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The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE

London, United...
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142 posts
30 reviews
12 helpful votes
The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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I’ve read so much over the past three months on this drunk driving situation in Bolivia... it almost made us change travel plans, as this all sounded as a valid concern about not just our well being but life itself.

Well, my partner and I have traveled extensively throughout Bolivia from 23 December till 2 January and seen NOT ONE drunk driver.

to clarify, we took a morning bus on Dec 25 from La Paz to Copacabana, another bus back to La Paz the following day, an overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni on Dec 26, three-day trip from Uyuni (27-29 Dec), a bus from Uyuni to Potosi on the 29th, Potosi to Sucre in the 30th, a flight from Sucre to Santa Cruz in the 31st, numerous taxi rides on XMas night, NYE night and everything in between... NOT ONCE have we encountered a drunk driver or a delayed bus.

The comments I read on this forum about the problem were mainly from tour agencies and my feeling is that they’re all made up. Why? May be because they shut down their offices for the festivities and advise everyone against traveling to Bolivia during this time altogether- perhaps to keep our business at a later date. They also name the same reason for the Easter holidays. Some have said “it’s irresponsible on our side” to send tourists during these holidays as it is “unsafe” and “dangerous”.

I’m so glad we didn’t follow their “advice”... we’ve enjoyed every moment in Bolivia. It’s far beyond everything we could imagine. Bolivia is safe and awesome at any time of year, go there and enjoy yourself, and don’t make anyone fool you with inflated “safety” concerns.

London, United...
Destination Expert
for Salta, Bolivia
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7,804 posts
338 reviews
179 helpful votes
1. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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As I mentioned in one of your previous posts, we have travelled extensively in Bolivia and have never personally experienced a problem with drunk driving. That is not to say it doesn’t happen, of course it does. It happens in developed countries like th U.K. and USA so why wouldn’t it be te case in Bolivia. According, the WHO statistics, alcohol abuse is a big issue in the country and a contributory factor leading to much higher incidences of sexual and domestic violence.

The fact that neither your nor I have personally experienced drunk drivers means very little. I did see several drivers drinking heavily at night on one of our Salar tours but they weren’t our drivers so it didn’t affect me. The passengers they were driving didn’t seem to mind - there choice, a stupid one, but theirs to make.

As for tour operators making up these stories so as not to miss out on business because they themselves are taking time off - are you serious???

London, United...
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142 posts
30 reviews
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2. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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Crellson, re the tour agencies - obviously there’s no way of knowing for sure, but I wouldn’t rule out that possibility completely.

Bolivia
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3. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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I have lived in Bolivia for 8 years and it is NOT a myth that there are lots of drunk driving over the holidays. It's real and could cost you your life. Christmas Eve we were driving behind someone that was weaving so badly we didn't dare pass him. When he finally pulled over and we passed him he was passed out over the steering wheel. Glad you had a good and safe trip. But I would caution everyone to stay off the roads around the holidays if possible.

La Paz, Bolivia
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238 posts
5 reviews
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4. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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Sorry, I had to comment...

As Loroito correctly pointed out, there are PLENTY of drunk drivers on the roads of Bolivia, and more so during the festive season. Perhaps they weren't so drunk that it was obvious to the poster, but turn on any news channel around Christmas or new year and you'll see report after report of crashes and accidents due to drunk drivers.

I saw 3 myself between Christmas and New Year in La Paz alone (Usually late at night or very early in the morning)

There is no conspiracy between travel agencies because they want to turn away tourists, it really does happen. And one of the reasons for this is because the punishment is a joke - 1000bs fine and a night in jail for the first offence. Confiscation of your license on the second offence (Assuming the Police can find a record of your first offence to prove that this is the second!)

I want to be clear that it's not my intention to scare anyone. It's not like one in every five cars on the road is a drunk driver. Driving in Bolivia is chaotic but it doesn't mean travellers are in an extreme risk situation. I've been driving in Bolivia for about 9 years and I've never had an accident. The worst that's happened is people scraping their car on mine while I'm parked somewhere and then taking off to avoid paying me for the damage.

Due to my profession, I sadly see plenty of people party until late at night - drinking whisky usually and then getting into their car to drive home, and that's all year round, it's just worse during the end of the year and carnival times. It's not a myth.

Houston, Texas
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51,700 posts
780 reviews
248 helpful votes
5. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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Not drunk driven but dangerous roads could be a problem with not great drivers.

La Paz
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296 posts
4 reviews
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6. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE
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As one of the people that regularly warn of the drunk driving issue I am quite insulted that the OP decides to write this post.

Having lived in the country for 15 years , having had a relative killed over the Christmas period (on Xmas eve) some years ago and knowing several people that also have relatives or friends killed during this time, having seen the news year out when some years in excess of over 200 people have been killed during this time and having personally had a number of close shaves driving (close to my home only) due to completely drunk bus drivers over this period - I think I am far more qualified to comment on the situation than someone who passes through the country for 10 days and simply because THEY didnt see any drunk drivers then everything is fine and that the agencies that choose to lose sales by not selling certain tours during that time are the unethical ones.

For your info, I worked EVERY DAY over xmas including christmas day and new years day in order to provide service to travelers and allow my staff to have some time off. We have not sold salt flats tours since after the first year we opened over xmas and received some bad reports and that costs us a lot in lost sales.

So why on earth would I be putting our false information to discourage people when it costs us money and results in a lot more work to answer questions and explain to people.

Simply pathetic and irresponsible thing to post calling it a "myth" - a simple search in spanish of the local bolivian media would have shown you this but of course you didnt bother with that.

7. Re: The Myth of drunk driving in Bolivia over Christmas and NYE

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