Bolivia Demographics

What is the population of Bolivia?

Population 11,639,909
Population Growth Rate 1.63%
Urban Population 66.800000
Population in Major Urban Areas Santa Cruz 1.719 million; LA PAZ (capital) 1.715 million; Sucre (constitutional capital) 307,000
Nationality Noun Bolivian(s)
Ethnic Groups Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, white 15%

Bolivia Learning

What is school like in Bolivia?


Classes usually begin at 8:00 a.m. and finish at 1:00 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday, although some schools will stop at noon for a lunch break, and then open back up from 2:00 until 5:00 p.m.

Many but not all schools require a school uniform of white shirts and pants or skirts. In secondary school, students in some schools might also need to have a separate sports uniform.

There is a wide variety of school resources in the Bolivian schools. In the poorer parts of the country, the schools lack benches, desks, and blackboards. The benches are old, and the schools are poorly maintained. In the cities, schools may have modern resources, complete with well-maintained facilities and sufficient computers for students to study technology, including Internet connectivity. A normal class size is 30 children.

Education Culture

 A long history of political problems and instability have had a negative effect on Bolivia’s overall educational programs. Though government officials, educational leaders, and the general population all understand that a successful future must include quality education, the challenges of a difficult economy and changing national politics make that type of education easier to talk about than implement.

Bolivia has both public and private schools. Most schools are operated by the government, but religious and other organizations are allowed to run private schools as well. Private schools charge tuition and tend to have middle-class to upper-class students. 

The school year begins each year in late February and ends in November, with a 15-day vacation in the middle of winter in late June and early July. Summer vacation then covers December to late February.

Education is seen as the best chance for someone to get a better job and improve their family situation. Families who have an educated person in the family are often viewed more favorably than others. Unfortunately, over half of all adults are not employed, and 15% of those who do have jobs are underemployed and underpaid.


Schools are required to teach 12 to 14 mandatory subjects to their students in the general areas of language and communications, mathematics, life sciences, technical and practical knowledge, and expression and creativity. Bolivia has three main cycles of education, and children are required to attend school from age 6 to 14. The first cycle consists of basic learning, then three years of essential skills, and finally two years of applied learning.

Many children drop out after the first six years. Even though education is mandatory until age 14, approximately 1 out of every 3 children aged 7 to 19 is in the workforce (71% of that young workforce lives in rural areas, with the remaining 29% coming from cities). Because of the high numbers of working children, night schools have become for some the only option for some children to become educated: over 500 schools have been created in Bolivia’s three largest cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.

Additional studies show that approximately 80% of all elementary school students attend school, dropping to only 25% of secondary students remaining in school.

Like many Latin American countries, the quality of education can vary widely throughout the country, with money being the most important influence. In communities with more money, the schools have better resources; in poor villages, the local school can struggle to even provide the most basic education.

To School

School is in session Monday through Friday and generally begins at 8:00 in the morning and is done at around 1:00 in the afternoon. In rural areas they sometimes must travel from 1 to 3 hours to and from the school, although in the cities they will usually walk or ride a public transportation bus to school, depending on how far from the school they live.

Bolivia’s public elementary and secondary schools are underfunded. In addition, a majority of the children come from low-income families. For the poorest children, the school lunch is the only meal they will have that day, so government and international agencies strive to provide well-balanced, affordable foods through the schools. These often include such staples as bananas and passion fruit, which are locally grown and help improve the nutrition of the students.

Not all schools have lunch programs, however. Many students, especially in areas with higher family incomes, will eat lunch at home.

Bolivia Population Comparison

Bolivia Health Information

What are the health conditions in Bolivia?

Life Expectancy at Birth 68.220000
Death Rate - deaths/1,000 population 6.67
Infant Mortality Rate - total deaths/1,000 live births 39.760000
Health Expenditures - percent of GDP 4.9%
Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population 1.22
Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population 1.1
Major Infectious Diseases - degree of risk Very high
Drinking Water Source - percent of urban population improved 96.000000
Maternal Mortality Rate - deaths/100,000 live births 190
Mean Age for Mother's First Birth (age 25-49) 21.2
Contraceptive Prevalence Rate - female 12-49 60.5%
Total Fertility Rate - children born/woman 2.87
Obesity - adult prevalence rate 17.9%
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of urban population improved 57.500000
Underweight - percent of children under five years 4.5%

Bolivia Life Expectancy

How long do people live in Bolivia?

