Driving in Bolivia – Traffic, Road Maps & Guidebooks

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Roads & Road Conditions

The unpaved roads vary from reasonable to horrific (lots of washboard roads). But maintenance appears to be done on many stretches, including paving Potosí – Uyuni (2010), so next year some parts may be much improved.

Some of the main cities are connected by asphalt, which may vary from excellent to potholed. The danger here lies in kamikaze bus drivers who don’t get enough sleep, drink and/or use drugs while driving). Fatal accidents happen on a regular basis.

The road from Santa Cruz to the border is now entirely asphalted and in good condition (Feb ’13).

The Jesuit Route: asphalt between Santa Cruz and some 25 kms north of Concepción. From there all the way round to San José de los Chiquitos is unpaved (varying levels of quality). Especially the eastern stretch of the trip is beautiful to drive.

Road Maps & Guidebooks

Our Reise Knowhow map of Bolivia wasn’t accurate enough in its mileage and distances, maybe the newer version is better. We often drove many more kilometers than were indicated on the map. In other countries we’ve had good experiences with Nelles Verlag Maps and International Travel Maps.

Our standard guidebook is Lonely Planet. Although quality can differ quite a bit per country and edition, we generally find it gives a good view of the country. We use this book to get a feel for the country and once we’ve crossed the border we will search for local guidebooks and other sources of information.

Other travelers, especially overlanders, are smitten with the South American Handbook as it is more focused on road travel.

I have also enjoyed Lonely Planet’s phrasebooks and find its Healthy Travel booklets useful as well.

Toll roads

On all our visits to Bolivia we have encountered toll roads; real ones and fake ones. Never have we seen it as organized as during our trip to the Jesuit Missions in the province of Santa Cruz (Feb ’13). Each toll booth had a list hanging on the wall so we could check for ourselves if we were paying the right far considering your vehicle and the distance you are about to cover.

Other practical topics on Bolivia: Gas Stations, our Travel Budget, Documents (visa & car papers), Workshops, and Money Matters.

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