You’ve planned an entire vacation around trekking in the Bolivian Andes. You’ve travelled all the way here, checked into your hotel, and have begun to unpack. You simply can’t wait to finally get your boots on and hit the trail for a couple of days. Only there’s one problem. You forgot your hiking boots…
No sweat. La Paz has dozens of outdoor outfitters to gear your up for your trip. Calle Illampu is lined with stores carrying boots, packs, gloves, hats, jackets. If you can think of it, Illampu has it.
But if you can’t find it on Calle Illampu, everyone knows you can find anything on Calle Sagárnaga.
Calle Sagárnaga: Gringo Alley
Sometimes called “Gringo Alley,” Calle Sagárnaga is a strip in the center of La Paz jam packed with outfitters, street vendors, market stalls, tour operators, and, of course, Gringos.
Just south of the Plaza San Francisco, this street has restaurants, hotels, merchant shops selling ponchos, sweaters and art crafts, and of course outfitters carrying anything you could possibly need for your trip to Bolivia.
Some stores are more suited for the more extreme pursuits: climbing rope, harnesses, ice picks, crampons. Other stores target the more leisurely hiker with the essentials that make for an enjoyable trek in the mountains.
There are Bargains on Outdoor Gear in La Paz…
Not only are there a tons of fully stocked stores to choose from, but they are relatively cheap for visitors. The exchange rates make purchasing an item very affordable. Many travelers wait until they arrive in La Paz to buy essential items for their outdoor kit.
- 1 GBP = 11.1 BOB (Bolivian Boliviano)
- 1 EUR = 9.3 BOB
- 1 USD = 6.9 BOB
… But Watch Out for Counterfeits
Although La Paz has trekking equipment available, it is not uncommon for brand label gear to be forgeries. North Face in particular is widely counterfeited in East Asia and hawked at shady outfitters in cities like La Paz.
Keep this in mind if you’re looking for that genuine, authentic item you have in mind. Search from store to store checking the prices on the same item you’re after. When you come across one that is more expensive than the others, it’s most likely the real deal. Chances are it will still be cheaper than back home. Remember, if the deal it too good to be true, it probably is.
Ask For Help
In addition to outfitters, Sagárnaga is home to at least a dozen tour operators. This strip is ideal for the trekker planning a hike. If you’re unsure about where to find the gear you’re looking for- or unsure about a particular item’s authenticity, drop into wone of these storefront adventure operators and ask for help. These guys are pros and are happy to help.
While you’re there, you can take a look at the tours they offer and maybe find something exciting to do on your trip!