Bolivia Travel and Safety Precautions

Travel Insurance!

Tourism | Volunteer | Live in Bolivia | Plan Your Trip

There are certain precautions you can take while traveling to avoid becoming a victim of crime or inadvertently getting into trouble Bolivia. Most often, just using common sense, as you would at home, will keep you out of trouble and out of harm's way. These recommendations are worth keeping in mind.

The following information is provided by the United States Government. View the government websites of these other countries for more information:

United States | Australia | United Kingdom | Canada

Emergency Services in Bolivia

The countrywide emergency number to dial for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. If you have need to get to the hospital by ambulance, dial UDEM at 161 or Cardiocruz-Emergencias Médicas at 169. If you have a non-emergency but need to go to a hospital, you can call a trusted radio taxi.

Safety Precautions on the Street

Avoid busy or crowded areas where you can be easily victimized. Don't use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.

Try not to travel alone at night.

Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.

Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.

Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.

Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.

Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:
• jostle you

• ask you for directions or the time
• point to something spilled on your clothing
• or distract you by creating a disturbance.

Beware of groups of vagrant children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.

Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.

Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority.

Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.

Learn a few phrases in Spanish or the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.

Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest embassy or consulate.

If you are confronted, don't fight back -- give up your valuables.

Safety Precautions in Your Hotel

Safety precautions in Bolivia

Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.

Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out. Use the hotel safe.

If you are out late at night, let someone know when you expect to return.

If you are alone, do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.

Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire, and be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located. (Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit; this could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.)

Precautions on Public Transportation

Taxis. Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked cabs. (Better yet, call a reputable cab company to pick you up, and don't take a taxi from a curb at all - the difference in cost is minimal).

Trains. Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourists routes is a problem. It is more common at night and especially on overnight trains.

If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.

Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Criminals have been known to drug food or drink offered to passengers. Criminals may also spray sleeping gas in train compartments. Where possible, lock your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions. If that is not possible, stay awake. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage and secure your valuables to the extent possible.

Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.

Buses. The same type of criminal activity found on trains can be found on public buses on popular tourist routes. For example, tourists have been drugged and robbed while sleeping on buses or in bus stations. In some countries, whole busloads of passengers have been held up and robbed by gangs of bandits.

Safety Precautions when you Drive

When you rent a car, choose a type that is commonly available locally. Where possible, ask that markings that identify it as a rental car be removed. Make certain it is in good repair. If available, choose a car with universal door locks and power windows, features that give the driver better control of access. An air conditioner, when available, is also a safety feature, allowing you to drive with windows closed. Thieves can and do snatch purses through open windows of moving cars.

Keep car doors locked at all times. Wear seat belts.

As much as possible, avoid driving at night.

Don't leave valuables in the car. If you must carry things with you, keep them out of sight locked in the trunk, and then take them with you when you leave the car.

Don't park your car on the street overnight. If the hotel or municipality does not have a parking garage or other secure area, select a well-lit area.

Never pick up hitchhikers.

Don't get out of the car if there are suspicious looking individuals nearby. Drive away.

Precautions when Handling Money

Be careful with your money in Bolivia

In Bolivia you can use local currency (the boliviano) and the dollar interchangeably, as long as you use smaller denominations that local merchants won't have trouble giving you change for. The following is good advice, but please note that in Bolivia many smaller merchants are not equipped to accept credit cards or travelers checks. You will need to carry some cash at times, so be careful and discreet.

To avoid carrying large amounts of cash, change your travelers checks only as you need currency. Countersign travelers checks only in front of the person who will cash them.

Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction.

Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market.

If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of your plight. After reporting missing items to the police, report loss or theft of:

• travelers' checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company
• credit cards to the issuing company
• airline tickets to the airline or travel agent
• passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

How to Avoid Legal Difficulties

When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction. You can be arrested overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor infractions in the United States . Familiarize yourself with legal expectations in the countries you will visit.

This information and much more is posted by the US Department of State at

Click on the link. When you enter the site, click on "Travel Information by Country" in the top, right hand corner, then click on "Bolivia".

The information and safety precautions on this website are very useful even if you are not a U.S. citizen. It is very detailed. Use it to check on the situation in other countries you are traveling to as well. It's handy!

Always take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety wherever you travel. The time you take to prepare in advance will improve your chances of having an uneventful trip, except for all the fun you will have!

Health Precautions

Precautions while traveling in Bolivia

Nothing is more important than your health, so of course there are some precautionary measures you can take to ensure a happy, healthy trip. Nothing can ruin your experience more than feeling sick while you travel.

Bolivian law currently requires you to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination upon arrival. You should also consider getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A, cholera and tetanus before you travel.

If you take any medications, be sure to bring plenty with you. Your specific medication may not be available in Bolivia, or may be manufactured under different specifications or an alternate brand or name and could be hard to find. If you do bring medications, you MUST bring them in their original packaging with a clearly printed pharmacy label and a prescription from your doctor.

It is always advisable to purchase health insurance, or make sure your current insurance provider covers you overseas.

• Drink only boiled or bottled water. Never drink it straight from the faucet.
• Do not eat raw vegetables or dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk, or ice cream of doubtful origin, because they may have been washed in, or produced with, impure water. The same goes for ICE!
• Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating.

Read these additional pages on how to avoid becoming a crime victim and some things you should prepare for before you travel to Bolivia.

Tourism | Volunteer | Live in Bolivia | Plan Your Trip

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