Partying South America Travelling

How Safe is La Paz, Bolivia?

[mks_boxquote align=”right” width=”150″ arrow=”0″]“…a little common sense goes a long way. Always trust your instincts”[/mks_boxquote]I have to admit that I was nervous about coming to South America. South America has a reputation for drugs, robberies, and violence: whoever you speak to about the continent will tell you some story of a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend, who has experienced some kind of negative experience in South America. And it never seems to be of the anonymous pick-pocketing variety. No. More the kidnapped-in-a-taxi or held-at-gunpoint kind of story. Nowhere is this more true than in La Paz, Bolivia.

La Paz sprawls up the mountainside

After more than two months in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, I finally made my way to Bolivia—the poorest of the South American countries that I have visited so far—and the shift in economic climate is vast. La Paz, the elevated Capital of the country, has a reputation, just read the scams section in the Lonely Planet if you don’t believe me. Case in point: when in Buenos Aires I spoke to a young German girl who had fallen victim to the fake taxi/policeman scam just seconds after getting off the bus. This scam involves a ‘helpful’ local escorting a bewildered tourist to a ‘reputable’ taxi. After 12 hours on a bone-shaking, sleep-depriving Bolivian night-bus, the tourist is often happy to accept help. In the German girl’s case, her benefactor was a respectable-looking middle-aged local woman. The helpful local then gets in the taxi alongside the unsuspecting tourist until they are stopped by a ‘policeman’ who demands that all passengers leave the taxi and show their documents. The local willingly obliges and urges the tourist to do the same, at which point the passport, ATM card and cash are removed from the tourist, who may also have to watch the taxi disappear with all their bags and belongings. Thankfully, the girl I spoke to had heard of the scam and although the ordeal was traumatic for her she was quick-witted enough to open the back of the car, grab her bag and make a run for it.

Of course, everywhere has dangers. I lived in a quiet neighbourhood for many years as a child but our house got burgled 3 times in as many years. You have as much chance of getting involved in knife or gun-crime in Birmingham as any developing country. But La Paz has a reputation. In the time I spent there I was with two girls who had separate, terrifying stories. The first took a taxi from outside a large, well-known hostel in the city. This hostel has 24 hour security and taxis that wait outside at night ready to take guests from the bar to the clubs. She got in a taxi alone, following straight after two taxis full of her friends that were headed for a popular club. Her taxi took her up the mountainside to a remote area and stopped. The driver demanded 500 Bolivianos (£50), which she handed over and insisted he take her back to the hostel, which he did. If she had refused, or not had the money with her, her story may not have ended so well.

La Paz looks beautiful at night but can be dangerous

The second story is even more chilling. A young girl went to a concert with her friends; she had had a few drinks on the way and lost her ticket at the gates. Her friends were already inside the concert area when they realised that she had not been let in and the guards refused to let them out to help her, saying that she had gone to buy another ticket at the gate so her friends waited for her to arrive. The concert ended and there was no sign of her. She did not return to the hostel at all that night and her friends scoured the city, looking in every club to see if she was there. At 9am the next morning she returned to the hostel. After being refused entrance to the concert she had been approached by a group of guys who tried to drag her off—she had grazes the length of her arms and legs—instantly sobering up, she pushed them off and ran. A local family came to her rescue and took her to their home. In the morning they found out the address of the hostel where she was staying and put her in a taxi. They told her how lucky she was. La Paz is not a city for a young girl to be alone—especially when drunk—and she was very, very lucky. Who knows what would have happened to her if that family had not protected her?

La Paz may not be safe for girls alone at night

I don’t mean to put anybody off visiting La Paz by writing this post. I just wish to reinforce the point that some places require far more caution than others. A large sign in our hostel entrance states that travellers should avoid taking ATM cards or Passports out into the city, and when I asked the reception staff if the local area is safe to walk around she paused, took a breath, and said ‘erm, sometimes. Be careful.’

So here’s the good news. In the 9 days that I have been in La Paz I have not felt threatened or unsafe at any point. I have visited ATM’s and taken out the maximum amount of cash, I have spent an afternoon shopping in busy marketplaces with my camera in my pocket, I have walked back to the hostel in the dark and I have walked the length of the city carrying a brand-new laptop.

The important thing is that I have always been on my guard.

How I kept safe in La Paz.

