Bolivia

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Flag of Bolivia Bolivia
Information
Language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
Capital: La Paz
Population: 9,119,152
Currency: Boliviano (BOB)
Paved roads: 10–20%
Hitchability: <rating country='bo' />
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<map lat='-16.5' lng='-64' zoom='5' view='0' height='350'/>

Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and northeast, Paraguay to the southeast, Argentina to the south, and Chile and Peru to the west.

Although it is not uncommon to see a family on the side of the road waiting for a truck to pick them up for local travelling, overall the hitching isn't very good. The roads are in very bad condition (something like 10–20% of roads in Bolivia are paved, which can be very scary in the rainy season!), they wind up and down the Andes into hairpin bends at 4,000m, are wide enough for one truck or bus (so you want to be sure the person you've just gotten a ride with knows how to drive!) and are generally pretty frightening. If just going for a few kilometres, it is advisable, but often you are picked up in a truck with many people and sometimes even livestock, are asked to pay maybe 5 Bolivianos (0.50€) for 100 km and in the long run, you're better off taking the bus (which is extremely cheap, but not quite as cheap). Sometimes hitching will work in Bolivia, but not many people have private cars and often the only wheels around are colectivos or buses (remember: it's not impossible to hitch buses. Good-humouredness, quick making friends etc).

You can hitchhike in Bolivia from the tranca, the place where they want toll from the vehicles, it's always cheaper than the bus and sometimes you might go for free. Just negotiate. It's great to see the countryside from the back of a truck; you should have a warm blanket or a sleeping bag on you when you travel like that.

When you're in Bolivia, it really depends on the region when you're hitchhiking.

However, stickbugg hitchhiked from La Paz to Cochabamba in July of 2014, in two days, and offers the following general advice, perhaps applicable to most of Bolivia:
-There is no cultural notion of hitchhike which is easy to work with, save for that of poor countryside peasants looking to get into the city. Prepare to explain in Spanish why you do not want to take a bus, for example. Bolivians will try to help you in a number of ways, but usually by setting you up with a paid bus. Be honest about having no money and wanting to ride with people for adventure.
-Agree on cost or no cost of fare (pasaje) ahead of time, since is it normal in Bolivia for fare to be charged upon getting off of transit, and what seems like a free ride for many hours may not be upon getting out. This is not a scam, it is just a cultural thing you have to be aware of. Others may find it unthinkable for you to pay, since they are going that way anyway.
-In Spanish, the word for "to camp" (campar), can apply to staying overnight in any sort of accommodation. If you're looking for a place to camp in a tent, you should not ask to camp, but ask for a place to pitch your tent (carpa).
-Speak about the route you are taking in terms of which buses travel on them. Knowledge of highway numbers and names marks the privilege of relatively few Bolivians who own personal vehicles and travel long distances requiring a map. For example, ask city transit to drop you off at the furthest tranca on the route to Cochabamba, don't bother talking about the #1 or the Panamericana.
-To that end, know your maps and locations well, because you're on your own with knowing where you want to get. Unlike in North America, you have to do 99% of the navigational work of getting to where you want to do, and convincing someone to take you.
-Be conversational in Spanish if expect to arrange any rides.

Western Bolivia

Including all parts of the the Andes and the altiplano, and the cities of La Paz, Oruro, Uyuni, and Sucre.

The tiny dirt roads winding in and out of the Andes are in western Bolivia, and the hitching can actually be quite good on them... if you know where to stand. Don't try to stand at the crossings of two roads. Start walking in the direction you're headed, until you're pretty far from anything. Some Bolivians who maybe wouldn't have stopped for you at the crossing may stop for you out in the boonies of the Bolivian mountains. The Bolivian truckers will oftentimes toss you into the back of their cattle truck; make sure you've got something soft to lie on, because the mountain roads are consistently terrible and the trucks almost never have anything even closely resembling shocks. If you're leaving the mountains, be prepared for a very long ride. themodernnomad spent about 3 days getting from Sucre to Vallegrande (roughly 400 kilometres), in a forty year old semi truck that got four flat tires en route.

