La Paz is Bolivia’s de facto capital city and the third-most populous city in the country, located in the central part of the country, close to Lake Titicaca, the Choqueyapu River and surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. Its setting is amazing and a very few cities in the world have as spectacular position as La Paz.
It has many landmarks since it is an important political, economic, and cultural heart of Bolivia. The San Francisco church, the metropolitan Cathedral, the Plaza Murillo, the Witches’ Market, Bolivian Presidential Palace, also known as “Burned Palace” and many others are the sights well worth visiting.
It’s worth spending time in La Paz, because tourist attractions are improving during the recent years and the colonial palaces and churches in the center of town amaze everyone who decides to visit this incredible city.
Warnings & Dangers in La Paz
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
La Paz is not very safe city which can be concluded from its ranking, so common standard precautions should be applied and tourists should be very careful of pickpockets and bag-snatching. Special attention should be paid to suspicious behavior, especially in the crowded places.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
In the last few years, there have been many incidents of kidnappings by taxi drivers, especially of the female travelers. They will also try to overcharge you because there is no taximeter in their cars, so you need to make an agreement on a price before entering the car.Strikes are a very often occurrence in La Paz which thus affects local transportation.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Thieves who would try to snatch your bag or pickpocket you are very frequent in public transportation and crowds. Different strategies are used to rob you and a common trick is the spilling of something on your clothes to distract your attention while another one takes your wallet or your bag.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The wet season, which lasts from November to March, can lead to unexpected situations concerning floods and landslides.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
If you happen to be the victim of a mugging, it is advisable not to resist and give your valuable things, in order to avoid further issues which can lead to more serious consequences. There were records of mugging happening in La Paz. Regardless of the fact that kidnapping is not frequent, kidnapping of tourists have occurred, and walking alone at night should be avoided.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Tourists should always be aware of the fact that terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out, even though there is no threat to Bolivia.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
You need to be cautious when bag snatching is concerned, and your possessions should always be close to you. There have been some occurrences of fake policemen asking for your documentation.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Female travelers are not always safe in La Paz due to the fact that there have been some assaults on women so they need to be particularly careful when on public transportation at night, in rural areas, and in isolated sections.
So... How Safe Is La Paz Really?
La Paz was built in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River and the view of this city from the plane is amazing and breathtaking. Due to its history, La Paz is a great place to explore with its important government buildings, the city’s museums and oldest churches.
Nevertheless, taking into consideration the information that South America has a reputation for drugs, robberies, and violence, tourist can come to a conclusion that La Paz is not the safest city.
Theft is common in tourist areas, on busy streets like Sagarnaga Street and on buses and in bus stations. Thieves often work in teams using various forms of distraction. The main location of pickpockets is the San Francisco church, El Alto market and the Sopocachi area. Violent crime against foreigners has also increased.
However, being vigilant and cautious is enough effort that you need to make so as to enjoy visiting La Paz.
- Visas - While for some countries a visa to Bolivia is not obligatory for staying less than 90 days, the US citizens need a visa which costs US$160 and lasts for 10 years. A tourist card can be given to South American and Western European tourists depending on their nationality. Passport is the only valid documentation.
- Currency - The official currency is the Bolivianos ($b). The bolivianos and US dollars are possible to withdraw at ATMs around the city. However, in order to avoid being pick-pocketed or losing your credit cards, do not take more money than you need if it is not necessary and pay special attention to the people around you while at the ATM.
- Weather - Some parts of La Paz, which are at 4,000 meters above sea level, have a subtropical highland climate while, in the other parts of Bolivia, climate varies depending on the altitude. Summers can be rainy and winter temperatures are often very low.
- Airports - El Alto International Airport is La Paz's airport, located in the city of El Alto 13 km from La Paz's city center. It is the highest international airport due to its position on 4000 meters above sea level. Other main airports in Bolivia are Jorge Wilstermann International Airport and Viru Viru International Airport.
- Travel Insurance - As in any country, tourists need to exercise a high degree of caution in Bolivia so it is advisable to get a travel insurance which will cover medical problems, theft and loss of private belongings.