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Preface Last Updated: 8/17/2005 3:59 PM

Landlocked Bolivia is the Tibet of the Americas — the highest and most isolated of the Latin American republics. It is also the most indigenous country on the continent, with more than 50% of the population maintaining traditional values and beliefs.

Civilization in the Bolivian Andes is thought to stretch back some 21,000 years. The most influential pre-Columbian cultures were the Tiahuanaco, who were based around Lake Titicaca and who ruled the region between 6001–200 AD, and the Incas, who headed a vast empire comprising most of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile.

The Spanish conquest of the country began in 1531 under Francisco Pizarro. The conquistadores made rapid progress, exploiting the trust of the Indians to secure the territory that within 2 years became known as Alto Peru. In 1544, deposits of silver were discovered at Potosí. The wealth generated by this find underwrote the Spanish economy for more than 2 centuries.

The process of achieving independence from the Spanish finally came in the form of Simón Bolivar’s lieutenant Antonio José de Sucre, in the battle of Ayacucho in 1824.

Bolivia’s territory had always been coveted by its neighbors, encompassing as it did over 780,000 square miles. The War of the Pacific with Chile, 1879–84, and the Chaco War with Paraguay, 1932–35, served to foment civil unrest within the country and lead to a series of coups by reform-minded military leaders.

The populist Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) was formed and prevailed in the 1951 general elections but was stymied by a last-minute coup. This provoked a popular armed revolt, and the military was subsequently defeated.

In 1964, a military junta overthrew the MNR. Up until the early 1980s, military regimes subsequently came and went with monotonous regularity, until a leftist civilian government was elected.

The country’s main structural problem is the huge gulf that separates this divided society, half-immersed in the world of 20th-century business and half who remain subsistent peasants.

Bolivia is a land of spectacular geographic contrasts. Its natural beauties range from snowcapped Andean Mountains, to the dramatically barren altiplano with its beautifully blue Lake Titicaca, to lush Amazonian lowland jungles. Its people vary from modern urban dwellers to the traditionally dressed Quechua- and Aymara-speaking Indians.

Life in the clear, pleasantly cool air of La Paz is colorful in its cultural juxtapositions. The remnants of mysterious ancient civilizations make it the richest and most exciting destination for the adventurous.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:02 PM

Landlocked Bolivia shares borders with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru. With an area of 424,000 square miles (1,099,050 square kilometers), Bolivia equals the combined area of Texas and California. Bolivia has three well-defined geographic zones — high plateau (altiplano), temperate and semitropical valleys of the eastern mountain slopes (yungas), and tropical lowlands (llanos) of the Amazon River Basin.

Lying between the main eastern and western ridges of the Andean Mountains, the altiplano is 500 miles (805 kilometers) long and 80 miles (130 kilometers) wide. At altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 feet (3,660 to 4,270 meters), it is one of the world’s highest inhabited regions. Lake Titicaca, on the altiplano, straddles the northern Bolivia-Peru border, with an area of 3,500 square miles (9,060 square kilometers), depths of 700 feet (210 meters), and a constant surface temperature of 55°F (13°C). The most agriculturally productive and populated part of the altiplano surrounds the lake. The inhabitants of the altiplano, mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians, have a subsistence agricultural and grazing economy. Their livestock include sheep, cows, goats, alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. Rich mineral deposits, Bolivia’s economic backbone, are found in nearby mountain areas (La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí).

The regions of temperate and semitropical valleys lie east and northeast of the altiplano and vary in altitude from 1,600 feet to 9,000 feet (490 meters to 2,740 meters) above sea level. They are major agricultural producers of corn, barley, coffee, cacao, coca, citrus, and sugarcane. The major cities of Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija are situated in the valleys southeast of La Paz.

The llanos cover more than two-thirds of Bolivia. Through them flow major tributaries of the Amazon: the Mamoré, Beni, Ichilo, Iténes, and Madre de Díos Rivers. Except for the Santa Cruz Department, the llanos are sparsely populated and undeveloped but offer excellent potential for agriculture and livestock raising. The cities of Santa Cruz (Bolivia’s second largest), Trinidad, Riberalta, and Cobija are the major cities of the llanos. Santa Cruz, the second largest and fastest growing city in Bolivia is the center of the petroleum and natural gas industries.

Bolivia lies entirely within the Tropics, but extreme differences in elevation from 300 feet (90 meters) along the Brazilian border to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) at the highest peaks produce a great variety of climatic conditions. Coupled with soil diversity, this produces highly varied vegetation, from the sparse scrub grasses in semiarid highlands to lush rain forests containing a variety of hardwoods (Mahogany, South American, Oak, and Cedar). There are two seasons in La Paz — a rainy season beginning in December and continuing through March (it rains almost daily during this period), and a dry season running from April to November. The climate is generally cool, but brilliant sunshine raises daytime temperatures. Midday outdoor parties and activities are pleasant. (The chart temperatures are readings in the shade; in the midday sun of La Paz, it can be 10°F–15°F (5°C–9°C) warmer than the “high” indicated.) Rainfall averages 20 inches (51 centimeters) a year.

Month Low/Average High/Days per °F/°C Days of Rain
Jan. 42/6 54/12 63/17 24/31
Feb. 42/6 54/12 63/17 16/28
Mar. 41/5 54/12 64/18 12/31
Apr. 40/4 54/12 65/18 7/30
May 36/2 52/11 66/19 1/31
June 35/2 49/9 60/16 6/30
July 33/1 43/6 61/16 2/31
Aug. 34/1 47/8 60/16 7/31
Sept. 36/2 51/11 62/17 7/30
Oct. 39/4 53/12 64/18 11/31
Nov. 41/5 55/13 65/18 11/30
Dec. 42/6 54/12 64/18 20/31

Population Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:02 PM

Reliable demographic data is difficult to obtain in Bolivia. Bolivia has a population of approximately 8.2 million, with almost 2 million people in metropolitan La Paz. Other major cities include Santa Cruz, the booming business capital, Cochabamba, and El Alto, above La Paz. Population density (two per square mile), the lowest in Latin America, varies greatly by area.

Rural Bolivia is largely indigenous in culture. About 60% of Bolivia’s people are Aymara and Quechua Indians, descended from peoples of Incan and Pre-Incan cultures. Most indigenous people live in rural areas or villages, but recent economic problems have increased rural to urban migration. La Paz, the largest urban center, has a pronounced indigenous influence. Colorful fiestas, often lasting days, help brighten the otherwise hard life of the indigenous population.

Bolivians of indigenous-European ancestry (mestizo), about 25%–30% of the population, work mostly in small businesses, factories, and government offices. Although Spanish is the lingua franca, there are areas dominated by an indigenous language (Aymara, Quechua, and Guaraní). The remaining 10%–15% of Bolivians are of European descent and fill most of the professional and managerial positions. Large-scale European immigration occurred before and during World War II. More recently, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Canadian Mennonites have immigrated to the lightly populated lowlands of Santa Cruz Department.

In 1999, the English-speaking population of La Paz was estimated to be approximately 4,000. There is also a large German-speaking community in La Paz.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/17/2005 3:58 PM

Between 600 and 900 A.D., the Tiwanaku Indian civilization thrived at the southern end of Lake Titicaca and produced a highly advanced culture. From about 1450 A.D., Quechua-speaking Incas controlled most of present-day Bolivia until the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire in 1553.

During most of the colonial period, what is now Bolivia, depended on the Viceroyalty of Lima. The principal cities were Chuquisaca (now Sucre), “the seat of the Audiencia de Charcas,” Potosí, and La Paz. Silver mines were a major source of the Spanish Empire’s wealth, and for many years Potosí was the Western Hemisphere’s largest city. Independence was proclaimed in 1809, but only after 16 years was the Republic, named after Simon Bolivar, established on August 6, 1825.

In the 19th century, political instability led to several military takeovers, impeding social and economic progress. In a war with Chile between 1879 and 1884, Bolivia lost its seacoast and the rich nitrate fields and copper mines near Antofagasta. Since then, Bolivia has proclaimed its right to a Pacific seaport in discussions with both Chile and Peru.

Political stability improved during the early 20th century, although the Chaco War with Paraguay (1932 to 1935) exhausted Bolivia economically and discredited its traditional ruling classes. A protracted period of political unrest ended in the revolution of April 9, 1952, which put in power the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR). The MNR introduced universal suffrage, agrarian and educational reform, and nationalized the three largest private tin enterprises under the state mining corporation, COMIBOL.

Divisions within the MNR and growing opposition to its rule led to its overthrow in November 1964 by a military junta. The Ovando-Barrientos junta retained the MNR’s major reforms. In August 1966, the junta leader was elected president. On September 26, 1969, the military overthrew the president and formed a civilian-military government. From 1969 to 1982, Bolivia experienced several coups and rapid changes of government.

The first 2 years of the UDP (Popular Democratic Unity) from 1982 to 1985 were marked by national disasters, a deteriorating economy, and lack of political consensus. The fragile government was teetering by late 1984, threatened by political extremists and undercut by its lack of coherency. The president, responding to an initiative of the Catholic Church, began talks with the opposition and, as a result, curtailed his term, calling for elections in 1985.

In the voting of July 14, 1985, The Nationalist Democratic Action (ADN) party won a narrow plurality of the popular vote (32.8%), followed by 30.3% for the MNR, and 10.2% for the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). As no candidate had won over 50% of the popular vote, the Presidential selection was left to Congress. In Congress, the MIR supported the MNR, resulting in a fourth term in office for the MNR candidate. In spite of pressures on the economy, government policies by the end of the 4-year term brought remarkable stability and modest economic growth.

In the elections of May 7, 1989, MNR and ADN virtually tied with about 23% of the popular vote each. Although MNR and ADN had forged a “Pact for Democracy,” in the ensuing political negotiations, ADN threw its support to third place MIR, making Jaime Paz Zamora the surprise president. Paz Zamora was a moderate, center-left president whose political pragmatism in office outweighed his Marxist origins. The ADN-MIR Patriotic Accord (AP) government (1989 to 1993), followed the economic policies of its predecessor, maintaining political stability and economic growth.

Paz Zamora’s regime was less decisive against narcotics trafficking. The government broke up a number of trafficking networks but issued a surrender decree in 1991, which gave lenient sentences to the biggest narcotics kingpins. Also, his administration was extremely reluctant to pursue net eradication of illegal coca. It did not agree to an updated extradition treaty with the U.S., although two traffickers have been extradited to the U.S. since 1992.

Beginning in early 1994, the Bolivian Congress investigated Paz Zamora’s personal ties to accused major trafficker Isaac Chavarria, who subsequently died in prison while awaiting trial. MIR deputy chief Oscar Eid was jailed in connection with similar ties in 1994; he was found guilty and sentenced to 4 years in prison in November 1996. Technically still under investigation, Paz Zamora became an active presidential candidate in 1996.

In the 1993 elections, the MNR defeated the ADN/MIR coalition by a 34% to 20% margin, and the MNR’s Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada was selected as president by an MNR/MBL/UCS coalition in the Congress. Sanchez de Lozada pursued an aggressive economic and social reform agenda. The most dramatic change undertaken by the Sanchez de Lozada government was the capitalization program, under which investors acquired 50% ownership and management control of public enterprises, such as the state oil corporation, telecommunications system, electric utilities, and others. The reforms and economic restructuring were strongly opposed by certain segments of society, which instigated frequent social disturbances, particularly in La Paz and the Chapare coca-growing region between 1994 and 1996.

In the 1997 elections, General Hugo Banzer, leader of the ADN, won 22% of the vote, while the MNR candidate won 18%. General Banzer formed a coalition of the ADN, MIR, UCS, and CONDEPA parties (CONDEPA has since left the coalition), which holds a majority of seats in the Bolivian Congress. The Congress elected Banzer as president and he was inaugurated on August 6, 1997. The Banzer government has committed itself to shutting down illegal coca cultivation and narcotics trafficking during its 5-year term. Eradication efforts have been extremely successful, with eradication on track to be completed by the end of 2002. President Banzer has called for action against government and judicial corruption and has encouraged foreign investment as a means to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty.

Bolivia is still a developing democracy and corruption is widespread. Suffrage is universal and compulsory from age 18. An estimated 2.3 million voters were registered for the 1997 general elections. On August 6, 2001, Bansar resigned from office after being diagnosed with cancer. He died less than a year later. Banzer's U.S.-educated Vice President, Jorge Quiroga, completed the final year of the term. Quiroga was constitutionally prohibited from running for national office in 2002 but could do so in 2007.

