The plan

The original plan was to take a bus to Cuzco via the fabled Lake Titicaca.

Buses in Bolivia vary from unreliable to downright dangerous and the border areas were known for some amount of corruption and petty crime (which occurs typically at the bus terminals).

When evaluating my transport options I chanced upon Bolivia Hop a hop-on-hop-off bus tour operator that plied the La Paz to Cuzco route daily.

Why bolivahop?

Courtesy of BoliviaHop

Bolivia Hop had been well rated by numerous backpackers and although younger than it’s parent Peru Hop (which operated buses in the opposite direction) was well known for its reliability (schedules) and safety (direct pickups from hotels and hostels, so no loitering at dodgy bus terminals after dark). At US$50 including a 4 hour boat transfer to and from Isla del Sol, it seemed very reasonable.

Lake Titicaca

We were to be picked up by BoliviaHop at 6am from our Hotel and head to the border at Lake Titicaca. This lake, apart from being the highest & largest body of fresh-water in the world, was the starting point of many Andean civilizations, including the Incas pre-decessors.

Isla Del sol

Island of the Sun was formerly a holy site of the inca empire and still has many structures dating from that period. It was also known to be a rather idyllic place for a short stroll and perhaps observe the natives who’ve maintained much of the life cycle, clothing and language from the Inca empire.

Other Titicaca sights

Courtesy of UNESCO

Sadly, Some of the most famous archaeological sites would be off this route such as Tiwanaku. But we expected the short 2 hour stopover at the Island temples and the reed boats at Puno would makeup for it.


Credits to CrystalLinks

A rundown town on the Peruvian side of the lake popular stopover point for tourists enroute to Cuzco by bus or by the luxury Andean Express train. The town despite being filthy retained an old character of an Andean town.

Other sights were on the lake itself, including the native villages of the Floating Islands which were largely man-made and constructed of straw fibre & reeds.

Credits to WikiPedia

This type of reed-boat construction has been practiced in this area from Inca times and still done so today (possibly to attract tourist dollars as well).

Scenic road to Cusco

The windy round to Cuzco was reasonably maintained and had some usual sights & short stops along the way. The bus was drop us off at the Cuzco bus terminal in the morning which was safe by day and we’d then proceed to our hotel.

Disrupted travel

This plan was de-railed by an unfortunate bout of sickness which I experienced in the early hours of the morning.

I thankfully had a pack of Imodium with me which was invaluable in stabilizing my condition till the hotel could call up a tourist doctor (yes an on-call doctor who spoke great english and specialized in travel medicine).


It was quite clear that I could not travel comfortably on a 24 hour bus journey with limited toilet facilities so we decided to cancel the bus, spend an extra night in La Paz before flying out to Cuzco directly the following morning in order to meet our other bookings (a disadvantage of pre-booked/planned trips but unavoidable).

Doc visit

The doctor arrived by 7am and proceeded to take symptoms and readings (including blood-oxygen). We described our itinerary and after 15 minutes of analysis he concluded it was probably a case of Gastroenteritis (amoebiasis) caused by contaminated water elsewhere such as Uyuni.

He wrote a prescription and a medical report for my insurance claim. This costed US$50 but was claimable via travel insurance. Luckily for me there was a pharmacy right next to the hotel but I had to kill a few hours till it opened at 10am.

With no bus to rush for we decided to take a relaxing breakfast tho I was advised to eat cautiously with absolutely no dairy or meats, which essentially meant toast and black coffee.

New room

The room I was currently at had already been booked by another guest so I moved to a larger suite-sized room at the same price .

The ceiling retained some of the original reed/wood construction used in the original villa.


My extra day in la paz was limited mostly to the hotel area (and access to a good bathroom) and dining very cautiously. I managed to explore the hotel in further detail and its very small museum.

The museum had a collection of various artefacts uncovered during the restoration of the hotel foundations (which formerly being a nobleman’s villa. Which included:

Imperial coinage

Pots of spanish coins resembling Silver Reales of pieces-of-eight.

Creepy-looking pottery

Old firearms & saddles

It also had some mini-replicas detailing special events in the country.

Such as the discovery of silver veins at potosi

Colonial mint of potosi

And large scale export of silver to the europe. Though their choice of model ships was laughable, using a very comical duplo-like toy ship in place of a spanish galleon.

Old spanish american trade routes fanning out from potosi both west to cuzco & lima and south to buenos aires, argentina (Notice that Yerba Mate was a popular export of Argentina even in the 16th century).

Spanish Kings of Colonial La Paz (and chief benefactors of Potosi Silver)

The Flight Onwards

One of the major headaches of this day was, in addition to looking up the claim processes and collecting the necessary documentation, was the booking of our onward flight to Cuzco.

Tripsta issues

I had identified the best timed & lowest cost flights on peruvian airways using skyscanner. However the booking site we were lead to: had some processing delays.

I had booked the flights in the morning (it was one of the first things I looked into after cancelling the bus). The booking and payment went through without a hitch, but we didn’t receive any flight confirmation email from tripsta. Most other sites like expedia take just a few minutes but after an hour I was getting anxious. A lot of later bookings hinged on our arriving in cuzco by tomorrow so a further delay could not be tolerated. Email communications seemed to get us no where so I tried calling the singapore number of the site and hung on the line for some time till someone answered and remarked it might be a batch-issue with ticket-issuing and to wait another hour till they checked. The email finally did get through much to my relief.


We took the hotel shuttle to the airport on the same windy road we’d taken the day before. The la paz airport seemed very modern compared to the border infrastructure we’re seen in bolivia uptil this point.

We’d estimated heavier traffic and had arrived almost an hour earlier than the check-in time. We waited about the airport lobby for the gates to open. The gates at peruvian opened later than scheduled but we got our boarding passes without much issue. Our suitcases were picked on this trip based on the strictest flight we’d be taking which was the uyuni to la paz flight. So we didn’t expect to have much trouble on this flight with regards to check-in.

It all seemed to going smoothly till we reached the boarding gate. The boarding time came and went and yet there still no announcement. It was almost an hour till we were able to board. I’d been warned on travel guides that most of the smaller bolivian and peruvian airlines were subject all manner of delays.

We arrived late on account of the delay and the slow-moving immigration queue. The queue snaked out to the tarmac. Most of the passengers were tourists so it was quite a wait. The only bonus was that the baggage carousel was right next to the immigration counter. I’d had a yellow fever card on me but had never been asked for it by an immigration official on this trip. Peru was no exception to this.

The cab the hotel had sent had long gone due to the almost 2 hour delay and we were greeted but a crowd of taxi drivers touting their rides to tourists coming out of the airport.

Wary of the express kidnapping warnings I’d read about in peru I chose to call the hotel and ask for another taxi. After some amount of waiting our cab arrived and we headed to the hotel.


Although we may guard against travel illnesses (and I didn’t recall eating anything exotic at the previous hotels), it’s always best to be prepared. The immodium I carried was a good short-term stabilizer till I could get professional medication. It is also a risk for tightly planned trips such as this one where delays cannot be afforded (Macchu Picchu tickets require prior booking and I prefer the ease of pre-booking hotels) so adding some buffer between stops might be handy should the need arise. I was able to claim medical fees and hotel rates due to the illness though I wasn’t able to claim on the flight or the cancelled bus, but better something than nothing. Travel insurance is a must for such trips and I was quite content with my NTUC Income cover.

Transportation in bolivia is known to be unreliable and schedules subject to change without notice, so be prepared to hang around at airports with a good book if possible.