Treacherous Bus Journey to Rurrenabaque

As we read a lot online about how treacherous the bus to Rurrenabaque is, I wanted to share our experience in its own post for other travelers. I will say it wasn’t as bad as expected…

Country Bolivia | Dates June 14-15 | Accommodation Trans Rurre Bus to Rurrenabaque

We’d read a LOT online about the bus to Rurrenabaque, most of which said it was variations on awful, highly dangerous, and a regrettable mistake. Some even called it “grueling.” Feeling that sometimes these guides exaggerate, we decided to give it a try. Plus, it was cheap, coming in at 100bs.

Corioco to Yolosa & Lots of Waiting

We left Coroico in the afternoon, taking a local minibus to Yolosa (about 25 minutes away), where we were instructed to “wait by the police station” for the bus to Rurrenabaque. We were provided with a post-it with the bus name, license plate and driver’s name. We sat in the ditch next to the green station and began our wait, watching as each car stopped to show papers and pay a fee, the police putting up a crazy rope barrier to stop traffic (amazingly people did stop). We used the public toilet, paying 2bs for a wad of paper and experience of filth. Dozens of identical kiosks lined the street, with red coca-cola endorsed signs boasting their names, all selling soda, candy, crackers and the chicken and papas fritas under the harsh light. Children played in the traffic the entire time, as fumes from huge trucks and buses passing the exceptionally busy thoroughfare continued to surround us.

Day turned to dusk turned to night and 2+ hours later, we were still waiting. Scoping out every bus and truck that passed, some more falling apart and terrifying than others (I hope that isn’t ours!). One particularly scary bus was missing the front, dripping liquid, and a limping man came out approaching the police gate from the darkness. Some large trucks had small children riding in the cabs standing up, eating lollipops, and throwing trash out the windows. We saw a bus that looked like a prison bus, exclaiming, “well that definitely cannot be it.” Then we saw the name – Trans Rurre. It was it.

Onboard the Bus to Rurrenabaque

As we approached the bus, most riders exited and begin urinating on the side of the road into the ravine pulling down their pants without concern. Between the peeing people we boarded, throwing our bags into the back on top of a mountain of sacks of agricultural items. A child was in our cab in the bus, too. The man next to me smelled, and the lady behind us began playing loud obnoxious music for hours. The bus began a scary, bumpy ride down winding dirt roads in disrepair, driving within millimeters (no exaggeration) of other trucks and buses as we bumped by at a fast speed, nearly hurtling off the edge of a cliff (also millimeters from the edge). Somewhere during the second hour I accepted I would be unable to sleep, and began recording the events on my phone:

  • 10:01pm: Bus stops – potential cocaine deal (read about this online), but actually waiting for another bus to pass.
  • 10:48pm: Bus stops. Yelling out window. Weird yellow lights on side of road. Others pass us. Traffic jam. Lots of honking/road rage – truck fight.
  • 11:00pm: Man stands up in aisle and drinks Coke.
  • 11:07pm: See horrifying truck crash out window, smashed windshield. Fear. People on bus lean out window shouting.
  • 11:12pm: Smashing noise. Group laughter.
  • 11:14pm: Dead stop. Lights come on. Wonder if bus broke down.
  • 11:21pm: Smashing noise, severe.
  • 11:23pm: Stop for no reason.
  • 11:27pm: Pass bus with green disco lights.
  • 11:31pm: Drive on wrong side of road in steep downhill to pass large truck.
  • 11:45pm: Bus tries to ascend hill, rolls backwards.
  • 11:29pm: Pass gas station with diesel filtrado. Propaganda poster on side of road.

Around this point I attempted to sleep and failed, as the banging continued and we stopped repeatedly to let people on/off. Around 2am we stopped for quite some time as police in vests stating “polica felon” in large letters came onboard and inspected the bags. Later in the night (twice), some other men came onboard looking through all the bags and eventually carried out random sacks. Who knows.

Eventually daylight broke, and we rolled towards Rurrenabaque hours ahead of our expected arrival time. We only took about 12 hours, although many reports confirm it can take 15, 24 or upwards of 50 hours if it is raining. All in all, I did not think the bus to Rurrenabaque was that bad. We got lucky, apparently, as most everyone we spoke with in the town asked mockingly “oh how was the bus,” laughing, and were then shocked by our quick arrival and not so awful experience.

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