Landlocked Bolivia is like the hidden sibling of the South American family. Tucked between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile, this country is anything but meek.
Rising high above the rest (literally), Bolivia is a gem flashing diversity in every facet. With so many indigenous people, contrasting landscapes, and colorful history and culture, the country as a whole exudes its uniqueness.
While Bolivians are super friendly and welcoming, their country gets a bad rep because of its notorious crime rate, drugs, and political unrest. However, Bolivia isn’t exactly the biggest bad on the continent. In fact, it’s one of the safest countries and likely one of the best places to visit in South America if you’re up for the adventure of a lifetime.
Why Visit Bolivia
From the attention-grabbing landscapes to the fascinating history to the kaleidoscopic cultures of this multi-ethnic land, Bolivia has so much to see and do. Whether you’re a tree-hugging nature lover or a buzzing adrenaline junkie, you’ll find something that speaks to your soul.
If you dream of steamy rainforests, soaring peaks, and green valleys, pack your bags. Bolivia’s scenery is a little of everything, which only adds to its allure. Check out the Amazon, the world’s largest salt flat, or hike up a gorgeous mountain trail to experience true natural beauty.
If you happen to be more of a city slicker, there are plenty of museums, churches, and incredible attractions to keep you on your toes. All in all, plan your trip wisely so you don’t miss out on the best fun and games.
Is Bolivia Dangerous?
Bolivia is a lot safer than you’ve been led to believe. It has its problems, like any other country, but these aren’t bad enough to warrant crossing this beautiful country out of your travel diary.
Bolivia has been plagued by civil unrest for many years. Political events in recent years have caused division amongst its people. The tension has led to sporadic protests, strikes, and roadblocks.
There is a risk of crime in the country, but it is mediated by the presence of a police force specifically for tourists, which helps to keep them safe. Violent crime against foreigners is pretty few and far between.
The majestic Amazon forest is enchanting, but nature does bite. Venomous snakes, poisonous insects and plants, and the legendary Piranha all pose a risk if you try to take on the rainforest alone.
Dangerous Areas in Bolivia
North of Cochabamba lies a lush rural region known as the Chapare. This picturesque area is home to two national parks, the Isiboro Secure National Park and the Carrasco National Park. Filled with sprawling jungles, sparkling rivers, and fantastic wildlife, this region is a dream for nature lovers and adventurers.
Unfortunately, the region is also a center for the growth of coca, which means drug traffickers and the problems they create are rife here. Crime levels are high, and many countries have issued travel advisories for this area. On the bright side, violent crime isn’t as bad as it is in other countries that are part of the cocaine trade.
Yungas is a strip of forest snaking along the Eastern Andes. The verdant valleys boast an astounding variety of fauna. Yungas is also close to Rurrenabaque (the gateway to the Amazon) and Madidi National Park (famous for its wildlife).
Adrenaline seekers may want to experience the perilous Death Road. We recommend a mountain biking tour to get the best of the experience.
Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine in the world, according to the UN. Yungas is notorious for being a hotspot for cocaine production. The cartels and gangs here are also responsible for armed robberies and other violent crimes.
Is it Safe to Live in Bolivia?
Boasting one of the lowest crime rates in South America, Bolivia is a good prospect if you’re looking to settle on this continent. While petty crime is common across the country, it isn’t unmanageable. In fact, with the proper precautions and research, you can live in this tropical haven without being affected by crime at all.
Cities like La Paz, El Alto, and Tarija are among the best places to live in Bolivia, and they all have something special to offer. The stunning landscapes, fascinating history, and diverse, welcoming people will mean that wherever you live, you’ll love it.
Safe Areas/Cities in Bolivia
This capital city reaching for the sky will amaze you at first sight. As the most elevated city in the world, La Paz has a unique climate and landscape.
The best way to get around the city is the Mi Teleferico aerial cableway. You’ll get uninterrupted views of this bustling city and be able to avoid the madness on the roads.
Beware of fake police and dodgy taxis, as people do get scammed and robbed. Bag snatchers and pickpockets also roam tourist areas, so hold onto your gear. Other than that, La Paz is safe for visitors, and you can explore the city’s colorful streets without worry.
Once the gem of the Spanish empire, Sucre now sparkles in its own right. This city’s history can be seen everywhere you look.
Affectionately known as the White City because of the pristine white buildings in the city center, it’s no surprise that Sucre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The constitutional capital is considered one of the safest cities in Bolivia, and even petty crime is minimal here. It is well-lit and always busy, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dodgy corner or alleyway. The relaxed and caring atmosphere of the city will give you such safe and comfortable vibes you’ll never want to leave.
You can’t say Uyuni without thinking of its most well-known attraction – the magnificent Salar de Uyuni salt flat. Watching the sunrise while standing on the mirror-like surface is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Check out the eerie train cemetery to experience a touch of Uyuni’s history. You can shop in Colchani Village and the Central Market for souvenirs, clothing, authentic food, and, of course, all things salt.
Uyuni is very safe because it is a tourist hotspot. Violent crime is rare and almost never targets tourists. Protests are also uncommon here, and aside from petty theft or scammers, you can tour this lovely city easily.
