Bus travel is the most popular way to travel within Bolivia, and still very inexpensive. Traveling Bolivia by bus allows you to see all
of the country. There are different types of buses in Bolivia. Learn here which are the least uncomfortable, how and where to find bus tickets, how to locate bus stations, some tips on bus safety, information on routes into Bolivia from neighboring countries, and more. Flotas can be a very fun way to travel Bolivia if you are willing to sacrifice a little comfort, don’t expect to stick to a strict schedule, and travel with a mind open to the unexpected.
Getting Into and Around Bolivia by Bus
In Western Bolivia there are lines that run from San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina to Villazón, in Southern Potosí, Bolivia. From Villazón to La Paz you can take a bus through Potosí, or a train that passes through Uyuni.
To enter Bolivia from Peru, you can go by land (bus) or get on a boat in Puno that will take you across the border through Desaguadero and Guaqui on the way to La Paz. If you choose to navigate Lake Titicaca, a hovercraft is the fastest form of transportation across the lake to Sun Island.
In Eastern Bolivia you can travel overland from Salta, Argentina and enter Bolivia at Yacuiba, in Tarija Bolivia, or you can enter from Brazil through Corumbá and Puerto Suárez where you can hop a train to Santa Cruz. Going to Brazil, from Corumbá it is a 24-hour road trip to Rio de Janeiro. You can also take a flota to San Matías and enter Brazil at Cáceres. There are flotas between Santa Cruz and San Matías.
In northern Bolivia you can enter the country at Cobija, Pando from Brasiléia, or you can enter at Guayaramerín from Guayajá-Merím, Brazil. In Bolivia, from sort-of nearby Riberalta, it is possible to take a 17-hour trip through the worst roads on the planet to Rurrenabaque, and from there to the rest of Bolivia, although the next leg of the trip, from Rurrenabaque to Caranavi, is also long: 12 hours.
Tips for Traveling Bolivia by Bus
Traveling overland in Bolivia is only for the most adventurous in central and western Bolivia through the mountains. In the eastern Bolivian plains problems typically arise during the rainy season when roads are muddy. The scenery, if you travel during the day, can be amazing, although you aren't able to stop and take photos whenever you like. It is a true cultural experience as well. You’ll see how a large part of the population lives, try some unusual foods like ‘tacú’ (armadillo for dinner at midnight somewhere in the middle of nowhere), maybe learn how to pee behind a bush...
Even in the most comfortable means of transportation, whether a flota or your own vehicle, there are few signs along the roads, you must be continuously informed about the weather and road conditions (landslides are common), and if you’re on a flota, there may be very few potty breaks.
Bring tissue as restrooms in rural areas may be nothing more than a hole in the ground. Bring gel alcohol to clean your hands when water is not available, sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and plenty of snacks and drinking water. Having something to keep you entertained along the way is essential – music, games, books or magazines, your camera... a sense of humor... And if you don't have one, better take a plane instead.