Bolivia, combined with the actual Amazon Rainforest and the Andes, has a lot to offer from the Lake Titicaca to the Salar de Uyuni. But it’s not all amazing natural and historical sites. Border conflicts, a big issue with poverty, petty crime, and narcos gangs galore mean Bolivia isn’t all that perfect.
So naturally, you’re going to be asking, “Is Bolivia safe?” To help you figure that one out we have put together a mammoth insider’s guide to staying safe in Bolivia. We are all about travelling smart, so we’re going to be giving you safety tips for Bolivia.
There are a lot of things about this South American country that you’re going to wonder, so we’ll be answering questions like, “Is the public transport safe in Bolivia” and “Can I eat the food in Bolivia?” to help you decide for yourself whether or not Bolivia is for you.
You may be worried as a solo female traveller thinking about embarking on a trip to Bolivia, or you may be an intrepid parent wondering if Bolivia is safe to travel with children in tow. Whatever the reason you’re reading this right now, our epic guide has got you covered.
- How Safe is Bolivia? (Our take)
- Is Bolivia Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Is it Safe to Visit Bolivia Right Now?
- Bolivia Travel Insurance
- 26 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Bolivia
- Keeping your money safe in Bolivia
- Is Bolivia safe to travel alone?
- Is Bolivia safe for solo female travellers?
- Is Bolivia safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Bolivia?
- Is Uber safe in Bolivia?
- Are taxis safe in Bolivia?
- Is public transportation in Bolivia safe?
- Is the food in Bolivia safe?
- Can you drink the water in Bolivia?
- Is Bolivia safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Bolivia?
- Helpful Bolivia Travel Phrases
- FAQ about Staying Safe in Bolivia
- Final thoughts on the safety of Bolivia
How Safe is Bolivia? (Our take)
Bolivia: a whole load of scenery, including the volcanoes and some pretty famous salt flats, plus the ruins of the ancient city of Tiwanaku. Make sure you do your travel research before starting your backpacking Bolivia adventure so you get to see all of the amazing hotspots!
This country claims to have the lowest crime rates in South America, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% true. Bolivia is a poor country that sees its fair share of protests and demonstrations and on a regular too.
Road blockades are not uncommon and the political situation is not very stable.
La Paz is the highest altitude capital in the world. There’s dangers of altitude sickness, and not just from climbing mountains!
Petty theft is on the rise. There’s sketchy taxis, ATM theft, kidnappings and so on. But let’s have a look in more detail.
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Bolivia Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Bolivia. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Bolivia.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
Is Bolivia Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
Bolivia is safe(ish) to visit.
In 2016 the country welcomed around 1 million tourists – that’s a lot. There’s definitely potentials when it comes to tourism in the country, which intends to focus on this.
However, there are issues in the country that make that a little bit of a scary prospect.
Case in point: Bolivia is the 3rd largest producer of cocaine in the world. That comes gangs, corruption, and bribery – narcos stuff.
In terms of 2019’s Global Peace Index, Bolivia ranks 85 out of 163 countries (higher than the USA, for example). This is moderate so no red warnings here.
It is, however, one of the poorest countries in South America. In 2009, just over 60% of the population lived in poverty and 37.7% lived in extreme poverty.
But tourism can help alleviate the problems of poverty. It can also bring with it a lot of petty crime, with tourists targeted for easy cash.
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Is it Safe to Visit Bolivia Right Now?
Bolivia is safe to visit right now, but there are some things you should be aware of at the moment.
For instance, La Paz can be quite sketchy at night time. Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Copacabana, and Oruro have the same problem – they’re all big cities visited by tourists. Popular tourist destinations like Sagarnaga Street in La Paz are known for pickpockets.
On the island of Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca, there’s an ongoing dispute between local communities which has affected tourists in the area. Before travelling here you need to read up on the current situation or ask locals for advice.
The political situation (since the end of 2018) can mean roadblocks at any time. These are bloqueos. This sort of thing can affect public transport and you may not be able to get around or you may even get stranded. Bus services can be cancelled between towns. Taxi drivers have been known to be attacked by protesters as well.
