5. How can I keep healthy?

In La Paz there are many good quality local clinics and doctors. If you get sick then we will be close by to accompany you and ensure that you get the right treatment. It is very important that you have a comprehensive international health insurance package.

All volunteers are responsible for having comprehensive medical and accident insurance. Please give us a copy of your policy and contact details of people at home so we can be useful in an emergency.

Please bring along any personal medications and basic first aid items you think might be useful (e.g. plasters, Imodium, rehydration salts, etc). If you are coming away for a longer period of time it is a good idea to have a general medical and dental check-up before you come out. In La Paz there are many local clinics and doctors. If you get sick then we will be close by to accompany you and help you get the right treatment. However, any decisions about your treatment will be taken by you alone.

General tummy upsets: Many visitors suffer from “runny tummies” during the first weeks in Bolivia as they get used to the food. Usually this only last a few days to get out of your system – although if it last longer than a week, we will accompany you to the doctor. Normal precautions such as drinking bottled water, ensuring that ice is not made from tap water and listening to recommendations from our team about where to eat and where NOT to eat should be taken to heart.

Altitude sickness: La Paz is situated at a breathtaking 3.600 metres above sea level. The altitude affects people differently – it has nothing to do with fitness levels or age – some people have absolutely no symptoms, whilst other suffer from symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia and loss of appetite during the time of acclimatization which usually takes about a week. Altitude sickness can be avoided or relieved by resting and NOT rushing around during your first few days – often easier said than done when you are excited to explore your new surroundings! Not eating heavy meals and not drinking alcohol for the first few days is also recommended. There are pharmaceutical remedies for altitudes sickness. You can buy a pill over the counter known as the Sorochi pill. However, undoubtedly the best way to deal with the altitude is to do as the locals do, and their ancestors centuries before them, and to use coca which is easily accessible in coca tea bags to make yourself a refreshing and cure-all cuppa! Read this article from the BBC with more useful information.

Malaria: Malaria is only present in certain areas – we will advise you before you come whether the areas you plan to visit are affected and whether it is advisable to take malaria tablets. However, there is dengue fever in some of the jungle areas which you should be aware of, especially in the rainy season.

Food and water: If you have any allergies or dietary requirements, please let us know before arrival. You should avoid drinking the tap water – you can use bottled water or cooled boiled water (this is what we use in the volunteer accommodation). As a general rule, in the first week or so as you become acclimatized, follow these guidelines: if it’s not peeled by you, or been boiled or fried, don’t eat it, e.g. salad or coleslaw. Local shops sell basic food or use the supermarkets in the south zone of the city if you want more of a selection.