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BOLIVIA - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Bolivia. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to continuing political and social tensions.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Mayoral and gubernatorial elections will take place in Bolivia on March 29, 2015. Most businesses will be closed, and public transportation, including buses and taxis, will not be operating throughout the country. Restrictions on air travel will also be in effect. An increased military presence will be in place to ensure the security of polling stations. You should expect demonstrations in the lead-up to, during and after the elections.
Demonstrations occur regularly throughout Bolivia, often with little notice, and can turn violent without warning. Demonstrations have become more frequent in the lead up to elections on March 29, 2015. Avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Roadblocks are common in Bolivia. Do not cross roadblocks, even if they appear unattended, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Instead, you should consider taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where your travel started. If you plan to take a road trip, review your travel plans to determine if they will be affected by demonstrations or civil unrest, take personal security measures and monitor media reports. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, you should take extra food, water, and warm clothing.
All roads in the border areas, especially along the Bolivia–Peru border, and roads leading to La Paz’s international airport (located in El Alto) are particularly vulnerable to blockades.
You should remain alert to your surroundings at all times, dress down, avoid wearing jewellery or carrying large sums of money or credit cards, and keep cameras and electronic equipment out of sight. Secure your valuables in a hotel safe. Avoid small restaurants away from downtown and tourist areas.
Petty theft, including pickpocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft and auto parts theft, is common throughout large cities.
Organized robbery occurs. Typically, members of a group of thieves will distract victims by staging a fight, starting a conversation, blocking a sidewalk, or throwing an object or liquid on the victims, while others rob them.
Robbery and assaults occur at tourist destinations. You should be especially careful when walking around tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sarganaga Street, the San Francisco Church vicinity and the historical Jaen Street, and when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as La Muela del Diablo. When travelling near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, Los Yungas, and on the Inca trails, remain in large groups and only join tours organized by reputable tour operators.
Express kidnappings by organized gangs have been reported. Tourists are held for ransom, often in a car, and are robbed or forced to use their bank cards to withdraw cash. Radio taxis hailed on the street have been involved in such incidents. Do not allow anyone else in your taxi; they may be accomplices. Special attention should be paid when taking a taxi to and from airports. Express kidnappings occur most frequently in major cities such as La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and between Copacabana and Desaguadero (on the Peruvian border). The Copacabana–Desaguadero route should be avoided after 2 p.m. It is recommended to take direct buses from Copacabana to La Paz rather than to transfer buses at the Desaguadero border crossing.
Exercise vigilance in La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal (located on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte). In Cochabamba, avoid Coronilla Hill (adjacent to the main bus terminal); local authorities caution people to enter Coronilla Hill at their own risk, as assaults have been reported. Violent crimes and armed robberies against foreigners have also been reported in the Santa Cruz bus/train terminal.
Criminals often pose as police officers and then ask to examine the traveller’s belongings or ask the traveller to accompany them to a police station. Bogus police stations are sometimes set up to scam tourists. Under Bolivian law, you are not obliged to follow a police officer unless he or she has a formal written request from a judge with your name on it, and any search or seizure must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the prosecutor.
Criminals posing as tourists may approach the traveller and offer to share transportation (usually a taxi), which proceeds to a remote place where the traveller is robbed. In other cases, a criminal posing as a police officer intercepts the traveller interacting with an accomplice, who is posing as a tourist and carrying contraband material such as drugs. The “police officer” takes the traveller to a bogus police station and seizes documents, debit cards and credit cards.
In the Chapare area between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and in the Yungas region, northeast of La Paz, violence and civil unrest, mainly associated with drug trafficking, may cause delays and risks to travellers. In the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, police presence has intensified due to increases in drug-related crimes. The situation is also tense in areas along Bolivia's border with Peru.
Canadians visiting Bolivia in order to undergo a surgical procedure have reported falling victim to scams by medical companies that insist on retaining passports as collateral. Once the procedure has been completed, the company attempts to extort more money from the patient before returning their passport. If your passport is inaccessible because of such a situation, you may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services.
Consult our page entitled Receiving Medical Care in Other Countries if you are contemplating undergoing a medical procedure in Bolivia.
Tourists travelling to Bolivia have fallen victim to scams in which cocaine is hidden inside objects or luggage that they have been asked to bring back by an acquaintance. There are reported cases of this scam being perpetrated through dating websites. The new Internet acquaintance asks the foreigner to go to Bolivia, on the pretext of picking up personal belongings or legal documents on his or her behalf. When police determine that the backpack or briefcase allegedly containing the acquaintance’s belongings or documents contains cocaine, the foreign citizen is detained at the airport and subsequently sent to a Bolivian prison. Drugs can be hidden in ways that are not clear to the naked eye, including being dissolved into clothing or fabric. Bolivian drug laws feature a zero tolerance policy and do not differentiate between intentional and unintentional drug smuggling. Exercise extreme caution when asked to carry objects or luggage for other people and do not, under any circumstance, carry luggage for a stranger.
