Getting there & away
The main bus terminal (Terminal de Buses; 228-0551; Plaza Antofagasta; terminal fee US$0.25) is a 15-minute uphill walk north of the city center. Fares are relatively uniform between companies. This full-service terminal serves all destinations south and east of La Paz, as well as international destinations. Other destinations are served mainly by micros and minibuses departing from the cemetery district and Villa Fátima.
Buses to Oruro run about every half hour (US$2.50 to US$7.50, 3½ hours) between 5am and 9:30pm. To Uyuni (US$10, 13 hours), Panasur buses depart every day at 7pm. Several companies serve Cochabamba (US$3.15 to US$7.50, seven to eight hours) daily. Buses to Santa Cruz generally leave in the evening at 5pm or 7pm (US$22.50, 16 hours). El Dorado runs a direct service.
Most overnight buses to Sucre (US$6.50 to US$11.50, 14 hours) pass through Potosí (US$7 to US$13, 11 hours) and some require a layover there. Have warm clothes handy for this typically chilly trip. Some Potosí buses continue on to Tarija (US$12.50 to US$27, 24 hours), Tupiza (US$12, 20 hours) or Villazón (US$12.50 to US$25, 23 hours).
Several companies offer daily departures to Arica (US$12.50, eight hours) and Iquique (US$17.50, 11 to 13 hours); to Cusco (US$15 to US$20, 12 to 17 hours) via either Desaguadero or Copacabana, with connections to Puno (US$8 to US$10, eight hours), to Lima ($82, 27 hours) and Arequipa; and to Buenos Aires (normal/bus cama or sleeper US$65/75, 50 hours), via either Villazón or Yacuiba.
Several bus companies, including Transportes 6 de Junio (245-5258), Trans Manco Capac (245-9045) and TransTurs 2 de Febrero (245-3035), run frequent services to Copacabana (US$2, three hours) between 5am and 8pm from Calle José María Aliaga near Plaza Felix Reyes Ortíz (Plaza Tupac Katari). In Copacabana, you’ll find camiones (flatbed trucks) and colectivos (minibuses or shared taxis) to Puno and beyond. Alternatively there are more comfortable tourist minibuses (US$4 to US$5, 2½ hours) that do hotel pick-ups; you can book them at any La Paz travel agency. Most companies offer daily services to Puno (with a change in Copacabana) for about US$10, including hotel pickup. The trip takes nine to 10 hours, including lunch in Copacabana and the border-crossing formalities. If a company doesn’t fill its bus, passengers may be shunted to another company so no one runs half-empty buses. All companies allow stopovers in Copacabana.
Between 5am and 6pm, Autolíneas Ingavi (José María Asín) has departures every 30 minutes to Desaguadero (US$1, two hours) via Tiahuanaco (US$1, 30 minutes) and Guaqui. Nearby is Trans-Unificado Sorata (238-1693; cnr Kollasuyo & Bustillos), which operates two daily buses to Sorata (US$1.50, 4½ hours). You need to reserve buses on weekends, so book your ticket early. Sit on the left for views. Buses to Huarina and Huatajata (US$1, two hours) leave nearby from the corner of Calles Bustillos and Kollasuyo.
Be sure to watch your bags in this area, especially while boarding or leaving buses.
Several flotas (long-distance bus companies) offer daily bus and minibus services to the Yungas and beyond. Flota Yungueña (221-3513) has two offices; the one at Yanacachi 844, behind the ex-surtidor (former gas station), serves Coroico, and the one at Las Américas 341, just north of the former gas station, serves Amazon Basin routes. Nearby Trans Totaí (San Borja), and Trans San Bartolomé (221-1674), serve Chulumani. Other companies serving the region are clustered along Virgen del Carmen, just west of Av Las Américas. Except for Rurrenabaque, most Amazon Basin routes only operate during the dry season. For all services, it’s wise to reserve seats in advance. Camiones depart from behind the gasoline station on Calle San Borja to Riberalta and Caranavi, and from nearby 15 de Abril for Chulumani and Riberalta (although nowadays, with plenty of buses, you’d be doing this for the ‘fun’ of it only).
Sample fares include Coroico (US$2, four hours), Chulumani (US$2, four hours), Guanay (US$8, eight hours), Rurrenabaque (US$7 to US$10, 18 to 20 hours), Guayaramerín (US$21.50, 35 to 60 hours), Riberalta (US$18.50, 35 to 60 hours) and Cobija (US$26.50, 50 to 80 hours).
La Paz’s old train station is now defunct (although rumors of restarting a La Paz to Arica or La Paz to Tiahuanaco ferrobus – passenger rail bus – linger). Trains for Chile and the Argentine border, via Uyuni and/or Tupiza, all leave from Oruro. For information and bookings, contact the Empresa Ferroviaria Andina (FCA; 241-6545/46; www.fca.com.bo, in Spanish; Guachalla 494; ticket office 8am-noon Mon-Sat).
El Alto International Airport (LPB; 281-0240) is 10km via toll-road from the city center on the Altiplano. At 4050m, it’s the world’s highest international airport; larger planes need 5km of runway to lift off and must land at twice their sea-level velocity to compensate for the lower atmospheric density. Stopping distance is much greater too, and planes are equipped with special tires to withstand the extreme forces involved.
Airport services include a newsstand, ATMs, internet, souvenir stores, a bookstore, a coffee shop, fast food, a bistro and a duty-free shop in the international terminal. The currency exchange desk outside the international arrivals area gives poor rates on traveler’s checks – if possible, wait until you’re in town. The domestic departure tax is US$1.30, while the international departure tax is US$25.
AeroSur (231-1333, 244-4930; www.aerosur.com; Edificio Petrolero, 16 de Julio 1616)
Amaszonas (222-0840/48; Saavedra 1649, Miraflores)
Grupo Taca (231-3132; www.taca.com; Edificio Petrolero, 16 de Julio 1616)
Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB; 237-1024; Camacho 1460) At the time of research, the company was headed for a financial crash landing. Check on its status before booking.
TAM Mercosur (244-3442; www.tam.com.py, in Spanish; Gutiérrez 2323)
Transportes Aéreos Militares (TAM; 212-1582, 212-1585, TAM airport 284-1884; Montes 738)