Introduction to La Quiaca
At the very Northern Tip of Argentina, this dusty town on the Altiplano is many traveler’s first (or last) destination in the republic. The town is quiet and there are much more attractive towns further south, but if you are coming off a long bus or train ride in Bolivia, its a fine place to stay and try your first meal of Argentine beef.
Note that La Quiaca, or anyplace else on the altiplano for that matter, can get very cold at night. Temperatures can drop well below freezing
Where to stay in La Quiaca
How to get to La Quiaca
For those heading south, beware that police checkpoints are common. There have been reports of some buses being stopped and searched as many as three times before making it to Jujuy. Foreigners are usually ignored by customs, who are more interested in catching Bolivians and Argentines who have failed to import duties on cheap Bolivian goods. But under no circumstance should you carry any amount of drugs – the Argentine military uses drug sniffing dogs.
For those heading North there are a few things you might want to pick up in Argentina before crossing the border. If you were contact lenses, make sure you get solution in Argentina (preferably in a larger city than La Quiaca). Women should stock up on their preferred brand of feminine products. Certain things, such as batteries and small electronics, are actually cheaper and more easily found in Bolivia than Argentina.
Also take into account the change in altitude. If you are coming from anywhere not on the Altiplano, such as the city of Salta or Jujuy, you may feel the change in Altitude. La Quiaca sits at 3,442 meters above sea level (11,293 ft). Going north in Bolivia, it only gets higher. Consider stopping at Tupiza for a night to adjust.
The bus station is located on the corner of España and Belgrano a few blocks from the border. Frequent buses to Salta and Jujuy. If you plan on going to Bolivia you must cross the border and go to the bus station in Villazon. Alternatively you can catch an Argentine bus (better but more expensive that Bolivian buses) from Jujuy or points further south.
Not all long distance bus companies are permitted to pickup passengers in the province of Jujuy, so you may need to sweet talk the driver, although this is unlikely to work on buses to Bolivia since the drivers must carry printed lists of all passengers
Train in Bolivia
During the summer tickets on the train between Villazon and Oruro sell out within hours of being released. Tickets in Executive class are more easily obtained, but of course at a higher price. The Bolivian Railroad company (FCA) claims to accept online bookings for executive class up to two months in advance, but in reality you must mail in your details to them and pray they honor your reservation. To try your luck, mail your name, passporte number, home country, date of travel and the cities you wish to travel between to email@example.com
Although the international border is open 24 hours they only do the paperwork between 7AM and midnight. So unless you are Bolivian or Argentine, you will not be able to pass in the middle of the night. Expect delays at the Argentine side. If crossing to Bolivia, don’t forget your yellow fever certificate (print up a fake one if needed), although recently they don’t seem to be asking for it.