We have already lost money on a tour we had with Escandinavia Travel. They were unable to complete the tour (stating the borders were all closed but refused to give us a refund) They tried to take us on local tours instead.
As you can see here, we are about to cross the border, and on the day we wanted to go. Needless to say, there is no closed border this day, though we are told it was some days before! Apparently, there is an ongoing dispute between the boats and ferries, as they plan to build a bridge and they will lose their work.
Off We Go
Our driver picks us up at 7:00 a.m. He is quite forthright, and literally grabs Five Bolivianos for bus terminal tax.
We ask the driver to organize us a front seat please, and after waiting for 1 hour. The bus finally turns up and he juggles passengers and puts us about ½ way down the back – alas no front seat.
Regardless of the seating position on the bus, we have a fabulous view of the lakes, local markets with folks mainly selling bulls and cows. Passing the traditional houses, we drive on quite quickly at the border.
Bolivia/Peru Border Crossing
This is only our second land border crossing, and frankly, they make me uncomfortable. Therefore, when we arrive at the border and are needing to exchange our money here, I get rather churning inside. However, one must overcome these fears, since we need Bolivianos for the next few days.
I have already been warned that the Bolivian border sometimes does a search you personally, and this can be a scam. If they find you with any US$, they confiscate it, saying it is counterfeit. However, what is true, and what is a travel myth I often wonder.
So I roll up the money I have and hide it in my shoes. But let me tell you, it is an uncomfortable lumpy walk! First to two offices on the Peru border side. Followed by a 300-meter walk to the Bolivian side. Needless to say, no-one asked me a thing about US currency we were carrying, so I hobble off in search of our bus.
We Can’t Find Our Bus
About now, my son decides to get annoyed (as kids sometimes do) because I won’t buy him Pringles, and he LOVES Pringles! So as we wander off discussing his junk food intake, we lose the bus!
Next thing I know, we are stopped by police and asked for our documents, because we have actually gone the wrong way! On completion of a mini interrogation in Spanish, we are pointed back toward the Peru border.
I finally find the bus, and have a stern talk with my son about why we don’t need to buy Pringles at border crossings!
In a few minutes, we are in Copacabana and I am amazed how close we were in Puno without realizing it.
Abruptly, we are told to change buses, so we make a mad dash and grab our smaller bags inside the bus. Thankfully, the bus company takes our larger luggage and stacks it in an office. Darn it – now we have a new problem as we can’t find the office our bags are in.
All of this adds a lot of stress to travel, let me assure you. Rows of buses hide the office we are meant to locate and it is way across the road.
Finally, and with great relief to me, someone comes and finds us. Fifteen minutes of our one hour in Copacabana is gone and I wanted time to look around and get some lunch.
Lunch in Copacabana
A brisk walk down the sloping road leads us to Lake Titicaca and here there are ornate swan paddle boats everywhere. It is a shame we can’t spend more time in Copacabana. So we hope we will return on our way back through when we return.
We try buying lunch in three different places but we sit and wait and it is all too slow so we move on. Eventually, we order an overpriced pizza. I down a drink while I wait.
Mad Dash to the Bus
The pizza finally arrives a the last place right at the minute we are to get back onto the bus.
Copacabana to La Paz
Eagerly, we tear up the hill as fast as our legs can carry us, me still hobbling with the money tucked in my innersole shoe base.
The pizza box is the thinnest of cardboard, and my son is clutching it for dear life. By the time he is on the bus, it is completely upturned and squashed. Not the best bus food for a windy road but we do need to eat.
Making a mad dash to get out bags from the office (so we can continue on the bus trip from Copacabana to La Paz) is my next thing to tend to.
It is then I discover we have a 5-hour trip and no toilet on the bus. Thus, I charge off and have to find my way around the back of the buildings in hope of a basic restroom. I have learned to carry my own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There, I meet a lady who lets me use one and I pay my 2 Bolivianos and make a mad dash back to the bus.
I regret that lunchtime drink! I do notice a few more passengers carrying pizza boxes.
We wind through the hills on our bus from Copacabana to La Paz, eating cold and squashed pizza and only manage a couple of slices each and give up.
Explorason has a little sleep, and I contort in the seat waiting for the next Bano.
