Samaipata is one of the best kept secrets of the Bolivian low-lands. This little town two hours away from the city of Santa Cruz has become very popular in the last years among both national and international tourists due to its warm climate year-round, diversity of landscapes and restaurants, with an array of cultural and tourist activities to choose from. One of its main attractions is how close it is to the Samaipata Fort, a pre-colonial arqueological site where different cultures, such as the Chané and Inca come together, declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In this blog, we’ll tell you all about:
What makes Samaipata an amazing tourist destination
How to travel to Samaipata easily from any part of Bolivia
You can travel to Samaipata by bus easily from Bolivia’s main cities (Santa Cruz, Sucre, Cochabamba and La Paz) though mostly paved highways and different degrees of confort; from confortable lie-flat buses to shared cabs and vans. The prices vary, as well, and there is an option for every budget.
Bus travel in Bolivia, or in flota, as it is called here, is one of the best ways to get around while on a budget. Buses cover most of Bolivia’s destinations and the most popular routes have frequent departures. Of course, bus travel in Bolivia is not without complications but the views and landscapes you will go through are well worth the effort. Here are our five tips for getting around the country safely and affordably.
Being prepared is important in order to enjoy traveling in Bolivia by bus. For example, know that if you will be traveling at night, especially through the altiplano, it can get very cold at night. Even if buses claim to have air conditioning or heating, they sometimes don’t. Or it isn’t working, so be sure to have blankets and/or warm clothes at hand if you need them. Likewise, if traveling by day through the lowlands it may get really hot and stuffy.
Also, be sure to always have water and some food when you travel. Snacks are rarely included with the bus ticket, so most buses stop at least once so passengers can go to the bathroom and buy food in small towns along the way. But, when traveling in Bolivia by bus there are many circumstances that could affect the length of your trip. For example road blocks, traffic or the bus breaking down. These issues are usually resolved within a few hours, but it is always best to be prepared in case you end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
2. Know what to expect
Bus companies and drivers are trying to make the most profit from each trip. And there are many people who live in villages along the highway who 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. It’s cultural, it responds to a social and economic reality and this won’t change in the near future. There are also sometimes people who get on the bus in order to sell food, drink, candy, and miracle remedies.
Unfortunately, when traveling in Bolivia by bus, there a different types of situations that can cause a delay or the cancellation of your trip. The rainy season, between November and February/March can cause landslides, flooding and other complications on some routes. Accidents are rare but to avoid them companies and transit authorities will cancel departures. There is not much that can be done other than waiting for better conditions or taking a different, longer route. This is why, if you are traveling in Bolivia/Peru/Chile/Argentina during the rainy season be aware that this could happen and plan sufficient time to get to your destination, especially if you have a flight to take. Please note that during the rainy seasons it is common for flights to be cancelled too so, wherever your destination, don’t book close connections.
Bolivia has a strong protest culture. This can be particularly problematic when traveling Bolivia by bus. Long strikes (24 hours and longer) are usually announced but sometimes small communities will block major roads for a certain number of hours and without warning. Sometimes there is no alternative road and no other solution than to wait for the roadblock to lift. It may be possible to cross the blockade by foot and then take another method of transportation but only do that when there is no other solution. These situations vary a lot and the bus company will do what they can to help you get to your destination.
It is also common for buses to wait past their scheduled departure time to fill with passengers. This is especially the case for informal bus companies who do regional routes (La Paz-Copacabana for example). If this will upset you, ask before you buy or go to the bus terminal where formal companies operate on fixed schedules. You can consult approximate journey times and departure times at the counter of the bus companies, and also in websites like this one, but be aware that these can change on short notice. Never plan a connection with less than 2 hours between the trips .
3. Know where you’re sitting
Types of seats
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 okay for traveling short distances on a budget. VIP buses with personalized TVs, WiFi, USB plugs and food are not very common in Bolivia yet, unlike its neighboring countries. Only a few bus companies have these types of buses.
Where to seat in the bus
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, since you’re practically sitting on the back tires. You may have a smoother ride in the front but it can be colder. Also, if you select window seats, there is a chance a draft may slip through, so make sure to have warm clothes.
