Friday, 25 December 2009

BACKPACKING Bolivia by public transport

Having travelled down from Ecuador through Peru we arrived in Bolivia at Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Recommended bus companies in Bolivia are Copacabana, Trans Copacabana and Bolivia

COPACABANA TO LA PAZ We were very lucky to meet someone who offered us a ride in his car.  The alternatives would have been a basic local bus or one of the tourist coaches which are advertised all over Copacabana.

LA PAZ Public transport in the city is good and cheap.  Trufi is the Bolivian name for a collectivo and all have their routes clearly marked on a window sign.  You should not have to pay more than Bs4 (35p) for any journey within the city.  Mini buses also run similar routes and are a little cheaper.  We never needed to use the local buses. 

LA PAZ TO SUCRE Only possible on a night bus.  Buying tickets are the tour offices is more expensive, friends paid Bs140 for a Bs90 ticket.  If you arrive at the bus station earliy enough you can buy your ticket there.  It is a very nice modern bus station with Internet cafes, shops, cafes and lots of seating.  In addition to buying a bus ticket you have to buy a departure ticket from a seperate booth.  Copacabana is the only company doing our route on the day we want to leave.  We take the 7.30pm with a cama (reclining seat) at Bs90 (£8).  The cama cama seats recline to 180 degrees and are wider but as we never sleep on the bus anyway the extra money would be wasted.  Unfortunately the only seats left are at the back of the bus and boy do we know it.  They make for a very bumpy ride, are directly above the engine so it is noisy and as part of the journey is on dirt roads we often end up choking on the dust.  Arrive in Sucre at 8am. In the bus station there is a warning sign to say they recommend taking the official taxis to town and to beware of “fuked” policemen – luckily we know it was meant to say fake! The taxi fare is now Bs4 per person.

SUCRE TO POTOSI Getting information on bus times is difficult as each travel agent sells tickets for just one company and will only give you their times. They are selling tourist buses and do not recommend the local bus which is what we take.  At the bus station we are mobbed by people trying to sell us tickets. The next one leaving is the 10.30am “Trans Villa Imperial” at Bs15 (£1.35). I ask to see the bus and it is a basic coach but the tyres look OK!  Definately a chicken bus but a very jolly one at that.  Our seats have been sold 3 times over but we hold our ground.  No air con but open windows and lots of loud music.  It leaves at 11am and arrives in Potosi at 3.15pm.  We even travelled with a coffin (empty) on the roof.

POTOSI TO UYUNI Opposite the main bus station are the offices for the Uyuni buses.  We catch the 10am basic bus Bs 30 (£2.70).   It is mainly a dirt road with excellent scenery.  The bus stops for lunch at a place with a rustic toilet and simple meals available.  Arrived in Uyuni at 4pm in the main street from which you can walk to the hostels etc.

UYUNI TO VILLAZON (FOR ARGENTINA) There are two train companies operating this route, each runs twice a week.  On Friday it is the Expreso Del Sur train leaving at 10.40pm, Bs63 (£5.70).  You can pay extra (more than doube) for VIP seats and this includes a meal but the seats are not that much better.  The train is much like a coach with seats that recline.  Ours was pretty warm but we hear the other train is cold and leaves around 3am so not as convenient.   Arrive in Villazon around 7am. Turning right out of the station it is about a 20 minute walk to the border and over the bridge to ARGENTINA.  However if you take a taxi you will get to the border ahead off all the walkers and beat the queues.  Change money on the Bolivian side as there is nothing on the Argenitinian side however there is an ATM near the bus station and the taxi drivers that will take you to the station will take US$. 


Try to get seats near the centre of the bus
Take ear plugs to block out the loud music
Don't be afraid to take the occasional "chicken" bus especially in the day time as the journey is entertainment in itself


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