Dear travelers: I'm the owner of BoliviaBella.com. Read more about me
here. Safety, crime and other negative things are the last topics I'd like to talk to you about. As you read through the pages of our site you'll realize that it's very different from other websites about Bolivia. Every page has been written either by me, or by others who actually live and work in Bolivia. You'll also notice that we make it a point to highlight the beautiful and positive aspects of Bolivia. But I am aware that BoliviaBella.com is one of the most highly trusted sites about Bolivia for a reason: we tell it like it is. So it's important to me that you also know about the safety concerns you should take into account when you travel Bolivia.
July 31, 2016 - Another accident took place in Uyuni today. Five tourists have died.
I care because I'm as guilty as anyone else of thinking "that would never happen to me".
1. Bolivian roads can be dangerous and not well-maintained. Tour vehicles are also often not safe. One tourist's horrifying story (shared by her on my website) left me in tears and compelled me to start thinking about travel insurance. I had never used it before. Since then, there have been others.
2. Bolivia thrives on offering adventure tourism. Don't underestimate how remote tours like the Death Road bicycle tour and Uyuni tours are. Medical centers can be hours away and poorly equipped. Tour operators often do not offer safety features like seat belts, or have no first-aid training or equipment to communicate with emergency services.
3. Crime is on the rise in Bolivia. There has always had a problem with pickpockets and the petty theft of cameras, backpacks and other items. But now, crimes directed at foreigners, such as express kidnappings, "pildoritas" (a woman drugs your drink then robs you) and fake police officers demanding your documents, are becoming more frequent in some areas.
4. Civil unrest can occur at a moment's notice. The country has been politically unstable during the past few years and has seen a spike in the number of protests, road blocks, and strikes. For travelers, this means your trip itinerary may change, and flights could be cancelled or missed.
5. Other unexpected things can happen. You could get sick, the airlines could lose your luggage, your trip could get delayed or canceled, natural disasters such as landslides and flooding do happen and can block access to sites, you could miss your flight, etc.
I care because I'm often called upon for help
In 2012 a married couple from California visited Sucre. While there, the gentleman experienced severe abdominal pains. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors insisted on operating on him immediately. His appendix had burst and they had no choice. His wife spoke no Spanish and didn't understand anything that was happening. Her husband did not survive the operation.
She'd heard of BoliviaBella.com and contacted me. We learned that laws regarding the transport of human remains are very strict in the USA. In Bolivia, an autopsy is required, after which a person must be buried or cremated within a week of passing. The woman didn't speak Spanish, had no insurance and had to pay for everything in cash. It left her penniless and alone.
Although we and the US Embassy did everything possible to assist her... ultimately, she had no choice but to cremate her husband in Bolivia and return to the US with his ashes, because she could not afford the operation, the autopsy, the cremation, the paperwork required by the US and Bolivian governments, and the other (extremely high) costs of transporting his body home for burial. I will never forget her or the grief, exhaustion and utter shock she (and I) both felt.
Enjoy Bolivia, just be smart about it. You can prepare in advance, inform yourself, pay attention to news, warnings and precautions, use common safety sense, and do not intentionally put yourself in hazardous situations while traveling. Subscribe to my blog to stay informed while you are traveling Bolivia. It just takes a load off to know you can travel safely.
I recommend World Nomads. However, no matter which company you use, get travel insurance!
Due to the above concerns, I researched travel insurance extensively. Like I said, I had never, ever thought about travel insurance before. So to recommend insurance to others it had to be a company I myself could use: one that's well-known, trustworthy and responsible. WorldNomads.com is recommended by Lonely Planet, Hostelbookers, Footprint Travel Guides, National Geographic Adventure, and many other highly respected travel sites.
For Bolivia it has to be flexible and inexpensive
While studying travel insurance options, World Nomads stood out for its flexibility, low prices, and some of the options it covers that other insurance companies do not. Like you can buy, extend and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance is available to people from over 140 countries. And it’s designed for adventure travel, so it covers overseas medical expenses, lost or stole baggage, even evacuations!
I only recommend services I'd use myself
Of course there are many other travel insurance companies to choose from. You can enter your information below to see if World Nomads is best for you. Please know that I only recommend services on this site that I truly believe might add value to your travel (and my own) so you can leave Bolivia feeling your experience has changed you in positive ways. That's my wish for you!