Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Aero Sur (tel. 0103/3364-446 in Santa Cruz; www.aerosur.com) offers daily flights to Santa Cruz from La Paz, Cochabamba, and Sucre. One-way tickets cost between Bs470 and Bs870 ($60-$110/£30-£55) each. Additionally, both Aero Sur and American Airlines (tel. 0102/237-2010) use Santa Cruz as their main hub for international flights to Miami and Madrid, so it may well be your first city when arriving to Bolivia.
All planes arrive at the very modern Viru Viru Airport, which is about 16km (10 miles) outside town. Taxis from the airport to the center of town cost between Bs50 and Bs60 ($6.25-$7.50/£3.10-£3.75). There's also an airport bus, which leaves the airport about every 20 minutes and drops passengers off at the bus terminal and in the nearby neighborhoods. The ride costs Bs8 ($1/50p).
By Bus -- The Santa Cruz bus terminal on Avenida Cañoto and Avenida Irala is a truly mad scene. Thousands of people crowd the station at all times of the day, and there's no central information office, so you have to figure out on your own where the bus you want is leaving from. Plus, not all the buses leave from the terminal -- many buses depart from offices across the street from the terminal. Many bus companies have offices outside the terminal on Avenida Irala. Buses from La Paz usually arrive in the morning. The 14-hour journey costs Bs120 ($15/£7.50). Buses from Cochabamba take 10 hours and cost Bs50 ($6.25/£3.10) for a normal bus, Bs80 ($10/£5) for a bus cama. Buses from Sucre take a grueling 12 hours and cost Bs60 ($7.50/£3.75) for a normal bus, Bs80 ($10/£5) for a bus cama.
A map of Santa Cruz resembles a large pizza. It is a circular city, with each neighborhood known as a "ring" (anillo). The first ring is the first circle around the city; as you move farther from the center, you reach the second and third anillos. Santa Cruz is quickly becoming a prime example of urban sprawl. The center of the city is getting smaller, while the outskirts of town keep moving farther and farther away. Taxis are, by far, the easiest way to get around. From the center of town to the hotels and restaurants in the nearby suburbs, a taxi should cost Bs15 to Bs23 ($2-$3/£1-£1.50). Plaza 24 de Septiembre is the commercial heart of Santa Cruz; from here, you can walk to all the banks, travel agencies, and centrally located hotels. For car rental try A. Barrons Renta Car, Av. Alemana 50 (tel. 0103/342-0160; www.rentacarbolivia.com). They also have offices in Cochabamba and Tarija.
You'll find Tourist Information on the north side of the main plaza (tel. 0103/334-6776), housed in a beautiful neocolonial building. It's open daily until 8pm. Beside the Cathedral there is a brand new exhibition center called Manzana 1, housing a gallery and exhibition center. An open-top city bus leaves from here on 3-hour tours of the city. For information about this and nearby attractions (the Jesuit missions, the Inca ruins of Samaipata, and Amboró National Park), your best bet is to contact Rosario Tours (tel. 0103/3369-656; www.rosariotours.com), Arenales 193 between Beni and Murillo. Another excellent tour operator is Dutch-owned Ruta Verde (tel. 0103/339-6470; www.rutaverdebolivia.com). They offer a good variety of tours including trips to the Jesuit missions, Amboro National Park, and the town where Che Guevara made his last stand.
Fast Facts -- Magri Turismo (tel. 0103/345-663; www.magri-amexpress.com.bo), Calle Warnes and the corner of Potosí, is the American Express representative in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, you can't change traveler's checks here. If you need to change traveler's checks or exchange money, you should head to Cambio Alemán Transatlántico, on Calle 24 de Septiembre in the main plaza. There is also a Citibank on Avenida Mons Rivero at the corner of Asunción. Hospital Universitario Japonés (tel. 0103/462-032), on Avenida Japón in the tercer anillo (third ring), is the best hospital in town. In an emergency, call tel. 0103/462-031. If you need a pharmacy, try Farmacia Gutiérrez at 21 de Mayo 26; for deliveries, call tel. 0103/361-777. Also nearby is Farmacia Santa María, on the corner of 21 de Mayo and Junín. The post office is located at Junín 150 between Plaza 24 de Septiembre and 21 de Mayo. You can take care of all your laundry needs at Lavandería España on Calle España 160. The best Internet cafe is Full Internet, Ayacucho 208, on the corner of Velasco; the entrance is on the second floor, so look for the stairs on Ayacucho.