In the June 2002 national elections, former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (MNR) placed first with 22.5% of the vote, followed by illegal-coca agitator Evo Morales (Movement Toward Socialism, MAS) with 20.9%. Morales edged out populist candidate Manfred Reyes Villa of the New Republic Force (NFR) by just 700 votes nationwide, earning a spot in the congressional run-off against Sanchez de Lozada on August 4, 2002.

A July agreement between the MNR and the fourth-place MIR, which had again been led in the election by former president Paz Zamora, virtually ensured the election of Sanchez de Lozada in the congressional run-off, and on August 6 he was sworn in for the second time. The MNR platform featured three overarching objectives; economic reactivation (and job creation), anti-corruption, and social inclusion.

A 4-year economic recession, tight fiscal situation, and longstanding tensions between the military police, led to the February 12-13, 2003 violence that left more than 30 people dead and nearly toppled the Sanchez de Lozada's government. The Government stayed in power but remained unpopular. Wide-spread protests broke out in October and revealed deep dissatisfaction with the government. Approximately 80 persons died during the demonstrations which led President Sanchez de Lozada to resign from office on October 17. In a constitutional transfer of power, Vice President Carlos Mesa assumed the Presidency promising to address the grievances of the social movements that led the effort to oust Sanchez de Lozada. He held a referendum on gas, presided over the reform of a controversial hycrocarbons law and took steps toward the establishment of a Consitutent Assembly. After a turbulent twenty months in office, several offers to resign and growing political and social uncertainty, Congress finally accepted Mesa's resignation on June 9, 2005. Supreme Court President Eduardo Rodriguez was selected as President of Bolivia, pledging to take a transition government toward early general elections in December 2005.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:04 PM

Education, from primary to post-secondary, is currently undergoing major reform, a long-term effort to alleviate poverty and to promote indigenous self-respect and gender equality. The public university system includes 11 autonomous institutions, including the Universidad Católica Boliviana (Bolivian Catholic University) and the Escuela Militar de Ingeniería (Military School of Engineering). These universities also serve as research centers for astronomy, environment, geology, genetics, and other sciences. The Bolivian National Academy of Sciences coordinates the work of these research centers. Outdated ideological orientation and poor administration remain parts of the still leftist-dominated public universities, which consume about 40% of the education budget. Bolivia also has 39 private universities, however only 14 have thus far been accredited, with the review process underway for others. The accreditation process, which is performed by a foreign consultant group contracted by the Bolivian Government, was recently established as a requirement for both private and public institutions.

Concerts are offered by the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Native Instruments, as well as the Coral Nova, the Sociedad Coral Boliviana, and other choral groups all based in La Paz. Those institutions occasionally sponsor visiting musicians and dancers as do Casas de la Cultura (municipal cultural centers) and bi-national centers.

Folk music can be enjoyed weekends and some weeknights at folklore nightclubs called peñas. The Municipal Theater stages plays, concerts, dance performances, and operas throughout the year. The performances vary in quality.

Art exhibitions are held in the National Museum of Art, the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, the Gold Museum, the National Archaeology Museum, and the Tiwanaku Museum (a 1-hour drive from La Paz), Municipal Museums, the Centros Bolivianos Americanos (Bolivian-American bi-national centers), and art galleries in major cities. There are children’s museums in La Paz (Kusillo) and in Sucre (Tanga-Tanga). Sucre also has the Casa de la Libertad, Colonial, Cathedral, and University Museums. Potosí has the Casa de la Moneda (mint) Museum. In Cochabamba, the Patiño Mansion serves as a cultural center and houses an excellent contemporary art gallery and a concert hall. In Tarija, the Casa de la Cultura’s Casa Dorada hosts cultural festivals and concerts.

There are a number of annual cultural festivals: in La Paz there are jazz and theater festivals, as well as a book fair; in El Alto there is the "Festival of the Sun" (a music festival); in Santa Cruz in even-numbered years there is a baroque and renaissance music festival, while in odd-numbered years there is a major theater festival; there are also cultural festivals in several other cities. Bolivia boasts some of the most unique handicrafts in Latin America, ranging from boldly stylized weavings to delicately crafted metalwork. In colorful markets and urban boutiques, good buys are found in silver and gold jewelry, pewter, leather, wood, and articles made of llama and alpaca wool. Thanks in part to a marketing program supported by the U.S. Mission through USAID, many of these products are finding their way into U.S. handicrafts fairs and will soon be available in some of the major department stores in the U.S.!

The Public Affairs Section of the Embassy supports a wide range of cultural and academic programs in Bolivia, through the Fulbright Academic Exchange Program, The Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, the U.S. Speakers Program, International Visitors grants and other exchanges. The Section also produces and underwrites exhibits and performing artists, including participation of U.S. musicians in the Jazz and Baroque festivals.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:04 PM

According to the Bolivian Government’s statistics, Bolivia’s 2004 gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $8.1 billion. Economic growth was 0.92% in 2001, and inflation declined from 6.7% in 1997 to 2.4% in 2000. The government’s 2000 economic program has targeted GDP growth of 4.5% and an inflation rate below 4.5%. Per capita income is currently $914.

Since 1985, the Government of Bolivia has been implementing a far reaching program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform aimed at restoring price stability, creating conditions for sustained growth, and alleviating poverty. Important components of these structural reform measures include the capitalization of state enterprises and strengthening of the country’s financial system. The most important recent structural changes in the Bolivian economy have involved the capitalization of numerous public sector enterprises. Parallel legislative reforms have locked into place market-oriented policies, especially in the hydrocarbon and mining sectors that have encouraged private investment. Foreign-ownership is allowed virtually throughout the economy, with no requirements to register foreign direct investment separately. The Bolivian Constitution restricts investments by foreigners in operations along the border areas, unless the investment or project is declared as of national interest. Foreign investment is neither screened nor treated in a discriminatory manner. There are no registration requirements for foreign direct investors or any special incentives for domestic or foreign investment. As a consequence of these measures, 1996 private investment surged by 25% to an estimated $225 million, and in 1998 it exceeded $1 billion. The privatization program is expected to generate commitments of $1.7 billion in foreign direct investment over the period from 1996 to 2002.

Bolivian exports were $1.1 billion in 1998, from a low of $652 million in 1991. Imports grew in 1998 to a level of $1.7 billion, with import growth facilitated by the gradual reduction of Bolivian tariffs to a flat 10% (except for capital equipment, which has a 5% rate). Bolivia’s trade deficit rose from $419 million in 1996 to $620 million in 1997. Bolivia’s trade with neighboring countries has grown, in part, because of several regional preferential trade agreements it has negotiated. The U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) allows numerous Bolivian products to enter the U.S. free of duty on a unilateral basis. The U.S. remains Bolivia’s largest trading partner. In 1998, the U.S. exported $626 million of merchandise to Bolivia and imported $149 million, according to the World Trade Atlas of the Global Trade Information Service. Bolivia’s major exports to the U.S. are tin, gold, jewelry, and wood products. Its major imports from the U.S. are aircraft, computers, vehicles, wheat, and machinery.

Agriculture accounts for roughly 15% of Bolivia’s GDP. The amount of land cultivated by modern farming techniques is increasing rapidly in the Santa Cruz area, where weather allows for two crops a year and soybeans are the major cash crop. The extraction of minerals and hydrocarbons accounts for another 10% of the GDP. Manufacturing represents less than 17% of the GDP.

Despite the solid economic growth since 1987, Bolivia remains South America’s poorest country. The economic recovery of the last half of the 1980s only offset the decline of the first half. Bolivia still has a GDP of only $1,076 a person, far lower than most neighboring countries. Bolivia has an illiteracy rate of at least 20%, and a December 1999 UNICEF report on infant mortality indicated that 85 of every 1,000 children die before they reach 5 years of age. Thus, the Government of Bolivia remains heavily dependent on foreign assistance to finance development projects. At the end of 1998, the Government owed $4.3 billion to its foreign creditors, with $1.6 billion of this amount owed to other governments and most of the balance owed to multilateral development banks. Most payments to other governments have been rescheduled on several occasions since 1987 through the Paris Club mechanism. Some countries have forgiven substantial amounts of Bolivia’s bilateral debt. The U.S. Government reached an agreement at the Paris Club meeting in December 1995 that reduced by 67% Bolivia’s existing debt stock. The Bolivian Government continues to pay its debts to the multilateral development banks on time and to receive soft loans. Bolivia has qualified for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) II debt relief program.


Automobiles Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:05 PM

If you are going to bring a vehicle, there is no age restriction on importing vehicles to Bolivia. . Any model is adequate for city driving, but cars with low ground clearance should have skid plates. Many city streets, especially in residential areas are cobblestone and feature high speed bumps. Traveling outside La Paz, where most roads are unpaved, requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Taxis are available in the city and the suburbs. Public transportation systems are overcrowded and often unsafe.

You can order standard U.S. model cars in La Paz from local dealers or U.S. companies; delivery takes 2-3 months. Korean, Japanese, and Brazilian vehicles are available from dealers’ local stocks, as are certain models of U.S. vehicles, such as Jeeps, Explorers, Broncos, and Escorts. Many streets in La Paz are steep, narrow, cobblestone, and slippery when wet. Outside La Paz, most roads are unpaved, often dangerous, and at times, impassable during the rainy season. Vehicles drive on the right.

Defensive driving is essential to avoid hazards. La Paz has few stop signs, and many traffic lights are hand-operated by policemen. Car horns are sounded or headlights are flashed to signal right of way at intersections. Many drivers do not use headlights for night driving. If you bring a car, it should have 6-8-ply, heavy duty tires, a high altitude carburetor (or fuel injection), and heavy-duty suspension. Also, if you plan to travel in rural areas, a metal plate to cover the car’s underside will protect it from rocks and potholes.

A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended since it's sturdier construction and height from the ground are more suitable for driving on rural roads. These vehicles make accessible many beautiful and interesting areas, including the mountains near La Paz, and are essential for fishing, hunting, or camping. Tinted windshields are recommended because of intense ultraviolet rays. Air-conditioning adds comfort to driving on unpaved, dusty roads. Repair facilities are available in major cities and are fairly good. Labor is inexpensive; spare parts and accessories may be expensive and are often unavailable.

Bring parts that need frequent replacement (i.e., fan belts, air, oil and gas filters, heavy-duty shock absorbers, and an extra set of windshield wipers). Tires for four-wheel-drive vehicles are fairly expensive here, so you may wish to include one or two in your household effects (HHE) shipment. Parts can also be ordered from the U.S. and received via APO. A good shop manual is useful. Emergency tools, spare tires and tubes, jacks, and tire irons, and a first-aid kit are recommended. A locking gas cap and an extra large gas tank are useful. Catalytic converters and unleaded gasoline restrictive devices employed in the U.S. can be removed from gasoline tanks before shipment or after arrival. For long trips outside La Paz, one or two locking jerry (gas) cans are recommended since gas stations are scarce or nonexistent in rural areas.

The Mission obtains drivers licenses for all employees and family members over 18 years of age who present a valid U.S. or other drivers license. Local Bolivian laws (and Embassy policy) do not allow family members under 18 to drive. License plates for diplomatic and official vehicles cost $25. All U.S. Government personnel must carry third-party liability insurance; the minimum third-party liability insurance acceptable under Bolivian law is $25,000. Third-party liability insurance is easily obtained locally.

Comprehensive insurance, including theft, is recommended since minor accidents and pilferage of vehicle accessories (particularly windshield wipers, mirrors, external spare tires, and antennas) are common. Thieves are becoming more sophisticated and are adept at removing items from locked trunks. Consider installing an alarm system. See also Customs, Duties, and Passage.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:05 PM

Bus service is erratic. Minibuses (micros) operate between the city and suburbs; they accommodate up to 21 seated passengers and as many standees as possible. Taxis can be hailed and are identified by red license plates with a “T” prefix or the word “taxi” on the front windshield. Call service for radio-dispatched taxis is good. “Collectives” (usually sedans) and “trufi” taxis (usually vans) can be shared by many passengers and usually follow fixed routes.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:06 PM

American Airlines has daily service to and from Miami. Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB), the Bolivian national airline, also has daily flights to Miami as well as frequent flights to all major Bolivian cities. LAB also flies to Caracas, Manaus, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Arica, Santiago, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Salta, Montevideo, Lima, and Mexico City. Other airlines servicing La Paz with international connections include Lan Chile (Arica, Antofagasta, Iquique, and Santiago), Lufthansa (Lima, Bogota, and Frankfurt), Aerolineas Argentinas (Buenos Aires), AeroPeru (Lima with connections to Mexico City and Panama), and Varig (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro). AeroSur, a private Bolivian airline, serves major Bolivian cities and some rural towns.