At the moment few bus companies have online systems that allow to select a seat at the moment of the purchase. This means that when you book a bus ticket online, you can’t select a specific seat on most routes. When buying your tickets through TicketsBolivia, you can write to us after the booking and let us know your seating preference. If possible the bus company will do everything possible to accommodate each passenger.
4. Be safe
All arrival and departure times shown on our website correspond to local times. Whenever your bus leaves the terminal or arrives at night, between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am, be cautious. Do not take a taxi that does not have the proper registration and identification. Here is some information on how to recognize and avoid common scams in Peru and Bolivia.
Usually, the terminals have taxi companies that work with them and are certified. Sometimes, when your bus arrives very early, like 3:00 am, you have the option of staying on the bus until a safer time to leave, like 6:00 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
Bolivia is a generally safe country where the same logic and common sense applies as anywhere else in the world and traveling around Bolivia by bus can be a real enriching and fun experience.
Look out the window, listen to some music, eat some snacks you wouldn’t otherwise, take the time to finally read that book or listen to that podcast and don’t be rushed to arrive at your next destination.
Puno to Copacabana by bus takes about 4 hours. From Bolivia, La Paz to Copacabana also takes about 4 hours by bus. This guide will give you all the information you need in order to plan your trip from La Paz and Puno to Copacabana and Isla del Sol in Bolivia. You will find here bus and boat schedules and suggestions on what to do and where to go.
Bus from La Paz to Copacabana
La Paz to Copacabana by bus takes about 4 hours. Buses leave throughout the day but the last bus to leave from the main terminal leaves at 13:30. There are no night buses to Copacabana because buses need to cross by ferry the strait of Tiquina which closes at night.
Includes the crossing of Tiquina. Programmed stops to take pictures and pick-up service.
Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Bus from La Paz to Copacabana
Please note that this is the schedule for formal buses leaving from the main terminal in La Paz. The route between La Paz to Copacabana by bus is also operated by informal transport companies (buses and minibuses) leaving from the General Cemetery in La Paz. These leave every day between 6:00 and 18:00 (depending on the time of year).
There is no schedule as buses from La Paz to Copacabana leave whenever they are almost full and stop regularly along the way to drop or pick-up passengers. Because of the irregularity and lack of any guarantees regarding safety, we recommend traveling with an established company to avoid any problems. However they do provide the advantage of being more frequent and flexible. The price is about the same than buses leaving from the main terminal: 20/30 Bs.
Bus from Puno to Copacabana
The Puno to Copacabana bus takes about 4 hours by bus and the journey involves crossing the border at the Kasani office. Depending on the time of day this process can take longer. since the border is closed at night, this trip can only be done during the day.
These two cities, each on the shore of Lake Titicaca but in different countries, offer a very different experience of the lake. They are both touristic destinations: Puno is a larger city with a more developed tourism industry while Copacabana is smaller and more relaxed. But, from Copacabana you can visit the Isla de Sol which is perfect for travelers who want to enjoy a more quiet, independent experience.
Most people go to Copacabana to see Lake Titicaca and visit Isla del Sol, therefore it has the feel of a transit town, but if you take the time there are some interesting sights and things to do around depending on how much time you have.
If you only have a couple of hours in Copacabana, you can walk up the Cerro Calvario for amazing views of the lake (this is especially popular at sunset). The walk up can take 30 minutes to an hour and the hill is easily accessible from Copacabana. Look for the steps to the north of the city. You can also visit the Cathedral of Copacabana and enjoy some trout from the lake.
If you have at least a whole day in Copacabana, you can do a day-hike to Yampupata. This path is not a touristy one and very few people head that way but it provides a nice walk in the countryside with amazing views of the lake on a mostly flat-surface. This is perfect if you want to try high-altitude trekking and do something a bit different. The hike to Yampupata takes about 5 hours and from there you can hire a boat to Isla del Sol or a taxi back to Copacabana.
However, the absolute must-see for people is Isla del Sol. It is possible to go there for the day or even a few hours but ideally one should stay one night on the island to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the scenery. There are also pre-Columbian ruins on the island that are worth visiting.
Where to eat
There is an abundance of places where one can grab a bite in Copacabana, and like in any other touristy, transit town, it is difficult to pick the good places from the less reputable ones. Here are some options we recommend for those who want a quick lunch or a snack to take on their next bus. There are also plenty of more fancy sit-down restaurants where you can try the local trout, local or international dishes.