  • I have never walked, or taken a taxi, alone at night.
  • I have not flagged down a taxi off the street, but used reputable taxis that have been arranged through the hostel.
  • I have kept my money in my inside pocket of my jacket or rolled up and tucked inside my bra.
  • When my camera was in my pocket I kept the string around my wrist and my hand in my pocket at all times.
  • I have not taken out more money than I need or my ATM card/passport with me other than the times it was strictly necessary. When I took money out I returned immediately to the hostel.
  • When visiting markets or ATMs I was always VERY AWARE of who was around me. Be particularly careful of children who can reach low down pockets more easily. If you suspect that anybody is watching you do not take out any money or go into an ATM – you can always go back later!
  • Don’t keep anything in your back pockets that you are not willing to be parted with and try to avoid taking a backpack. If you carry it on your back you can’t see if anybody is getting into it and if you carry it on your front then you immediately identify yourself as a tourist!!
  • Don’t look at a map or guidebook in the street. If you are lost call into a coffee shop or restaurant (there are plenty), that way you get to sample some of Bolivia’s excellent cakes and pastries whilst trying to figure out where you are away from the watchful eyes of would-be thieves.
  • Avoid badly-lit narrow side roads after dark, stick to wider roads with street lighting.
  • Look and act confident even if you don’t feel it.

As with anywhere else in South America a little common sense goes a long way and always trust your instincts. Whilst cheap alcohol and easily accessible drugs may tempt many travellers, they also make them very vulnerable—and girls should never, I repeat NEVER, go out alone at night in La Paz. Thankfully the three young women that I met came to no harm but I hope that other girls can avoid the same traumatic experiences.

If you keep your wits about you, La Paz is a great place to explore.

Have you ever been to La Paz? What was your experience of the city? Have you heard of any of these scams, or experienced them? Would you be put off visiting a plcae because of things that you have heard? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you think this post may help other travellers then please share!

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  1. A really interesting post, thanks for the level of detail you went into. La Paz looks beautiful by night.

    A friend of mine went to Bolivia and I have wanted to go myself ever since.

    1. You should go, Bolivia is a fascinating country and quite unlike anywhere else in South America.

      1. Georgia Little says:

        Hi! My husband and I are planning a 10 day trip to La Paz. What did you do there that was fun and interesting?

  2. […] (photo from Runaway Brit) […]

  3. says:

    Hi! I came across this post and I was wondering…so how did you arrive in Bolivia? I will be traveling solo through SA and I think I’d be arriving in La Paz airport. I’m a little nervous to take a taxi by myself to be honest!

    I liked the post…it was honest and didn’t glaze over the dangers, but also didn’t sensationalize it or make it seem like no one should go there.
    Kristine recently posted..Real world pressuresMy Profile

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment.

      Will you be arriving in the day or by night? If possible, try not to arrive after dark. You will need to take a taxi, but remember that the vast majority of taxis are very reputable. First thing to try is chat to people on your bus, chances are somebody will be going to the same hostel as you, or in the same direction, and you can share a taxi. Things are less likely to happen if you are in a group. There is likely to be other solo travellers feeling the same way as you, or a group of people will understand your concerns.

      If you don’t find anybody then don’t panic. The bus station is large and there are a number of taxis around. Take your time to look around and don’t jump in the first taxi you see. Watch what the locals are doing and don’t go with any taxi driver that follows you around and demands your business. Experience has taught me that only the rogue taxi drivers hassle tourists in this way. DON’T allow a ‘friendly’ local to help you (even if they seem safe enough – woman with baby, grandmother etc…), and DON’T agree to let anybody else in the taxi with you (unless another traveller from the bus you arrived on). Keep your luggage in the car with you, but put it on the floor at your feet so it is not easily seen from outside. Make sure your camera, phone etc… are out of sight for the whole journey (even from the driver). Have a small amount of cash ready to pay the fee so you don’t have to show a wallet/ATM card etc… when you come to pay.

      I really enjoyed La Paz, but don’t let your guard down. The crime there is mainly opportunistic, so limit the opportunities and you should be okay. Being drunk is the major issue – if you are drinking, either stick to a hostel with a busy bar (Wild Rover, Loki etc…), or go out in groups.

