Mi Teleférico | Bolivia Reinvents Public Transit
When arriving by bus from Peru/Copacabana into La Paz, you'll find yourself high in the Andes and suddenly perched above the sprawling city in the mountains that is La Paz, Bolivia. The view, even from a rickety old bus, is one of the greatest I have seen on this planet. So when the city was faced with crippling traffic (no surprise, given the population and the winding, hilly landscape), they decided to build the most incredible public transit system I've ever experienced. It is called Mi Teleférico, and it is remarkable. At the time of writing, there are 6.5 active lines connecting all parts of the city and making getting around a blast for young and old. There are 4 new lines in the works as well, and the half-line will soon extend into the center of the city, all of which will add enough connections to make many cities' subway systems blush. But these are no boring underground trains. These are the highest urban cable cars in the world, and the only airborne public transit system I know of. We've got all the details you need if you find yourself in La Paz, but first, enjoy our video below to get a taste of the fun, the views, and the sheer joy that is Mi Teleférico!
Where to Ride
With the Celeste Line complete in just a few weeks, there will be 22 stations throughout La Paz. If you're just visiting, there's a good chance you'll be around the Sopocachi area, or downtown near the Obelisk, two fantastic spots to catch the Teleférico to all over town. Our favorite spots are up in El Alto for the views, Irpavi for fancy shops and foreign food, and then really any station that looks nice when we pull in. Granted, it isn't always easy to find the stations, but if you see the lines overhead, just follow them for a bit or even better, ask one of the friendly locals where the station is (a simple, "Donde está el teleférico?" will get you there). That being said, my favorite thing to do has been to ride the skies for a little bit and learn where the stations are by getting out and going for a walk around a newly neighborhood. At any rate, don't miss the views from Buenos Aires and Mirador stations on the yellow line. And on one of our trips, we were delighted to find the last stop on the white line going north, or the orange line headed east, with its lovely rooftop and occasional festival. Plus, take some time to ride the orange line just for the breathtaking views from your car!
How to Ride
There are two ways to go about getting on-board: option 1, buy a ticket at the booth; option 2, buy a transit card. For option 1, it's as simple as going up to the ticket booth and letting them know how many people you are and your final stop. Don't worry about transfers, etc, if they know your destination, they'll print your ticket accordingly. They'll give you a receipt (longer strip of paper) and a ticket (square piece of paper) each with a QR-like barcode. The square piece is all you need, no matter how many people in your group. Option two is the rechargeable transit card. We've found this easier since it avoids ticketing lines and is easy to use. There are machines at each station off to a side where you can buy one. You pay 30 Bolivianos the first time (15 for the card and 15 in credit) and can then recharge anytime at any machine for any amount. To recharge, simple put the card in the slot and press "Recarga" and then choose your amount. Whether using the card or the square paper ticket, each time you scan it at a turnstile, it takes off the amount for the line you're getting on, so you can just scan it once for each person. You pay about 2-3 Bolivianos per line, which means you can travel the whole system for just about $2 US. After that, it's pretty simple. Check the map to make sure you're headed the way you want to, or ask the many helpful staff members and head up to the boarding area. They put 8 to a car, but you'll often find yourself alone in your cars on a tourist's schedule. That's it! Enjoy your ride, the views and the one-of-a-kind experience, and remember to mind the rules, at least when you're in a station (balance the seating on each side, don't eat or drink, and don't stand up).