Much has been made of crossing the border between Peru and Bolivia. People have said that it’s dangerous, the agents require bribes, people board your bus demanding exit fees blah blah. Well unless we were just insanely lucky, these stories really amount to nothing. We found this crossing to be the easiest of the land crossings we have made in the last 13 months.
CHOOSING YOUR BUS COMPANY
This is the hardest part of the whole process, choosing which bus company to take the long drive with. There isn’t a lot of discussion out there about which companies are best, and as usual with these things, you only ever hear the horror stories. This makes it difficult to know who to travel with. Especially as the number 1 choice in Perú, Cruz del Sur, doesn’t service Bolivia.
The first thing to work out, is where in Bolivia you’re heading to. We travelled from Cusco to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. The choices are numerous, but nearly all of them stopover in Puno near the border. A few companies will require you to change bus in Puno, but the majority go at least to Copacabana.
PICK YOUR CROSSING
Once you’ve worked out your destination, you should be able to tell which crossing you want. Most people choose Desaguedero, especially if you’re heading straight to La Paz. We chose Yunguyo which is on the way to Copacabana and it was unbelievably straightforward.
We chose Huayruro Tours to take us through to Bolivia. We considered a few others we’d been recommended, but reviews lamented consistent breakdowns and delays which really put us off. We bought our tickets through our Hostel in Cusco, (though you can get them online on www.redbus.pe) and headed to Terminal Terrestre ready for a 10.30pm departure.
The bus was punctual and left on time – but beware: before you can board, you must pay a boarding fee inside the terminal of 1.40 soles per person. The 160-degree reclining seats were a major factor in our decision and they were super comfortable. The leg room is magnificent considering it’s a bus, and the ride was smooth enough that we each got eight hours sleep.
We arrived at Puno at 5.30am. The journey was smooth up to this point and we were happy to stay on the bus all the way until Copacabana. The driver had other ideas though and we were made to get off and sit in the terminal until 7. We grabbed a coffee for a measly 3 soles (70pence!) and waited. Puno’s terminal is cold at that time, and it smells like a public bathroom, but we had our woolly Cusco hats and our traveller’s patience so all was good.
PUNO – THE BORDER
Bang on time, we left Puno for Copacabana. IMPORTANT: When you get back on the bus, you do not need to queue up to pay another boarding fee – remember this. It was a further two hours to the Yunguyo border so we plugged in Netflix (you can download stuff now!) and got comfortable again.
Travelling around Peru in the daytime is a wonderful thing because the landscape is so incredible. From Puno to Yunguyo are mountains and then Lake Titicaca. By the time you get to the border, time has flown by.
10 minutes before we reached the Bolivian border, we stopped at a small office to change some Soles into Bolivianos (Bolivia’s currency). We were quite sceptical about this because, unless you’re from the USA, you don’t need to pay to get into Bolivia.
However, we had been warned that this might happen so we changed 2 Soles each into 2 Bolivianos (a shocking rate) and got back on the bus. If you’re making this trip, try not spend all of your Peruvian Soles beforehand, you need a little change for this bureau.
THE BORDER CROSSING
This is the easy part. The bus dropped us off right outside the Peruvian migration office. We queued for about five minutes, received our exit stamps, and left.
Perhaps we were lucky to be there at a quiet time of day, but this was by far the easiest emigration we have had.
Then came the interesting walk through no mans land. The inevitable question, “so what country are we in now?” arose. We discussed what would happen if you committed a crime when you’re technically not in any country. We couldn’t come up with an answer and by the time we realised this, we’d walked up the hill to Bolivia’s immigration office.
We queued up. Only one person at a time is allowed in the office. If it’s a busy time of day, this may take a while with no shelter at all. However, again we were in and out within 5 minutes. Amazing! We waited for everyone else to get back on the bus and then continued on to Copacabana. It was only after we’d departed the border that a random Bolivian man got on and asked for 2 Bolivianos each – it was strange and there was no explanation, but he gave us all receipts so we figured it must be legit.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Your passport
- A few soles
- Your visa if you’re from the US.
- Travel sickness tablets.
- A blanket/warm clothes for the bus, they colder as the journey goes on.
- Water and snacks.