Ins and outs

Getting around

The centre of La Paz can be walked around, though this is often a slow process, especially as you get used to the altitude. For trips to other neighbourhoods, possibly to Sopocachi and definitely to Zona Sur, you'll want to take a minivan or taxi. Taxis, which can be flagged down or ordered by phone, are cheap and plentiful - those marked 'Radio Taxi' with a dome light and phone number are a bit more expensive and considered safer; agree on the price before boarding. It is not unusual for plain taxis to pick up other passengers on route. At night, it is advisable to phone a taxi instead of flagging it down. Trufis are shared taxis on a fixed route (there are few around). The main form of public transport in La Paz is the minibus (shared minivans for 8-10 passengers, quite cramped at times, they call out the route and weave in and out of lanes, creating traffic congestion.

Orientation

La Paz is a city of plazas where many streets from all directions come together. If you ask for directions, a plaza or two are likely to be mentioned and the signs on public transport will also list the plazas they go through. The names of buildings (edificios) are very important in addresses. You are more likely to be guided to the door if you know the name of the building than if you know only the street number.

The city is connected to the rest of the world by 'la autopista', a motorway that climbs steeply from the northern end of El Prado to El Alto on the Altiplano, from where roads lead to the rest of Bolivia and the borders with Peru and Chile. Another road goes north from La Paz to the Yungas valleys and the Amazon Basin.

Safety

Fake police, narcotics police and immigration officers - usually plain-clothed but carrying forged ID - have been known to take people to their 'office' and ask to see documents and money; they then rob them. Legitimate police always wear a uniform and do not ask people for documents in the street unless they are involved in an accident, fight, etc. If approached, walk away and seek assistance from as many bystanders as possible. Never get in a vehicle with the 'officer' nor follow them to their 'office'. The scams take many forms and can be very slick, involving taxis and various accomplices including fake tourists. It is best take only radio taxis, identified by their dome lights and phone numbers. At night, call for a taxi instead of flagging them in the street. Lock the doors and never allow other passengers to share your cab: the extra security is well worth the extra cost. If someone else gets in, get out at once. Also if smeared or spat on, walk away, don't let the good Samaritan clean you up, they will clean you out instead. All areas that see large numbers of tourists require caution, especially all the bus terminals, including the interior of the main bus station. The cemetery neighbourhood, where many local buses arrive, used to be particularly unsafe. In 2008 tourist police were patrolling this district during the day, making it safer, however caution is still advised and the area is best avoided at night. Sopocachi, Miraflores and the Zona Sur are generally safer than the more central districts. There have been reports of armed robberies at Valle de la Luna to the south of the city; police are also patrolling there but do not take valuables or go alone.

Climate

Because of the altitude, nights are cold all year. In the day, the sun is strong, but the moment you go into the shade or enter a building, the temperature falls. From December-March, the summer, it rains most afternoons, making it feel colder than it actually is.

Tourist information

Viceministerio de Turismo, www.turismobolivia.bo, governs tourism at a national level and has general information.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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