Areas between Oruro, Potosí and Sucre are pretty good and you can make quick time usually for free.

Heading from Uyuni to the Chilean border is difficult to nearly impossible. People who do stop tend to ask for more money than the bus costs and there are not many private cars. It is probably better to take a bus.

-Trancas (transit parking lots/stopovers) and gas stations are the best places to hitch from -- using a sign won't make sense, so you have to approach people.

Southeastern Bolivia

Including Santa Cruz de la Sierra and surrounding areas to the border of Paraguay.

Southeastern Bolivia usually means easier and less miserable rides; the climate is subtropical and warm, and if you've been spending a lot of time in the altiplano, will be an extremely welcome break from the cold. The roads are a little better, and parts of Santa Cruz are nicer than some Chilean and Argentine cities. Free rides are a little more difficult, but if you wait long enough, someone will give you a free lift. The situation is usually this: Out of ten public transportation vehicles that stop for you, one will take you for free. Fortunately, there are loads of public transportation vehicles in Bolivia, and it takes about 45 minutes for ten to stop for you. Santa Cruz is the richest city in Bolivia and its roads are full of 4x4s and flashy imported cars. Most of those don't seem to venture out of the city, though, and a good percentage has been purchased with drug money. Use your judgment.

Northern Bolivia

Amazonas, including Trinidad, Guayaramerín, Riberalta, and Rurrenabaque.

Perhaps the easiest area to hitchhike, the tropical Bolivian Amazon is crawling with tiny 2-stroke motorcycles and mopeds. They will usually pick you up if they're not loaded down with 4 or 5 people already. Don't bother with the thumb; just wave them down. There are many 'mototaxis' who will want to charge you, but if you find a private citizen, you can get a free lift. A mototaxi may even take you for free if you ask nicely. The climate is sweltering and humid all year around. Bring sunscreen and lots of water.

File:Mamorèfreighter.jpg
Typical Bolivian gasoline freighter on the Río Mamoré, Beni department, Bolivia

The roads in northern Bolivia are almost always made of red Amazonian dirt, and are hell in the rainy season. This is why it can sometimes be preferable to travel by river. The easiest route to take by river is Trinidad to Guayaramerín, along the river Mamoré. You will have a hard time finding free passage, but what you can do is work for your trip; gasoline barges and river freighters are always in need of a few extra hands, and many of the capitans will take you in exchange for a little manual labour.

File:Patrickdepthfinder.jpg
themodernnomad searching for the bottom of the river with a stick; if he struck bottom, he had to immediately inform the capitan to change course or risk running aground and being yelled at.

The type of work you do will vary depending on the season; themodernnomad worked for a few weeks in the dry season as a 'human depth finder' with a large stick. The task was to make sure the river was deep enough for the boat to pass since sophisticated equipment such as depth finders are few and far between in Bolivia. You also may have to hose down gas barges to keep them cool, fish, refill 55 gallon drums of diesel fuel, and cook.

Borders

How long can I stay in Bolivia?

Upon entering the country, most nationalities (like EU passports) get 30 days. You can try to ask for more, but you won't get more than thirty days. Bolivian migration officers are almost guaranteed Angry, so make a careful cost/benefit analysis on whether it's worth the risk not entering the country at all. They give you a green paper to fill in, of which you get the bottom half and you have to carry this with you until you show up at an exit border. Don't. Lose. It. --- MOAH

What to do with your coca leafs?

Coca leaves, the ground product for cocaine, are legal in Bolivia and you'll probably hitch with some drivers with a big ball in their cheek chewing constantly. Though it's from the Andes region, helpful for combating altitude sickness and makes a pretty mean tea, it's not "legal" in all countries to carry with and one must be careful with border crossings and it might be wise to give it to another traveler/local or plain dump it (in the trash). As it's both legal (and growing) in Perú and Bolivia, it wasn't an issue to take a full bag of leafs over the border, as experienced by MOAH from Bolivia's Copacabana to Perú's Puno at the Titicaca Lake. They didn't check any luggage at all on either side to be honest, so if you really feel the need to smuggle actual contraband like that gram of leftover pot... well... there's still this thing called *common sense*.

