Watch a traditional Tinku dance group in Bolivia
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Watch a traditional Tinku dance group in Bolivia

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Bolivia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,098,581 sq km (424,164 sq miles).

Population

10,888,402 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

9.8 per sq km.

Capital

La Paz.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

Luis Arce since November 2020.

Head of government

Luis Arce since November 2020.

Electricity

220 volts, 50Hz; some buildings in La Paz also have 110-volt sockets. Plugs are either two-pronged with round prongs (European) and flat-pronged pins (North American).

With its ice-capped Andean peaks, crystalline lagoons, rugged lowlands, Amazonian rainforest, terraced valleys and windswept altiplano, landlocked Bolivia is a virtual showcase of South America’s most dramatic landscapes. 

Its iconic sights include Lake Titicaca, spiritual home of the Inca creation myth and highest navigable lake in the world; the Salar de Uyuni, highest and largest salt lake on earth; and La Paz, the world’s highest de facto capital. The panorama of the city’s ramshackle roofs sprawled across the basin beneath the mighty Mt Illampú is surely one of the most awesome views in the Americas.

The country’s greatest treasures are the Bolivians themselves. Nearly two thirds of the people are of indigenous origin, preserving the continent’s purest cultural roots, which, for visitors, means a dazzling array of colourful festivals, mysterious rituals, haunting folklore music, magical markets and dazzling costumed dances.

While bespoke tourism is emerging, there are also plenty of long bus journeys over precipitous mountain passes, rough-and-tumble jeep trips across empty landscapes and chilly nights at high altitude in budget hostels under llama wool blankets.

Bolivia’s cities encapsulate the country’s staggering contrasts. La Paz mixes both traditional and modern culture in a frenzy of collisions. Weave your way through the backstreets where cosmopolitan restaurants and lively bars compete with witch markets and speeding minibuses. By contrast, Santa Cruz has a younger vibe: famous for its spirited Carnival, it’s the booming hub of the tropical eastern lowlands. Colonial Sucre and Potosí are chronicles of Bolivia’s past – whitewashed mansions, gilt-lined churches, monumental plazas, and steep cobbled streets. While Tupiza and Uyuni offer something different altogether: the isolated culture of Altiplano towns.

From jungle greenery to vast white salt plains and wildlife-filled wetlands, the sweep of landscapes can be overwhelming: one day you can find yourself walking through a canyon of rock formations, the next volcanic geysers and endless stretches of white salt. It is this smorgasbord of remarkable features which keeps trips to Bolivia varied, alive and unforgettable.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Bolivia on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Travel

Flight restrictions from Europe have been lifted. Passengers arriving from all countries require a PCR test taken up to 72 hours before flying and is required for everybody over 5-years of age to enter Bolivia. On arrival you must quarantine for 10 days, and pay for a PCR test on the 7th day of quarantine. Tourists must show proof of medical insurance that will cover the cost of treatment.

Check specific requirements with your airline.

Land, river and lake border crossings remain closed.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Bolivia.

Returning to the UK

Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Bolivia

The following quarantine measures apply nationally:

Schools remain closed. In public places you must maintain 1.5m distance from other people and use facemasks, including outside.

Local authorities may impose further restrictions, including on the movement of people under 12 and over 65 years old, and weekend movement.

Visas

If you are in Bolivia and your entry stamp is about to expire, inform the British Embassy’s consular section by sending your details to lapaz.escalations@fcdo.gov.uk.

Accommodation

Many hotels are now open with distancing measures in place.

Healthcare in Bolivia

There is currently very limited capacity in Bolivian hospitals due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and tourists may not be able to access the public health care system.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Bolivia.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Bolivia

We will update this page when the Government of Bolivia announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Bolivian national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the Sinopharm, Sputnik, Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) and AstraZeneca vaccines. The Government of Bolivia has stated that British nationals who are legally resident in Bolivia are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme.

The Bolivian government has announced that they will offer vaccinations to foreigners that are not legally resident in Bolivia but hold a passport, from Monday 27 September to Friday 30 September from 8:30am to 2:30pm.

For those that wish to participate, the vaccination centres will be:

  • La Paz – Escuela Tecnica de Salud, Called Capitan Ravelo
  • Santa Cruz – Universidad Gabriel Rene Moreno, Bloque de Salud
  • Cochabamba – Escuela Tecnica de Salud, Calle Aniceto Arce

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Bolivia, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Help and support

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact the British Embassy. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Road blockades

Social conflict is common in Bolivia and blockades may occur along the main roads. Groups often use road blockades as a form of protest, without warning. Public transport can be disrupted at very short notice and strikes may result in widespread road blockades, including on roads to and from airports. The Bolivian road authority website gives up-to-date information on which roads are blocked. You should avoid large crowds and demonstrations, and do not attempt to cross blockades.

Crime

Be vigilant at all times while travelling around. There have been a number of reported crimes against foreign nationals.

When choosing your transport, use established companies and seek local advice.

