Monday, January 10, 2011

How to enter Bolivia (a guide for Americans)

Since Bolivia was on our travel itinerary from the beginning and Americans need a visa to enter Bolivia we were consistently anxious about crossing the border while we were in Chile.  The internet, for once, was absolutely no help.  The embassy website told us that we needed our Yellow Fever vaccination, the bloggers, the few who did write about entering Bolivia said theirs were never asked for.  We couldn’t figure out where to go to get it done so we decided to wing it vaccination wise and all other ways wise because we didn’t know if we would get the visa upon entry, if we could pay with a card, if there was going to be a lot of bureaucratic bs around it or if we needed a concrete exit ticket in order to get in.  So I’m writing this blog in case anyone who reads this ever goes to Bolivia or so that anyone searching for this on Google like I tried to do will possibly come up with some real information.

The American government put up some serious warnings about Bolivia on their embassy’s website, but as far as we could tell, having spent over a month there, it was purely political.  The American government isn’t so fond of foreign governments telling them they won’t lease the rain to corporations so they can sell it back to the native people at a profit.  It was the usual sturm and drang, kidnappings, rampant theft, foreigners with drained back accounts.  Don’t believe the hype, it was one of the more peaceful, safer feeling places we’ve encountered in South America.  La Paz was beautiful and less threatening at night or during the day than Santiago, Arequipa, or Buenos Aires.  But that’s just our take on it.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to tell you how to go about entering Bolivia.  It’s pretty easy.  You need a yellow fever vaccination or you need to sign a waiver that costs 50 Bolivianos ($7.50) or maybe they won’t ask for it.  There’s no worries about not having the vaccination.  When you enter they’ll want 135 dollars in cash or Bolivianos at a piss poor exchange rate.  The paperwork is easy and you don’t need to show any onward travel plans.  The visa is half a page and the visa and the entry and exit stamps fit on a single passport page.  When we entered Bolivia we came on a tour of the salt flats.  So they took our passports at the border, but they aren’t equipped to issue visas at the tiny mud hut that serves as the immigration office so we had to get our visas issued in Uyuni when we got there.  The tour agency vouches for the date that you actually entered Bolivia and the immigration office in Uyuni slaps the visa in your passport.  If you follow this route, remember, Uyuni only has one ATM that may or may not work so having the right amount of money on your person when you arrive would be a good idea.  The visa is good for five years, and 90 days total per year.

Bolivia is a really great country and really cheap.  The visa is really no worry and you don’t even need the vaccination.  It really shouldn’t be skipped on any comprehensive tour of South America.

1 comment:

  1. Hold on a second, you guys have been travelling in all these places without even having to get visas? Motherfuckers! I was delayed two weeks (and 170 euros) to get my visa to enter Russia. Some people just get all the cake... :P