If you’re going to visit La Paz Bolivia, you need to know that most parts of the city are actually dangerous for tourists and people that don’t know too much about this place. The city has large areas and neighborhoods where you can be very safe, but in most parts of it, you’ll need to be very cautious.
La Paz of Bolivia is in most of its parts a dangerous city to stay in for tourists. But it’s very safe, even at night, in the next zones: San Miguel, Calacoto, Sopocachi, and Miraflores. It’s also generally safe across the South Zone and the Central Zone (this last zone is not safe at night).
Here we will talk about how safe La Paz city, located in Bolivia, is, when you are visiting it as a tourist or when you don’t know too much about how to move inside. We have lived all our lives in the country, so we know almost every risk that you may encounter when visiting this main city of Bolivia.
A general overview of how safe La Paz City actually is
La Paz in Bolivia is in general a dangerous city for tourists because you are at risk of becoming the target of thefts, grabbers, and robbers. Despite this, you have almost a zero chance of being killed, unless you are in the outskirts of both La Paz and El Alto cities.
Furthermore, the risk of being kidnapped is generally low across the city, you have almost zero chances of being in this situation if you are outside during the day, but not at night, when it’s more likely for this to happen. In some parts, you will be safe even at night, but in most parts of the city, being outside alone at night can be quite threatening for your possessions and even your life.
La Paz city is not as dangerous as other cities located in South America. For example, if you compare it with some cities of Mexico or Brazil, where in some neighborhoods you can be killed or kidnapped very easily, in La Paz is very difficult for this to happen, but in the outskirts of the city, very near to rural areas, if you are at night in these places, or in the wrong streets during the day, you can be also the victim of potential tragedies.
Otherwise, if you are in wealthy zones and neighborhoods, where many expats from the first world also live, like San Miguel, Calacoto, or Sopocachi, and with a little bit more danger, Miraflores, even late at night, you have almost zero risk of being assaulted or face dangerous threats from bad people.
El Alto City is more dangerous
As a tourist or if you do not know too much about how to live in the main cities of Bolivia, we don’t recommend you to go to El Alto City (unless you are with the proper guide). The whole city is quite dangerous for tourists. In this city, you should only be near the airport and cable car stations. No neighborhood is safe enough for tourists in El Alto.
Don’t even think of being in the city at night, it’s really dangerous and your life may be at risk. People don’t even bother hurting you at night, because they may think that you are a robber or you are hiding something else. It’s also quite common to see, even in the very center of El Alto city (La Ceja) and during the day, people being assaulted or stabbed in some cases.
Maybe after some months or years living in La Paz, you may be able to visit these parts of the cities without too much trouble, like natives normally do. Grabbers, kidnappers, and similar bad people can very easily spot a naive tourist and make him their target.
The safest parts and neighborhoods of La Paz
As we just said, 4 neighborhoods in La Paz are very safe for tourists. These areas are also the main destination for first-world expats and foreigners coming to live in the city:
- San Miguel
1) San Miguel
San Miguel is the safest neighborhood that exists in La Paz Bolivia, it is both a commercial and residential wealthy zone, which is also quite crowded at night, even on Sundays. Many people from overseas and hundreds of expats from the first world live in this neighborhood, along with Calacoto.
When you are in this neighborhood, you will feel as if you were in an urban area in the United States. The safety is high there, a lot of policemen and safety devices, like hidden cameras and safe doors, are present. Also, it’s very uncommon to see gangs, groups of robbers, or drunk people being there.
There are many hotels and resorts in San Miguel, also many high-quality Airbnbs. They will cost you from 30% to 100% more than if you choose your place to stay in the Central Zone of La Paz or in tourist areas around the Witches Market, where a lot of hotels, and hostels of all types exist. But we think your safety is really worth the extra price you’ll pay.
This is the largest, very safe place you will find in La Paz city. It’s a more residential but somewhat commercial neighborhood right next to San Miguel, in which a lot of foreigners (a few thousand), most of them from the first world, currently live. There are also many highrises, malls, and different kinds of entertainment inside this hood, several hotels and Airbnbs also present there.
Calacoto is a neighborhood for wealthy people, so neighbors there take many precautions to ensure that it’s a safe place to live in. There are a lot of policemen, hidden cameras, and constant patrol of the streets and it’s very safe to walk outside late at night. It’s also very difficult to find gangs, drunks, or bad people there. This is why so many expats have chosen this neighborhood to settle in.
