What to do:

If you see someone drop money in front of you or you are offered money in the street then simply refuse and walk away.

Do not become involved in a discussion about the money and do not accept anything offered to you as this is almost certainly a scam.

 

10. Medical bill extortion

 

How it works:

There have been reports of patients getting extorted by rogue medical clinics.

What these clinics do is to pressure patients to hand over passports before a medical treatment, and then extorting patients for more money before they hand their passports back.

 

What to do:

Do not give up your passport readily to anyone.

Also, do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended medical clinics to go to if need be.

 

11. Drink and food spiking

Bolivia nightlife

Bolivia nightlife

 

How it works:

Scammers will lace drinks with drugs that will render you incapacitated and then take you to an isolated place or back to your hotel room and will then rob you.

 

What to do:

Do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you, or to leave it unattended.

Canned or bottled drinks are recommended as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.

Also, do not flaunt your valuables. Leave them in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe which you can further secure with hotel safety tools.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Express kidnappings

 

How it works:

‘Express kidnappings’ are a problem all over South America (e.g. Peru, Colombia) including Bolivia.

Usually these are carried out by criminals posing as taxi drivers who then drive you to an ATM and force you to withdraw money over several days (due to daily withdrawal limit) before releasing you.

Hotspots to be wary at include:

  • Border areas of Bolivia with Peru, Chile and Argentina.
  • Route from Copacabana to La Paz.
  • Cementerio General and the Sopocachi area of La Paz.
  • Rurrenabaque where motorbike taxis sometimes also carry out express kidnappings.

 

What to do:

Do not use unlicensed taxis in Bolivia and stick to radio taxis at all times.

  • Licensed taxis have a sticker in the window and the name of the company and phone number displayed on the roof.
  • Note that it is common practice for taxis to pick up other passengers even when hired which can be unsafe – make it clear to the driver that you do not want them to pick up any other passengers en route to your destination
  • Official taxis: Magnifico Taxis (+591 2 2410410); La Paz Taxis (+591 2 2221212); Gold Taxis: (+591 2 2722722).

It may also be a good idea to keep a separate bank account just for traveling:

  • Do not keep too much cash in there.
  • Only carry a bank card of that account so that even if kidnapped or if the card is stolen, you would not have much to lose.

Further, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

2. Longhauling taxis

Bolivia driving

Bolivia driving. Source: theculturetrip.com

 

How it works:

There are rogue drivers here who bring you on a much longer path by pretending to misunderstand your destination, or by driving you into traffic jams.

Sometimes though, drivers do take longer paths, but that is to avoid traffic jams.

 

What to do:

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to. More prominent landmarks around your destination can be mentioned.

During the ride, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.

To tell if you have been taken for a ride, you can also estimate a fair price of any route by checking:

  • Use an online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • Taxi booking apps like Uber, Easy Taxi, Celutaxi.

If you need to seek recourse, take a photo of the car plate number and of the driver’s license to report to the cab company.

 

3. Overcharging taxis

Bolivia taxi

Bolivia taxi. Source: Flickr – Kyle MacDonald

 

How it works:

Taxis in Bolivia are usually not equipped with meters. As such it is normal practice to negotiate the fare before you set off on your journey.

Many taxis however, even reputable ones, may try to inflate the fare as they guess that you do not know the standard price to your destination.

 

What to do:

Always negotiate the fare (currency, price for everyone and not per pax) before getting into a taxi.

You can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Uber, Easy Taxi, Celutaxi.

Take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

If you find this too much of a hassle, you can also consider:

  • Getting a rental car from AutoEurope – over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee.
  • Arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like Viator (largest globally and in Bolivia).

 

4. Fake bus station officials

La Paz bus terminal

La Paz bus terminal. Source: boliviatravelsite.com

 

How it works:

Often as you wait to board a bus the driver will chat with you and will be extremely friendly.

As you are about to board the bus an official will ask to inspect your bag and may say that he works for the bus company or is a plain clothes police officer.

The driver will tell you that this is standard procedure on all buses and will expect you to believe them as they have already gained your trust.

The official will then say that you have fake currency with you and will confiscate it. He may even demand a fine (bribe) from you.

 

What to do:

It is not standard procedure to search passengers before they board or disembark from a bus in Bolivia.

As such you will know that this is a scam and the best thing to do is call the police and ask for a uniformed officer to come to the scene.

 

5. Bag theft

Bolivia bus

Bolivia bus. Source: drinkteatravel.com

 

How it works:

Like in Ecuador, luggage theft is common on buses particularly in cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz.