Protests themselves can be quite common and crazy. The biggest building in La Paz, the Supreme Electoral Court, was burned down in December 2018.
This is all pretty recent stuff that you’ll need to be aware of when you visit Bolivia.
Also, there’s the threat of landslides and flooding during the rainy season. This can not only delay travel but be dangerous as well. Speaking of which, the Amazon Rainforest can be pretty life-threatening at times: venomous snakes, poisonous insects and other deadly creatures.
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So whilst it may not seem to be a safe time to be visiting Bolivia right now, it is in fact still a relatively safe country. Aside from petty theft, which is unfortunately not rare, there are not loads that will be actively threatening your safety. Keeping yourself out of danger just means travelling smart, and we have a few safety tips for travelling to Bolivia to help you do just that on your trip to this epic country…
- Keep your belongings close – petty theft is a real thing, especially in Santa Cruz and La Paz. Make sure you keep your valuables safe and consider purchasing a money belt to hide your cash when in public areas.
- Don’t walk around looking flashy – makes you even more of a target. SLRs slung around necks, designer clothes, etc aren’t necessary.
- Use proper taxis – the increasing amount of robberies by ‘taxi’ drivers is alarming (more on that later).
- Careful at transport hubs – taxi ranks, bus terminals, train stations and so on. Distraction techniques, offering to carry luggage, overly helpful people are ways to part you with your belongings.
- Try not to use ATMs at night – or in deserted places – thefts can occur.
- Express kidnappings have been on the rise – mainly in La Paz. We’ll talk more about it in our taxi safety section.
- Steer clear of Coronilla Hill in Cochabamba – a known spot for drug addicts and unsavoury characters. Not safe, even for locals.
- Be careful crossing borders – from/into Peru, Argentina and Chile. There have been reports of express kidnappings.
- Heading on a tour? Read reviews first – salt flats, mountains, jungles, whatever it is. Do your research – some aren’t good (or safe) at all.
- And don’t go on a prison tour – these are illegal and there is no safety guarantee. They are dangerous and definitely the best to avoid.
- Be aware of snakes – including rattlesnakes. Watch where you’re treading when you’re out trekking.
- Make sure the boat is safe – some boats on Larke Titicaca or along a jungle river may be too basic or overloaded.
- Stay away from drugs – if you get involved in cocaine, the minimum sentence is 8 years. Bolivian prisons aren’t safe so just stay away.
- Whilst we’re at it, steer clear of the ‘cocaine bars’ in La Paz – aimed at gringos, it’s still not ok to frequent them.
- It’s legal for farmers to grow coca but… – be careful of taking pictures if you’re around Chapare and the Yungas, coca-growing areas.
- Ask permission before taking photos of local people – it’s polite to do that anyway.
- And then there’s ayahuasca – indigenous communities use it. If you want to go ‘spiritual’, make your own research first because this stuff can really mess you up. Don’t do it “just to try”, it can be dangerous.
- Cover up against mosquitoes – bring repellent and others. Malaria and dengue fever are a risk here so make sure you know how to keep mosquitoes away.
- Be careful when travelling in the mountain areas during the rainy season – the rainy season runs from November to March. There’s a higher level of dengue fever during this period, too.
- Make sure you travel with your passport complete with visa stamps – police do carry out checks. Bringing copies will do.
- Don’t travel after dark – the risk of being targeted for crime is much higher.
- Bars aren’t allowed to serve alcohol after 4 AM – some bars do, but you can still get fined by police who do random raids.
- Bribes and corruption are rife – you might have to pay up for all sorts of small infringements.
- And watch out for fake police officers – this is a thing. Authentic police officers always wear a uniform.
- Beware of over-friendly people – especially if they invite you to their house; can lead to being kidnapped and robbed.
- Learn some Spanish – this is the ‘official’ language, but there are 37 other languages spoken in Bolivia. Spanish will still help, and it’s always fun to learn a new language!