If you stay or live in Calacoto, you will feel as safe as if you were in a town in the US, also, you will be surrounded by people with an income over $1,500/month, which is a high income for the Bolivian standards, houses there also cost on average $1 million. You will feel as if you were in the first world in this neighborhood.
Look for example at the Airbnbs that you can find in this neighborhood in this Airbnb link:
Calacoto is considered the most residential and luxurious neighborhood of the whole city, it’s for wealthy Bolivian people, and for first-world expats. There you’ll enjoy a lifestyle that you could find in the first world, having all the proper safety measures that you would expect.
This neighborhood is located far away from the other 2 ones mentioned above, it’s very close to the center of the city, near to for example Murillo Square, witches market, El Prado, etcetera. But it’s also a residential neighborhood for wealthy people, not as residential as San Miguel and Calacoto, but still, a good neighborhood to live or stay in.
The US embassy, among others like the Brazilian embassy, is located inside this neighborhood. It also has many green areas and entertainment places. It’s a very safe place to be both during the day and at night. It’s only 10 minutes by car away from the historical center of La Paz and has many hotels of several stars, also many Airbnbs.
High-income people of Bolivia live there, mostly people that want to be very close to the downtown of the city. It’s very difficult to find robbers and grabbers there, except for the Avaroa square, where you need to be a little bit more cautious at night, some gangs are normally there at this time of the day. But beyond that, this neighborhood is generally very safe and we recommend it for you to stay in.
This is another, in general very safe, neighborhood that you can find in La Paz, which is also very near to the historical center of the city (10 minutes away). Miraflores is very safe during the day, but not as safe as you would expect at night, so be careful during this time. Enough hotels and Airbnbs are also present there.
This is a residential neighborhood where you can find good, educated, and wealthy people living there, it’s not known for being dangerous for natives, also you won’t find many gangs and bad people currently on its streets, but be careful to go up the streets towards the Villa Fatima neighborhood, which has many hidden dangers and threats.
If you stay in Villaroel Square and the streets and avenues below, like Bush Avenue, the stadium of La Paz (which is in this neighborhood), and the Triangular Square, you will be just fine during the day, but be still cautious at night. Don’t go beyond the Villaroel square right into Villa Fatima, you’ll find many threats in the streets above.
There are many hotels and Airbnb hosts inside these neighborhoods, but they are more expensive than in other locations within the city (30% to 100% more costly), but we think that is worth the price for you of being in a safer neighborhood.
Other relatively safe areas of La Paz
All the neighborhoods mentioned above are very safe, even late at night (except for Miraflores). You wouldn’t expect any trouble there and you will feel as if you were in the first world. But there are also other relatively safe places, not as safe but still safe enough, which we are going to talk about next.
The rest of the South Zone
The following neighborhoods and places are located in the South Zone of La Paz:
- Los Pinos
- La Florida
- Cota Cota
- San Jorge
- La Florida
- Calacoto (already mentioned)
- San Miguel (already mentioned)
Almost all the neighborhoods in the list above are surrounding Calacoto and San Miguel, so you can see how well-guarded these 2 neighborhoods are. Even more, almost all these hoods (except for Obrajes and San Jorge, which are next to Sopocachi) are in the denominated “South Zone” of La Paz city.
The South Zone is a vast area of La Paz, with better weather than the rest of the city, because it’s located at a lower altitude, and it’s also the preferred zone for Paceños that have reached better incomes. These neighborhoods are also quite safe, but not safe enough to allow you to do your activities and walk outside without any worry.
In fact, almost all the neighborhoods that surround Calacoto and San Miguel are quite safe but not as safe as these 2 ones, also are habited only by Bolivians. You really can notice the difference, expats from the first world choose almost only either Calacoto and San Miguel to live in, and not zones like Los Pinos, Cota Cota, La Florida, etcetera.
Why are these neighborhoods more risky and less safe?
Well, the neighborhoods in the list above are still a mix of poor and rich people from La Paz. So these areas have more risk because of poor people living inside, also drunks, gangs, and grabbers are more significantly present there. Another important aspect is that these zones are mostly only for living and not too commercial, so they are more empty and then dangerous at night.
