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Country Guides for South America


Bolivia Bolivia is an enchanting country of history, color, and natural beauty. In the northwest you'll find the soaring Andean city of La Paz, the ancient Incan ruins of Lake Titicaca and Tiahuanaco, and the Parque Nacional Madidi, with its amazing variety of habitat and wildlife. Farther south, the charming colonial city of Sucre, Uyuni's ghostly salt flats, and the grasslands with their host of wildlife will fascinate any traveler. Add to this the colorful indigenous cultures, and it's clear why Bolivia is becoming more and more a popular tourist destination.

Language: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)

Major International Airports:


From City
La PazJFK Int'lLPB8 miles NE

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found universally throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of South America, should take an antimalarial drug.

Chloroquine is the recommended drug for Paraguay.
Travelers to Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

If you visit the Andes Mountains, ascend gradually to allow time for your body to adjust to the high altitude, which can cause insomnia, headaches, nausea, and altitude sickness. In addition, use sunblock rated at least 15 SPF, because the risk of sunburn is greater at high altitudes.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) are other diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for immunizations to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay >6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • Yellow fever vaccination, if you will be traveling outside urban areas.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filters” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • If you will be visiting an area where there is risk for malaria, take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

Those traveling to Bolivia are at risk from dengue fever transmitted by mosquito bites, leishmaniasis from sandfly bites, and Chagas disease from triatomine bugs, as well as other insect-borne diseases. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

The municipal water supplies in first class hotels and resorts are generally safe, but a risk of parasitic contamination exists elsewhere, and travelers are advised to treat water before drinking.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities in the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions. Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication can result in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests in Bolivia. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel.

Demonstrations by various local groups protesting government or private company policies occur frequently in urban areas, even in otherwise peaceful times. Protesters occasionally use explosive devices and in some cases, the police have used tear gas and force. Strikes and other civic actions can occur at any time and can disrupt transportation on a local or national level.

In recent years civil unrest has become more generalized, spreading to both urban and rural areas. Protesters blocked roads with stones, trees, and other objects, and reacted violently when travelers attempted to pass through or go around roadblocks. U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations at all times. U.S. citizens considering a visit to Bolivia should keep apprised of current conditions and monitor local news sources before considering overland travel within the country.

In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations have subsided, many of the underlying social, political and economic causes remain.

Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on several occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.

CRIME INFORMATION: Street crime, such as pickpocketing and theft from parked vehicles, happens with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is relatively common. Hijacking of vehicles has been known to occur, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.

Thefts of bags, wallets and backpacks have become a problem in certain sections of La Paz, primarily in the downtown area near Calle Sagarnaga. Most thefts involve two or three people, who spot a likely victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice will grab the bag or backpack and flee. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves often spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. Sometimes the thief poses as a policeman, and requests the person to accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. All visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially after 6:00 PM.

Three years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque, in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received numerous reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, " A Safe Trip Abroad ," for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This publication and others are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office , Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at .

Source: U.S. Department of State

Climatic conditions vary widely from tropical in the lowlands to polar in the highest parts of the Andes, and temperatures depend primarily on elevation, showing little seasonal variation. In most locations, rainfall is heaviest during the Southern Hemisphere summer, and yearly amounts tend to decrease from north to south. Northern lowland areas have a tropical wet climate with year round high temperatures, high humidity, and heavy rainfall. Central lowland areas have a tropical wet and dry climate. From October through April, northeast trade winds predominate, and the weather is hot, humid, and rainy. From May through September, however, dry southeast trade winds take control, and precipitation is minimal. The Chaco has a semitropical, semiarid climate.

Precip. Days
Precip. Totals
La Paz12221"

Bolivia's electrical current is 110/50*220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in these countries provide grounding.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended upon application to 90 days). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a new passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Bolivian government immigration office in La Paz, Cochabamba, or Santa Cruz in order to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Bolivia. Travelers who have Bolivian citizenship or residency must pay an additional fee upon departure. For further information regarding entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Consular Section of the Bolivian Embassy at 1819 H Street, N.W, Suite 240, Washington, DC 20006; telephone (202) 232-4828; Or the Bolivian consulate in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, or Seattle.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: Minors (under 18), who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a Travel Permit can be obtained from the Juzgada de Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship.

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Bolivia is -4 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Bolivia would be 1:00 pm

The unit of currency in Bolivia is the boliviano (BOB).

Look up the current exchange rate using's Universal Currency Converter

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