For Indian citizens: How to apply for Bolivian visa

Do Indians need a visa to travel to Bolivia? Contrary to what the Wikipedia post (Visa requirements for Indian citizens) suggests, Indians do need a visa for Bolivia in advance if they are doing a land crossing.

If you are landing by air in La Paz, you need not worry – you’ll get a visa on arrival. The visa is absolutely free of cost and can be obtained at the Bolivian embassy in Lima, Puno or Cusco (in Peru) or even at your country of residence. At the time, I was living in Canada, and I made inquiries at Peru as well as Toronto Bolivian embassies about the requirements to enter their country. Here is an all-inclusive guide to all you need to know to enter Bolivia:

Documents required for Bolivian visa: 

  1. Passport
  2. Copy of passport: 1st and last page
  3. 1 Passport size photograph
  4. Photocopy of your credit card
  5. Complete itinerary: Just a simple word document with your itinerary.
  6. Address proof: Only if the address on your passport is not your current address
  7. Yellow fever vaccination certificate: If you are not going to Sucre or Amazon, you can tell the officer and you can get the visa without showing the certificate.

Things to know while applying :

  1. There is visa on arrival if you are landing BY AIR @ LA PAZ AIRPORT
  2. You only need a visa in advance if you are entering Bolivia by land
  3. The visa is easy to get and I would suggest not to rely on VISA HQ to get it. They charge a hefty fee for a free visa
  4. The visa is free in both cases and is given out for a single entry and 30 days
  5. You will be given a “Tourist card” on arrival in Bolivia. Please keep it safe as the immigration will ask it back when you are leaving the country

Bolivian visa @ Toronto: 

Time taken: 2 weeks – to post your application to the embassy, for them to put a stamp and send it back to you.

Address: 1000 Finch Ave. W., Suite 900, Toronto, ON  M3J 2V5

Bolivian visa @ Lima: 

Bolivian embassy in Lima

Bolivian embassy in Lima

Time taken: 2 days – to submit your application personally at the embassy and collect it back the next day

Address: Calle Los Castaños 235, San Isidro 15076, Peru. Ph: +51 1 4402095 (9 am-5 pm)

Bolivian visa @ Puno:

Time taken: 15 mins. You will give the documents to the embassy officer, he will give you a form and ask you to get it photocopied. The photocopy shop is 2 minutes away from the embassy. As soon as you get the copies to the embassy, the officer will sign your visa and you are done!

Address: Jirón Arequipa No. 136 2do. piso, Puno. Ph: (+51) (51) 351 251 (8 am- 4 pm)

The place is a little difficult to spot, so you are going to have to ask for directions from local people. It is a small 3 storey building and the office is on the 2nd floor.

Bolivian visa @ Cusco:

Time taken: 15 mins.

Address: Av. Oswaldo Baca Nº 101, primer piso, Urbanización Magisterio, Primera Etapa, Cusco. Ph: (+51) (84) 231 845


Landings

Arrive by air @ La Paz: If you are doing this, you don’t need a visa. You will get a visa on arrival at the airport

Arrive by land from Puno to Copacobana through Lake Titicaca: Take a bus from Puno to La Paz for 30 soles (~10 USD) (there are loads of buses going to La Paz, I took Pan Americano).  Make sure that you start early as the border closes at 8 pm. Give and take a couple of hours, you should be at the crossing at no later than 7 pm. Copacobana (town at the border of Bolivia and Peru) is a touristy town and you can stay here for a day to visit Lake Titicaca. But if you have done the same in Puno, you can pass this. At the border, you will have to get down your bus to get your Peruvian immigration done

Bolivia Peru border

Bolivia Peru border

Once you are done with that, you will have to walk (about 200 m) over to the Bolivian side, for immigration. Your bus will be waiting for you here. Try to remain close to your co-passengers, so that they do not miss you. You will get some time to exchange currency.

At Tiquina Strait, you will be asked to alight the bus again, and while the bus will be ferried across the strait (see photo), you will have to take another ferry (2 boliviano) to cross. The bus will pick you up on the other side and you will be on your way to La Paz!!

Important: Please refrain from doing the typical backpacker’s mistake while leaving Peru. Don’t spend all your Peruvian soles after buying your ticket. In Peru, there is a dis-embarkation fee that you need to pay the bus driver, while boarding the bus. I don’t know why – I mean, what is the need of this extra fee when the ticket is already paid for. Why don’t they just build it into the price of the ticket. I asked the drivers, but with my limited knowledge of the spanish language, all I understood was that the bus drivers need to pay a certain fee while leaving the bus terminal. This is called the disembarkation fee and they charge the passengers extra to pay this out.

A bus being ferried across the strait

A bus being ferried across the strait

@ Taquina strait

@ Taquina strait

Arrive by land from Puno through Dasaguadero (pronounced Dasa-hua-dero): So, this is what happened. While I was on my way from Arequipa to Puno, the last bus stop was Dasaguadero. I was supposed to get down at Puno, but I dozed off (LOL) and reached here. It was 4 am and no one understood my language, therefore I had no option but to take a 2 hour shared collectivo (5 soles~3 $) back to Puno. At that time, I did not know that there was a land crossing at this place too. So, if you want to give Copacobana a miss, which is anyway the same as Puno, you can come here for your border crossing, and cross the border within a matter of minutes.

Although it does not make a difference, really. If you take a bus from Puno to La Paz, anyway the bus will not stop for very long in Copacobana. So, take this option, if and only if you doze off in your bus like I did – so that you don’t have to make the extra journey back to Puno.

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