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Bolivia - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Bolivia due to the continuing political and social tensions and frequent illegal roadblocks throughout the country.
Safety and security
Demonstrations and labour strikes occur regularly, often with little or no notice. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Protesters have used dynamite during previous protests.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Los Yungas region
In the Chapare area between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and in Los Yungas region, northeast of La Paz, violence, carjackings and civil unrest, mainly associated with drug trafficking, pose risks. In the departments of Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz, there is a high police presence due to the increase in drug-related crimes.
Border with Peru
The situation is tense in areas along Bolivia’s border with Peru.
Disputes between local communities on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca have caused disruptions to transportation along the popular tourist route between Copacabana and Isla del Sol. If you plan to travel to Isla del Sol, be sure to carry extra food and water. Expect significant travel delays.
Petty theft, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common in large cities. Robbery and assaults occur at tourist destinations and foreigners are frequently targeted by thieves.
Be especially careful when walking around tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sagarnaga Street, the Church of San Francisco vicinity and historic Jaén Street, and when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as the Muela del Diablo.
Remain in large groups and only join tours organized by reputable tour operators when travelling near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, in Los Yungas and on the Inca trails.
Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
Common criminal strategies
Organized robbery occurs. Criminals operating in groups will distract victims by staging a fight, starting a conversation, offering help, blocking a sidewalk or throwing an object or liquid on the victims, while accomplices steal from them. Individuals have been lured by very young children to a location where they’re then robbed.
Criminals often pose as police officers and ask to examine the traveller’s belongings or ask the traveller to accompany them to a bogus police station, sometimes in collusion with a criminal posing as a taxi driver or another passenger.
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 set up by scam artists and seizes documents, debit cards and credit cards.
Under Bolivian law, there’s no obligation to go with an officer to a police station unless they have a formal written request from a judge with your name on it. Any search or seizure must occur at a genuine police station in the presence of the prosecutor.
- Be cautious of strangers.
- Remain alert to your surroundings at all times.
- Dress casually, avoid wearing jewellery and carrying large sums of money, and keep cellphones, cameras and other electronic equipment out of sight.
- Don’t travel alone, especially at night.
“Express” kidnappings have occurred. In these abductions, criminals ask for small, immediate ransoms. The kidnappers usually force their victims to withdraw funds from an ATM or to arrange for family or friends to pay the ransom. This ploy is often used by criminal taxi drivers, who pick up the victim and then stop to pick up associates.
These kidnappings are committed by organized gangs and occur throughout the country, but most frequently in major cities such as Cochabamba, La Paz and Santa Cruz, and when travelling between them.
- Avoid the Copacabana–Desaguadero route after 2 p.m.
- When travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, take direct buses to avoid transferring at the Desaguadero border crossing with Peru.
Vehicle and auto-parts theft is a problem throughout Bolivia.
- Keep valuables in the trunk
- Park your car in a supervised lot
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:
- Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
- Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
More about overseas fraud
Carefully research medical clinics if you plan to travel to Bolivia for medical services. Canadians visiting Bolivia for surgical procedures have reported falling victim to scams by medical companies that insist on retaining passports as collateral. Once the procedure is complete, the company attempts to extort more money from the patient before returning their passport.
If your passport is inaccessible due to such a situation, you may receive limited passport services. You may also be subject to investigation by Passport Canada. Never hand over your passport to anyone.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Sexual assaults occur periodically, including at clubs and hostels. Female travellers should be cautious when dealing with strangers and new acquaintances. Lock your room when you return to your hotel/hostel.
Safe-travel guide for women
Roadblocks are common, can be erected suddenly and can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. They have stranded travellers for several days. All roads in border areas, especially along the Bolivia–Peru border, and roads leading to international airports are particularly vulnerable to blockades.
Before departure, check with your airline to determine if there are delays or changes in flight schedules.
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.
Take extra food, water, medicine and warm clothing as a precaution. Once a roadblock is in place, local authorities, officials and vendors will not be able to enter or exit the city to provide supplies to stranded travellers.
Don’t cross roadblocks, even if they appear unattended. This may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Instead, consider taking an alternative safer route, or returning to your place of departure.
Unknown bodies of water can be dangerous. Seek local advice on safe swimming locations. Rescue services may not be consistent with international standards.
