Transport strikes (bloqueos) are not uncommon in Bolivia, so keep an eye on local news. Strikes often affect local taxis as well as long-distance buses; airlines are not usually affected. Do not try to go around or through roadblocks (usually made of stones, burning tyres or wood). Strikers may throw stones at your vehicle if you try to pass the blockade. Violence has sometimes been reported. Many strikes last only a day or two. There is a government website with a live map showing which roads are closed or affected by landslides.
Bus travel in Bolivia is a pleasant and cheap way to see the beautiful countryside while travelling to your destination. Unfortunately, buses often only run at night. Remember that roads are sometimes blocked due to demonstrations, often for several days. So check with several companies at the terminal if you hear of blockades, unless you are prepared to sleep on the bus for a few days. Bus travel is usually fairly inexpensive. Estimate that it will cost you about US$1 per hour of travel (it is easier to find travel times online than actual prices). Prices vary according to supply and demand. Sometimes you can get a good deal if you wait until the last minute to buy. Destinations are constantly advertised at major bus stations to persuade potential passengers to take their bus route.
On average, the bus companies are not very good, but some are really bad. It is recommended not to travel with Urus, as they are less safe than the others and have many stops that unnecessarily lengthen the journey.
Flights within Bolivia are fast and fairly cheap. BoA connects most major cities.
- Amaszonas, Av. Saavedra Nº 1649, Miraflores, La Paz, +591 2 222-0848, email: [email protected] The most popular route is from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, but they also fly to Uyuni, Trinidad, Guayaramerin, Riberalta, Cobija, San Borja, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Airfares can be found in the “tarifas” section of their website, see below. Their Santa Cruz office is located at El Trompillo airport.
- Boliviana de Aviación – BoA – the national airline of Bolivia. Offers low cost travel between the main cities in Bolivia. You can book your tickets online or at the BoA offices in Santa Cruz, La Paz or Cochabamba. Main office in Cochabamba, Calle Jordán #202 esq. Nataniel Aguirre. E-mail: [email protected] Phone: +591 901 10 50 10 fax: +591 4 4116477
- Ecojet is a relatively new airline that operates the usual metropolitan routes, but also offers flights to Riberalta and Guayaramerin in Bení. The call centre can be reached on +591 901 10 50 55 (not free of charge).
- TAM (Transporte Aéreo Marília), Montes n 738, La Paz, +591 3 352-9669. This airline is one of the best organised and most reliable. Their office in Santa Cruz is located in El Trompillo airport, from where all their planes depart. They operate daily flights between La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Sucre. Of the three domestic airlines (AeroSur, BOA and TAM), they are generally the cheapest. Weight restrictions are 15kg for checked luggage and 3kg for hand luggage. They take luggage heavier than this for 5 Bs. per kilo.
On some routes, the roads are in such poor condition that the train becomes the alternative of choice. The trains are more comfortable than you might expect, with reclining seats for example. The journey from Oruro to Uyuni is particularly pleasant, with the train literally crossing an Andean lake on the way. The train is particularly suitable for trips to the Salar de Uyuni and the Pantanal.
From La Paz it is a three hour bus ride to Oruro to catch the train. It is best to book your tickets a few days before your trip. In La Paz, the booking office is located at number 494 Fernando Guachalla, at the corner with Sánchez Lima (between Plaza del Estudiante and Plaza Abaroa). The main stops are Uyuni, Tupiza and Villazon, on the Argentine border. Travel time here. [www] .
Between Santa Cruz and the Pantanal, it is less complicated to organise a trip. Just go to the Bimodal terminal in Santa Cruz, or to the train station at the border of Puerto Quijarro. The train is also convenient for travel to the Jesuit missions. Check the website [www] for timetables.
For longer journeys between places and towns not served by buses, shared taxis are common. Shared taxis are not safe for tourists, especially for women travelling alone.