Train service is limited and slow. Trains run from La Paz to Antofagasta and Arica, Chile, to Argentina, and some internal cities. An interesting trip (18 hours) runs between La Paz and Cochabamba. Many points in Bolivia can be reached only by bus (flotas), truck, or automobile over poor roads; some areas are frequently inaccessible, except during the dry season and then only by four-wheel-drive vehicles.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:06 PM

Bolivia’s Telecommunications Industry was privatized in November 2001. Because of privatization, the telephone service and companies are going through some growing pains. Currently there are two major telephone companies and six long distance providers. You do not have to choose a long distance provider for your home. You choose which company to use at the time of the call using codes. For example, to place a call to the states using the long distance company ENTEL, you would dial 0010–1 plus the number. The cost for calls to the states runs about 50 to 70 cents a minute. MCI and AT&T have local access numbers in Bolivia and you can use your MCI or AT&T calling cards but they are more expensive. Lessors provide one telephone. If desired, extension phones can be brought, as most homes have existing telephone jacks. Telephones can also be purchased locally at reasonable costs. The telephone company does not send bills; you must call for the amount of the bill. Telephone bills can be paid at the phone company or at various banks. Overdue payments result in loss of service; reconnection of phone service is expensive and time consuming.

Internet Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:07 PM

There are numerous Internet Service Providers in the major cities. Service is reliable and, depending on the provider and the type of service, can be slow or fast. Because of privatization, some of the older dial-up companies are going under but others are taking their places. Cost of dial-up is about $20 per month. Broadband service is available in the form of ADSL. Currently two companies offer this service. The cost of ADSL varies according to the speed purchased. For example, a 128K connection from AXS is $60 per month and a 256K is $100 per month.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:07 PM

APO: Diplomatic pouch service is slow and international mail from Bolivia is not very reliable, so APO is the preferred method to send and receive mail. All direct-hire Mission members, retired military, active duty military personnel, and individuals who have APO privileges included in their orders may send and receive mail by APO.

Weight and size restrictions are the same as in the U.S.: 70 pounds (32 kilograms) maximum weight and 108 inches (274 centimeters) maximum length and girth combined. If mailing other than to the U.S., restrictions might differ; check with APO for other allowances and restrictions. Mail sent by APO and pouch requires domestic U.S. postage. Insure mail, both SAM and Priority, for expensive and easily stolen items such as stereo components, cameras, etc.

During the Christmas holidays, APO mail can be slow in arriving. You should make your holiday orders well in advance to ensure arrival in time for Christmas.

The following pattern should be used for your address via APO:

Full Name
U.S. Embassy–La Paz
[Agency/Section]–[Unit Number]
APO AA 34032

APO Unit Numbers:
CONS—Consular Section–3904
POL—Political Section–3909
ECON—Economic Section–3918
PAS—Affairs Section–3924
NAS—Narcotics Affairs Section–3910
ORA—Office of Regional Affairs–3926
ADMIN—Administrative Section–3900
GSO—General Services Office–3920
OBO—Overseas Building Operations–3925
HRO—Mission Human Resources Office–3921
FMO—Financial Management Office–3922
IPC—Communications Program Unit–3905
IMC—Information Management Center–3906
ITC-Information Technical Center-3917
HU—Health Unit–3908
RSO—Regional Security Office–3907
MSG—Marine Security Guard Detachment–3916
AID—Agency for International Development–3914
DAO—Defense Attaché‚ Office–3912
DEA-Drug Enforcement Administration-3913
MILGP—Military Group–3911 Retired Military–3923
PC—Peace Corps–3915

Diplomatic Pouch. The State Department diplomatic pouch may be used for shipment of prescription medicine, eyeglasses, hearing aids, batteries, prosthetic devices, orthopedic shoes, and other emergency health and welfare items (regardless of weight). U.S. postage is required and the contents must be identified. The use of the diplomatic pouch for sending other parcels to and from La Paz is prohibited. The following pattern should be used for your address via diplomatic pouch:

Full Name
U.S. Department of State
3220 La Paz Place
Washington, DC 20521–3220

International mail: Your address via Bolivian and international mail will be:

Full Name
Embajada de los EE.UU.
Casilla 425 La Paz, Bolivia

Radio and TV Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:08 PM

La Paz has numerous radio stations that broadcast in FM and AM. Programs carry Bolivian, Latin, U.S., and classical music. Coverage of national and international news is ample. Shortwave reception varies with location and weather conditions but is adequate. An outside antenna improves reception.

Cable TV is available in most major cities and provides up to 70 channels, including programs and news in English. La Paz has 11 television stations. Eight VHF channels broadcast in La Paz; seven are private; and one is owned by the government. The other three broadcast in the UHF band. Every Bolivian city can receive at least four-to-five TV stations, all broadcast in Spanish.

La Paz has two cable system companies: Multivision and SuperCanal; each charges an installation fee and a monthly rate. Cochabamba has one cable system company and Santa Cruz has two. All stations use the U.S. NTSC standard format. Some programs are broadcast in SAP (second audio program), which allows viewers to hear the program in Spanish or English.

AFTRS and Direct TV are also available in Bolivia.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:08 PM

La Paz has six Spanish-language newspapers: five published in the morning and one in the afternoon. The better papers cover international news but focus on national events. The Bolivian Times, an English-language weekly, is also available. Several Spanish-language magazines are published erratically. Overseas editions of Time and Newsweek are regularly available on newsstands; the International Herald Tribune and Miami Herald are occasionally found. Many Mission employees subscribe to U.S. newspapers and magazines via APO or read them via Internet.

The binational center (Centro Boliviano Americano-CBA) in La Paz subscribes to more than 100 U.S. magazines and the Sunday editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Limited selections of English-language books are available in a few La Paz bookstores, but prices are high. Mission employees may join the CBA library and borrow books and magazines. The La Paz Book Club has a lending library. In addition, many Mission personnel belong to U.S. book or music clubs. Because of potential complications in the arrival of mail, those who join a club should request the overseas option to ensure only specifically ordered selections are sent. VCRs are popular. Video rental stores have tapes in VHS and Beta format and offer many current films in Spanish and English.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:10 PM

The Embassy has a Health Unit (HU) for U.S. citizen employees and family members of agencies participating in the Department of State medical program. The staff consists of a Regional Medical Officer, a State Department Foreign Service Health Practitioner (Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner), contract nurses, an administrative assistant, and a receptionist. Several good physicians and dentists, some U.S. trained, practice in La Paz and may be referred to by HU personnel. Hospitals and inpatient clinics for the most part are inadequate by U.S. standards. The Health Unit maintains an updated list of Hospitals and Clinical facilities for emergency procedures.

State Department policy encourages pregnant employees or family members overseas, regardless of the post, the opportunity to evacuate to the U.S. in the last trimester of pregnancy (by 34 weeks of pregnancy). The evacuation point from Bolivia is Miami. Per diem is provided for up to 90 days. Newborns are entitled to per diem as long as the mother is in a medical evacuation status. Women contemplating pregnancies while stationed in La Paz should definitely consult with their obstetrician regarding the effects of altitude on pregnancies prior to moving to La Paz.

For those families with young children less than the age of eleven, Post recommends you check with your dentist in the U.S. regarding the use of dental sealants and fluoride for the prevention of cavities.

Bring at least a 1-year supply of all routine and essential prescription medications and first-aid supplies. The Health Unit pharmacy maintains an adequate supply of medications to treat most illnesses that arise but cannot provide first aid supplies, routine over-the-counter medications, or long-term medications.

Because of the dry climate, humidifiers and vaporizers are suggested as part of every household shipment. A large supply of hand and body moisturizer lotions and antichapping preparations are recommended. Saline nose drops are also helpful. All personnel should bring an adequate supply of sunscreen. Bring a lotion that has a protection value no lower than 15 SPF and a brand you have used before that has not produced irritation or rash.

Post policy requires that all personnel associated with the U.S. Mission in Bolivia, with a posting of greater than 90 days, have the following immunizations:

Yellow Fever, within the past 10 years.
Diphtheria/Tetanus (DT) and Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DPT), within the past 10 years.
Polio Vaccine (IPV), within the past 10 years.
Rabies series of three 1.0 cc. intramuscular.
Hepatitis B series of three initiated or in the past.
Typhoid oral/injectable vaccine series in the past 2 years.
Hepatitis A series of two vaccinations for 10 year protection.
At a minimum, begin those immunizations that require a series of shots (Rabies, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis A) before arrival. The Health Unit maintains limited supplies of those vaccines to complete the series for those who have not finished.

Community Health Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:11 PM

The altitude of the airport for La Paz is 13,315 feet (4,058 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 breathing. State Department's M/MED will not clear you to come to La Paz if you have:

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30% of patients with sickle cell trait will have a crisis at elevations greater than 8,000 feet.

Severe heart disease: If you are a man more than 45 years old or a woman more than 55 and have two of the following risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol), you must have a stress EKG and a cardiologist evaluation before coming to La Paz.

Severe lung disease: If you have asthma and are on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or have been hospitalized for your asthma within the last year, M/MED may not approve your clearance for La Paz.

If you are severely obese, especially in combination with hypertension or other cardiac risk factors, you must have a medical evaluation before coming to La Paz. Please note that, if you have diabetes, only the blood meter called One Touch II will work properly at altitudes over 6,040 feet.

Rabies can be a problem because of the many dogs that roam freely through the cities and the countryside. The routine pre-exposure rabies vaccine series of three immunizations is recommended (1ccIM dose). Have personal pets vaccinated against rabies, distemper, and parvovirus. Snakes and venomous insects are rare, except in tropical areas.

Diarrheal illnesses are the most common complaint and are related to food and water borne diseases. Common sense dictates drinking water from your distiller, bottled water, no ice and no fresh vegetables, fruits or salads unless you have sanitized them with chlorine.

All cities in Bolivia have inadequate sewage systems. City water is not potable, and few official inspection systems for water and food products exist. No pest and vermin control programs or reliable food and beverage inspections exist.

Chagas Disease, Dengue fever and Malaria can be seen in lower altitude cities such as Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Trinidad.

Other common ailments in La Paz are related to upper and lower respiratory infections, sinus infections, and bronchitis. These illnesses linger longer than in the U.S.

We encourage you to access the Health Book which is an excellent resource on the Embassy Web page under the Health Unit Section.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:11 PM

For altitude sickness (soroche), the most important preventive measure is to have a thorough physical exam before coming to La Paz. Newcomers should rest for the first 3 days after arrival, drink a lot of water, and eat only light meals. It is also recommended that newcomers abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking cigarettes for the first week. Exercise can be resumed gradually after 1-2 weeks at post. Diamox (125mg twice a day, started 24 hours before arrival) can help. Some newcomers are apprehensive due to exaggerated accounts of the health impact of La Paz’s altitude. Symptoms may include headaches, sleeplessness or sudden awakening from sleep, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. For most people, these symptoms gradually decrease or disappear after a few days. Many symptoms may be caused by dehydration, so it is very important to drink sufficient fluids. Regularly treated water (from a distiller) is recommended. Limit carbonated drinks or allow them to go flat before drinking them. Limit mineral water because of high salt content.

To avoid intestinal parasites and upsets, sterilize unpeeled fruits and vegetables before eating. Meat and poultry must be cooked thoroughly. Domestic employees must be specially trained in basic hygiene and cleaning techniques. Care must be taken in the selection of reliable places to eat.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:13 PM

Employment Inside the U. S. Mission

Information on family member employment can be found on the post's intranet web site. Family members interested in working inside the U. S. Mission can also review post's Family Member Employment Report to determine which positions are currently funded for the U. S. Mission in Bolivia. Various Mission agencies employ family members in mainly clerical and cleared rover positions. Cleared rovers act as escorts, pouch handlers, secretaries (OMS) and provide a variety of other services which require security clearances. Other opportunities such as professional nurses or translators occur from time-to-time. Family members interested in Mission employment should write the Community Liaison Office (CLO), U.S. Embassy, APO, AA 34032, giving qualifications, date of arrival, length of intended stay in La Paz, and the assigned employee's organization. A resume or completed SF-171 is helpful.

The Community Liaison Office is currently staffed by three family members, with one full-time position and two part-time employees working 20 hours per week.

One part-time position is available for family members in the Commissary.

Employment possibilities for teenagers are limited. The CLO organizes a summer-hire job program for teenagers within the Mission. Program scope varies with annual funding levels.

Employment on the Local Bolivian Economy

In October 2004, a Strategic Networking Assitance Program (SNAP) was begun. The goal of the program is to assist spouses of direct-hire USG employees with their search for employment on the host country economy. A portfolio of information about organizations and businesses operating in Bolivia is located on the post intranet site at

Certified teachers interested in working at the American Cooperative School (ACS) should write to: Superintendent, American Cooperative School, APO, AA 34032, providing the same information as above and a copy of certification and college transcripts. Although occasional openings occur all year, recruitment for new hires begins in January; most full-time hiring is completed by late March. If you are interested in employment with the school, apply as early as possible. Qualified persons are in demand for part-time tutoring. Substitutes are needed throughout the school year.

