Not everybody realizes what a large continent South America is. It takes a lot of time to get around out here!
Despite all of this, South America lacks a major, international, budget airline. Part of the reason for this, is that South Americans take buses everywhere. It takes a little while to get used to this kind of travel, but now that I’ve lived here for over two years, I prefer this method of travel in certain instances.
Take, for instance, the trip between Cochabamba and La Paz. It’s a quick 45 minute flight, and can cost as low as $40. The bus takes 8 to 9 hours.
More than 90% of the time I’ve done this trip, I have taken the bus. Because it’s better than flying. Here’s why:
1. Take Anything You Want
Want to bring your own shampoo on your trip? How about a big bottle of water? Now you can! No airport security means you don’t have to plan your packing around what you can get onto a plane.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about extra luggage fees, or getting asked to check-in your carry-on bag. So bring a pillow and a nice blanket.
2. Save a Night At A Hostel
Hostels in Bolivia don’t exactly cover themselves in glory. They’re cheap, but they often lack some of the basic amenities that travelers are used to seeing out of hostels.
Like a shared kitchen. Or a hot shower. Or rooms above freezing temperatures. If it’s got all of those (gold mine), it’s still missing something else.
By taking the bus, I can save a night at an uncomfortable hostel. Buses leave Cochabamba between 10 and 11 in the evening, and arrive in La Paz around 6am. By that time, I’m all ready to start my day and get whatever it is done that I’ve traveled for in the first place.
Plus, 6am is much earlier than any plane will arrive in La Paz, and you can beat the crowds if you’re going to Desaguadero and the Peruvian border.
3. Huge Leather Seats
Many of these buses don’t offer great “luxury” services. A lot of them won’t be very warm (hence the blankets suggestion about), most won’t have a working bathroom, and none will offer meals as a part of the trip.
However, what they do offer is gigantic, plush, comfortable leather seats. If you’re going in the evening, this is all you really need anyway, right? Most will recline up to 140 degrees, and make a nice surface to get some rest on. These are the kind of seats that billionaires would kill to have on their first-class flights.
4. Cheap Seats
The price of the bus ticket will typically depend on the company that you choose. Once you’ve chosen a company, you then select what kind of bus, with its respective seats, you’re looking for.
Those plush, beautiful, leather seats are obviously the most expensive of the lot. And they’ll still come in at around 90 Bolivianos (U.S. $13) max!
So it’s not like you’re breaking the bank either to get some real seats. But, if you’re willing to wait…
5. Discounts Galore!
I almost never buy these bus tickets at full value.
It’s always in the interest of the bus company to sell out its buses, and if the departure time is coming close and there are still seats left, it’s easy to talk the price down.
As such, I’ll typically purchase these seats for closer to 70 Bolivianos (U.S. $10). I’ve even gotten one during the day for 30 Bolivianos (U.S. $4.30).
Hell, I’ve been charged more for a taxi to the airport in La Paz, then a bus ticket the 8 hours to Cochabamba.
6. Stress-Free, Last Minute Travel
The very best part of bus travel in Bolivia is that you can travel whenever you want, with little notice, and no need to purchase a ticket in advance.
There is no need to plan out a month before exactly when you’re going to take your trip. There is no need to arrive at the airport 3 hours early to wait in security lines. There is no need to move around other plans to accommodate your trip.
All of that stress and mediocrity, is nonexistent!
You just walk into to the bus station, buy your ticket, and get onto the bus. Total time elapsed: less than 10 minutes in some cases.
I can take weekend trips like a San Diegan goes to the beach. And that’s tremendously powerful for me.
Enjoy the Article?
Signup for my newsletter on the right.
I send out emails every other Tuesday straight to your inbox, so you can keep up with me, even from the other side of the world.