How to Get Around Bolivia Using Public Transport

Given Bolivia's rugged landscape, travel within the country can be challenging to say the least. From rental car issues to using taxis with no meters, which method of transport is right for you?

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Photo © Burst/Jessica Devnani

Rental Cars in Bolivia

First thing's first. Some roads are paved, many are not.

While rental cars are available, most travelers don't bother or aren't brave enough to give them a try. Poor road conditions, narrow, winding routes, and a severe lack of good signage make it very easy to crash or get lost in Bolivia.

If you do choose to take a chance and rent a vehicle, your best bet is to get something with four-wheel-drive that has a high clearance. Be sure it's equipped with spare tyres, tools, extra fuel – always and bring rations for yourself, just in case. Perhaps before you hire a four-wheel-drive in Bolivia, you should learn to drive manual back home, and make sure you know when to use low-range, and when to use high-range in hairy conditions.

Also bear in mind that many rental agencies only offer insurance for accidents, leaving you responsible for any other type of damage you may incur. This includes any damage including chips in the windscreen, scratches down the side of the car, a blow-out in the tyres or damage to the interior.

Public Transport Around Bolivia

If you (wisely) decide to forgo the rental vehicle, you can use the many forms of public transport available – including buses and taxis.

Catching Buses in Bolivia

Buses are relatively cheap and safe, but keep in mind that there have been incidents where bus drivers have been caught drinking and driving, and mechanical failures have caused accidents and deaths.

Major bus crashes have occurred in recent years on several highways, including those between Cochabamba–Santa Cruz, La Paz–Oruro, Oruro–Cochabamba.

The old Yungas Road is so hazardous that it's actually considered one of the most dangerous in the world – actually, you're more likely to know this road as "Death Road".

Taking a Taxi Ride in Bolivia

You should note that Bolivian taxis do not have meters. Always agree on a fare prior to hopping in the back to go anyewhere. Taxi use should be done through reputable agencies, rather than hailed on the street – and avoided altogether after dark.

Cycling Around Bolivia

This is a popular means of transportation, and is an excellent way to truly experience the atmosphere and natural environment of Bolivia.

It can be hazardous, however, due to road conditions and weather. Some areas experience high winds and colder temperatures, while others face difficult terrain and high altitude – such as Death Road, for example.

If you decide to bike it, be particularly cautious of erratic buses when riding on the roads. In more remote areas, you should consider carrying food, water and supplies just in case you get stuck.

Hiking and Trekking Your Way Around Bolivia

Walking is an option in some areas, but weather and terrain can cause issues for travelers. Pedestrians don't typically have right-of-way on Bolivian streets, so before you step out into the road, be sure there isn‘t a bus or truck speeding toward you.

Actually, in La Paz and Sucre you might see someone dressed as a zebra helping people cross the streets. Elsewhere throughout Bolivia, this isn't the case.

Seasons and Weather in Bolivia

Road travel during the rainy season (Summer runs from November–April) can be hazardous as flooding and landslides cause further damage to the already poor road roads. It's not uncommon for entire bridges and roads to be washed out, so plan extra time in your itinerary if you're visiting during the wet season.

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