Puno to La Paz via Copacabana
Our original plan was to transfer around Lake Titicaca and cross from Puno in Peru to Copacabana in Bolivia. However we changed our minds and decided to go straight to La Paz, Bolivia. We paid for a bus ticket which took us across the border and required a change of bus in Copacabana…
For anyone planning to travel across the land border from Peru to Bolivia here is a summary of what you need (and should be correct as of mid October 2016):
- A photocopy of your passport to hand over to Bolivian immigration officials
- 1.5 Peruvian Sols to pay your Puno bus station tax
- 2 Bolivianos to pay to Bolivian customs officials
The longer version…
With border crossings we are never quite sure what little extra taxes or border fees are needed or in what currency as all borders are all different, often subject to change and can also be subject to corrupt officials.
We arrived at Puno bus station and found we needed 1.5 Peruvian Sols as some kind of bus station tax. This is only 36 p but we didn’t have any Peruvian Sols left so we had to make our lowest ever ATM withdrawal of 20 Sols (just under £5).
The Peruvian bus was a relatively luxury bus with comfy reclining seats. We were fortunate to have been given upstairs seats 1 and 2 so we had good views. All was fine for 2 h 20 min as we drove towards the Bolivian border with views of Lake Titicaca alongside throughout the entire journey.
While we had a guide on the bus we couldn’t always quite understand what she was saying even when she spoke in English. The bus stopped at the border and everyone got off and started to queue. We realised they were queuing to change currency so having heard the rates are lower on the Peru side we changed just $20 into Bolivianos as we were aware we would need 2 Bolivianos each to enter the country.
The currency place had a small shop too so we spent our last Peruvian Sols on a chocolate fix!
We got back on the bus and drove about 100 meters and then had to get off again…
Once the bus had disappeared to cross the border we realised we needed a photocopy of our passports to enter Bolivia (which we had left on the bus… securely locked in our backpacks with our steel locking cable – an essential piece of travel kit!)
Fortunately there was a small building nearby which did photocopies for .25 Sols (luckily we still had some change and hadn’t spent our last Sols on chocolate).
There was at least three buses in front of us so the immigration queue was huge!
At Peru side:
There are two immigration offices. First you queue at one on right hand side where you hand over the bottom half of the immigration form you had stamped upon entry to Peru. This is signed and stamped on the back.
You then queue again at the left office (next door) where your bottom form is taken by the immigration officials and your passport is stamped with your exit stamp.
Following your exit from Peru you walk 350 m into Bolivia!
To be faced with an even longer queue…
Yep, we had to queue for over an hour in the sun in order to enter Bolivia!
At the Bolivia side:
The bus guide had already given us a green Bolivian immigration form which we had already completed. You need to complete both parts and hand these over together with the photocopy of your passport.
We eventually arrived at the immigration desk to be greeted by an official who clearly hadn’t been to the school of customer service!
The officials check you have your Peru exit stamp, keep your passport photocopy, stamp your passport with your Bolivian stamp and hand the bottom half of the green form back to you which presumably is to be kept safely and handed over to Bolivian immigration when you exit the country!
Phew… this was the longest border crossing we have made…
Eventually we got back on bus and drove for 15 min to Copacabana. The bus stopped and a customs man got on and this was where each passenger was asked for 2 Bolivianos each (about 24 p).
We finally got to Copacabana at 13:10 (which would be 12:10 but Bolivia is 1 hour GMT ahead of Peru).
There is no bus station in Copacabana and the buses line up along the road. This was where we disembarked our decent Peru bus and found the cranky old Bolivian bus to La Paz.
The bus departed at 13:30 and drove through spectacular scenery high above Lake Titicaca with the lake glistening alongside us.
The bus stopped in a small town and with no information or announcement most of the other passengers started to disembark the bus and soon disappeared… we were not sure what to do so stayed on with a handful of other passengers…
After 10 minutes and with no information the driver drove towards the edge of the lake where we could see some large floating rafts! When we saw a lorry making its way across on one of the rafts we realised that this would be our method of crossing the lake…
Soon enough it was our bus’s turn to edge its way onto the rickety raft…
It was a weird and slightly scary sensation as we started to cross the lake with the bus lurching from side to side and the raft creaking…
Halfway through a man suddenly walked through the bus and collected a Boliviano from each of the 10 other people still on the bus.
Thankfully after about 15 minutes we made it safely to the other side and the bus reversed off the raft and back onto dry land 🙂
Soon the rest of the passengers boarded the bus and we realised they must have crossed on a separate passenger boat…
The journey took another couple of hours to La Paz through dry and barren scenery. The city of La Paz is also at high altitude and is situated in a massive bowl similar to Bogota in Colombia. The traffic was heavy as we entered the city and we finally arrived at the bus station at around 18:30.