Some family members have created their own employment opportunites running home-based businesses, telecommuting, or as consultants for the local NGO community.

American Embassy - La Paz

Post City Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:14 PM

La Paz, the political capital of Bolivia, is in the west-central part of the country in a deep canyon about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Lake Titicaca. La Paz is the highest capital in the world. Due to its high altitude, isolation, a lack of reliable services, and traditionally unsettled political conditions, La Paz is a 15% differential post. Most agencies authorize one R&R trip to the continental United States, per 2-year tour.

La Paz was founded in 1548 by Spanish conquistadors who chose the site as a halfway station for the llama pack trains bearing silver ore from Potosí to Lima. After Bolivia achieved independence, La Paz became its commercial and financial center. Although Sucre is the constitutional capital, all government offices, except the Supreme Court, are in La Paz.

La Paz’s architecture combines colonial and modern styles. Older sections, with their narrow, cobblestone streets, contain some fine, 16th century colonial buildings. Many high-rise offices, hotels, and apartment buildings have been built in the center. Most businesses are conducted in small shops or in local market stalls run by colorfully clad women.

Business activity within La Paz is mainly light industry, such as clothing and food manufacture, and commercial and financial enterprises that support the country’s mining economy. One of La Paz’s few level areas is adjacent to Avenida 16 de Julio (the Prado) in downtown La Paz. Most major streets radiate from the Prado. Some are so steep that they are difficult to negotiate on foot, and even worse by car.

Deeply eroded water courses cut through the city at several points contributing to irregular street patterns. Slopes of the surrounding cliffs are rocky and bleak, except where eucalyptus and pine trees grow.

Although the altiplano is barren, magnificent snowcapped mountain peaks (particularly Mt. Illimani) overlooking the canyon and multicolored eroded hillsides provide a spectacular scenic backdrop for La Paz.

The airport, above the city, is the highest international airport in the world, 13,315 feet (4,058 meters) above sea level. Descending from the airport, you have a beautiful view of the valley and the city. Year round, particularly in winter, the air is crystal clear, and the sky is deep blue.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:15 PM

Eight U.S. Government agencies are represented in this Mission; in addition to the State Department contingent they include: the Agency for International Development (AID), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Defense Attaché Office (DAO), the Military Group (MILGP), the Peace Corps, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Most offices are in the Chancery building located at Avenida Arce #2780 (telephone number: 591–2–216-8000). AID and the State Department’s Narcotics Affairs Section are located in a separate building in Obrajes, Calle 9 #104 (telephone number: 591–2–278–6147 or 591–2–278–6544). The Peace Corps Regional Office is located in Obrajes, Calle Diaz Villamil #5154 (telephone number: 591–2–278-2300).

Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A duty officer is on call after hours.

La Paz has an active Community Liaison Office (CLO) that has information about housing, schools, shopping, and family member employment. The CLO serves the Embassy community and assists new arrivals and their families.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:15 PM

Newcomers are housed in temporary quarters only if permanent quarters are not ready on arrival. Rarely do newcomers stay in hotels, but the Camino Real, Casa Grande, Radisson and Ritz hotels are used when necessary.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:16 PM

Government-owned quarters in La Paz include the DCM’s home and two other homes. All government-provided housing is fully furnished. Updated photographs and detailed information on these homes are available at the Overseas Building Operations at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. The Mission leases houses and apartments for all Department of State (including NAS), DEA, and DAO direct-hire staff. AID’s own General Services Office identifies and leases housing for their direct-hire personnel.

Housing assignments are made by the Mission Housing Board in accordance with 6 FAM guidelines. The Board tries to make assignments before an employee’s arrival. Inform the Embassy Administrative Section (GSO/Housing) of family size and preferences as soon as possible after assignment notification so they can be factored into the Board’s decision. Government-leased quarters are provided with government-owned furniture with only a few exceptions, mostly for military personnel. Personnel assigned to the DAO occupy government-leased and -furnished quarters. MILGP and some contract personnel occupy privately leased quarters.

All Mission personnel who negotiate private leases must have the approval of the Mission’s Housing Board before signing a lease. The Embassy and the AID General Services Offices (GSO) maintain government-owned and -leased housing in accord with 6 FAM regulations. Most Mission personnel with families live in the suburbs, such as Calacoto, Obrajes, La Florida, Irpavi, and Achumani. These are located 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the city’s center and are about 1,000 feet (305 meters) lower in altitude. Most homes in the suburbs have small attractive walled gardens. Most apartments are also in the southern zone.

Since it is cool after sundown year round in La Paz and central heating is rare, many houses have fireplaces. The Mission provides information regarding firewood acquisition and reimbursement to residents.

Although local law prohibits keeping pets in apartments, many building administrations make exceptions. Before bringing a pet, consult the Administrative Office to learn what type of quarters you will occupy.

Furnishings Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:17 PM

Currently, furnishings are supplied to State (including NAS), DEA, AID, and DAO personnel. Other agencies’ employees and some contract AID personnel, depending on their contracts, bring their own furniture. Furniture available for purchase locally is limited in selection and expensive. If you occupy unfurnished housing and are entitled to a full shipment, bring complete furnishings. Most houses and apartments have stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers, light fixtures, and water heaters. However, many lack adequate closets and almost none have central heating.

If you are authorized full household effects (HHE) shipment, consult your Administrative Office for details. Do not bring antiques; the dry air and bright sun of La Paz age furniture quickly. State (including NAS), AID, DEA, and DAO personnel receive unlined draperies or curtain sheers. Windows do not conform to standard sizes; it is suggested that curtains be made locally or ordered from mail-order houses after arrival. All locally available material is expensive. Good fur and wool rugs are sold in La Paz at reasonable prices.

You may want to bring basic small appliances, although they can be easily purchased here. To enjoy citrus fruits, which are plentiful and inexpensive when in season, a juicer is worthwhile. High altitude cooking is easier with pressure cookers. All government-furnished quarters have distillers.

State, AID, and DAO personnel receive furniture according to family size and availability. The following is a list of furniture normally provided for a family of four. Occasionally shortages occur.

Living Room: 1 three-seat sofa, 2 occasional chairs, 1 floor lamp, 3 table lamps, 1 bookcase, 2 end tables, 1 coffee table, 1 hall table, draperies or curtain sheers.

Dining Room: 1 dining table, 2 arm chairs, 6 to 8 side chairs, 1 china cabinet, 1 buffet, draperies or curtain sheers.

Master Bedroom: 1 queen size or 2 single beds, 2 nightstands, 1 chest of drawers, 1 dresser, 1 mirror, 1 occasional chair, and draperies.

Additional Bedrooms: 1 or 2 single beds, 1 nightstand, 1 table lamp, 1 chest of drawers, 1 mirror, 1 occasional chair, and draperies.

Kitchen: 1 electric stove, 1 refrigerator, 1 freezer, 1 washer, 1 dryer, 1 fire extinguisher, and 1 water distiller.

Miscellaneous: smoke detectors, security alarm system, electric heaters, 1 vacuum cleaner, fireplace equipment, some limited outdoor furniture, 1 garden hose, 1 lawn mower, 1 stepladder, and 1 water distiller.

GSO will advise State personnel of available furnishings and, if housing has been identified, what size quarters they will occupy. Many houses under lease have space for which furniture is not supplied. Personnel may decide to include additional furniture and furnishings in their limited HHE shipment-such as television/stereo stands, computer desks, kitchen tables, and any special child-size furniture.

Welcome Kits are available before your UAB and HHE shipments arrive. They include all the basics — such as, eating and cooking utensils, an iron and ironing board, pillows, blankets, bedspreads, linens, towels, pressure cooker, and wastebaskets.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:18 PM

In government-leased quarters, post utilities (except telephone) are paid by post. In privately leased quarters, tenants pay utilities.

Government-leased homes have electric water heaters. Some water shortages occur during the dry months (June through September). During shortages, water is shut off in late evening and at night. Most houses have water tanks and pumps. Bottled water can be purchased for emergencies.

Electricity in La Paz houses is generally 220v/50 cycles, but many still have 110v/50 cycle outlets as well. Some residences have both. Since 1990, the electric company has only installed 220v/50 cycle power in new homes. Contact GSO for information on the voltage of your assigned house. GSO supplies a limited number, usually up to five, transformers. Please consider bringing more if you intend to bring a lot of 110v electrical devices. Transformers can be purchased in the Washington, D.C., area and in other large U.S. cities.

Occasional power failures are short in duration; however, candles and flashlights are useful. Bring surge protectors for all electronic equipment, such as stereos, televisions, and computers. Because 60-cycle electric clocks will run slow here, use 50-cycle or battery-operated clocks. Convert turntables and tape recorders (unless belt driven) to 50 cycles before arrival. This can be done locally, but the cost is high, and parts may be unavailable.

Television sets can be bought in La Paz for reasonable prices. The Bolivian national TV network operates on the U.S. standard color system (NTSC), so U.S. TVs can be used. Television sets with the SAP (second audio program) feature are preferable in order to hear some cable programs in English.

Home heating is necessary during colder months. Rarely are residences centrally heated; so, most use portable electric heaters.

Electrical appliances are available for purchase in La Paz. Note: Since gas service is not available, electric appliances are recommended for this post. Do not bring gas-powered appliances.

Food Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:19 PM

The variety of available foodstuffs is getting better, although the supply remains unpredictable. The Mission commissary is well stocked with dry goods and regular shipments of frozen and dairy items.

Personnel of some agencies are authorized a consumables allowance in addition to their normal HHE allowance (check with your agency to be certain this applies to you). The CLO can supply a list of recommended items that could be included in this shipment.

Major food sources in La Paz include several supermarkets, local shops, open-air markets, and the commissary. Markets sell fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. Meat cuts are unfamiliar and quality varies. Good-quality beef, pork (most costly meat), lamb, poultry, and fresh fish (especially trout from Lake Titicaca and tropical fish from the lowlands) are available. In addition to open-air markets, small shops and several minimarkets stock canned and packaged items. Specialty shops carry good quality, expensive cheeses and other imports, when available.

Reconstituted pasteurized milk, butter, and limited cheeses are available. Locally canned fruits and vegetables are of poor quality, but fresh fruit and vegetables are good. These must be washed very well or treated to meet U.S. standards.

Mission employees operate a cooperative association. There is also a membership deposit of $150 for single personnel and $300 for families that is refundable and may be paid in 3 monthly installments, if necessary. You may not make charge purchases until the full deposit has been paid. To offset local shortages, the association stocks staples, groceries, and canned goods, as well as toiletries, cleaning goods, paper products, pet foods, cat litter, cigarettes, and liquor. Association prices are higher than in the U.S. as transportation costs can double the price. Special orders can be placed; at times, however, transportation and other problems can cause purchase limits to be imposed.

Meats and vegetables require longer cooking due to high altitude. Pressure cookers save time and energy and tenderize tougher meat cuts. Cakes and other pastries require adjustments in ingredients and baking time.

The wine industry is young in Bolivia, but several wineries have developed some good wines. There are also excellent wines available from producers in Chile and Argentina.

Clothing Last Updated: 2/24/2005 11:36 AM

Temperatures in La Paz are moderate. Spring/fall clothing is worn all year. Lightweight clothing can be comfortable in sunshine, but temperatures drop in the shade. During winter (May through August) a winter coat might be needed in the morning and evening. Daytime temperatures become quite warm, especially at midday. During the rainy season (December through March) a raincoat and umbrella are recommended. Warm bathrobes or sweatsuits and slippers are comfortable in the house during mornings and evenings. Bring sturdy rubber soled shoes for the cobblestone streets and steep hills. Sidewalks are slippery when wet.

Clothing can be ordered from the U.S. via APO; delivery takes about 2–4 weeks. In addition, there are many experienced seamstresses and tailors in the La Paz area able to copy fashions from photographs. Good wool fabrics, including British wool, are available. Linens can be purchased but are more expensive than in the U.S. Seasons here are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere.

Plan your traveling wardrobe, regardless of season, to include a coat and a sweater in the hand baggage of each family member, it can be very cold during summer rains. Military members should bring formal and informal dress uniforms. They will normally be invited to host country military official functions immediately upon arrival. For civilian official functions, they can wear formal dress uniform or formal/informal civilian clothing.

