Getting around in Bolivia
We can safely say Bolivia is little rustic when it comes to public transport. Of the 55,500km of roads, 25% is gravel or partly paved and just 5% is tarmacked, but even these roads are pot-holed and poorly maintained. In rainy season roads are often closed. Lack of funding and inaccessible mountainous landscapes hamper the improvement of infrastructure so if you’re braving the eroded roads of Bolivia count on delays, punctures and break-downs. Traffic regulations are much more relaxed than what we’re used to in the UK, so don’t surprised if you see someone breaking the rules. This is why we don’t recommend self-drive in Bolivia!
The Bolivian buses are old and a little battered, but are in much better condition on the most popular routes. For this reason we only offer these routes. The buses are either ‘flotas’ that service only these routes or ‘micros’, minibuses for routes within the cities. Some routes can be reserved in advance, but not all. You’ll need to check in at the bus at least half an hour before departure. Local buses are full, cramped, seats are often broken and there’s little leg-room. The on-board music provides some cheerful auditory entertainment, though with the volume cranked up to the max it’s more crackle than pop tunes. But it’s not all bad, the bus rides are a travel adventure in themselves and the views are unparalleled.
Trains only run on a few routes and since privatisation, have become quite unreliable. Trains tend to be slow, packed and ancient and not much better than most buses. Because of the many strikes by rail personnel the train is often delayed or even cancelled. The bus is a safer choice and there are hourly departures, so it’s less of a problem when cancellations occur.
Taxis and Micros
Taxis are usually unmetered, so agree on a price before you get in. If there is a meter, ask the driver to switch it on before you set off. Airport taxis and taxis at the larger hotels are more expensive, but if you walk on a bit you can catch a much cheaper taxi.
Micros are shared minibus taxis for longer distances between (nearby) cities or within the city. They leave only once there are enough passengers (usually five). It’s a cheap and fun way to travel with the locals.
Road Blocks and Strikes
Road blocks and strikes are part of daily life in Bolivia and it’s likely you’ll stumble upon a road block at some point on your travels. Blocking the main roads has proven an effective way for the locals to draw attention to their political discontent, though unfortunately this means you might encounter delays or detours on several of your bus rides. Remember the strikes are never directly aimed at tourists so they’re not dangerous as such. In the event of a road block our local partner will assist you in changing your route. Please be aware that as strikes are unforeseen and classed as ‘force majeure’, any additional costs won’t automatically be covered by us.
Travelling with Meaning
We encourage people to use local transport and travel by foot which is of course the most sustainable way to travel! There’s no better way to enjoy your new surroundings and meet the locals than exploring with your own two feet. Your hotels will help you out with a map and offer advice on local attractions. Sometimes shorter transfers won’t be included in your trip so it might be the only option is to take a taxi- however this is a great way to test your haggling skills. We also advise taking the overnight buses out to Uyuni, reducing the carbon footprint- it’s also a great way to meet like minded travellers heading to the salt flats. Using the local buses to cross into Peru via Lake Titicaca, is also not only great for the environment but also a truly beautiful border crossing.