      Have fun 🙂

      1. says:

        Sorry for the delay in responding but thank you SO much for your detailed response!! I really appreciate it and I will keep all these things in mind when I go :).
        Kristine recently posted..Unconventional ways to save $$ for travelingMy Profile

  4. Marcello Cameronesi says:

    I was born and raised in La Paz and moved to US when I was 20. I haven’t been back there since then, it’s been about 13 years!
    I remember it used to be pretty safe. I used to hang out with interexange students and turists, we never had any issues. I guess time changes. It makes me worry to go back and visit, sounds like a scary place now. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. I think it is still relatively safe, it’s just the taxis that I heard could be problematic. I had no worries about walking around, even at night, but a girl alone should always be careful in any city.

  5. Corey Slockbower says:

    Beautiful city surrounded by mountains. Some first time visitors feel altitude sickeness.

    1. I had altitude sickness the whole time I was there. I had it really bad for the first few days, but then it got a little better. I was always out of breath and dizzy!

  6. I stayed in La Paz for 3mths (Aug-12′ to Nov-12′), I’m a 33yr old man so I am not as much of a target as a 20something girl. I found the city a really fun place to stay. However, as the author of the article writes, if you are a solo girl traveller. Do not taxi’s alone. They are not safe.. I had friends (local Bolivian girls in their 20’s) who would not take taxi’s alone.. Sad to say but if you’re a guy there’s not much risk.

    1. Thanks for reinforcing the warning. I loved La Paz and had no bad experiences there, but girls should be careful about taking taxis alone there.

  7. Hannah Tjandra says:

    Thanks for the warning. I’m headed to do charity work in La Paz July 2014 as part of a school organisation. I’ve already been warned about the nights in the city. This was a big help, I’m looking forward to going 🙂 though instead of just staying in the city, I’ll be in Bolivia for a little under a month, and I’ll be trekking across most of it (woop!) I digress, thank you 🙂

    1. Sorry, for the late reply to your comment. I missed it somehow.

      I hope that you have the very best of experiences that Bolivia has to offer! Thanks for the comment.

  8. Philip Squire says:

    I don’t speak a word of Spanish (to my shame) but even I managed to find my way around on public buses during the four days I spent in La Paz. It simply is not true that “you will have to take a taxi” from the airport to the city: there are minibuses aplenty. The only problem is having small enough change to pay for the ride.

    There is safety in numbers and in having the element of surprise. If you are one of the last to get on a public bus going somewhere there is no practical risk of the other passengers being involved in a conspiracy to do anyone harm. In the unlikely event the driver tried to empty the bus of other customers to effect a (very slow) kidnap, you can just get off too.

    For reference, the minibuses into the city tend not to stop before they get to the cathedral (not least because the motorway goes most of the way there); the old, short, American buses ply fixed routes (generally straight up and down from the station through the financial district and down to Sur); the minibuses follow the route yelled by the chap hanging out of the door. The last of these has the highest risk of any mishap as the routes can change according to who gets on, but if in doubt, just don’t get on.

    Finally, I am a little uncomfortable at introducing a city by what may go wrong. There has been a shooting a week in Luton since the beginning of the year (16 of them) yet no-one would begin a description of the place with that fact. La Paz is an extraordinary city full of great, cheap food and bonkers festivals, where I’ve seen traffic stop because an old woman dropped some oranges. It is also dirt poor and contains some desperate people. If you want to sample the nightlife go with other people from a hostel. Only an idiotic 20 year old goes out in an unfamiliar city by themselves and gets drunk enough not to have their wits about them. If you wouldn’t do it in London or Paris, why do it in La Paz?

    1. Thanks for the comment, and I agree with you -dangerous things happen everywhere. As I said in the article I have been robbed in my home city in the UK more times than I have ever been robbed travelling, and it is not nice to introduce a city by what may go wrong. However, I saw many young girls going out by themselves in La Paz and I heard at least 3 stories about young girls alone in taxis in the city – all in the space of my 3 week stay. One of these girls was a friend at the hostel I was staying at: she was not idiotic at all, she had just had enough to drink to lower her inhibitions but she was by no means drunk. We had been drinking a few beers at the hostel and got into taxis to go out and she ended up alone when everybody piled into the first few taxis. She just got into the next one waiting outside the hostel and assumed that the taxi would follow the other two that were right infront of her, and she knew that the club was only a 5 min ride away. I think many other people (male or female) would have done the same. I merely wanted my post to highlight potential danger to other travellers. As I also stated in my post: I loved La Paz and had a great time there. I never felt unsafe.