So after all that whilst it may not seem safe to be visiting Bolivia but many people do visit and have a trouble-free time. It’s best to travel smart and avoid people and situations that just don’t seem right. Keep your wits about you and be aware of the possible dangers, and watch out for who’s around you, and you should be fine. Keep our safety travel tips for Bolivia in mind and you can travel without danger!
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Keeping your money safe in Bolivia
Having your money stolen is going to be a problem pretty much anywhere in the world, but in Bolivia, it isn’t that uncommon. Sad but true. And the last thing you want is to be lacking in funds when you’re travelling.
You can avoid crowded places, not walk around looking like a rich, unsuspecting tourist and try to blend in. Sometimes, though, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And what can really help in these situations is a money belt.
The Pacsafe Money Belt is our best bet. It’s affordable, it looks and acts like a belt, and it’s sturdy – what more could you ask for out of a money belt!
The number one thing about this awesome money belt is the fact that it looks like a regular belt. It also doesn’t cost much and it’s rugged, too! Just put a little bolivianos stashed in your money belt to stop pickpockets in their tracks and go about your day. Your cash is safe in your money belt!
Travelling solo is great! You can travel at your own pace, meet some cool people, learn some stuff about yourself and not have to answer to anybody. But it’s not always easy. Not only can you lose touch with why you went in the first place, it’s also more unsafe than any other regular country…
However, you can go alone. You’ll just have to be extra smart with how you travel. So here are some tips for solo travellers in Bolivia so you can stay safe and have an epic time.
- Try to stay at social hostels where you can get to know other travellers. This is a good way to beat the solo travel blues. Obviously, you should be reading reviews and making sure that you stay somewhere that’s not only social but also safe and secure, too. Plus if you don’t want to party, it’ll help you avoid staying at somewhere geared only towards drinking loads.
- You can stay at local alojamientes – low-key local hotels which charge per person. These are still affordable, low-key, but also not very gringo-y if you want to avoid that sort of thing. Again, read reviews.
- It’s really not a good idea to wander into any natural wilderness by yourself. There’s not always good emergency services if you get into trouble. And getting lost, stepping on a snake, or whatever, is pretty easily done without a guide.
- Join a tour. This is not ‘not backpacking’ but just a smart way to go about things. You’ll learn more than just what you’re guidebook is telling you, you’ll get to meet other travellers and get to see things safely with a guide. You should still always research because there are a ton of agencies offering their services and not all of them are legit.
- Hit up language exchange meet-ups called Parlana. These take place on Tuesdays in major Bolivian cities. A good way to learn a language and meet some locals too.
- Don’t get too drunk when you’re out and about. You might make yourself more of a target, you might get lost and not be able to find your way home. Either way, being completely wasted is a good way to lose your senses and put yourself in dangerous situation when you’re not somewhere familiar.
- Ask the locals for advice. Chat to the people running your hostel or guesthouse. For everything from good places to eat, to whether certain areas of where you’re staying are safe or not, local knowledge always wins.
- Don’t keep all of your valuables in one place. Money, wallet, cards. Having it all in one bag means that if you lose that bag, it’s game over. Spread it around, separate your notes and maybe even have an emergency credit card handy because you never know when you might need it.
- Let people know where you are and what you’re doing. Going off the grid isn’t cool. So keep in touch with your friends and family back home – even if it’s just a Facebook update or a quick message to the family Whatsapp group.
It may not always be 100% safe in Bolivia for solo travellers, but there are a lot of other backpackers out there who are travelling solo around Bolivia. It’s a good chance to break out of your comfort zone and meet some likeminded people interested in doing what you’re doing, as well as meeting lots of lovely locals too. So stay safe, make some travel buddies, go on some tours, and keep your stuff secure – and you’ll be fine!
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Is Bolivia safe for solo female travellers?
It’s unsafe enough in Bolivia for male solo travellers, so when it comes to being a solo female traveller in Bolivia, there may, unfortunately, be more dangers. Poverty fuels a lot of petty theft and women do get targeted more for that. However, women travelling here will feel fairly safe.
