Border Crossing – Bolivia

Bolivian rules for foreigners crossing its borders area slightly different than any other border we have crossed to this point. With an American passport, every other country we have visited allows a visa to be issued to us at the border, without charge. This is not the case with Bolivia. Applications for visas must be applied for beforehand. While in Puno, we paid the Bolivian consulate a visit to obtain our visas. The process for applying for a visa is really easy and straightforward, just a little time consuming.

The first step for the application is paying the visa fee. All of those helper fees we have been saving ever since our disastrous border crossing into Honduras were quickly swiped from our pockets as Bolivia charges US residents $160 per person for a visa. Ouch. Begrudgingly, we drove to BCP bank and made the payment.

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Next, we needed current passport photos, which were easy to get as the passport photo store is directly across the sidewalk from BCP Bank. We had a quick photo shoot and had our photos printed for $3.

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After our photo shoot, we returned to the consulate to finish the process. As the consulate representative filled out our online application, we were required to furnish an itinerary, proof of hotel reservation, copy of credit card, copy of passport and proof of yellow fever vaccination. For the itinerary, we just typed up a short list of places we would see, in English, slapped some dates on it and emailed it to our representative. As we rarely stay at hotels, we booked a hotel in La Paz, forwarded the email to the representative, and promptly cancelled the reservation two minutes later. Three hours after beginning the process, we received our visas valid for 90 days per year for ten years and were done with this part of our border crossing. Unfortunately, only 30 days was given to us when we crossed the border but we were able to easily extend to 90 days by paying the migration office in La Paz a quick visit.

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Two days later, as we prepared for our next border crossing to Bolivia, procrastination won. Hostel Casa Blanca, in Puno, really treated us well and we weren’t in a big hurry to leave. We slept in until 10am. The wifi was working well and we abused it. Our new friend, Martin from Germany, gave us great information about his previous three years on the road and what we should expect as we continued south. As noon approached, we decided it would be rude to eat cereal and hit the road, so we made a big breakfast scramble and invited Martin to join. Needless to say, we put our bets on finding the afternoon lull at the Copacabana border crossing and came out on top.

These were the last non-boarder crossing photos we took in Peru. Nothing like two guys, a dog and a basket of guinea pigs on a motorcycle…. you can’t make this stuff up!

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Two hours after leaving Puno, we arrived at the Copacabana border crossing right on Lake Titicaca. This border is pretty small and when we arrived, nobody was waiting. There is no parking at this border, so the customs agent told us to park in the middle of the road. We locked up and started the process.

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Step number one, as usual, was heading to migration to stamp out of the country. The process was easy peasy. Nobody was in line at migration and we had our exit stamps in our passports in less than a minute.

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Step number two was cancelling our vehicle import permit. The same guys that told us to park in the road handled the cancellation at customs. We handed over our import permit, passports and copy of our insurance and we were done in just a few minutes. Once this was done, we were officially finished with Peru and in no man’s land.

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Before crossing to Bolivia, we wanted to exchange some Peruvian Soles for Bolivian Bolivianos. At border crossings, exchanging money can be tricky as it is very important to know the exchange rate ahead of time. Many times, money exchangers will give horrible rates or use calculators that will compute incorrect numbers. Before leaving for the border, we knew exactly what we should expect for our exchange rate. Surprisingly, the lady money exchanger quoted us the EXACT rate we researched in the morning. We took the exchange, bought one more llama keychain with our remaining change and drove 100 yards to Bolivia.

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On the Bolivian side, the process was essentially the same. The first order of business was the security guard telling us to back up and park 10 yards away. As a side note, we are told to park somewhere else almost every single day so we try to let the truck run as we wait and see if anybody tells us to move. It is very annoying but comical at the same time. We moved to the designated parking area and began the process.

As per usual, the first step in gaining entry to Bolivia required us to head to migration. The guy behind the desk seemed startled as we interrupted his YouTube cellphone video session and struggled to give us declaration forms. We filled out the forms and returned them to him. In a hurry to return to his cellphone, he set the forms aside and stamped our passports.

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Next, we imported our truck into Bolivia. The customs guy was super friendly and helpful and filled out our paperwork very quickly. In less than five minutes, he had our paperwork done, glanced at our license plate and we were on our way. Surprisingly, Bolivia doesn’t require insurance and there is no place to buy insurance so from this point we will be self insured. yikes. We hopped in the truck, were told to park in a different spot once more by the parking Nazi guy, made one photocopy and were on our way.

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Aside from the visa application, this border crossing was super easy. From the time we arrived at the border to the time we left, we burned 45 minutes of time and marked our shortest border crossing to date. Yippee!

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