Bus Strikes in Bolivia
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Jun 20, 2013 11:14 PM Last Post By: hazzdawg
Jun 18, 2013 6:00 PM
Bus Strikes in BoliviaHi all,
I've seen many of the posts on this forum about the blockades in Bolivia, so I hope this post isn't redundant, I'm just hoping to clarify a couple of things.
We are going to be entering Bolivia from Argentina in a little over a week. I'm a little bit anxious about the blockades, because we are on a tight schedule- a little over a month to get to Cuzco (2 weeks in Bolivia, 2 weeks in Peru).
So, my question is: on what roads are there usually blockades? We will be coming from the northwest of Argentina->Sucre->Potosi->La Paz->Puno. How long does the delay caused by a blockade usually last? I've never experienced a blockade in Bolivia.. I've heard that typically a ton of taxis come to "save" the stranded passengers, and that often the blockades are expensive/ traps for tourists. Can anyone advise me, or offer just general information about the situation right now with the blockades?
Jun 18, 2013 7:46 PM
1It's a complex issue. Many blockades are due to industrial disputes, often involving mining (with the conflict between salaried and cooperative mine workers taking centre-stage in many cases) but there are lots of other reasons. What they are not is a way for Bolivians to "make money out of tourists" - so, while you may find taxi-drivers willing to "rescue" you for a hefty fee, they are only doing what taxi-drivers anywhere else in the world are - being enterprising. No different from Rio de Janeiro hostels charging upwards of USD100 a night for a dingy dorm bed. C'est la vie. Operating near/through bloqueos can carry significant risk for drivers.
Blockades can pop up with very little warning, or be more or less "scheduled" - in other words, announced in advance. Dozens of blockades can pop up all over the country, although Bolivia's west is generally more affected as it is an area rich in mines (for example Santa Cruz is less frequently affected). Potosí, Oruro, La Paz, the road to Peru via Copacabana. It is all very unpredictable, although if you keep you ears close to the ground once in Bolivia you will be better informed. For instance, last September there were multiple bloqueos around La Paz which completely shut off access to and from the capital for several days. Following the local news (Spanish essential) allowed me to get out of La Paz just in time.
Occasionally maps pop up on the internet showing the flashpoints (try "mapa de bloqueos") but I wouldn't count on it. This is why travel in Bolivia has to be taken very slowly, allowing time for unpredictable events such as these.
And one other thing to remember: while these blockades are extremely annoying, they are just as annoying for ordinary Bolivians, who vastly outnumber tourists. They are also driven by genuine economic and social tensions - workers on strike do not get paid, so striking/protesting miners aren't blocking off roads for the sheer fun of it. In a country where getting one's voice heard is not as straightforward as we may be used to at home, this kind of inconvenience is, sadly, to be expected.
Jun 18, 2013 10:30 PM
2As Will says keep an eye on the news and leave some leeway on travel plans. A few posters on this forum are in habit of posting information on blockades as they see them in the media so check in here from time to time.
They are also driven by genuine economic and social tensions -
One can't always be sympathetic to the protesters. Two rather unjustified recent examples include a group blocking a major road out of Oruro because they didn't want the government to change the name of the airport, and some miners trying to bring a complete halt to La Paz because they wanted a ridiculous 100% of their already over inflated salary to be paid out in retirement.
Jun 19, 2013 5:17 AM
3No, not always, indeed. I heard about the airport thing and that was clearly ridiculous, and I was not referring to this type of "protest", which is actually a hissy-fit more than a protest, I think! The protectionist aspect of some protests is remarkable - goodness knows what would happen if a bridge over the straits between La Paz and Copacabana were on the cards. In fact. I think everybody knows! The point I am making is that protests cannot be seen purely as an inconvenience to one's holidays.
Still, I wish Brits were a bit more eager to get out on the streets rather than bending over and taking everything the government gives them.
Jun 19, 2013 1:02 PM
4Thank you that was very informative... and yes, I understand that the blockades are a manifestation of deeper structural issues in Bolivia (I've been living in Argentina- we also have paros, alllll the freaking time, and while it's a huge pain in the a*s, I understand how complex the issues really are). With that being said, we have a flight out of Cuzco July 26th. We want at least 2 weeks in Peru to be able to go to Arequipa, colca canyon, machu picchu, and explore cuzco thoroughly. Is this doable, by your estimates? Taking into account possible bus strikes? I am a fluent spanish speaker so I'll be able to stay aware of the bloqueo situation in Bolivia, however because of my sheer inexperience in Bolivia I'm not sure about how long they last- if there's other alternate routes to take, if there is a bloqueo- etc. We would rather insure that we had enough time in Peru than take the risk of being stuck in Bolivia. Not that being stuck in Bolivia doesn't sound lovely, but the time limit :(
Jun 19, 2013 1:03 PM
Jun 20, 2013 11:14 PM
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