El Condor & The Eagle Cafe: For a good breakfast. It’s located inside Residencial Paris and they serve hearty homemade Irish bread, beans, porridge and organic coffee.
The Pit Stop: Located across from the main plaza where buses drop and pick passengers, it’s ideal for those who just want something small, tasty and convenient to go. They also have empanadas, cake and other quick bites to go.
Pan America: For those who crave pizza. They have a simple menu and a rotating selection of fresh ingredients for toppings.
Where to sleep
Backpackers on a small budget will find very affordable accommodation for 20-30 Bs. These hostels will provide very basic rooms and it is recommended to have a sleeping bag as it gets very cold at night. You can find some of these hostels online but the majority doesn’t have an online presence.
As with food, the range of choice for accommodation is wide and with some research you can find what suits your needs best, there are hotels on the shore of the lake and others near the center. There are also eco-lodges and more luxurious options. Prices range between 4 USD to about 150 USD per person per night.
How to get to Isla del Sol
The only way to get to Isla del Sol is by boat from Copacabana (or from Yampupata if you are hiking there). However, you can hire a private boat from Copacabana which could cost about 40-100 USD depending on your itinerary or you can take a public shared boat for 5-7 USD.
Please note: When arriving to Isla del Sol you will be charged an an admission fee of 10 bolivianos.
Boat from Copacabana to Isla del Sol
Shared boats leave twice a day at 8:30 and 13:30 and the journey takes about 1:30 hours to the south part of the island and 2 hours to the north side. Boats stop on both sides so make sure to specify where you want to be dropped off and, if you are doing the trip in one day, where you want to be picked up.
For the last two years the island was experiencing a conflict between the north and south sides with the northern part being closed off to tourists. It has finally been solved and tourists can now access both sides again. However, there may be small changes of schedule so please take into account that the times given here might be subject to change.
What to do on Isla del Sol
Isla del Sol is often an underestimated destination where travelers wish they had staid longer. The views, tranquility and absence of motorized vehicles make it the perfect spot to relax between two tours/treks or long bus journeys. While you are there, we would recommend spending one night there to have time to really appreciate how special this place is.
Suggested itinerary for visiting Isla del Sol
The north side of the island is where most of the touristic attractions are with pre-Columbian ruins such as: The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka; the Inca Table, supposedly used for human sacrifices and the Footsteps of the Sun. You first arrive at Cha’llapampa, the town on the northern end of the island. From there you can also visit the Gold Museum which displays Inca treasures discovered underwater off the island.
In the south side is the Yumani community from where you can take the Inca steps down to the port and stop at the Fountain of Youth. Further down south from Yumani is the temple of Pilcocaina. There are not as many sights in the south side but there are plenty of accommodation choices ranging from backpacker hostels to luxurious eco-lodges. There are also more options for food and drinks there.
You can follow dirt paths and walk around the island to enjoy the views. Please note that the Cha’llapampa community charges about 15 bolivianos to access its archaeological zone but it is where the best beaches are. Walking around the island is generally safe but be careful of stray dogs.
Another popular itinerary for a one-day trip to the island is to get dropped off on the north of the island and walk to the south side. The walk takes about 3 hours so you can take the first boat which arrives at about 10:00-10:30 and catch the afternoon boat leaving the south side at about 15:30.
If you want to relax, find a quiet spot or pick a room with a view, watch the sunset and enjoy the stars at night. To the west, you can see the Peruvian side or you can look to the east and admire the Cordillera Real in the distance.
Isla de la Luna: While on Isla del Sol you can visit the smaller island Isla de la Luna next to it or you can take a boat from Yumani or arrange it from Copacabana. This island is home to the Temple of the Virgins and can be explored in an hour by foot. There is a small village to the south and please note that the island doesn’t have any electricity.
Finally, to return to Copacabana you can take the boat back in the morning at around 10:00 or in the afternoon at 15:30. Normally, the buses leaving and arriving Copacabana take the boats schedule into account so you have time to visit the islands and take a bus to your next destination.
The bus from Sucre to Uyuni takes about 8 hours covering a distance of 359 km. You can take a direct bus from Sucre to Uyuni or you can stop in Potosi.
