This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz,
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
at the date of this report’s publication assesses Bolivia at Level 1,
indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions in the country.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in La Paz does not assume
responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or
firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular
individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service
Review OSAC’s Bolivia-specific webpage for original
OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may
be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
is moderate risk from crime in Bolivia. Most reported criminal incidents
involve non-confrontational property crimes that occur in major cities,
particularly in markets and commercial districts. Tourists and visitors routinely
report pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft of jewelry/cell phones. This modus
operandi has also been successful at the airports in La Paz and Santa Cruz.
Thieves typically operate in groups of two or more. Usually, one or two members
of the group will create a distraction, and others will surreptitiously steal
from the victim. Stay alert for pickpockets when in crowds and aboard public
transportation, and be conscious of distractions created to target you.
Violent crimes (e.g. assaults, robberies)
against foreigners are statistically low, but do occur. In the event of a
robbery, comply with the demands of the aggressors while attempting to observe
identifying characteristics of the perpetrators.
from vehicles are a pervasive problem. Unattended vehicles are often robbed of
computer modules, spare tires, stereos, headrests, and other valuables. Theft
of the vehicle's operating computer and sound system is a common crime. Use a
car alarm. If you purchase a car radio, look for a model you can remove. Such
crimes occur in residential areas and business and shopping districts.
burglary has affected U.S. citizen residents. Thefts of unsecured bicycles,
gardening tools, and lawn furniture are fairly common. Thefts from inside the
home by household staff, workers, and other visitors are not uncommon.
U.S. citizens have fallen victim to fraud
related to their credit/debit cards. Skimming, the theft of credit card
information during an otherwise legitimate transaction, can occur in
restaurants or bars where the server takes the card out of the owner’s view.
Pay for items in cash when possible and use credit cards only at larger
establishments (e.g. hotels). To avoid skimming, take the credit/debit card to
the register yourself, and never let the card out of your sight. Also, be sure
to monitor your bank account or credit card statement frequently. For more
information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
The frequency and level of sophistication
associated with computer crime is relatively low.
Other Areas of Concern
to regular civil unrest and the use of roadblocks by protesting segments of the
population, as well as the destructive power of the rainy season on unimproved
roads, check on the road conditions and status before departing on overland
trips. Those visiting the Chapare and Yungas regions should monitor local news
and media before traveling.
particularly alert for crime in La Paz near the San Francisco church, El Alto
market, markets on Sagarnaga Street and in the Sopocachi area, and in municipal
bus stations/terminals. Due to increased pickpocketing and mugging during the
evening, do not walk through the Prado after dark.
Santa Cruz suffers from higher levels of
For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
the major cities, road conditions are hazardous. Many roads are not paved,
while others are topped with gravel/dirt. Unpaved roads can be quite hazardous
during the rainy season (December-March) when rockslides and road/bridge
washouts are common. Many winding stretches lack sufficient lighting, guard
rails, traffic signs, or designated traffic lanes. Mountainous areas pose even
greater challenges, with weather conditions varying from snow to heavy rain
storms, and narrow, unpaved roads frequently blocked by rock/mudslides.
North Yungas road (from La Paz toward Coroico and Caranavi) has earned the
dubious designation of "The World’s Most Dangerous Road," and has
become a hub for thrill-seeking mountain cyclists. Weekly media reports
describe accidents along the road, usually involving buses and multiple
fatalities. As an alternative, use Carretera Cotapata – Santa Barbara, also
referred to as the Carretera nueva a Coroico.
of the roads north of La Paz that pass through Guanay, Mapiri, Consata, Apolo,
and Sorata are extremely dangerous due to landslides and narrow roadways
traversing sheer cliffs. Compounding this, as these roads are lightly traveled,
motorists involved in accidents or encountering mechanical problems often find
themselves miles from the nearest village, with little hope of immediate assistance.
moving streams/rivers cross many roads in Beni province. Rivers, many with no
bridges, frequently cross the road between La Paz and San Borja. Some of these
crossings have barges propelled by a pull rope and pulley system. Travel along
less-traveled routes is dangerous due to poor roadways, reckless drivers, and
The general disregard for traffic laws makes
driving particularly dangerous. Pedestrians, with a general inattentiveness to
traffic, pose a hazard to drivers. Accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists,
and motorcycle/moped drivers are common in both urban and rural areas. Added
dangers are the lack of formal training for most drivers, lack of lights on
vehicles, and drunk/overly tired drivers, including commercial bus drivers. Most
roads are rarely patrolled by police and have many isolated stretches between
villages. Consequently, traffic accidents and vehicle breakdowns are
particularly hazardous. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report,
Driving Overseas: Best
Public Transportation Conditions
Intra-departmental public transportation is
poor, except along the more frequently traveled routes where roads are upgraded
and maintained (e.g. La Paz-Cochabamba, Cochabamba-Santa Cruz, and La Paz-Oruro).
Bus service along these routes is generally safe, although accidents occur,
often with fatalities. Urban bus transportation is risky for foreigners, with
frequently reported incidents of theft and robbery.
Avoid hailing taxis off the street when
possible, and never use taxis that are not clearly marked with the name of an
established taxi company.
