Something you should know before going to Bolivia (most likely to see the Salt Flats) is that it’s not easy to visit as an American. I am probably over simplifying this, but our understanding is essentially that we (America) make it extremely difficult to get in our country, so other countries have said, “Well we can do that too,” Therefore, they ask for a lot of documents and a reciprocity fee.
We had two options of acquiring a Bolivian visa:
Get the visa at the border - While this option is possible, all we had heard was horror stories about people getting to the border and then being turned away. They were being turned away because they didn’t have the right documentation OR because their American dollar bills were bent. You read that correctly. Apparently if your bills are even a little bent then they will turn you away and tell you to go get crisper bills.
Obtain a visa at the Bolivian embassy/consulate - There is a Bolivian consulate in Lima and Cusco so we decided to go this route. We wanted to get everything out of the way and not worry about anything at the border.
What are you required to provide:
Passports - 6 month validity on your passport and two empty pages.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination - Our guy actually never looked at this.
Two copies of a passport photo - Apparently you need another photo of yourself other than your normal passport photo. Our guy didn’t ask for this either.
Detailed Itinerary - You have to have a printed itinerary of everywhere you will be going, dates and hotel confirmations. In this itinerary you have to show proof of your departure from the country as well. Our guy did collect this.
Bank Statements - I am assuming this is to show you have financial stability. Our guy did collect this.
Special Immigration Form - This needs to be filled out and submitted online BEFORE you go to the consulate. Once you’re done filling it out you must then download and print it out. Go HERE to fill out this form. Our guy wanted to know we’d filled it out online, and needed our printed copy.
$160 Per Person for a Visa Fee - This was our biggest hurdle as you will read below.
NOTE - Even though our consulate man didn’t ask for a couple of these pieces doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them.
How this all went for us:
The actual VISA process went swimmingly! I think our dude was just happy that we were prepared because we personally saw at least 3 people not have the appropriate documentation. Our problem was the fee. After they check your papers they give you a slip of paper with the amount owed and tell you to walk down the block to their bank, withdraw your money, give it to the banker and then you receive a receipt, which you bring back to the consulate.
The problem for us was Wells Fargo. We have a Charles Schwab account (highly suggest) because they reimburse for all ATM fees and are very traveler friendly. Unfortunately, we were still a day away from a transfer clearing into that account, meaning we didn’t have the $320 available to withdraw. I will do my best to summarize what happened from there.
We tried to withdraw cash from our Wells Fargo checking account at the ATMs located at the bank we needed to deposit our fee (a specific BCP branch several blocks down from the Bolivian consulate). Wells Fargo denied it. We then went to two other nearby banks that Wells Fargo also denied. We went back to BCP and asked if we could wire them the funds—we couldn’t. They said we’d be able to make the Wells Fargo withdrawal if we went to their downtown BCP location, as it had “Tourist Services.” So we Uber’d there.
The bank downtown needed a passport to run our Wells Fargo debit card. Our passports were still at the Bolivian consulate, awaiting our arrival with the receipt showing we’d paid the fee. We Uber’d back to the consulate.
Our original immigrations officer was out to lunch, but the head of the consulate was at the office. Caitlin explained to him (in Spanish because she’s awesome) the issue and he literally closed the consulate and walked with us to the nearby BCP that our deposit needed to be made. With his help, the bank called Wells Fargo twice and both times were told, “No.” Our card could not be charged at that branch because they have placed restrictions on Peru. We would need to take our passports back to the downtown office. However, the original guy had already stamped our passports with the visas, meaning they were hesitant giving them to us without having been paid. Luckily, the head consulate man liked Caitlin so much he gave us mine and got us a taxi BACK downtown.
Once we got back to this branch they tried running our card and said it wasn’t working because there was a limit we were hitting. After 3 unsuccessful tries, it worked with a withdrawl of $280 (luckily we had a couple of $20 bills handy). We Uber’d back to the original bank.
We turned in our fees, got the receipt, and turned it into the consulate at 3:00 PM. This process started at 8:30 AM. It could have been done in 15 mintues, but Wells Fargo…
WELCOME TO BOLIVIA!