Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Bolivia safe?

2. What will I do?

3. When is the next trip?

4. How do I apply?

5. Who will be going with me?

6. How much do flights typically cost?

7. What is the food like?

8. Can I bring a friend?

9. Do I have to speak Spanish?

10. Where will we be staying?

11. How do I obtain the travel visa to Bolivia?

12. Will there be any meetings before we leave?

1. Is Bolivia safe?

Yes, Bolivia is one of the South American countries that is very safe.  La Paz and Coroico are both very large tourist centers so there are plenty of foreigners in both places.  Before we go, we give information to each volunteer to help them learn the basics of travel safety.  Since we work with locals like Dr. Cabezas they are very careful in helping us avoid the parts of town that aren't tourist-friendly.

Many travelers are initially shocked to hear that "the most dangerous road" is on the way from La Paz to Coroico.  No need to fear though - the "most dangerous road" is an alternate, slower route that detours off the main highway and is primarily a tourist attraction for bikers these days.  Very few cars use that route since the newer, faster, (and much safer!) highway was built.  We stick to the main highway.
2. What will I do?

Students will be working in an urban and rural hospital in Coroico and La Paz.  Students will learn how to draw blood, give shots, make casts, scrub in for major surgeries, assist with minor surgeries (depending on the surgeries to be done the week we are there), take vitals, learn about the local medical problems and traditional cures, and help out in a variety of other ways.  You will also have the opportunity to spend a day or two working on a service project, which typically involves helping out children at a local orphanage.  As mentioned above, you will gain a TON of physician shadowing, patient care, and volunteer hours on the trip - which are extremely important for medical/dental school applications.  Please see the "Upcoming Trips" tab or contact us for more information.
3. When is the next trip?

The next trip will be in August with more trips planned for December right after fall semester.  In August, we will be doing an 8-Day Expedition from August 11-18.  More information regarding the trips in December should be available in early or mid-September, with medical and general service plans possibly to take place in Bolivia, Brazil, and/or Peru.  Please send us an email if you'd like more information on any upcoming trip.
4. How do I apply?

Fill out the short application on the Apply tab.  Please see the instructions there for more details.
5. Who will be going with me?

That depends on you!  We encourage you to bring a friend as you will more likely have a better experience, but you don't have to (in fact, most volunteers come alone).  On the trip you will be with fellow undergraduate student volunteers as well as Dr. Cabezas and the travel leader, who will be fluent in Spanish and English and will be knowledgeable about the local customs and cultures of the area in which you visit.
6. How much do flights typically cost?

It depends on the year, how far in advance you buy them, and even the day of week you buy your flight!  From most major cities in the U.S. you should be able to get there for between $800-$1,000.  Flights to La Paz usually are cheapest through cities like Orlando or Miami, but can also be cheap going through Los Angeles.  Be prepared for a brutal schedule though - flights usually arrive in La Paz at 1:00a.m. or 3:00a.m. and may take up to 24 hours of previous travel!

7. What is the food like?

The food in Bolivia is delicious!  Traditional dishes range from salteñas to pique macho or ceviche and picante de pollo, which typically include rice, corn, potatoes, and some type of meat.  There are also plenty of pizza and hamburger shops, and each year we typically get a taste from home at Burger King, Subway, or KFC.  In order to ensure we don't get sick, we try and always follow the maxim regarding the food we eat: Cook it, boil it, peel it, or forget it!

Tap water in Bolivia is not safe to drink.  However, bottled water is cheap and can be found at a store on nearly every street.

8. Can I bring a friend?

Yes, we encourage you to!
9. Do I have to speak Spanish?

NO!  The vast majority of volunteers don't speak Spanish.  Dr. Cabezas is highly proficient in English as are some other physicians at the hospitals.  The travel leader, who is with the group at all times, also speaks Spanish and is willing and happy to translate whenever necessary. 

10. Where will we be staying?

In each city we will be staying in well respected, reputable hotels.  Volunteers may have their own room in the hotel or may share with a fellow volunteer (if room are shared they are always shared by members of the same sex).  Each room has indoor plumbing, heated water, and provides comfortable accomodation.  Hotels are in safe parts of town and typically have wifi in the rooms.

11. How do I obtain the travel visa to Bolivia?

The travel visa is actually incredibly easy to obtain.  After landing in La Paz, you are lead directly from the plane to an area where you can obtain the travel visa by simply paying in cash and presenting the required documentation (bring cash in pristine condition, they tend to think crumpled or torn bills are counterfits).  It takes about 5 minutes and is generally hassle free.

Please check out the following websites for the most updated information on obtaining the travel visa to Bolivia:
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/bolivia.html
https://bolivia.usembassy.gov/information-on-bolivian-visas.html
12. Will there be any meetings before we leave?

Yes.  We generally like to meet twice before each trip to go over the itinerary, distribute a packing list, go over safe traveling tips and review any other essential information.  The travel leader is always present in both meetings so everyone will know who he/she is.  If we cannot arrange for everyone to meet physically we will conduct the meeting over videoconference (Skype or similar platform).