      Using the minibuses is a good option if you can navigate the system. I arrived at 5am in the morning and a taxi was the only option to get into the city from the bus station at that time, but the minibus would be great when available.

  9. Elizabeth Smith says:

    I was in La Paz last year and had horrible experiences there and in Santa Cruz in the bolivian lowlands. In La Paz i witnessed a couple get beaten and mugged at gun point outside my down town 5 star hotel. No one did anythingI was later told people have the fear of being shot for trying to help. Later after leaving a club in south La Paz the taxi driver took me up to El Alto area of La Paz where i was forced to give all my belongings at gun point. He then beat me with his gun and left me outside at alone at night. I was able to return safely a few hours later by taking a risk and flagging down another taxi to ask for help. The police did nothing when I went to denounce the mugging they asked me for 100 bolivianos which is about 15 dollars to fill out the report to pay for ink and paper. I left La Paz the next day. Went to Santa Cruz where i must say i experienced a horrific homicide close to my hotel in down town Santa Cruz, told by locals that it was drug related. Bolivia is a beautiful country to visit but very unsafe especially when traveling alone.

    1. Wow! Your experience is very traumatic, and a harrowing reminder that travel can be very dangerous at times. I think it was the El Alto area that my friend was taken to in a taxi – thankfully the driver was happy with the 500 bolivianos that she offered, your story tells me that it could have been worse. I think it is important that we share these stories, as I meet many travellers who think that they are safe to do as they wish when they are overseas. Sadly, the reality is that we are vulnerable. And our ‘wealth’ is a target in poorer countries.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, and I hope that you never have experiences like these again.

  10. Christina says:

    Hi, I’m heading to La Paz at the end of August and meeting a friend there. However, I’m getting a flight from Lima to La Paz, which arrives in La Paz around 1am. I have been trying to find a hotel or hostel which has a 24hr check in just for that night (but curently struggling a little!!), but now I’m panicked about getting a taxi from the airport to a hotel/hostel.

    Is there anything anyone would recommend? Unfortunately I fall into the 20-something girl on their own category. I don’t particularly want to hang around in the airport all night!

    Any advice much appreciated! Thanks!

    1. Hi.

      Is there any way your friend could meet you at the airport? Of course, this is not recommended if your friend is also a girl on her own. If not, you could try and find a hostel that might offer an airport pick-up. It might even be worth paying more for your hotel if they offer this service. You could stay one night and then go to the cheaper places the following day. The airport should also have airport taxis, these are most likely to be more expensive – but I would never put a price on my safety especially when travelling that time of night.

      You could try somewhere like Loki. It is a party hostel, but HostelWorld says they have a 24 hour reception and airport transfers. You could email them and ask what they recommend to get you there safely.

      Hope this helps! Let me know how you get on.

      1. Christina says:

        Thanks very much. I will definitely look at the Loki hostel, as an airport pick-up seems ideal.
        My friend won’t be arriving in La Paz until later that day-I suspect I’ll be ready to see a familiar face by then!

        Thanks again,. Christina

  11. sophie says:

    wow, I am so glad I found this post.
    My friend and I (both 20 something girls) are planning a 3 month trip round south america (a little brazil, all of bolivia, some peru and all of colombia).
    I have been so excited about bolivia and la paz, however…. having just received the new lonely planet Bolivia book my excitement has turned to anxiety, and I have even thought about skipping bolivia all together.
    I am not new to travelling and have spent time travelling around india, and two separate backpacking trips to south east asia.
    Also, I speak fluent spanish.
    I am just so worried about this taxi situation, and do you think 2 girls is better than 1? or is it just as bad?
    Desperately don’t want to boycott Bolivia, I am much more confident traveler than my friend, and the fact that Im freaked out, basically, freaks me out.

