Spitting Llama's Top 10 Bolivia BUS SAFETY TIPS:
We have criss crossed Bolivia hundreds of times and have some wisdom to pass on. Bus travel is generally safe and Bolivian highway safety statistics are comparable to the US and Europe but there are some important things to be aware of.
1. Never keep anything of value in your "big bag" that goes on the roof or in a compartment.
2. Always keep any handbags or backpacks physically attached to you at all times. Don't let go. Take them with you if you exit the bus. Thieves are clever and can use a knife under a seat to cut a bag open for instance.
3. Never store anything in an overhead compartment. Nothing says "rob me" like stowing your backpack overhead. We know tons of people who've lost bags and possessions this way.
4. Never accept any food or drink from any "new friends". Date rape drugs are sometimes used by thieves to sedate their victims.
5. The Spitting Llama recommends Bolivar and Sindicato Trans Copacabana as the 2 Bolivian bus lines with the least bad safety record. We generally recommend sitting towards the back or middle of the bus and on the lower level if available because in the unlikely event of an accident you're better off back there.
6. Always bring warm clothing and/or a sleeping bag as windows may not shut. Bring 1 day's worth of food/water and some emergency money.
7. Night bus travel is generally safe but we recommend going with a partner whenever possible. If you sleep, conceal your valuables under your clothing and keep any bags secured connected/strapped to you.
8. Always find out which is the best and safest bus line. Small towns may not have much to offer here. Saving a few Bs. on a ticket may means hours of delay and headache not to mention a unsafe vehicle. You can often fly if roads are blocked or impassable and domestic flights are very cheap.
9. Be extremely careful in bus stations, scams and theives are common here. Do not trust the police and keep your bags connected to you at all times.
10. Be flexible, delays, breakdowns and road blocks are very normal. If your driver is being unsafe, don't be afriad to tell drivers to slow down.
Spitting Llama's Top 10 City Safety Tips:
Bolivia is a very safe country with a very low violent crime rate and we feel safe there, but there are some important things to keep in mind.
1. Leave your valuables in a safe at your hotel whenever possible, there is no need to walk around with passports and $$$$$. We recommend carrying the mininal amount of cash necessary to do what you need to do, don't bring ATM cards, Credit cards, ID etc unless you know why you'll need them. Technically, law requires carrying a passport at all times but in practice a photocopy is usually accepted, you decide.
2. Normal Bolivian police will NEVER approach you for anything. They also rarely ever work alone. If you are approached by "police" they are most likely thieves with fake uniforms. Never get into taxis or go anywhere with them. They may show you some badge or ID, still, never go anywhere with them or give them anything of yours to "review" unless you are 110% certain that they are real police.
3. Pickpockets are common, especially in markets and tourist areas. Don't keep any valuables in a wallet in your pocket or in an exterior pocket of a backpack. Be wary of distractions, if someone tries to distract you in a crowded marketplace -get out of there!
4. If thieves are armed, do not attempt to resist them. Give them your money and get out of there. An Israeli tourist died in 2010 resisting a thief in La Paz.
5. Always use radio taxis, ideally ones that you've called. Never use normal taxis at night, especially if you're out drinking. La Paz is by far the most dangerous city for fake taxi crime. In La Paz gangs of thieves pose as normal or radio taxis at night to pickup drunk tourists, at night only use taxis that you've called.
6. Stay away from protests and demonstrations. These are common in Bolivia and are not normally violent but should be avoided. Protestors often fire bottle rockets and sometimes even set off explosives to emphasize their importance, but these are not always well aimed. Bystanders can be mistaken for "enemies" and protestors do not take kindly to having their pictures taken.
7. Be especially careful around bus stations, these places *always* have pickpockets nearby.
8. Be careful of "new friends" you meet at the bus station or on buses. Young women sometimes work with gangs, posing as fellow South American travelers, ask if you want to share a cab to some hostal and the cab isn't what you think it is...
9. Unfortantely some travelers do drugs in Bolivia. In doing so you are not only putting yourself at enormous risk for robbery and bodily harm, but also harming Bolivia's fragile democracy, promoting violent criminal gangs, and fostering the environmental degredation that these horrendous chemical processes require. What you may think is a harmless good time is not harmless and you are actively promoting violent human rights abuses. Bolivian law involves harsh sanctions for drug use and trafficking and many foreigners languish in filthy Bolivian jails as an "example", foreign citizenship offers no protections from the Bolivian justice system. Don't do drugs.
10. It is best not to walk alone at night, especially near bus stations, and secluded or dark areas.
Spitting Llamas 10 Health Tips:
Bolivian cuisine has an incredible range of flavor and dishes but there are a few things to be aware of to stay healthy.
1. Bolivian drinking water ranges in quality and we don't recommend drinking it without boiling. When possible simply refill a personal water bottle from large 20 liter bottles to avoid creating plastic garbage. Recycle your bottles when possible.
2. Eat only well-cooked foods for the first few months of your time. Skinned and peeled fruits/vegetables are generally safe, raw and unskinned things not so much.
3. Chicha is awesome, traditional and will always make somebody sick. We recommend drinking it only when you don't have serious work or travel to do in the next few days.
4. Bolivian doctors are usually competant but for major surgerical procedures we recommend booking a plane flight.
5. Pharmacies often sell antibiotics like cipro over the counter. That said, we still recommend seeing a doctor. Bolivian labs can do very good analysis extremely cheaply and doctors generally make very good perscriptions.
6. If you're the partying type who goes out and gets drunk and then eats...You will be sick.
7. Carry a little medical kit with basic first aid and medical supplies.
8. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer or alcohol gel and use it before eating with your hands.
9. Be aware of altitude sickness, this can be fatal, go slow and don't push yourself until you are acclimatized, don't drink alcohol at altitude.
10. Don't drink from communal glasses such as pushcart glasses etc.
Bolivia Safety Websites:
Calle Linares # 947 (Adentro de Hostal La Posada de la Abuela)
La Paz, Bolivia
(591) 70398720, (591) 79770312
Av. 6 de Agosto, 1/2 cuadra abajo de Plaza Sucre
(591) 2-2599073, (591) 79640915
Calle España N. #615, Entre Plazuela Barba de Padilla y El Prado
(591) 4-4894540, 70398720, 79770312