There are friends to be made, incredible trekking to be had, and interesting cultures to soak up. But as in your home country (probably), there is harassment and other issues you should be aware of. So we’ve shared our safety tips for solo female travellers in Bolivia…
- Choose accommodation wisely. Make sure you can lock your room and that the hostel is secure. The best way to do this is to read reviews, especially ones from fellow female travellers to make sure the hostel or guesthouse is safe and suitable enough.
- Make friends with other travellers. Buddying up with a fellow backpacker is not only going to make you feel safer, it probably will be safer – especially for things like going out at night.
- Try to dress conservatively and cover up. Watch what the local women are wearing and try to copy it as much as possible. Covering your legs and shoulders is always a good idea.
- Don’t leave your drinks unattended. This probably is something you already have to watch out for as a woman, but drink spiking can happen in Bolivia too.
- Don’t tell people all your personal information. Everything from your marital status to the exact address of where you’re staying in Bolivia, or where you’re going – strangers don’t need to know this.
- Learn some Spanish. It will go down well and help you get around, even if it’s just a few words or phrases.
- Be extra cautious when you’re in busy, touristed areas. As a lone woman, you’re more likely to be a target for crime. Be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers when in public places.
- Don’t walk around by yourself at night. Especially around dark, deserted streets in the cities. It’s not a good idea for anybody, so for a solo female, it’s going to be even riskier.
- And when you’re walking around by yourself in the day, look like you know where you’re going. Be confident, even if you don’t feel like it. Looking lost (even if you are) isn’t great for avoiding unwanted attention. If you’re feeling worried, lost, or like someone’s following you, duck into a shop or other reputable-looking establishment and ask for help.
- If you are harassed, things like sexual comments or whistling at you, just ignore it. Bolivia is more conservative than Argentina or Chile, so if you’ve just come from there it’s important to bear that in mind.
- Save emergency numbers in your phone. Save them high up so they come up first and put them on speed-dial. The last thing you want to be doing is scrolling through your phonebook in the unlikely event of an emergency.
So there you have it – our top tips for solo travel as a woman in Bolivia. Many women do travel to Bolivia and have an amazing time without any trouble as long as they apply basic safety precautions. At the same time, it’s not exactly a wonderland. Rapes and sexual assaults on foreigners have been reported and can happen.
Like many places in the world, there are issues in Bolivia with sexual harassment. In a study by the Pan-American Health Organisation, Bolivia was found to have the highest rates of domestic violence out of 12 Latin American countries.
But this is also the country that has female wrestling. They’re called cholitas and they’re basically awesome. You should look them up! Other than that, make friends with other backpackers, buddy up and keep your wits about you here.
Is Bolivia safe to travel for families?
Bolivia is definitely an out-there destination for families. But that’s not to say it can’t be done. In fact, many people do and they’re just fine! However, you’ve got to be properly prepared if you do plan to visit Bolivia, and it definitely helps if you’re an adventurous family.
Bolivia has unpredictable weather, political upheaval to plan around and some pretty low standards of hygiene to worry about.
It’s also super important to think about the altitude you’re travelling at in Bolivia and the effect it has on children. For example, it’s not a good idea to fly directly into La Paz if you’re coming from somewhere low-altitude. This is a high city and children are mich more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults. Children might not show, or be able to tell you if they’re feeling the symptoms of altitude sickness. So it’s important to be aware of just what those are.
When it comes to dining out, eat at reputable places. Small children are more susceptible to food poisoning, too.
Transport can often be disrupted (for whatever reason) too – buses and trains can be subject to severe delays.
You should definitely pack a well equipped first aid kit and make sure everyone’s got the right vaccinations. Ensure that you’ve got a lot of protection from the sun – so bring a load of sunscreen and sunhats – plus from mosquitoes as well.
There’s no point bringing a pushchair, there won’t be highchairs anywhere. Nor baby changing facilities. That being said, resorts will be fine.
Bolivian society is all about the kids. This means visiting Bolivia with your kids in tow will break down barriers with the locals, which is always a plus!
People do have an awesome time in Bolivia. The amazing wildlife this country has to offer is enough to make any child lose their mind: you can see jaguars, pumas and even pink river dolphins!
There are even travel agencies out there who can help plan a child-friendly itinerary with you!
