During most of my road trips across Bolivia, I used public transport or hired local taxi drivers in order to reach small villages. Opinions vary but to my experience, I had predominantly safe and comfortable bus rides in Bolivia.
Let’s start from Copacabana to La Paz. Coach organised by ‘Bolivia Hop’. From La Paz to Santa Cruz de la Sierra I used ‘Trans Copacabana’. Getting from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Vallegrande required a bit more logistic and determination. The bus terminal in Vallegrande offered a night bus to Sucre operating three times a week. Once in Sucre I could pick one of many bus companies connecting Sucre with Uyuni. I chose the ‘6th de Octubre’. I left Uyuni, Bolivia early in the morning, 5.0am, for Calama, Chile.
The Part of my bus journey from Cusco to LA Paz, I covered in the post – Peruvian Buses.
LA PAZ – SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA
The main hall inside the bus terminal in La Paz. Sitting in the hard seat row, I patiently waited for my 2pm to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The big screen offered nothing more than Candid Camera show. Very funny as it was the Japanese version.
One of the many entrances to the platform. That was mine. Narrow and in the middle of rebuilding. To your left and right there ticket counters. The choice was plentiful.
One of the few rest stops on the way to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Nice food options and two or three Western travellers in total. Most passengers were Spanic.
Seats were comfy enough to enjoy the ride relaxed and focused on passing landscape. I initially sat in the middle as there were plenty of seats available. Not for long. At some point during the journey, it turned out seats were allocated and had to move to mine, number 3, which was at the front.
What an unexpected change of view. I had a front seat with a reclined seat and enough room for my legs.
That was a truly enjoyable ride being able to watch the road from the front seat.
The bus pulled over at one of the many rest stops for passengers to use the bathroom and order some hot meal. I didn’t risk it and just got myself a black coffee. Yes, this drink on the table that looks like a Cola is actually a black coffee with three spoons of sugar (which I didn’t ask for). It was a boast to my brain at this time of the day.
Now we know at which town I had this unique coffee experience. Caracollo or Q’araqullu or Q’ara Qullu.
SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA – VALLEGRANDE
This is the entrance to the terminal for buses going to Vallegrande. It was a taxi logistic nightmare to find this place. After three stops elsewhere and asking locals for directions, we finally got there.
It was basically a big square with simplistic stalls and bay areas. Quiet and served well for local travelers. The photo shows the ticket company I picked. Two rides, 9am and 1pm which lasts 7 hours.
That was my bus. Very colourful and welcoming I know. It could be a family business as they were loading other stuff like furniture and fertilizers.
Comfortable setas and a big bloke next to me elbowing me from time to time during his sleep. The other half of the journey I had two seats to myself.
The ticket looks legit, right? I corrected the staff on the spelling of my first name but did it really matter? You can never be too careful and I desperately need to get to Vallegrande on that day. I was on a tight schedule which started in La Paz
I have to give credit to this nice and VERY helpful fella. He was doing his best to get me to the terminal which turned out to be almost 2km far away from the main bus terminal in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Thanks, man!
VALLEGRANDE – SUCRE
The bus terminal in Vallegrande serves various destinations. The only direct connection between Vallegrande and Sucre is a night bus running three times a week. I had mine on Sunday at 8.30pm.
The bus was semi comfy but warm and half empty. I expected it to be packed, to be honest. The driver and terminal staff was friendly and helpful. Feeling safe and attracting curiosity from some local vendors. I struck up a few pleasant conversations.
On of the bus terminal on my way to Sucre. For some paranoid reason, I started wondering, at which point I was going to get kidnapped. Wrong. Still safe and secure.
Plenty of room for everyone. Passengers included a solo young female, two hoodies, three elderly women.
SUCRE – UYUNI
I reached Sucre at 6.30am so I had enough time to composed myself, repack double-check my e-ticket and of course look for a coffee shop. The bus company stalls opened roughly two hours before departure. Mine was ‘6 de Octubre’. A nice lady confirmed my booking and allocated a seat.
The main hall lived their on life. Locals heading different directions, two Japanese tourists with heavy backpacks seemed confused but found their agency, eventually.
That’s my bus! Simplistic but safe and got me to Uyuni unharmed. Together with me, there were obviously quite a few Western tourists heading to the famous Salt Lake in Uyuni. I could hear English, German and Flemish.
UYUNI – CALAMA
Although not exactly the bus to Uyuni, this is the street corner from which the early buses go to Calama, Chile. Safe and quiet place with a few vendors selling snacks and coffee from big flasks.
This is the Cruz del Norte agency office
It can get very busy and hectic dealing with the staff but apply patience and awareness, you will be served eventually. It had two attempts at confirming my online reservation. All good.
The office opens at least 45 min before departure. It was getting busy but boarding and ticket allocations were organised and smooth. Once all booked passengers are onboard you see some locals occupying the last available seat. Feeling safe and relaxed regardless.
Bolivian / Chilean Border Crossing
Not much explanation was given on the bus, at least some more clarification in English, with due respect to Spanish. Everyone got off the bus and just follow others to this building. Quick process, one stamp in your passport and you are out, waiting to board the bus and go to the Chilean side of the border.
Again, you get off the bus and enter the building to your left. That is for your DOI paper slip. You must keep it safe as it is necessary for any check-ins in Chile. You have to make sure it says TOURISTA on it, not OTER. Asit means you have to pay local tax every time you check-in hotels. I was not asked any questions relating to the purpose of my visit and got OTER, which I realised later and consequently visited the DUI office in Calama. Too late, they couldn’t change that for me. It is still absolutely fine to travel around the country, just I had to pay 22% more for my accommodation.
The bus and luggage ready for inspection. A bit lengthy process but smooth and well organised by Chilean Immigration staff.
You need to fill in a form to declare any forbidden food. I did, just to check how serious the whole cheese and fish product ban was. I had some vacuum-packed dairy products, tinned tuna and fruit. I declared them on this form and proceeded to the Inspection Room. The officials looked closely, advised between each other and let me off.