In Bolivia buses are the most common form of transportation in the city and between cities. There are various different types of buses, each named according to its purpose. Learn about how to get into and out of Bolivia overland, and how to get around our cities using local bus lines. You can also view a list of interdepartmental and international bus stations
here. There are no bus stations in Bolivia for local city buses: only bus stops. Read more below on what each type of bus is like, where to find them, and a little on bus safety too.
Micros are our local city buses. Prices for 'micros' (meaning 'mini' or 'tiny' and so-named because they are only supposed to carry up to 24 passengers) are regulated, and all routes costs the same, no matter which company owns them. Schoolchildren and the aged get discounts. Micros have set routes and stops throughout the city, although most stop at nearly every corner and anywhere in between when someone flags them down (they aren't supposed to do that). They come by often, on some routes as frequently as every 2-5 minutes.
Micros must cover their routes from beginning to end in a set amount of time and have several 'checkpoints' in between where they must punch a time card to show they are on time all along their routes. Because of this, they sometimes drive too fast, pass each other with millimeters to spare, and even 'race' each other (this happens more in the flat cities than in mountainous cities like La Paz where, fortunately, they don't have room to do that). This does not mean they are always timely. Another thing to know about micro buses is that they will pack in as many passengers as they can.
In order to get off the bus, you can pull a cord (usually located above your window) which will ring a buzzer. On micro buses that don't have these cords, the customary way to ensure you'll get off where you want to is to begin shouting "Esquina Maestro!" about a block before your corner. This basically means "Next corner please Mr. Bus Driver." Micros do not use the "terminales de buses" (the bus stations located in each city). At night they are kept in garages as each micro line is privately owned.
A young man in the city of Santa Cruz has developed an app that you can download from Google Play store called Cruzero. It has a full list of all the micros, their color coding and their routes in Santa Cruz. Apps for other cities have not yet been developed.
Flotas (which literally means 'fleet buses') are large and modern, usually part of a fleet owned by one company, hence their name, and can carry upwards of 80 passengers. They provide service between cities and towns and to borders with neighboring countries. They are also known as 'flotas interprovinciales' (buses between states or provinces). Prices are supposed to reflect the level of service, but this is not always the case. There are many competing companies (dozens) and nearly all list the same prices for the same destinations, regardless of the condition or age of their flotas, which are in various different states and stages of maintenance at any given time. Most, however, are quite high quality Pullman buses and offer a middle ground for transportation and provide comfort and safety while traveling. They are often heated and air-conditioned, have reclining seats, and offer movies and music throughout the trip. These long-distance flotas are generally newer, in better condition, and travel the main roads and highways. Some are double-decker buses, but most are not. For long trips, chose a 'bus cama' (bed bus) for plush seats that recline way back, and be prepared with snacks, water, a blanket and toilet tissue.
Between micros and flotas you’ll hear of buses provinciales (they run between cities and rural areas, but stay within one province or one state). They are also sometimes also called ‘colectivos’ (because they quite literally "collect" passengers). These are smaller than flotas and larger than micros (about the size of a U.S. school bus – in fact, some of them are used U.S. school buses that have been imported). Buses interprovinciales do not have reclining seats, air conditioning, or any of the other comforts of the flotas, and are generally used on secondary routes, not main highways, such as between rural towns. They are generally PACKED with many passengers standing or sitting in the aisles. Cargo is stacked so high on the rooftop of the colectivos that at times it seems they will overturn from the weight (and they sometimes do).