Travelling to Bolivia with your family isn’t not safe, but it’s also not for the faint of heart. Make sure you’re fully prepared and that you know what to expect, and your family will have the best time.
Is it safe to drive in Bolivia?
Not really. It’s not always safe to drive in Bolivia.
There are can be some pretty hazardous road conditions out there. On top of this, there are other drivers. Bus drivers, in particular, are notorious for being awful drivers in Bolivia.
Whilst a lot of Bolivia’s main roads are now paved, many roads remain as dirt tracks. You’ll need a four-wheeled drive to traverse them at all. Make sure you have spare tyres and plenty of fluids if you’re heading off the main road.
Not many people hire cars in Bolivia, because it’s a real challenge. If you decide to do so, make sure that you arm yourself with solid rental car insurance!
Rainy season from November to March makes driving even more dangerous. It can cause landslides and flash floods that literally wash roads away. Similarly, driving at night is super sketchy, and the roads aren’t well lit. Amongst other hazards, old broken down cars get left in the road.
So unless you’re an ultra-confident driver, or have a lot of experience driving in places like this before, then we would say it’s not safe to drive in Bolivia. And you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
On the other hand, hiring a motorbike for a day or two to explore the immediate area outside of a town isn’t a terrible idea, if you have experience driving one. But make sure you wear a helmet.
Is Uber safe in Bolivia?
Surprisingly, there is Uber in Bolivia and it’s safe! It only arrived at the beginning of 2017, so it’s fairly new.
You’ll find it in La Paz and Santa Cruz. It’s actually cheaper than the local taxis, which is a bonus. You also get the usual Uber benefits (paying in-app, reading reviews of drivers, tracking your journey, know what car you’ll get in) and none of the taxi shadiness.
Are taxis safe in Bolivia?
Not always. They can be pretty sketchy and a good way for drivers to target foreigners.
Illegal taxis will work with fake police and will take tourists to an ATM to get all their money out, or a fake police station. Unfortunately, it happens.
Therefore, it’s very important to get a legal taxi. There are two types of cab: taxis and radio taxis.
Taxis are just random cars with a TAXI sign on the side. They’re fake and illegal – the bad kind we just spoke about. Radio taxis, on the other hand, have a proper bubble taxi sign on top and are legal. It is important to be aware though that some taxis do have a sign on top, but they’re also not real. If you get in and they don’t have a radio, then they’re probably not a radio taxi.
A good rule of thumb is to never hail a taxi in Bolivia.
There’s a list of taxi companies in La Paz that have been registered with the mayor’s office; they have a sticker on the windscreen. The best way to get a radio taxi is to ask your accommodation (they might also recommend a driver), but you could also ask restaurants or staff at tourist sights to help you order a taxi, too. This is by far the safest way.
Taxis are pretty cheap and an affordable way to get around. Just make sure you make a note of the taxi’s registration number in case something goes wrong. And don’t share the taxi with anybody else.
Most of the time, taxis in Bolivia are safe, as long as you get one properly.
(Though it’s cheaper and safer to get an Uber).
Is public transportation in Bolivia safe?
We mentioned those bus drivers’ lack of driving skills earlier and we weren’t kidding around. It isn’t totally uncommon for bus crashes and accidents to occur in Bolivia. People, including tourists, have died in these. This is usually because of overtired, overworked drivers.
But they are a cheap way to travel around Bolivia though not very comfortable and slightly dangerous.
Be careful on these long-distance buses with the overhead luggage storage and keep anything valuable with you. Watch where your luggage has been put. Locking your bags, if possible, is a smart move. Make sure you purchase a padlock before leaving if you don’t have one already.
Loads of buses go along the same routes every day, meaning you won’t have too much trouble getting them. At night the route between Copacabana and La Paz is notoriously sketchy; bus drivers have been known to kick passengers off amongst other things.
When it comes to these buses, do your research. We’d definitely recommend that you should pay more money for a safer experience, which means getting on a bus without bald tyres and/or a cracked windscreen. Tourist buses are just the more expensive versions of these. They’re comfortable and have reclining seats and all that jazz.