Warnings & Dangers in Bolivia
Everyone assumes Bolivia is a little sketchy, but it’s really only slightly so. There are sporadic outbreaks of unrest due to political tensions and dissatisfaction.
Some areas are trouble spots for drug cartels and gangs. These groups pump a lot of cocaine out of the country and sometimes fight each other for territory. They are also behind other crimes like armed robbery and assault.
Nature also contributes to danger here. While the Amazon rainforest is beautiful, it’s not for the faint-hearted. We would also advise that you plan your visit during the dry season. There are also a few contractible diseases that you should be wary of while visiting.
Overall Travel Risk (7/10)
Crime is one of Bolivia’s most well-known downfalls. Petty crimes like bag snatching, scamming, and pickpocketing are common, especially in busy cities. Criminals will try to target you if you aren’t careful.
The climate in Bolivia is unique. The high elevation also means you can get altitude sickness, and during the rainy season, there is a chance that the roads will be obstructed due to landslides and flooding.
The climate also creates a playground for vector-borne illnesses. Malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid are a few that make the rounds now and again.
This colorful country has been marred by civil unrest. During the last election, tensions ran very high when the government was accused of election fraud, which led to a lot of protests and media suppression.
Climate and Natural Disasters
Bolivia is one of two landlocked countries on the continent and, as such, experiences less extreme weather than its coastal sister countries.
If you’re flying into La Paz, be aware of altitude sickness. The high elevation means that you’ll be prone to it pretty quickly. Make sure you brush up on some tips to prevent altitude sickness to keep yourself safe.
The rainy season runs from November to March and does cause occasional problems with infrastructure and movement. However, planning your trip and keeping an eye on the local news to stay ahead of weather changes should keep you in the loop.
Chagas disease is endemic in more than half the country, and there are quite a few vector-borne nasties to keep away from. Mosquitoes, sandflies, rabid dogs, and rodents all carry diseases that can make you very sick in a country with limited medical options.
Typhoid, hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and rabies are prevalent in Bolivia. The CDC advises all potential travelers to ensure their vaccines are in place before departing. It’s also good to make sure your routine vaccines are up to date, especially if you’re traveling with little ones.
Crime is a thorn in Bolivia’s tourism industry. Many countries have issued travel advisories warning against visiting because of it. It is manageable, however, and shouldn’t put you off from visiting.
Pickpockets, bag snatchers, scam artists, and opportunists operate in many parts of the country. Violent armed robbery, sexual assault, drug trafficking, and organized crime also might instill fear in cautious tourists.
Stay away from areas known for trouble and practice vigilance, particularly on the streets and while moving between cities. If you choose to go out after dark, go in a group and keep your eyes peeled for dark, dodgy corners and suspicious-looking individuals.
In 2019, corrupt elections led to a citizen revolt, sparking widespread protest and instability. There was further trouble in January 2024 when the leader of the opposition was arrested. The unrest hasn’t died down entirely since then, and there are still sporadic demonstrations all over the country, particularly in the major cities.
Protests are common in some places, and while most aren’t violent, things can turn ugly quickly. Stay away from protests, strikes, and demonstrations, and avoid spontaneous large crowds. If you do get caught up, follow the instructions given by authorities and try to get away as soon as possible.
Tips for Staying Safe in Bolivia
Here are our top 5 tips to keep you safe in gorgeous Bolivia:
- Arm yourself against mosquitoes – Yellow Fever, Zika virus, malaria, dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Chagas disease are all prevalent in Bolivia. Make sure you have repellent and nets on hand to get rid of the pesky buggers.
- Don’t drink the water – The water in Bolivia is generally unsafe for drinking. Stick to bottled or filtered water and avoid ice. If you can, carry a portable filter bottle to reduce plastic waste.
- Learn some Spanish – English is spoken in the major cities, but a few key phrases will get you a long way.
- Keep your valuables safe – get an anti-theft travel bag to keep your money away from sticky fingers.
- Ask before you snap – Don’t photograph locals without permission. Some may find it offensive.
Is Bolivia Safe? | Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need Cash in Bolivia?
Cash is readily accepted, and most places will take US dollars. Avoid traveler’s checks because they’re more complicated to convert. You’ll be able to swipe in the cities but carry cash for the smaller towns and rural areas, as well as for tips. ATMs are also readily available in hotels and malls.
Tip: Check out our guide on how to carry money abroad safely.
What is The Best Way to Get Around In Bolivia?
The most common way to travel is by bus. There are also radio taxis and Uber, which are probably the safest options.
Never hail a taxi off the street, and ensure the bus you get on is in good condition. Some areas aren’t safe for overnight travel, so try to plan travel between cities during the day.
What Language Is Spoken in Bolivia?
Spanish is spoken by the majority of Bolivia’s people. Some indigenous languages include Quechua and Aymara, among others.
English is spoken and understood to a good extent in the main cities. Knowing how to say ‘Buenos dias,’ ‘por favor,’ and ‘gracias’, however, will get you a lot further with the locals.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Bolivia?
Bolivia’s dry season is between May and October. Even though these are the colder months, this is the best time to visit because you can avoid the rain. The rainy season brings road closures due to the weather. Honestly, seeing Bolivia through the pouring rain isn’t the most fun either.