There are direct services to most major South American cities, and the flights to/from Chile and Peru are the cheapest. Santa Cruz is an increasingly popular entry point from European hubs. Due to altitude-related costs, it is more expensive to fly into La Paz than Santa Cruz. High season for most fares is from early June to late August, and from mid-December to mid-February.
Airports & Airlines
Bolivia’s principal international airports are La Paz’s El Alto International Airport, formerly known as John F Kennedy Memorial, Santa Cruz’s Viru-Viru International Airport and Cochabamba's Jorge Wilstermann International Airport.
The national airline is the state-owned Boliviana de Aviación, which has international flights to Madrid, Barcelona and Miami.
Aerolíneas Argentinas Daily flights from Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires.
Amaszonas Flights to Asunción, Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Iquique and Montevideo.
American Airlines Daily flights from Santa Cruz to Miami.
Avianca Flights from La Paz to Bogotá and Lima.
Copa Flights from Santa Cruz to Panama, with onward connections.
Gol Flights from Santa Cruz to Rio de Janeiro and other destinations.
Departure tax is included in the ticket price for international and domestic flights from La Paz El Alto, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba airports. Other airports charge a small fee of varying amounts.
Some fares include a stopover in the USA. Note if you're traveling through New York (JFK) or Miami you must pass through American immigration procedures, even if you aren't visiting the USA. That means you’ll either need to have a US visa or be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which is open to Australians, New Zealanders and most Western Europeans, unless you’re traveling on a nonaccredited airline (which includes most Latin American airlines).
Depending on which country you enter from, some intercountry buses booked through an agency might cover your entire route; at other times you’ll switch to an associated bus company once you cross the border. If traveling by local bus, you’ll usually need to catch onward buses once you’ve made your border crossing.
Car & Motorcycle
You can enter Bolivia by road from any of the neighboring countries. The Trans-Chaco road from Paraguay is in a dreadful state, especially beyond the town of Mariscal Estigarribia, and should be considered only if you are driving a 4WD. The main routes from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru pose no significant problems.
Foreigners entering Bolivia from another country need a hoja de ruta (circulation card, www.dgsc.gob.bo/hoja-ruta.php), available from the Servicio Nacional de Tránsito/Aduana at the border. This document must be presented and stamped at all police posts – variously known as trancas, tránsitos or controles – which are found along highways and just outside major cities. Peajes (tolls) are often charged at these checkpoints and vehicles may be searched for contraband.
Bolivia has land borders with Argentina (at Villazón, Yacuiba and Bermejo); Brazil (via Quijarro on the main highway from Santa Cruz, and a smaller crossing at San Matías), Chile (at Tambo Quemado, Hito Cajón and Ollagüe); Paraguay (the trans-Chaco crossing) and Peru (at Kasani and Desaguadero).
US citizens and citizens of a number of other countries need a visa to enter Bolivia.
There are three overland crossings between Argentina and Bolivia.
- Villazón/La Quiaca, with connections by bus and train north to Tupiza and Uyuni in Bolivia and south to Salta in Argentina.
- Yacuiba/Pocitos, in the Chaco region. Buses traveling further into Argentina leave every couple of hours.
- Bermejo/Aguas Blancas, south of Tarija, at an international bridge that leads on to a highway going further into Argentina. Bus companies from Tarija to Salta in Argentina use this crossing.
Note that proof of yellow-fever vaccination is usually needed when crossing into Brazil. If you don’t have one, you can get a shot at the border (in relatively sanitary conditions).
Note that meat, fruit and food produce (including coca leaves) cannot be taken from Bolivia into Chile and will be confiscated at the border.
- Tambo Quemado/Chungará The most popular route between Chile and Bolivia is by bus from La Paz to Arica, via the crossing at Tambo Quemado.
- Hito Cajón/San Pedro A convenient alternative for those doing the 4WD Southwest Circuit tour is to be dropped off on the last day at Hito Cajón (8am to 11pm, although it’s wise to be there before 6pm) and head for San Pedro, Chile (many tour operators now offer transfers). From here, you can pick up a bus. Note the one-hour trip between the Bolivian border and San Pedro – it’s better to arrange transport for this in advance, in case there aren’t any taxis.
- Ollagüe/Avaroa A crossing can be made by road from Uyuni to Calama, where the border crossing is in Ollagüe (8am to 8pm).
- Trans-Chaco crossing The trans-Chaco bus trip between Santa Cruz in Bolivia and Asunción in Paraguay is a daily service. This is a notorious smuggling route, so expect to be lined up with your bags while customs officials and sniffer dogs rifle through your possessions.
- Kasani–Yunguyo Bolivia is normally reached overland from Peru via Lake Titicaca and the crossing at Kasani–Yunguyo.
- Desaguadero A quicker, but less appealing route is via Desaguadero on the southern side of the lake.
- An efficient alternative is to catch a tourist bus from La Paz to Puno via Copacabana (from B$60) or vice versa; some deals allow you a couple of days’ stay in Copacabana.
Bolivia is landlocked. It is not possible to travel here by sea.