La Paz was our first major city in Bolivia and the highest city we’ve been to thus far at over 4000m. By the time we reached La Paz we’d mostly gotten used to the high altitudes, but we would still get unreasonably out of breath from climbing stairs or going up hills (and there’s a shit ton of them in La Paz).
When we arrived in the city by bus from Copacabana we were dropped off in the middle of what looked like a random intersection, definitely not the bus terminal as we were told.
Aside: there are two classes of bus that leave Copacabana - a good one and a bad one. They’re the same price. The good one has wifi, the bad one drops you off in the middle of La Paz with no bearings.
We made quick travel friends with the other backpackers in the bus and flagged down a collectivo. We knew we wanted to get to a plaza where a few hostels we’d read about were located. A quick look at Google Maps revealed that it was about a mile away - easy!
Turns out traffic in La Paz is like an episode of Doctor Who where people have been sitting in their cars for fifteen years. It took us an hour to go one mile and by the time the collective let us of four blocks from where we wanted to go (“too much traffic!”) night was already falling.
The adventure of finding a hostel proved even more challenging because the hostels in La Paz are spread out over many, many blocks. It ended up taking us about two and a half hours from getting off the bus to checking in to a hostel, all while carrying our backpacks up and down the steep La Paz hills.
The hostel we stayed at was nice, but at night people started smoking cigarettes in the common area and by the time morning came we were hella exhausted from not sleeping well. We decided to move to a new place, beginning another three hour adventure of finding a new hostel (this time sans bags thankfully!). But before that: food!
We ate at Cafe del Mundo and this was one of the highlights of our stay in La Paz. The food there was absolutely delicious. They serve breakfast all day and have fast internet (a rarity in Bolivia we found).
After breakfast we eventually settled on another hotel and proceeded to move our bags over. This is no easy task in La Paz because the traffic is so bad that it’s usually faster to walk places than to try to hail + ride in a cab.
While we were eating at Cafe del Mundo we noticed a bunch of notes of advice all over the walls. One of them mentioned that on Wednesdays the cinema was two-for-one and weren’t we lucky: it was Wednesday! After we checked in to our hotel we headed off to see the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. At first we thought the movie was going to be terrible, but after the establishing bits the movie took off and we left in quite a good mood.
On the way back from the movies we stopped by the absolutely massive open-air market seen in the panoramic for La Paz. There were a bunch of groups practicing for the upcoming festival in the streets - holy hell are they lively.
The next day we decided to book our bus tickets onwards. But before we could leave we had to mail two important things: a box of gifts and my insurance claim form for the things that were stolen from me in Quito. Mailing the claims form was straightforward, but in order to mail boxes to the US you apparently need to have a Bolivian phone number at which they can call you within 24 hours! This is stupid inconvenient for travellers.
So we got a Tigo SIM and went back to the post office, phone number in hand, and they finally let us ship the package. All-in-all the mail process took nearly three hours.
By the time we were done with that we had to book it to the bus station, next stop: Sucre!
1 - El Dorado (new buses, super comfortable, reputation gets better by the month) 2 - Bolivar (just bought a fleet of new buses) 3 - Trans Copacabana (professional outfit with good buses) 4 - Trans Copacabana MEM (decent, but buses are older and tired)
The main bus terminal (Terminal de Buses; 228-0551; Plaza Antofagasta; terminal fee US$0.25) is a 15-minute uphill walk north of the city center. Fares are relatively uniform between companies. This full-service terminal serves all destinations south and east of La Paz, as well as international destinations. Other destinations are served mainly by micros and minibuses departing from the cemetery district and Villa Fátima.
Most overnight buses to Sucre (US$6.50 to US$11.50, 14 hours) pass through Potosí (US$7 to US$13, 11 hours) and some require a layover there. Have warm clothes handy for this typically chilly trip.
From sucrelife Nov 13, 2013:
We made the direct trip from La Paz to Sucre with El Dorado. El Dorado’s full-cama bus is not brand new, but in good condition. The seats recline fully to form a spacious and comfortable bed, separated from other rows by wooden partitions for privacy. The buses typically leave quite punctually, around 10 minutes after the scheduled 7.30pm departure time (there were also departures at 7pm and 8.30pm). While it is prudent to bring warm clothing for trip, the temperature in the bus is actually very comfortable, even slightly too warm. The bus has windows which can be opened by the passengers, though, so your experience may depend on the preferences of your fellow travelers and your distance from the windows (which are located towards the front of the upper-level). The bus has a toilet, but when we traveled, the door was locked. We were able to get the key of the driver and gain access. The toilet was in decent condition, except for the light which was not working.
The bus was comfortable, but not luxurious. There were no niceties included such as blankets, wifi or food. A film was played at the start of the trip, then after that the lights were switched off and the bus remained quiet and dark for the rest of the trip, so it was actually possible to get quite a good night’s sleep. The bus made its first 20min stop half-way through the journey, in Challapata, at 2am. It then stopped again at 7am for a 10min toilet stop. Other than that, the bus made no other stops and arrived into Sucre at 8am, though it then proceeded to slowly work its way round the outskirts of the city to eventually reach the bus station at 8.30am.
Throughout the trip our driver drove slowly and carefully. There was no evidence of the past issues El Dorado has had with accidents – reports are that they have improved safety significantly of late.
We had heard bad things about Bolivian roads, and chose to enter Sucre via Potosi to minimize any discomfort. The route turned out to be very pleasant. The road is paved the whole way. From La Paz, the road runs straight and smooth (with only the occasional bump) almost until Potosi at which point it starts to gently meander through the hills, culminating in some beautiful sunrise views of the town. The curves gradually sharpen on road in to Sucre from Potosi, but never reach the point of discomfort – the curves are quite long and slow so you don’t really notice them much. All in all, the journey from La Paz to Sucre is one of the better bus journeys to be made in South America and the reward of reaching Sucre makes it well worth the trip.
|1:59PM||In the bus.|
|2:08PM||On our way.|
|2:03PM||At a river of sorts.|
|2:35PM||Across the river.|
|5:50PM||In La Paz.|
|5:55PM||In a collectivo. Holy shit traffic here is bad.|
|8:12PM||Finally found a hostel.|
|Total bus time||4:10|
Featuring a Mega-Man-esque logo.
Somewhat ok burger, crappy fries.
Where we’re staying.
Holy shit tasty breakfast for cheap.
Delicious mexican food.
150 BOB Matrimonial.
You need a Bolivian cell phone number.
|7:10PM||Left our hotel, walking, to the bus terminal.|
|7:30PM||At the terminal.|
|8:00PM||And we’re off.|
|8:30PM||At some bus terminal/entropy pit.|
|8:45PM||And off again. Slowly.|
|8:30AM||Arrived in Sucre.|
|10:00AM||Checked in to a hostel.|
|Total bus time||11:55|