Traveling through Bolivia by bus, or flota, as it’s called, is one of the best ways of getting around on a budget. Buses cover most of Bolivia’s destinations and the most popular routes have daily departures at different times. Of course, land travel in Bolivia is not without complications, but often the getting-there is as stunning and beautiful as the destination. Here are TicketsBolivia’s five tips for getting around this amazing country safely, relaxed and on a budget.
- Be prepared
Being prepared is important in order to enjoy traveling by bus. For example, know that if you will be traveling at night, especially through the highlands (La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Uyuni, and even to or from Cochabamba and Sucre) it can get very cold at night, and even if buses claim to have air conditioning, they often don’t. Or it isn’t working. So, be sure to have blankets and/or warm clothes handy to put them on if you need them. Don’t leave your warm clothes in luggage that will be put in the storage area! Keep them on hand. Likewise, if traveling by day through low-lands it may get really hot and stuffy. Make sure you can take off some layers in order to be more comfortable.
Also, be sure to have water and some food always when you travel. Snacks are not included with the bus ticket, so most buses stop at least once so passengers can go to the bathroom and buy a snack, or have lunch or dinner in small towns along the highway. But there are many circumstances that could affect the length of your trip, for example road blocks or the bus breaking down. Mostly these issues are resolved within a few hours, but it is always best to be prepared.
2. Know what to expect
You must understand that bus companies and drivers are trying to make the most profit from each trip. And that there are many people who live in villages or small towns along the highway and need to travel. So don’t be alarmed if the buses stop once in a while to pick up passengers off the road, even if there is no space on the bus. People are used to sitting on the floor, or stairways. I’ts cultural, and it responds to a social and economic reality, and it won’t change in the near future. Also, there are people who get on the bus at every opportunity in order to sell food, drink, candy, and miracle remedies. You may actually find a bargain in homemade cheese or some other country-side food that may be worth trying.
It is also not unheard of that buses may wait up to an hour past their scheduled departure time for the bus to fill with passengers. If this will upset you, ask before you buy. Remember you are in a Latin American country, where things such as fixed schedule are not set in stone. Approximate journey times and frequencies can be consulted at the counter of the bus companies, and also in websites like that of TicketsBolivia (www.ticketsbolivia.com), but be aware that these can change according to demand. Always, departure and arrival times are approximate.
3. Know where you´re sitting
There are three types of buses in Bolivia: Lie-flat (cama), semi-lie-flat (semi cama) and normal. Buses with lie-flat seats are the most comfortable, and are usually only available for long trips, more than three hours long. The seats recline between 160 and 170 degrees, depending on the bus. We definitely recommend these for long trips. Semi-lie-flat buses have seats that recline between 120 and 130 degrees, and are great on trips that cover shorter distances. Normal buses have seats that recline no more than 110 degrees, and are great for traveling short distances on a budget.
When selecting a seat, know the pros and cons of each. Seats in the back of the bus may be warmer, good if you´re traveling along the highlands, but the trip may be bumpy, because you´re practically sitting on the back tires. Seats in the front of the bus may yield a smoother ride, but may be colder. Also, if you select window seats, there is a chance a draft may slip through, so make sure you have those warm clothes we talked about. When buying your tickets through TicketsBolivia, you can write us to let us know your seat preferences.
- Be safe
All arrival and departure times shown on our website correspond to local times. Whenever your bus leaves the terminal or arrives at late hours, between 11 PM and 6 AM, be cautious. Do not take a taxi that does not have the proper registration and identification. Usually, the terminals have taxi companies that work with them and are certified. Sometimes, when your bus arrives very early, like 3 am, you have the option of staying on the bus until a safer time to leave, like 6 am. If you have any doubts about the location of the bus terminal you are leaving from or arriving at, you will find the complete list of terminals and maps on this link: https://ticketsbolivia.com/travel-board.php
Look out the window, breathe in the unpolluted air, take in the sights and realize you are having a unique experience in a unique country. Have a nice trip!