La Paz

For other places with the same name, see La Paz (disambiguation).

La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, while Sucre is the constitutional capital and the seat of the Supreme Court. La Paz was established in 1548, and is in the Andes. Altitude of the city ranges from about 4,058 m (13,313 ft) above sea level in El Alto (where the airport is located) to 3,100 m (10,170 ft) in the lower residential area. It is the highest national capital in the world.

The sight from the air as one flies into La Paz is incredible. First, one sees the sprawling shantytowns of El Alto, slowly giving way to the sight of La Paz itself, clinging tenuously to the sides of what looks like a large gash in the earth.

Bolivian Palace of Government in La Paz.

Understand

Orientation

La Paz was built in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River (now mostly built over), which runs northwest to southeast. The city's main thoroughfare, which roughly follows the river, changes names over its length, but the central tree-lined section running through the downtown core is called the Prado.

La Paz geography, in particular the altitude, reflects the city's society: the lower you go, the more affluent. While many middle-class paceños live in high-rise condos near the center, the really rich houses are located in the lower neighborhoods southwest of the Prado. The reason for this division is that the lower you go in the city the milder the weather is. And looking up from the center, the surrounding hills are plastered with makeshift brick houses of those struggling in the hope of one day reaching the bottom.

The satellite city of El Alto, in which the airport is located, is spread over a broad area to the west of the canyon, on the altiplano.

Get in

By plane

El Alto International Airport (IATA: LPB), El Alto. This is the world's highest international airport; at 13,313 ft/4,058 m above sea level, it's almost half as high as a jetliner's cruising altitude, and takeoffs require a longer runway due to the thin air. There is an airport departure tax of US$25 for international flights, Bs. 15 (around US$ 2) for domestic flights. Tax can only be paid in cash, but several ATMs which also give out US$ are available at the airport.

Most South American airlines (LAN, Avianca, Sky Airline, etc.) serve El Alto Airport as well local airlines (Boliviana de Aviación (BoA), Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM), Aerocon and Amaszonas). Most international flights will make a stop over in Santa Cruz to pick up or drop off passengers. American Airlines is currently the only U.S. carrier serving Bolivia, with one daily flight from Miami.

State-funded Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) and TAM (usually for a cheaper price) serve major domestic destinations as well as some major South American hubs. Aerocon mainly provides air links to communities in the Beni Department via their hub Trinidad. Amaszonas provides direct service to tourist destinations like Rurrenabaque or Uyuni. LAB (Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano) was Bolivia's national airline until April 2007, when services were suspended by the Bolivian government due to financial problems.

While you may be in the practice of racing to immigration when you get off a plane, in order to avoid long queues, forget about this in La Paz. Take things very easily or you will be seriously out of breath and may suffer medical complications. Just walk slowly to the immigration area.

From the airport, the official rate for a taxi into central La Paz is Bs 60 (about US$9). Only use radio taxis with a sign on the roof. Shared vans cost Bs 3.80 (US$0.50). When returning to the airport, please give yourself plenty of time if taking the bus. Often they are full once they pass near Plaza San Francisco, especially during rush hour 5-7PM. The first bus leaves from Plaza Isabel de Católica in Sopocachi at 6:15AM

If you are taking a TAM flight OUT of La Paz airport be VERY careful to verify which airport it is leaving from, some TAM flights leave from the El Alto Intl airport and others from the military base airport. I got mistakenly dropped off early morning by the taxi driver at the Military airport which is about 2 km from the Intl airport and had no choice but to catch a cab back for the ripoff price for 30 Bs (for 2 km!) as it was early morning! (As of Nov. 2011 all TAM flights seem to be leaving from El Alto Intl. - May 2012 update - TAM flights do sometimes still leave from the military airport)

By bus

The main bus terminal is in Central Park, near the upper end of the Prado and a 15-20 min walk from most hostels. From this bus station, buses leave for big cities such as Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Oruro, Potosí, Sucre, Tarija and Arica. Buses leaving La Paz usually stop in El Alto to pick up more passengers. It sometimes takes almost an hour until you really leave the city.

Cochabamba 7-8 hr. Normal day buses cost around Bs 20 while "full cama" (flat bed) buses with for example Bolivar cost Bs 90. Semi cama between the two. Oruro 3 hr, Bs 15. To Chile, buses run to Arica, around 8 hr, some continuing to Iquique (12-14 hr - best to get the bus at 7AM, later buses will result in arriving in Iquique in the middle of the night.)

Buses departing to, and arriving from, Lake Titicaca, like Copacabana, Sorata, Desaguadero, Tiwanaku and so on leave from the area "Cementerio" (the city cemetery). Buses are leaving from "parada Copacabana", "parada Sorata", "parada Desaguadero" in the "Cementerio"-area.