There are also way fewer hotels, resorts, hostels, or Airbnbs in these other hoods. So in summary, you should feel relatively safe in these areas, but still be cautious, mostly at night. There is more risk in the areas and hoods surrounding Calacoto and San Miguel.
What about Obrajes and San Jorge?
These 2 neighborhoods are very close to Sopocachi. Even more, some embassies are there (also some embassies are in the La Florida neighborhood, but La Florida is very empty the whole day, then is more dangerous).
The US embassy is on the border between Sopocachi and San Jorge neighborhoods. But San Jorge, beyond the Arce Av. (the main avenue of this hood) it’s quite an empty place to be in, being riskier at night, but not that risky during the day.
Obrajes is again a neighborhood that is a mix of rich and poor people. It’s more like a passing neighborhood that connects the South Zone and the Central Zone of La Paz, then, it’s also quite empty but generally is very safe if you are over the 24 de Septiembre Av. and its surroundings.
The historical downtown of the city
The following zones and places are located in the central part of La Paz city:
- The Central Zone
- Tourist places
The historical center, also the financial center of La Paz, is located at the very center of the city. Important tourist places are located inside this area which normally is called by natives the Central Zone (la Zona Central). The following well-known places are located in this zone:
- The Murillo square
- The Witches Market (Brujas Market)
- The San Francisco church
- The Prado of la Paz
- The government buildings
- The Banking Avenue (Camacho av.)
- The Comercio street
- The President Hotel
- The Jaen Street
- Many museums of different types
So, this area of La Paz is heavily visited by tourists, but for this reason, it has become the place where most robbers and scammers specialized in targeting foreigners and tourists operate. Then, you need to be especially careful in this area, on both days and nights, but be way more careful at night.
During the day, if you take the proper precautions, you take care of your stuff, you don’t accept anything from strangers, you don’t go to isolated streets, don’t hang out alone (for example, recently, we have heard about assaults being occurring in the Jaen street), if you follow the advice of your tourist guide, etcetera, you will be just fine.
But late at night, even walking outside in this zone is dangerous, so, just don’t do it for your own security. In some cases, gangs even have killed people late hours at night in El Prado and surrounding areas. You should always leave this zone before 9:00 p.m. unless you really know what you’re doing.
Beyond 9:00 p.m. the Central Zone is way more dangerous. Main avenues there become empty and normally you can see gangs, drunk and drugged people, little policemen, homeless people, and even foreigners from other South American countries, many of them drunk or drugged.
The Central Zone of La Paz city is significantly more dangerous at night, and without proper precautions, also during the day. This zone is where thieves that target tourists are mostly present. Don’t stay outside there beyond 9:00 p.m.
What about other tourist places?
Places like the Moon’s Valley, the Devil’s Tooth, the cable car and its routes, the Triplet Bridges, etcetera, which are outside the Central Zone, are in all cases quite dangerous at night, and during the day, they are also very risky if you’re alone or if you don’t follow the advice of your tourist guide.
For example, the cable car has some routes that end up in very dangerous zones, where you will easily become the target of robbers. Another example is the Moon’s Valley. You must never be at night or alone in this place. We can guarantee you that it will end up very badly for you because it’s an empty place where robbers and drugged people sleep.
Similar important precautions need to be taken in all the tourist places outside the Central Zone of La Paz, you should always follow the instructions of your tourist guide, be there during the day, not alone, always with your group of tourist peers, never accept anything from a stranger, etcetera.
The rest of La Paz is quite dangerous
Beyond the neighborhoods and zones that we have mentioned in the sections above, the rest of La Paz city is quite dangerous, both during the day and night. All the rest neighborhoods and places we didn’t mention before need to be taken with serious caution when you go or are in them.
These quite dangerous places (the not mentioned left areas of La Paz) are:
- San Pedro Zone
- The North Zone (bus station is there)
- Any Villa of La Paz (Villa Fátima, Villa Victoria, Villa Copacabana etcétera).
- The Buenos Aires Zone (near The Witches Market)
- The Cementerio Zone
- Any neighborhood located on the slopes of the city.
- Achumani, Irpavi 2, Chasquipampa, and nearby neighborhoods.
- Mallasa, Mallasilla, La Paz zoo.
- Any other area not mentioned before.
