Bolivian Bus Hell – An Illustrated Guide

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The earliest bus that goes the journey between Sucre and Samaipata leaves at 4pm – possibly because they got tired of all the screaming from the back when they went during the day – so I was finally going to have to face that which I had been avoiding throughout our journey through Bolivia: The Overnight Journey.

My hopes of a nice, easy ride were raised somewhat when we arrived at the terminal and saw some decent looking buses parked out front. None of them were ours, of course, but still the fact that they even had decent looking buses in this country was enough to give me some hope.

Unfortunately my overly-optimistic imagination inevitably leads to disappointment.

We boarded the dumpster-with-windows and took our seats which, thanks to some ‘mal comunicacion’ between the travel agent and the bus company, were now right at the back. We were joined by a young mother and her five-year-old, and an older gentleman in a stetson.

The first 20 minutes out of Sucre was on nice, smooth tarmac. Once again, hopes were raised.

Despite this radical departure and my obvious torment, the Cowboy next to me had managed to fall asleep very easily.

After four hours of terrain that would make a Toyota Land Cruiser weep into its wheel arches, we arrived at Aiquile. Nobody except me seemed to have noticed that we had veered off the edge of a cliff and were lucky to be alive – they were all content to hang around the bus chatting or go and find food in the cafe.

After the stop, we were moved to newly vacated seats near the front. Erin assured me that we were, in fact, on the right road then dug out my iPod and a pot of Jalapeño-flavoured Pringles to help calm me down.

It wasn’t long before I learned that the recliner on my new seat was broken.

At the rest stop, we had picked up more passengers than there were seats. One of the men standing in front of us had decided that the most comfortable position was not leaning on the headrest of the aisle seat of the row in front, but was, in fact, to lean right across me and support himself on the head rest of the window seat instead.

At around hour 7, our bus was plunged into a thick fog that made seeing impossible and did little to stall my descent into full blown nervous breakdown.

Needless to say, I got very little sleep that night.

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72 Comments (7 pingbacks)

  1. That’s how that road is. They forgot to throw me out at samaipata so I woke up in Santa Cruz, during carnaval.

    Nothing beats the road Trinidad – San Borja – Rurrenabaque during rainy season though.

    I kinda love this self punishment.


  2. Hey Simon,

    Just wanted to say that your illustrated Bolivian bus from hell guide is the main reason my wife and I just booked a flight from Santa Cruz to Sucre. Well that, and my friend who told me not to take bus rides over 4hrs in Bolivia if possible.

    Your blog has been super helpful for our own travel plannings, so thanks!

    Sam & Bev


  3. Haha, thanks for the insight Simon! Reminds me very much of my travels through Asia (day or night in most cases!). Gives me so much to look forward to on my travels to S.America!On night buses I am all for the iPod and closed eyes (with bandana or somethin gover them) in an attempt to fond that zen-like place like Erin… I don’t get bus sick but some of the roads in Asia had me pretty close! Can’t wait to hit the buses through S.America, gives me butterflies just thinking about it! Whoop whoop! THanks for sharing! Love the illustrations!


    • In South America you’ll find an amazing contrast – the best buses ever in Argentina and then the worst ones in Bolivia! Both are fun though. Well, at least we can think that afterwards =)


    • Stumbled onto this blog post whilst googling about Bolivia some time ago..still cracks me up because it’s so true..good luck in Burma..had a horrendous journey from Yangon to Inle Lake sat at the back of the bus and had to resort to sleeping on the aisle to stop myself from being sick!..on the bright side the journey was well worth it:)


  4. Haha, great post Simon! I love the illustrations. I remember horror stories of that route. Although I have to say, Burmese bus rides give Bolivian ones a run for their money. I decided to bus back to Santa Cruz and fly from there to Sucre (only $40!!) instead of take that journey. Thanks for validating my decision!!


  5. It must have taken you soooooo long to put this post together. The graphics are awesome! I’ve been on some pretty scarey bus journeys in my time, but it sounds like your experience in Bolivia puts them all to shame! Still, I can’t wait to eventually get there.


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