Bolivia – Caitlin Daniel (2006)

Caitlin Daniel graduated from Smith College in May 2006. Caitlin was granted a $1000 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation in order to volunteer in La Paz, Bolivia for six months where she worked in a children’s home.

Here are Caitlin’s travel safety tips:

  • Avoid traveling at night. Sometimes this is simply not possible because some bus routes only run at night, but wherever possible, travel by day.
  • When traveling by bus, sit on the side opposite where the driver sits – especially on narrow roads where crashes can occur due to oncoming vehicles scraping against each other. By sitting on the side opposite the driver’s side, you will not be on the side of the bus that scrapes against the other vehicle.
  • If possible, avoid road travel during rainy season. Roads, especially dirt ones, become much slicker and harder to navigate in the rain.
  • Because you will not necessarily be familiar with the conditions of particular roads in a foreign country, you need to research the safety of a route prior to traveling on it. Look for this information in guidebooks. If these texts do not include such information, ask people to tell you; the people who live in a place will often be familiar with the conditions of their roads.
  • Unfortunately, it is sometimes almost impossible to guarantee safe travel conditions, despite one’ efforts to be careful. In Bolivia, bus drivers in the countryside almost always drive drunk because they think it helps them stay up. Consequently, if one travels in rural Bolivia, she is basically forced to do so in unsafe conditions. While a traveler cannot realistically avoid this situation, she can try to pressure local authorities to put greater controls on bus drivers and bus companies. I recommend writing municipal governments, saying that unsafe travel conditions deter tourism. I would also suggest writing the country’s Bureau of Tourism to make the same point; this institution has a vested interest in promoting tourism and with enough feedback from travelers, might actually say something about abysmal travel conditions.
  • It is crucial to not only avoid dangers related to vehicular accidents, but also to be extremely aware of other people while traveling. Be aware of your belongings and avoid contact with anyone who offers anything or tells you that you have to go to another place with them. These scammers might actually be what’s putting you in danger.