Indian citizens/ passport holders will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Bolivia is a very easy country to enter. If you are an Indian passport holder like us, you will know the pain of independent travel which is taken for granted by other backpackers. I hope that this post will encourage you to visit the beautiful country of Bolivia. The next time we travel to South America, we will definitely visit Bolivia, if only to endorse their hassle free visa policy.
Bolivia has visa on arrival for a fee (please verify the latest fee by calling La Paz airport) AND offers a FREE visa at its consulates world wide.
We obtained our Bolivia visa at the embassy in Santiago, Chile not once but TWICE. Once before our passports were stolen and once more with our new passports. On both occasions, our experience at the Bolivian embassy was quick, pleasant and smooth.
Documents produced during our first visit:
· Completed application form
· Copy of yellow fever certificate
· Copy of most recent bank statement
· Cost = Free!! (remember, Americans pay $140)
· Overall time taken: 20 minutes
· Questions asked: None
This was the most incredibly hassle free visa experience in our life. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the consul guy just proceeded to stamp my passport within minutes of producing our document, and with a smile. We were told that extension is possible in Bolivia and is easy to do.
Losing the visa and getting it again
Unfortunately, fate would soon have its way with us and we would end up using our most important belongings in Calama, Chile. We had to return to Santiago to receive a new passport from the Indian embassy. So we went to the Bolivian embassy once again. This time, we told the consul officer about our loss and were greeted with disbelief. He pointed us to a young Bolivian lady present there and said to us “It will take her two months to get a new passport if she loses hers. You guys are lucky.”
We were able to provide most of our documents, except the yellow fever certificate, which was also stolen. These guys were awesome though – they patiently dug through their records and found our previous visa and made us several copies of our yellow fever certificates.
Bolivia Visa on Arrival at the border (overland between San Pedro de Atacama and Uyuni) – a different experience
Bolivia does offer visa on arrival for Indians, but for a fee. If you are landing at La Paz airport, this is a great option. But if you are overlanding, getting it from a consulate is really easy and preferable any day.
I traveled with an Indian guy from Chile to Bolivia near San Pedro de Atacama. So I wanted to write about his visa on arrival experience to enter Bolivia. I already had a Bolivia visa from Santiago, so my case was very straight forward.
This person was only going to Bolivia on a four day guided tour and was returning to Chile at the end of it, so this experience may not apply to everyone. We all booked the tour in San Pedro and I was going to continue to stay in Bolivia. All the tour operators in San Pedro will tell you that you can get visa at the border and show you a chart that says how much the visa costs. According to the chart, it costs $30 for us. So, at the border, this Indian guy was told that they cannot issue the visa there and that he would have to get it at Uyuni (the nearest city to the border). They did not stamp his passport. At Uyuni, he goes to the Migracion office and asks them for visa. They say that he can pay the fee and they only give him a stamped tourist card for 4 days. They don’t stamp his passport. They take the $30 and there is absolutely no receipt for it. At the end of four days, they let him get out without another stamp. We all think that this is a quick way to make an undocumented $30 and that this has happened before. Spanish was a big problem here and no one spoke English, so I guess if he insisted and knew how to, he would have had a proper visa on his passport at the border or at Uyuni. This border is nothing more than a small shed in the middle of nowhere, so I am not surprised that they did not have the facilities to issue a visa.
So yes, Bolivia VOA at border is definitely possible. However,
- Please be sure you get your passport & your tourist card (a little form you fill out at the entrance) stamped and a receipt for your fee. Be persistent!
- We have been asked elsewhere in Bolivia by Migracion people to show our passports (they do random checks in hotels) and they look for all these stamps.
- Write out some important statements in Spanish to use at the border (important)
- If you are part of a tour group, ensure you communicate this to your tour guide at the destination. They will be an important resource in helping you with communication.