Petty crime is common in central La Paz and other popular tourist destinations, on buses and in crowded areas. Don’t leave your bag or belongings unattended.
Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items in a safe place.

There has been an increase in the number of robberies involving taxis in the city of Santa Cruz and La Paz. If you do use a taxi choose a ‘radio taxi’, which is identifiable by the telephone number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle’s roof. If possible, request a taxi by phone, make a note of the taxi’s registration number and telephone number before you set off. This type of taxi should carry no other passengers.

A list of taxi companies registered with the Mayor’s office in La Paz is available in this news article. According to the Mayor’s office, registered taxis display a sticker on their windscreen or windows.

Criminals sometimes impersonate police officers and act in collusion with bogus taxis to target foreigners. False police ID cards, uniforms and even false police stations have been used to fool victims. The criminal pretends to be a friendly tourist. A bogus police officer then approaches and asks for passports and other information. The victim is then persuaded to get into a taxi where he/she is robbed or taken to cash points to withdraw money.

Be vigilant and call local authorities if you suspect that impostors are targeting you. You can’t be searched without a written order from a state prosecutor. The Tourist Police toll-free number is 800-14-0081.

Beware of individuals offering help at taxi points and at bus terminals where thieves work in teams to distract their victims.

There is a general risk of ‘express kidnappings’ - short-term, opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash. Victims are normally selected at random and held for up to several days while criminals use stolen bank or credit cards. Foreign visitors are particularly vulnerable when entering Bolivia at overland border points with Peru, Chile and Argentina. If you are travelling from Copacabana to La Paz, try to use direct buses. Take particular care on arrival, especially in the Cementerio General, area in La Paz where a number of incidents have been reported. There have also been reports of similar incidents in the Sopocachi area of La Paz.

Take care around transport in tourist sites such as Rurrenabaque. Attacks on lone travellers taking motorbike taxis have been reported.

Female travellers should be vigilant inside clubs and hostels. Rape and sexual assault incidents have been reported. Be cautious if you’re approached by strangers and if possible, lock your room when you return to your hotel/hostel.

Petty crime is common in central La Paz and other popular tourist destinations like Sagarnaga Street, on buses and in other crowded areas.

Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items in a safe place.

Adventure tourism

Bolivia offers a number of adventure activities, including mountain biking, salt flat tours and jungle expeditions. There are no official minimum standards for tour operators. Seek local advice and only use reputable companies. Check your travel insurance policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

For mountain biking on the so-called ‘Death Road’, from La Paz to Coroico through the Yungas Valley, make sure bicycles are in good condition and guides are fully equipped with safety equipment and first-aid kits.

Prison tours

Avoid prison tours. They are illegal and unsafe. There are no guarantees for your safety inside prison premises.

Road travel

You will need an International Driving Permit to hire a car. You must carry this with you at all times when driving.

Road travel can be dangerous due to poor road conditions, local driving techniques and the condition of vehicles on the road. There have been a number of recent accidents involving public transport, especially long distance buses, in which British nationals have been affected. Bus drivers drive for well over the time permitted in comparison with European laws.

Weather conditions can seriously affect your ability to travel. During the rainy season (November to March) there is risk of landslides and roads can be severely affected. Check with the Bolivian road authority website on the state of the roads and seek local advice before you set out.

There is little control of vehicle maintenance and serious accidents occur on the main tourist routes Some of Bolivia’s principal roads are paved, but of variable quality. Most roads are unpaved rough tracks. 4-wheel drive vehicles are often the best means of transport, especially during the rainy season. Broken-down vehicles with no warning lights are a frequent hazard on roads at night.

Many taxis and most of the bus companies don’t meet European standards and rarely have seat belts.

Air travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The rainy season may affect air travel; flights may be delayed or cancelled at short notice. Contact your airline to confirm your flight schedule.

A civil airline accident in 2013 at Riberalta airport in the Beni department highlighted a lack of safety and rescue capability in many of Bolivia’s airports, with airports outside the departmental capitals less likely to possess fire and rescue equipment.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2008 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Bolivia.

River travel

Boat trips on Lake Titicaca are available, but the craft are often very basic. The same is true of boats used for river excursions in jungle areas.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Bolivia, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Illegal bars exist in Bolivia. You may be detained for questioning if you are caught at one of these, particularly if drugs are found within the premises.

Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine. There are harsh penalties for those caught trafficking or in possession. The minimum sentence is 8 years and prison conditions are very basic. Be very careful with your luggage and belongings and avoid any contact with illegal drugs.

Ayahuasca is a traditional plant used in “spiritual cleansing” ceremonies by indigenous communities in Bolivia, primarily in the Amazon region, but also near La Paz. This ceremony involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions is not well understood. People have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases death after participating in these ceremonies. Some Ayahuasca retreats are some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it.

Be careful especially when carrying cameras or binoculars when travelling off the beaten track, particularly in coca-growing areas such as the Chapare and the Yungas.

Check before taking photographs of local people.

