Funny (and realistic!) facts about ‘Transport in La Paz’.

Sharing today a bit of feedback on what we´re calling, “our newest home”. After being in La Paz, Bolivia, for a month, our overall experience is pretty positive, which is fantastic, considering we´re still waiting for our household effects to arrive, and kids don´t have a lot of toys to play with. All in all, very positive, and we`re enjoying every moment.

Sharing today a bit of feedback on what we´re calling, “our newest home”. And thanks to Ailsa, from Where is my Backpack? for the usual inspiration! After being in La Paz, Bolivia, for over 4 months, our overall experience is pretty positive, which is fantastic, considering we´re still waiting for our household effects to arrive, and kids don´t have a lot of toys to play with. All in all, positive vibes, and we`re enjoying every moment.

20120824-182537.jpgOne thing that I find very ´peculiar´ is the traffic/transportation/driving dynamics here. Although, I shouldn´t, I suppose, after living and driving in Mozambique/South Africa/Swaziland, on the “wrong side” 😮 of the road, for some 3 years, and in Recife (Brazil), for another 2 years, nothing should come as a real surprise.

But, in fact, there´s always something new at you. And, it actually makes me laugh on any regular day: not one single dull moment throughout this beautiful city here! I was quite happy to find a post that shared similar thoughts, and am adding it here, with a few comments. My appreciation to Strolling South America, another blogger with WordPress, for sharing actual/realistic and funny facts about the ´transportation´ in La Paz! I added my comments below each original statement. Have fun reading!

Obviously, cropped the bottom of the pic… respecting the driver’s privacy… 😮


This is the quickest option. I know it’s hard to believe, but some taxi drivers overcharge foreigners, so make sure you negotiate the price before you leave. The driver can tell you’re a foreigner even if you aren’t wearing stripey hippie pants and standing by Sagarnaga street. Also, make sure it’s a licensed taxi if you don’t want to risk getting EXPRESS KIDNAPPED. If you’re lucky, the front seat will have a seat belt. The back seats will not, but take comfort in the fact that the driver isn’t wearing one either as he passes on the right and runs red lights.

Comment: Gotta love the taxis here. For a mom of 3 little ones, still waiting for our family car, I became quite dependent on taxis, know already a few companies/agencies, and even names of drivers. But the notion of strongly hugging/hauling your kids during any drive (especially the ones towards the downtown area, waving through the curves), is  let´s say, exciting, but in not a great way! Something else about the taxis here: for some reason, they don´t have a meter (!!), so, the driver has to inform the passenger about the cost. After a while, one gets to know how much a certain trip would cost, and we`re all good. But, going back to the ´lack of a meter situation´, according to one of my drivers (I´m becoming quite familiar with cab drivers here!), there´s a simple explanation: THE ALTITUDE. That´s right! The high altitude of the city would ´damage´ any meter they tried to have installed… 😮 Believe it or not, the important thing is that cab drivers and their companies swear by this quasi-fact. That said, one has to trust their driver.


You’re in the wrong city! Try Santiago, Buenos Aires, São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

Comment: Haven´t had a chance yet… Let´s wait and see what impressions come out of that!


Mini-bus in La Paz

Always wished you were a little bit taller? You won’t as your head hits the ceiling while the driver goes over a bump. More like a van than a bus, this is the most intimate of travel choices. Passengers often greet those seated with a “Buenas tardes” as they board. This is because they’re probably going to be cozily squeezed between a couple of them. Probably the safest of travel options as the driver has to frequently slow down to pick up passengers. No, there aren’t any seat belts, but if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll have to rent a car. Look at the sign in the front window to see where the bus is going. Failing that, listen for the fare collectors shouting the destinations out the open door.


Microbus in La Paz

Despite the name, microbuses are actually the largest type of intra-city transport. Usually blue or yellow, they are bigger than minibuses, but smaller than your average bus back home. When the seats fill up it’s standing room only. This is the slowest and cheapest of transport options. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really broke, or if you’re in a hurry and the minibuses and trufis are all full.