If you are interested in visiting the Uyuni salt flats, you will be a stone-throw away from the amazing cities of Sucre and Potosi, both named Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO due to their rich history and well-kept colonial architecture. Walking the streets of Sucre and Potosi is like stepping into another time, just as a walk through the Uyuni salt flats is like a stroll on another planet.
If you want to get to know all three destinations, you can first go from Sucre to Potosi, and from there to Uyuni. Find here the bus time tables and all the information you need to know to travel by bus from Sucre to Uyuni, from Sucre to Potosi, and from Potosi to Uyuni.
From Sucre to Potosi by bus
Sucre is the capital of Bolivia, where the Constitution was signed, although the seat of government was moved to La Paz in the 18th century. Today, the city is one of Bolivia’s main tourist destinations due to its white walls and red rooftops. You can visit colonial churches and convents and enjoy a mild, sunny weather. Sucre is considered one of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America.
The distance between Sucre and Potosi is 156 kilometers and it takes around 3 hours in bus to travel from Sucre to Potosi.
Departures are available all day as buses leave once every hour between 06:00 am and 19:00 every day. In order to travel from Sucre to Potosi, take a bus from the main bus terminal in Sucre, located on Avenida Ostria Gutierrez. You will need to pay a small fee called Uso de Terminal (Terminal fee), which costs 2.5 Bs. The buses from Sucre arrive at the “new” bus station in Potosi, located on Avenida Las Banderas.
Potosi is an important mining center, famous for the Cerro Rico. This mountain provided silver to the Spanish Colony during centuries. The silver coins were minted in Potosi for the entire Spanish Empire. The city has preserved its colonial architecture and tourists can visit the Casa de la Moneda museum, as well as the remaining silver mines.
From Potosi to Uyuni by bus
After spending a few hours/days in Potosi, you can easily continue to Uyuni. Uyuni is located 204 km from Potosi. This trip is 4 hour-long by bus.
The buses leave at 9:30, 16:30 and 17:30 in semi lie-flat buses with the company Expreso 11 de Julio. You will have to pay a small fee of 2.5 B.s before boarding the bus.
Please note that Potosi has two bus terminals, one for regional trip, which includes Uyuni, and another for national trips (La Paz, Sucre, etc.)
From Sucre to Uyuni by bus
You can also go to Uyuni directly from Sucre. The journey takes around 8 hours covering a distance of 360 kilometers. There are three daily departures from Sucre: at 9:30, 20:00 and 20:30.
The bus companies doing this route are 6 de Octubre or Exp. 11 de Julio.
Uyuni is the most popular tourist destination in Bolivia, and deservedly so. The Uyuni salt flats is a 12.0000 square kilometers desert of salt in the middle of the Bolivian altiplano. There are different types of tours (1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 4-day tours) with possibility to transfer to Chile.
For more information on what to do in Uyuni and how to choose your tour, you can visit our guide here.
The trip by bus from La Paz to Cusco is one of the most popular among tourists from all over the world who come to Latin America, especially in he months between June and August. There are many ways to make the trip; you can take a direct bus between the two cities, or stop in Copacabana (Bolivia) and/or Puno (Peru), which are popular tourist destinations on the shore of Lake Titicaca.
A direct bus takes about 14 hours, depending on the bus company and the time of departure. You can also make stops along the way, in Copacabana or Puno.
We have put together all the information you might need in order to plan and enjoy your trip to the fullest.
Several companies offer a service from La Paz to Cusco by bus. There are two possible routes: the one that crosses the border in Desaguadero for migration, and the one that goes through Copacabana, crossing the border in Yunguyo or Kasani. All buses to Cusco from La Paz briefly stop in Puno. You can also travel in a touristic bus such a Bolivia Hop which does this journey allowing travelers to hop-on and hop-off in different locations. See here their different passes and options.
1. Direct trip from La Paz to Cusco
The buses leave from the main bus terminal in La Paz, located on Peru Avenue. Here is the address of the bus terminal:
Before you board the bus, you need to pay a small fee charged by the bus terminal, which costs 2.5 bolivianos per passenger. Look at the table below to see which companies provide this service and all the necessary information.
The migration paperwork at the Desaguadero migration center is simple: you just need to show your ID/Passport at the migration office, and depending on your nationality there might be additional documents you may need to present. To learn about Bolivia’s entry requirements, check our blog post.
