Sucre to Uyuni by bus

Updated: 12 June 2019

Bolivia is a land of amazing contrasts, where the magnificence of the natural landscapes are only matched by the beauty of its cultural attractions. If you are attracted by the out-of-this-world formations of 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 historical wealth 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.

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If you want to get to know all three destinations, you can go from Sucre to Potosi and from there to Uyuni, or vice-versa. We´ll walk you through the routes, time tables and all the information you need to know to reach these cities.

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A view of Potosi from the colonial rooftops

Sucre to Potosi by bus

Sucre is the actual 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 numerous white walls and red rooftops, the churches and convents of  colonial times and the mild, sunny weather. Sucre is considered one of the most beautiful colonial cities in America.

potosi
Cerro Rico, Potosi

The distance between Sucre and Potosi is 156 kilometers. Both are very important tourist destinations, both colonial cities rich in history. The trip between these cities is around 3 hours. The route is highly popular with both tourists and locals, given that the two cities are connected not only historically but also by cultural and economic ties.

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, you must take a bus at the main bus terminal in Sucre, located on Avenida Ostria Gutierrez. You will be asked to pay a small fee called Uso de Terminal (Terminal use), which costs 2.5 Bs. The buses from Sucre arrive at the “new” bus station in Potosi, located on Avenida Las Banderas.

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A view of Sucre from the air

Potosi is an important mining center, famous for its Rich Mountain, which provided the silver for the Spanish Colony for centuries. In fact, it was in Potosi that the silver coins were made for the entire Spanish empire. Today, the city preserves its colonial architecture and tourists can visit the Casa de la Moneda (the colonial mint), as well as the mines of the Cerro Rico, which looms over the city.

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Uyuni Salt Flat, covered by a layer of rain water

Potosi to Uyuni by bus

After spending a few days in Potosi, you can continue the trip on to Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. Uyuni is located at 204 km from the city of Potosi. The trip takes 4 hours by bus through a paved highway.

In order to take a bus to Uyuni from Potosi you must go to Potosi’s “old” bus terminal, on Avenida Universitaria.  The buses leave at 9:30, 16:30 and 17:30 in semi lie-flat buses with the company Expreso 11 de Julio. Again, 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.)

Uyuni is the foremost tourist destination in Bolivia, a landscape that will leave you in awe. Formerly a salt-water lake, the Uyuni salt flats is a desert of salt in the middle of the Bolivian highlands. Tours include the train cemetery and the red and green lagoons, with possibility to transfer to Chile.

Sucre to Uyuni by bus

You can also visit the salt flats on a trip directly from Sucre. The journey takes around 8 hours covering a distance of 360 kilometers. You can depart at three different hours from Sucre: at 9:30, 20:00 and 20:30 with the bus companies 6 de Octubre or Exp. 11 de Julio.

You can visit the site https://www.ticketsbolivia.com to book bus tickets online.

Travel by bus from Sucre to Uyuni: all you need to know

Updated: 12 June 2019

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.

Capture

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.

potosibol
A view of Potosi from the colonial rooftops

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.

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Cerro Rico, Potosi

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.

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A view of Sucre from the air

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.

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Uyuni Salt Flat, covered by a layer of rain water

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.

In order to take a bus to Uyuni from Potosi you must go to Potosi’s “old” bus terminal, on Avenida Universitaria.  

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.

You can visit the site https://www.ticketsbolivia.com to book bus tickets online.

Travel by land from Cusco to La Paz

Cusco to La Paz or Cusco to Copacabana to La Paz or Cusco to Puno to La Paz?

Here you will find all the information you need to know to go from Cusco to Puno-Copacabana-La Paz. We will also help you choose between Puno or Copacabana and provide you with all the bus and train information to plan your journey.

If you are traveling from Peru to Bolivia, you probably are going from Cusco to La Paz. The easiest and cheapest way to do this journey is by bus. But there is another reason to choose bus travel over plane for this itinerary. The journey from  Cusco to La Paz by bus goes via the Lake Titicaca where you can decide to break your trip and visit Puno or Copacabana. After Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca is one of the most famous and popular holiday destination in South America. It’s the highest navigable lake in the world and provided some of the most beautiful sunsets and views you can imagine.