Men Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:19 PM

Mediumweight suits are worn all year. Some men wear vests or sweaters with their jackets on cooler days. Bring a good supply of shirts, shoes, underwear, socks, and accessories from the U.S. and lightweight clothing for visits to tropical areas. Men traveling to lower altitudes will need one or two summer suits. Bring golfing gear and shoes. Hiking, tennis, volleyball, softball, racquetball, basketball, camping, backpacking, etc., are actively pursued here; bring appropriate sportswear.

Senior and mid-level grade officers need at least one dark suit. Formal occasions in La Paz are black tie; white jackets are sometimes used by officers visiting the warmer cities of Cochabamba or Santa Cruz. A mediumweight topcoat is useful but not essential. Formal wear, including morning clothes, can be rented in La Paz, but sizes are limited.

Women Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:20 PM

Clothing worn on the east coast of the U.S. in early spring and fall is worn year round in La Paz. Skirts and sweaters, and basic medium weight suits and dresses that can be dressed up or down, are best. Three piece suits and dresses with jackets are practical, since they can be varied to suit the temperature. Bring shoes, undergarments, and sportswear from the U.S. Although Bolivian-made nylons are available, they are of poor quality. Most women bring or order U.S.-made nylons and pantyhose.

Sweaters are essential and available. Pantsuits, slacks, and jeans are seen everywhere and are worn for casual wear to provide warmth in unheated buildings, theaters, etc. Bring some summer clothes, including a bathing suit, for trips to warmer climates. The variety of dress required for receptions, cocktail parties, dinner, etc., varies according to rank and representational activities as well as personal preference. Occasionally, long dresses are worn for formal functions, such as the Marine Ball.

Children Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:20 PM

Children’s clothing in La Paz resembles that worn in Washington, D.C., in the fall. Bring layered clothing that can be added or subtracted according to temperature changes rather than extra heavy clothing. All types of clothing for babies and some children’s clothing are available in La Paz. Locally made clothing is inexpensive. Imports are limited and expensive.

Disposable diapers are available in local stores, but not all brands or sizes are stocked. Rubber pants, underwear, and children’s shoes are scarce. Bring plenty of clothes, allowing for growth.

Dress for school-age children is informal but tidy. Girls wear jeans, slacks, skirts, sweaters, and dresses to school. Boys wear jeans, slacks, and shirts without ties. Both need windbreakers or jackets, sweaters, raincoats, and sturdy shoes.

Dress clothes are needed for social occasions. Bring play clothes, sweatshirts, sneakers, shorts, shirts and blouses, bathing suits, and sportswear. Children use lightweight jackets, sweaters, or sweatshirts almost daily. Locally made blouses, shirts, and nylon jogging suits are well made and can be bought at reasonable prices. Local schools do not have heat, so bring warm clothing (which can be shed for Physical Education).

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:20 PM

Bring cosmetics, toiletries, spot remover, insect repellant, and medical supplies to La Paz. These items are available locally but are expensive. Bring skin creams, sunscreen, suntan lotions, bath oils, chapstick (preferably with SPF), and sunglasses to protect against the strong ultraviolet rays of the sun and the dry air. Items that are scarce, of poor quality, or expensive in La Paz include gift wrapping paper, notions, and fancy candles.

If you sew, bring fabrics, notions, patterns, and a sewing machine. Bring tablecloths and napkins, glassware, china, serving dishes, and other entertainment items. These items are expensive and of poor quality, as are kitchenware, bed linens, and towels. Bring linens and towels for servants. Household cleaning supplies are available from the commissary as well as the local markets.

Baby foods and formulas are available locally. Consider bringing your own artificial Christmas tree. Shortly before Christmas, cedar trees or cedar branches are tied together and sold on street corners. Many of these trees are illegally cut from municipal reforestation projects. Also bring to post a basic tool kit containing hammer, pliers, regular and Phillips head screwdrivers, picture hanging equipment, white and super glue, cement hangers, etc. GSO staff can be hired during off hours to hang pictures.

Basic Services Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:21 PM

La Paz has several adequate drycleaners. Prices are reasonable, but clothes must be aired to rid them of strong cleaning odors. The Plaza Hotel drycleaners is considered one of the best. A few laundries are available, but most laundry is done at home by domestic help or laundry workers.

Men’s tailoring costs are reasonable, but quality is uneven. Women’s tailoring is also available. Some people bring material to make servants’ uniforms, but adequate uniforms can be bought locally at a reasonable price. Fair shoe repair is available, as is leather repair. La Paz has adequate barbers and beauticians; prices are moderate.

Electrical and mechanical repairs vary in quality. Prices depend on availability of parts. Labor costs are reasonable. Check and repair electrical and mechanical items before shipping to La Paz. Bring basic replacement parts. Automobile body service is satisfactory; labor is inexpensive. Bring matching body paint, wax, etc., to cover minor scratches. Film developing is available but of uneven quality; not all films can be processed. Many personnel use mail order film processing. Camera and watch repairs are available.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:21 PM

Almost all personnel find domestic employees to be a helpful addition to daily life. A combination cook/housekeeper is generally sufficient for a couple with one or two children in a small house. Many U.S. citizens with more than two children employ a cook and a general housekeeper or a nanny. A house with a garden needs a part-time gardener.

Salaries for domestic employees are reasonable. The employer provides meals, uniforms, toiletries, and, if applicable, lodging for live-in employees. Local law requires an extra month’s pay as Christmas bonus, making 13 monthly salaries annually. Domestic employees are entitled to 15 days of paid vacation per year. If mutually acceptable, extra pay may be given in lieu of vacation.

It is Embassy Policy that all American direct hires and contract personnel must provide health care coverage for all domestic employees, part-time and full-time, before those employees begin their first day of work. The Bolivian Caja Nacional de Salud is the insurance that most employers obtain for their domestic employees.

Employees vary in efficiency and dependability. The CLO office has employee applications on file. During a 3-month probationary period, employees may be terminated without notice or compensation. After this period, they are entitled to receive payment of social benefits in accordance with local labor law. All employees are encouraged to sign a work contract. The post-published Domestic Employee Handbook contains sample forms.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:22 PM

Most churches are Roman Catholic, with services usually in Spanish.

Most major Protestant denominations, however, have at least one church in La Paz; services usually are in Spanish. A mong these are: Baptist-Iglesia Evangelica del Prado; Lutheran-Iglesia Evangelica Luterana; Methodist-Iglesia Metodista en Bolivia; and Seventh-day Adventist-Miraflores. The La Paz Community Church, a nondenominational Protestant church, located in Zona Sur, offers an English worship service at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. The Church sponsors small group Bible classes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) has several wards in La Paz and other Bolivian cities. The headquarters of the Andes South Mission is in La Paz.

The Jewish community in La Paz holds religious services at two Synagogues and maintains a school. There is no rabbi.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 6/30/2005 2:03 PM

At this time, children of Mission families in La Paz attend the American Cooperative School (ACS) in the residential suburb of Calacoto. ACS sponsors a kindergarten and pre-kindergarten at the same location. The 500-member student body is international, about 35% U.S. citizen, 40% Bolivian, and 25% third country. A superintendent, a high school/middle school principal, and an elementary principal, administer the school. Teaching staff consists of about 60 full-time staff members, 70% U.S. citizen.

The student-teacher ratio is less than 25 students per teacher and, in many advanced classes, much smaller. Instruction is in English, and courses offered compare to college preparatory courses in U.S. primary and secondary schools. Spanish is taught as a foreign language.

ACS has long enjoyed a good rating and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. School extends from mid-August to late May, with the usual holidays and vacations. The school also runs a 4-week summer school offering courses, including remedial math and English classes, Spanish, sports, and other classes.

Special services programs at ACS of La Paz are limited to serving students with mild learning challenges. If your child is currently receiving services in the U.S. or in another U.S./Overseas School, contact ACS before considering bidding on this post. All relevant material (evaluations, program plans, etc) must be received by ACS well in advance of bidding for the school’s Child Study Team to determine whether resources are available to provide the student an adequate education.

ACS facilities include modern buildings housing science and computer labs, auditorium with stage, cafeteria, library, audiovisual center, gymnasium, all purpose room, sportsfield, volleyball and basketball courts, two racquetball courts, indoor swimming pool, showers, dressing rooms, and weightroom.

Hot meals are also available on campus. In addition to the regular curriculum, several extracurricular activities are offered, such as a student government, an interscholastic sports program, drama, forensics, Knowledge Bowl, astronomy, photography, the Cultural Convention, and a jazz band. Boy and Girl Scout troops, as well as Brownies and Cub Scouts, sponsored by the U.S. community, also use the school facilities.

Other schools are available in La Paz, all opening in February or March and running to late October or early November. They include:

The American Institute. A coeducational school run by Methodist missionaries. It has regular primary and secondary grades and, in addition, offers a 3-year commercial course. Classes are in Spanish; English is taught as a foreign language.

St. Andrew’s. A Catholic-administered, nonsectarian coeducational school with a U.S.-trained Bolivian headmaster. Classes are now in English and Spanish, but will eventually be all in English.

Franco Boliviano. A French coed school, supported partly by the French Embassy. Classes are in French; Spanish and English are taught as foreign languages.

San Calixto and La Salle. Both are Catholic coed schools; classes are in Spanish; English is taught as a foreign language.

School of the Sacred Heart. A coed school directed by a French Mother Superior. Classes are in Spanish; French and English are taught as foreign languages.

Mariscal Braun. The German community in La Paz supports this nonsectarian, coed school; classes are in Spanish and German.
The English Catholic College and the Mariscal Braun schools operate kindergartens. Several private kindergartens, not connected with schools or institutions, are also available. Little English, if any, is taught in private kindergartens. A Spanish-speaking Montessori school is available for preschool children.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:22 PM

Private instruction in art, music, photography, folkdancing, and ballet is available. ACS provides a program of after school and evening sports and educational activities for both students and adults. Depending on demand and availability of teachers, these activities consist of photography, ballet, exercise, square dancing, handicrafts, business courses, language, culture, and aerobics, among others. German, U.S., and French binational centers periodically offer courses and lectures in a variety of fields. Graduate-level courses leading to a Master’s Degree in Education from Framingham State College are offered at ACS several times a year. For those with working knowledge of Spanish, other special educational opportunities exist. The municipal government sponsors a cultural foundation (Casa Juvenil de la Cultura “Juancito Pinto”) offering classes in music, folkdancing, and puppetry to children free of charge. Many options for activities are also offered through the Embassy’s Community Liaison Office.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:23 PM

Extensive activities are available to sports-minded Mission personnel. Persons who are active at lower altitudes usually have no trouble adapting to local environment. The climate is ideal for outdoor sports. The elevation adds a sense of novelty to skiing, golf, and tennis — not to mention the Highest Hash House Harriers. Tennis players use depressurized tennis balls made specifically for high altitude, and 300-yard drives on the golf course are occasionally hit by competent players. Soccer is the national sport. Basketball and volleyball are sufficiently important to support national federations. Many Mission personnel play in local softball leagues.

The American Cooperative School has a sports complex available to Mission members, consisting of an indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steamroom, weight-room, climbing wall, and racquetball and tennis courts. Family membership is free for families with children enrolled in school. The fees for families who have no children at school are an initial deposit of $200 and a semiannual fee of $180.

The Mallasilla Golf Club has a medium length, 18-hole course with a magnificent vista about 25 minutes from the city. Nonmembers may use the club’s facilities for a daily fee. Golfers should bring their own equipment and balls. Club facilities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, two tennis courts, an exercise room, a dining room, and locker rooms. There is a diplomatic discount for membership.

The La Paz Tennis Club, in the suburb of La Florida, is a members-only complex open to Mission personnel and others. The club has 20 clay tennis courts, three racquetball courts, sauna, steam room, aerobics, and Nautilus, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a billiard room, a clubhouse with restaurant open on weekends, and a snack bar open daily. No initiation fee is charged for diplomatic or official personnel. Now, membership dues, whether for an individual or family, are $200 every 3 months, payable in advance. Non-members may use the club’s facilities for a daily fee. Bring high altitude balls in your household effects. Old “dead” tennis balls brought from sea level are satisfactory for practice.

The Club Hipico Los Sargentos, located in the suburb of Obrajes, can house 60 horses. It has three large riding rings, including one with spectator stands for competitions. Riding instructors can be hired for both group and private classes. The club also has a shooting range, tennis courst, an indoor pool, fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant.

The La Paz Rod and Gun Club (Club de Caza y Pesca La Paz) is open to Mission personnel who pay monthly dues. The club has two Olympic skeet, two trap ranges, and a rifle and pistol range. A sporting clays course is under construction. Various competitions are held throughout the year. Shotgun shells are available locally but are expensive.

Persons traveling to warmer areas of Bolivia (Trinidad, Santa Cruz, Tarija, and Cochabamba) can swim at hotels in these cities.