Water safety abroad
There are no official minimum safety standards for tour operators. Safety features in vehicles and on small boats used in river and lake excursions are sometimes unreliable. Only participate in tours in Uyuni, jungle expeditions, boat trips, mountain biking and other adventure activities with well-established companies. Ensure that your travel insurance covers your recreational activities.
Be vigilant when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as the Muela del Diablo, near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, in Los Yungas and on the Inca trails. Criminals have targeted tourists in these areas.
There are no mountain rescue services in Bolivia.
If you intend to trek:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on trekking routes or ski slopes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails or slopes
Spiritual cleansing and ayahuasca ceremonies, offered by shamans and other individuals, involve taking substances that can cause medical complications and can severely impair cognitive and physical abilities.
Exposure to these substances has led to serious illness, injury, assault and even the death of several tourists.
Ceremonies often take place in remote areas that have no access to medical or mental health facilities or resources and only limited communication with local authorities. Most of the time, the facilities lack basic first aid or emergency plans for those suffering from physical or psychological illness from these ceremonies.
Ayahuasca ceremonies are not regulated and there is no way to assess the safety of any of the services, the operators or the shamans.
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout Bolivia. Although improved highways connect Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Sucre, many roads in Bolivia are unpaved. The old Yungas road is considered one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Outside major cities, four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary, especially in mountainous areas.
Most drivers lack formal training and don’t respect traffic laws. Accidents and fatalities are common. Common road hazards include:
- aggressive and reckless drivers
- drunk drivers
- excessive speed
- poorly maintained vehicles
- unlit vehicles at night
- narrow winding roads
- lack of guardrails on mountain roads
- minimal signage
- poorly marked road construction
- unpaved roads and potholes
- unfavourable weather conditions, sometimes causing landslides
Public transportation, including buses, trains, shared taxis and mini-buses, is unsafe. The level of crime is high in taxis, on buses and at transportation hubs. Violent crimes and armed robberies against foreigners also occur in the Santa Cruz bus/train terminal.
Local and intercity buses are frequently involved in traffic accidents, especially overnight buses. Accidents involving less reputable, poorly maintained tourist buses have caused injuries and fatalities.
Use only tour buses operated by well-known companies for trips. If you have any doubt about the safety of a bus or its driver, refrain from using it.
- Exercise caution in La Paz bus terminals, especially the one near the La Paz cemetery and the main bus terminal on Peru Avenue in Zona Norte.
- Avoid Coronilla Hill, adjacent to the main bus terminal in Cochabamba, due to recent assaults.
Most taxis are poorly maintained.
Avoid hailing taxis on the street. Instead, call radio taxi companies that are registered with authorities from a landline or from a hotel. Take note of the taxi’s registration and telephone numbers before you depart. Radio taxis are identifiable by the telephone number and name of the taxi company on the vehicle’s roof. 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.
- Pay special attention when taking taxis to and from airports, particularly in Santa Cruz and La Paz, where bandits are known to rob tourists
- Decline transportation from people offering cheaper fares
- Never allow a stranger to share a taxi with you
- Avoid taking motorcycle taxis
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
In an attempt to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which originated in China, some governments have implemented special entry restrictions for their territory. Before travelling, verify if your destination’s local authorities have implemented any specific entry and exit restrictions related to this situation.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update – Public Health Agency of Canada
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Bolivian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of expected departure from Bolivia.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 30 days
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
If you’re a Canadian citizen travelling to Bolivia for volunteer work, you should obtain the Visa of Determined Purpose from the Bolivian embassy or consulate in Canada prior to your trip.
Foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada
Extensions of stay
If you’re a Canadian tourist wishing to stay for more than 30 days, you must apply at the General Directorate of Migration to obtain a tourist visa for another 30 days before the end of the first 30-day period. This extension can be obtained twice, at no extra cost and to a maximum of 90 days during one calendar year.
If you have overstayed the 90-day period without proper authorization, you may be fined upon departure.
General Directorate of Migration - Government of Bolivia
Other entry/exit requirements
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket.
Make sure to retain the immigration card you receive upon arrival, as immigration officials will ask for it when you leave the country. Officials stamp it upon entry and departure from the country.