U.S. Citizens

If you're anything but a U.S. citizen, entry and exit to Bolivia will be no problem whatsoever (even though some officials still try and extort bribes from travellers). However, if you are a U.S. citizen, you must pay US$135 (2013) to enter the country for 3 months. They are serious about this; in 2010, themodernnomad was almost deported for entering the country without first getting a visa.

To/From Paraguay

[This originally appeared on the page of Paraguay with the directions from Asuncion to Villa Montes, just follow these steps but in opposite order!] The Gran Chaco area in Paraguay is the most direct route to go to Bolivia, but many people take the route through Argentina due to bad road conditions. If you're hitching the "Ruta Transchaco" from the capital Asuncion, it's best to get out of the city with a short distance bus (~2.500 Guaranies = €0.30) called "La Chaqueña" which ends in the town Benjamin Aceval/Cerrito where there's a toll port with some shadow and a few shops to buy water, cigarettes and snacks. You're currently more than 700km from the border to Bolivia and it will be a minimum of three days hitchhiking through sparsely populated areas that get really hot. You can still turn back and go straight before the bridge to Asuncion to cross the border to Argentina.

User MOAH hitchhiked in December over the Transchaco from Cerrito to Filadelfia - the biggest hamlet of Gran Chaco, about 400km - in one day and rested between Filadelfia and Cruce de los Pioneros. Already before sundown the darkness comes in the form of threatening mosquito clouds. About 40km of this road is pretty bad, but if you continue north-west you'll soon ask yourself why you thought this was bad. From Filadelfia to Mariscal Estigarribia is about 90 kilometers that can be done fairly smoothly, but here you need to find the Migración office to get your passport stamp to leave Paraguay! The migration office is close to the start of town, so tell your driver you need to get out there. Opening times are variable, so prepare to stay there another night if they're closed. Before you're even thinking of reaching Bolivia, plan this trip carefully so you won't ever have to cross one of these borders on a Sunday (you're royally fucked). There's no ATM's here.

From Mariscal Estigarribia the road gets even emptier than before. At the end of town is a military base with a shelter on the correct side of the road for shadow and a seat. The next places you can get stuff at have no names on the map, except for La Patria, which is 100km away. The first 10km of road are still like the rest in Paraguay, until suddenly you can deal with a remaining 90km stretch of undodgeable potholes of a road that's only 15 years old. The average speed for trucks is about 15km/h and pick-ups do it with 20 or 25 km/h. The bus (Asuncion - Santa Cruz de la Sierra. No airconditioning) covers this distance in about seven hours, so you'll be happier hitchhiking. On average the third pick-up would stop. Places to get water at ar scarce, so take at the very least three litres with you before you go and fill that up whenever you can.

La Patria has shops and (shitty) accomodation and from here the road will be fine again till inside Bolivia. Its 116km to the border, which has a 6km no man's land in between you honestly don't want to walk. From La Patria there's nothing till the border besides some ranches, and truck drivers were very reluctant to pick up hitchhikers in this direction, probably because they're scared - something with drugs or whatever. It's very likely that your average pick-up driver has a shotgun or other hunting rifle - whether that's for protection or assault is up for discussion. Pick-ups drive about 90km/h here so you'll be fast!

At the border there's nothing except for men with guns in fancy uniforms being braindead bored. You don't get your Bolivian stamp here either, that's in the next town 50km away called Ibibobo. At the border you can get drinkable ground water from a little tap outside the "Aduana" building on the Bolivian side. It's warm, but it will help you survive. Find a tree and wait until a truck moves in the right direction or go around and ask. You might wait three hours before you see something moving as there is 1) very little traffic 2) a lot of bureaucracy for truck drivers to finally pass. If you're lucky, there might be a pick-up from Bolivia driving back to civilization 100km away to a town called Villa Montes (ATMs, hostels, WiFi!!!), but don't forget to get your stamp at the perpetually angry guys in Ibibobo, well-indicated as another "Migracion".