When it comes to cities, there are little buses called micros. They’re uncomfortable, often crowded, and a hotbed for pickpockets, so probably best to avoid.
There’s also the trufi, which is a taxi that goes along a set route and crams people in. It’s quite chaotic and a magnet for thieves so we wouldn’t really recommend this way of getting around either.
Then there are actually trains in Bolivia. This can be an amazing way to see the country knowing you won’t be bogged down by traffic. And in fact, travelling on the trains is often the safest and most comfortable way to get around Bolivia.
Ferries and riverboats also exist and are popular for exploring more remote areas along the Amazon. Just be careful that the boat is in good condition and that it’s not overpacked.
Basically, public transport in Bolivia isn’t all safe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. As always, just be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
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Is the food in Bolivia safe?
You probably don’t know much about Bolivian food, as it’s not very famous, however it is very tasty. There are regional specialities and traditional dishes to try out, from saltenas – THE Bolivian breakfast pasty – to sandwich de cholla (classic street food).
The worrying thing is that you will probably get a case of traveller’s diarrhoea during your trip in Bolivia. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about it. It would be a shame not to tuck into the street food though, so here are some tips to help you out…
- Steer clear of roadside stalls that just don’t look very clean.The less clean a place looks, the less hygienic it probably is. So if you’re going to try it out, at least make sure it looks clean.
- Ease yourself in. Your stomach can complain if you change your diet suddenly. When you arrive in Bolivia, don’t go crazy on the food straight away. Try to eat less, don’t order loads of stuff, and opt out of spicy stuff until you’ve spent a good amount of time in the country.
- In cities go to street vendors who look like they’re doing good business. The more popular a stall is, the less likely it’s going to make you ill. Plus the food’s going to be pretty good, too – people wouldn’t go somewhere that’s not good, right?
- Try not to eat food that looks like it’s been sat around in the sun for ages. You should definitely opt for freshly cooked dishes.
- Don’t eat fruit or veg that looks like it might have been washed in dirty water. That means you should avoid salad and basically any fruit or vegetable that you can’t wash, peel or cook yourself.
- Wash your hands. This ALWAYS going to help, no matter where you are in the world. There’s not exactly a good reputation for cleanliness in Bolivia, which also means that not just eateries but things you touch all day are going to make your hands dirty. Wash them, or bring some hand sanitiser along.
- Pack anti-diarrhoea medication and rehydration salts for the inevitable TD, so for when (maybe if) your stomach does get struck with a nasty bit of illness.
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the safest place in the world for a foodie quest. At the same time, you shouldn’t completely avoid eating Bolivian food, especially not from street stalls. Ask local, read food travel blogs, see what’s good.
At the end of the day, just make sure you’re prepared if you get ill. Being completely prepared with medication and keeping yourself rehydrated is going to help if you do get ill. So whilst tasty, the food in Bolivia isn’t always safe. Use caution!
Can you drink the water in Bolivia?
No, you can’t. That might have something to do with why the food isn’t that safe either.
You definitely shouldn’t drink the water in Bolivia and not even use it to brush your teeth as it will make you ill. Buy bottled water or bring a refillable bottle with you and some water purification tablets, too. Read our in-depth review of the best travel water bottles here if you decide to do so. If you want to explore the backcountry, we’d suggest boiling and filtering your water or using the GRAYL GEOPRESS.
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Is Bolivia safe to live?
Bolivia is safe to live, believe it or not, but it’s a much simpler life.
Society is focused on family, rather than on working or what you own. If you already have a job (working for yourself online) and you’ve got some money, you can have a very good life in Bolivia. Things are pretty cheap here, comparatively speaking.
Also, it’s a sociable place – people in this country are very friendly and open to others.
You can spend your time eating the tasty food here – you probably would have acclimatised to it by now!- or exploring the jungle and other natural sights on offer. There’s a ton of stuff to keep you occupied in your downtime.
Make sure you do your research when it comes to where you want to live and to pick what’s right for you. To kick things off: high altitude means cooler, lower is hotter.
