La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, is a bustling political and commercial hub. Though isolated to a certain extent, you’ll surely find a huge range of experiences. With our 3-day suggested itinerary, you would have a real taste of this captivating city and you will be introduced to its best attractions. You can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences and create your own itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to Bolivia:
Language – Being a Spanish colony for three centuries, Spanish have become the nation’s language which is widely spoken by majority of the people in the country. However, it is important to note that Bolivians still use their own like Aymara, Quechua and more than thirty other indigenous languages. Unlike its neighbor Brazil, most people in Bolivia do not speak English. Before you travel, learn to speak at least some Spanish phrases or words (or local dialects).
Currency exchange – The currency in Bolivia is Boliviano (BOB). Exchanging money in La Paz is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in South America. There are plenty of money exchange houses (cambios) in the city, so exchanging major currencies like dollars, pounds or euros should not be a cause for concern. ATMs and credits cards are widely accepted, but check with your bank beforehand if there are any limitations. As a general rule, do not rely on credit or debit cards when traveling in Bolivia. It is still best to bring enough US dollar bills.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Bolivia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy. Every traveler, especially solo female travelers, should take safety precautions because there has been incidents of reported armed robberies, sexual assault and violent crime targeting tourists.
Getting there – Flying to Bolivia is not cheap! At this point the only direct flight from the US is from Miami with a round-trip ticket for about 820 during the dry season. From New York the price jumps to about 920 USD – 1000 USD. From London, a round-trip ticket costs about 1500 USD and from Hong Kong – a little under 1800 USD. If you are a budget traveler, your best option will be to combine a trip to Bolivia with another destination in the area. Good idea will be a trip to Peru since there are direct flights from Lima to La Paz that cost less than 250 USD for a round-trip ticket.
Getting around – Getting around La Paz is pretty easy since it is very well-connected by local bus systems. Regular buses (micros) and shared buses (trufi), the local bus systems that serve the entire La Paz, is recommended for travelers. These are great options because they are cheap and frequent. In addition to local buses, radio taxis and normal taxis are other transportation options in the city. Taxis with a “bubble” sign on top belong to a registered taxi company, while taxis with no “bubble” sign or phone number work independently.
Where to stay – La Paz offers heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. For first time travelers who are looking for relaxation and a little bit of sightseeing, then we recommend staying in the Centro or Casco Viejo both located on District 6. If you’ve been to La Paz once before, and would like to venture away from most tourists, then we suggest Districts 1, 4 or 5.
Hotels to consider in La Paz:
Day by day itinerary: Discover La Paz, Bolivia in 3 days
Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in La Paz or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. After your arrival at La Paz El Alto International Airport (LPB), check into your preferred hotel/guest house. The airport is conveniently located southwest of La Paz. Travel time is approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on traffic situation. Rest and settle in before you start the tour. La Paz rests on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau at more than 3,500 meters above sea level, so be prepared for high altitude and cold nights. It is recommended to drink coca tea and to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates to soothe altitude sickness.
Don’t get out of La Paz like most tourists do (and head straight to other parts of Bolivia) because the capital boast a few wonderful attractions. There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore (Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore). This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of Bolivia’s history and cultural heritage. After your museum tour, wander the busy pedestrian streets of Calle Sagarnaga, lined with various businesses that cater to tourists. Also, not to be missed is the Witches’ Market (El Mercado de las Brujas), known for its dried llama fetuses, folk remedies and herbs.
Reward yourself with a sumptuous lunch at one of the top-rated restaurants in La Paz such as Rendezvous Restaurant (Subteniente M. Carranza 461) and Namas Te (Zoilo Flores 1334). After lunch, continue your historic and cultural tour of the city. Anyone interested in contemporary art should see the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo). End the day with a ride in Mi Teleferico, La Paz’s Cable Car System, for a 360-degree view of the city.
For fun-loving and adventure-seeking travelers, mountain biking down the Yungas Road, also known as the “Death Road”, promises a one-of-a-kind experience. This exhilarating mountain biking activity also allows you to see the stunning Andean peaks and the dense Amazon rainforest. There are plenty of tours offered online, so make sure to read reviews first before you make your reservation. Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking is currently the number one mountain bike tour company in La Paz based on TripAdvisor reviews. For more information, you may visit their website. If you want a more extreme adrenaline activity, try Urban Rush. It is a heart pumping Spider-Man style rappelling activity from a building in downtown La Paz. Don’t worry, though. Expert guides will perform safety protocols and will provide safety reminders.
Today marks the end of your adventure in La Paz. Taking in to consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your last day in the city at around 10 to 11 in the morning. Explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to the airport. You can also wake up early and join a guided tour to the enigmatic site of Tiwanaku, a pre-Columbian archaeological wonder. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight home, opt to continue traveling independently in Bolivia, or extend your stay in La Paz. The decision is all yours!
This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. You may extend your vacation for as long as you prefer or until you get to see all attractions that interest you. Take time to meet the locals, sample the best Bolivian dishes or explore other parts of Bolivia. If the pace gets too hectic, then reorder your sightseeing priorities. Happy travel!
Have you been to La Paz or anywhere else in Bolivia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Mi Teleferico is an aerial cable car urban transit system in the city of La Paz, Bolivia (saiko3p / Shutterstock.com)