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Published: December 26th 2012
We got on a morning bus out of Tilcara for the border town of La Quiaca, Argentina. Luckily we wound up on the top in the front row, so we had some great views on the way. There were more colored hills, similar to Purmamarca. I snapped a few pictures from the bus:
On the way up to La Quiaca our bus ran into some trouble and we were stopped for about 30 minutes. Not sure what was going on. Finally they got a group of locals to push start us and we were one our way again.
In La Quiaca we got some lunch and caught a taxi to the border. The first taxi told us it would cost 100 pesos, which is about $20 USD. We balked at this and sent him on his way. The next one told us 8 pesos - that's more like it. I paid him 10 for his honesty.
So... at the border to Bolivia we learned a valuable lesson: Never exchange money at the border. First a little back story.
The visa for Bolivia for US citizens is $135 USD, and has to be paid in crisp US dollars. Almost every other country besides USA gets in for free, or for a small fee. I guess the US charges $135 for Bolivians to enter the US, so this is their way of retaliating. Can't blame them I guess.
The problem with this is, there is hardly anywhere in Argentina that gives out USD. In fact there is a black market for USD, where you can get up to 7 pesos per dollar (standard exchange rate was 4.82 pesos per dollar when we were there). I'm really not sure how this works, go ask an economist or something. I do know that if I go to Argentina again I will bring a bunch of cash in USD and essentially get a 25% discount on my entire trip.
Anyway, we decided it would be a good idea to hoard pesos and try to exchange them to USD on the bolivian side of the border. So this is what we did. Unfortunately, the exchange rates on the bolivian side of the border were ridiculous. The best we found was 6.75 pesos per dollar. We basically lost almost $120 USD in the exchange. Ouch.
If we could do it again, we would have brought the $135 USD cash each for our visas. Or handled our visas in the States ahead of time. Just a tip for all you Americans crossing from Argentina into Boliva.
Anyway... we made it into Villazon (Bolivia) pretty sour from the whole experience. Then we got to walk 10 blocks in the heat to the bus station, and wait an hour for a bus. Hooray!
Once on the bus things improved. We had more nice scenery out the windows, and we got to Tupiza in only 2 hours. And for all the horror stories of Bolivian buses, this one was really not so bad. I snapped a few more pics through the window:
The second picture is a method of construction we saw a bit in Argentina too. Instead of using nails to hold down the roofs, they just pile rocks on to weight it down. Use what you have, I guess.
We got to Tupiza and found our way to our hotel. Tupiza is actually not too bad of a town, surrounded by canyons and hills. But our schedule was pretty much to the wall; we had already booked a tour for the following morning. So we didn't have much of a chance to explore. The only picture I took was the sunset from the roof of our hotel.
The next morning we set out on our epic 4 day, 3 night tour through the mountains to Salar de Uyuni. But that is for the next blog. Until next time!
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