I had heard a variety of horror stories from people with U.S. passports who got their Bolivian visa at the border.
Now, as a salvadoreña I already spoke Spanish and I’ve lived in Argentina, Mexico City, Chile, and Perú. I can always understand what’s happening around me in Latin America so this is no big deal.
I uploaded everything onto my sworn statement and was a little bit worried about my passport pictures while I was still in Arica, Chile. However, I was able to print them out again and get a bunch of color photocopies of documents.
The bus I took from Arica was okay and cost me 7000 CLP—around US$11 or $12. It was uncomfortable and it turns out that if you leave Arica at midnight, you have to sleep on the bus for a few hours before PDI arrives because it’s not a 24-hour border.
Thankfully I remembered that the altitude is colder so I had changed my clothes accordingly after months in the desert.
But when I got there things got a bit messy for me. I did have everything and the process of getting a visa took less than 20 minutes. Migraciones in Bolivia was fine but my bus left me because I was the only foreigner that had to pay for the visa.
Turns out the computers they were using were kinda old. Like, Windows 98 old. Also, apparently there aren’t too many people from the U.S. that use this entry, so it took them a while to get the program going.
I was about to get in a small mini-van, when the driver said they were going to Oruro and I had already paid a small deposit to a hostel in La Paz.
Thankfully, another bus was leaving and though the fare was supposed to be 80 bolivianos (maybe $12 US) the guy from migraciones was there helping other passengers who were left behind and he actually got the drivers to let me in for 50 bolivianos (around $9 USD).
So, I was able to get to La Paz and I had totally run out of water. After checking in to my hostel I did what I always do—find food and water. I’m on a main street near a traditional market, and even though people always say you should acclimate first, I needed something like a menú del día from Perú, and the market totally had those!
I ate a noodle soup and something called revuelto, which is like a Bolivian dish resembling lomo saltado but made with ground beef instead, and it cost 10 bolivianos. Then I made a mad dash to get some coca tea. After 5 months in Chile, my immunity to altitude went down.
But yeah, there are a lot of horror stories about getting your Bolivian visa at the border and although things didn’t go as I had planned, things worked out and I made it here.
A lot of people from the U.S. constantly complain about having to pay a visa fee, but I’ve never heard of people from the U.S. being turned away from Bolivia. Bolivians have to work so much harder to get U.S. tourist visa, and they get rejected all the time. It’s harder for people here to get $160 together, and if your budget is tight, the cost of Bolivia makes up for the visa fee.