Death Train and Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Colourful Houses


Santa Cruz, Bolivia

After a great time in the Pantanal, we took a bus to Corumba for a couple of days so that we could regroup and get ready for Bolivia and organise our transport to Santa Cruz . Also, immigration was closed for 2 days which made crossing into Bolivia impossible. While we were in the Pantanal lots of people who had been going in the other direction had told us about the Death Train between the Bolivian Border and Santa Cruz.


We spent 4 days in Corumba relaxing and planning what we were going to do next in Bolivia. We stayed in a small hostel which was the home of a local, and it only cost 20 Real’s. Its very hard to find but you could be lucky if you ask at the information desk at the bus station.

The day before we planned to get the death train we wanted to go and buy our tickets from the train station in Quijjarro. This meant we had to take the bus from the local bus station to the border where you have to walk across the border and get a visa. Unfortunately, we had planned to get our visas so that it saved doing it the next day, but when we arrived we found out that for the last 2 days the visa office had been closed because the computer was down so we couldn’t get visas and also the train station office had shut. Wasted trip!

Death Train

We had better fortune the next day after spending 2 hours waiting for a visa and rushing to get a train ticket, we finally had to wait about 5 hours for the train. There are three different types of train that you can get, the original death train which is very cheap but is slow (taking 20 hours), full of mosquitoes and we heard that you get hassled by locals at the station trying to sell you food etc. The mid level, which we took, costing 127 bolivianos which is a lot more comfortable and much quicker, almost like a fairly good semi cama bus. If you want to go in luxury take the Ferro Bus which includes food and has a much more comfy seat. The Death Train name comes from when the train was used to transport the dead from the Yellow fever epidemic, although there are a lot of other myths as well.

The journey itself took us 14 hours and was relatively comfortable and you had the option to pay for a reasonably priced, but basic dinner. Overall it was a great way to travel and probably a much nicer option than getting a bus the same distance!

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Plaza

The Plaza in Santa Cruz is nicest part of the city by a long way.

We arrived at Santa Cruz and got to our hostel which was part of the Hostelling International franchise which we found were all over Bolivia and are a great, affordable and useful to find information. Santa Cruz itself is probably the most expensive place to live in Bolivia mainly because of it access to natural gas supplies.

It was our first real taste of Bolivia after the very noticeable changes from Corumba to Quijjaro. Most strikingly we found that there is no such thing as pedestrian right of way in Bolivia, even when the light clears people to walk across the road. Road crossings took a while of our time in Santa Cruz. The main plaza was nice but overall we found that there was not much to do. Though we did manage to go Go-Karting for very cheap  which was arranged by the hostel. We met some Norwegian guys who were our age through the karting that we have seen a couple of times along the way. There is a huge cinema complex which we went to once  we recommend the ice cream outlet “Bits & Cream” where we accidentally bought ridiculous amounts of ice cream fro about the equivalent of £2. You can watch a film here for about 25 Bolivianos with the films usually being in English with Spanish subtitles.

Sorry about the lack of photos, this was our first taste of Bolivia so we were a bit weary of getting out cameras out etc. but never the less the photos we did take ca be found on our Flickr: Santa Cruz, Bolivia Photos.

The Infamous Bus Journey

After our time in Santa Cruz we took the bus to Sucre along probably most dangerous road I’ve ever seen but that’s another post.

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  • Lucy

    Love the colourful, oriental look buildings. Interesting about the Death Train are we soon to hear about the Cycle of Death? x

  • Jacqui

    Love the lead photo, so colourful. Good job the name of the train didn’t put you off, brave boys. But as it worked out, it was a good way to reach your destination. Loving the photos on Flickr.
    Find myself checking your blog daily for the next instalment, keep them coming. xx

  • Steve Maxted

    Love the colourful photo of the house in Santa Cruz. Good tips about the ‘Death Train’
    Keep it up, so interesting

  • Y Bates

    great that you are trying all forms of transport. shame you couldnt take more photos. but the ones you have taken are great. cant believe you are coming towards the end of South America. Time goes so quick. Good luck in the salt flats.

  • I would have jumped on the detah train too, I mean, who can resist a name like that? The colorful houses at the top are a very nice lead with the little board on the side indicating the day of your journey. A pretty idea. Computer down for vusa seems to be a technology ailment all over the world.

    • Haha yeah it is a very interesting nickname! The next day we got to the border especially early as we wanted avoid and queues. The border was supposed to open at 8 and ended up opening at 10! another two hour wait.  ps. Glad you like the little “Day” board :p

  • Anonymous

    holy crap! i’d totally be into the death train! 🙂

  • I recently spent time on a death bus in Morocco. It wasn’t officially called that but it should have been.

  • strange how appealing any form of transport becomes when the word death is included in its name. i too would have been all about getting on board. you going to ride down death road?

    •  Haha yeah. We have been down the death road too! We have quite a large backlog of posts we need to get through, its soo hard to keep up!

  • I’ve heard the bus can be quite scary. Sounds like the name “Death Train” is a little exaggerated! 🙂

    •  Yeah it is really exaggerated if you go for the slightly more expensive option. I think the cheapest option is still pretty harsh though.

  • I think not taking the original Death Train was a smart idea. Looking forward to hearing more about Bolivia. I don’t know very much about it.

  • I think the death train needs a new marketing plan!

    • Haha yeah, but it has become quite famous because of its name, so maybe the current marketing agency had a stroke of genius!