Flying is the most obvious way to get to Bolivia. The main airports are in La Paz in the west of the country and Santa Cruz in the east. The plan for getting there should be based primarily on the purpose of your visit to the country; you should bear in mind that La Paz receives the most visitors because of the immense culture and heritage of the Incas and other indigenous cultures of the Andean region, and therefore from La Paz it is easier to get to the ruins of Tiwanaku, the carnival in Oruro, the mines of Potosí, Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, the Yungas Valley and the Andes; As La Paz is the seat of government, all foreign embassies and organisations are based in the city, which is very useful in case of emergency. On the other hand, Santa Cruz, with its warmer climate, could be a good place for business trips to visit other tourist alternatives, such as Misiones, Noel Kempff Mercado National Park or the eastern cities. There are also some foreign consulates in Santa Cruz. But don’t forget that the southern and central cities of Bolivia, such as Cochabamba, Tarija and Sucre, also offer a rich experience. There are several ways to reach these cities from La Paz or Santa Cruz.
Regular flights from Madrid (Barajas) to Viru Viru in Santa Cruz are offered by companies such as Boliviana de Aviación and Air Europa; costs can range from 800-1200€ to higher prices, depending on class and duration.
From Latin America
Other airlines fly to Bolivia from other Latin American countries, including LAN from Santiago via Iquique and from Lima. It is now possible to fly with Amaszonas between Cusco and La Paz, allowing round trips, entering Bolivia from Peru via Lake Titicaca and returning to Peru. TAM Mercosur operates flights from São Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires via Asunción. Copa Airlines has started services to Santa Cruz from Panama City. Gol Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas also operate direct flights to Santa Cruz.
From the United States
There are departures from Miami to La Paz and Santa Cruz with American Airlines. Once you have booked your international flight, it is much easier and cheaper to arrange your domestic flights from the point of departure.
In June 2014, parts of the Bolivian railway network were taken over by the Chilean company La Empresa Ferroviaria Andina S.A. (FCA). Many interrupted passenger services appear to have resumed. See the FCA timetable for more details.
- From Brazil, a train connects the Bolivian border town of Puerto Quijarro to Santa Cruz. The fast train and the slow train take 13 and 17 hours respectively.
- From Argentina, a train connects the Bolivian border town of Villazón (opposite La Quiaca) to Uyuni (9-12 hours). Tupiza is in the middle of the road, 4 hours from Villazón.
- From Chile, a train runs from Calama to Uyuni (13 or 18 hours). As this is a freight train with a passenger car attached, expect a rough ride through some extraordinary scenery. (The Calama – Antofagasta section of the railway does not appear to have a passenger service.) The other transnational railway with Chile, which ends in Arica, also does not carry passengers.
It is common for tourists to cross a land border in northeast Chile and southwest Bolivia.
Note that only about 5% of all roads in Bolivia are paved. However, most of the main roads between the major cities (e.g. Santa Cruz, La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre) are paved. An off-road vehicle is highly recommended if you are travelling on the flatter Altiplano. Be aware that in the mountainous regions, traffic sometimes changes sides of the road. This is to give the driver a better view of the dangerous slopes.
An International Driving Permit is required, but *most* European or American driving licences are accepted. There are frequent police checks on the road and tolls to pay for road use.
There are several ways to travel by bus from Argentina to Bolivia. There are websites where you can check timetables online [www], but as always in Bolivia, it’s a good idea to check in advance. There is also a bus from Juliaca and Puno in Peru to Copacabana.