Life on the Road: the good, bad & ugly of bus rides in Bolivia

Having recently spent three months travelling around South America, I learnt more than ever that things often don’t go to plan whilst on the road. 

Bus trips in Brazil, Argentina, Chile & Peru proved to be surprisingly comfortable and generally painless journeys, where we always ended up at the correct destination (a major plus!) Then comes Bolivia. Bus rides in Bolivia are in my experience, painful.

My first experience with the Bolivian transport system was a bus from Uyuni to Bolivia’s Wild West, Tupiza. It was a long, hot bus ride on a local bus (the only available option). One thing to keep in mind in Bolivia (and other South American countries) is while the terminal may sell the seat tickets, the bus drivers stop to pick up countless other people along the way who sit, stand and crowd in the aisles. I spent this bus ride with the man next to me asleep on me, a child sitting on my feet, a lady in the aisle leaning on me and the man across the aisle stroking my arm! The views from the bus windows were incredible and made the claustrophobic trip surprisingly worthwhile! Remember to keep breathing so you don’t end up having a nervous breakdown! haha

Faced with the prospect of an overnight bus from Sucre to La Paz we did our research and booked through a company recommended by our hotel in conjunction with our own enquiries at the terminal when booking (FYI it is basically impossible to book Bolivian buses online). Our main priorities were a bus with a toilet and that had comfortable, reclining seats (Cama style). Upon boarding the bus, both myself and my travel companion needed to use the bathroom only to find it locked with the bus employees refused to unlock it stating we were stopping for a banos (bathroom) break at 2am. We boarded the bus at 6pm. The bus drivers also blast their music in the front compartment of the bus all night long! It was a hard ride, one where we kept our legs tightly shut the whole time!

My advice? Just breathe and try to laugh or see the lighter side of things, just remember how lucky you are to be experiencing a country many would dream to! Even if you aren’t laughing now, I can guarantee you that one day you will look back and laugh. The scenery you will see from the bus windows is incredible, sometimes scary, but beautiful. So I would recommend trying like I did to take that all in and also use it as a distraction at the same time. 

Bolivia was without doubt one of my favourite countries in South America. Don’t let the interesting, sometimes painful transport get to you! And like they say – whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger! There is nowhere this is more true than in a foreign country. 



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