South America by land

The great adventure of Bolivia to Brazil border crossing

[us_message icon=”fas|pencil-alt”]Author’s Note: This article was originally published on 25 June 2014 and was republished to update some important information. The story, however, is written as it happened 4 years ago. Photos are not the best quality, too, as I only travelled Latin America with an iPhone4.[/us_message]

“What?! Four days?! You’re kidding me, right?”

I asked one of my Brazilian friends when I was planning my exit route from Bolivia to Brazil. I couldn’t believe him for a second, to be honest, as there are no articles on the internet emphasizing how to cross these two countries. From Bolivia, most people opt to go to Argentina (Salta) because it’s easier. From there, they cross to Brazil but for me, it doesn’t make any sense. I have to be in Brazil for the World Cup and I really really have to take this way.

I posted on forums, asked questions to fellow bloggers. No one can give me an answer as they have not tried it themselves. Some people flew but I wanted to complete this journey without booking a flight ticket. It was really tempting though. Okay, fine. I did look for flights but it was way off the budget. Even flying within Bolivia was too expensive for me.

It was a blind shot. I’ve crossed the borders from Colombia to here successfully but this time, I don’t have any idea how this will go. However, I had a great feeling I will accomplish it. The force was too strong. It was shouting inside my head.

“You will do it because you can do it,” it said.

And so, I decided to do it. I wouldn’t know ‘four days’ is for real until I try it, right? I was too hungry to succeed in this endeavor. Too excited. “This will be a good story to tell and the best meal for my soul too (If I make it),” I said to myself. Since there are no guides speaking about this crazy route, I will be putting into details of how I traveled the borders of these countries. Here we go!

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“Nobody knows what will happen the next minute but still, we do it because we have faith.”

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Day 1: La Paz to Santa Cruz, Bolivia 

Bolivia to Brazil by bus

Compared to my Colombia-Ecuador border crossing, this one is different as I started traveling during the night. For 20 hours, I sat on a filthy-horrific-most-ugly-bus I ever rode in my whole life. It cost me 100 BS ($14.47 USD) so I have no place for any complaint. You wanted to save money, there you have it!

I had a 5 BS ($0.72 USD) meal along the way which was a rice and chicken combo. It wasn’t too bad because it was freshly made considering it was sold by those random boys hopping in busses. My bus arrived in the city of Sta Cruz at 14:00 the next day.

Quick notes

[us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”The bus station in La Paz is located in Plaza Antofagasta. ” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”El Dorado and Trans Copacabana are two of the best bus companies traveling this route.” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”The bus trip from La Paz to Santa Cruz will take 18-20 hours.” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”Bus prices depend on the class: Bus cama (reclinable bed) costs 220 BS ($32 USD; semi-cama at 192 BS ($28 USD)” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_separator thick=”3″ style=”dashed” type=”default”]

Day 2: Sta Cruz to Puerto Quijarro, Bolivia

Bolivia to Brazil by bus

I arrived sweating and felt like I was in a different country. The weather in La Paz was extremely different from Sta Cruz — sunny, bright and full of happy people. For once, someone is smiling in Bolivia. I really believe that our mood is greatly affected by the weather. I

wasn’t too tired yet I screamed “one down” in my head. I didn’t really want to count how much more busses I need to take. I hailed a cab as I wanted to rest in a hostel for a bit (you know, shower for the upcoming war) but there are no decent ones near the bus station. I wanted to go the next day so I can meet a friend who is in the city but I figured, I would spend more money (that I don’t have) if I do that.

The driver took me hostel hopping but I always said no. I was so groggy from the trip and feeling sick of the heat I couldn’t think straight. After getting the driver confused about what I really want to do, I finally decided to go back to the bus station and buy my ticket to the next stop: Puerto Quijarro.

Although I was being a woman 100% with mood swings and can’t-make-up-my-mind-moments left and right, the driver was very patient. He accompanied me inside the bus station to buy my ticket. I had no idea where I am going, really. Maybe Puerto Quijarro’s not even the right place. But this taxi driver is a gift from the Universe so I should be thankful.

Who would do that? Who would accompany you all the way and find you the cheapest ticket ever?

I still asked a friend to double check if it’s the right place though. I paid BS130 (U$18.81) for a semi-bed bus. It will leave at 19:30 that same day so I still have 5 hours to kill time. I asked the driver to take me to a place where there is wifi because my job has been haunting me for weeks. I didn’t have a good internet connection in La Paz so I am really behind work. These are the moments when working remotely is a pain in the as$.

We found a place at the center where I ate an awfully expensive and not well-made lunch. Thank God they have coffee and cakes, otherwise, I would really die from hunger. I almost finished all the pending tasks for 2 weeks of absence from my job. For the first time in a month in Bolivia, I got to experience a good wifi connection. I was the only one at the restaurant (maybe people know the food is awful there) so I wasn’t competing with anyone with the wifi.

At 18:30, I hailed a cab to the bus station but it took me 40 minutes to get there because of the traffic. I was really scared to miss my bus so I didn’t ask the driver to drop me in front of the station.

I walked. I walked with my bigger-than-me-backpack and arrived at the station at 19:25. Buzzer Beater! In the end, the bus left at 20:45 and it wasn’t a semi-bed bus.

Oh my, how could I ever forget that I am in Bolivia? And so, the night went. “22 more hours and you’ll be at the border,” I said. I was trying to convince myself that it wasn’t too bad and that I wasn’t really tired. But deep inside, I sure was.

