Getting to La Paz is not an easy feat.
El Alto Airport (airport code LPB; tel. 0102/2810-122) is 25 minutes from the center of La Paz. A taxi ride to the city center should cost about Bs50. Most hotels will send a taxi to pick you up at the airport (when you arrive, a driver will be waiting for you with a welcome sign), but the taxi still costs about Bs55. Alternatively, you can take a minibus into the center of town. GoTransTur buses wait outside the airport (behind the taxis) and leave every 4 minutes daily from 6:15am to 9pm. The minibuses go past Plaza San Francisco and up Avenida 16 de Julio (La Paz's main street) to Plaza Isabel La Católica. The ride costs only Bs5, but the buses usually fill up, and it's hard to squeeze into the tight seats if you have luggage.
If you're arriving by bus, the main bus terminal is located on Plaza Antofagasta at the intersection of Avenida Uruguay, a short taxi ride (about 4 min.; Bs10) from the heart of town. You'll easily find a taxi outside the terminal.
By Taxi -- You will never be at a loss for a taxi in La Paz. Because unemployment is so high in Bolivia, many people have converted their cars into taxis. But beware: You'll hear sketchy stories about these rogue taxi drivers. The most reliable taxi companies display brightly lit signs with their telephone numbers on top of their taxis. Drivers don't use meters, but fares are generally fixed. Rides within the center of town or to the Sopocachi neighborhood should only cost Bs7.
By Trufi -- The streets of La Paz are clogged with trufis (minibuses), which are always packed with locals. The routes are convoluted and confusing, except in the center of town (from Plaza San Francisco to Plaza del Estudiante), where trufis travel down one street without making any turns. So, if you're in the center of town and you're planning on going straight, flag down a trufi. There are no designated stops; drivers stop when they see prospective passengers. The fare is Bs2, payable to the driver at the end of your ride. To signal that you want to get off, simply shout "Bajo" or "Me quedo aquí."
By Foot -- It's hard to walk anywhere at an altitude of 3,739m (12,264 ft.) without feeling winded. But it's especially hard to walk around La Paz, where it feels as if all the streets have a steep uphill climb. After you spend a few days acclimating to the altitude, walking gets a little easier. Still, on streets such as Calle Sagárnaga, where the number of street-side vendors is roughly equivalent to the number of pedestrians, trying to fight your way through the throngs of people can be quite a challenge. I recommend walking around the center of town; it's fascinating to see the local people on the streets. But if you have to go a long distance -- from one side of the city to another -- it's much easier on the feet and the body to take a taxi or trufi.
There are two very helpful government-run information offices in La Paz. The most centrally located office is at the end of El Prado (La Paz's main street) at Plaza del Estudiante; you can buy excellent maps here. The other office is just outside the main bus terminal. Both offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 10am to 12:30pm. Additionally, Crillon Tours, Av. Camacho 1233 (tel. 0102/2337-533, or 305/358-5353 in the U.S.), is very helpful. The agents here can arrange city tours and trips throughout Bolivia.
To exchange traveler's checks or foreign currency, your best bet is to head to one of the casas de cambio on Avenida Camacho. Two of the best are Cambios "America," Av. Camacho 1233 near the corner of Ayacucho, and the Casa de Cambio, Av. Camacho 1311 at the corner of Colón. In general, Avenida Camacho is the banking center of La Paz -- you'll find all types of ATMs here, as well as most Bolivian banks. Citibank is nearby at Av. 16 de Julio 1434 (tel. 0800/10-2000); they exchange Citibank traveler's checks for free.
In case of an emergency, call tel. 110 for the regular police. For the tourist police, call tel. 0102/2225-016. For an ambulance, call tel. 118 or 0107/1268-502. If you need medical attention, the two best hospitals in La Paz are Clínica Cemes, Av. 6 De Agosto 2881 (tel. 0102/2430-360), and Clínica del Sur, at Avenida Hernando Siles and the corner of Calle 7 in the Obrajes neighborhood (tel. 0102/2784-001). Farmacia Red Bolivia, 16 de Julio 1473 (tel. 0102/2331-838), is probably the most centrally located 24-hour pharmacy in La Paz. If you need a delivery, try calling Farmacia La Paz at tel. 0102/2371-828.
There is no lack of Internet cafes in La Paz, especially on Avenida 16 de Julio. The average cost is Bs7 an hour. You'll find the fastest Internet connections at WeBolivia, Av. 16 de Julio 1764; Punto Entel, Av. 16 de Julio 1473; and Pl@net, Calle Sagárnaga 213 at the corner of Murillo.
The main post office is in a large building on the corner of Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz and Oruro. The post office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8:30pm, Saturday from 8:30am to 6pm, and Sunday from 9am to noon.
Punto Entel is the main telephone provider in La Paz. There are two offices on El Prado: one at Mariscal Santa Cruz 1287, the other at Av. 15 de Julio 1473. You can make local, long-distance, and international calls from these offices. It costs about Bs8 per minute to call the United States -- a bargain compared to what most international companies charge. You can also buy phone cards here or at local kiosks to use the pay phones located throughout the city.