24 October 2013

A pedestrian's guide to La Paz

Are you in La Paz? Want to get somewhere that isn't your hostel and do so by foot? Keen on not dying or being injured? Then listen up...
(ok, so this applies to a lot of other cities - but the drivers in La Paz drive with enough inshallah that you'd think you're in Istanbul.)

Indicators are optional and just because a car isn't signalling that it is going to turn doesn't mean it won't, usually right at the last second and at high speed.

Indicators are optional and just because a car is signalling that it is going to turn doesn't mean it will.

Red lights are just that - lights which are red. They have very little to do with the flow of traffic, unless a copper is near by and even then a medically unwise sized pinch of salt is needed.

The green lights at a pedestrian crossings are just that - lights which are green. Just because you have a signalled right to cross doesn't mean that drivers, especially combi drivers, won't just drive through you. See above.

Accelerate hard, brake hard. Probably stop in time.
Potential business idea to make millions... Brake tuning/repair shop in La Paz and many other cities I've been to - they need it; it just needs very good marketing and sales.

Not every street has a sign telling you its name - consider the benefits of navigating by "3 blocks down, then 2 left", checking what street signs there are.
Accept that (some of?) the tourist maps aren't brilliant. Accept that using your phone to navigate is like hanging a giant "mug me" sign from your neck. (I've just met a woman in the hostel who had her phone snatched from her hand.)

As a driver in La Paz there is no situation where beeping your horn isn't required. Get use to it.
If you've been to China or India then you'll have an idea, although La Paz is nowhere near as bad as China, which in turn is leagues behind India.

Walk slowly, especially if you've just arrived from sea level (as I have).

Run! That driver isn't going to stop now MOVE!
And now catch your breath.

Good luck. :)