    1. Elizabeth Smith says:

      Sophie, Bolivia was a fascinating experience, very beautiful and very rich in culture. The topography seen there is like no other my mouth literately dropped when I first arrived in La Paz I must say one of South America’s MOST BEAUTIFUL cities, however I did witness a mugging and beating the first night I arrived in there and a few days later I myself was mugged and beaten. My advise is go and experience La Paz it was an amazing city but DO NOT wonder alone at night.
      I did visit Santa Cruz which reminded me of Brazil; very fast pace, beautiful people, modern yet very colonial (kind of hard to explain that one), amazing night life … however DANGEROUS. The travel alert has all Bolivian cities at a moderate crime rate while Santa Cruz at very high crime rate. I witnessed a murder there in the main plaza. ( I heard the gun shot, then people running, minutes after a crowd surrounded the body I did not want to get any closer I was about 50 feet away) Locals said the city has been living a huge drug cartel crime wave there for the past few years already.
      I recommend the city of Cochabamba which is home to the largest statue of Christ in the world even bigger then Rio’s in Brazil. I felt very safe there and in my opinion the most beautiful city in Bolivia.
      Sorry I kinda went all over the place lol
      to sum everything up GO TO BOLIVIA, we only live once!

    2. Hey,

      Thanks for your question. Don’t boycott Bolivia, I had many of my best experiences in Bolivia, just stay on your guard.

      You speak Spanish, which will certainly help as you can shout out for help, or go to the police if necessary. Most crime is opportunistic, so people will choose the easiest target: women travelling alone, people who can’t speak the language, people who are drunk… You can avoid these things by staying together as much as possible, speaking Spanish when you are out in areas that seem shady (or not speaking at all, which is what my boyfriend & I did as we don’t speak Spanish), and controlling how much your drink (or having an allocated person who drinks less each night to watch out for the other).

      When it comes to the taxis, take some time to gauge what the locals are doing. Never take the first taxi you see, especially if the taxi driver is yelling at you, or hassling you. Never agree to share a taxi with somebody else (a common scam in Bolivia). If you are really unsure, walk to a reputable looking hotel and ask them to call a taxi for you.

      Keep your wits about you. Bolivia is beautiful, enjoy it!

  12. Laly says:

    Best informative post I have seen about Bolivia. only, with all the comments and experiences shared here, I do not want to go anymore. I am a single mum 40, I will be traveling with my 2 daughters 11 & 16. I am not a typical backpacker so no sure that put me in a better or worst place.
    I was planning to spend at least 6 months to a year in South America starting with Bolivia (90 days) ; but with all these stories, I am completely freaked out for my kids and I am thinking of going to Spain instead (to improve our Spanish). 🙁

    1. I am sorry to hear that you are worried about Bolivia, but it is important (especially with kids) to choose your destinations carefully.

      Your kids sound old enough to be informed of any possible dangers, and the fact that you are considering taking them there implies that you are already a seasoned traveller. Both of these things will be a great benefit in Bolivia. You also say that you wish to improve your spanish, so I guess that you already have some of the language. Also a great help!

      My parents took my 9 year old sister to Romania many years ago, against the good advice of plenty of others. They weighed up all of the advice and went with their instinct. Of course, it all ended up being fine (as it does for most people, most of the time).

      I wrote this post to give my version of my time in La Paz, a city that I really enjoyed visiting. I can not with certainty say “It is safe”, but neither could I say that of London, Paris or New York. I can merely advise about scenarios that might arise.

      You can choose what is best for your daughters. Often problems arise when alcohol is involved, which seems unlikely in your case, and I doubt that you (or they) will be travelling alone at any point. I don’t have children, so can’t be too much of an authority on this matter, but don’t be put off by stories. There will always be scaremongers and bad experiences. Could you get in touch with any other travellers with children perhaps?

      Thanks for the comment.

  13. Isabel says:

    Hi, I am from La Paz Bolivia, and I think this article is not fair, because La Paz is a very magical place, and it´s safe, but there are some jackass trying to steal, anyway, what I would recommend is to never accept a drink from someone you don´t know, and never take a taxi alone.
    It´s a marvelous place, you shouldn´t be scared to come here, it´s not as scary as this article says.

    1. I think that you have missed the point of the post. I said that I do not mean to put anybody off visiting La Paz (it was actually one of my favourite places in South America), and that I did not feel threatened there at any point. if you read the replies I have made to the comments you will see that I have said these things over and over again.

      I agree with your comment: don’t take a drink from someone you don’t know, and don’t take a taxi alone. This is exactly what the article itself says.