Here we will help you decide what is the best itinerary for your trip and how to get there.

1. How to get directly from Cusco to La Paz by bus

Direct buses from Cusco to La Paz leave in the evening, after 22:00 hours, in order to reach the Desaguadero border in the morning when it opens thus avoiding lines.

Buses leave from the main terminal in Cusco located here. The journey takes about 14 to 16 hours depending how long it takes to cross the border. The bus goes via Puno where it stops briefly.

Direct bus schedule from Cusco to La Paz

Bus companySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Trans SalvadorLie-flat 3 rows22:0013:00 (+1 day)$24.09 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat22:0015:00 (+1 day)$29.00 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Nuevo Continente InternacionalLie flat22:3014:00 (+1 day)$26.28 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
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Uros Floating Islands – Photo: bobistraveling via Wikemedia Commons

2. Puno or Copacabana, which one is better?

A common decision that travelers who want to see Lake Titicaca have to make is to choose between Puno, on the Peruvian side of the lake, or Copacabana, on the Bolivian side. Both options are worth exploring but sometimes due to time constraints, it’s one or the other.

Why Puno?

Puno is a good sized town on the shore of the lake with archaeological sites nearby and where you can learn about colonial history and stay in the homes of the people native to the area:

  • Visit the Catedral de Puno, an 18th-century Baroque cathedral that towers over the city center.
  • Museo Municipal Carlos Dryer: The museum holds a solid selection of regional artifacts and textiles, including a collection of mummies with deformed skulls.
  • Uros Floating Islands: Founded by the Uros people, the islands have been artificially made from the native totora reed. The Uros meticulously maintain their traditional homes and welcome visitors.
  • Amantani Island: Further away than the Uros Islands, Amantani Island provides a fascinating and authentic insight into local indigenous culture. Tourists can choose to spend a night there thanks to community-run initiatives which will allow you stay in a family home.
  • Another island worthy of a visit is Taquile. Smaller yet more developed, the island is famous throughout Peru for its textiles. You can also visit archaeological sites and enjoy breathtaking views of the lake.
  • Back on the mainland, Sillustani is an intriguing pre-Inca burial ground. The tombs, which are built above ground in funeral towers called chullpas, are the vestiges of the Qulla people, who were conquered by the Inca Empire in the 15th century.

Why Copacabana? 

Copacabana is known for its mystique and beauty, and for the best trout you’ll ever eat. It’s smaller and more quiet than Puno but has a unique charm and allows for some small hikes around the lake.

If you don’t have much time and want to make the most of your visit, you can choose one or several of these options:

  • Climb Cerro El Calvario: A 30 minutes-walk up the hill to panoramic views of the lake. It is a popular spot to watch the sunset.
  • Spend a night on Isla del Sol: One of the most popular things to do when you are in Copacabana is visit the Sun Island. The boats leave from the dock at 8:00 and 13:30 every day. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the island. On the island you will be able to see Incan ruins and experience the peace and energy of one of the most sacred places of the Incan empire. It is a very picturesque place where one can enjoy panoramic views of the lake, sights of the Cordillera Real, and hikes trough ancestral terracing and Pre-Columbian ruins.
  • Moon Island: Legend has it that this is where Viracocha (the Inca Creator deity) commanded the rising of the moon. It is a tiny island located near the Sun Island on Lake Titicaca, it is home to the ruins of the Temple of the Virgins. Hiking the entire island takes about an hour.
  • Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana: A 16th-century Spanish colonial church that houses the image of the Virgen de Copacabana.

The verdict

Both cities are transit places to go visit more picturesque sites on or near the lake. Copacabana is more relaxed than Puno but has less to offer in terms of cultural and touristic activities, and is smaller in size. Isla del Sol is less developed but, being free of cars, and protected by the local communities, it is a peaceful place to enjoy nature and amazing views of the lake. On the other hand, the Urus Floating Islands, near Puno will offer a different experience where tourists can stay in traditional houses and learn about the culture of the area. The choice will depend on each one’s personal preference, Puno and Copacabana could either be skipped but generally it is worth spending at least one night on an island on the lake.

