How to take the train from La Quiaca/Villazon to Tupiza

La Quiaca Travel Blog

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we spent our last night in argentina in tiny sleepy La Quiaca at the hosteria munay a really comfy little place on belgrano. i had one of the best meals so far at the confiteria frontera (my last big slab of steak) opposite though we didn't do a lot else apart from watch tv mainly because our heads were starting to throb because of the altitude. you can really taste the air being thinner and getting up quickly was a bit of a mistake initially. i'm glad we've got a long time to acclimatise before the inca trail.

now we've been a bit hesitant about this crossing into Bolivia because of lots of scare stories on the web and a lack of available information about taking the train up to tupiza and beyond from villazon.

so just for the record here's what we did and can i say that it was very easy and completely painless and hassle free.

we walked from the hostel in la quiaca to the border. people have taken taxis, buses etc from what i've read but the walk is under ten minutes. we got our exit stamp from the guy at argentinian immigration, walked over a tiny bridge to the bolivian immigration office, filled in a tourist card and then got our entry stamp. simple. bear in mind that there are two queues at the office on the bolivian side. there is a massive queue for people leaving bolivia which we joined initially until a policeman who looked like archangel from airwolf directed us to the right queue which was tiny. it's a simple and painless process.

as for getting bolivian money, there's shed loads of money changing places all the way along the av international (the street that immigration is on) which will change your argentinian pesos to bolivianos (including loose change.) we didn't really shop around for the best exchange rate but from talking to other travellers later it's much of a muchness.

as for the train station, we walked to the station. it's about 10 blocks down international (you literally come out of immigration and start walking) up a slight incline but again without any problems apart from a bit of a residual high altitude headache. there were radio taxis that looked official outside immigration but again we'd read a few dodgy stories about them. the walk takes about 15 - 20 minutes in a straight line. you go past the bus terminal on your left before reaching the station.

the next thing we weren't sure about was the actual departure times and dates of the various trains north. this link has the timetable of when the trains depart from villazon and i can vouch that it's up to date even though it says 2005 on there. (we agonised over this for ages as the lonely planet has different departure days.) the expresso del sur (Weds and Sats) is apparently nicer than the wara wara (mondays and thursdays). they all leave at 1530.

again we'd read stuff about massive queues at the station and hassles getting tickets but again no trouble even with my halting spanish. we did get there at about 930am (bolivia is 2 hours behind argentina at summer) and were waiting till 11am because the guys at the ticket office had broken their printer and were trying to get it working. once they did have it sorted it was fine. you can also leave your bags at the ticket office if you want to wander back down av international.

so in summary our move from argentina to bolivia was pretty painless. next stop tupiza...

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La Quiaca
photo by: PavelR