There is minimal risk from terrorism in La Paz.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
is moderate risk from political violence in La Paz. Demonstrations, road
blocks, protests, and other forms of civil unrest are common, especially in La
Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. Student, labor union, and indigenous groups
often use protests and strikes to obtain promises of increased government
spending on social benefits and infrastructure. While disruptive, especially to
transportation, violence is usually limited and localized. Protestors
occasionally burn tires, throw Molotov cocktails, engage in destruction of
property, and detonate dynamite during demonstrations, but fatalities have been
rare. Travelers are normally only affected indirectly by having to contend with
traffic disturbances and transportation stoppages.
In 2016, Bolivia experienced its worst draught
in recent history. The water shortage led to demonstrations and implementation
of severe water rationing measures in the Zona Sur district of La Paz, the
location of many hotels and restaurants. Though the situation improved with
arrival of the rainy season, the potential remains for water shortages during
the dry season (April-November).
are a concern. Data gathered by the San Calixto Observatory in La Paz shows
there have been 13 reported incidents of significant seismic activity since 1994;
the last significant earthquake was in November 2011, when a 6.7-magnitude
earthquake hit San Ignacio de Moxos.
lying areas in Beni, Pando, Tarija, Potosi, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba
experience annual flooding, especially during the rainy season
In light of these environmental conditions,
travelers and residents should maintain an emergency supply of food/water and
establish an emergency plan.
Very strict privacy laws govern the release of
personal information; however, widespread corruption and poor record keeping
present vulnerabilities to privacy.
Personal Identity Concerns
Bolivia has one of the highest domestic
violence rates against women in South America. A very high percentage of women
have experienced intimate partner violence.
The Bolivian constitution prohibits
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are no
legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI
Few buildings and streets are accessible by
wheelchair. Sidewalks and ramps are often in disrepair. Most public
transportation vehicles are ill-adapted.
Bolivia is a producer of coca leaf, and a
source/transit country for cocaine, for shipment to markets in Latin America
and Europe. The major agricultural areas of coca leaf cultivation are the
Chapare and Yungas regions. Government coca eradication efforts can result in
violent reactions by producers. U.S. citizens should contact the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to traveling to the Chapare and Yungas
regions. Although there is concern about the growing presence of narco-trafficking
groups, Bolivia has experienced little narco-violence.
Penalties for possession of illegal drugs are
very strict; offenders receive lengthy prison sentences if convicted. Those
accused of drug offenses are often imprisoned two years or more before trial
police have limited resources, particularly outside major cities. In many
cases, officers assigned to smaller villages/towns do not have a vehicle to
respond to traffic accidents or criminal activity. Even when resources are
available, response is extremely slow by U.S. standards. Cooperate with the
police if stopped or questioned. Prison conditions are extremely primitive by
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
you are arrested, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and
customary international law, you may request that the authorities alert the
U.S. Embassy. Outside of major cities, awareness of international protocols is
uneven. If you feel that you are a victim of police corruption, bribery, or
harassment, contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy for
assistance. The Consular Section maintains a list of attorneys in Bolivia.
Crime Victim Assistance
citizens may contact the Consular section at the U.S. Embassy for assistance
with police matters. The police emergency telephone number is 110, but response time can be lengthy.
If involved in a traffic accident or victimized
by crime, the investigating officer may require you to accompany them to the
police station to file a complaint or respond to questions. If you require a
police report for an insurance claim, a nominal fee will apply.
The police are divided into two
Special Force to
Fight Drug Trafficking (FELCN), which focuses on narco-trafficking and related
Special Force to
Fight Crime (FELCC), which focuses on crimes not associated with
narco-trafficking (kidnapping, robbery)
Smaller units exist, with jurisdictions in more
specialized areas (e.g. traffic police) or local commands responsible for
community policing duties.
care in large cities is adequate for most purposes, but of varying quality.
Medical facilities, even in La Paz, are not adequate to handle serious medical
conditions. There is no reliable ambulance
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are widely
available. However, many pharmacies only stock generic brands.
Much of Bolivia is 10,000 feet above sea level and higher.
Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations concerning medication and
high altitude tips.
Water treatment methods do not meet U.S. standards. Avoid
consuming unfiltered tap water.
Sanitize all produce, and ensure all meat products are
completely cooked, due to higher risks of salmonella or other contaminants.
The blood supply and regulation of doctors and medical
services do not meet U.S. standards in many areas. Undergoing elective cosmetic
procedures in Bolivia presents significant risks.
The following diseases are prevalent: Malaria; Dengue; Rabies;
Yellow fever; Chikungunya; and Zika.
Contact Information for Available Medical
For information on medical providers, refer to
the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Consult with your medical insurance company
prior to traveling abroad to confirm that the policy applies overseas, and that
it will cover emergency expenses (including medical evacuation). U.S. medical
insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the U.S., unless you
purchase supplemental coverage. Medicare/Medicaid programs do not provide
payment for medical services outside the U.S. Many travel agents and private
companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred
overseas. Find useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including
overseas insurance programs, on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
The CDC offers additional information on
vaccines and health guidance for Bolivia.
Country Council Information
There is no OSAC Country
Council in La Paz. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact
OSAC’s Latin America
team with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Informatio
Address and Hours of Operation
Avenida Arce, La Paz
0800 – 1730; Friday: 0800 - 1200
(including after-hours calls): (591) (2) 216-8000
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register their
travel with the Department of State through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens with
questions or concerns about their travel or who need assistance can contact
American Citizens Services.
Additional Resource: Bolivia Country Information