Bolivia Transportation

By | December 10, 2021

The development of modern communication routes in Bolivia is quite recent. The beginning of steam navigation in the rivers of the eastern region (1890) coincides with the development of the exploitation of rubber. The first railway (the Antofagasta-Ollagüe-Uyuni-Oruro) was opened to traffic in 1892. Currently the most important communication routes of the plateau are the railways, which have an overall development (1929) of about 2400 km; and of the low eastern regions, the navigable rivers.

The opening to traffic of the Peruvian railway from the port of Mollendo to Puno sul Titicaca (1874) was of great importance for Bolivia, the Bolivian shore of which was connected with La Paz (La Paz-Guaqui line, 98 km.) In 1902. Other very important lines are the Antofagasta (Chile) -Ollagüe-Uyuni-Oruro-La Paz, which is 732 km long in the Bolivian section, and overall 1174 (reached La Paz in 1910); the Arica (Chile) -Charaña-La Paz, inaugurated in 1913 and 438 km long, of which 232 in Bolivian territory; the Uyuni-Tarija-La Quiaca (about 270 km.) which continues to Tucumán and Buenos Aires and which is one of the most recent lines (trip from Buenos Aires to La Paz in three and a half days). The Antofagasta-La Paz line is joined by: the Oruro-Cochabamba (205 km.), The Machacamarca-Uncía (104 km.), The Río Mulato-Potosí-Sucre (280 km.) and the Uyuni-Huanchaca (38 km.). From La Paz the line that reaches Coroico (about 120 km.) Heads towards Beni and which must be continued as far as Puerto Pando; from Cochabamba the railway to Arani (60 km.) heads east, which will have to continue to Santa Cruz and Puerto Suárez on Paraguay. Of the lines under construction, the most notable is the one that will connect Santa Cruz with Yacuiba and therefore with the Argentine network. For Bolivia political system, please check

The very daring railways of Arica and Antofagasta (the first in some sections is a rack railway, given the very steep slopes it has to overcome) are those through which most of the Bolivian traffic passes. The first is fiercely competitive with Mollendo’s Peruvian one. Given the height of the plateau, the climbing costs are very high, which seriously affects imports. Characteristic of the Bolivian railways is precisely that of being among the highest in the world: in fact the Arica-La Paz reaches up to 4264 m., The Antofagasta-Oruro-La Paz at 4110, the Guaqui-La Paz at 4082. Even higher is the Machacamarca-Uncía, which rises to 4404 meters.

Eastern Bolivia has no railways, but it does have a good one. network of navigable waterways and partly covered by steamships, which have already been mentioned in the paragraph on hydrographic conditions. and which amount in total to more than 18,000 km. Regular steam navigation services also operate on Lake Titicaca and Desaguadero.

For several years Bolivia has had some regular air navigation lines: the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz (390 km: the most difficult, because to fly over the Cordillera, the aircraft must climb to 5000 m.), The Cochabamba-Sucre-Vallegrande -Santa Cruz (650 km.), Cochabamba-Todos Santos (200 km.), Todos Santos-Trinidad-Riberalta (1000 km.), Santa Cruz-Yacuiba (550 km.) And Santa Cruz-Puerto Suárez (750 km.). To understand the full importance of these lines for the transport of passengers and mail, it is enough to say that from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz the plane takes 3-4 hours, while on the back of a mule it takes 10-15 and sometimes even 20 days. From Santa Cruz to Puerto Suárez it takes 8-9 hours by plane, when the wagons carrying the goods in the rainy season take up to five months.

The network of ordinary roads is underdeveloped, especially in eastern Bolivia. On the plateau some roads are covered by regular car services (La Paz-Achacache-Sorata, Sucre-Potosí, Arani-Totora, La Quiaca-Villazón-Tupiza-Atocha).

Bolivia Transportation