Bolivia — Visas and Vaccinations
For visitors from most western countries, there is no need for prior visa arrangements; however, US citizens are required to apply for a Bolivian tourist visa in advance of travel. This visa can be applied for by mail or in person at a Bolivian embassy or consulate in the US as well as at Bolivian ports of entry. Bolivian tourist visas are valid for five years and allow visitors to enter the country up to three times a year for up to 90 days per visit.
Health and Safety
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. Sickness, disease, and crime are all possible causes of harm in this part of the world. However, Bolivia can be visited safely using common sense. Poor personal hygiene and sanitary practices in food handling are often the most common threats to visitors’ health. Therefore travelers should ensure that they only eat thoroughly cooked food from reputable sources and only drink bottled or boiled water.
Violent crime in Bolivia is rare compared to other parts of South America. However, theft is ever present. Be extra vigilant with your belongings around busy areas such as markets and bus stations where pickpockets commonly operate and proactively seek out tourists. It is advisable not to show much wealth so dress down and refrain from wearing expensive jewelry or watches. Do not carry large amounts of cash and keep valuables (cell phones and cameras) out of sight as much as possible.
In many countries in South America, there is a possible risk of disease from parasitic infection. When traveling to tropical areas of Bolivia, precautions should be taken to avoid insect bites in general, and mosquito bites in particular. Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, dengue fever, and malaria are all common in this part of the world and can lead to serious health issues.
Altitude sickness is another often overlooked health issue when traveling to the country. The altitude of La Paz ranges from 3,600 to 4,050 meters above sea level and much of western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including the whole Altiplano region. Arrive a few days early to acclimate to the climate and bring altitude sickness pills just in case.
Many foreign embassies and consulates recommend certain vaccinations before traveling to Bolivia including yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Also, for those who might have a lot of contact with animals during their visit, a rabies vaccination is advisable.