As US citizens, crossing into Bolivia had been one of our more highly anticipated border crossings. We had heard horror stories about the issues we could encounter due to the fraught visa relationship between our two countries.
We crossed the Yunguyo border from Peru in October 2018. Before leaving Peru, we decided to prepare by applying for our Bolivia visas in Lima as the on site application process is said to be difficult. At the time of application, we did not know our entry date so had to invent an itinerary. We ended up guessing our entry date wrong by 8 days, but decided to attempt entry anyways as our visas were good for 10 years.
We took a 7:00 am bus from Puno, Peru direct to Copacabana, Bolivia for 15 soles. During the ride, the attendant passed out customs and immigration papers necessary to fill out. The bus stopped at the border to allow all passengers to compete exit and entry requirements. Leaving Peru, there were only a few people in line and the exit stamp process was quick and efficient. We didn’t wait for more than a few minutes.
After exiting Peru, we had to walk 200 meters into Bolivia while our bus was checked by customs. There was no one in line for Bolivia entry when we arrived. Expecting the worst, we handed over our passport complete with approved 10 year visa and our entry form. Within seconds, the officer had stamped our passport and taken our picture, no questions asked and no issues with our application dates not matching entry.
We then continued on the same bus to Copacabana where we were dropped off in the tourist district near many bus companies offices. Before arrival the bus stopped on the roadside and we were each told to pay 1 sole or 2 bolivianos municipal tax to a man with an official-ish looking vest. We are unsure whether this is legit. We had used all of our soles and had yet to visit a Bolivian ATM so we handed a few US coins which he accepted without question.
This ended up being one of the easier borders we have crossed. As US citizens, it was very helpful to have our visa approved before arrival, but no other passengers from several countries were given a hassle. The entire trip took 5 hours from Puno to Copacabana (much longer than the indicated 3 hours).
We subsequently met a US citizen in Copacabana who had not obtained a visa prior to arrival at the same Yunguyo border. She arrived without any paperwork and apparently did not realize she needed a visa. There was a man waiting near the border who had ready made “itineraries” and a camera with printer handy. She paid him 60 bolivianos for a printed itinerary, an on the spot passport photo and a scan copy of her credit card (I know, sounds sketchy and we suggested that she cancel that card). These three items were the only things that the border official requested, along with the $160 fee. She received her visa in 10 minutes plus whatever time it took to print off the documents. We do NOT recommend this approach, but thought the info was helpful.
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