A night bus from Salta dropped us at the border in the early morning and we began our journey across the border into Bolivia. We decided against the norm of going through San Pedro Atacama (Chile) to route into Bolivia, instead opting for the Butch-Cassidy flavour of Tupiza.
We arrived in La Quiaca an Argentinian border town, and despite the rumours of this being a terrible crossing, walked directly across the border. The border was practically deserted and the entire procedure took only minutes.
It was so easy in fact, that upon booking our train tickets to Tupiza on the Bolivian side, we had several hours before boarding and decided to cross back into La Quiaca again to kill some time, play some cards and have a bite to eat at a ‘safer’ looking restaurant. When it was time to head back into Bolivia, we simply showed our stamps the khaki green-clad border guards and walked back in.
The Bolivian border town Villazon is a starkly different place than the neighbouring Argentinian side. It’s immediately noticeable that the people are of much stronger indigenous heritage. The women wear traditional dress and bowler hats while selling goods in tiny street-side shops all up the main drag. The town was dirty and busy, with too many people trying to sell you things, but we made it to the train station with no issues and then off on a 2 hours trip to Tupiza.
We arrived in what looked like a town out of a wild west movie. Tupiza has no paved roads and is quite small and undeveloped. We walked only 5 blocks to our booked hotel and were pleasantly surprised to pay $15 US for one of the nicest rooms we’ve had our whole trip. Two beds and a private room with an en-suite bathroom! The hotel offered tours and we immediately signed up for a 4 day Salt Flats tour, as well as 1/2 day horseback riding tour. Everything was very reasonably priced and the staff were very helpful.
Overall a decent start into a country which we weren’t sure what to expect from. All the stories we heard warned of awful border crossings, scams and dengue fever, none of which we encountered. The people were kind, the prices low and the landscapes harsh but beautiful. Just remember to bring your own toilet paper.