THE INSIDE SCOOP ON THE BUS RIDE FROM SANTA CRUZ BOLIVIA TO ASUNCION IN PARAGUAY
So we recently were looking for transport options from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Asuncion as we were trying to get to Iguazu Falls. Didnt see too much relevant information except the train option so thought I woud share our experiences.
The train option wasnt right for us as on the map it didnt seem to head in the right direction and total trip time to asuncion woud be more than bus.
We stayed in Santa Cruz 1 night which was lovely and had 2 full days to discover Santa Cruz which for us was enough.
We checked the airlines who fly to Asuncion. The airlines that do this from Bolivia are:
TAM Mercosur (they have an office in Santa Cruz, go there to inquire flights are around $100 one way)
Argentinian Airlines ((Dont fly direct located next to tourist information on te main square)
The flights were fully booked and we would have to stay in Santa Cruz for 4 days if we wanted to fly and avoid the 22 hour bus ride.
We decided to push on and take te bus. Headed to the bus terminal and at the end there is an international section. In short there were 3 companies selling tickets to asuncion:
People dont be fooled they all sell tickets for the same bus which seems to be a Stel Turismo bus. Dont be fooled by pretty pictures from Yacycreta they are rubbish. We confirmed this with a local guy on the bus who does the trip every 3 weeks. So book with Stel Tourismo if you cant withstand the urge to take the bus!
We had booked with Yacycreta as we thought the bus looked slightly better. Arrived at 7 pm to be told that the bus wouldnt go and we had seats on another bus with Stel Turismo. Not the seats we wanted. We had paid 350 boliviano each for the trip. Other passengers had paid a range from 400 - 520. As there were blockades on at midnight we ended up loading up onto this prehistoric bus from hell. There was no room to pack the bags in the bottom and instead had to load them into the isle, no bag tags and no assistance just free for all. As the bus was overbooked there werent enough seats for everybody as some seats were loaded with cargo = people in the isle.
We left at 19:15 in a mad rush to avoid the road blockades that were put up by protesters at midnight. The seats were semi adjustable if that and there were 4 rows of seats. Myself being quite tall I could not sit straight and had the legs in the isle. Along the way the bus stopped numerous times to pick people up. We arrived at the border at 1 am to check out of Bolivia. Then at around 6 am we arrived at te paraguay customs where the whole bus got unloaded and were checked for drugs. Along the way between Bolivia checkpoint and paraguay numerous packages were thrown out of te window and police/ gangsters in civilian clothes came on board with torches. At no point did we feel unsafe just more a feeling that we were along for the ride and plenty of other shady business was going on.
Once passed the Paraguay border its another 5 -7 hours where there are numerous army/ police checkpoints where guards were literally paid off (personally saw bus driver hand money to police). Finally got to Asuncion at around 17:00 the next day. Having spoken to others this was quick:
Strikes road closures add 8-12 hours
Bus breakdowns add 4-12 hours
Rain double the time
The roads are mostly unpaved up till Paraguay border so lots of bumps and swerving
From Paraguay border onwards its sweet.
So in conclusion book your airline tickets ahead from Santa Cruz to Asuncion.
Any more info needed feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sjors and Hollie
PS if they tell you the bus is going to ciudad del este they are lying!! One guy paid $570 bolivianos to go here but te bus stops in Asuncion for sure dont believe te guys at the desk