The famous “trufi”!

This is really just a mini-bus disguised as a taxi. Trufis, which also advertise their destinations with a sign in the front window, run set routes like buses, the only difference is that they’re generally a bit faster as they don’t stop as often to let people on and off. They’re ever so slightly more expensive than mini-buses, but the difference is negligible unless you’re on a really tight budget. And if you are on a really tight budget, well you knew that this job only paid 30 bolivianos an hour when you signed up.

Comment: Right now, my position is just watch, listen and learn. what I´ve learned so far? I guess that there´s a very strong possibility I won´t be riding on a Minibus or using a Trufi, as intriguing and exciting they might look to foreigner eyes… I´m fine with my taxis, for the time being… Even though, I know there´ll be no seat belts on the back seat, and there´s a great chance they won´t be able to load their trunk with my groceries, due to the tank of gas (propane, I think!) – hey, I guess it´s a cheap way to beat the economic crisis, getting more driving than with regular oil… 😮   


It was nice knowing you. It’s honestly safer to cycle on this road.

ok, ok… this is actually mountain biking… got a couple friends who’ve got a biking/sports business, so, biking is definitely part of my “TO DO” list while here!

Comment: Well… I´m actually looking forward to try that, despite a few warnings about biking in the city… Don´t have a bike yet, but it´s part of my plans… Kids need to get their bikes, as well, so, I´ll try to be a good role model, reminding myself from my biking-to-work days in Davis, CA.  Again, let´s wait to see what the future brings, but so far, I´m up for the challenge.



La Paz is a great city in which to take a stroll if you’re training for the Olympics. The altitude combined with the hills will put you in peak physical condition, which you’ll need to fight off food poisoning. The cobblestone streets can be slippery, so I wouldn’t recommend parkour. Keep in mind that crosswalks are merely for decoration.

Comment: Very true. The slippery streets and my knees have already met. Once… or twice, before. Not a fun experience, but a good lesson to learn when one goes out grocery shopping and decides to come back home (uphill) wearing boots and carrying groceries bags… Maybe, it wasn´t a smart decision from my part. From now on, I´ll stick with a cab ride on my way back from the market. Yes, those taxis, the fun ones, with no seat belts nor meters! 😮

Author: 3rdCultureChildren

Welcome! Here I am, 'releasing' my thoughts on traveling, parenting, raising TCKs, teaching, writing, working... and who knows what else! I’m a WIFE, 'geeky-stuff' SCIENTIST, TEACHER, AMATEUR photographer, MOM of 3, TRAVELER by choice and by marriage, and of course, a HOUSEHOLD QUEEN!!

21 thoughts on “Funny (and realistic!) facts about ‘Transport in La Paz’.”

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  3. I miss the La Paz traffic…Santiago has so much REAL traffic…takes forever to get across town. By the way I NEVER rode bike in La Paz…I was terrified…more power to you. Luka also never learned because we didn’t have a street for him to practice on…always had to go to a park. They don’t know how to drive with bikes on the street. Be careful! Here Luka learned after 3 days of training.


    1. We’re gonna use the BMX field for Cesar. He’s also in the learning (with training wheels) – and we need to get him off them! Marcela is also gonna learn here… let’s just see. I don’t plan on riding along with the traffic… there’s a way around Achumani… it’s a bit uphill, but once I’m back in shape…….. 😮


  4. The minibus ones have much in common with the African jobs – except that I doubt any driver there has managed to get the impossible 113 people (OK, mainly kids) into one. No, not a Microbus – just one of the glorified Combi-types! If one is going to overload, do it in style!


    1. I remember, Colonialist, the “minibuses” or “chapas” back in Maputo, Mozambique… same way you described, just less people… one time I saw the minibus/van driver fixing engine wires with scotch tape… no kidding!!! 😮 Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences… funny and interesting, right? 😮


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