Many U.S. citizens enjoy trout fishing in areas surrounding La Paz and farther afield. The trout of Lake Titicaca, nearby glacier lakes, and the Yungas streams, are of the salmon family. Trout caught in Lake Titicaca have been reported as large as 28 pounds, although fishing has been poor in recent years due to netting, trapping, and dynamiting. The small glacier lakes, 3 hours from La Paz, produce fair catches of rainbow trout, weighing up to 4 pounds.

Flyfishing is available 3 hours from La Paz in streams of the lowland valleys of the Yungas. Stream fishing is as effective as lake fishing but is more difficult due to rugged terrain and fast waters. Mepps silver spinners (size 1) and other small lures are most effective. Rainbow trout found in these streams are tastier than lake trout. Better fishing may be found farther from La Paz in less fished waters via four-wheel-drive transportation. Other tropical fish, including piranha and peacock bass, are found in the warmer waters of the Beni and Santa Cruz.

Opportunities for upland and waterbird hunting are available on the eastern shore of Lake Titicaca and on the altiplano. Several types of partridge live at different altitudes on the altiplano and in the surrounding mountains; good duck hunting is available on the altiplano, but seasons have been closed in recent years.

The Beni area in the lowlands of Bolivia offers hunting possibilities, including wild hogs, some unprotected deer, and alligator. Bolivia has a long list of protected animals and birds with which one should be familiar. Hunting and fishing licenses are required in Bolivia. No special clothing or dogs are required for hunting but are helpful. Hunters or fishing enthusiasts should bring their own gear.

Sailing on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, is rewarding. A small fleet of sailboats, from 10 feet (3 meters) mirror prams on up, are bought and sold at the Bolivian Yacht Club at Huatajata, about 75 minutes from La Paz. For persons with woodworking and rigging ability, a wooden hull can be built on Suriqui Island. Lake Titicaca is actually two lakes, separated by a narrow strait. The lower lake, Huinamarca, is much smaller and shallower than the Upper Chucuito, a variable inland sea, with water horizons and persistent swells. Visibility is unlimited. The most consistent winds and sunniest weather occur on winter afternoons. Summer, although warmer, is characterized by light variable winds and frequent rain showers.

At 17,490 feet (5,330 meters), Chacaltaya is the highest ski area in the world. It offers advanced and intermediate skiing on a glacier with a spectacular view during the October to April season. When snow cover is heavy enough to fill gullies in upper headwalls, experts will find very steep, challenging skiing. Instruction is seldom available. The primitive 3,000 feet (914 meters) cablelift has a 1,000 feet (305 meters) rise and is the oldest still functioning cablelift in the world. It normally operates on Saturday and Sunday. The special hook required for its use may be obtained locally through the Club Andino Boliviano. No ski equipment is sold in Bolivia, and rental equipment is difficult to obtain; therefore, skiers should bring their own. Chacaltaya is a 50–90-minute drive from downtown La Paz; a four-wheel-drive is recommended for driving the steep (and sometimes snow covered) dirt road, although normal cars can manage under good conditions. A day lodge serves soft drinks and some snacks. Snow conditions and weather are variable.

The Cordillera Real mountain range near La Paz offers some of the world’s best and most accessible mountain climbing and day hiking. The Zongo, Condoriri, Linco, and Hichukhota Valleys, reached in 1–3 hours from the city, are each rimmed by spectacular peaks in the 18,000 feet (5,490 meters) class. Hundreds of peaks offer top-quality weekend climbing for the experienced mountaineer.

Backpacking is another popular pastime, and Bolivia offers superb opportunities. Mountain hiking is aided by a network of Indian paths and ancient trails on the dry western slopes, and a less extensive network on the wet and steep eastern side. It is on these eastern slopes, however, that hikers, in good condition, find excellent opportunities for walks of 2 days to a week through magnificent scenery, often over trails originally engineered by the Incas. Stretches of these well designed ancient roads remain in use today.

Bolivia’s two other mountain ranges, the Apolobamba near the Peruvian border and the Quimsa Cruz (south of 21,000 feet/6,400 meters Illimani), are harder to reach, as is isolated 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) Sajama, a volcano near the Chilean border. Other major Bolivian peaks in the 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) class are Illampu, Ancohuma, Chachacomani, Chearoco, and Huayna Potosí. This last peak is only about 1 hour from the city and can be climbed in roughly 16 hours round trip by strong climbers. However, the very accessibility of this 19,966 feet (6,090 meters) mountain has made it the scene of a number of accidents stemming from insufficient experience and acclimatization.

Good 1-day rockclimbs can be found in the Khala Cruz-Charquini-Sora Patilla group south of Huayna Potos¡ and nearby 18,700 feet (5,700 meters) Cerro Mulluni and its rocky satellites. Climbers and day-hikers should bring their own equipment to Bolivia. La Paz has a glider (sailplane) club. The summer months provide for the best gliding due to the better thermals (warm air columns) that keep the plane aloft longer.

Some hang gliding has been done, but the thin air makes this sport difficult and dangerous. However, Andean air currents offer some of the world’s most challenging and highest gliding available for experienced pilots, though the area is not considered suitable for novices.

An equestrian club offers boarding facilities for privately owned horses and classes in horsemanship. Another club offers rentals and lessons. Horse races are held periodically. The most popular spectator sport in Bolivia is soccer. Several good Bolivian teams often compete in international competitions. Other spectator sports include wrestling, basketball, and occasional bullfights.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:23 PM

Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, is 150 miles (241 kilometers) by air and 320 miles (515 kilometers) by road or railroad. At an altitude of 8,430 feet (2,570 meters), it occupies one of the largest and most fertile Andean valleys. Travel time is 30 minutes by air, 8 hours by train, or 5–7 hours by car. A paved all weather road, with the exception of 33 miles (50 kilometers), was completed in 1982.

Copacabana is a town 88 miles (140 kilometers) from La Paz on Lake Titicaca known for its Shrine of the Virgin of Copacabana to which many Bolivians make pilgrimages. Copacabana can be reached by car from La Paz in about 4 hours via paved road with beautiful views of Incan-built terraces. A day tour from La Paz includes a hydrofoil boat ride from Huatajata (a town on the lake) to Copacabana. The road trip includes a ferry crossing on barges at the Straits of Taquina. Since barges only operate during the day and few hotel accommodations are available at the straits, arrive in Copacabana before dusk. Copacabana has several two star hotels. Daytrips by motorboat to the Island of the Sun and Moon, famous in Incan mythology, can be made from Copacabana. On the way to the western shore of Lake Titicaca, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from La Paz, are the ruins of the advanced Aymara culture at Tiwanaku, which is a 2½ hours drive from La Paz.

Some 95 miles (150 kilometers) from La Paz at 8,700 feet (2,650 meters), Sorata provides altitude relief. Sorata is in a valley at the foot of Illampu, one of Bolivia’s highest mountains. Nearby are interesting caves for exploring. Driving time is 4 hours during dry weather. Near Sorata, along the east shore of Lake Titicaca, is a very large slough that provides some of Bolivia's best duck and goose hunting.

The Yungas are a series of valleys sloping from the Cordillera into the Eastern jungle region. In the dry months, you can reach the area by car in 2–4 hours. Landslides may block roads during rainy months. Roads from La Paz to the Yungas cross the eastern cordillera through a 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) pass, then drop rapidly into lush, semitropical valleys in less than 50 miles (80 kilometers), one of Bolivia’s most spectacular sights. Unpredictable driving conditions and narrow unpaved roads with dramatic drop-offs make driving potentially dangerous. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary. A few hotels are available at Coroico and Chulumani; some have swimming pools.

North of Lake Titicaca in Peru is Cuzco, center of the ancient Incan civilization and famed site of the Incas’ last stand. Cuzco and nearby Machu Picchu, the “lost city of the Incas,” are great sightseeing attractions when security considerations permit. The trip from La Paz to Cuzco by air takes 50 minutes.

Arica, a Chilean seaport 20 minutes away by air or 12 hours by train or car, is a good change of scene for those who enjoy the seashore.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s second-largest city, can be reached in a 2-day road trip, spending the night in Cochabamba, or on a short 50-minute flight. Northwest of Santa Cruz is the Department of Beni, a sparsely populated region with great potential for agricultural development and cattle production. Major Bolivian rivers traverse the region and offer excellent fishing. These tropical lowlands facing Brazil provide a pleasant change from La Paz. They are interlaced with large rivers, are heavily forested, and hold a large variety of game. Road trips during dry months to some areas are possible but require elaborate arrangements and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Other places of interest in Bolivia are Potosí and Sucre. Sucre can be reached by air, rail, or car, continuing on to Potosí by train or car. At 13,450 feet (4,100 meters), Potosí is the world’s highest city. Today, it is a mining town, producing some silver and substantial amounts of tin, lead, and zinc. In 1553 it was decreed an imperial city by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, after Spanish conquistadors discovered silver in 1545.

During the late 14th century, with 160,000 people, it was one of the world’s largest cities. The name Potosí became synonymous with untold riches. Estimates are that more than a billion dollars’ worth of silver was extracted from the Cerro Rico Mountain overlooking Potosí. By the 18th century, the silver was depleted, and Potosí began to decline. Even in decline, the aura of its fabulous past lingers as seen in some of the colonial architecture, much of which is baroque in style.

The Colonial Art Museum in Sucre contains detailed color drawings of Potosí in its prime. One major attraction and place of renown in Potosí is the Casa de la Moneda, or mint, established to control minting of colonial wealth. It is one of South America’s most important colonial structures. It houses a collection of colonial paintings, sculptures, and archeological and minting materials.

Sucre, the judicial center and constitutional capital of Bolivia, at 9,320 feet (2,840 meters), is a lovely city nestled at the foot of two hills. A learning center for centuries and the city where Bolivia proclaimed independence, Sucre is now a university town. It offers large monasteries, fine churches, exquisite colonial architecture, colonial paintings, and Old World art collections. Sucre’s Colonial Art Museum is one of the two most important in Bolivia. The other is Potosí's Casa de la Moneda.

Entertainment Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:24 PM

La Paz has a few nightclubs and discos. These currently include the Forum, Boccacios, Panyco, and New Tokyo, among others. Prices are lower than in the U.S. U.S. citizens and Bolivians enjoy the peñas, or clubs specializing in authentic folk singing, dancing, and folk art displays. These clubs, such as Naira, El Corregidor, Internacional, Markotambo, and Los Escudos, have shows on Friday and Saturday nights and serve drinks and meals. A visit to one of the peñas will quickly introduce you to Bolivian folklore. Some unique folkloric festivals highlight the year in La Paz. January 24 begins a weeklong fair, Alacitas, that centers around the Ekeko, the Aymaran talisman of prosperity and good fortune. Miniatures of everything, from clothes to buses, are bought (and given) with the hope that what they represent will be obtained during the year.

Carnival, in February, is celebrated with parades (a very charming one features children in costumes), dancing, etc., in La Paz. The most outstanding celebration takes place in the city of Oruro, a 3-hour drive by good road from La Paz. Daylong parades feature the world famous Diabladas (devil dancers), bears, and Morenadas, creating an outstanding display of folkloric costumes and altiplano music. Jesus, el Gran Poder is honored in June with a parade of dancers and musicians in La Paz. Year round, small pueblos in the outskirts of La Paz stage interesting festivals.

Tarabuco has an important regional festival; in Tarija, the Vendimia (grape harvest) in February is quite special; and every other year, a national folklore festival takes place in Cochabamba.

Some restaurants, including the Camino Real, Ritz, Radisson, Plaza and Libertador hotel dining rooms, offer good food in a pleasant setting. Argentine beef and trout from Lake Titicaca are popular dishes. You can also dine at Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and parrillada-style (barbecues with a variety of meats) restaurants. The Chancery and the AID Annex have cafeterias.

Movie theaters in La Paz are inexpensive and show many U.S. films as well as films from Argentina, Brazil, Italy, and France. Most films (with the exception of animated children’s films, which are dubbed in Spanish) are in the original soundtrack with Spanish subtitles. Films debut in La Paz several months after their initial release and may stay only a few days, depending on popularity. Print quality is frequently poor. Video clubs have recently become popular. The variety is good, and tapes can be rented for reasonable prices. Local clubs carry Beta and VHS tapes.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:24 PM
Most social activities are informal and privately planned. Informal social events sponsored by the Marine Security Guards and the CLO are good opportunities for newcomers to get acquainted with their colleagues. Several catering services, especially ones that handle barbecues, are used by Mission members. The American-British International Association (ABIA) is open to all British and U.S. women, and welcomes English-speaking members of other nationalities as well. It is a charity organization that sponsors an annual Artisan Fair and other social activities. Some special interest groups, such as softball, basketball, bowling, and volleyball teams, and hashers as well as travel, and Spanish conversation groups, have been organized among U.S. personnel. Many children are involved in scouting. Boy Scout, Cub Scout, Girl Scout, and Brownie troops have been established and are active within the U.S. community.