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View of Copacabana

3. Getting to Puno

To do the route from Cusco to Puno, also known as Ruta del Sol (Sun Route), there are two main options. The first one is to take a direct bus that takes about 7 hours. The second option is to take a tourist bus or train that will make stops along the way and provide guided explanations on the different sites.

Direct options from Cusco to Puno

Bus companySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat/lie flat22:005:00 (+1 day)$13.14/$18.25Direct service
TranszelaInca suite8:3015:30$15Direct service
TranszelaInca suite22:155:15 (+1 day)$15Direct service
Huayruro ToursSemi-lie flat/lie flat22:305:00 (+1 day)$11.68/$16.08Direct service
Trans TiticacaSemi-lie flat22:305:30 (+1 day)$14.60Direct service

Touristic options from Cusco to Puno

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Inka ExpressBus7:0017:30$65Stops along the way. Buffet lunch
Wonder Peru ExpeditionBus7:0017:30$55Stops along the way. Buffet lunch
PeruRail TiticacaTrain7:1017:30$265 Lunch

From Puno, there are direct buses to La Paz and Copacabana (see below).

4. Getting to Copacabana

Buses from Cusco to Copacabana usually involve a stop or a change of bus in Puno. Buses from Puno to Copacabana are then direct. The border crossing point is Yunguyo-Kasani. Stories of tourists being scammed have been reported at this border point, you can read our blog on how to avoid and deal with scams when traveling by bus in South America.

Isla de la Luna, Bolivia
Isla de la Luna – Photo: Chtiwiki via Wikimedia Commons

Direct options from Puno to Copacabana by bus

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Trans TiticacaNormal bus6:0011:00$8.76Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal bus7:3012:30$8.76Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal bus13:3018:30$11.68Migration in Kasani
TranszelaInca suite7:0010:00$11Migration in Kasani
Huayruro ToursSemi-lie flat/lie flat7:0012:00$7.30Migration in Kasani
Tour PeruNormal bus7:0012:00$9Migration in Kasani

5. Getting to La Paz via Puno or Copacabana

Whether you are leaving from Cusco, Puno or Copacabana, there are direct buses for each route. Copacabana to La Paz takes about 4 hours. The journey involves crossing the Tiquina straight, which costs 2 bolivianos, a cost which is not usually included in the bus ticket. Buses can’t cross at night so buses don’t leave after 18:30.

If taking a direct bus from Cusco or Puno, migration takes place at Desaguadero.

Most buses to La Paz arrive at the main bus terminal on Uruguay Avenue. Tourist buses sometimes drop passengers at their hotels. This is the case for companies such as Turisbus and Bolivia Hop.

Direct buses from Puno to La Paz

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat6:4515:00$15Migration in Desaguadero
Trans TiticacaNormal bus7:0015:00$14.60Migration in Desaguadero

Direct buses from Copacabana to La Paz

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Diana TourNormal bus13:3017:30$4.30Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)
Trans TiticacaNormal bus13:3017:30$5.11Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)
Vicuna TravelNormal bus13:3017:30$4.38Does not include the boat cost in Tiquina (2Bs)
TurisbusTourist bus13:3018:00$19.00Pick-up from hotel.

Includes crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)

Trans TiticacaNormal bus18:3022:30$5.84Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)

Please take into consideration that some buses make several short stops along the way, picking up passengers and sometimes women from local communities who make a living by selling food and beverages on the buses. Since these stops are not in the official itinerary, they may be upsetting for tourists.

Another option to travel from Cusco to La Paz and take the time to explore Puno and/or Copacabana would be to travel with Bolivia Hop which offers passes to hop-on and hop-off in both cities and comes with some optional tours. You can book online any of the buses presented above as well as the Bolivia Hop Cusco to La Paz pass.

