bolivia travel safety

Transportation Pitfalls and Scams - Increase Your Safety

Transportation Pitfalls and Scams - Increase Your Safety

Author: Peter Siljerud

  • If you are afraid of theft on trains or buses you can lock your bag to something with a wire. If you are on a night train you can pick an empty compartment and lock the door with a wire. Bad guys have been known to use gas to knock out people in the compartments and then go in to steal your stuff.

  • It is useful to have a wire to be able to lock your backpack to something e.g. while you take a night train. You can get wires at travel shops or you can get a wire mesh to put around your backpack. Note that this may attract attention from thieves since you indicate that you have something valuable in your backpack. You can cover your backpack with a towel, backpack cover or sarong in order to avoid this.

  • If you are two or more persons sharing a taxi, have the person paying wait until the other persons have removed the luggage from the taxi. This prevents the taxi from being able to take off with your stuff.

  • The procedure for paying for local bus tickets varies. In some places you cannot buy a ticket with cash on board, in others you need to time stamp the ticket yourself. Make sure you know the proper way to avoid being fined or having to wait for the next bus.

  • If you plan on biking a lot you may want to bring your own helmet along, they are not always available locally.

  • Crossing streets can make you feel like the frog in the old computer game Frogger. It can be quite intimidating when sidewalks, if existing, are used as parking lots for motorbikes and you constantly have to step out into the traffic. Check out how the locals do when crossing the street. A useful method is the "shield method" or crossing the street. Wait until a local person stands next to you on the street and that person is facing the traffic. When the local crosses the street you do that as well and use them as a shield between the traffic and yourself.

  • Learn how to read the maps in your guidebook, though note that guidebook maps are sometimes quite unreliable, especially in third world countries. Using high buildings for navigation can be useful. Align the map with your compass to make sure that you walk in the right direction (get a small one which attaches to your watch or key ring). It is easy to find the right street but walk in the wrong direction. If you are a real techie you may want to get a GPS.

  • When traveling by bus it can be tricky to follow where you are and when it is time to get off. Ask other people on the bus or try to keep track of the high buildings (e.g. hotels) you pass. It can be useful to know that a bus which travels 30 kilometers (18.6 miles)/hour travels 500 meters in a minute. Check on your map how far you need to go and how much time the bus should take to get there.

  • If you travel alone you can leave the door to the taxi open until you have retrieved your luggage from the trunk

Personal Experience - The Bolivian Baggage Bust

I ran into a French couple when I was in Bolivia. They were going to catch a night bus and had arrived early in the bus station. The ticket counter was closed. A man approached them and asked which bus they were going to catch. He said he worked for the bus company and took their luggage away to have it stored on the bus. That was the last they saw of their luggage.

Happy travels!

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About the Author:

The above article is based on information in the Backpacker´s toolbox. The Backpacker's Toolbox contains checklists, templates, FAQs and practical advice (and a few bad jokes) to make your backpacking experience as smooth as possible.

Peter Siljerud is an experienced world traveller and co-author of the Backpacker's toolbox. He regularly contributes to Hello Backpacker - practical advice for new and experienced backpackers for all trip stages:

Get inspired / Plan your trip / Advice on the road / Tips when back home

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