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Living in Bolivia
A practical guide to the way of life in Bolivia
Bolivia's mix of cultural heritage means it has much to offer expats in terms of vibrant art, literature, food and music. This South American country has beautiful and green landscapes and shares the Titicaca Lake with Peru. Find more about Bolivia’s transportation, healthcare and more in our guide.
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Life in Bolivia
Bolivia is a culturally diverse country in the middle of South America. It borders Peru, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay. Bolivia’s economy is growing and its GDP increased by 6.8% in 2014.
Transportation in Bolivia
Bolivia isn’t just diverse culturally but also geographically: it is home to some of the highest cities in the world, the largest salt flat and some of the Amazon rainforest. This diversity in geography could make getting around a challenge, but generally Bolivia’s cities and towns are relatively well connected.
Most travel is done by road, although flying is always an option for longer distance journeys. In the country there are three main airports in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Big cities are generally well-connected but only 6% of roads are paved and, especially during the rainy season, some remote villages cannot be reached very easily. 27 km of expressways connect the following cities: Santa Cruz, Sucre, La Paz, Cochamamba, Potosi and more. Road travel can be hazardous, with a lack of attention to road safety and a minimum amount of signage. Moreover, traveling by private vehicle is the most expensive option. Bolivians drive on the left-hand side of the road. The drink-drive limit is 0.07% BAC; for context, the majority of Europe is between 0.05% and 0.08% and the USA has a limit of 0.08%.
Expatriates can drive with a driving license and insurance but it is recommended for more regular drivers to obtain an international driving permit.
Healthcare in Bolivia
Bolivia has an insurance-based healthcare system that is currently in reform — this reform is based around decentralization and insurance for children and mothers. The reform is in part paid for by international organizations, such as the World Bank, and since it began, the number of doctors in Bolivia has doubled in recent years to 130 per 100,000, making it similar to other South American countries. Still, private clinics, namely hospitals that don’t depend on governmental funds, offer better services and should be therefore preferred, even if there are more expensive than the public healthcare.
Safety and Security in Bolivia
Bolivia boasts one of the lowest crime rates in South America and most major cities have a medium threat level for crime — comparable to larger cities in the United States of America. Santa Cruz is the only city that has a high threat level for crime. Most crime affecting expats is opportunistic street crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching, and it is possible to live a crime-free lifestyle in Bolivia. Violent crimes, such as assault and robbery against foreigners, are very rare; just in case, a special Tourist police help tourists in Bolivia. Fraud is also a crime to be aware of, although it is also relatively rare. The nationwide number for the police is 110.
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