Please also note that the bus schedules are subject to change by the bus companies and that these are not an exhaustive list, we’ve selected the most reliable an safest bus companies for your convenience. More options exist at the bus terminals with more informal bus companies that cannot be booked online.

Book your bus and train tickets online at www.ticketsbolivia.com.

The most common scams to avoid when travelling in Peru and Bolivia

Travelling in South America 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 South America (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.

Bolivian Taxi, La Paz

Taxi scams

There are different types of scams involving taxis. The general rule is to not get a taxi that doesn’t have a working taximeter. However, most taxis, even radio taxis from reliable taxi companies in Bolivia and Peru 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 end 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 beforehand the range of prices 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).

No change

Generally in South America, 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.

Police impersonator

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.

Corrupt officials

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.

Inside a bus in Lima, Peru

Spills/Pickpockets:

A very common technique around the world is to distract someone by spilling (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 be emptying 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.

Fake goods

Especially when buying electronic goods in a market, there is a risk that the products won’t work.

What to do:

It is not 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.

ollague
Ollague Border Crossing

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. They are becoming less common as countries are building well-regulated migratory centers between Peru/Chile/Bolivia where the process is extremely straight-forward and scams haven’t been reported. 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, some passports are given an additional migratory form that has to be kept and given to the migration officer when leaving the country. Not everyone gets one (depends on the passport) and in this case the passport gets the letters S.T. written on the 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 they can sense 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 and depending on the situation you may be able to get away with it but that will depend very much on the person 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.

Fake notes

In Peru and Bolivia, there are accounts of counterfeit money being used. 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.

General tips

  • 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.

The most common scams to avoid in Bolivia

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.

Bolivian Taxi, La Paz

Taxi scams

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).

No change

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.

Police impersonator

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.

Corrupt officials

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.

Inside a bus in Lima, Peru

Spills/Pickpockets:

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.

Fake goods

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.

ollague
Ollague Border Crossing

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.

Fake notes

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.

General tips

  • 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.

Discover La Paz in 3 Hours

The city of La Paz (Our Lady of Peace in English) has a lot to offer, you can discover it by joining one of the walking tours on offer, by riding the cable-car lines, or by taking the new sightseeing city tour bus. From the center of La Paz to the Valle de la Luna in the south of the city, you can comfortably enjoy the different sights around you while learning about the city’s history.

View of La Paz from mirado Killi Killi

La Paz has a rich history, architecture and culture to explore and there is no better way to do it than by bus. Because of the altitude, 3,600 meters above sea level, it can be difficult and tiring for newcomers to walk the steep streets, especially when one has only a few days in La Paz and there is so much to see, eat and learn. From inside the bus, whether it rains or not ­– which it does a lot during the rainy season between November and March – you can appreciate the colonial buildings, the Art Deco architecture, the vibrant street life and the beautiful panoramic views of Illimani (the 6.438-meters-high mountain protecting the city of La Paz).

Along the way you will pass through:

  • Calle Sagarnaga: Home to the famous Witches Market where local and tourists alike can buy traditional clothing and ancient remedies.
  • Plaza Murillo: This is where the patriot Pedro Domingo Murillo declared Bolivia’s independence in 1809, the first in South America to do so. It took six months for the Spaniards to get the control again and Bolivia had to wait until 1825 to finally be independent and proclaim the Republic.
  • Mirador Killi Killi: One of the seven miradors of La Paz, this one has some of the best views, facing the Illimani and allowing people to appreciate how the city spreads south.
  • Miraflores: This whole neighborhood was built in the 1920s by the Bolivian architect Emilio Villanueva Peñaranda who conceived it and connected it to the Avenida Camacho. Here you can see the Hernando Siles Stadium, Plaza Uyuni and Avenida Busch.
  • Sopocachi: A bohemian neighborhood, Sopocachi is filled with coffee shops, street art and interesting architecture, mixing styles and giving it a very unique feel.
  • Valle de la Luna: After Sopocachi, The bus drives down to the south of La Paz to Mallasa where the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley can be found. It was named by Neil Armstrong himself in 1969 who, while visiting La Paz, found an uncanny resemblance between the rocky structures south of the city and the Moon.

