In Bolivia, the quality of the bus is proportional to the price. So, if you want a good, comfortable and safe bus, you have to put the price. Most of the time, it’s just 2-3€ more. It isn’t much for you, but it is huge for Bolivians (it represents 2 meals)
Even if we took local buses to get around Bolivia, there are two places that don’t reassure us much: The bus terminal in La Paz and the crossing of the Bolivia-Peru border
La Paz and its bus terminal aren’t the most welcoming; and the crossing of the Bolivia-Peru border is a source of problems (corrupt police officers, pickpockets, buses leaving without waiting for passengers…)
It is for this reason that in our express crossing from La Paz to Cuzco (to go to Machu Picchu), we prefer to trust a company like Bolivia Hop which promises to
– assist us, with an English-speaking guide, for all border procedures
– pick us up at the hotel and drop us off at the hotel of our choice
Like all hop-on hop-off buses, there is a pre-established route, you buy the route you want and you have one year to make it. So we bought the route La Paz – Copacabana – Cuzco (with dinner break in Puno). We will be able to stop as long as we want in Copacabana, and we just have to connect to our customer area to book the ticket for the trip Copacabana – Cuzco.
Please note: Between the end of January and early March, no Bolivia Hop buses will operate due to the rainy season.
The equivalent exists in Peru, it is called Peru Hop. Moreover, as soon as we cross the borders, the guides and the bus of Peru Hop take care of us
Our pass cost us 39$US/person. If we had gone through other companies, we would have paid 30 bolivianos for La Paz – Copacabana and 180 bolivianos for Copacabana – Cuzco, that is 30$US, but without the pick-up and drop-off at the hotel: the 9$ extra is fully justified by the feeling of security thanks to the pick-up and drop-off; and the ease of the steps at the border. Not to mention the discounts available with some partner inns
Payment can be made online (attention 3D Secure enabled) or at one of Bolivia Hop’s offices in La Paz or Cuzco
1. The most :
When we booked our trip from La Paz to Copacabana, we were given a pick-up schedule and the bus came right on time. The two guides came to pick us up in front of our hotel, one of them even carried my backpack to the bus, parked 10 meters away
The big buses aren’t allowed to circulate in the center of Cuzco, but the drop-off is still assured at our arrival in Cuzco, which is very appreciable. The guides called a cab and paid the ride to our hotel for us. It’s great especially that the fake cabs in Cuzco can be a big source of stress for the tourists. And then, who wants to negotiate the cab fares at 6 am after a bad night in the bus?
The bus is very punctual, to the minute. Even if after each stop (pee or ferry crossing), the guides count the number of people on the bus, punctuality is required for everyone. The counting usually starts when the bus starts to run, as two tourists had to run after the bus after lingering a bit too long at the market. However, the time is the time, it is well communicated before each stop
At border crossings, since it isn’t possible to set a deadline for administrative procedures, the guides are very careful to count before starting the bus. When walking to the border or in the city, there are always two guides: the first one showing the way, and the second one to close the walk and make sure that nobody is trailing behind
Help for border crossing
We did not have any particular worries, but the guides offer assistance even for those who have passed the deadline for their stay in Bolivia/Peru. This is an important help because the process could have been very stressful, especially for those who do not speak Spanish
All Bolivia Hop buses cross the Bolivian-Peruvian border at the end of the day as the Peruvian market near the border comes to an end. This is very important from a security viewpoint because the border must be crossed on foot, and going there when the market ends (and when it is less crowded) allows for better security, and limits the risk of theft
We’ve heard so many stories (which don’t always end well) on this border that we’re happy to have assistance. I did take a little more precaution by hiding my dollars, in case I was searched by customs to find “fake dollars”
The buses are really in good condition, with a little extra that makes you happy: a blanket/person. It’s great when we travel in cold countries like Bolivia and Peru
Buses aren’t the same in Peru and Bolivia. Crossing the border, we have to change buses
The Peruvian bus is perfect: the second floor is equipped with cama chairs (reclining almost horizontally, XXL space). There are toilets on board
The Bolivian bus is much smaller, with medium reclining chairs, but this is related to the weight allowed to cross Lake Titicaca by ferry. If we kept the same bus as the one from Peru to cross Bolivia, this one would have sunk the ferry
A real meal
For the trip Copacabana – Cuzco, we had a real stop in Puno to have dinner all together in a very good restaurant accepting credit cards (in case we forgot to change money at the border), at a very reasonable price (15 soles the pizza). Note: the meal isn’t included in the ticket. It’s good because I’m really fed up with the snacks distributed in a hurry on the night buses in Chile and Argentina
For the trip from La Paz to Copacabana, we even had a French speaking guide. The guides are at least English speaking and are very patient, they even take the time to explain us what there is to see, to eat at each destination
For destinations like Copacabana or Puno where they have partnerships with hotels or tourist agencies, the guides come to see each one and ask if we want them to book a hotel or an excursion for us
They also come to ask everyone the name of their hotel for the drop-off
2. The least :
Safety on the bus
Even if there are two drivers to take turns on routes > 4 hours, the driver still lets a few hitchhikers on. And these people, where they come from, who are they? Nobody will know. So, adopt the same attitudes as in a normal bus: keep your things on your lap
The films are broadcast in English, but they aren’t necessarily the best. For La Paz – Copacabana, there was a turnip, in addition to being very vulgar. For Copacabana – Cuzco, we were treated to a nice film but which made all the tears of our body flow. Thus, when we all went down to eat in Puno after the film, everyone had the swollen and red eyes. After 23h, there are no more films and we can sleep quietly
Only one bus per day
If the schedules in Copacabana (arrival at 11:30 am, departure at 5 pm) allow for a quick visit of Isla del Sol, there is unfortunately only one Bolivia Hop bus per day. Thus, we are a little limited by the choice: the departure from La Paz is always at 7 am; and the arrival in Puno is always late: around 9 pm
Service interrupted during the rainy season
During the rainy season, local Bolivian buses can have many problems because of runoff, strikes… it is during this time that services like Bolivia Hop are most needed… but it is interrupted precisely between the end of January and the beginning of March, every year. Great!
I highly recommend Bolivia Hop for the Bolivia-Peru crossing. I don’t think I’ll go through them again in the other direction (Peru -> Bolivia) because the border crossing in this direction does not need any special assistance
However, if you travel a lot in Peru, I recommend the company belonging to the same group: Peru Hop, which stops right in front of even the most difficult tourist sites, saving you long negotiations with cabs or successive changes of colectivos cabs to reach your destination. In addition, by being a customer of Bolivia Hop, you get a 20$US discount on Peru Hop passes.