Bus transportation in Bolivia is a nice cheap way to get to see the beautiful scenery while traveling to your destination. Unfortunately the buses often travel solely at night. Keep in mind that roads are occasionally blocked due to protests, often for several days. So ask several companies at the terminal if you hear about blockades, unless you are willing to spend a few days sleeping on the bus.
Bus travel is usually pretty cheap. Estimate that it will cost you about US$1 for every hour of travel (it’s easier to find travel times online than actual price quotes). Prices do change based on supply and demand. Buses generally do not need to be booked ahead, especially for common distances served by many companies. There are great bargains in it for you the shorter you book ahead. Just arriving at the station one hour before the buses leave can often give you a 30-40% discount over bookings several days before. However, as always, shop around and do not go with the first vendor that intercepts you when you arrive at the bus terminal. Hawkers are constantly crying out destinations in the bigger bus stations cajoling potential riders to take their bus line.
If you need to buy a ticket in advance, a good website is: Tickets Bolivia.
Note, that by bus travel anything of the following is meant, which falls into the same category but obviously differs in price and duration: bus (national), minibus (regional), servis (regional van), micro (city bus), trufi (city micro bus with fixed route), and colectivo (city taxis with fixed route and price). Servis’ are often 50-100% more expensive than minibuses or buses, but go more often than buses. Buses should be a little cheaper than minibuses, but buses usually cover larger distances.
Contrary to Asia where buses go when full and schedules are unreliable, buses in Bolivia are forced by law to go at the times they publish, even if not full. So, whenever times are posted or available somewhere, even if just by word of mouth, you can be pretty sure that the buses really leaves within 5 min of that time. The good thing though is that even if the bus has just 5 passengers, you still pay the same price as if the bus where completely filled.
Flying within Bolivia is quick and fairly economical. BoA connects most major cities.
- Amaszonas, Av. Saavedra Nº 1649, Miraflores, La Paz, +591 2 222-0848, firstname.lastname@example.org. Most famous for their La Paz to Rurrenabaque route but also fly to Uyuni, Trinidad, Guayaramerin, Riberalta, Cobija, San Borja, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Fares are listed under “tarifas” on their website, listed below. Their office in Santa Cruz is in El Trompillo airport. edit
- Boliviana de Aviación – BoA – the national airline of Bolivia. Provides economical travel between the main cities of Bolivia. You can book your tickets online or at BoA-offices in Santa Cruz, La Paz or Cochabamba. Main office in Cochabamba, Calle Jordán #202 esq. Nataniel Aguirre. email: email@example.com phone: +591 901 10 50 10 fax: +591 4 4116477
- Ecojet flies the usual major city routes, but it also has flights to Riberalta and Guayaramerin in Bení. Call Center can be reached at phone: +591 901 10 50 55 (not a toll-free call)
On some routes, the roads are in such a dire condition that the train becomes the alternative of choice. Trains are more comfortable than one would expect, having for example reclinable seats. The trip from Oruro to Uyuni is especially beautiful, with the train going literally through an Andean lake on the way. The train is especially good for trips to the Salar de Uyuni and the Pantanal.
Coming from La Paz, you need to take a three-hour bus ride to Oruro to catch the train. It’s best to book your tickets a few days before your trip. In La Paz booking office is at Fernando Guachalla No. 494, at the corner with Sánchez Lima (between the Plaza del Estudiante and Plaza Abaroa). Main stops are Uyuni, Tupiza and Villazon, on the Argentine border. As of 2018-02-18, the route between Uyuni and Villazon is closed due to flooding. It is expected to reopen in October 2018.
Tickets Bolivia also sells advance train tickets.
Between Santa Cruz and the Pantanal it is more straightfoward to organize a trip. Just go to the Terminal Bimodal in Santa Cruz (see the Santa Cruz page for details), or the train station on the border in Puerto Quijarro. The train is also convenient for trips to the Jesuit Missions. Check the website for timetables.
For longer trips between towns and cities that aren’t served by bus, shared taxis are common. Shared taxis are not safe for tourists, especially if you are solo female traveller.