Beware of San Pedro Prison Tours – La Paz, Bolivia, South America

October 2006

We hung outside the famous San Pedro Prison one morning. A rather agitated Black American, bald guy came over claiming to be one of the inmates (out on a day release scheme). He offered the two of us a half-hour prison tour for 80 BSol (about $10.00).

He was very convincing, but he kept insisting the tour would start as soon as he got the money (bribes) to the guards and the governor. I was suspicious, especially since he was quite stirred up. It was only $10.00, so I gave him the money. He disappeared into the prison without any names on a list – nothing. (He also suggested a one-month pass for $10.00 each!).

When he came out, he said the governor had gone to lunch (what at 10:30 a.m.?). He insisted we return in the afternoon at 3:00 p.m. I sensed then that the money was gone. Still, we showed up at 3:00 p.m. Of course he never came.

I enquired at the gate if they had our names and was told to hand over my passport through a side office, which I didnt. In addition, this man offered a 50B.Sol fee to take my camera in. I didnt.

Later that evening we were in the market. I was making a mental note to the karma police, when, sure enough, the same guy came and handed back half the money – the remaining $5.00 he had spent on a new camoflage outfit and bag! He said he'd get the rest. I told him to keep it if he needed it that badly.

We told him off. I'm sure, though, he's probably outside the prison looking for his next victim. Beware. There are no official or unofficial tours of San Pedro Prison. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

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