Reaching the lake, and I make a mad dash to find another toilet before we have to get on the boat. However, it seems like 500-meter sprint to the toilet.
Paying again it starts to feel like my bladder is getting expensive, and I’m over the paying for toilets! This Copacabana to La Paz bus trip is taking its toll on my waterworks. I decided I had better quit drinking water, which of course, leads to a bit of dehydration.
A Bus On A Ferry
Racing once more as fast as little legs can carry Explorason, we are back to find the bus is loaded on wooden planks. Pushed onto the wooden plank ferry that crosses the lake on this trip from Copacabana to La Paz. And I must tell you that looks so unstable.
With passengers not able to be on the bus, we then take a motorboat. Initially, it fails to start with the motor needing a good service I think but finally limps its way slowly over the lake.
Arriving on the other side, we are now waiting for the bus to be offloaded. Here we are greeted by a lone alpaca, tied to a reed-seat. This provides us with a nice time, giving him pats and love.
A lot of folks say not to eat the food from vendors, but when you are traveling you often have no choice. With high hopes, Explorason thoroughly enjoys a jelly for about 20 cents. Needless to say, it was fine.
The Start Of The Afternoon Drive To La Paz
We hop back onto the bus, and Explorason is contented with playing his game, and I enjoy peering out of the window. Lush green countryside and colorfully dressed ladies washing their clothes in the waterways.
Rich and poor houses are along the shore of the lake. Magnificent hotels are all along the shore – oh I want to stay here!
Scenery changes and at the same time the open side windows on the bus close, and people begin to don coats.
Snow covered mountains draw closer, and it seems to take forever to get to La Paz.
Markets And Stores
Marketplaces appear in dusty lots and we pass a multitude of poor little stores. Most have ladies sitting and knitting on the doorsteps. Street markets are strewn with litter and are so poor.
This is a shock to both of us and it is such a change from what we had seen in Peru. But at the same time, I am enthralled with the ruffle skirts on these seemingly larger ladies. We soon learn that to be well endowed is a sign you are not poor, and many eat badly so as not to appear skinny.
La Paz Cityscape
The driver stops as we are presented with one of the biggest cityscapes I have ever seen.
Explorason makes a movie as is amazed as he has never seen a city this big in his life, he proclaims. He says he will not leave my side as it goes on forever.
LA Paz City Centre
Traffic jams are rife, but we finally arrive in La Paz downtown. But instead of going to the bus terminal, and the bus stops in the center of town. So my plans of booking a hotel near the terminal have all gone pear-shaped.
Sharing a cab to the bus terminal with some other people from the bus, we plan to move to the bus terminal area to stay. The other passenger speaks Spanish which is great and he pays his share but he is dropped off first at the front of the bus terminal, and we only must go to two streets behind.
Taxi scam alert, as the driver then tries to take us to a different hotel from what we ask. I tell him where the one we want to go to is but he won’t listen. We are just two blocks from where we dropped the others off and I am getting annoyed. He takes over ½ hour to get to our correct address. Then pretending it is many other places, performing U-turns and trying to go into the back of the bus terminal. Finally, we arrive and surprise, surprise as he then he tries to charge us a double taxi fare. But I am looking at the map and I can see we are conned.
We finally negotiate a fare and although is not a big deal, it is the principal, and it annoys me.
This hotel is run by Christians, so that helps and surprises us. We get a clean room but this place is freezing. It is so quiet and hardly has any customers but somehow we discover that our key fits the next room, so we don’t feel like security is going to be too flash.
Now I don’t know the area, but we try to find a restaurant – but it is getting dark, and it is only local food which we just don’t feel like. However, we order a couple of plates, and eat little, then buy a few snacks at a store and head back to the hotel.
I then boil the electrical ‘immersion heater’ to fill the hot water bottle before we tuck into bed.
I have now received 2 emails from Escandinavia Travel telling me to stop bugging them for ripping me off. They talk about having many tourists, therefore, they don’t care about a low approval rating from me.
I guess my articles will help someone avoid the ordeal we had in the hands of such tour companies.
I will be happy to know that I helped even one person.
Comments and Questions
- Have you ever done a land border crossing before?
- Did you encounter any difficulties?
- What were they?
- Please share with us in the comments below so we can assist other travelers.