We just stayed in Tupiza for one night to break up the trip to Salta in Argentina. The trip from Uyuni to Tupiza began at 6am (we went with a company called 11 de Julio and we had to change a few hours in to another company, 12 de Octubre. Both buses were terrible and there’s no toilet stop or toilet on the bus. Fun!) We stayed at La Torres Hotel in Tupiza which was lovely (120 BOB).
Border crossing from Villazón, Bolivia to La Quiaca, Argentina
Collectivo’s leave from the back of Tupiza’s bus terminal from 5am every morning. So we were actually told that it would take hours to get through this border but a sleep in until 6am was required! We hopped in a collectivo at 6.40am and only had to wait 10 minutes for it to fill up. At 8.10am we pulled into Villazón (our driver was certifiable mind). From here you need to walk down to the border crossing although there are no signs so you basically just need to follow everyone else. There are plenty of currency exchange offices on the Bolivian side of the border. We were told that Bolivianos get a good rate against the Argentinian Peso; we got 1.91 for the Bolivianos we had left and 13.5 Argentinian Pesos (ARS) for each USD we had acquired (January 2015). As the Argentinian economy isn’t doing too wonderfully at the moment there’s a ‘blue dollar’ market – the actual rate should be about 8 ARS for every USD. Result! We’ve been told to try not to take any money out of banks in Argentina as the charges and rates are astronomical.
After changing our money (and asking directions from 3 different people) we found the bridge or border crossing to take take us from Bolivia to Argentina. You’ll see a sign with the numbers 1-4 in front of you. Firstly, you have to queue at number 4 (Migracion). This queue (down an uncovered bridge – sunburn central) took 2 hours. There was one person working to stamp us out of Bolivia. Next, you go to queue number 3 where you eventually get stamped in to Argentina (you’ll need the forms that are being handed out. The person handing them out told us we didn’t need them and then we had to fill them out at the control point). There were 2 people working on the Argentinian side of the border so it was only another half and hour of a queue here. You then have to queue up at queue number 1 and put your bags through an x-ray machine…which is in a van. Then you’re done! We wandered straight down the road to the town of La Quica (about a 10 minute walk) and found the bus station (3 blocks uphill from the main pedestrian street). We hopped straight on a Panamericano bus to Jujuy (115 ARS, ended up taking 7 hours) for a connection to Salta (We ended up staying in Jujuy for the night and caught a bus the following morning at 11am with Flecha Bus for the 2 hour journey to Salta). You have to pay to store your bags underneath the bus in Argentina. Anyway, 2 hours into the journey from La Quiaca we were stopped by police officers and everyone had to bring their luggage into a room (women queue with women and vice versa) and show our passports. Some people had their bags searched and 2 people were detained. This added nearly another hour to the journey. I wouldn’t recommend Panamericano to be honest – we must have stopped 30 times on that trip.
Next stop: Salta!