Direct buses from La Paz to Cusco
Time of departure
Time of arrival
Price in US$
Nuevo Continente Internacional
Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
6:00 (+1 day)
Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Lie flat 3 rows
5:00 (+1 day)
Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
5:30 (+1 day)
Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
2. Trips with stopover
For a longer trip, but with nice rests stops along the way, and one that allows you to enjoy the tourist attractions of Copacabana, you can first travel from La Paz to Copacabana, and from there to Cusco. The buses also leave from the La Paz bus terminal (see map above) at 07:00, 07:30, and 13:30 in normal buses, which have seats that recline to 120 degrees. The bus company Turisbus offers a tourist service, with minibus picking passengers at their hotels and offering a more personalized experience.
We recommend booking your journey from La Paz to Copacabana in an established bus company such as Turisbus, Diana Tours, Vicuna Travel, Trans Titicaca, instead of the more informal minibuses and buses which leave from the general cemetery as these are loosely regulated and stories of drivers falling asleep while driving have been reported. These have no fixed schedule and leave when they fill up and price is about the same as the buses from the main terminal (20-25 bolivianos).
For these reasons, if the option is available, book ahead your trip to Copacabana with a recommended bus company.
The cost of the tickets between La Paz and Copacabana starts at 25 bolivianos (us$3.65), depending on the time of departure and the bus company. The trip lasts around 4 hours and has to go across through the Tiquina Strait, where passengers must get off the bus and cross in boats (the boat trip lasts around 15 minutes and the cost of 2 bolivianos is not covered int he price of the ticket).
Being a small town, Copacabana does not have a bus terminal. The bus stops in Plaza Sucre, in the center of town. It is here that buses arrive to and depart from. It is located here.
From Copacabana to Cusco
Copacabana is a small town with colonial architecture and many cultural and natural tourist attractions. At the shores of the sacred Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, Copacabana offers boat trips, the best trout in the region in its restaurants on the shore, and tours to the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.
After a stay in Copacabana, the traveler can continue the trip to Cusco. Please check the table below to see which companies travel from Copacabana to Cusco and all the relevant information.
Direct trips from Copacabana to Cusco
Time of departure
Time of arrival
Price in US$
5:30 (+1 day)
50 minute stop in Puno. Migration in Kasani
5:30 (+1 day)
50 minute stop in Puno. Migration in Kasani
4:30 (+1 day)
Direct service. Migration in Kasani
However you have planned your trip, nothing compares to the moment you finally reach your destination: the city of Cusco. All the buses arrive at the Bus Terminal of Cusco, located on Av. Vía de Evitamiento #429. Here is the map.
We hope the information has been useful and that you have a wonderful trip through the lands of the Incas.
Travelling in Peru and Bolivia is often associated with a number of dangers and scams targeted towards travelers. Especially if travelling in South America by bus. These fears can be somewhat exaggerated turning into urban myths which spread an image much scarier than reality. However, when travelling, you should always be careful and take some necessary precautions. Scams can occur in Bolivia (as in any other places in the world), and unaware travelers can easily fall victim to them. Here is a list of the most common ones in this part of the world and how to spot and avoid them.
There are different types of scams in Bolivia involving taxis. The general rule is to not get into a taxi without a working taximeter. However, most taxis in Bolivia , even radio taxis from reliable taxi companies, don’t have them. For this reason, it is better to check the price and agree with the taxi driver before getting in the car.
Sometimes the driver will pretend that the accommodation you picked is already full or that it’s really bad and will give you suggestions of places you should go. Which ends up being way more expensive. Tell the driver that you have a room booked (even if you don’t) and insist on being driven there, they rarely insist more.
What to do:
Check the price range from and to your destination. Always agree on a price and a currency. For instance, you may agree on a 50 soles ride in Lima from the airport but the taxi driver ends up charging 50 usd. If things are not clearly established before going in the taxi or you sense something dodgy then pick a different taxi.
People arriving late at night or very early in the morning are easy targets for scammers as they know that travelers will be more vulnerable and anxious to get to their hotel/accommodation. Always have the address/telephone number written on a piece of paper and the location pinned on your phone on an offline GPS application.
Bus terminals can feel less safe than airport terminals and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when people are approaching you from all directions trying to get you into their cab. Don’t follow the first driver that comes towards you, make sure to ask prices first.
If possible, use an app-based application to travel or call a recommended radio-taxi company.