Now you have to deal with the fact that your exit stamp from Paraguay is already a few days old and where you've been in the meantime? User MOAH said that from Mariscal Estigarribia the bus wouldn't take her because it was too crowded all the time, so she was "forced" to hitchhike - it worked! In the daytime there's people exchanging Guaraní, Dollars, Euros, Reaís and what not at Ibibobo and one can get soup, cookies and soft drinks here, but that's really it. There's a military check point about 500 meters from the Migracion where folks in uniform might ask you to show your passport but other than that, hitchhiking shouldn't be a big deal here, except for very low traffic. It's still more than 50km to Villa Montes, but at least now you've legally entered the Plurinational State of Bolivia!

Moral of the story: for hitchhiking Gran Chaco, bring a hat, enough, food, water, cash, sunscreen and mosquito repellant and a healthy dose of skepticism. Never do anything important on a Sunday.

To/From Peru

  • Copacabana - Puno*

WARNING: avoid Copacabana at all costs during any public holiday, especially if you're dependent on hostels and can't go camping. All of La Paz flocks to the lake on (long) weekends especially around Christmas and NYE. There's about 50 "hostales" and they manage to get all of them full. Even fast food takes an hour during holidays. From the occasionally extortionately priced town of Copacabana (which is actually the "original" Copacabana if you have a Trivia night) you have to get to the border town of Kasani 12 km south, which passes the Copacabana airport. You can hitch there or say fuck it and take the 3 Boliviano micro (which is 2 for locals/non gringos). The Migración office is on your right hand now and you have to have your passport and green paper (sucks if you lost it, I don't know the consequences of this but it probably involves a bribe) ready for the angry men. Should take one minute to check out of Bolivia if you manage to answer questions correctly and not piss off anyone in the process. Hurrah! Now you have to walk 300 meters past the church the Perú statue and you'll find the Peruvian office on your right hand too. Again, you'll have to fill in a form that you have to carry with you during your entire stay like upon entering Bolivia. These guys were friendly, which probably has something to do with the fact that they have a nicer building to perform their job in. The first town on the Peruvian side is named Yunguyo and you're about 2 km away from it. You can get a 2 Soles micro there or walk to the end of it to get to hitch to Puno, which is really easy though it's still 120 km away! As experienced by MOAH, hitchhiking in Perú is a fucking breeze compared to Bolivia.

To/From Chile

  • Colchane - Pisica

From Iquique, in Chile, you have to reach Huara on the road 5 in the direction of Arica. In Huara, there's a paved road that goes directly in Bolivia in Oruro. The border is between Coclchane (Chile) and Pisica (Bolivia). To leave Chile or Bolivia you need the paper they gave you while entering the country. There are many trucks on this road that goes from the harbor in Iquique to Oruro in Bolivia. When going from Chile to Bolivia the PDI and Policia boliviana are in the same house, rigth at the border between the city of Colchane and Pisica. Checking out and checking in are in the same room. You can change Euros, Dollars, Bolivianos or Pesos Chilenos and buy food. Be warned from the cold, if the days may be sunny and quite hot, the nights there (at 3700m) may be very cold.


To/From Argentina

  • Villazon - La Quiaca

You can reach Villazon from Uyuni or Potosí by the road. The border crossing is right between the two cities, near the bridge that crosses the river. While leaving Bolivia you will be asked the paper they gave you entering the country. Entering Argentina a police officer may open your backpack and ask a few questions. You are allowed to enter Jujuy the northerner state of Argentina with 500g of coca leaves. They are legal in the two states of Jujuy and Salta in Argentina. Villazon is quite a big city you'll find anything in the market there. The city of La Quiaca is much smaller and you can cross it walking, leaving towards the south with the road nine that crosses the country till Buenos Aires.

Cities

Experiences

Here is a short anlysing of hitchhiking in Bolivia by Korn on - warmroads.

