Bolivian border crossing

So getting in and out of Bolivia for American citizens is a little bit tricky. Online the Bolivian government says they require all sorts of things, from lots of paperwork to a yellow fever shot. But in reality it is usually very simple, especially if coming in by land.

I wrote previously about how we entered the country through the Salar de Uyuni tour, from Chile. Although technically the guards were supposed to ask for visa application, paperwork, proof of vaccination, et cetera, they didn’t. All they were interested in was our money (in USD, exact change) and stamping our passport with a visa. We paid 60 USD per person for a one month visa, which was half the price of a year-long visa.

At this point we made a gamble. We knew we would stay longer than 30 days, but we didn’t want to spend over 260 USD between us for five weeks. So we got the 3o day and decided to pay the overstaying fines on our way out of the country later. Here is how we did that.

Now it is later, and we left the country from Copacabana to Puno, Peru. The border crossing here is a little disorganized. Our bus dropped us off at the the Bolivian customs office and we all got in line. A guard at the entrance checked everyone’s visas and saw that Jordan’s and mine had expired April 27. We had overstayed by 10 days. He ushered us to a separate line at a different window, where we had to present our passports and visa.

The man behind the counter added up the days on a calendar and calculator and told us the fine was 20 bolivianos a day per person. This adds up to around three USD per person per diem. All in all, we had to 400 bolivianos in fines. We didn’t have that much cash left, so we paid what we could in bolivianos (100). The other 300 bolivianos we paid in USD, which we had. We gave him a $50 bill and asked for the change in USD, but he wasn’t allowed to do that. So we received change in bolivianos. He calculated the day’s exchange rate (several times, because his math was bad) and we made the transaction.

In the end, we paid about 58 USD in fines, which is still cheaper than buying the year visa. Between us we saved about 90 USD by just paying fines. The customs agent then gave us a receipt of our fine by slapping a bunch of stickers to a blank piece of paper, writing the amount, and stamping it. With our information complete we were then ushered back into the first line, where we received our exit stamp.

Then we grabbed our bags off the bus, hiked about 300 meters down a hill to Peru, and went through entry procedures for Peru.

In the end, the Bolivian government really just needs to see your passport and correct USD change to get in the country. There are plenty of forums that describe how to get into the country without proof of vaccination (or getting the shot right there in the customs office) that you can look into as well. Because what we did was technically illegal, I can’t exactly recommend that you follow what we did. But I will say it saved us a lot of money. And it was almost no trouble at all on the way out. So if you decide to pay fines rather than get a longer visa, now you know what to expect.

Categories: Bolivia, Practical Matters | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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