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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 the continuing political and social tensions and frequent, illegal roadblocks throughout the country.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice for the Global Update: Zika virus infection recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Bolivia. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Due to water shortages throughout Bolivia, authorities have declared a national state of emergency, and have implemented water rationing in many parts of Bolivia. Check with your hotel about their water supply before booking accommodations. Contact the Public Institute for Water and Sanitation (Empresa Pública Social de Agua y Saneamiento) (in Spanish) for more information.
Petty theft, including pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common in large cities. Foreigners are frequently targeted by thieves. Organized robbery also occurs, where 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. You should remain alert to your surroundings at all times. Dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and carrying large sums of money, and keep cellphones, cameras and other electronic equipment out of sight. Never leave your belongings, such as bags and backpacks, unattended. Secure your passport and valuables in a safe place. Never travel alone, especially at night.
Robbery and assaults occur at tourist destinations. You should be especially careful when walking around tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sagarnaga Street, the San Francisco Church vicinity and the historical Jaen Street, and when hiking in the areas surrounding La Paz, such as the Muela del Diablo. When travelling near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Andes, in Los Yungas and on the Inca trails, remain in large groups and only join tours organized by reputable tour operators.
There is a high level of crime on buses, in taxis and at transportation hubs. 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). Local authorities caution people to avoid Coronilla Hill, the area adjacent to the main bus terminal in Cochabamba, as assaults have been reported. Violent crimes and armed robberies against foreigners also occur in the Santa Cruz bus/train terminal. Be cautious at taxi areas, particularly in Santa Cruz and La Paz, where tourists have been robbed.
Express kidnappings, where tourists are held for ransom, often in a car, and robbed or forced to use their bank cards to withdraw cash, are committed by organized gangs and occur throughout the country, but most frequently in major cities, such as La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and when travelling between them. The Copacabana–Desaguadero route should be avoided after 2 p.m. When travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, take direct buses to avoid transferring at the Desaguadero border crossing. Be particularly vigilant when entering Bolivia at all land border crossings with Argentina, Chile and Peru. Radio taxis hailed on the street have also been involved in express kidnappings. Criminals posing as tourists approach the traveller and offer to share transportation (usually a taxi), which proceeds to a remote place where the traveller is robbed. Do not allow anyone else in your taxi. Special attention should be paid when taking a taxi to and from airports. Withdraw or exchange money at automated banking machines (ABMs) during daylight hours only or inside reputable financial institutions and hotels.
Be cautious of strangers. Criminals often pose as police officers and then 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, 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. If you suspect you are being targeting in such a scam, call the Tourism Police toll-free at 800 14 0081.
In the Chapare area between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and in Los Yungas region, northeast of La Paz, violence (such as carjackings) and civil unrest, mainly associated with drug trafficking, may cause risks to travellers. In the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, police presence has intensified due to the increase in drug-related crimes. The situation is also tense in areas along Bolivia’s border with Peru.
Vehicle and auto-parts theft is a problem throughout Bolivia. Keep valuables in the trunk and park your car in a supervised lot, if possible.
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.
Incidents of sexual assault, including rape, have been reported throughout the country, 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. See Her own way - a woman’s safe-travel guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
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. Never hand over your passport to anyone. Carefully research medical clinics if you plan to travel to Bolivia for medical services.
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.
Demonstrations and labour strikes occur regularly throughout Bolivia, often with little notice, and can suddenly turn violent. Roadblocks are common in Bolivia and can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. All roads in the border areas, especially along the Bolivia–Peru border, and roads leading to international airports are particularly vulnerable to blockades. Prior to 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. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travellers for several days, you should take extra food, water, medicine and warm clothing. 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 those who are trapped. 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. Avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Seek advice from the local population on safe swimming locations.
Uyuni tours, jungle expeditions, boat trips, mountain biking and other adventure activities should only be undertaken with a well-established company. There are no official minimum safety standards for tour operators in Bolivia. Safety features in vehicles and on small boats used in river and lake excursions are not always reliable. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them.
Spiritual cleansing and ayahuasca ceremonies, offered by shamans and other individuals, involve taking substances that can cause medical complications and severely impair cognitive and physical abilities. The ceremonies often take place in remote areas with no access to medical facilities. These services are not regulated and there is no way to assess the safety of the services, operators or shamans.
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, as criminals have targeted tourists. Ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover any medical emergencies.
If you intend to trek:
- never trek alone and always stay on the designated path;
- always hire an experienced guide and ensure that the trekking company is reputable;
- ensure that you are in top physical condition;
- advise a family member or friend of your itinerary;
- register when entering national parks;
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal and be prepared to dress according to temperature variations throughout the day and night;
- register with the Embassy of Canada to Bolivia; and
- obtain detailed information on trekking routes before you set out.
There are no mountain rescue services in Bolivia.
Road conditions and road safety in Bolivia are very poor. Most drivers lack formal training and have a general disregard for traffic laws. Poorly maintained vehicles, unlit vehicles speeding at night, drunk drivers, minimal signage, ongoing and poorly marked road construction, potholes and unfavourable weather conditions (resulting in landslides) can also make road travel hazardous. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world.
Although the major population centres of Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Sucre are connected by improved highways, many roads in Bolivia are unpaved and in poor condition. For trips outside major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Avoid driving at night, when erratic driving and dark roads increase the danger.
Roadblocks are common 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).
