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Travel Guide South America Bolivia La Paz

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Introduction

La Paz

La Paz

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Originally founded with the name of La Villa de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (honoring the Catholic Virgen del Carmen), La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia as well as the capital of the La Paz Department. Bearing the Government, Representatives and Congress, it is also where most of the Political and Legal powers are kept. At an altitude of 3,600 metres, It is the world's highest administrative capital city. Today La Paz has over 1.5 million people, not including the population of "El Alto de la Paz" the youngest Bolivian city, founded on March 6th 1985, which has about a million more. This city used to be another "Neighbourhood" of La Paz city but after they passed half of million inhabitants it, was given a "City" title. This is where the airport is located and if you arrive into La Paz, by road the first city you see. The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre.

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Neighbourhoods

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.

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Sights and Activities

  • Sagarnaga Street (just south of Plaza San Francisco) - La Paz' main tourist strip. It's mainly a market street with artesano and souvenir stores, but you'll also find budget hostels, tour and travel agencies, cafes, and lots and lots of backpackers. Don't be suckered by the roving sellers of "trilobite-in-a-rock".
  • The Witches' Market (Mercado de Hechiceria or Mercado de las Brujas) - Calle Linares between Sagarnaga and Santa Cruz. Vendors sell llama fetuses and dried frogs for Aymara rituals, as well as soapstone figurines and aphrodisiac formulas. This street is also the best place to pick up a charango or other Bolivian musical instrument.
  • Eloy Salmon - Shops on this street sell cheap electronics.
  • Calle Jaen - One of the few places in the city with preserved colonial buildings, currently housing several interesting museums.
  • Plaza Murillo - Contains government buildings and the city cathedral.
  • The Valle de La Luna - Surreal, weathered rock. Just outside the city. Take a local bus to Mallasa (Bs2.30) or a taxi (Bs 35) or join a tour. The entrance to the park is located next to the flags and costs Bs15. If you want to see more eroded formations with glittering diamond like silver and pink sand, try going on a red bus to Alpacoma from Calle Buenos Aires, then take a Bs. 2.00 trufi to the brick ovens, then walk a few minutes over the pass to the upper Achocalla valley (towards the well-hidden municipal dump).

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

Owing to the high altitude, the temperature is consistently cool in La Paz. The temperature doesn't vary a great deal during the year, with an average daily maximum of roughly 18 °C and an absolute high of 27 °C in September. Average minimum temperatures vary somewhat more due to the fact that the drier and sunnier April to October period causes colder nights, just above zero (record is -3 °C), as opposed to around 6 °C from November to March. The city has a dry climate, with most rain falling from November to March. Average annual precipitation is just over 500 mm.

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Getting There

By Plane

El Alto International Airport (LPD) functions as the main gateway for La Paz. Airlines flying to La Paz include LAN Peru (Lima, Iquique, Santiago de Chile), Aerosur to Cobija, Cochabamba, Cusco, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Sucre, Tarija, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza and Sao Paulo-Guarulhos and TACA Peru to Lima.
TAM (not to be confused with Brazilian TAM Airlines), Aerocon and Amaszonas have other flights to domestic destinations.

By Train

There are no trains to/from La Paz, the nearest station is in Oruro.

By Car

Travelling by car is not recommended for travellers, though it is possible to rent cars.

By Bus

The main bus terminal is in Central Park, near the upper end of the Prado and a 15-20 minute 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.

Buses to Cochabamba take 7-8 hours. 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 hours, Bs 15. To Chile, buses run to Arica, around 8 hours, some continuing to Iquique (12-14 hours - best to get the bus at 7:00am, 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 minivan into the Cordillera de Quimsa Cruz.

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Getting Around

By Car

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 Public Transport

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!"

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

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).

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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.

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Drink

Local law prohibits serving alcohol after 4:00am.

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

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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.

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in La Paz or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

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Learn

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are internet cafés practically everywhere, they typically cost about 3Bs/hour, or about $0.50 per hour. Wifi is not as common as in many other Latin American countries, but more and more places offer it now, either free (sometimes for a limited amount of time) or at a cost. Avoid using your cellphone (with your home SIM card) when there is no wifi, as that's extremely expensive.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Bolivia is: 591. To make an international call from Bolivia, the code is: 0010. Emergency numbers include 110 (police), 118 (ambulance) and 119 (fire). Note that 911 forwards to the police (110).

Bolivia has three cellphone companies, Entel, Tigo, and Viva. If you are staying for a while, consider buying SIM cards for your cellphone. They are quite cheap and you get good network coverage in all main cities and towns. Entel sells good-priced international call possibilities for their SIMs. For example, you can buy 10 minutes for Bs20 (to be used in one day, disconnects automatically after expiration). You will need to register the SIM card at a local office of the telecom. You will need a photocopy of your passport and the mobile phone that you will use.

Practically every single town in Bolivia has an Entel office (almost always located in the main plaza). From here, you can make local, long-distance, and international calls. It's actually much more economical to make your international calls from an Entel office than to use an international calling card. To make local calls from a public phone, you need a phone card. You can buy them at any Entel office or any kiosk on the street. The average local call costs about Bs2 for 3 minutes.

Post

Correos Bolivia is the national postal service of the country. It offers a wide range of services at very reasonable prices. Services, speed and reliability are not up to the level it should be though and it can take several weeks for a simple card to arrive in Europe or North America. Most post offices in Bolivia are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8:00pm, Saturday from 8:30am to 6:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am to noon. It costs Bs5 to mail a letter to the United States, Bs7 to Australia, and Bs6 to Europe. From time to time, you can buy stamps at kiosks and newspaper stands. There are no public mailboxes, so you'll have to mail your letter from the post office. If you want to send packages overseas it's best to use an international courier company like DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS, as they offer fast and reliable services at competitive prices.

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Quick Facts

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Population
1.502000
Area
470 sq. km
Coordinates
  • Latitude: -16.49901
  • Longitude: -68.146248

Accommodation in La Paz

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in La Paz searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in La Paz and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as hasbeen (5%), Peter (3%), nigelpeaco (2%), Sander (1%), goodmike (1%)

La Paz Travel Helpers

  • goodmike

    Most of the time for the last 8 moths I have lived in this chaotic yet wonderful city, I have lots of friends from la paz who have taken me merely everywhere, as I am a very adventurous traveler!so if you wanna know more about La Paz, fell free to ask I will be pleased to help!

    Ask goodmike a question about La Paz

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