Life Expectancy at Birth 68.220000
Median Age 23.100000
Contraceptive Prevalance Rate - female 12-49 60.5%
Infant Mortality Rate 39.760000
Maternal Mortality Rate - deaths/100,000 live births 190
Total Fertility Rate - children born/woman 2.87

Bolivia median age, birth rate and death rates

Birth Rate - births/1,000 population 24
Median Age 23.100000
Net Migration Rate - migrant(s)/1,000 population -0.76
Population Growth Rate 1.63%
Sex Ratio at Birth - male/female 1.050000
Age Structure 32.360000
Contraceptive Prevalance Rate - female 12-49 60.5%
Infant Mortality Rate 39.760000
Maternal Mortality Rate - deaths/100,000 live births 190
Mother's mean age at first birth 21.2
Total Fertility Rate - children born/woman 2.87

Bolivia Medical Information

What are the health conditions in Bolivia?

Medical Facilities and Health Information

Throughout the country, both personal hygiene and sanitary practices in food handling are far below U.S. standards. Food and beverage precautions are essential. Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited to non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia and prescription and over-the-counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. Insect precautions are recommended.

Travelers to Bolivia should consult with a Travel Clinic well in advance of departure for further information on recommended vaccinations.

Dengue: Dengue is endemic throughout eastern Bolivia, including in the city of Santa Cruz. Since January 2007, there have been several thousand cases, representing a significantly increased incidence and part of a region-wide trend.

Rabies: Bolivia is a high-risk area for rabies. Dog and bat bites and scratches should be taken seriously and post-exposure prophylaxis sought.

Yellow Fever: Yellow fever is present in subtropical Bolivia. Yellow fever vaccination certification is required for entry visa applications and may be required prior to boarding by airlines flying into/transiting Bolivia, as well as at entry points to Bolivia. Please refer to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) information on Yellow Fever.

High Altitude Health Risks: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, even for those in excellent health.

Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), you should discuss the trip with your healthcare provider and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. However, possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States. "Sorojchi pills" sold in local pharmacies, contain high amounts of caffeine and are not usually recommended.

The State Department cautions travelers planning to visit La Paz to consider the following risks and advice:

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: persons with sickle cell trait may have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet. U.S. citizens with this condition have required urgent medical evacuation from La Paz to the United States.

Heart disease: Any person who has heart disease, or known risk factors for heart disease, should consult their doctor about the risks of ascending to high altitude, and whether any testing of their heart would be in order. Even U.S. citizens who adjust well initially to the altitude in La Paz have subsequently suffered heart attacks and been hospitalized.

Lung disease: Anyone with emphysema should consult closely with their doctor and seriously reconsider coming to La Paz or other, high-altitude areas. Anyone with asthma should consult their doctor; mild asthma may be manageable at high altitudes, but it is important to remember that emergency care and intensive respiratory care are very limited even in the city of La Paz and are absent outside the city. U.S. citizens with respiratory ailments have previously been medically evacuated from La Paz to other countries to receive medical treatment.

Pregnancy: Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before traveling to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia. There is an increased risk of miscarriages and other pregnancy-related complications at high altitudes.

Everyone, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at a high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Try to limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival, and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.

Health Expenditures - percent of GDP


Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population


Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population


Bolivia Education

What is school like in Bolivia?

Education Expenditures - percent of GDP 6.9%
Literacy - female 81.6%
Literacy - male 93.1%
Literacy - total population 86.7%
Literacy Definition Age 15 and over can read and write
Total School Life Expectancy - (primary to tertiary) 13.000000

Bolivia Literacy

Can people in Bolivia read?

Literacy - female 81.6%
Literacy - male 93.1%
Literacy - total population 86.7%
Literacy Definition Age 15 and over can read and write

Bolivia Crime

Is Bolivia a safe place to visit?