Don’t get into taxis that already have passengers in them and don’t accept to take other passengers in route, even if they pretend to be police officers (see next scam).
Generally in Bolivia, people don’t like when you pay with large bills for small items. If you go to a market or a small tienda, it’s better to always have small change but people will find a solution. However, sometimes taxi drivers can use this as their advantage hoping that they end up with the larger bill as they don’t have change and it’s the middle of the night. It’s hard to say when it’s legitimate or if the driver is lying in order to get more.
What to do:
If you can’t break the large bills, ask the driver after the price has been set if he has change (‘Tiene cambio de XX?’). This way there won’t be a bad surprise when you arrive at your destination and the driver announces that he has no change and makes you give him the 50 bolivianos or 100 bolivianos bill you have.
In the street or sometimes in a taxi, a fake police officer will ask you for your documents and/or will ask you to follow him somewhere in order to get you to give him your money.
Sometimes the police officer will have an accomplice to legitimize him as a ‘real’ police officer. There is no reason why a police officer would randomly ask you for your documents or why you should follow anyone anywhere.
What to do:
Always have a copy of your passport printed with you when traveling. Don’t give your original passport to a stranger. Ask to see their badge number or any proof that they are who they say. Do NOT follow anyone, even if you think they are a real police officer. Say that your papers are in your hotel and that they can accompany you there, they won’t.
A variation on the police officer impersonator is the one where actual police officers/custom officers or anyone with a legitimate position, will take advantage of this in order to make some money on the side. (more on this in the Border Crossing Scams section)
What to do:
As a general rule, don’t break the law as it will be an opportunity for any corrupt official. Make sure to be aware of the country’s rules on specific issues and use good judgment to not get into situations where you could be taken advantage.
A very common technique around the world is to distract someone by spilling (or throwing) something on them. While you are confused, someone will try to help you clean the stain and an accomplice/or that same person will empty your pockets.
What to do:
Don’t stop, and don’t let anyone help you, go to a bathroom and clean it yourself. When walking in crowded areas don’t put anything of value in your pockets and wear your backpack in the front. Make sure none of your valuables are easily accessible.
Especially when buying electronic goods in a market, there is a risk that the products won’t work.
What to do:
We don’t recommended to buy phones/computers/anything electronic from a street market. Always go to an official seller or from someone you can trust. But if you must buy it always ask to try it. They should have an outlet to let you turn on the device you’re buying and make sure it works. The same applies for cheaper devices like earphones, cables and anything electronic. If you can’t try it, don’t buy it.
Border crossing scams
This a sub-category on the corrupt official scams and take very different forms depending on the border. These can change and adapt as people always find new creative ways to scam people. It is less common with the new well-regulated migratory centers between Peru/Chile/Bolivia. The process is extremely straight-forward with rarely cases of scams. At the less formal border crossing points this can happen, especially Desaguadero (when going through the city and not the migratory center outside which is for larger buses), Yunguyo/Kasani (when going from Copacabana to Puno), Ollague (Calama-Uyuni).
Some of the ones we’ve heard about in the last year are:
Stamp on passport: Tourists have reported that they are not receiving the migration stamp when entering Bolivia and have to pay a hefty fine when leaving the country. Scams usually involve some instant bribe or immediate reward for the scammer so it is not clear how this constitutes as a scam. In any case when entering and leaving a country, especially by land, always make sure that you have a stamp from each country.
‘Sin tarjeta‘. Upon entry in Bolivia, there is additional migratory form that comes with the passport which you may need when leaving the country (otherwise the officer writes ‘S.T.’ on your stamp). However, sometimes officials pretend there is a fine for not having the form and charge travelers with a fake fine.
Bolivia/Peru: Pornography found on phone. When leaving Bolivia, officers may ask to check your phone and will find ‘pornographic content’ which they will claim is illegal in Bolivia, making you pay a fine instead of sending you to jail. This is clearly a scam. Don’t let anyone look at your phone.
Straight-forward bribes. Sometimes, because it is late at night or because you are in a rush, officers will create some excuse and make it clear that with some money they will let you go. There is not much to do if this is happening to you other than paying the bribe. You could try asking for a receipt. Also, depending on the situation you may be able to get away with it but that will depend very much on who you’re dealing with. You can also try to report this later on.
