Bolivia - Consular Information Sheet
October 23, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a developing country with
a growing economy. Tourist facilities are adequate but vary greatly
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 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, NW, Suite 240, Washington,
DC 20006; telephone (202) 232-4827/4828; or the Bolivian consulate
in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco,
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: Minors (under 21),
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 U.S.
If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian
notary is required. 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.
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 potential risk for travelers
to those regions. Violent confrontations between area residents
and government authorities over coca eradication occasionally
result in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government
authorities to quell disturbances. 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 April and again in September 2000, civil unrest became more
generalized, spreading to regions throughout the country, both
in urban and rural areas. Protestors 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.
Although there have been no terrorist-related attacks against
U.S. official or private interests or persons in Bolivia since
1995, there is a potential for such incidents. U.S. citizens have
not been targeted in recent bombing incidents, which are normally
intended to cause only property damage.
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.
Muggings have become a problem in certain sections of La Paz,
primarily in the downtown area near Calle Sagarnaga and in the
Cementerio area. In a typical mugging, the victim is grabbed from
behind in a chokehold, while an accomplice robs the victim of
passport, money, and credit cards. Often the victim is rendered
temporarily unconscious. Visitors should avoid being alone in
these areas, especially after 6:00 PM, when most of the attacks
Some female tourists have 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 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, such as Tips for Travelers
to Central and South America, are available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical 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,
such as cardiac problems.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most air ambulance
services cannot fly into La Paz, as their aircraft must be pre-certified
for landing and taking off at La Paz's airport, located at an
altitude of over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level. Please
ascertain whether your insurance company will make payments directly
to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed
later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition
of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Prior to departing the U.S.
for high-altitude locations over 10,000 feet above sea level,
such as La Paz, travelers may wish to discuss the trip with their
personal physician and request information on specific recommendations
concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Although
coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude
sickness in Bolivia, possession of these tea bags, which are sold
in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.
Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with
the following information: The altitude of La Paz is over 13,000
feet (4,000 meters) above sea level. The altitude alone poses
a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if
you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or
The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow
any official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they
have any of the following:
Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons
with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations
of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years
or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension,
diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should
have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of
medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized
for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms
of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most
people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate.
Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of
appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes.
To help prevent these complications:
Consider taking acetazolamide (Diamox) 125 mg twice a day,
starting two days before traveling, on the day of the trip,
and two to three days after arriving at high altitude. This
medication inhibits the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, has a slight
diuretic effect, and stimulates respiration. It is available
only by prescription in the U.S. Pregnant women and nursing
mothers cannot take Diamox. If you have a severe allergy to
sulfa, you may not be able to take Diamox.
Avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival
in La Paz.
Limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after
arrival in La Paz.
For those with diabetes, only the blood glucose meter called
One Touch II works properly at altitudes over 6,000 feet. Other
models give incorrect readings of blood sugar levels.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299); or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are
advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in
Bolivia. If reasonable precautions are taken, mountain trekking
and climbing in the Bolivian Andes can be a safe and enjoyable
way to experience the countryside and culture. Travelers should
inquire about conditions in the high country before leaving La
Paz. The Club Andino Boliviano (591-2-324-682) is a good source
of information about trail conditions and possible hazards.
Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes
as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and
equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced
mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking
is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and death.
Trekkers have been robbed on popular routes, most notably on the
Illampu circuit, and are more vulnerable when alone. The safest
option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm
to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate
in both Spanish and English.
There are few telephones in remote areas of Bolivia. Make sure
others (especially family and friends in the United States) know
your trekking itinerary. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages
trekkers and climbers to register upon arrival in Bolivia. A registration
file with your passport information, emergency numbers and travel
itinerary is very useful if the Embassy needs to relay emergency
information from home or locate you in case of a natural disaster
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Bolivia is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor
Road conditions in Bolivia are extremely hazardous. Although
the major population centers of La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba
are connected by improved highways, less than five percent of
all roads in Bolivia are paved. For trips outside the major cities,
especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is
highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through
March) is extremely difficult, as most routes are potholed, and
many roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the lack
of formal training for most drivers, lack of lights on speeding
vehicles at night, and drunk drivers, including commercial bus
drivers. Fatal crashes, fender-benders, and car/pedestrian accidents
general information about road safety, including links to foreign
government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular
Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia's Civil Aviation
Authority as Category 2 - not in compliance with international
safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations.
While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Bolivia's
air carriers are permitted to conduct limited operations to the
U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. For further information,
travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within
the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) does not permit its personnel
to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business
except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the Pentagon at 1-703-697-7288.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: The Bolivian Government has very
strict laws concerning attempted theft or removal from Bolivia
of any item that it considers to be a national treasure. The Bolivian
and U.S. Governments are currently completing renewal of a cultural
property protection agreement. In addition to the traditional
examples of pre-Columbian artifacts, certain historical paintings,
items of Spanish colonial architecture and history, and some native
textiles, the Bolivian Government also considers certain flora,
fauna, and fossils as national treasures. It is illegal to remove
any such items from Bolivia without prior written permission from
the appropriate Bolivian authority. Any type of fossil excavation,
even picking up a fossil, without prior written authorization
from the appropriate Bolivian authority, is also illegal. Violation
of the law can result in lengthy jail sentences and fines. Contact
the Embassy of Bolivia in Washington or one of Bolivia's consulates
in the United States for specific information regarding customs
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Bolivia are strict and convicted offenders can expect lengthy
jail sentences and fines. Incarcerated persons can expect to wait
longer than two years before being sentenced. Prison conditions
are very primitive and prisoners must pay for their own room and
OTHER LEGAL ISSUES: It often takes years to reach a decision
in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes,
civil, or criminal matters. The court sometimes orders a defendant
held in jail for the duration of the case. Lists of local Bolivian
attorneys and their specialties are available from the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and the U.S. Consular Agencies
in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
Civil marriage in Bolivia of U.S. citizen non-residents to Bolivians
is possible if all documentary requirements are met. The Bolivian
potential spouse should check with the Office of the Civil Registry
in La Paz at (591) 2-316-226 to determine what documents are required.
An affidavit that the U.S. citizen is single is required and may
be notarized at the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy does not, however,
authenticate U.S. civil documents, such as birth certificates,
for local use. All required U.S. documents must be translated
and authenticated by a Bolivian consular officer in the United
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to the Department of State's
Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Bolivia are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the
U.S. Embassy in La Paz and obtain updated information on travel
and security in Bolivia. The Consular Section is open for citizen
services, including registration, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
weekdays, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays. The U.S. Embassy
is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz; telephone (591) 2-433-812
during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), or (591) 2-430-251
for after-hours emergencies; fax (591) 2-433-854; Internet website:
http://www.megalink.com/usemblapaz. There are also U.S. Consular
Agencies in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, which are open weekday
mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian
holidays. The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at Calle
Guemes 6, Barrio Equipetrol; telephone (591) 3-363-842 or 3-330-725;
fax (591) 3-325-544. The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located
at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, Room 601; telephone (591)
4-256-714; fax (591) 4-257-714.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September
14, 1999, to update sections on Safety and Security, and Traffic
Safety and Road Conditions, and to remove the section on Y2K Information.