Road conditions in Bolivia are very poor. Although the major population centres of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Sucre are connected by improved highways, less than 5 percent of all roads in Bolivia are paved.
For trips outside major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Risks include most drivers' lack of formal training, unlit vehicles speeding at night and drunk drivers, including drivers of commercial buses. Weather conditions can also make road travel hazardous.
Roadblocks are a common occurrence throughout Bolivia and can cause significant disruptions to transportation, even in remote parts of the country. More information on roads to avoid is available from the Bolivian Highway Administration (in Spanish only).
Local and intercity buses are frequently involved in traffic accidents, especially overnight buses. Traffic accidents on the highways occur due to poor road conditions, ongoing and poorly marked road construction, uneven roads in some regions of the country and reckless driving. Recent accidents involving tourist buses have resulted in injuries and fatalities.
Public transportation, including buses, trains, shared taxis and mini-buses, is unsafe. Use only tour buses from reputable companies for trips. Avoid extensive travel on foot.
Do not hail taxis on the street and decline transportation from people offering a cheaper fare. It is recommended to call known radio taxi companies from a landline or from a hotel and make a note of the taxi’s registration and telephone numbers before you set off. Radio taxis are identifiable by the telephone number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle’s roof, and those registered with the Mayor’s office should have a yellow sticker in one of their windows. This type of taxi should carry no other passengers.
Travel plans may be affected by demonstrations or strikes. Prior to departure, check with your airlines to determine if there are delays or changes in flight schedules.
See Transportation Safety in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Dial 110 for local police, 118 for ambulance services and 119 to reach the fire department. Dial (2) 222-5016 to contact the tourist police in La Paz. Some tourist police officers do speak English, but service in French is not available.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Bolivian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Bolivia, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
You must also produce a return air ticket or other proof of how you plan to leave the country at the end of your stay.
Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times, including the entry stamp and disembarkation card, since police and immigration officials may request them.
Keep the immigration card you receive upon arrival to Bolivia in a safe place, as immigration officials will ask for it when you depart the country.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays of less than 30 days)
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadians wishing to stay for more than 30 days may obtain a tourist visa for another 30 days, provided they apply at a Dirección Nacional o Regional de Migración office in Bolivia before the end of the first 30-day period. This 30-day tourist visa can be obtained twice, at no extra cost, to a maximum of 90 days during one calendar year.
Canadian citizens travelling to Bolivia for volunteer work should obtain a “Visa of Determined Purpose” from the Bolivian embassy or a consulate in Canada prior to the trip.
When arriving by land, travellers should ensure that immigration officials place an entry stamp in their passport to avoid any problems upon departure.
You must pay a departure tax of 15 bolivianos when travelling inside Bolivia by air. For international destinations, there is a traveller’s tax of US$25 or its equivalent in bolivianos. Bolivian citizens and residents, as well as foreigners who have stayed in Bolivia for more than three months, must pay an additional fee upon departure.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal
Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine or medication to protect against leishmaniasis.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Most clinics and hospitals in Bolivia accept payment in cash only.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is severely punished. Do not, under any circumstance, carry a stranger's baggage. If you are visiting non-tourist locations, especially coca-growing areas, exercise great vigilance and do not carry a camera or binoculars.
Imprisoned individuals may have to wait several years before their sentencing. Significant language barriers may arise and translators may not be provided free of charge to prisoners in Bolivia. Jail conditions are primitive, and prisoners have to pay for their cells and daily subsistence.
It is illegal to remove any item that the Bolivian government considers to be a national treasure, including pre-Columbian artifacts, certain historical paintings, items of Spanish colonial architecture and history, some native textiles, and certain flora, fauna and fossils. Any type of excavation for fossils or collecting fossils without prior written authorization is illegal.
Unlicensed bars in Bolivia are illegal and are known to sell drugs and, therefore, should not be frequented. You may be detained and questioned if the establishment is raided, even if you are not consuming illegal substances.
An International Driving Permit is required to rent a vehicle.
You should be careful when travelling with cameras and communication devices, particularly in remote areas, as some locals may find the presence of photographers intrusive. Ask for permission before you photograph people.
The currency is the boliviano (BOB). It is almost impossible to exchange Canadian dollars (cash or traveller's cheques) in Bolivia. Use credit cards, U.S. dollars or bolivianos for purchases. Automated banking machines are available in major cities.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
Travelling during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as many roads become impassable. In particular, the Uyuni Salt Flats become dangerous to navigate in the rainy season. Heavy rains may contribute to dangerous landslides. Water- and insect-borne diseases may also become a threat. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
La Paz - Embassy of Canada (Program Office)
Lima - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in La Paz and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call via the international operator at 800-10-0101 to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 1-613-996-8885.
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