Despite welcoming over ten thousand courageous riders each year, a mountain bike trip down Bolivia’s Death Road is not to be taken lightly. After all, the route claimed up to 300 lives annually in its heyday, leading the Inter-American Development Bank to proclaim it the World’s Most Dangerous Road in 1995. Nevertheless, traffic has slowed to a trickle these days, meaning it is in fact safe enough to descend with the adequate precautions in place. Still need some reassurance? Then Read our guide on how to obtain one of those coveted “I survived the World’s Most Dangerous Road” T-shirts.

Choose your tour company wisely

Not all tourism operators are created equally, not least in Bolivia where fly-by-night companies cut corners on safety standards to offer unsuspecting gringos a more competitive rate. Think twice before booking with a less reputable operator, as the modest savings could result in a serious injury or worse. That said, we understand many backpackers must stick to a tight budget, which is why Tripolando has teamed up with both premium and more reputable budget operators to provide our discerning clients with ample options to choose from.

Aerial shot of the Death Road | © Hans Birger Nilsen via Flickr

Aerial shot of the Death Road | © Hans Birger Nilsen via Flickr

Check your gear before heading off

Regardless of who you book with, it’s possible your equipment may not be up to scratch on the day. Upon arriving to the top of La Cumbre, ensure all safety equipment such as helmets can be properly fastened, and that your brakes and gears are in good working order before setting off downhill. If any issues should arise, insist that your guides rectify them on the spot. 

La Cumbra at the start of the Death Road tour | © Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr

La Cumbre at the start of the Death Road |  © Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr

Ride within your limits

Being realistic about your abilities is of utmost importance on the Death Road. Granted, experienced riders may well be able to hurtle downhill at breakneck speeds. Us mere mortals, however, will need to take it a bit more slowly. Bear in mind that the road is full of jagged rocks, enough to launch unsuspecting riders over the handlebars or worse, over the edge of a cliff. Furthermore, avoid the temptation to race your crazy competitive mate to the bottom.

Gravestone on the Death Road | © Gatol fotografia via Flickr

Gravestone on the Death Road | © Gatol fotografia via Flickr

Get a good night’s sleep

As a city known for its fiestas locas, the nightlife in La Paz tempts many a well-intentioned traveler into having a bender or two. By all means, enjoy all the after-dark entertainment this crazy city has to offer. Just do be sure, however, to hold back the evening before this demanding downhill descent.

The easy first part of the tour | © Marco Antonio via Flickr

The easy first part of the tour | © Marco Antonio via Flickr

Keep left on the corners

Contrary to everywhere else in Bolivia, all traffic – including cyclists – are obliged to stick to the left-hand side of the road. The unique law was enforced years ago to make it easier for buses and trucks to pass on some of the narrower sections. Unfortunately, for riders that means descending on the perilous cliff side of the road, at the very least while turning into blind corners.

It may sound counterintuitive from a safety standpoint, but riding on the right-hand (mountain) side of the road actually entails greater risk due to the threat of oncoming traffic. Some of the most severe injuries – and even deaths – have been caused by gung-ho cyclists careering head-on into a truck while riding on the wrong side of the road.

Keep left! | © Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr

Keep left | © Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr