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I read somewhere that trains are going between Antofagasta (Chile) and La Paz (Bolivia), which would go through Calama. Is this information up to date? And is it a respectable alternative to a busride? (The busses in Chile from companies like Pullman and Tur-Bus are pretty luxurious, is the train comparable?)

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Such a train existed before, indeed, twice a week. I ran it all the way up from Calama to La Paz in... 1974. 16 hours scheduled and we only arrived 7 hours late. –  user8678 Oct 3 '13 at 18:00
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I am someone who actually has done the Calama to La Paz train ride - in 1994, one of the greatest trips I have ever done. At the time it was a mixed passenger and freight train, the trip took two days passing through the most amazing mountain scenery. –  user9698 Dec 29 '13 at 0:01

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As far as I know there are no passenger trains in the north of Chile and certainly not all the way to La Paz. The only trains in Chile run south of Santiago to Talca.

The train station in Antofagasta looks like it has not been used in many years. Your information must be very old.

Buses are your only choice on the ground, unless you drive yourself.

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Trains exist in Bolivia but are quite rare. In fact, so rare that asking several travel agencies they all said that no train services were available, yet once in a while I met someone who just arrived by train!

Actually considering one of my hotels a few months ago faced the passenger train station in Uyuni, I can say that it does exist. Only for your itinerary, it will be of little use because the only train near La Paz (El Alto) does not go very far (Guaqui) and does so only once a month. The Oruro-Uyuni train is more frequent being twice weekly.

While I guess the train experience is better than bus, it would be inefficient to try to patch your schedule to include certain segments by train. Here are the official schedule of the train lines near La Paz, if you are curious.

For ground travel you are pretty much only left with bus. Be careful when scheduling connection routes because buses are very frequently late due to a variety of reasons and sometimes several of them for one trip.

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Everywhere in the area around Calama, San Pedro de Atacama, we heard of this mythical train. It's mentioned on various blogs, websites and wikis.

However, I've yet to meet a single person that has actually been on it, and I've been to Chile and Bolivia twice now.

Generally you either get a tour through from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, and bus up to La Paz, or from Antofagasta/Calama/Iquique you grab a bus over the mountains to the west of La Paz, and it joins up with the main road through El Alto into La Paz.

Incidentally I've done both of these, and while in a car overnight from Uyuni to La Paz, saw a train pass in the middle of the night just north of Uyuni. I've often joked it might have been this mythical ghost train, but am pretty sure it was just a goods train.

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I have it on good authority (multiple sources) that there have not been passenger services between Calama and Bolivia since 2009.

However, I also have it on not-so-good authority (conflicting sources) that goods services are still running. And I myself have seen locomotives move back and forth at the border.

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