Santa Cruz is probably your best bet for freelance, business-minded people – there are lots of good connections to make here. But there definitely can be some dodgier sides of the city, though chances are you probably won’t be wandering around those areas anyway. Also, it can be very hot in Santa Cruz.
There are also some cool neighbourhoods in cooler (literally and figuratively) La Paz. This is where you’ll find quite a few of La Paz’s best hostels too. There’s Soposachi, a trendy, youthful area with nightclubs and bars galore. It’s a bit more upmarket than other places but with walkable streets to match. And then there’s San Pedro. This little touristed middle-class district boasts cheaper rent than Soposachi. You’ll find nice eating options and will be close to the city centre.
And, of course, learn some Spanish. English isn’t widely spoken here.
There will be things like plugging in appliances and sparks fly out of the outlet. The internet can cut out without warning or just be painfully slow. Also, there won’t be big Western chains like Starbuck’s or McDonalds.
But that’s why you’re here, right? To experience something different.
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How is healthcare in Bolivia?
We’re going to be honest with you: healthcare standards aren’t the best in Bolivia.
There’s free public healthcare for some Bolivian nationals, but foreigners aren’t entitled to it, you’ll have to pay. These public facilities are often very crowded at any time of day and not up to the standards of your home country, most likely. If you have something wrong with you, it’s better to go to a private facility. These will usually take your international travel insurance (which you should definitely have) and can be found in Bolivia’s major cities.
Both public and private hospitals and doctors will expect cash payment, at least most of the time. You’ll have to sort this out with your insurance company afterward.
When it comes to rural areas, it’s going to be hard to come across any kind of medical care, to be honest. If something is seriously wrong with you, either in a rural area or in a town, you will most likely have to be airlifted out of the country to somewhere else – with the state of the art medical facilities that Bolivia just doesn’t have.
Pharmacies, on the other hand, are pretty decent. They should sell most medications that you’re looking for. However, you need to be careful that they are made by an international company and not a local one as this can be dangerous. Try to find a medication that’s the same brand as the one you’ve been previously prescribed.
In general, the Bolivian healthcare system isn’t the best. Try not to get ill or have an accident when you’re there and if you need certain medication or you’re worried about access to things like aspirin and paracetamol, then just bring your own.
Helpful Bolivia Travel Phrases
A little bit of Spanish goes a long way in Bolivia. Here are some useful Spanish phrases that will help you out on your trip.
Hola = Hello
¿Cómo está(s)? = How are you?
Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you
Estoy bien = I’m fine
Por favor = Please
Gracias = Thank you
De nada/Con gusto = You’re welcome
¿Cuánto? = How much?
Adiós = Goodbye
Sin bolsa de plastico – No plastic bag
No paja por favor – No straw please
No hay cubiertos de plástico por favor – No plastic cutlery
Lo siento = I’m sorry
¿Dónde está el baño? = Where is the bathroom?
¿Qué es esto? = What’s this?
Quiero una cerveza. = I want a beer.
¡Salud! = Cheers!
FAQ about Staying Safe in Bolivia
Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in Bolivia.
Final thoughts on the safety of Bolivia
There may be problems with the safety of taxis in Bolivia, dodgy areas around the city of La Paz or you may have to deal with fake police. There may also be a lot of flooding and landslides during your trip to Bolivia or you may find yourself unable to go outside because of huge protests that can happen from time to time.
These, and so many more issues are things you’ll have to think about if you’re planning a trip to Bolivia. On the one hand, it’s dangerous but on the other hand, it could be dangerous. There’s no 100% guarantee either way. However, there are ways to at least minimise the chances of getting caught up in bad situations. We’ve gone through a whole load of them in our epic guide, but to recap:
Use your common sense. Don’t walk around sketchy looking areas. Keep an eye on the local news. Don’t drive in Bolivia. Don’t drink too much. Be wary of weirdo men. Ignore catcalls. Don’t fall for scams. Make friends with other travellers. Do your research on tour and travel companies operating within the country. Use a money belt. It’s not 100% safe, but it’d be a shame to miss out.
Don’t Forget your Bolivia Travel Insurance
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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