Getting around in Bolivia can pose some difficulties. Knowing your options and what to expect ahead of time can potentially spare you some additional aggravation. Always make sure to ask the driver whether the route will take you to where you need to go; if not, just be patient as another bus/taxi is always at hand.
Getting Around Bolivia by Plane
Domestic connections are not well served in Bolivia, but you will find flights at least once a week to Uyuni, Trinidad, Rurrenabaque, Cochabamba and Sucre. Most domestic flights connect through the central hub in La Paz. These planes tend to be very small and fill up fast, especially in the high season. Book as far in advance as you can.
The following airlines offer domestic flights in Bolivia:
- Boliviana de Aviación offers infrequent domestic flights, but can take you to São Paulo and Buenos Aires.
- TAM is operated by Bolivia’s military. The airline offers departures to cities in Bolivia as well as several, smaller destinations.
- Aerocon based in Trinidad (Bolivia) serves mostly the northern jungle (i.e. destinations such Cochabamba and Rurrenabaque, the gateway to Madidi and the pampas).
- Amaszonas offers flights from La Paz to Rurrenabaque and other lowland destinations. They also have a 4x weekly flight to Uyuni.
- Aerocon offers 2-3 weekly flights to Cuzco, Peru.
Getting Around Bolivia by Bus (and Minibus)
Busses form the backbone of domestic travel in Bolivia. Both local minibuses, and large, modern tourist busses connect nearly all destinations in Bolivia.
Tourist buses, often called flotas, offer amenities like air-conditioning and televisions and many companies compete to offer the most comfortable ride. These buses are safe and reliable. The most common complaint is that the driver is too liberal with the air conditioning, so it is a good idea to bring a sweater.
City buses are called micros or minibuses. These cost about 2-3 bolivianos and are shared rides, marked by their destinations on the windshield. They become crowded quickly, so if your personal space is a precious commodity, a trufi or the conventional taxi may more appropriate.
Trufis are shared taxis that cost 3 bolivianos per ride. Slightly less cramped than a minibus, passengers still cram 5 deep in a four-door-sedan (2 in the front seat), or up to 8 in a minivan. Trufis are marked by the route on the windshield accompanied by a ‘trufi’ sticker, and usually two distinct flags on the front end of the vehicle.
For a private ride, there are taxis available in major destination. They are much more expensive than minibus or trufi, and usually entail a set rate (i.e. the rate for a 5 minute ride will be the same as a 10-15 minute ride, and increases the further one travels), but the rates are low by any European standard.
Beware of taxis with a plain ‘taxi’ sticker opposed to the more official, trusted taxis with the dome-shaped advertisements displaying a company name/number on the roof. There have been instances of theft and or overcharging in such vehicles.
Knowing where you’re going before getting into any type of transportation on the road is most important to make sure you get where you need to be without any hiccups along the way.
Always ask the driver if he is headed towards your location if you are unsure of the vehicle’s intended route.
Getting Around Bolivia By Train
The western highland railroad is operated by Ferroviaria Andina. There are passenger trains that take travelers to Uyuni and Tupiza, and continue on towards the Argentine border at Villazón from Oruro.
The eastern lowland line is run by Ferroviaria Oriental with service from Santa Cruz towards the Brazilian border.
The trains tend to be reliable although they are not as comfortable as you would find in the US or Europe. Ask about any recent trouble with the line or out-of-service stations before buying a ticket.