Local laws and customs
Illegal bars exist in Bolivia. You may be detained for questioning if you are caught at one of these, particularly if drugs are found within the premises.
Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine. There are harsh penalties for those caught trafficking or in possession. The minimum sentence is 8 years and prison conditions are very basic. Be very careful with your luggage and belongings and avoid any contact with illegal drugs.
Ayahuasca is a traditional plant used in “spiritual cleansing” ceremonies by indigenous communities in Bolivia, primarily in the Amazon region, but also near La Paz. This ceremony involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions is not well understood. People have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases death after participating in these ceremonies. Some Ayahuasca retreats are some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it.
Be careful especially when carrying cameras or binoculars when travelling off the beaten track, particularly in coca-growing areas such as the Chapare and the Yungas.
Check before taking photographs of local people.
Homosexuality is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the majority of Bolivians, more so in the Altiplano than in Santa Cruz, where attitudes tend to be more liberal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Police and immigration officials sometimes carry out ID checks. You can keep a photocopy of the pages from your passport containing your personal details and the Bolivian immigration stamps with you, and leave the original document in a safe place.