I intend to travel to Bolivia in May but have recently read about unrest in several areas. Are there any people on the forum familiar with Bolivia that could enlighten me regarding the current situation.
I am staying in La Paz and intend to be in the country for 3 weeks any help or advice regarding safety and travel (ie car hire etc) would be much appreciated.
Kind Regards David
I spent the winter holidays in Bolivia this past year and my daughter had been living in Cochabamba since October. Just before she left home, the political upheaval was pretty intense and she almost postponed her flights; however, once the president was deposed everything settled down amazingly quickly and she was able to leave and travel without incident. Likewise, our travel was politically uneventful (although I have a lot of reservations about ever using the Bolivian Airline again!). When we were traveling we heard that the political situation might heat up again in the late fall (May or so) and there may be unrest mirroring what went on in October.
Because of the physical and social make up of La Paz (rich people at the bottom of the bowl city and poor people living around the rim), the dissatisfied poor could cut the city off if they wanted to. I don't know if the politics of the cholos are united enough to do such a thing, but back in October, I knew of a number of backpackers who were stuck in La Paz for more than a week since all of the transportation was shut down.
Still, Bolivia is a wonderful place to visit and I'd go back tomorrow if I could! Keep an eye on the news and stay in touch with your embassy if you are caught in an unsavory situation.
As for hiring cars -- to drive? I'd hate driving in the city, the traffic rules if there are any are distinctive. I admit to refusing to drive in Rome and Chicago during rush hour, however. Even in Cochabamba, which is much tamer that La Paz, drivers consider red lights suggestions and on coming cars and pedestrains targets. However, cabs are cheap, buses plentiful, and other mass transportion always available.
Good luck with your travels,
If you have any specific questions or want recommendations for hotels or restaurants in the places we traveled, let me know.
I lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia for one year in 1999-2000. There was civil unrest (even a state of siege was announced for some weeks) already back then regarding the privatization of a water company, but the country was still safe for visitors. It can only make travelling difficult, as the roads may be blocked.
I'd definitely recommend against hiring a car. As Suzanne mentioned, the driving is hectic to say the least. Buses and flights are cheap, and the national airline Lloyd Aero Boliviano is (or at least used to be; my info is from 4 years ago) the safest airline in South America according to statistics, with zero accidents in the past 3 decades. Because of the Andes, the flights can be somewhat bumpy (I developed a slight fear of flying during my year there) but still safe.
Bolivia is great and I'm sure you'll have an enjoyable trip as long as you are careful and use common sense at all times.