Bus from Rio to Bolivia....79 hours !!!

Trip Start May 10, 2011
Trip End Apr 15, 2012

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Flag of Bolivia  , Tarija,
Saturday, January 7, 2012

What can I say ...I am not sure if we should be given a medal for our achievements in our mammoth journeys or a booby prize for being absolute nutters to attempt it !!

The main problem is that flights in South America are ridiculously expensive, the second you cross a border it gets even more expensive, the cost of the flight from Rio into Bolivia would have been around 350-400 each for us so we have no option to get the bus.  This of course involves the infamous border crossing which can either be really quick and easy or an utter nightmare and yep you guessed it for us it was an utter nightmare !!!

Bus from Rio to Corumba/Puerto Suarez  
So bus ticket booked it was a straight 28 hours from Rio to Puerto Suarez on the bus, its amazing how in Asia average travel times were 10-15 hours but in South America its more like 20-30 hours so its almost becoming the norm which is just insane.  Anyway its a "cama" bus this is where the seats recline pretty far back so it makes for ok sleeping, so the 30 hours passed not too bad since we dozed a fair bit during the day, had a decent sleep at night thanks to the 'sleeping pills' and watched a movie so all good.  We met another girl doing this mad trip, Jocelyn from Canada.  As we reached Corumba which we knew was roughly near the border the bus stopped to let people off, I managed some basic spanish with the driver and found out we go to the "fronteira" where we can do the passport formalities to exit Brazil and enter Bolivia and he said this would be open woo hoo.

Brazil/Bolivia Immigration Opening Times
After much fuss at the last stop on the bus from everyone we had arrived at 2pm in the afternoon only to find out that immigration was closed we would have to stay in this random little town and come back in the morning.  Fortunately we found 2 Bolivian girls who spoke basic english to help confirm all this for us and also got us to this cheap hotel place along the road so we could sleep for the night.  It had a pet Tucan in the garden in a tiny wee cage poor thing but it was gorgeous with its wee blue eyes and feet.

This sucked, the town of Quijarro that we were in WAS Bolivia, you could just enter from Brazil and go straight into Bolivia with god knows what in your bag/car - obviously we need the entry stamp though so that we can exit Bolivia at a later date but how weird you can just wander into a country.

The news got worse - we had to be at immigration for 4am in the morning even though it didnt open till 8am on the Bolivia side and 9am on the Brazil side, each were a 2 min walk apart but also had a 1 hour time difference !!  It was supposed to be busy so we had to get there early.

We were doing this on a Sunday which made it even worse as Brazil was only open 9-1pm and Bolivia 8am - 12 noon and closed again till Monday.

We made use of the rest of the day and got a few beers and some food and booked our bus ticket to Santa Cruz for the next evening.  

Let the chaos begin !!
So at 0350 we arrived at Boliva immigration, Marc was soooo not amused he loves his sleep and couldn't understand why we had to go so early so he just grumped about how stupid it was to be here at this time.  We decided to split up so we could queue in the 2 side and hopefully make the job a lot easier, so Marc, Jocelyn and one of the spanish girls stayed in Brazil while myself and the other spanish girl waited on Bolivia side.  Marc just lay down and tried to get back to sleep - there were already people in the queue on both sides.

So to cut a long story short, we were 27th in the queue in Bolivia and 116 in Brazil but you cannot enter Boliva until you have had your exit stamp from Brazil, this resulted in us having to hope that we could get back in the queue in Bolivia after our stamp as our number showed we had been there super early.  We met several people who for them this was day 2 of trying to get this process completed as they had arrived too late and immigration shut...nightmare.

Anway at 11.15 bolivia time we finally got stamped out of Brazil and ran to Bolivia only to find utter chaos, the place closed in 45 mins and the crowd were going mental - we pushed to the front trying to uphold our place of no 27 in the queue but people were shouting at us and boo'ing saying we had missed our turn we were pleading with the official guy at the door showing our number to let us in. It was utterly boiling we were pissing with sweat both with the heat and the prospect of having to spend another night in this town and get up again at 4am.