Homosexuality is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the majority of Bolivians, more so in the Altiplano than in Santa Cruz, where attitudes tend to be more liberal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Police and immigration officials sometimes carry out ID checks. You can keep a photocopy of the pages from your passport containing your personal details and the Bolivian immigration stamps with you, and leave the original document in a safe place.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Bolivia set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Restrictions in response to coronavirus

Flight restrictions from Europe have been lifted. Passengers arriving from all countries require a PCR test taken up to 72 hours before flying and is required for everybody over 5-years of age to enter Bolivia. On arrival you must quarantine for 10 days, and pay for a PCR test on the 7th day of quarantine. Tourists must show proof of medical insurance that will cover the cost of treatment.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

You should check specific requirements with your airline. The border with Brazil is temporarily closed. Other land, river and lake border crossings have been opened by Bolivian authorities, but Paraguay is the only neighbouring country that has opened its borders so far.

Regular entry requirements

Visitor visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Bolivia. The length of stay permitted on entering Bolivia is initially 30 days. This can be extended for a further 60 days, at no extra charge, as long as you apply before the end of the 30 day period at one of the Department of Immigration offices throughout the country. The Department of Immigration has imposed an annual limit for tourists of 90 days in Bolivia without a visa. If you want to stay for a longer period seek advice from the Bolivian Embassy in London or the Department of Immigration office in La Paz at Avenida Camacho No. 1468.

Make sure you get an entry stamp when you arrive in Bolivia, otherwise you’ll have to pay a fine to leave. If you enter Bolivia overland, make sure your passport is stamped on both sides of the border, with an exit stamp from the country you are leaving and an entry stamp on the Bolivian side - you may need to ask for directions to the immigration office. The British Embassy can’t intervene in immigration issues.

Many countries in the region are not allowing entry to foreign citizens and are likely to need valid documents for entry, so you should check with authorities before planning to leave.

Residence permits and other types of visas

The Bolivian Immigration authority (Dirección General de Migración) has introduced new procedures and requirements for British nationals applying for residence permits and other types of visas in Bolivia. New requirements now include a police certificate of criminal records from the UK, which you can get from the Association of Chief Police Officers website. If you need any documents from the UK, get them translated into Spanish and legalised at the Bolivian Embassy in London.

Visit the Bolivian Immigration authority for more information.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Bolivia. Full valid passports are shipped from the UK. Applications from Bolivia for replacements will experience delay, due to suspension of flights and courier services.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bolivia. Your ETD must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Bolivia.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Bolivia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Bolivia.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Local medical care

You can buy most medicines at pharmacies in the cities, but brand names can be different. It is best to know the generic name of the drug. Many drugs are available without prescriptions. Drugs for mental health conditions require a prescription. There are many pharmacies in Bolivian cities, clearly signed as “farmacias”.

Certain medications prescribed for personal use in the UK are treated as narcotics in Bolivia, with severe penalties for import or export without a valid prescription from a doctor. You should refer to the list of controlled substances that are considered narcotics in Bolivia. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from a doctor describing the medical condition and any prescribed drugs. If you bring medicines with you, make sure they are in their original containers and clearly labelled.

Foreign nationals aren’t entitled to free medical treatment in Bolivian public hospitals. Public hospitals tend to be crowded and often don’t meet UK standards. Private healthcare facilities that work with international insurance companies are available in major cities. Some of the tourist destinations in remote areas of Bolivia only have basic medical facilities. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from a doctor describing the medical condition and any prescribed drugs. If you bring medicines with you, make sure they are in their original containers and clearly labelled.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 118 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Health risks

The police have discovered widespread distribution of fake medicines in Bolivia. You should ask your travel agent, doctor or hotel for recommendations on reputable pharmacies.

UK health authorities have classified Bolivia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Yellow fever vaccine should be given to travellers 9 months of age and older travelling to areas below 2,300m east of the Andes Mountains. These areas include the entire departments of Beni, Pando, and Santa Cruz, and some areas in the Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz and Tarija departments. Yellow fever vaccine may not be suitable for some individuals so you should seek further advice from your GP, practice nurse or private travel clinic.

Some areas have been designated as ‘high risk’ for yellow fever. When outbreaks occur, the government sets up vaccination points at police checkpoints. At each of these, you may be vaccinated if you do not hold a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Dengue Fever is common to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Rain and flooding can lead to an increase in dengue carrying mosquitoes, leaving affected areas more vulnerable to dengue breakouts. Malaria is also common in lowland tropical areas (Beni and Pando) and the area known as Chaco in the south (Yacuiba, Paracari). Cases of Dengue in areas of Santa Cruz have been much higher than normal in 2020.

Local authorities have declared a health alert in the department of Santa Cruz due to a number of confirmed cases of Chikungunya virus. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Parts of Bolivia, including La Paz are at high altitude. This factsheet includes advice on how to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and what to do if you develop symptoms.

Floods and landslides, especially in mountainous areas, are a regular feature of the rainy season, which runs from November to March. Roads are frequently impassable for days at a time.

Banking facilities are good in all main Bolivian cities. ATMs accept Visa, Maestro, and Mastercard.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.