      However, it is true that as a tourist (not a local), you are more vulnerable to scams and dangers. The stories in the article are true, and happened to people I met while spending 1 week in La Paz. Maybe it was a bad week, who knows? But the fact is that there was a higher concentration of these stories in La Paz than in other places that I visited in South America. This is why I wrote the article.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. Jess says:

        You are putting people off by the comments you heard about young girls who didn’t use their smarts when visiting a new country though. What happened to them could happen as easily in New York City or in Brazil or Colombia where crime is higher. I am a native washingtonian in her 30’s with parents from La Paz, Bolivia. Have been going there since I was a young child and have NEVER experienced any problem or theft when I was there. Why? Because I don’t go into a big city and ride a taxi alone to a club late at night or party like a wild girl with unknown local boys. Common sense!

        1. Hi, thank you for your comment. I do not mean to put people off La Paz – quite the opposite, in fact – I loved La Paz and want other female travellers to have an equally amazing experience. However, the examples that I gave were not stories I heard on the grapevine, but things that happened to girls I spoke to. Two of them I had been travelling with for a few weeks. The girl in the article was not partying with unknown local boys, she was out with us but we got separated. A group of local boys saw her alone, surrounded her and tried to push her into a car. We spent hours searching all the bars for her after we lost her, including calling up hospitals and police stations. She returned to the hostel about 15 hours later covered in blood from where they had dragged her across the ground and tried to push her into the car. I know that things could easily happen in other cities, but they also happen in La Paz. All I wanted to do was remind people to use their common sense, that’s all.

  14. Elise says:

    Wow I really like this post!
    I’m going to La Paz too. I’m 18 and also traveling alone… I’m still a bit scared, because it is the first time I’m traveling alone and I don’t speak Spanish :/
    I’m arriving 5.30 am at the airport and I will be picked up by Loki Hostel, so I don’t have to worry about that right?
    When I’m in the city I think I’ll take a city tour first, so I’ll get to know the city a bit.
    I hope I’ll be safe! I’m really looking forward to it 🙂

    1. You will be fine with Loki picking you up, so you don’t have to worry about that at all. Loki is a lively hostel so you will have no problems finding groups of people to hang out with. Walking around the city during the day is absolutely fine, and I had no problems walking around at night either – but stick to well-lit areas, and avoid walking by yourself if you’ve had a few drinks. Just be sensible, especially if you do go out after dark by yourself – maybe get Loki to order you a taxi if you are going somewhere.

      You will have a wonderful time, the city is really interesting and there is nowhere else like it! Have fun!

  15. Nicolas says:

    Hi everybody,

    I live in LP and taxis are a problem for us too but you can download the app Easytaxi and youll get a taxi with all the info, name, photo, description, etc.
    Please come to my city, its a beautiful place, full of surprises ( some of them are not too nice, but hey, i ve been robed in Paris).
    According to this site, we’re one of the 7 most amazing cities in world and maybe they are right.

    1. I really liked La Paz, it was such an interesting city to explore. And you are right about safety, my boyfriend was robbed twice in Stockholm which is often hailed as a safe city.

  16. Victoria says:

    You dont know what you are taking about

    1. Would you like to elaborate?

  17. says:

    im 13 and ive been to la paz so many times and nothing bad has ever happened to me. but my mom did get mugged like 4 times when she lived there. La Paz is a great place if you know how to get around. and heres a tip: be very polite to cholitas

    1. I’m pleased to hear that you have always been safe in La Paz, despite your mum’s experiences. I probably would have been terrified in La Paz at 13!

  18. Another alarmist post about dangers in La Paz. I’ve been living here for years now and never experienced worse than a pickpocket.

    Crime is worse here than most western cities, but La Paz is actually pretty safe by South American standards. Lima, Buenos Aires, Quito, Bogota and pretty much everywhere in Brazil are far worse. Even Santa Cruz in Bolivia is far worse than La Paz. Lonely Planet and various bloggers have been exaggerating the dangers of this largely peaceful city for years.

    Taxis can be an issue, so best to use Easy Taxi app, or get a hotel to order you one. Flagging off the street is an acceptable risk if they are radio cabs, ie with a company name and phone number. Never take a ride with the touts waiting outside bus stations, particularly cementerio.

    The taxis who queue up outside the party hostels like Wild Rover and Loki are known and vetted by the hostel owners. They’ll likely overcharge tourists and try to sell them coke but nothing more.

    Walking alone after dark is safe up until a certain time. When the streets become empty then it is potentially dangerous so one should consider a taxi.

