Doing Business In Bolivia

  1. Bolivia's Doing Business 2013 rank is 155th out of 185 economies, recording no change compared to last year.
  2. According to the most recent Enterprise Surveys (2010). the top 3 obstacles to running a business are Practices of the Informal Sector, Political Instability, and an Inadequately Educated Workforce. 80.5% of firms reported competing against unregistered or informal firms, compared to the regional average of 62.3%.
  3. Bolivia’s restrictions on foreign equity ownership are above average among the 14 countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators.
  4. Bolivia’s economic freedom score is 50.2, making its economy the 146th freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is 0.2 point better than last year, with some improvements in three of the 10 economic freedoms, including freedom from corruption. Bolivia is ranked 25th out of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is below the world and regional averages.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Passports must be valid for six months beyond the date of entry. Entry or exit stamps are free, and attempts at charging should be met with polite refusal; ask for a receipt if the issue is pressed. Personal documents – passports and visas – must be carried at all times, especially in lowland regions, but it’s safest to carry photocopies rather than originals.
Bolivian visa requirements can be arbitrarily changed and interpreted. (At the time of research, there had been three Directors of Migration in six months, since the inception of the Morales Government.) Regulations, including entry stays, are likely to change. Each Bolivian consulate and border crossing may have its own entry requirements, procedures and idiosyncrasies.
Citizens of most South American and Western European countries can get a tourist card on entry for stays up to 90 days, depending on the nationality. Citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are granted 30 days while citizens of USA and Israel are granted 90 days. This is subject to change; always check with your consulate prior to entry. If you want to stay longer, you have to extend your tourist card (easily accomplished at the immigration office in any major city; those nationalities who have 30 day entries must pay US$21 for extensions). The maximum time travelers are permitted to stay in the country is 180 days in one year. Alternatively, you can apply for a visa. Visas are issued by Bolivian consular representatives, including those in neighboring South American countries. Costs vary according to the consulate and the nationality of the applicant.
Overstayers can be fined US$1.25 per day – which is payable at the migration office or airport – and may face ribbons of red tape at the border or airport when leaving the country. See the website of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto (Bolivian Ministry of Exterior Relations & Culture;, in Spanish) for a complete list of overseas representatives and current regulations.
In addition to a valid passport and visa, citizens of many Communist, African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries require ‘official permission’ from the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs before a visa will be issued.
Vaccination certificates
Anyone coming from a yellow-fever infected area needs a vaccination certificate to enter Bolivia. Many neighboring countries, including Brazil, also require anyone entering from Bolivia to have proof of a yellow-fever vaccination. If necessary, a jab can often be administered at the border.

Business Etiquette

Meeting & Greeting

Bolivians tend to be formal in their business dealings.
It is always best to maintain a level of professionalism.
Shake hands when meeting and leaving.
Wait for a woman to extend her hand.
Eye contact is important.
Professional or academic titles with the surname are used in business. Common titles are "Doctor" (medical doctor or Ph.D.), "Ingeniero" (engineer), and "Licenciado" (lawyer or university degree).
If someone does not have a title, the honorific titles Señor or Señora are used with the surname. 

Business Cards

Business cards are exchanged during the initial introductions.
Try and have one side of your business card translated into Spanish.
Make sure to include any academic qualifications on your card. 


Relationship building is important in Bolivia so initial meetings should always be about establishing trust and learning a little about each other.

Wait for the other party to move the conversation on to business.
Meetings are generally relaxed affairs but there is always a sense of formality that should be adhered to.
Meeting schedules are not very structured in Bolivia. There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they serve as guidelines only and may act as a springboard to other related business ideas and further discussion.
Time is not considered more important than completing a meeting satisfactorily, therefore meetings will continue until the discussion is completed.
Be careful not to be too direct in your communication style - negative responses should be diplomatically put so as not to cause a loss of face or dignity.
Most business is conducted in Spanish so try and arrange for your own interpreter.
Similarly have any materials translated into Spanish.
Do not rush meetings or show impatience.
Decisions are not generally reached at meetings - don't pressure people into making them. . o Meetings are simply for discussion and to exchange ideas. 

General Business Hours

Few businesses open before 9am, though markets stir as early as 6am. Banks are open between 8:30am and 4pm. Cities virtually shut down between noon and 2pm or 3pm, except markets and restaur­ants serving lunch-hour crowds. Hours between eateries vary – this book indicates where restaurants and cafés are open for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Most businesses remain open until 8pm or 9pm. If you have urgent business to attend to, don’t wait until the weekend as most offices will be closed.