Valle de la Luna, La Paz, Bolivia

You can see all of this and more in the newly refurbished double-decker buses which are now available for tours around the city. The trip lasts approximately three hours, departing twice daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 10am and 2pm. Departure is from Hotel Qantu on Calle Illampu in the center of the city. There are three stops for passengers to hop on and hop off: Plaza Murillo, Plaza Isabel la Catolica, and Las Cholas. The bus drops passengers back at the Hotel Qantu or gives them the option to get off at the cable-car station Curva de Holguin where they can take the yellow or green line. The yellow line goes all the way up to El Alto where it connects to the silver line and then to the red and blue lines.

A bilingual guide in each bus will provide information on the different buildings and places on the way, enriching each travelers’ experience with local knowledge.

STOPS AFTERNOON
Illampu 740 Hotel Qantu 14:00
Plaza Murillo 14:30
Plaza Isabel la Catolica 15:00
Kiosco de las Cholas 15:45

Sightseeing City Tour La Paz

 

INCLUDED

  • Tourist guide (Spanish-French-English)
  • Energy bar

NOT INCLUDED

  • Tips
  • Entrance to the Valle de la Luna (3 Bs – Nationals/15 Bs – Foreigners

For more information and to book tickets online, visit our page on www.ticketsbolivia.com

Discover La Paz by bus in three hours

The city of La Paz (Our Lady of Peace in English) has a lot to offer, you can discover it by joining one of the walking tours on offer, by riding the cable-car lines, or by taking the new sightseeing city tour bus. From the center of La Paz to the Valle de la Luna in the south of the city, you can comfortably enjoy the different sights around you while learning about the city’s history.

View of La Paz from mirado Killi Killi

La Paz has a rich history, architecture and culture to explore and there is no better way to do it than by bus. Because of the altitude, 3,600 meters above sea level, it can be difficult and tiring for newcomers to walk the steep streets, especially when one has only a few days in La Paz and there is so much to see, eat and learn. From inside the bus, whether it rains or not ­– which it does a lot during the rainy season between November and March – you can appreciate the colonial buildings, the Art Deco architecture, the vibrant street life and the beautiful panoramic views of Illimani (the 6.438-meters-high mountain protecting the city of La Paz).

Along the way you will pass through:

  • Calle Sagarnaga: Home to the famous Witches Market where local and tourists alike can buy traditional clothing and ancient remedies.
  • Plaza Murillo: This is where Pedro Domingo Murillo declared Bolivia’s independence in 1809, the first in South America to do so. It took six months for the Spaniards to get the control again and Bolivia had to wait until 1825 to finally be independent and proclaim the Republic.
  • Mirador Killi Killi: One of the seven miradors of La Paz, this one has some of the best views, facing the Illimani and allowing people to appreciate how the city spreads south.
  • Miraflores: This whole neighborhood is from 1920s. The Bolivian architect Emilio Villanueva Peñaranda conceived it and connected it to the Avenida Camacho. Here you can see the Hernando Siles Stadium, Plaza Uyuni and Avenida Busch.
  • Sopocachi: A bohemian neighborhood, Sopocachi is filled with coffee shops, street art and interesting architecture, mixing styles and giving it a very unique feel.
  • Valle de la Luna: After Sopocachi, The bus drives down to the south of La Paz to Mallasa where the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley can be found. It was named by Neil Armstrong himself in 1969 who, while visiting La Paz, found an uncanny resemblance between the rocky structures south of the city and the Moon.
Valle de la Luna, La Paz, Bolivia

You can see all of this and more in the newly refurbished double-decker buses which are now available for tours around the city. The trip lasts approximately three hours, departing twice daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm. Departure is from Hotel Qantu on Calle Illampu in the center of the city. There are three stops for passengers to hop on and hop off: Plaza Murillo, Plaza Isabel la Catolica, and Las Cholas. The bus drops passengers back at the Hotel Qantu or gives them the option to get off at the cable-car station Curva de Holguin where they can take the yellow or green line. The yellow line goes all the way up to El Alto where it connects to the silver line and then to the red and blue lines.