International Contacts Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:24 PM
Most U.S. citizens meet Bolivians through business or social contacts and find them open, friendly, hospitable, and interested in U.S. lifestyle and culture. Several organizations in La Paz further international contacts. The American Chamber of Commerce of Bolivia luncheons provide opportunities to meet local business leaders. The Consular Corps Association and the Diplomatic Association have social functions each year with opportunities to meet foreign colleagues. All U.S. citizens are encouraged to join and participate in the activities of the Centro Boliviano Americano.

The Damas Diplomaticas is a longstanding association of women who are members of diplomatic missions and wives of domestic and foreign executives in La Paz. The club holds monthly fundraising activities to aid various Bolivian charities. Membership is open to all Mission women. Social contacts with Bolivians and third-country nationals are often made at private parties and receptions, at work, and through the various Bolivian social and hobby clubs open to U.S. citizens, such as the La Paz Tennis Club and La Paz Book Club.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:25 PM

Many officers attend national day celebrations of the various countries represented in La Paz and some functions hosted by Bolivian Government officials. These average three or four times a month, and dress is usually informal (business suit for men and dresses or suits for women). All Mission personnel may be asked to assist in hosting the official Fourth of July reception. Most of the official representational functions for USAID are performed by the director and deputy director.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:25 PM

U.S. citizens are encouraged to act and live unpretentiously. Otherwise, standards of social conduct are similar to those in the U.S. The goal is to foster relationships that are both enjoyable and helpful in terms of your work. New personnel should see the CLO on arrival. Make plans to attend the Mission’s next scheduled newcomers’ orientation meeting with your spouse.

Questions about practices may be addressed to the FSN Protocol Assistant, who will provide all newcomers with a protocol guide. This is especially important for personnel who are serving abroad for the first time.

Members of the DAO and MILGP can expect to attend several weekly military official functions. They consist mostly of graduations of military schools, retirement ceremonies, and parades. These official functions are usually mandatory. There is considerable interaction between DAO and MILGP members and host country military officials.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:25 PM

Some of the information and regulations set forth in this report do not necessarily apply to temporary duty personnel. Such persons should consult their agencies for further information.

Marine Security Guards should read the appropriate station reports for details concerning their tours of duty in La Paz. Members of the MILGP will be invited to attend field exercises and are required to visit units located outside the main cities. Two sets of field uniforms are required, and complementary field gear is recommended.

Cochabamba. The region was colonized under the reign of the Incan monarch Pachacutej in the 15th century, but the founding of the “Noble Villa de Oropeza” (today Cochabamba) was accomplished by the Spaniards between 1570 and 1574. The name Cochabamba comes from the Quechua word Qhochapampa, meaning marshy plains. Cochabamba is the city of eternal spring.

Nestled at the foot of the Tunari and other peaks, this valley city, at an altitude of 8,430 feet (2,570 meters), is an important alpaca handicraft center and vacation spot. It has an average temperature of 65°F (18°C), an average of 60 days of rain annually, and an average of 8 hours of sunshine daily.

With a population of 408,000, Cochabamba is the third-largest city in Bolivia. The flight from La Paz to Cochabamba in itself makes a trip to this charming city worthwhile. The plane flies alongside Mount Illimani and other snow-covered peaks. After 15 minutes of flight, you can see the tropical lowlands in the distance.

It is also interesting to visit Cochabamba by car. The 350-miles (560-kilometer) trip drops through 5,000 feet (1,520 meters) of starkly beautiful scenery as you descend from the altiplano.

The city offers many interesting sites. Palacio Portales, located on Av. Portales, is a grand mansion built by the tin baron Simon Patiño. He amassed one of the world’s largest private fortunes. The mansion was decorated by French designers, using the finest materials money could buy. Patiño never lived in the mansion, although it was used as a temporary residency by General de Gaulle of France during his brief stay in Bolivia. Today, it houses a cultural center funded by the Swiss Patiño Foundation.

U.S. Facilities. The following U.S. Government offices are located in Cochabamba:

State Department Consular Agency: Torres Zoffer, Piso 6, Oficina 601, Avenida Oquendo; telephone 591–04–425–6714

State Department's Narcotics Affairs Section field office: Calle Jacaranda #236 (frente a Subalcaldia de Quintanilla a Sacaba); telephone 591–04–427–2972

NAS in Chimore: Cuartel General de UMOPAR; telephone 591–04–413–4366 or 4303

NAS in Villa Tunari: 5 kms. por el camino principal de Cochabamba a Santa Cruz; telephone 591–04–429–0544

Peace Corps Office: Facundo Quiroga Street #1644, San Pedro (Between Belzu and Franklin Anaya Streets); telephone 591–04–448-0548 ir 591-04-0549.

Peace Corps Training Center: Huayllani; telephone 591–04–271079 or 271080

DEA field office: Avenida América, Este #1632, Cala Cala; telephone 591–04–427–1079

DEA in Chimore: Cuartel General de UMOPAR; telephone 591–04–413–3305

AID Agriculture and Rural Development Office: Plaza Quintanilla, Edificio Los Tiempos, Piso 9; telephone 591–04–425–0155 or 423–3992
DEA and NAS also have branch offices in the Chapare region at Chimore and Villa Tunari. NAS FSNs are permanently stationed there, but the U.S. citizen personnel of DEA rotate in and out from Cochabamba and the NAS U.S. personnel visit the Chapare frequently on temporary duty.

Education. Most Mission children in Cochabamba attend one of two schools: the American International School of Bolivia (AIS/B) and the Cochabamba Cooperative School (CCS). Both schools are accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges and offer a U.S.-style college preparatory curriculum for grades PK–12 in English.

There are significant differences in the way the schools are set up administratively and the kinds of programs each offers. Newcomers are encouraged to have their sponsoring agency send them brochures and materials about both schools before making a decision on enrollment. You may also wish to contact the Office of Overseas Schools at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and the Community Liaison Office in La Paz for additional information.

Another school in Cochabamba is the Karachipampa School, a U.S. missionary school. A few children in the official community attend this school. Several good nursery schools are available for pre-schoolers.

Religious Activities. There are no church services in English, but there are a variety of Catholic, Mormon, and Protestant denominations.

Shopping. Cochabamba is the center of the cottage industry for weaving and knitting. There are many fine shops (ADAM, Kay Huasi, Casa Fisher, Fotrama, Amerindia, etc.) that feature export quality alpaca sweaters, ponchos, and other woven decorative and apparel items. Several good antique shops offer bargain prices. Finally, a wide variety of supermarkets and boutiques feature almost the same range of goods as those in big cities of neighboring countries.

Clothing. The mean temperature in Cochabamba is from the mid-70s to low-80s (21°C–27°C). The altitude causes sharp variations in temperature during the day. In the evenings and early mornings, temperatures drop to the 60s (16°C–20°C), and a sweater or light coat are needed. Noon temperatures go up into the 70s and 80s (21°C–32°C). Extremes of cold or heat are not a problem in Cochabamba, which is known for its temperate climate year round.

Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was developed from a colony established in 1522 by the Spanish, which prospered throughout the Bolivian Oriente and consisted mostly of exploratory expeditions at first. In 1557, Nuflo de Chavez established a settlement between Asuncion and the supposed “El Dorado.” This settlement eventually became Santa Cruz. It was not until 1953 that the isolation of the region began to break down. Communication improved, and gradually Santa Cruz became the large and thriving community that it is today. Santa Cruz is the second largest city in Bolivia. Its economy is based on exports of oil and agricultural products. Santa Cruz is also the name of one of the nine Departments (states) in Bolivia, which was founded on January 23, 1826. The land stretches to the west into the mountains; to the south, to within a few hours’ drive of Argentina; and to the northern part, extending from the swampy plains of the Beni to the mountains and along the Itenes River. The people of Santa Cruz call themselves Cruceños or Cambas. They are staunchly proud of their heritage. The Cruceños are innately polite and hospitable, slow to anger, generous, and proud. Typical of the people of tropical climates in Latin America, Cruceños maintain a very active social calendar and are extremely warm, friendly, and outgoing.

U.S. Facilities. The following U.S. Government offices are located in Santa Cruz:

State Department Narcotics Affairs Section field office: Tercer Anillo Interno 3 #1008 (entre Alemana y Mutualista, al lado de Globass); telephone 591–03–342–0935

State Department Consular Agency: Calle Guemes #36, Equipetrol; telephone 591–03–386–3842

Peace Corps field office: Calle Campero #91 (entre el primer y segundo Anillo); telephone 591–03–345–3353

DEA field office: Ave. Cristobal de Mendoza #230; telephone 591–03–353–5959.
Personnel assigned to these offices should consult their Washington, D.C. headquarters and their offices in La Paz for information.

Education. The Santa Cruz Cooperative School (SCCS) is located near the third ring (road circling the city) of Santa Cruz and was originally established to serve the children of the Gulf Oil Company personnel. When Gulf Oil (Bolivian Division) was nationalized, many U.S. citizens left Bolivia. The school continues as a cooperative, and, over the years, the percentage of host country students has increased to a large majority.

The school community now includes members of foreign and local businesses. About 10% of students at SCCS are U.S. citizens, 65% are Bolivian, and the remaining 25% are from various nations. In recent years, growth at SCCS has been evident. Two science laboratories, a computer laboratory containing 28 Apple IIe’s, a new and expanded library/media center, and a comprehensive sports/fine arts complex have been built. The school has a current enrollment of 450 to 500 students and operates on the U.S. school year with complete U.S. curriculum.

The school offers courses in prekindergarten through grade 12. It has a college preparatory curriculum, granting both U.S. and Bolivian secondary diplomas. Courses are offered both in English and Spanish. The school is accredited by the Southern States Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Schools of South America.

The Colegio Internacional Bilingue is located on the old Cochabamba Highway and the fourth ring. This school was founded by a U.S. citizen and runs on the Bolivian school calendar. It uses a U.S. teaching format for elementary school and the British system for high school. CIB can grant a Bolivian diploma and a Cambridge University diploma. The ratio of U.S. citizen students to other students is 25% to 75%.

The Christian Learning Center is also located on the old Cochabamba Highway. This school runs on the U.S. school calendar and was started by missionaries to cover the educational needs of the children in the local missionary community. The CLC is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and can grant both Bolivian and U.S. diplomas. The ratio of U.S. citizen students to other students is 50% to 50%.

Religious Activities. The Trinity Union Church is an interdenominational, English-speaking church. Sunday school and adult Bible classes are offered. Various other churches offer services in Spanish.

Shopping. Shopping is adequate, especially with the addition of five well-stocked markets in the past couple of years. Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, chicken, and fish are abundant. Small shops furnish clothing from the U.S., Taiwan, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. Unusual sizes are difficult to find, i.e., large, extra wide, or narrow shoes.

Clothing. Clothing should be selected primarily for tropical or semitropical weather. The winter months do bring cold fronts from the south that last 1–2 weeks, making some warm clothing necessary. Raincoats and umbrellas are also essential in this area. An electric blanket is useful during the winter months, as central heating is not available.

Trinidad. U.S. Facilities: The following U.S. Government offices are located in Trinidad:

State Department Narcotics Affairs Section field office: Avenida Panamericana (lado del Surtidor La Gotita); telephone 591–46–42171

DEA field office: Base UMOPAR; telephone 591–46–25432

Department of Agriculture’s Animal, Plant, Health Inspection Service APHIS), Calle Maria Luisa Vieria entre Avendia Jose Matush y Clle 9 de april, telephone 591–03–462–0877
Personnel assigned to these offices should consult their Washington, D.C. headquarters and offices in La Paz for information.

Education. There are no English-language schools in Trinidad. Children attend Spanish-language schools or are home-schooled.

Clothing. Clothing should be selected primarily for tropical or semitropical weather. Winter months bring cool fronts from the south that last from 1 to 2 weeks, making some warm clothing necessary. Raincoats and umbrellas are essential in this area.

Tarija and Sucre. The only U.S. Government office located in Tarija is a Peace Corps field office at Calle Bolivar (esquina Colon), Edificio Auad, Piso 3; telephone 591–04–664–3023. No direct hire U.S. citizen personnel are assigned to that office.

The only U.S. Government office located in Sucre is a Peace Corps field office at Avenida Kilometro 7, Edificio #218, Oficina 226, telephone 591–04–6462174. No direct hire U.S. personnel are assigned to that office.