Crime Information

The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pickpocketing, assaults following ATM withdrawals, and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. You should secure your belongings in a hotel safe and refrain from wearing expensive jewelry. U.S. citizens have also had backpacks, passports, and other property stolen at bus terminals or while traveling on buses, as well as at internet cafes and in other situations where the U.S. citizen is distracted or leaves property unattended. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common, and some vehicles have been hijacked.

Express Kidnappings: Incidents in which tourists are robbed and forced to withdraw money from ATMs, known as “express kidnappings”, are common in La Paz. Typically, the victim enters a taxi driven by a criminal, and then an additional person or two gets in the vehicle. The victim is then robbed of his/her belongings and/or driven to an ATM where he/she is forced to provide personal identification numbers for debit and credit card withdrawals. The areas where these crimes are most frequent include Plaza Humbolt (Zona Sur), Plaza Abaroa, Plaza del Estudiante, Plaza Isabel La Católica, and Plaza San Francisco. Avoid becoming a victim of this crime by using only radio taxis and not traveling alone, particularly if you’re under the influence of alcohol or it’s late at night.

Coronilla Hill: We recommend that you avoid Coronilla Hill, a Cochabamba landmark adjacent to the main bus terminal and near several markets, hostels, and restaurants. Coronilla Hill has become an increasingly dangerous place for tourists and local citizens alike. The local police, tourist authorities, and press have declared the area off limits and cautioned people to enter the area at their own peril. U.S. citizens have been assaulted in the area. The police have made several sweeps of the area in an attempt to control the situation, but incidents of crime continue. Police reports indicate that thieves in that area have gone from purse snatching and burglary to increasingly violent assaults on passersby.

Public Transportation: The U.S. Embassy in La Paz continues to receive reports of U.S. citizens traveling by bus from Copacabana to La Paz being held up and robbed of their ATM cards and other valuables. This crime reportedly involves U.S. citizens taking an evening bus from Copacabana. While the bus is scheduled to stop at the La Paz bus terminal, the driver will stop short of that location, typically near the General Cemetery late at night. Disembarking and disoriented passengers then have little option but to hail a waiting taxi. Thieves in cooperation with the taxi driver enter the taxi to blindfold and coerce the U.S. citizen(s) into surrendering cash, cameras, ATM cards, and other valuables. Victims have reported that once the thieves withdrew funds using the ATM cards, they were released without further harm. If you plan to travel from Copacabana, you should try to arrive during daylight hours, verify the final destination, and buy tickets directly at the Copacabana bus terminal rather than from third parties.

Scam Artists: Bolivian police report the presence of organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns, including “false police” - persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations, who intercept and rob foreigners. Remember, under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the “fiscal” (prosecutor) to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the prosecutor. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a prosecutor present. If you are detained, you should request to see the warrant and insist on immediate contact with the nearest U.S. consular office.

Be cautious of anyone introducing themselves to you as a policeman or even a fellow tourist, especially in popular tourist areas. Be wary of strangers and “false friends.” If you have any doubts about a situation, immediately remove yourself from the scene.

Street Crime: Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. If you find yourself in such a situation, you should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area.

In order to steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times, the thief poses as a policeman and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. If this happens to you, say you want to contact the U.S. Embassy; do not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a personal identification number.

While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. This is particularly true in “choke and rob” assaults where the victims report being choked from behind until they lost consciousness and later awoke to find all of their possessions gone. Again, avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but you may also be breaking local law, too.

Bolivia Penalties for Crime

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to the local laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings, and driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. There are also some things that might be legal in Bolivia, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods or engage in child pornography. While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in the host country, your U.S. passport won’t help. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not legal where you are going. If you violate Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, Bolivian authorities may expel, arrest and/or imprison you. Under Bolivian law, suspects can be detained in prison for up to 18 months without formal charges while the investigation is conducted. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Bolivia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. It is not unusual for legal cases in Bolivia to drag on for years, with numerous delays and costly setbacks along the way.

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