If your not fast your last....
Me and Marc had our elbows out at were not budging from the top of that step - poor Jocelyn was rather more polite I kept shouting to her to push up beside us, she got a bit closer but then woo hoo the guard finally let me and Marc in and the crowed were boo'ing at us it was pretty scary - but its pretty hard to hide 2 giant blonde hair gringos in a queue but we didnt give a shit, I looked round but Jocelyn hadn't got in aggggg.  I pleaded with the guard to say my friend my friend but his face gave away nothing, all I could see was poor Jocelyn's sad face at the door. We had to fill out forms n stuff and again I tried with the guard he said nothing.  At 11.45 Jocelyn and a few others were let in the door and behind her the door was closed.  The crowd went mental they were not amused at all.

We couldn't believe it finally we made it into this tiny sweaty hut to fill out the forms and get our stamp, people were thumping on the door but it wasn't getting opened.  Needless to say we were let out the door at the other side away from the crown - pissing with sweat, mentally and physical exhausted, it was now 12.15 in the afternoon - over 9 hours since we had got out of bed.  Our 2 Bolivian friends were waiting for us they had been able to stamp in without exiting Brazil earlier this morning.  We just sat in a complete daze for 5 mins before we found a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

Worst part was we had met some Aussie guys who for them this was day 2 of trying to get exit from Brazil, they were just ahead of us so they got exit from Brazil but weren't pushy enough on the Bolivia side, we could see their poor faces from inside the hut - they were going to have to do day 3 of this process again tomorrow I felt gutted for them.

The moral of the story is to get some beers, food and some music and just wait in the line for Brazil all night and have a wee party !!  The people at the of the queue for Brazil had been there since 1am !!!! 


A well deserved beer and siesta
We got some food and a couple of well deserved celebratory beers and then passed out for a few hours.

We got on the bus at 7pm the bus was ok, no toilet as usual but my seat reclined so it was all good, next stop Santa Cruz in around 12 hours where we get our last but to Cochabamba (another 8 hours away)

On a separate note I had treated myself to a new pair of havaiana flip flops in Brazil costing 7 a pair only to find the same ones on the bolivia side for 2 - not amused !!

Arrived/Depart Santa Cruz in record time....the last bus!

The bus journey was a pretty bumpy one at times we were on a dirt track road, but we slept pretty well - we arrived into Santa Cruz at 7am and it was a mad dash to look to see if we could get a bus out to Cochabamaba that morning without having to wait and take another night bus.  The bus station is huge and the queues at the counters is massive you have to run around them checking the times it was chaos.  I eventually got us a bus leaving at 0830 woo hoo.  Jocelyn was going to La Paz (another 17 hours away) and she wasn't leaving till the evening.  

This was the 2nd time in Santa Cruz, the last time was on the mammoth journey through Paraguay.  We stocked up on food and water and we were off.

The bus took around 8 hours to get to Cochabamba, we are back at around 3000m altitude again for ages we were in the mountains in the middle of nowhere then all of a sudden you see the city appear.  We were here for a week to hopefully learn some spanish and relax.

The first place we tried in the lonely planet was nice, 24 a night but she discounted it to 17 since we were staying at week.  We have a huge bed, a TV woo hoo with english channels, en suite, a nice view and wifi - its like utter luxury to us - finally some well deserved rest.

79 hours after leaving Rio we arrive in Cochabamba !!!!!!!


- Direct cama bus from Rio to Puerto Suarez with Andorinha bus company
  (no food included) - 100 each 
- Cost of a private room ensuite at a hotel near the fronteira on the bolivian side including a late check out at 6pm - 9.50 
- Cama bus from Quijerro to Santa Cruz - 9 each
- Cost of a yummy dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes - 1.50 
- Costs of a 350ml beer - 35p 
- Cost of a pair of havaianas flip flops on the bolivia side - 2 

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Alissa on

Wow, crazy story! I'm sure after you finally got to you luxury place it was a relief! My husband and I are planning a rtw trip for next year and are learning a lot from your posts, especially the transportation between destinations!

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