How To Catch A Train In Bolivia

A Bolivian "train" in its entirety. 

A guide to catching a train from the city of Sucre, Bolivia to the city of Potosi, Bolivia.

Step one: Upon exiting your hotel, convince your taxi driver that the train station exists. For some reason, bus and taxi drivers in Sucre are likely to insist that the train station is closed, temporarily out of service, or was never in fact built in the first place. If possibly, bring a map with the station's location labelled on it, to point at insistently. 

Step two: Understand that Bolivian "trains" are small,  cramped, and move at a speed only slightly faster than a brisk jog. The train to Potosi takes seven plus hours--a public bus will cover the same distance in two or three.

So why take the train?  In my case, because Bolivia's tumultuous political scene has led to road closures across the country, shutting down bus routes.  The train may be slow,  but at least it runs on time.

Step three: That's a lie, in fact--the train does not run on time, but rather on Bolivian time, which is an altogether more relaxed concept. So don't worry if you have to spend ages queuing at the ticket office at Sucre station (which you will); you'll still have plenty of time to spare before departure.

Step four: Bring a book and/or particularly challenging crossword puzzle for the journey. Be aware that the train will lurch to a stop at random intervals to let passengers on, off, or go to the bathroom.

If you're feeling adventurous, risk leaving the train to pee. It probably won't go on without you.

Step five: Forget to read your book, because the view is quite spectacular (click below to enlarge).

Step six: Congratulations, you have arrived at your destination! And thanks to the awesome power of the locomotive, it has taken you only two or three times as long as riding a bus.


> The name of the working train station from Sucre is "El Tejar," which cab drivers seem more likely to recognise than simply asking for the train station.  

> When using Bolivian trains (and indeed busses) be aware that you need a luggage ticket to stow your bag. This comes with your regular ticket: give it to the train porter, and he will happily sling your bag onto the top of the train with great force. 

> It's a good idea to bring snacks for the train. This is, in fact, sound general life advice.