Bolivian Bus Banter

Bolivian Lorry Crash


Santa Cruz Sucre Bolivia

Ok, so I should be writing about the Pantanal right now, but we arrived in Sucre today after our first Bolivian bus journey and it is worth talking about! We had heard the stories but it was hard to tell what was exaggerated and what wasn’t. After last night’s experiences, I think it is safe to say most of them are probably true!

The Great Bolivian Bus Rally

The title above would probably have been a better way of describing the ticket we bought for 100 Bolivianos. Rather than taking the calm and relaxing approach along the scenic roads to Sucre from Santa Cruz, our driver (or drivers, as I’m pretty sure a couple of guys had a go) decided that we should probably overtake anything else that moved on the road in front of us.

Blind corners. Not a problem for our driver, and besides taking the inside line on the wrong side of the road is a very effective way of overtaking three lorries at a time, and in the likely event that something should come the other way during this moment of race driving prowess, our driver could always beep his horn a lot and the other vehicle will probably get out the way. Oh wait, we are driving on a cliff lined, pot hole covered gravel track. Moving out the way would mean falling into ravines below, and consequently ruining the beautiful scenery with burning bits of coach sprawled across the cliff side. Ah well, lets do it anyway!

Come to think of it, I can actually remember wondering which part of the bus should I hold onto to give myself statistically the most chance of survival if we did abort an overtake over the edge of the cliff. I’m quite sure this hasn’t crossed my mind while riding a bus in England.

Tipsy Lorry Drivers

One story we had heard was that every now and again you can get on a bus with a drunk driver. Well, our driver wasn’t drunk (he preferred other substances) but a lorry driver quite possibly was! A couple of hours into the mountain climb and we hit traffic. A few minutes later and the cause of the hold up became apparent. A large lorry transporting sand lay on its side with its load spilled across the road. God knows how it happened. The road was straight and wide enough for two vehicles. My guess was that he was trying an overtake and went up onto the edge of the bank. Funnily enough, after passing this accident our driver seemed to slow down. Well at least to some extent.

Bolivia’s Finest

A long fourteen plus hour bus journey must get very tiring for the drivers. It would probably be a good idea to bring along some sort of energy drink, or maybe a flask of coffee or tea. Alternatively, you could take a pick me up with a little more kick, something like, errr….COCAINE!

Yes that’s right, our drivers probably would have been more suited to djing at a rave than drive us along the wafer thin mountain side roads to Sucre. It was quite comical actually. We were sitting in the front row of seats. The busses out here have a special cabin for the drivers that separates them from the rest of the passengers by a window and a door. Before taking the coke, our drivers made a half hearted effort at closing the curtains on the door and windows so we couldn’t see what they were doing. Unfortunately for them, they had left a number of large gaps where we could see clearly what was going on in the cabin.

If you look at the bright side, at least it was unlikely the drivers would be falling asleep at the wheel!

Strangely Fun

Oddly enough, that was easily the most interesting bus journey we have had yet! The roads in Brazil are boringly straight and although there is some good scenery to see along the way, it doesn’t compare to forest lined mountains and streams we saw on the way to Sucre. Imagine Jurassic park without the dinosaurs. The bus ride was sketchy, but it certainly makes a good story!

(ps. Incase you’re interested the company we went with from Santa Cruz was called “Capital” I’ll leave it up to you to make your own mind up on whether it is a good idea to use them!)



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  • Yvonne

    Its one of those stories that is great to hear, but somehow you wish you didnt know the passengers. Stay safe.

  • Jacqui

    When I read your FB status I was deeply concerned. Upon reading the blog, it was a real life experience that you will remember for life & this is what this journey was all about. I’m so glad you are not alone on this trip & that you have friends to laugh with when witnessing events like these.
    Will look forward to the Pantanal instalment.