Post Orientation Program

Orientation begins when post receives notice of an employee’s assignment. Several informational cables are provided. Assigned personnel are met on arrival and provided with a package of useful information. Sponsors are appointed to help new arrivals settle in. Newcomers are briefed, assisted, and introduced to other Mission personnel. The Mission has established an orientation program for all new arrivals and their adult family members. It is held periodically as needed and includes discussions of Bolivian culture, politics, and history, community and recreational activities, and a review of Mission activities by the Ambassador or DCM. In addition, the CLO organizes tours and visits to places of interest for newcomers. The American British International Association also sponsors lectures and discussions on Bolivian history, culture, and politics. The post maintains an FSI-sponsored, Spanish-language program. Government employees and family members of participating agencies are encouraged to attend.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:26 PM

Commercial travel from the U.S. to La Paz is by air. American Airlines offers a daily flight between La Paz and Miami. Travel time is about 6 hours. There are, on occasion, other U.S. carrier flights available. Travelers should ensure that travel to post complies with the Fly America Act. For current information, contact the General Services Office before making any travel plans.

Surface travel to Bolivia from other points in Latin America is possible, but complicated and time consuming and may be dangerous. Notify your agency’s Administrative Section at least 2 months before expected arrival if you plan to enter Bolivia by private car. Numerous restrictions are imposed on entry and exit by car, and documentation procedures are time consuming.

All new personnel are met at the airport. Advise the Embassy of your travel plans. If you are not met, call the Embassy at 216-8500 or 216-8000. Someone is on duty 24 hours daily.

All newly assigned Mission personnel should contact their agency’s administrative officer as soon as possible for general information about preparing for an assignment in Bolivia. Post routinely sends newly assigned employees several packets of welcome information to assist in these preparations.

AID manages its own administrative operations. All other agencies are served by the State Department Administrative Section. Since import regulations change, check with the appropriate Administrative Office in La Paz for shipping instructions.

Air shipments should be routed by the U.S. Despatch Agency (USDA) in Miami, telephone 305–526–2905. Because GSO cannot clear HHE and personally owned vehicle shipments through Bolivian customs until the employee arrives in country, post recommends that shipments not arrive in country before the employee. The Bolivian Government will exempt only three shipments for official personnel during the first 6 months of a 2-year tour: unaccompanied air baggage (UAB), household effects (HHE), and privately owned vehicle (POV). Separate shipments (including consumables) will be consolidated by USDA before being forwarded to Bolivia. Employees of agencies other than State and AID should check with their headquarters to determine their agencies’ shipping policies for Bolivia.

Please note that the Mission has requested that through bill of lading (residence-to-residence) service not be used as a method of shipping HHE to post due to local difficulties. However, DOJ does use through bill of lading service. DOJ employees should contact their agency’s travel office to arrange for their HHE shipment to post.

Automobiles imported into Bolivia should not be ostentatious, so that they will be less conspicuous. Employees should check with GSO on latest post guidance regarding the importation of PVOs. To expedite clearance of personally owned vehicles, provide GSO with the vehicle ownership title and a commercial invoice that states the value of the automobile. Unleaded gasoline is not sold in Bolivia. Catalytic converters can be removed from vehicles either in the U.S. or in Bolivia. A letter from EPA will be required for this work in the U.S. Catalytic converters must be reinstalled on vehicles returned to the U.S. Contact the La Paz GSO if you need more information on any aspect of your move to post.

If your agency requires surface shipments, consign them as follows:

U.S. Ambassador
U.S. Embassy (owner’s initials)
La Paz, Bolivia
via Puerto de Arica, Chile

AID Employee’s name
La Paz, Bolivia
via Puerto de Arica, Chile

Consign HHE and personally owned vehicle shipments for State and AID as follows:

U.S. Ambassador
U.S. Embassy (owner’s initials)
La Paz, Bolivia

AID Employee’s name
AID La Paz, Bolivia

Consign Military shipments as follows:

Transportation Officer
Charleston AFB
Charleston, South Carolina
Mark for: U.S. Embassy* (owners’ initials)
La Paz, Bolivia (*AID shipments mark for AID)

Apply the following TAC Numbers:

Department of State—A581

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:27 PM

All personnel assigned to Bolivia are entitled to duty-free entry of household and personal effects on initial assignment and limited additional duty-free shipments each year if they have full diplomatic status. Special import restrictions apply to liquor, tobacco, and foodstuffs. Consult by telegram the appropriate Administrative Office in La Paz before shipping these items. Mission members, depending on their travel authorizations and official status with the Bolivian Government, may import one car duty free during a 2-year tour.

Passage Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:27 PM

All personnel assigned to Bolivia must have a diplomatic or official visa before entering the country. Before departing for post, also obtain visas for any stopover countries. Visitors and others traveling with U.S. tourist passports can enter Bolivia without a visa. The Government of Bolivia does not require a yellow fever inoculation certificate; travelers should check with transit countries concerning health certification requirements, and a current health certificate.

Pets Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:27 PM

You may import pets by presenting a valid certificate of vaccination against rabies. No quarantine is imposed. Pets obtained here should be inoculated against distemper and rabies. Veterinarians will make house calls to provide these shots. Other medication for pets is difficult to obtain.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:28 PM

Importation of all firearms (not including non-firing antiques) and ammunition into Bolivia by U.S. Citizen employees of this Mission is normally limited to non-automatic firearms and ammunition in the following amounts:

Item Quantity
Handgun 1
Rifle 1
Shotgun 1
Ammunition 1,000 rounds for above arms

Firearms may be shipped to post in HHE (but not mailed or carried in luggage) without a Bolivian import license, provided they are consigned to U.S. personnel for their personal use and not specifically for resale. However, an employee wishing to bring any firearms (not antique) to Bolivia must obtain written permission from the Chief of Mission. The request must state the size, type, and make of firearms and where they are being shipped.

Requests to ship more than the number of firearms listed above may be granted by the Chief of Mission if special circumstances warrant. Ammunition may not be shipped to post in HHE or baggage. Employees wishing to ship ammunition should contact GSO to make arrangements.

If employees are bringing firearms and ammunition from the U.S., they should retain evidence of purchase in their shipment in order to facilitate the return of the items to the U.S. (See 6 FAM 184.2-2). Personnel who wish to have a weapon shipped to post after their arrival or to buy one locally should first obtain written permission from the Chief of Mission.

Bolivian law requires registration of all firearms, such as pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and air guns (this does not apply to non-firing antiques). Mission employees, contractors, and their family members (over age 18 only) who possess personal or officially issued firearms must provide the following to the regional security officer, so that the RSO can arrange for Bolivian gun permits:

Make, model, caliber, and serial number.

Two carnet size pictures (color or black and white) for each weapon to be registered.

Bs. 110 for each registration (officially issued weapons funded by post).

Chief of Mission’s permission to import that specific firearm.

Upon registration, individuals will receive a Bolivian gun permit, which entitles them to possessing the weapon.

Bearing Firearms. No U.S. Government employee or family member, either civilian or military, direct hire or contract, may carry a firearm outside his or her home/office in either an official or personal status without prior written approval of the Chief of Mission. Carrying firearms about the city is dangerous, provocative, and ineffective for protection.

U.S. citizens abroad bearing or using weapons can encounter legal and diplomatic problems. Security experts recommend that employees generally not carry weapons. This is a general U.S. Government policy. Employees who believe there is a specific need for carrying firearms on their person should present their request for such need to the Chief of Mission through the RSO, DCM, and the head of the employee's section or agency. TDY personnel, except for approved TDY law enforcement personnel, are not authorized to carry weapons while off duty or when away from their TDY duty station.

This procedure does not apply to the legitimate use of firearms for hunting or sporting activities. Neither does it apply to carrying weapons for training. (Note: Not all Bolivian ranges meet U.S. safety standards, and caution must be exercised in the use of these facilities). However, all personnel who are engaged in those activities must be sure that the weapon is properly registered with Bolivian authorities as described above.

Alcoholic Consumption. Under no circumstances will any individual carrying a weapon consume alcoholic beverages. Additionally, no one is authorized to carry a weapon for a minimum period of 6 hours after consuming alcohol.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 8/17/2005 3:54 PM

The Boliviano (Bs.) is the currency unit in Bolivia. The Boliviano is divided into 100 centavos. Bank notes are issued in 5, 10, 50, 100, and 200 Boliviano denominations. Coins are issued in 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and one and two Boliviano denominations.

The official exchange rate is Bs.8.037 to U.S. $1. The exchange rate has been increasing at the rate of less than 1% a month. In addition to the official exchange rate, a parallel rate set by the open market is used for most other-than-official transactions. This parallel rate does not usually vary significantly from the official rate.

A local bank provides accommodation exchange at the Chancery and AID Annex during certain hours on weekdays. Foreign currency exchange houses (casa de cambio) are also readily accessible and will accept personal checks, travelers checks, and U.S. currency from Mission personnel in exchange for Bolivianos at the parallel rate. Automatic Teller Machines are also available in the larger Bolivian cities.

A U.S. bank account is necessary for all Mission personnel. Dollars in cash or travelers checks are widely accepted and can be exchanged at banks or casas de cambio (exchange houses). They are accepted at hotels, stores, and restaurants at very favorable rates. Credit cards, even those issued by U.S. banks, are generally widely accepted.

The metric system is used in local weights and measures. The open-air markets use kilos and, occasionally, pounds.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:28 PM

All personnel pay gasoline taxes, and total price of gasoline is more expensive than in the U.S. Import duties that are part of the retail price of commodities cannot be recovered. The Government of Bolivia collects a VAT tax on all goods and services. There is no rebate system at present time.

Small fees are charged for driving, hunting, and fishing licenses. Motor vehicles, personal articles, and household goods that have been imported duty free and have been in your possession for a period of at least 2 years may be sold or disposed of in Bolivia without payment of taxes and duties. No sale of property or motor vehicles may be made more than 60 days before you depart Bolivia.

The Embassy’s Executive Committee controls property and vehicle sales; requests for sale of personal property and vehicles must be submitted to the committee in writing and approved by them before sale. These regulations apply to all U.S. Mission members, regardless of agency, and their spouses and family members, and include contract employees and third country nationals attached to or under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, including those assigned to Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and other areas.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:29 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bingham, Hiram. Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Macchu Picchu and Its Builders. Libreria A.B.C.S.A.: Lima, Peru.

Blassingame, Wyatt. The Incas and the Spanish Conquest. Julian Messner: New York, 1980. Editors of Time-Life Books. Lords of Gold and Glory. Time-Life Books: Alexandria, VA., 1992.

Engel, Frederic Andre. An Ancient World Preserved: Relics and Records of Pre-History in the Andes. Crown Publishers: New York, 1976.

Franch, Jose Alcina & Josefina Palop Martinez. Los Incas El Reino Del Sol. Biblioteca Iberoamericana: Madrid.

Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Harcourt Brace Javanovich: New York, 1970.

James, Daniel. The Complete Bolivian Diaries of Che Guevara. Stein and Day: New York, 1968.

Klien, Herbert S. Bolivia: The Evolution of a Multi-Ethnic Society. Oxford University Press: New York, 1992. Parties and Political Change in Bolivia, 1880–1952. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1969.

Lumbreras, Luis G. The Peoples and Cultures of Ancient Peru. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 1979. (Ancient Peru includes Bolivia.)

McIntyre, Loren. The Incredible Incas and Their Limitless Land. National Geographic Society.

Prescott, William H. The World of the Incas. Editions Rivera: Geneva, 1989.

Wennergren, E. Boyd and Morris D. Whittaker. The Status of Bolivian Agriculture. New York.

Zondag, Cornelius H. The Bolivian Economy—1952–1965. Praeger: New York, 1966.

Books for Children
Appel, Benjamin. Shepherd of the Sun. Ivan Oblensky, Inc.: New York, 1961.

Carter, William E. The First Book of Bolivia.Watts, Inc.: New York, 1963.

Radau, Hans. Illampu, Adventures in the Andes. Abelard-Shuman: New York, 1961.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/17/2005 4:29 PM

The Embassy observes all official and Bolivian holidays. Shops are closed on local holidays. Although the duty officer is ready to assist newcomers, avoid arriving at post on a local or U.S. holiday. Friday arrivals are recommended to allow newcomers to rest and acclimate before the opening of business on Monday.

Following is a current list of 2005 Bolivian holidays:

New Year’s Day January 1
Carnival February 7 & 8
Good Friday Friday before Easter, March 25
Bolivian Labor Day May 1
Corpus Christi Day May 26
La Paz Day July 16
Bolivian Independence Day August 6
All Saints Day November 2
Christmas Day December 25

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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