Some buses on the border with Chile and Peru and in Copacabana and Desaguadero are also vulnerable to luggage theft which can take several forms:

  • Scammers wait for you to fall asleep and then steal your luggage from an overhead compartment.
  • Or they use a distraction technique.
  • There are also reports of buses being held up and robbed at gunpoint.

 

What to do:

To make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags, here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, make sure to use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Snatch theft

La Paz streets

La Paz streets. Source: worldofwanderlust.com

 

How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

Hotspots include:

  • Sopocachi and Rurrenabaque in La Paz.
  • Tourist areas such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz.

 

What to do:

At crowded places, even seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Do not carry valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

2. Hotel tax

Bolivia city

Bolivia city. Source: worldofwanderlust.com

 

How it works:

In Bolivia, foreign tourists are not required to pay the 13% IVA hotel tax.

This is because the hotels themselves are only required to pay this tax for Bolivian guests and not for foreigners.

However, most hotels in La Paz will slyly add this tax to your bill, so you get a 13% additional charge on your bill.

 

What to do:

Threaten to report the hotel to the authorities (tourist police) – they will normally drop the tax from your bill if you do so.

This site (Trans-Americas Journey) has helpfully put together a PDF (from the Bolivian Tax Authority) which you can show to any hotel which tries to charge you this tax.

 

3. Sob story

 

How it works:

The distressed traveller sob story is quite common in La Paz and comes from different persons in different ways.

One involves a wild-eyed, shaved or bald Peruvian claiming to be from New York.

He comes with stories that range from just getting robbed or just getting out of prison, all in efforts to get some money from you.

Another one involves a woman in her mid-age who claims to be Canadian who tries the same trick.

 

What to do:

Ignore. If you want to help, it’s better to donate to established charities instead.

 

4. Drug mule

 

How it works:

There are cases of this where foreigners who have made acquaintances through online dating sites have unwittingly become a drug mule.

Their acquaintance asks that you help him / her by coming to Bolivia to pick up something for them such as a legal document or a piece of luggage.

That is where the illegal stuff gets hidden and if you are caught, you can end up in a Bolivian jail.

 

What to do:

Avoid such requests for help.

 

5. Corrupt police officers

 

How it works:

Unfortunately corruption is a big problem in Bolivia and this applies to real police officers.

One major reason is due to low pay, which even caused a police mutiny back in 2012!

Some may try to search you and then accuse you of a minor crime to elicit a bribe.

It is illegal for the police to search you in Bolivia however without a written order from a state prosecutor.

Traffic police officers are in on the act as well, and may accuse you of driving too fast / too slow or using a phone while driving.

 

What to do:

Make it clear that you know that you can’t be searched without a written order and ask to be taken to the nearest police station to settle the matter.

Often this will be enough for the police officer to drop the issue and let you leave.

Also, hide your cash and valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This may allow you to negotiate a bribe down when you show that you have not much cash on you.

 

6. Fake police scam

 

How it works:

You may encounter this at La Paz and Cochabamba.

Generally you will first be approached by a scammer posing as a local / tourist who engages you in conversation.

Next, scammers dressed as policemen will appear, accuse you both of engaging in an illegal activity and ask for your passport or to search your belongings.

The accomplice will comply and pressure you to do so. Once you hand anything over, they will go through it and steal any valuables they can find.

Another twist on this scam is for the fake police to say they need to take you to the police station, but they are actually working with fraudulent taxis.

When you get in the taxi with the fake police officer you will be driven to a secluded location and then robbed.

 

What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This way, the scammers may simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash.

 

7. The fake tourist scam

Bolivia crowded streets

Bolivia crowded streets. Source: boliviainmotion.wordpress.com

 

How it works:

Fake tourists are also a problem in Bolivia. It is usually just an opening for different scams, such as:

First variation:

  • In this scam, someone pretending to be a tourist will approach and chat with you.
  • Once they have gained your trust they will suggest meeting a friend and invite you to their house.
  • When you get to the home however you will be robbed of your possessions.

Second variation

  • When you are talking to your new friend fake police officers will ask to search you and may find drugs on you new ‘friend’.
  • They will then say that they need to arrest both of you if you do not pay a large fine.

 

What to do:

If you meet a fellow ‘tourist’ who is extremely friendly and keen for you to visit the home of a local then this could be a scam.

As such it is better to simply politely refuse.