When arriving by land, ensure your passport receives an exit stamp from the country you’re leaving and an entry stamp from Bolivia. Failing to do so will result in being fined upon departure. Avoid travelling at night, when border officials and police may not be present.
Declare all your medications upon arrival and departure. Be prepared to show physician’s prescription(s) to immigration authorities.
You must pay an airport departure tax of US$25 when leaving Bolivia.
Children and travel
Travellers under 18 years old who are a citizen or resident of Bolivia, must present:
- if travelling with both parents:
- an original and photocopy of the minor’s long-form birth certificate
- custody court documents, if applicable
- if travelling with a single parent or a third party:
- a travel permit from the Bolivian Ombudsman Department of Protection of Children. To obtain this permit, the parent or guardian must present:
- original documents and copies of the minor’s long-form birth certificate
- custody court documents, if applicable
- written authorization from the parent not travelling
- if travelling with a third party, in addition to the permit from the Ombudsman, the guardian must present:
- proof of the parents’ identification
- if a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate in lieu of the written authorization.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional 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. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* 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.
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 children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional 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 , yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue fever is a risk to travellers year-round. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue fever can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue fever changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. After a decline in reported dengue cases worldwide in 2017 and 2018, global numbers have been steeply rising again.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around 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.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- 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.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
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 professional.
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
Quality of care varies greatly throughout the country. Good health care is limited to private hospitals in larger cities. Public medical services and facilities don’t meet Canadian standards. There’s limited access to health facilities in rural areas. There’s very limited ambulance service in Bolivia.
Most clinics and hospitals in Bolivia accept payment in cash only. Clinics and hospitals may refuse to allow you to leave their premises before paying for services.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive. You may need it in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
If you have a pre-existing medical condition and prescription medication, carry the physician’s prescription and a letter from a doctor describing the medical condition. If you bring prescription medicine with you, pack more than enough for the duration of your expected stay and make sure they are in their original containers.
Some prescribed medications are considered as narcotics in Bolivia. Consult the list of controlled substances to avoid trouble.
Bolivia’s list of controlled substances - Ministry of Social Defense and Controlled Substances (in Spanish)
Tap water in Bolivia is unsafe.
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 and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
If authorities imprison you, you may have to wait several years before sentencing.
Bolivian drug laws include a zero tolerance policy. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.
Never transport luggage or packages on behalf of another person. Travellers have fallen victim to scams in which illegal drugs are hidden inside objects or luggage that an acquaintance has asked them to bring to Bolivia. Dating websites are reportedly a source of such scams.
Unlicensed bars in Bolivia are illegal. They are known to sell drugs and should be avoided. Police may detain and question you if they raid the establishment, even if you’re not consuming any illegal substances.
It’s illegal to export any item that the Bolivian government considers a national treasure, including:
- pre-Columbian artifacts
- historical paintings
- items of Spanish colonial architecture and history
- native textiles
- flora, fauna and fossils
Any type of excavation for fossils or collection of fossils without prior written authorization is illegal.
Be careful when travelling with cameras and communication devices, particularly in remote areas, as locals may find the presence of photographers intrusive. Ask for permission before you photograph people.
Bolivian law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
Homosexuality is increasingly socially accepted, but much of Bolivian society remains conservative.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Bolivia.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Bolivia, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
You must carry an international driving permit to rent or drive a vehicle.
The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.00%. If the police suspect you of drinking and driving, they could confiscate your driver’s licence on the spot. If convicted, you can expect heavy fines and possible jail sentences.
If you’re involved in a traffic accident, remain at the scene until local police arrive. Attempting to leave the scene violates Bolivian law.
International Driving Permit
The currency in Bolivia is the boliviano (BOB).
It’s difficult to exchange Canadian dollars in Bolivia.
Natural disasters and climate
The rainy season extends from November to March.
Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged. In particular, the Uyuni Salt Flats become dangerous to navigate in the rainy season. Heavy rains may contribute to dangerous landslides.
If you decide to travel to Bolivia during the rainy season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 110
- tourist police: 800-14-0071
- medical assistance: 165
- firefighters: 119
La Paz - Embassy of Canada (Program Office)
Lima - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the embassy of Canada in Bolivia, in La Paz, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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