Public transportation, including buses, trains, shared taxis and mini-buses, is unsafe. Taxis are generally poorly maintained. Local and intercity buses are frequently involved in traffic accidents, especially overnight buses. Accidents involving less reputable, poorly maintained tourist buses have resulted in injuries and fatalities. Use only tour buses operated by well-known companies for trips. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of a bus or its driver, refrain from using it.
Do not hail taxis in the street and decline transportation from people offering a cheaper fare. It is recommended to call radio taxi companies that are registered with authorities from a landline or from a hotel. 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. Avoid taking motorbike taxis.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Bolivian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays of less than 30 days)
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadian citizens travelling to Bolivia for volunteer work should obtain a Visa of Determined Purpose from the Bolivian embassy or consulate in Canada prior to the trip.
Extensions of stay
Canadian tourists wishing to stay for more than 30 days may obtain a tourist visa for another 30 days, provided they apply at a national and regional immigration department office (Dirección Nacional o Regional de Migración) in Bolivia before the end of the first 30-day period. This 30-day tourist visa can be obtained twice, at no extra cost and to a maximum of 90 days during one calendar year, from Department of Immigration offices throughout the country.
Other entry/exit requirements
You must produce a return air ticket or other proof of how you plan to leave the country at the end of your stay.
Keep the immigration card (bottom half of the arrival form) you receive upon arrival to Bolivia in a safe place, as immigration officials will ask for it when you depart the country. Immigration officers stamp it on entry and upon departure to the country.
When arriving by land, make sure your passport is stamped on both sides of the border; that is, it contains an exit stamp from the country you are leaving and an entry stamp from Bolivia. Regardless of the entry point you use, your passport must be stamped with an entry stamp or you will have to pay a fine to leave. Avoid travelling at night because border officials and police may not be present.
Declare all your medications, and be ready to show physician’s prescription(s) to immigration authorities, even 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
Border or immigration officers will expect parents travelling with a minor (a child under the age of 18) who is a citizen or resident of Bolivia to produce an original and photocopy of the minor’s long-form birth certificate and custody court documents, if applicable. Minors travelling with one parent or with a third party must obtain a travel permit from the Bolivian Ombudsman Department of Protection of Children (Defensoría de la Niñez y Adolescencia). To obtain this permit, the parent or guardian must present original documents and copies of the minor’s long-form birth certificate and custody court documents, if applicable, and written authorization from the parent not travelling. Relatives or a third party travelling with a child must produce proof of the parents’ identification in addition to the required documentation. When a parent is deceased, Bolivian authorities require a notarized copy of the death certificate in lieu of the written authorization.
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 - 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.
* 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.
- 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 provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers 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 , yellow fever and Zika virus.
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.
Locally acquired mosquito-associated Zika virus is currently being reported in this country. Zika virus infection is primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause fever, rash, and joint pain. It can also be transmitted through blood, semen and from an infected pregnant woman to her developing baby. Most people do not develop symptoms and recover fully without severe complications. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus infection is a cause of both microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Other neurological disorders have also been associated with Zika virus infection. Protect yourself from mosquito bites in daylight and evening hours. There is no vaccine for Zika virus infection.
- 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
Public medical services and facilities do not meet Canadian standards. There is limited access to health facilities in rural areas. Private health facilities in larger cities offer basic medical care and private hospitals provide adequate quality of care. Most clinics and hospitals in Bolivia accept payment in cash only. Clinics and hospitals will refuse to allow you to leave their premises before paying for services and do not normally have ABMs or banks onsite.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and medical evacuation to another country, if required. Contact your insurance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
There is very limited ambulance service in Bolivia.
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 and clearly labelled. Certain prescribed medications are considered as narcotics in Bolivia. Consult Bolivia’s list of controlled substances (in Spanish) provided by the Department of Controlled Substances, Ministry of Social Defense and Controlled Substances (Viceministerio de Defensa Social y Sustancias Controladas).
There are health risks associated with undergoing elective cosmetic procedures. If you are contemplating undergoing a medical procedure in Bolivia, consult our page entitled Receiving medical care in other countries.
When travelling to high-elevation parts of Bolivia, including La Paz, Salar de Uyuni and Lake Titicaca, you may experience health problems caused by high altitude. Altitude sickness can be life-threatening and may require medical evacuation from the area. A health-care professional can advise you on how to prevent or reduce the effects of altitude sickness.
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
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. Bolivian drug laws feature a zero tolerance policy and do not differentiate between intentional and unintentional drug smuggling. Drugs can be hidden in ways that are not clear to the naked eye, including being dissolved into clothing or fabric. Do not carry objects or luggage for other people. Do not, under any circumstance, carry a stranger’s baggage. If you are visiting non-tourist locations, especially cocoa-growing areas, exercise great vigilance and do not carry a camera or binoculars.
See Health for information on prohibited substances and medications.
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.
Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times, including the entry stamp and disembarkation card, since police and immigration officials may request to see them. Leave the original document in a safe place.
Imprisoned individuals may have to wait several years before their sentencing. Significant language barriers may arise and translators are not provided free of charge to prisoners in Bolivia. Jail conditions are primitive, and prisoners have to pay for their cells and daily subsistence.
An International Driving Permit is required to rent a vehicle.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, stay at the scene until local police arrive. Attempting to leave the scene violates Bolivian law.
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.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Bolivia. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Bolivian citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Bolivian passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
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 and 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. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
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 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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