La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, while Sucre is the constitutional capital. Altitude of the city ranges from about 4,058 m (13,313 ft) above sea level in El Alto to 3,100 m (10,170 ft) in the lower residential area.
While many middle-class paceños live in high-rise condos near the center, the wealthy live in the lower neighborhoods southwest of the Prado, since the lower you go in the city the milder the weather is.
The city's main thoroughfare, which roughly follows the Choqueyapu River, changes names over its length, but the central tree-lined section running through the downtown core is called the Prado.
El Alto International Airport, with local, regional and international servicce, is the world's highest international airport; at 13,313 ft/4,058m above sea level.
Most international flights will stop in Santa Cruz to pick up or drop off passengers. American Airlines is currently the only U.S. carrier serving Bolivia, with one daily flight from Miami.
There are three types of 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". 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!"
The easiest way to get around is by taxi. They aren't metered, so agree on a fare before boarding.
Walking is a great way to get around La Paz. If you ever get lost, just walk downhill. You will eventually find yourself on the Prado or another main avenue, where you'll be able to take a taxi downtown, if you are on the southside of the city (Zona sur).
A few things to see and do in La Paz:
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: Fascinating rock formations, just outside the city. Take a local bus or taxi, or join a tour.
The Thursday & Sunday Market in El Alto: Great bargains including vintage clothing, antiques, everyday goods.
Museum of Contemporary Art: The permanent collection upstairs contain many works by renowned Aymara painter Mamani Mamani. The downstairs gallery containing work by students and up-and-comers is free.
Coca Museum: A favorite of foreign tourists, this small museum details the history and significance of the coca plant, including the effect of the U.S. War on Drugs.
Museum of Precious Metals: Pre-Columbian treasures in silver and gold.
Bolivian Andean Textile Museum: Exhibits a large variety of textiles and weavings from all the bolivian andean communities. Also includes a shop (90% of your purchase belongs to the artists) and it is located at lovely home in Miraflores.
La Paz is generally quite safe, but use common sense. Don't cooperate with "plainclothes policemen" until and unless they take you to a police station, as they may be imposters. Beware of bagslashers and pickpockets, and don't take unofficial "taxis", and you will be fine.
Despite being near the equator, it does occasionally snow a little in La Paz during the middle of the year, and packing some warm clothing is a must year-round.
Computer hard drives can be damaged by operating them at altitude, and so if you use a laptop computer or anything else containing a hard drive (including ipods and certain other MP3 Players), you are taking a risk of a crash and data/software loss. At the very least, you should back up your data before arriving.
The altitude of La Paz is well within the zone where altitude sickness could be a problem, especially for those arriving from at or near sea level. It's is highly recommended that you have travel insurance, learn the symptoms of altitude sickness, and inform your physician to what elevation you will be traveling. Take it easy when walking around town and don't be lured into a false sense of security just because you may be young and/or in very good physical shape. Marathon runners can get altitude sickness while those far less healthy can have few symptoms.
Properties are still affordable in Bolivia, but prices are on the rise. You can find rural properties, quintas (country homes), houses, apartments, condominiums, hotel and timeshare properties, and office spaces for sale, rent and anticrético.
Anticretico is a transaction not available in the U.S. whereby a property owner requests a "loan" from you in exchange for housing, which must be paid back to you at the end of your contract.
The average cost of living can of course vary widely depending on your lifestyle, but you can live in a spacious home and pay a housekeeper as well as dining out regularly etc. for well under $2000 US per month.
Consider brushing up on social etiquette before traveling to Bolivia.
In Bolivia culture and traditions are well ingrained. Whether you are traveling as a tourist, to do business, or to permanently relocate, learning about Bolivian culture will be very important to ensuring the success of your time there and how much you enjoy your trip.
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