|Preface Last Updated: 8/17/2005
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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,
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:
U.S. Embassy–La Paz
APO AA 34032
APO Unit Numbers:
NAS—Narcotics Affairs Section–3910
ORA—Office of Regional Affairs–3926
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
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
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:
U.S. Department of State
3220 La Paz Place
Washington, DC 20521–3220
International mail: Your address via Bolivian and international
mail will be:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 http://10.183.64.18/CLO/Snap/SNAPMain.htm.
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
Additional Bedrooms: 1 or 2 single beds, 1 nightstand, 1 table
lamp, 1 chest of drawers, 1 mirror, 1 occasional chair, and
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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);
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
DEA field office: Avenida América, Este #1632, Cala Cala;
DEA in Chimore: Cuartel General de UMOPAR; telephone
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
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
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;
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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. Embassy (owner’s initials)
La Paz, Bolivia
AID Employee’s name
AID La Paz, Bolivia
Consign Military shipments as follows:
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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:
Lumbreras, Luis G. The Peoples and Cultures of Ancient Peru.
Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 1979. (Ancient Peru
McIntyre, Loren. The Incredible Incas and Their Limitless Land.
National Geographic Society.
Prescott, William H. The World of the Incas. Editions Rivera:
Wennergren, E. Boyd and Morris D. Whittaker. The Status of
Bolivian Agriculture. New York.
Zondag, Cornelius H. The Bolivian Economy—1952–1965. Praeger: New
Books for Children
Appel, Benjamin. Shepherd of the Sun. Ivan Oblensky, Inc.: New York,
Carter, William E. The First Book of Bolivia.Watts, Inc.: New
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