A bilingual guide in each bus will provide information on the different buildings and places on the way, enriching each travelers’ experience with local knowledge.

STOPSPICK-UP TIME
Illampu 740 Hotel Qantu14:00
Plaza Murillo14:30
Plaza Isabel la Catolica15:00
Kiosco de las Cholas15:45
Sightseeing City Tour La Paz

If you have more time in La Paz and want to explore places near by and make the most of its museums and attractions you can check this guide listing 15 things to do in an around La Paz.

Everything you Need to Know about Carnival in Bolivia

Diablada, Carnival of Oruro

Every year around February-early March comes Carnival. A festive Christian tradition which takes place the days leading to Lent. Carnival is celebrated around the world with parades and public celebrations. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous parties around the world but Carnival is celebrated in most Christian and Orthodox countries with each its own traditions. Here in Bolivia, Carnival comes with its own set of customs and is well worth the visit.

The best place to enjoy Bolivia’s carnival season is in Oruro. Located in western Bolivia, 230 km south of La Paz, this small mining town is fairly quiet the rest of the year but turns into one of the largest and most visited places in South America. This year, Carnival of Oruro will take place between Saturday 2 March and Tuesday 5 March. The Oruro Carnival takes place over four days from Saturday to Tuesday, with the main celebrations taking place Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday is the Great Pilgrimage to the Socavón and the Entry of the Corso is on Sunday.

Carnaval, Oruro, Bolivia

The main dance performed, originally from Oruro, is the Diablada – the dance of the devil – which is performed alongside other traditional Bolivian dances including morenadas, caporales and tinkus. The parade runs from morning until late at night, until Shrove Tuesday. Over 50 parade groups dance, sing, and play music over a four kilometer-long course. The Carnival parade passes through the Plaza 10 de Febrero square. At the different sectors there are stands where you can get a seat after paying a fee.

The 2019 Carnival procession in Oruro will start on Bolívar Street, maintaining the route of the previous years: Calle Pagador, Aroma until 6 de Agosto, Calle Bolívar, and then will continue to La Plata, Adolfo Mier and Presidente Montes, Bolívar to La Petot, Adolfo Mier, Avenida Civica “Sanjinés Vincentti”, Junín and finally culminating at the Socavón Sanctuary. The procession finishes inside the Socavon cathedral in the center of town.

Diablada de Oruro, Bolivia

Oruro’s carnival was declared in 2001 “Masterpieces of Oral Heritage and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO and attracts more than 400,000 people each year, involving 30,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians. The city of Oruro receives almost twice the number of inhabitants come for Carnival. For this reason, it is highly recommended to reserve the accommodation with months, if not a year, in advance. During these days the hotel occupancy reaches 100%. It is also possible to sleep in rooms rented by local families. The prices of any accommodation during the carnival is a lot higher than during the rest of the year and you may have to share accommodation.

In the rest of the country, celebrations are held involving traditional dances and water wars. Prepare yourself for being randomly targeted (or not so randomly if you are a foreigner) and being attacked with water balloons and water guns. This tradition started over a century ago when people started filling eggs with water and throwing them at other people in weirdly violent displays of fun. The warmer the weather, the more popular are these games, and nowadays, cities like Sucre and Cochabamba turn into full-on water wars. La Paz and Oruro are not excluded from the fun despite the colder weather. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, on the east side of the country, tropical weather allows a Brazilian-type Carnival, with Comparsas dancing traditional songs in matching uniforms.

Expreso del Sur train, Bolivia

How to get there

Carnival can be experienced all around Bolivia, and wherever you are, you will have the opportunity to watch dancing parades and to be attacked by strangers with water balloons, but if you are looking to experience the frenzy and overindulgence of Oruro’s carnival, there are many ways to get there.

