Health & safety
In 2005–06 there were several particularly nasty incidents involving travelers on micros (public minibuses) and taxis – where lifts were offered – between Desaguadero and La Paz, and Copacabana and La Paz. Syndicates, posing as fellow passengers, kidnapped and held tourists bound and blindfolded for over 24 hours while their bank accounts were depleted to the maximum amount permitted. While police have claimed to have caught most of the culprits, travelers are encouraged to take the formal tourist buses and not to accept offers of lifts from the border at Desaguadero. Formal buses drop passengers at major hotels such as those in Calle Illampu, and can be organized through any of the tour agencies in Copacabana. The cost is slightly higher (US$3) but is worth the investment.
Tourists should also be especially careful during festivals. Stand well back during fireworks displays, when explosive fun seems to take priority over crowd safety, and be wary of light-fingered revelers.
The thin air and characteristically brilliant sunshine in this area combine to admit scorching levels of ultraviolet radiation. To minimize the risk, wear a hat, especially when you’re out on the water.
There is a basic hospital on the southern outskirts of town with medical and dental facilities, but for serious situations don’t think twice – head straight to La Paz.
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