Quick notes

[us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”The bus station in Santa Cruz is called Estacion Bimodal Terrestre y Ferroviaria. It is located in Avenida Intermodal” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”The bus trip from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro will take 18-22 hours.” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”For the same travel time, you can also opt to take the train.” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_iconbox icon=”fas|angle-double-right” iconpos=”left” size=”18px” title=”I paid $18.81 USD for a semi-cama seat but as always, prices depend on the class. ” title_tag=”h6″][/us_iconbox][us_separator thick=”3″ style=”dashed” type=”default”]

Day 3: The Border of Bolivia and Brazil

Bolivia to Brazil by bus

This is the first border I encountered that has operating hours.

The bus stopped and I found myself sleeping for another hour after we arrived. Well, nobody woke me up! For the duration of 22 hours, the bus stopped a lot that I didn’t believe if we arrived or not. Good thing there was a Colombian dude who overslept too and we went to the immigration together with a shared taxi. For BS5 (U$0.75) each, we arrived the border at 6:00, stuffed with people sleeping but in line. We found out that we need to wait 3 more hours because the immigration opens at 9:00. This was the first time, in my border-crossing life, that an immigration office was closed. Isn’t it supposed to be open 24 hours? What if I arrived at 3:00?! Or 12mn?

Everyone hates the waiting game. Children were crying, old women are nearly losing their temper, men fighting who’s who on their lines, etc. The best part was talking to different people. The majority of the ‘liners’ were Brazilians living in Bolivia. Some students chose to study in Bolivia (particularly medical students) because it’s way cheaper than Brazil. Summer break started that they so they’re going home to visit their families.

Finally, after 4 hours. We got stamped. Woohoo, hello Brazil!

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Still day 3: Corumba to Sao Paulo

bolivia brazil border crossing

Alright, alright. Don’t celebrate yet. You still need to take a 23-hour bus to Sao Paulo. Another day, wow! After getting stamped with a Brazilian entry, we took another taxi to Corumba which cost R$40 (U$18.08). I was still with the Colombian dude who I met on the bus from Santa Cruz. He’s also going to Sao Paulo so I figured, it would be better to go together. Normally, the price of the taxi would be half (come on, Corumba is not even 15 minutes away) but then we realized it was the World Cup. People will always take advantage of events like this. Okay, R$40 it is.

TOO. TIRED. TO. ARGUE.

It was only 11:30 when we arrived at the bus station. Famished, super tired and on the verge of breaking our shoulders from carrying our backpacks, we bought our ticket to Campo Grande for R$90 (U$40.67). The bus leaves in 4 hours so we had time to eat. No. We had time to change our minds. I was told that there are no buses coming directly to Sao Paulo from Corumba and that we had to stop in Campo Grande but that information was wrong. After one hour of debating with my new Colombian mate, we decided to change our tickets to Corumba-Sao Paulo. This cost R$238 ($107.55) and it’s the same amount we’re going to pay even if we stop in Campo Grande. It just feels lesser because you’re buying the ticket separately but to be honest, it’s exactly the same.

And yes, I literally slept on the floor because Anthony said so. The bus going straight to Sao Paulo leaves in 5 hours so I had time. I had a nice prato feito (typical Brazilian plate) across the station for R$10 (U$4.52) because I think I deserve it. I haven’t had a decent meal since La Paz and man, the food was oily, shitty, not presented well but these are one of the things I missed about Brazil.

One more bus. 23 hours to go.

Sooner or later, I will be in Sao Paulo — the place I consider my second home.

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“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

Anthony Bourdain

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Day 4: Sao Paulo!!!

O.M.G. I am here. ASDFGHJKL!! I cannot believe I just did that! Not saying OMG but the 4 days non-stop bussing. We arrived in Sao Paulo at 17:30 the next day and this is the time where I had to separate with my Colombian travel companion. After making it official on Facebook (we’re friends), we exchanged hugs and our good lucks as we continue the journey to our long-time dream: WORLD CUP 2014. The spirit was strongly felt.

Assuming I still know Portuguese after six months of travelling in Spanish speaking countries, let alone having a thick Argentinian accent, I chatted with the taxi driver on the way to Bela Vista where I’ll be staying. I asked him how’s the World Cup been since I was a week late. My heart jumped with his stories. Flags of Brazil on windowsills and terraces’ railings put a big smile on my face.

I made it. I am here. Let the World Cup dream begin!

P.S. The taxi cost R$25 and I didn’t give a sh*t. For once, I had to treat myself after a long successful journey.

However, I felt the expensive days ahead. Welcome to Brazil, Trisha!

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Have you conquered the Bolivia-Brazil border crossing? How was the experience?

What are the challenges? How many hours/days did you do it? Do you have any additional tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

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TRAVEL SOUTH AMERICA

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha is an ambassador of Girl Rising, a global movement for girls' education and empowerment. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

Comments

  • July 23, 2014

    Ummm bad news, world cup has finished! 😉 😛

    reply
  • July 23, 2014

    What a wonderful blog entry, Trisha! This is going to be useful to me, too! Though, maybe things will be easier, by the time I get there. But I’m sure it will be an experience, just the same. Heading to the border, which no real idea as to whether you are able to get across, must have been a little unnerving. But, at the end of the day, it’s an experience, and you get to see new things on the way!

    reply
    • July 30, 2014

      Thanks for the thoughts, Stephen! I definitely agree with everything you said. I guess the trick of the trade would be: “If you won’t try, you’ll never know.” Thanks again!

      reply
  • August 19, 2016

    Oh my god that sounds rough! You get gold star travel status for making it through. I was considering the route but might just go through Argentina instead!

    reply
  • Ali Mansoor
    December 15, 2019

    Hello Trisha,
    Hope you are well,at first i want to congratulate you on such an accomplishment, i want to ask a question, about the border exiting bolivia entering brazil, was it Bolivian border gate only ? Or it’s a bolivian border at first and then you reach another Brazilian border gate too where you must stamp your passport again and get your luggage searches as well?

    Your answers are highly appreciated

    reply

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