Everything in South America goes one of two ways – things are either too easy or exceptionally difficult. After the series of buses, collectivos, and rancheros that it took to cross into Peru at the La Balsa border crossing, we expected Cusco to La Paz at Yunguyo would be similarly complicated.
Well? It turned out the bus rides across the border were easy enough, but of course, there’s always a hitch. Nothing the print lab next to the Bolivian visa office can’t fix!
Are you planning to travel Cusco to La Paz by bus via the Yunguyo border crossing? It’s not too bad, actually. And Bolivia is full of fun and interesting things worth crossing the border for. Here’s route information, price details, Bolivian visa information for Americans, and what you can expect at this very South American border.
The Route: Cusco > Puno > Yunguyo > Copacabana > La Paz
Travel Time: 11 hours – 15 hours
Cusco to Puno (10:00pm-5:00am) | Bus | 7 hours | $12-20 per person
You can catch the bus from Cusco to Puno at Terminal Terreste in Cusco. There are at least 5 companies that run the route, but Tour Peru came recommended and also has the cheapest fares. The most common departure time is 10pm – you’ll get into Puno early enough to catch the bus to Copacabana and make good time at the border.
As far as we know, there are no true direct routes to Copacabana and anyone who says otherwise is just making shit up. The overnight bus with Tour Peru was comfy enough if you can forgive the lack of air conditioning and the erratic use of blue overhead lights. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, Peru Hop offers a more expensive tourist bus – we assume the money goes straight towards air conditioning and a more awesome onboard DVD library.
Puno to Copacabana (7:00am-11:30am) | Bus | 3-4.5 hours | $10 per person
When you get to Puno at 5am, you can either split to Lake Titicaca for the day or wait at the station for your next bus.Puno is the Peruvian access point to Lake Titicaca, and likely the side you imagine when you think about the lake. Home to Uros – the floating island – and other community-based tourism, you’ll need to get off here if you’re looking to experience the indigenous culture of Lake Titicaca. Buses depart from Puno to Copacabana until 2pm, so if you just want to make a morning of it, flag down one of the many guys hawking half-day tours.
If you’re venturing straight to Copacabana (we did), the earliest buses leave around 6am. If you go this route, you’ll get to experience the grandeur of Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side with a bit less of the iconography.
Yunguyo Border | Walking | 30 Minutes | Free
Things get really South American when you get to the border. You’ll disembark the bus on the Peruvian side to present your exit card and passport. Then, you’ll walk across a very action-packed border to the Bolivian side (Kasuni).
Once you cross the bridge, the Bolivian immigration office will be on your left. Most of the world just needs a valid passport to get a 10 year visa, but if you’re from the US, things get a little more sticky.
Bolivian Visa on Arrival for US Citizens: Americans traveling in Bolivia will need to complete an extra step for entry. The Bolivia visa requirements are a passport, passport scan, passport photo, proof of hotel, proof of exit, and $160 in crisp, unmarked USD. We foolishly didn’t have much beyond our passports, so we popped into the print shop next to the office to photocopy and print the “itinerary” we wrote up in Microsoft Word. I think we got a bit lucky with a pleasant agent, so to be safe, be sure you have a printed copy of your hotel booking and some semblance of an exit plan from Bolivia.
After you get your visa, you’ll re-board the same bus for the 45-minute ride to Copacabana.
We recommend spending a few days in either Puno or Copacabana to enjoy some time on Lake Titicaca before venturing into La Paz.
Copacabana to La Paz | Bus | 4 Hours | $6.60 + $.50 ferry
It seems like just about everyone in Copacabana is willing to sell you on a bus ticket or Isla del Sol excursion. We went with Diana Tours as they drop you off right in downtown La Paz rather than at a station further outside. What could be a pretty standard bus trip is made quite unusual about 1 hour into the drive. While the bus is loaded up on a barely afloat ferry, you’ll hop on a speedboat (Bs 2) to cross to the other side of the lake. Here, you’ll wait about 20 minutes for your bus and luggage to show up.
After this crossing, La Paz is just 3 hours away. The Diana Tours bus will drop you right downtown near many of the major hostels, and your journey from Cusco to La Paz will be complete.