    1. It was not intended to be an alarmist post – as said in the article, I did not personally feel intimidated in the city and did not have a negative experience. In fact, I liked the city very much. The purpose of my article was not to put people off, but to remind women in particular to keep a clear mind as the fact remains that in the week I was there 3 individual women I personally met had a bad experience in a taxi (one of whom was picked up right outside the door of Wild Rover and taken to a mountain top and robbed with the indication that worse would happen if she had nothing to hand over, so I have good grounds to question their vetting system).

      The experience of a solo woman travelling in La Paz is very different to a male living there, and I just wanted to ensure that other women are aware of possible dangers. This post is not really aimed at a male who lives and knows the city well.

  19. Leena says:

    Well I am in a volunteer program about to finish my second month here and so far so good. I’ve been out many times very late at night an nothing has happened to me. Very safe in my opinion. I only got robbed once in guadalajare mexico, very bad experience. But nothing more in Latin America. La Paz is so far my favorite city in the Americas, something I found is that the only dangerous places are the north end parts of the cities, like around the bus terminal or the cathedral at night. All else is fine 😉

  20. Camila says:

    believe me the people in Bolivia are really friendly if you get lost everybody will help you almost that is what happened to me also La Paz is one of the 7 WONDER CITIES AROUND THE WORD so I think that everybody will enjoy it as I did .

    1. Absolutely agree – La Paz is one of the most unique and fascinating cities I have ever been to.

  21. Jess says:

    La Paz is full of friendly people just don’t gawk and stare at everything like it’s weird. Be nice and polite and people will be the same. If you are new to the country find a spanish/english speaking tour guide, there are plenty, for advice. If you are a young girl avoid riding a cab late at night to clubs like those irrational girls in the article did. Avoid hanging out too late at night because the streets empty quickly after 9 pm since the majority of Bolivians are business people who wake at 4am and go to bed early at night. Hang out with people you know and trust just like any other city really! Trust me, I’ve been going there since I was a child and now I am in my 30’s! Born in Washington with parents from la paz and I LOVE it there! I actually prefer it despite living in the nations capital.

    1. Thank you, common sense is key when travelling anywhere really. Just to reiterate, one of the girls in my story was not irrational – she got separated from our group and was approached by a gang of local lads. Another girl in the story had her taxi infiltrated in the middle of the day – hardly her fault. Of the three, I admit that one was drunk and got into a taxi alone, which is, of course, irresponsible, and this is why I feel it is important to write about these incidents; simply to act as a reminder for common sense. I do not mean anybody to be paranoid or afraid at all – just be sensible.

  22. says:

    Truly when someone doesn’t know after that its up to other people
    that they will help, so here it happens.

  23. J says:

    Thanks for increasing awareness, RB. The most important takeaway from this appears not so much to be statistics, but rather, the TYPE of crimes prevalent in the area. Scams tend to be similar in certain regions, so if a traveler knows about them, they know what to avoid. For example, the runaway tuk tuk taxis in Bangkok that take you to way too many suit and jewelry stores instead of your intended destination, the tea house/art gallery/Kung fu shows in Shanghai and Beijing that leave you with a whopping $1,000 bill at the end, the small car priced drinks in the moulin rouge Paris, the “papyrus” scrolls for sale in Egypt that are really made of banana leaves, and the straight up kidnapping by taxi in Mexico City. Not surprisingly, the closest scam to La Paz crime is the one in the fellow Latin American country.

    All said, I think that safety is about equal parts of education, common sense/awareness, and the appearance one has (female/male, dark or light skinned, etc). Be wary, but don’t let it cripple a trip either. Find a balance.

  24. Cooper says:

    I have not heard from my bf since yesterday morning, and he was supposed to call me then. I’m really starting to get worried. Does anyone have any idea what I can do? He’s by himself, 31 quite a big guy and he’s been to many places. He’s only planning to spend 2 days in La Paz, which he should be leaving today. But I just can’t reach him. Please help if you can.

    1. Hi, I’m sorry to hear this. Do you know which hotel/hostel he is staying at? You could call them and ask if he is there. There is a tendency in some of the hostels for people to drink far more than they should, or even take cocaine – it is possible that he could be suffering the after effects of a wild night. If this seems unlikely, or too long a time has passed then maybe you could try contacting the relevant embassy in the city to see if they can find any leads. Please let me know when you hear from him.

  25. This Beautiful city surrounded by mountains. I think this is the good place to visit

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