 

8. Rigged ATM

Signs of a rigged ATM

Signs of a rigged ATM

 

How it works:

Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters, look out for red flags of a rigged ATM and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

9. Fake currency

Bolivian Bolivianos

Bolivian Bolivianos. Source: globalexchange.es

 

How it works:

Fake currency is an issue in Bolivia and there are many counterfeit notes in circulation.

Often the source of counterfeit money in Bolivia is fraudulent money changers that operate on the streets.

 

What to do:

The best way to avoid fake currency is to make sure that you only change money at a reputable money changer such as a bank or a large hotel.

Avoid money changers on the streets as it is difficult detect if the money is fake just by touching or examining it.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not meant to be a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

 

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Bolivia map

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Bolivia. Source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: increasing. Though watch out more for petty crime and scams described earlier.
  • Hazards: landmines along Bolivia – Chile border (planted in 1970s, 80% cleared as of 2017).
  • Hotspots:
    • Chapare and Los Yungas Regions: organized criminal groups associated with coca growing / drug trafficking near Coroico and Carnavi cities.
    • Pando and Beni in Santa Cruz: drug related crime.
    • Borders with Argentina, Chile, Peru: express kidnappings.
  • Terrorism: no recent history, but should not be taken for granted.
  • Civil unrest: protests, strikes and illegal roadblocks (roads in border areas such as Bolivia – Peru border; roads to airport; to Oruro, Uyuni, Santa Cruz) occur regularly.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, hotspots, travelling alone at night, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.

When dealing with roadblocks:

  • If you have a flight, check with your airline if there are any delays to your flight schedule.
  • Should you encounter one, do not cross it.
  • If going on a road trip, stock up on food, medicine and warm clothing as roadblocks can occur without warning.

Stay alert at these hotspots of violent crime:

  • Cities:
    • La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba:
  • Transportation:
    • Avoid Copacabana–Desaguadero route after 2 p.m. Take direct bus if travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, to avoid Desaguadero border crossing.
    • La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal (located on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte).
    • Coronilla Hill in Cochabamba, next to the main bus terminal.
    • Santa Cruz bus/train terminal.
    • Taxi areas in Santa Cruz and La Paz.
  • Near clubs and hostels:
    • Sexual assault.

 

2. Medical care

hospital de clinicas la paz bolivia

Hospital de clinicas la paz bolivia. Source: paginasiete.bo

 

How it works:

Medical care is adequate in large cities (private facilities), though not equipped for serious medical conditions and are limited in rural areas.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, schistosomiasis.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: HIV, tuberculosis.
  • Others: altitude sickness (many areas above 2,500 m).

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.
  • Medical evacuation is difficult as many air ambulances cannot fly into La Paz due to high altitude (3,660 m).

Vaccinations to consider:                                                

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, yellow fever.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Dry season: May to October, severe droughts can occur
    • Regular running water in neighborhoods in La Paz, Potosi, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, Oruro may become limited
  • Rainy season: November to March, can trigger flooding and landslides,
    • Roads especially mountainous areas may become inaccessible.
    • Uyuni Salt Flats is difficult to navigate.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reports, weather forecasts and sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Road travel here can be dangerous (especially rural areas), due to these reasons:

  • Poorly maintained roads, potholes and besides some principal roads, roads are generally unpaved.
  • Lack of stop signs, road markings and lighting.
  • Disregard of traffic laws.
  • Poorly maintained vehicles, overloaded vehicles.
  • Tired or intoxicated commercial drivers.
  • Pedestrian and livestock on the roads.
  • Many roads can be affected by flooding during the rainy season.

Public transportation:

  • Options include buses, trains, mini-buses, shared taxis.
  • Buses are generally poorly maintained, not safely driven and frequently involved in accidents.

Other transportation:

  • At Lake Titicaca and for river excursions in jungle areas, boats used are rather basic.

 

What to do:

Make sure your travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) covers travel accidents.

Driving:

  • Only get a rental car via legitimate platforms (e.g. AutoEurope – over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee).
  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up

Public transportation:

  • To move around, use radio taxis instead of public transport and unlicensed taxis.
  • In mountainous areas, use a four wheel drive vehicle.
  • For inter-city buses, use reputable operators.

Boat rides and jungle expeditions, use reputable operators from:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Bolivia with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Bolivia police

Bolivia police. Source: Flickr – porkandcorn

 

  • Police: 110
  • Tourist police: 022225016
  • Fire brigade: 119
  • Ambulance: 118

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