Some things in South America just don’t work the way you’d think they should. Bus transport is one of them.
Despite having spent nearly three months in this continent, it is still surprising how some companies operate.
In Peru, our buses came equipped with comfortable seats, personal televisions, surprisingly tasty meals, and even BINGO games. We were riding in the lap of luxury by all standards.
The buses in Bolivia, however, are more or less the same as in Colombia and Ecuador, so we should have known what to expect. (Read another crazy bus story here!)
How NOT to catch a bus in Bolivia
After purchasing a last minute ticket to La Paz, we grabbed some food to go and waited inside the travel agency, as to not be late. We scarfed down our food so we would be ready when the bus arrived.
More and more travelers started gathering, and as the departure time approached, we wondered where the bus was.
The local man running the small shop assured us it would be there in uno minuto. His baseball cap, adorned with a large dollar sign, should have been indicative of his priorities. But nevertheless, we all waited patiently.
After a half hour passed, people started to get angry. The shop owner started yelling and then just disappeared.
Another half hour went by and we all stayed in the same place, because well, the man had collected all our bus tickets, and he was the only one who knew we had already paid.
Finally, a bus approached with the dollar-sign-hat-wearing shop owner who ushered us aboard. Although this bus was much less luxurious than the picture on our ticket, we were grateful to be on a bus at all.
Our seats weren't locked in, so at the slightest crack in the road we were jerked forward and back. And at each speed bump I was sure the rickety bus would fall apart. But by some miracle, it all stayed intact.
Is it a boat or a bus?
Halfway through our journey, we had to disembark and get on a small boat in order to cross the lake. The bus itself was taken by ferry to the other side where we met it. It was quite a site, seeing several tour buses being ferried to the other side.
Surely a bridge would be excessive…?
Finally, we made it into La Paz. A city of epic proportions and some notoriety.
Lost in La Paz
During our bumpy bus ride, I decided to read up on the city. According to Lonely Planet¸ La Paz is a “city full of scams aimed at tourists”.
We arrived as the sun was setting, and I knew from my research that we should take a legit taxi – as robbery by cab drivers is not an uncommon occurrence.
After hailing what appeared to be a proper taxi we showed the driver the address of our hostel. He nodded and after a fifteen minute drive, he dropped us off of the street to which we had directed him. Only problem? Our hostel was nowhere in sight. Apparently we had the wrong address.
The sun had finally set, and I decided we couldn't just wander around the streets with all our belongings on our backs.
We popped into the nearest business which happened to be a five-star hotel.
Tip: If you ever need directions, go to a nice hotel.
They were amazing. They let us use their wi-fi to find the correct address, then marked it on a map and called us a taxi.
The second taxi dropped us right in front of our hostel doors and I felt like it was too good to be true.
And it was.
Our hostel had somehow lost our reservation. So instead of the private room we had been looking forward to during our hectic day, we were placed in separate dorm rooms.
At least we made it though, and the next day we were promised the room we had booked originally. Things were looking up.