What to do:
It is difficult to stand up to officials, especially if late at night in a isolated border crossing post, or if you don’t speak any Spanish and if you are in a rush. The safest option sometimes is to comply and report it later in the capital city. You can also try asking for a receipt which could scare away the official. This would mostly happen on some border crossing sites so be aware these could happen.
In Peru and Bolivia, there are accounts of counterfeit money circulating. It is hard for newcomers to recognize immediately which ones are legit and can be hard to avoid. Try to familiarize yourself quickly with what a real bill looks and feels like, and don’t hesitate to check the bills given to you.
Use common sense, if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with and don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be taken advantage of (this applies anywhere in the world, even at home).
It’s always good to know some of the country’s language as it will make you less vulnerable and less prone to be targeted by unscrupulous people trying to take advantage.
Based on one’s experience a country can feel more or less safe. Bolivia suffers from a bad reputation but La Paz is one of the safest cities in Latin America, just stay in the central areas. Petty theft is rare, as long as you follow common sense. The same is true for Peru, even if Lima, due to its size, will have more problems. Pickpockets may operate in public buses and walking at night in some areas is strongly discouraged.
Express kidnappings are mentioned frequently as a risk when traveling South America. These involve being taken and held up at an ATM for a period of time until you have withdrawn all the money you could. These are rare and would only happen in secluded areas at night. Only use ATMs during daylight hours or in busy areas.
Be careful in buses, especially when leave bags unattended. Book from bus terminals to avoid scams in Bolivia or Peru and with reputable bus companies. Find here safe travel options in Bolivia and Peru and find here tips to prepare for your bus trip in Bolivia.
Here is a complete guide on the essential things to bring to Bolivia and what to pack, whether you are traveling to La Paz or Santa Cruz; in the altiplano or the jungle.
Bringing layers is a must when traveling to Bolivia. Even during the summer months temperatures can be surprisingly chilly because of the rainy weather. Keep in mind that summer is the rainy season and winter the dry season. And in winter, temperatures go really low at night while it is deceptively warm during the day. Whatever the season, temperatures can change drastically throughout the day.
Some parts of the country are warmer but if you are traveling by bus, especially night buses, it can get very cold despite having a heating system. Most buses (semi lie-flat and lie-flat) have it but be aware that sometimes drivers might not put it on or it may not work. Be prepared as temperatures get very low!
The opposite is also true in the warmer parts of the country where it can get really hot. So if you are traveling to Santa Cruz from La Paz in bus, prepare layers as the weather will go from cold to hot during the journey.
As mentioned above, the summer months (between November and March) are the rainy seasons, rains may make traveling difficult, if not impossible, and it can rain at any time, in any part of the country. You can carry an umbrella in the city, but if hiking, better to pack for Bolivia waterproof clothing at any time, and layers. The rain can be unpredictable and be accompanied by a sudden change in temperature.
Altitude sickness medication
If landing in La Paz from sea level, or any place of lower altitude, it is essential to take some time to acclimatize. Especially considering that journeys to La Paz are often long and tiring, and accompanied with jet lag. It usually takes 2 or 3 days to acclimatize and longer if one plans to travel to a higher altitude and to hike.
The only way to help prevent altitude sickness is by taking Acetazolamide (Diamox) which is prescribed by your doctor and should be taken a few days before arriving. Altitude sickness varies depending on the individual and you may not need anything. Most of the time, that’s the case. But in case your time is limited or you have experienced altitude sickness before, do ask your doctor about it.
You’ll need the Yellow Fever vaccination if you are traveling to Bolivia. You may not be asked to show it when entering the country but it may be asked at a later time, especially when trying to travel to other countries who request the yellow fever vaccination. Bolivia is listed as Yellow Fever high risk country, and without the certification, other countries may not let you in.
Plane tickets/proof of onward travel
When traveling to Bolivia you will have to show either a return ticket or a proof of onward travel. This may be asked if you need a visa to enter the country but it may also be asked by the migration officer when entering the country (some airlines may not let you board if you don’t have it). If you are unsure of your travel plans, you can always book online a bus ticket to Peru or Chile from La Paz, which can be amended or cancelled at a later time, depending on your plans.
This is an absolute essential item to pack for Bolivia especially if going to the Salar de Uyuni. Not wearing sunglasses on the salt flat might permanently damage the eye and it is better to bring your own.
