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I need to travel from La Paz, to Salar De Uyuni and then to Chile, and from Chile come back to Peru.

For "safe", I mean reliable companies in terms of delays/broken engines but also with good reputation about thefts.

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It sounds like you're really asking about the most reliable bus companies, is that correct? – Flimzy Sep 29 '13 at 8:40
We just came back from a trip Peru-Bolivia, and would like to mention certainly “NOT TO TAKE THE FLOTA BOLIVAR” bus company (although I think many other bus Bolivian companies are as bad, and in general require very high alertness and assertiveness). We took this company for the night trip Sucre – Samaipatha (on the way to Santa Cruz), after hesitating with taking a flight because we knew it’s a long and bad road, but the flight prices had risen, and we thought we would just ask the bus driver to slow down if not carefull enough. Before getting on the bus we had said several times to the peopl – user32714 Aug 10 at 12:32

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None is completely reliable in that part of the world. Bring plenty of patience and plan a good amount of time between bus arrivals and departures.

The La Paz - Uyuni segment is the roughest. While you can do half (Potosi-Uyuni) on train which is more comfortable, it makes logistics more complicated. Train cancellations are common and so are bus ones but at least there are a lot more buses going back-and-forth.

If you do not mind going back to La Paz, you can do a round-trip to Uyuni by plane which is what I would do having done the bus to Uyuni route 2 months ago. While I had booked a more spacious bus, a few hours before its departure I received a call saying it broke down and had to take the regular bus which transports more locals than tourists and makes more stops. This one was supposed to take 12 hours, instead of 10 for the tourist bus, but it actually tool 22 hours which include two flat tired, road-blocks, detours and taking the wrong route! It won't surprise you that I flew back after that.

Peru buses are clearly a level ahead of those in Bolivia with fewer delays and more space per person. As they are more touristy though, you get more thefts in Peru than Bolivia. Inside the bus is not much of a problem if you keep your things close but watch where your luggage is at stops. If you cannot see it from where you are seated, exit at each stop and hop back on when the luggage compartment closes.

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I don't think you will have any problems with theft in the buses. They are used by either tourists or people working (and I honestly suggest you keep an eye on tourists!).

But don't expect comfortable and 100% reliable buses with air con and snacks. Buses from Peru and Chile are usually better than Bolivian ones, and around La Paz there are quite alright.

The only 'complicated' part is if you are going from La Paz to Uyuni. If you can, avoid the buses for this part. If you are not used to 'hardcore' traveling, you will have a hard time. The road goes over very high cliffs, the journey takes a very long time and most of the buses don't have a toilet (they stop at certain places that have them, and you can ask the driver to stop too if you are in the middle of nowhere). Trains are more realiable, they are comfortable, they don't usually fall off cliffs and you can pee inside them! They depart 3 or 4 times a week, and you will probably need to book in advance.

'Reliable in terms of delays and broken engines'... well, none of them are. South-american countries are in a constant struggle, it's getting increasingly better, but it's 400 years of history of exploitation. I guarantee you won't have any problems with the locals though, most of them will offer you everything they have even if it's almost nothing.

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In chile at least, the most reliable (but sometimes expensive) bus company would be Pullman Bus.

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Seems to address the Chile part of the question but do you have any facts of figures to support this (maybe cancellation/late arrival or crime statistics relative to the averages)? – pnuts Aug 10 at 13:05

When I used to live in Bolivia 5 years ago - I would never go for the cheapest and would try to go on "bus cama" buses more. And also Trans. Copacabana bus cama buses probably had the better reputation from memory (for Bolivian standards)

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