  • Steve Maxted

    I’d have been holding on for dear life! They’re mad. Looks like the lorrydriver fell asleep or something dodgy, and rode right up the bank. May be an idea not to sit in the front row next time (if it’s a mountainess road)
    Sucre is the 4th name of the city. Named after revolutionary leadert Antonio Sucre. He was the great marshall of the battle of Ayacucho, 1824. Enjoy the old city

  • Lucy

    Wow some bus ride, maybe next time don’t get the front seats! Perhaps sit somehere in the middle then you may be protected, and unaware of the drivers prefered pick me up! Am looking forward to the Pantanal blog the photo’s are really good – there was some mention of horse riding! When do we see those pic’s? Take care xox

  • Wow, that sounds like a pretty crazy one, especially with that dose of cocaine. Sometimes you just must wonder if these bus driver even know the consequences that could come about as a result of their actions. Glad you guys made it alright along with a great story!

    • It sure was! When we arrived at Sucre in the bus station there were a load of posters with pictures of buses fallen down the cliffs! Slightly worrying haha

  • I just love to read this kind of story. I’m an avid bus traveler myself and know the feeling about pindering which part of the bus best to hold on to when the driver, yet again, overtakes three lorries on the wrong side of the road. So far, you and me, we are still alive to tell the tales. May it last!!!

    • The next journey we had was much better thank god haha. A bus ride is much more interesting than a plane any day. Its just hard to pick out the good from the bad companies out here!

  • Wow- Glad to hear you made it out of the 14 hour bus ride ALIVE!! I love how you then described the other roads as boring- love it!

    • Haha yeah all the other bus journeis we have had in Bolivia since have been bland compared. Saying that an 8 hour bus journey turned into a 24 hour one when the bus broke down in the middle of know where! Bolivian buses are turning out to be intreresting!

  • Wow, what a journey! At least you lived through that and have a story to tell. I don’t think I could take a bus like that again though – especially in Bolivia!! That country is nothing but mountains and has the highest capital in the world! Not a place where I want my bus driver high or drunk!

    • It sure is nothing but mountains! It not only has the highest capital in the world, but the highest city in general. We just came from Potosi which is 4100m high!!! Crazy!

  • Wow, what a journey. We never took this route, but have heard many horror stories of buses ending up in the ravines you talk about. Glad all is well with yourself. And crazy about the drivers!! When we were there in ’09 we heard a story that the bus drivers across the country were going to go on strike if they had to take mandatory breathalyzers before driving. They quickly abolished that one in fear of not having running buses.

    • It certainly was! Those roads have been the worst we have encountered in all of Bolivia so far. That breathalyzer story doesnt surprise me! Its a pretty chaotic county but a great place to visit!

  • Grace

    Bus drivers shooting up coke? That is one crazy bus ride. I was lucky not to have any incidents on my bus rides in South America but I have heard about the drunk drivers. Be careful when booking a salary tour! Was there ever a point when you guys wanted to get off the bus?

    • Yep we were just like why are we here haha. We couldnt have got off if we had tried though, this guy was stopping for no one haha

  • Exciting bus ride, to say the least! Loved reading this — not so sure I’d like to have the same experience. Oh, why not? It would be quite an adventure.

    • Yeah it is strange, looking back I am glad it happened. Makes for a great story!

  • I keep hearing crazy things about Bolivian buses! I’m glad you guys are ok!!

    • Yeah they seem pretty unpredictable! Our last one broke down in the middle of no where and the journey that should have taken 8 hours took 24! Very tiring!

  • I don’t know if this is true but I heard that the bus drivers went on strike recently because a new rule came in that they couldn’t drink and drive.

    • Haha its funny how rumours change. No they went on strike about a week before we arrived here because the Goverment doubled fuel prices in a night! Im not sure if they went back on the decision or not but everything seems fine now, and fuel seems pretty cheap to me! Less than 20 pence a litre.

  • I’ve been on some crazy bus rides but cocaine snorting bus drivers? Yikes! That’s the mother of all journeys. Glad you guys are OK.

    • Haha thanks. I can honestly say I have never been on any journey as crazy as that before!

  • This reminds me of the bus rides we had up in northern Laos a month ago, insane! What’s up with bus drivers not caring to use the breaks until it’s already too late?

    • I know its crazy! They never think about the poor frightened to death passengers in the back!

  • I dont think I would want to ride with anyone if I was there. I really want someone at the wheel where I know I will be safe.

    • Haha yeah I agree but I think drivig yourself out here wouldn’t be too great either!! There is no such thing as giving way and I think there is just as much chance you could be pushed off the road by another crazy driver!