Buses going towards "Los Yungas" and Amazonas-region, such as Coroico, Chulumani, Irupana, Caranavi, Rurrenabaque, Riberalta and Guayaramerín are leaving from the area Villa Fatima, "parada Yungas".

Buses going towards Quime, any bus going to Oruro from the main bus terminal will stop in Conani, from whence you catch a mini-van into the Cordillera de Quimsa Cruz.

Get around

Colonial buildings on Calle Jaen

By bus

There are three types of shared public transportation in La Paz: regular buses or "micros"; shared vans, called "mini buses", and shared taxis running set routes advertised on the windshield, called "trufis". The former cost Bs 1,30 while the second are Bs 1,50-2,30 depending on duration. A trufi will generally cost you Bs 3-3.50. All types have their routes indicated on the windshield, but mini buses have the bonus of fare collectors hanging out the side, yelling out routes in a rapid, auctioneer-like manner. You can hail a bus or mini bus anywhere; to get off, just yell out "¡voy a bajar!"

By cable car

A system of three cable car lines (Mi Teleférico) connects El Alto with downtown La Paz.

By taxi

The easiest way to get around is by taxi. They aren't metered, so agree on a fare before boarding; a ride within downtown should be about Bs 6-8. If you want to go further, ask two or more taxi drivers before boarding. A normal ride by taxi from downtown to a place within the city won't cost more than Bs 20.

By foot

If you ever find yourself to be lost, in general the easiest thing is to simply walk downhill. You will eventually find yourself on the Prado or another main avenue, then You'll be able to take a taxi to the downtown, if you are on the southside of the city (Zona sur).

See

The Witches Market in La Paz

Museums

The Old Train Station

Views

La Paz is a city which can be a sight in itself, and there are several viewing places or miradores offering impressive panoramas.

Do

Take it easy on your first day in La Paz if you arrive from low altitude. Even if you feel fine, resting and walking slowly will help. Try not to eat too much, at least the first day or so. And sleep as much as you can.

One good thing to do is to take any mini-bus or micro from near your hotel to the end of the line, walk down a bit and catch another one to the end of the line, walk down some more and catch another one and so on. Cheap, no danger and you will see the most fascinating things imaginable.

Bolivian wrestling cholitas

Shows every Sunday at Ceja El Alto, Zona 12 de October. Taxis from downtown tourist area at most 50bs.

Peñas

One of the most recognizable aspects of Andean culture is its folk music, which you can enjoy at a number of peñas, or music clubs.

Cinemas

Bank Holidays and special dates

16 July - Anniversary of La Paz

Learn

Languages

Schools

Private teachers

Buy

Handicrafts market in Santa Cruz street in La Paz.

Handicrafts

Luxury Clothing and Items

Gear & equipment

Maps

La Paz is a good place for buying maps of the country. Topographical maps are available in 1:50 000, 1:100 000 and 1:250 000. The most popular maps, including the 1:250 000 version of Cordillera Real and the 1:50 000 version of Volcan Sajama are sold by street vendors that roam Calle Sagarnaga and from stalls along el Prado. But the best place to buy maps is the "Instituto Geografico Militar", IGM. The instituto has two offices in town, listed below.

Eat

For lunch try the little almuerzo-kitchens. You'll get a decent menu for under Bs10. Be careful with or avoid salads the first days. If you are on a budget it is always possible to eat in the local markets.

Most of the fancier restaurants in La Paz are at the bottom of the Prado, around the vicinity of Plaza Isabel La Catolica and Plaza Avaroa.

There's a string of inexpensive pizza and hamburger joints on the west side of Avenida 6 de Agosto south of Plaza del Estudiante. Sergio's is considered the best, and is good for checking upcoming music venues.




Drink

Local law prohibits serving alcohol after 4AM. There are a number of speakeasies defying this.

Cafes


Coffee is not a popular drink in Bolivia. If you want a sweet hot drink try api, made of corn.

Bars

Clubbing

Sleep

If you do not want to pay for a bed, you can pass a night in loco along Calle Sagarnaga or Calle Illampu. These streets are merged into fairs and museums, so are full of people all day long. Be sure to inspect your room before signing the register.

Hostels

Other Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

In crowded areas be careful for pickpockets and bagslashers. A common trick is that one person spills something on your clothes and, while you or he wipes it off, another person lifts your wallet or slashes your bag. Be vigilant when checking into a hotel or hostel. Keep a hand on all your bags and belongings at all times. Acting as if they work for the hotel, opportunist thieves will create a diversion and snatch the nearest unattended bag.

If you are approached by plain-clothed police officers, don't show any valuables or your passport. Certainly, don't get in a taxi with them as it is a trap. Undercover police are strictly ordered not to hassle tourists. There have been several cases of muggings and things going missing from bags or luggage after "drug searches". Insist on being taken to the police station before giving them access to your things. If you can, call the 110, which is the Bolivian number for emergencies. Take care: an Austrian couple was found murdered in 2006 after following false police into a taxi.