These large areas and neighborhoods of La Paz, are in general poor zones, and in some cases, pre-rural hoods, where foreigners, in general, are not welcome. People in these places will see you with a lot of suspicion. Robbers and grabbers will target you pretty fast there. Also, many dangerous gangs are operating in these hoods, being way more dangerous than in the Central Zone.
Also, among these places, there are some red neighborhoods, like the Buenos Aires Zone, the Cementerio Zone, and most of the Villas, where every corner is quite, quite dangerous. You may enter a building in these red areas and never come back, we’re being very serious about this risk.
We don’t recommend you to go to these places and neighborhoods, unless you have a very good reason and you know what you’re doing, also with the proper guide. In general, you need to know a lot more about La Paz and its hidden risks if you want to visit these places.
The whole of El Alto City is also quite dangerous
You may know about El Alto City, which is the 3rd largest city in Bolivia. Well, the whole city is pretty dangerous for people from overseas and tourists.
- El Alto’s Ceja
- The 16 de Julio fair
- All the rest neighborhoods
- The outskirts of the city
During the day, El Alto City doesn’t really have safe areas to be in (except for the cable car stations, only inside them, and inside the airport, to which you should go by vehicle).
You may have heard about El Alto’s La Ceja, the downtown of this city. Well, it’s way more dangerous during the day than in the downtown of La Paz city. Also, about the 16 de Julio fair, which is a huge and open market where you can find anything, but many of the things sold there have been stolen. It’s very unlikely to see tourists there, so, be really careful if you want to go to this fair, never alone and only in large groups, and with the proper tourist guidance.
Never be outside at night in El Alto City
At night, El Alto city is at another level of risk and has life-threatening situations, it’s very, very dangerous anywhere. You can become kidnapped, poisoned, stabbed, or even killed, in areas like La Ceja, the 6 de Marzo Av., and the surrounding neighborhoods.
On the outskirts of the city, it’s even more dangerous. If you are at night in these neighborhoods you have a high chance of not coming back, you just can be killed in these areas, and no one will help you there. Also, you’re a higher risk if people realize that you are a tourist.
You can compare the outskirts of El Alto city, together with La Ceja and nearby areas, with the ghettos that exist in the US, this is the level of risk you are facing in these places.
How safe is La Paz at night?
As we have shown through this article, the whole city of La Paz is quite dangerous at night. The only neighborhoods where you should feel safe enough at night are San Miguel, Calacoto, Sopocachi, and Miraflores (this last one with more precautions). Anywhere else is risky and you need to be careful.
As we said before, if you think that the center of the city is safe at night, it is not, and it’s pretty dangerous beyond 9:00 p.m. Take all the necessary precautions at night in this part of the city. The rest of the neighborhoods and areas of La Paz are risky enough that it’s advised for you to never go there at night.
Furthermore, El Alto city at night hours is so dangerous that even your life is at risk. Nobody is going to help you there. Similar risks have red neighborhoods of La Paz, like the Buenos Aires Zone, the Cementerio Zone, and the Villas. These places at night can be compared to the ghettos of the US.
In this article about whether La Paz is a safe or dangerous city to be in, you’ve learned that most zones of this city are indeed quite dangerous, but also that there are some very safe neighborhoods where very educated and wealthy people live, also many expats from the first world. These neighborhoods are San Miguel, Calacoto, Sopocachi, and to a lesser extent, Miraflores.
You also have seen that all the hoods that surround San Miguel and Calacoto are also safe enough, but not as safe as these two neighborhoods, and almost all of them are located in the denominated South Zone of la Paz city. Other 2 neighborhoods are safe enough, San Jorge and Obrajes.
After this you saw that, the Central Zone of the city can be considered somewhat safe, mostly during the day, but not at night, when you should always be cautious there, which by the way many tourist places are located. You also saw that, at night, the center of the city can be quite dangerous and you should never be outside beyond 9:00 p.m there.
Finally, you have seen that the rest of the areas and neighborhoods that exist in La Paz City, and the whole of El Alto City, are dangerous during the day, but really dangerous and even life-threatening at night. The outskirts, the red zones, and the Villas of both cities have the same risks as ghettos in the US. You should never be in these places unless you really know what you’re doing.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know which are the safest places to live in Bolivia, whether you are a tourist or an expat, with all the details about each place, visit our dedicated guide in the following direction: The safest places to live in Bolivia all you need to know. Link.
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