In case the power goes off but it’s also helpful at night, while doing the Uyuni 3-day tour, the second night doesn’t usually have electricity during the night. Also in night buses it can be useful to have a source of light if you drop something in the bus.
Not just in Bolivia, but these are always useful when traveling long journeys and for freshening up after overnight buses.
A good advice is to always carry toilet paper with you. Public toilets charge between 1 or 2 bolivianos and will provide you with a small amount of toilet paper but it’s good to have more on you, just in case. Don’t forget to put it in the bin, not the toilet.
The scenery is beautiful wherever you are traveling in Bolivia but long-distance buses can be very long, especially during the daytime so don’t hesitate to bring a book or your kindle, or to have podcasts ready. Bus journeys in journey can take up to 20 hours.
The most popular and easiest way to travel in Bolivia is by bus. Because of the country’s size and road conditions it can take over 7 hours to do less than 400 kilometers. Tickets can be purchased the very same day directly at the bus terminal but for travelers coming from abroad and trying to plan ahead their journey, it is now possible to book in advance online bus tickets with Tickets Bolivia.
Traveling in Bolivia is generally safe but can be quite unreliable, especially during the rainy season and public holidays. Some buses are not necessarily well-maintained, causing discomfort, breakdowns and delays and there are reports of drunk drivers. For this reason it is essential to travel with the safest and most reliable bus companies.
Also when booking a bus, travelers will have a choice of seats: Bus normal, Bus Semi-Cama or Bus Cama (sometimes referred to as Bus Leito). Normal buses don’t usually have toilets on boards and don’t really offer much leg space. Semi-Cama buses usually recline up to 140°, have 4 rows of seats, heating but not necessarily toilets. Cama buses should recline up to 170°, have 3 rows of seats, toilets on board, heating and AC.
It’s also important to know that roadblocks, marches, protests and special days can affect your journey. Roadblocks can last a few hours but sometimes it can last up to a few days. In these cases there is not much the bus driver can do, and one must just be patient if no other alternative is provided.
Always bring layers. The best bus companies usually have blankets for passengers, but temperatures in the Bolivian altiplano can be very cold, especially in July-August, and, if the heating doesn’t work, it can go as low as -15°C at night.
Bring snacks and water: Long distance buses always stop at least once, and some companies let vendors jump in the bus to sell snacks but it’s better to come prepared in case of any unexpected delay.
Where to seat: The back of the bus is the bumpiest and some roads are not paved. If you are prone to travel-sickness, better to avoid it and stay in the front of middle of the bus.
Plugs and WiFi: Even if advertised, it’s extremely unlikely that buses have WiFi, as most of the countryside doesn’t have phone service and very few buses in Bolivia are equipped with USB or plugs.
IMPORTANT: Bus terminals in Bolivia will ask passengers to pay for a small terminal tax called usually: Uso de Terminal. It usually costs Bs 2-2,50 and needs to purchased before boarding the bus. That fee is not included in your bus ticket.
For the best and most reliable bus companies, book your bus online here with Tickets Bolivia.
Travel Bolivia by train
If you plan to travel to Bolivia, one of the safest and most comfortable options is to do it by train. It’s also an efficient way to connect to one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations: the Salar de Uyuni.
Traveling by train offers many advantages. It’s a comfortable and environment-friendly, and it can help avoid road blockades and other issues that may arise with bus travel. There are two train companies in Bolivia which offer train service: Ferroviaria Andina in the west of the country and Ferroviaria Oriental who covers routes from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro and Yacuiba.
The most popular train route is from Oruro to Villazon, which goes via Uyuni:
The Uyuni-Villazon section of the railway is currently under repair but a bimodal service (Bus+Train) will be made available from 15 December 2018 to 30 January 2019. The full service will reopen later in 2019.
Travel Bolivia by plane
The fastest way to travel in Bolivia is by plane. There are three Bolivian airlines that cover most cities in the territory:
It is possible to rent a car to travel; prices for one-day rental start at USD 50-100.
You can also take local minibuses for trips under 4 hours but be aware that they don’t follow a schedule and leave when they are full. These minibuses don’t usually leave from the main bus terminal and have alternate departure points throughout the city. They make regular stops to pick and drop passengers along the way.