With its history and rich, multi-ethnic culture, rain-forests, mountains and salt flats, an ocean coastline is about the only thing that Bolivia is lacking. You will surely manage without one, because there is already too much to see and do in this land-locked country that is situated in the heart of South America.
As is the case with many other countries in South America, travelers need to take a number of precautions with respect to travel health, especially if they are planning on visiting certain regions of the country. In this post, we will tell you everything you need to know to stay healthy while visiting Bolivia.
Vaccinations for Bolivia
- Routine Vaccinations – routine vaccinations include Tetanus, Polio and Meningitis among others. We also include both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B in our list of routine vaccinations that you should have up to date as an adult. You can see our full article on these vaccinations here.
- Typhoid – Typhoid can be contracted by eating contaminated food or drink. The Typhoid vaccination is highly effective, and you shouldn’t hesitate to get it.
- Yellow Fever – Yellow Fever is relatively rare in Bolivia, but it doesn’t hurt to add this vaccination to the list. The WHO recently updated their guidelines, and this vaccination now provides lifetime protection. Considering the fact that you need it to legally enter a number of countries in South America and Africa, it’s not a bad idea to get the jab done now. Also, if you are coming from a country where Yellow Fever is present, you will be obligated to show your Yellow Fever vaccination certificate upon arrival in Bolivia.
- Rabies – getting a rabies vaccination makes sense if you are planning on spending significant time around animals OR extended time in rural areas that are far from a clinic. Otherwise, feel free to skip it.
Now let’s talk about the things that you cannot get vaccinated against.
Malaria in Bolivia
Malaria is present in Bolivia in certain zones. Specifically, it can be found in areas that are below 2,500 meters in altitude. In the capital of La Paz and the popular salt flats (Salar de Uyuni), malaria is not present. See the following map from the CDC for malaria zones in Bolivia:
If you are planning on traveling to rainforest areas or any area in which malaria is endemic, you should explain this to a doctor at a travel health clinic, where you can be prescribed the proper prophylactic. You can read all of our articles on malaria here. Finally, while you should take a prophylactic if you are traveling in a zone with malaria, you should also take measures to prevent mosquito bites themselves. See our article on finding the best insect repellant for more on the subject.
Dealing with the altitude in Bolivia
The Andes run through Bolivia, and there are also many elevated plateaus that may have you gasping for air when you walk up that flight of stairs. It’s very important to acclimatize yourself. Take your time and listen to your body. Read our article on altitude sickness prevention and treatment.
The higher altitude also means drier air. Plan to bring chap-stick, moisturizer and plenty of sun protection.
Is the tap water safe to drink in Bolivia
Unfortunately, the tap water is generally not safe to drink in Bolivia. Plan to treat the water by using one of the 4 methods we recommend in this article.
Zika virus in Bolivia
There have been reports of local transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitos in Bolivia. This is obviously concerning news for any prospective travelers. Of course, this transmission has occurred only in the lower altitude areas where mosquitos live, and there hasn’t been anything close to an epidemic. If you are planning on traveling to any of the lower altitude zones, plan on taking extra precautions to prevent mosquito bites (for example, wearing long clothes and closed shoes with socks).
Avoiding traveler’s diarrhea and other stomach bugs
Traveler’s diarrhea is a possibility anywhere, but especially in developing world countries. Your body is just not used to all of the microbial life found in Bolivia. We already mentioned that you should not drink the tap water in Bolivia. In addition, you should take steps to eat as hygienically as possible. In order to do so, follow our steps on prevention and treatment of traveler’s diarrhea here.
We will soon be publishing a guide on general travel health concerns for travelers heading to Amazon rainforest. Look out for it in the coming weeks.
We would also recommend checking out our list of essential travel health products for a trip to Bolivia.