American Express -- There are two American Express travel offices in Bolivia, both run by Magri Turismo, but you can't exchange traveler's checks at either office. In La Paz, the office is on Calle Capitán Ravelo 2101 (tel. 0102/2442-727). In Santa Cruz, the office is at the intersection of Calle Warnes and Calle Potosí (tel. 0103/3334-5663).

Business Hours -- In general, business hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 12:30pm and from 2:30 to 6:30pm. In smaller towns, such as Sucre and Potosí, everything closes down from noon until 3pm. In La Paz and Santa Cruz, most banks are open from about 9am to 4pm. Some banks do close in the middle of the day, so it's best to take care of your banking needs early in the morning. Most banks, museums, and stores are open on Saturday from 10am to noon. Everything is closed on Sunday.

Doctors & Hospitals -- Clínica Cemes, Av. 6 De Agosto 2881 (tel. 0102/2430-360), and Clínica del Sur (tel. 0102/278-4001 or 278-4002), on Avenida Hernando Siles and the corner of Calle 7 in the Obrajes neighborhood, are the best hospitals in La Paz. These hospitals are also where you'll most likely find English-speaking doctors.


Drug Laws -- In Bolivia, it is legal to chew coca leaves and drink tea made from coca. (But note that it is illegal to bring these products into the U.S.) Cocaine, marijuana, and heroin are all highly illegal. Penalties are strongest for people caught selling drugs, but if you're caught buying or in possession, you're in for a lot of trouble.

Electricity -- The majority of outlets in Bolivia are 220 volts at 50 cycles. But in places such as La Paz and Potosí, it's common to see 110 volts at 50 cycles. To be on the safe side, always ask before plugging anything in.

Embassies & Consulates -- In La Paz, the embassies are: Australia, Av. Arce 2081, Edificio Montevideo (tel. 0102/2440-459); Canada, Calle Victor Sanjínez 2678, Edificio Barcelona, 2nd Floor (tel. 0102/2415-021); the United Kingdom, Av. Arce 2708 (tel. 0102/2433-424); and the United States, Av. Arce 2780 (tel. 0102/2430-120).


Emergencies -- Call tel. 110 for the police or tel. 118 for an ambulance.

Internet Access -- Internet service is available almost everywhere in Bolivia, with the possible exception of Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. Connections in major cities cost Bs3 per hour. In more faraway places, such as Sorata and Copacabana, connections can cost up to Bs10 an hour.

Language -- Spanish is the language most commonly used in business transactions. But indigenous languages, such as Quechua and Aymara, are also widely spoken throughout the country. It's best to come to Bolivia with a basic knowledge of Spanish. Outside of the major tourist sights, it's hard to find someone who speaks English.


Liquor Laws -- The official drinking age in Bolivia is 18. At clubs you often need to show a picture ID for admittance.

Newspapers & Magazines -- La Razón (published in La Paz) is one of the most popular Spanish-language newspapers in Bolivia. El Nuevo Día (in Santa Cruz) and Los Tiempos (in Cochabamba) also provide local news for their respective regions. If you're lucky, you may find English copies of Time or Newsweek.

Police -- Throughout Bolivia, you can reach the police by dialing tel. 110. The tourist police can also help sort out your problems in nonemergency situations. In La Paz, call tel. 0102/2225-016, and in Santa Cruz, tel. 0103/3364-345.


Post Offices & Mail -- Most post offices in Bolivia are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8pm, Saturday from 8:30am to 6pm, and Sunday from 9am to noon. It costs Bs5 to mail a letter to the United States, Bs7 to Australia, and Bs6 to Europe. From time to time, you can buy stamps at kiosks and newspaper stands. There are no public mailboxes, so you'll have to mail your letter from the post office.

Restrooms -- The condition of public facilities is surprisingly good in Bolivia. In museums, the toilets are relatively clean, but they never have toilet paper. Note that most buses don't have toilet facilities, and on long-distance bus rides, the driver may only stop once or twice in a 12-hour stretch. And when they do stop, the facilities are often horrendous -- usually smelly, squat toilets. It's always useful to have a roll of toilet paper handy.

Safety -- La Paz and Santa Cruz are the most dangerous cities in Bolivia. You'll need to beware of camera snatchers and be careful in crowded areas and hold on tightly to your personal belongings. Watch out for thieves who try to stain your bags (usually with mustard or peanut butter); they offer to help clean you off while cleaning you out. Taxis in La Paz can also be dangerous; never get in an unmarked taxi. Legitimate cabs have bright signs on top that illuminate their telephone numbers. Before you get in, be sure to write down the cab's number. If you're ever in doubt, ask a restaurant or hotel to call you a taxi. Report all problems to the tourist police.


Smoking -- There are no public bans on smoking in Bolivia; however, most hotels have some nonsmoking rooms.

Taxes -- While the Bolivian sales tax (IVA) is officially 13%, a tax is rarely charged since most transactions are informal. You'll likely only pay the tax if staying at a high end hotel or dining at a fancy restaurant.

Telephone & Fax -- Most high-end hotels in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba offer international direct-dial and long-distance service and in-house fax transmission. But these calls tend to be quite expensive, as hotels often levy a surcharge, even if you're calling a toll-free access number.


Practically every single town in Bolivia has an Entel office (almost always located in the main plaza). From here, you can make local, long-distance, and international calls. It's actually much more economical to make your international calls from an Entel office than to use an international calling card. For example, for calls to the United States, AT&T, MCI, and Sprint all charge about Bs70 for the first minute and Bs16 for each additional minute, plus a 10% surcharge. Entel charges Bs5 to Bs10 per minute.

To make local calls from a public phone, you need a phone card. You can buy them at any Entel office or any kiosk on the street. The average local call costs about Bs2 for 3 minutes.

Time Zone -- Bolivia is 4 hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), except during daylight saving time, when it is 5 hours behind.


Tipping -- Restaurants in Bolivia never add a service charge. It's expected that you will add a 10% to 15% gratuity to the total bill. Taxi drivers don't expect tips. It's common to tip hotel porters about Bs4 to Bs8 per bag.

Water -- Always drink bottled water in Bolivia. Most hotels provide bottled water in the bathrooms, and you can buy bottles of water on practically any street corner. Small bottles cost about Bs1 to Bs2; large bottles cost just Bs3. Most restaurants use ice made from boiled water, but always ask to be sure.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.