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Is Bolivia a Safe or Dangerous Country?
Bolivia is overall a safe country for travelers. The crimes reported are normally non-confrontational, and it usually happens in major cities and tourist areas. Violent crimes against foreigners are low, but this does not mean you should let your guard down; it is still recommended to use your common sense as you would in any big city as petty crime is on the rise.
Crime and ScamsMost of the crimes and scams against foreigners are crimes of opportunity. These semi-professional thieves target unaware travelers in tourist areas and restaurants. Bag snatching is common, so make sure you carry your bag facing away from the street and preferably always close to you. Bus terminals are common places where thieves take advantage of distracted travelers and use their pickpocketing skills. “Accidental” spills are a way to distract you and pickpocket you, so always be vigilant. There are reports of carjacking and robberies by organized criminal groups around the regions of Coroico and Carnavi in Yungas. Other area to avoid due to crime are Coronilla Hill in Cochabamba. Criminals may sometimes pretend to be police officers with false police ID cards, uniforms, and even fake police stations. They may ask for your passport and ask you to get in a taxi where you are robbed or taken to an ATM to withdraw money. Official policemen will be okay with a copy of your documents and won’t ask you to get in a taxi. “Express kidnappings” can occur, especially in La Paz. Victims are grabbed and force to take out as much money as possible from ATMs. The criminals can also contact the victim’s family or friends and ask them to bring all the cash they have in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually released unharmed. You will probably hear about tours to San Pedro prison. Prison tours are illegal and unsafe; avoid them as there are no guarantees for your safety inside prison grounds.
Transportation SafetyIf you are taking, use a “radio taxi” service instead of flagging down one as you may get in a fake/unregistered taxi. This happens especially in the city of Santa Cruz and La Paz. Radio taxis can be identified by the telephone number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle’s roof.
Natural DangersBolivia is a country exposed to many natural disasters like floods and landslides, especially in mountainous areas during the rainy season that runs from November to March.
Warnings & Dangers
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Taking normal safety precautions are recommended in Bolivia. Exercise common sense and remain vigilant for suspicious behaviour as you would in any other country. Watch out for pickpockets in tourist areas and protect your valuables.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpocket and bag and purse snatching are common in tourist locations and public transportation. Remain vigilant for thieves that use different strategies to rob you.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Muggings have happened in urban areas. Though most victims are not physically injured, criminals usually do not hesitate to use force if the target does not cooperate; in case of being robbed, do not resist and hand over your valuables. Avoid walking alone after dark. Although kidnapping is not common, express kidnapping involving tourists have occurred in Bolivia. Victims are abducted for a few hours and forced to withdraw money from ATMs in order to be released.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
As in any other country, taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travelers by overcharging them. Bag snatching is common, so make sure you carry your bag facing away from the street and preferably always close to you. Beware of “non-uniformed” policemen asking for your passport and permit. Official policemen will always be satisfied with a copy of your documents.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Transportation is not very reliable due to strikes. Strikes often affect local transportation, and they usually last one or two days. Follow local news for updates on strikes and road blockages.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Expect floods and landslides, especially in mountainous areas during the rainy season (November-March).
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Terrorist attacks are unlikely in Bolivia. However, they cannot be ruled out. Remain vigilant and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Many women travel safely without any issues. However, if you are traveling alone, it is important to exercise particular care in crowds, on public transportation, in rural areas, and in isolated sections. Avoid traveling alone after dark. Women may get some unwanted attention from men.