Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Part 2: The Ins and Outs of Traveling Bolivia

En La Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

This is Part II of Lindsey’s traveling in Peru and Bolivia series.

Someone at Loki Hostel in Cuzco recommended the bus company Litoral for the trip from Cuzco to La Paz. Unfortunately, sometimes even with recommendations you have to do your own research.

I should have been alerted when the bus company representative tried bargaining the price with me.  I was told there would be heat, comfortable seats, blankets, and a snack. It was all a lie. For 60 soles I got a freezing cold 14 hour bus ride. And to top it off, the bus left me at the Bolivian border while I was paying my 135 USD reciprocity fee. Luckily, the girl I was traveling with screamed several times at the driver to stop and wait and I was able to catch up. If you are American, be aware of this. Your paperwork and payments to cross the Bolivian border take a lot longer than it takes for everyone else to get their passport stamped. Make sure your bus doesn’t leave you stranded with none of your things at the Bolivian border. I have heard of people being able to bribe border control officers with 50 USD to get around paying the reciprocity fee but they don’t give you the stamp and the visa you need if you are going to be crossing any checkpoints. And if that’s the case, you will have to pay the full fee later on. I recommend paying the fee right away because we had about six checkpoints where officers were examining our passports.

I stayed in the Loki Hostel in La Paz as well and it was absolutely stunning. The architecture was gorgeous.  Changing currency one more time, the cost was 35 Bolivianos. Aside from the really touristy restaurants, everything in Bolivia is very cheap. Taxis shouldn’t cost more than 10 Bolivianos for a ride across town. Food prices in La Paz ranged from 10-20 Bolivianos per meal.  La Paz is a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs. There are several large markets where Bolivians bargain with you to buy their hand made goods and pirated media.  I recommend spending two days to explore the city and do some shopping, but steer away from the tap water and food sold on the streets.

The Witches’ Market in La Paz

From La Paz I traveled to Uyuni via a bus company called Todo Turismo. Todo Turismo was amazing; only slightly more expensive than other companies and way nicer. It was 26 USD for a comfortable, heated, 12-hour bus ride with a meal included. They told us ahead of time the roads would be bumpy (a major understatement) but they made it as comfortable as it could have been.

Uyuni has nothing to offer except that it’s a launching pad for visiting the Salt Flats. There are over 80 different companies that offer tours and I’m still not sure it matters which one you go with. It’s like a caravan of jeeps traveling through the desert together all doing the same thing, eating the same food, staying in the same places. Everyone in our jeep paid different prices for the same thing so I’m not convinced that paying more gets you a better tour. I used Laqaya for a three-day tour from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama and it cost me 800 Bolivianos, while others in our group paid a little less than 600. You don’t want to bargain too low because they do need to cover the cost of gas and wear and tear of the vehicle driving through the desert. But be aware of the fact that you will experience the same thing as the person sitting next to you no matter what you pay. There are also two park entrance fees you have to pay along the tour that are not included in the price. One is 15 Bolivianos and the other is 150. If you are heading to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile or back to Uyuni, the bus ride should be included in the price.

Back in Chilean pesos, a hostel in San Pedro de Atacama should be around 6,000. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Atacama but there is enough to fill the time while you wait for your next transit. There are a lot of cute restaurants and cafes but it is very touristy. There are a lot of tours to take you to hot springs and to watch the sunset. Or you can just rent bikes for a full day for 7,000 pesos or a half day for 3,500 pesos like I did. I biked through the desert to the Valle de La Luna and did some independent exploring and it was so incredible. It felt so refreshing to not be followed by a bandit of tourists. The park entrance fee is 2,000 pesos for adults and 1,500 for students.  It was incredibly beautiful and tranquil; you could hear a pin drop. Dinner in Atacama is more expensive because you are back in Chile and will cost you at least 10,000 pesos.  The bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama back to Santiago was 24 hours including multiple stops to pick up people on the way. It cost 28,000 pesos, which was significantly less than flying and it goes by quickly when you can sleep for half the time.

Overall my trip through Peru and Bolivia kept me on my toes and always had me wondering what was around the next corner. There was so much to see that my eyes had a hard time staying focused on one thing for longer than about three seconds. If you are ready for anything and have the ability to be flexible, Peru and Bolivia are a must see.


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