A recent twist in the above scam is the involvement of accomplices where they try to befriend you on a bus and when the 'plain clothes' policeman approaches the accomplice claims that the same thing happened to them and that you should cooperate with them. This is a trap and the same scam as described above.

There have been several cases of violent muggings in taxis. Take only Radio Cabs (they will have the telephone number and their call centre listed above the cab). The taxis, or Gypsy Cabs, have no boarding above the taxi and have taxi written on the side and are dangerous to take at night, as many of the drivers are paid to drive tourists to specific locations for muggings. Be especially careful if you are at one of the illegal after-hours bars such as Fin Del Mundo or Route 36, as most of the muggings happen in taxis from these locations. Lock the doors and don't allow other people to share the journey with you.

There are more reliable taxi firms to use:

Magnifico Taxis, ☎ +591 2 2410410

La Paz Taxis. ☎ +591 2 2221212

Gold Taxis, ☎ +591 2 2722722.

La Paz is a very safe city, and if you keep your wits about, you there shouldn't be any problems.

Computer hard drives can be damaged by operating them at altitude, and so if you use a laptop computer or anything else containing a hard drive (including iPods and certain other MP3 Players), you are taking a risk. Most hard drives sold today safely work up to 3,000 m/10,000 ft. La Paz exceeds this altitude by one-third. While you may get by without anything bad happening, the hard drive could be destroyed (disc crash) and you will lose your data and installed software (even after returning to sea level). At the very least, you should back up your data before arriving. The high elevation won't subsequently "stress" the hard drive though, assuming nothing else happens during your visit.

Stay healthy

Travelers to La Paz often become ill the moment they arrive in the city. Why? La Paz is 11,900 feet (3627 m.) above sea level, the highest capital city in the world. People with ailing hearts or bronchial problems are warned to stay away, and even those in perfect health usually cannot avoid some illness resulting from the altitude.

The altitude of La Paz is well within the zone where altitude sickness could be a problem, especially for those arriving from at or near sea level. (Just spending a day or two at an intermediate elevation may not be enough.) It's is highly recommended that you have adequate travel insurance, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness, and inform your physician to what elevation you will be traveling (up to 4,000 m/13,000 ft. for La Paz, and 6,000 meters/20,000 ft. if you want to climb Huayna Potosi). Taking Ginko Biloba supplements for a couple weeks before a climb in altitude has been known to eliminate altitude sickness. On your first night in La Paz you are likely to find difficulty in breathing and wake up panting for breath. Mate de Coca (Coca Leaf tea) is a popular remedy. Take it easy when walking around town and if you are young and healthy don't be lured into a false sense of security. Marathon runners can get altitude sickness while those far less healthy can have few symptoms. You can also request "soroche-pills" at any pharmacy, which will help.

Despite being near the equator, it does occasionally snow a little in La Paz during the middle of the year, and packing some warm clothing is a must year-round.

Connect

Internet

Internet cafés are on each street corner in La Paz. Current standard fare is Bs 2-4/hour. There are four internet cafés around Plaza Mendoza at this price, all with good connection.

If you have a laptop computer you can find WiFi access at several cafes and similar establishments.

Sol Y Luna cafe, Calle Cochabamba.

Oliver's Travel Bar.

Café El Consulado. Fast internet in the café and patio.

Cope

Embassies

Go next

Lake Titicaca with the Andes at the background, 35 km. away from La Paz

The most popular day trips from La Paz are to Tiwanaku, Chacaltaya, and Lake Titicaca, though the latter (especially Copacabana) is pushing it a bit in terms of time.

Another popular daytrip is the bike ride down the world's most dangerous road, North Yungas Road (a.k.a. Death Road). It's a 64 km long scenic ride downhill to Coroico. There was an average of 100 motor fatalities a year (though in the ten years that companies have been biking down the road, there have only been 12 biking fatalities), a world record, mostly due to the Bolivian driving style than to the road itself. Although it's a narrow, winding road with big drops on the side, going down by bike is probably the safest way to get to Coroico and there are several tour agents in La Paz offering the trip.

For a safer and more relaxed trip to Yungas, you may want to take the South Yungas Road that leads to Chulumani by bus. Around 36 km up the South Yungas Road you will find a surprise: a European castle, built in the 1930s, emerges in the middle of the coca and flower growing region. It´s a treat because the people who run the castle/hotel have built many narrow roads for hiking through mountains and mountain cascades. Much calmer and relaxing than Coroico. The hotel is called the Hotel y Parque Ecologico el Castillo del Loro.

For spectacular mountain views, native cloud forests and exploration hiking, take a 5 hour bus/minivan trip to Quime. This is off the La Paz to Oruro Road.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.