Prior to today's expansive bus network, camiónes (trucks) were often the only way for travelers to venture off the beaten track. These days, in the more populated areas you might consider a camión trip more for the novelty value than necessity; it is how many campesinos (subsistence farmers) choose to travel.
Camiones generally cost about half of the bus fare. You’ll need time and a strong constitution, as travel can be excruciatingly slow and rough, depending on the cargo and number of passengers. A major plus is the raw experience, including the best views of the countryside.
On any camión trip, especially in the highlands by day or night, be sure to take plenty of warm clothing as night temperatures can plunge below freezing and at best they can be chilly.
To get on a camión, wait on the side of the road and flag it down as it passes.
Micros (half-size buses) are used in larger cities and are Bolivia’s least expensive form of public transport. They follow set routes, with the route numbers or letters usually marked on a placard behind the windshield. There is also often a description of the route, including the streets taken to reach the end of the line. They can be hailed anywhere along their route, though bus stops are starting to pop up in some bigger cities. When you want to disembark, move toward the front and tell the driver or assistant where you want them to stop.
Minibuses and trufis (which may be cars, vans or minibuses), also known as rapiditos or colectivos, are prevalent in larger towns and cities, and follow set routes that are numbered and described on placards. They are always cheaper than taxis and nearly as convenient if you can get the hang of them. As with micros, you can board or alight anywhere along their route.
In cities and towns, taxis are relatively inexpensive. Few are equipped with meters, but in most places there are standard per-person fares for short hauls. In some places, taxis are collective and behave more like trufis, charging a set rate per person. However, if you have three or four people all headed for the same place, you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate for the entire group.
Radio taxis Radio taxis always charge a set rate for up to four people; if you squeeze in five people, the fare increases by a small margin.
Payment When using taxis, try to have enough change to cover the fare, as drivers often like to plead a lack of change in the hope that you’ll give them the benefit of the difference. As a general rule, taxi drivers aren’t tipped, but if one goes beyond the call of duty, a tip of a couple of bolivianos wouldn’t be inappropriate.
Night travel In larger cities, especially if traveling alone at night, it’s advisable to opt for a radio taxi, which is booked by phone, instead of hailing one in the street; ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you.
Expect delays Timetables are more like guidelines than strict schedules.
Plan for comfort Bring snacks, games and sleeping bags.
Stay alert Pickpockets and bag snatchers are often at stops.
Speak Spanish Only drive or ride if you speak Spanish moderately well.
Expect delays There might be speed traps, potholes and closures on the road.
Bring supplies Bring a GPS, a good map, extra food and water, sleeping bag and clothes.
Don’t drive at night Stick to daytime travel.
Save time by flying Flights will save you days of travel, but can add to your overall budget. In the Amazon, flying is now much preferred to boat or road travel.
Reconfirm Cancellations are common. Call ahead to make sure you are still booked. You may need to wait until the next day, and if not you may be able to get a 70% refund.
Carry heavy stuff Weight limits are often 15kg for checked bags.
Save money online Book online or with the airline office.
Go direct Direct cama (reclining seat), semi-cama (partially reclining seat) and tourist-class services cost more but can save several hours.
Safeguard valuables Keep them with you on the bus (not in the overhead bin). You should padlock your bag if it’s going on top.
Stay warm Bring warm clothes and even a sleeping bag if going anywhere in the altiplano.
Bring snacks Roadside vendors offer snacks along the way, but bring some just in case, as well as some water.
Be patient Times may change, expect transit times to vary by up to three hours. Getting stranded overnight is not hugely uncommon.
Stay safe If your driver is drunk, don't get on board. Accidents caused by drunk bus drivers are all too common in Bolivia. Daytime driving is the safest.
Don't rely on boats Boat services are less common in the lowlands than they used to be. Adventurous spirits will find unique experiences if they are willing to seek services out, but it's not always cheap.
Protect valuables Keep them padlocked.
Bring creature comforts Such as hammock, book and mosquito repellent.
Thanks to relatively easy access to camiones and a profusion of buses, hitchhiking isn’t really necessary or popular in Bolivia. Still, it’s not unknown and drivers of movilidades – coches (cars), camionetas (pickup trucks), NGO vehicles, gas trucks and other vehicles – are usually happy to pick up passengers when they have room. Always ask the price, if any, before climbing aboard, even for short distances. If they do charge, it should amount to about half the bus fare for the same distance.
Please note that hitchhiking is never entirely safe in any country. If you decide to hitchhike, you should understand that you are taking a small but potentially serious risk. Travel in pairs and let someone know where you’re planning to go.