<i>"Bolivia is a rapidly changing country, and with Evo's third term as president about to begin, one can expect the trend to continue. One of the big focuses of the current government is a massive expansion of infrastructure and this includes the widening and paving of highways. So people's stories from Bolivia will likely quite rapidly grow outdated. At present, most highways alternate between asphalt and dirt or cobblestone, so be prepared for a smooth ride to turn bumpy, especially when in the back of a truck. In our experience, Bolivia was not particularly difficult to hitch, even when exiting cities, though inside cities it proved virtually impossible much of the time (as is the case in most places). Wait times were usually only long in low-traffic rural areas where very few vehicles would pass, but in those scenarios, when one came they stopped more than 50% of the time. An ability to speak in Spanish and a map or knowledge of your route seems crucial for hitching in Bolivia, because as described in the beginning of this page, most people speak only Spanish and are generally terrible with directions. We began every exchange by saying up front that we had no money (No tenemos plata... ¿está bien?) and never paid for a single ride. This was almost always fine with every driver (except most taxis, though even some taxis would still help us out) and avoided any awkward scenarios down the road. As explained above, it is customary, especially with trucks, to pay the driver a small amount - 3 to 10 Bolivianos - upon disembarking, so it's important to work that out ahead of time, especially if you can't pay. [I'll add more info later when I have time.]" - jhoule, hitching in October-November 2014

Altough I found the hitching difficult, I crossed Bolivia for a total of about $10, which I made playing the harmonica on the streets. Bolivians are certain collaborators, but haven't always the means.-k

"I hitchhiked in Bolivia for three weeks from Villa Montes to Copacabana and it got increasingly more difficult, even to a big city like La Paz. I didn't enjoy the rides as much as in Paraguay or Peru as the situation in the vehicles was tense on occasion, maybe because they were wondering why on earth I would not pay. Other travelers set the expectations of how nice Bolivia is quite damn high and I didn't see much of that reflected in my own experiences. I'll give it ten years probably before I'll give it another shot. One star out of five." --- Mind of a Hitchhiker

I hitchhiked around Bolivia for 3 months; I entered the country with $400 chilean pesos (about US $0.70) and left it with three Bolivianos and a sunburn. The hitchhiking is medium to good, depending on the region, the people are extremely friendly, and the country is easily the cheapest in South America -themodernnomad


May/ August 2014 - I hitchhiked in both parts of Bolivia, i.e. Occidental and Oriental, and it really is like chalk and cheese, or campa e colla as the locals say. On the mountainous West, a bus really is probably a more wise option. The locals tend not to be warm, receptive or curious about hitchhikers, with some exceptions. A bus out of La Paz, and then hitching on the main highways would work. Truckers will pick you up, as they often come from more friendly states. I got rides out of Titicaca and a few others, but with white lies about thefts, which I never feel easy using.

3 months later, a little scarred, I entered the Oriental lowlands, which was vastly easier. Most of the times I was picked up by the very ride. Easy peasey! I took a route up through the Jesuit Ruins, for a dash of culture, very easy to hitch, and a few taxi drivers will take you for free if you blether away and entertain them with stories. You wont make the same grade of connections with your hitches on the whole, like in Argentina and Chile, but it was much easier than I anticipated. To crown it, getting free passage on a petrol barge to Brazil was a piece of cake, not even having to work for it. Slept in many shop fronts, and sometimes near police stations. But in the country, it is quite safe - lukeyboy95

I´m hitchhiking at the moment in Bolivia, and just discover that it exist a map of all the spots of the toll in the country. It´s on the ViasBolivia website, here is the link Garept

After a tough few days hitchhiking around Cusco and Puno I got robbed by the border police on the Bolivian side of the border. They took my bag for a quick search found 20 dollars among the dirty clothes and tarp (pretty much all I had valuable was the 20 dollars) and pocketed it. Unimpressed I walked on along the dirt road and caught a lift soon enough with a local guy to La Paz. Be careful with the food and water in Bolivia, I spent a day or two sick on the toilet after taking some tap water (unintentionally, I think it was the lemonade at a restaurant), I opted to get a bus for very cheap to Tarija then since I was a bit weak for hitchhiking. After the day on the bus though I felt better and hit the road for a bit around Tarija and found it doable to get lifts, truck drivers being the best as there is little traffic and many unmarked taxi cars, and then hitchhiked on to Argentina. I would consider my attempt to hitchhike across Bolivia failed if I'm honest mainly because I wasn't careful enough with the police and the food, people are nice there though. - HoboSpirit