Most cities will have direct buses to Oruro. La Paz to Oruro is a 3.5 hour long journey. You can also take the train from Uyuni. The train leaves on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

There is another option for this year’s celebration. Ferroviaria Andina announced that the ‘Tren Carnavalero) (Carnaval Train) will be made available this year and includes throughout the day (in the train and in Oruro):

  • Pick up from different locations throughout the city of La Paz and El Alto
  • Seats in Executive Class, with reclining seats, blankets and pillow
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Snacks
  • Open bar with beer, fernet, rhum, singani, vodka
  • Individual and covered seats to watch the parade in Oruro on Av. 6 de Agosto y Bolívar
  • Two of the wagons will be turned into a Discotheque
  • Security/Guides/First Aid/Cloakroom/Teas and coffee
  • 30 additional bathrooms
  • An exclusive fireworks show and the possibility of dancing with the ‘Diablada ferroviaria’

The train leaves from Viacha but the journey includes the transfer from La Paz and El Alto. Departure is on Friday 1st March at 11pm to arrive at 6am in Oruro. The train then leaves Oruro on the Sunday at 12am.

For more information and to book bus and train tickets, visit Tickets Bolivia.

Everything You Need To Know About Alasita in Bolivia

miniaturas_de_alasita_
Caleidoscopic – via Wikimedia Commons

Every year on 24th January starts the annual Alasita festival in La Paz, Bolivia. It lasts for a month with stalls covered with miniature versions of houses, money bills, cereal boxes, passports, iPhone, diplomas, and all the items one may aspire to acquire during the year.

What is the alasita festival in Bolivia?

In Bolivia, Alasita is a place where one can also look for love in the shape of a rooster or a hen. To ensure that you will find love during that year, the rooster/hen has to be given to you. You cannot purchase it yourself. The birds have come to represent love and they come in different colors, each representing something: black ones are for widowers, yellow (or gold) are for people looking for a (very) rich partner, white ones represent purity and the red ones are more passionate. Some of them even have professions and different qualities depending on what you look in a partner.

Everything purchased at the fair needs to be blessed by priests and then offered to the Ekeko, the Andean God of Abundance. He’s easily recognizable by the bags of goods he carries, the chullo (traditional hat) and the cigarettes he’s smoking.

Other traditional and typical items people purchase are golden toads which represent Pachamama (Mother Earth) and are meant to bring fortune and prosperity to your home. Suitcases filled with money are also popular implying that money won’t be missing and that there will be opportunities to travel during the year. Food is another common purchase people make, with miniature boxes of pasta, rice, quinoa and other staples that you can buy.

vista_de_alasitas_2010,_la_paz,_bolivia_-_panoramio_-_lilapagola
lilapagola – via Wikimedia Commons

Alasitas is popular festival that mixes indigenous beliefs and Catholicism, tradition and modernity, illustrating perfectly Bolivia’s complexities and idiosyncrasies. On the first day of Alasitas, at around 12:00pm people gather in and around the churches to have their items blessed by the Catholic priests in a vibrant display of syncretism. And it’s also more than that; Alasitas is a fun, convivial place with food and games, enjoyable for the whole family, where one can also find hand-crafted and artisan goods. Make sure to go and try the plato paceño, a local specialty with corn, cheese, meet and fava beans, and the unmissable api con pastel, a purple-corn drink accompanied by a deep-fried cheese empanada.

Alasitas can be enjoyed throughout the city during 30 days, especially on the first day but the fair is held in Parque Urbano in La Paz. The fair then moves to Santa Cruz in September, where it also stays for a month.

If you are travelling in Bolivia in January/February or September make sure not to miss the Alasitas fair. You can easily travel to La Paz and Santa Cruz and plan ahead your trip with Tickets Bolivia.

What to pack when traveling to Bolivia

Sajama National Park
Sajama National Park – Photo by Armin Silber

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.

Warm clothes/Layers

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.

Waterproof clothing

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.

Vaccination card

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.

Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Sunglasses

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.

Flashlight

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.

Wet wipes

Not just in Bolivia, but these are always useful when traveling long journeys and for freshening up after overnight buses.

Toilet paper

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.

Books

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.