Ultimate Guide To Crossing the Peru Bolivia Border

Johnny

Crossing the Peru-Bolivia border (from Peru into Bolivia) is an easy process for the most part . It is not easy however, if you’re an American (and a handful of Middle Eastern and Asian nationalities). I’ve compiled everything I’ve learned about my crossing experience in full detail to help out my fellow American and dual American citizens.

 

Crossing the border


This post will focus solely on crossing into Bolivia from Peru. If you’re doing it the other way around, Peru has very relaxed requirements and most Western nationalities can get a free visa upon arrival. Most people cross into Bolivia from Puno, a lakeside town on Lake Titicaca. From Puno, most travelers then head to Copacabana for a day or two to visit Isla Del Sol, before heading to La Paz.

Peru bolivia border

Arriving at the Peru side of the Peru-Bolivia border

  • There are numerous bus companies that will take you from Puno to the border. From the border, their Bolivian counterpart will take you to Copacabana. You will ALWAYS switch buses
  • Some sketchier bus companies will take you to the border, and a different company will pick you up on the Bolivian side
  • We took the Bolivia Hop bus that started in Cusco, taking us to Puno, the border, switching to a Bolivian bus, Copacabana, and finally La Paz. 

 

Visa Requirements for Bolivia


Most Western Countries

For almost all Western countries, the visa is completely free. As I am Canadian and American, I elected to use my Canadian passport for this trip. Just fill out the standard green immigration form, give it to the immigration officers, and you’re good to go. In and out within a few minutes.

Bolivia passport stamp

Bolivia passport stamp on the top page on my Canadian passport

For US Dual Citizens

As a dual Canadian-American citizen, I did extensive research before crossing the border. Originally, I had planned to enter Peru on my US passport (which has all my passport stamps and naturally I wanted more), and enter into Bolivia with my Canadian passport. This DOES NOT work.

The Bolivia immigration officials will look for the Peruvian exit stamp on your passport and if they do not see it, they will not let you in. Therefore, if you enter Peru on one passport, but plan on entering Bolivia via the land border with another, it will not work. You must enter Peru and Bolivia with the same passport.

 

Update 2017: Thanks to one of my readers for this data point. If you are a dual US/something else citizen and mistakenly entered Peru with your American passport, there is a chance you can avoid the Bolivian visa fee. When you get your Peruvian exit stamp, make sure your non-US passport is visible. There is a chance one of the Peruvian officials will allow you to pay them (bribe them) to stamp your non-US passport. With this, you will be able to enter Bolivia free of charge!

Update 2018: Another one of my readers Victor, a dual Italian-US citizen, entered Peru with an American passport unknowingly. At the Peru Bolivia border, he did the following:
-Showed the peruvian officer that you have two passport and want to enter Bolivia with the non-US one
-She refused and said I had to exit Peru on the same one as I entered with
-I asked if there was any fine or tax I could pay to leave as an Italian (I think the language is key, use the word “Multa” (fine) or “Impuesto”(tax) and definitely not “Soborno” (bribe)
-She said she would check, and came back a minute later and said yes it could be done for a cost of 30 USD. I had 20 dollar bills and she had no change, so I offered 100 soles instead, about the same value, which she accepted.
-She gave me an exit stamp on my US passport, and THEN she gave me an entrance and an exit stamp on my Italian passport (same date, but it doesn’t matter because the stamp says Puno, where there is an airport)
-Showed the Italian passport to the Bolivian authorities, they didn’t bat an eye, stamped and sent me on my way

 

For US Citizens

Goodness, Americans get the shaft in Bolivia. It’s painstakingly difficult for Americans to enter this country so read this carefully. Americans can enter this country without applying for a visa beforehand, although this is always the recommended approach if you have the time. This is different to places like China and Brazil, where you must obtain a visa before arrival. 

Americans however, cannot enter the country without paying a hefty visa fee, and producing numerous documents supporting your identity and itinerary. As of 09/2016, the official requirements per the Bolivian government website are as follows:

  • $160 USD, in good condition bills. The officials can refuse any bill they deem in less than ideal condition
  • Valid passport with at least 6 months until expiration
  • Two passport size photos
  • Hotel Reservation or letter of invitation
  • Roundtrip ticket and Itinerary
  • Economic Solvency, bank statements proving you have enough money
  • Photocopy of Yellow fever certificate

We can thank reciprocity for this horrible struggle, as we make Bolivian visitors to America go through twice as many hurdles.

Bolivia visa for americans

For $160, at least Americans will get a full page sticker on their passports.

 

What if I don’t have any of these documents?


It turns out, most Americans do not when they get to the Bolivian border.  On our Bolivia Hop bus, there was an American couple that had no idea there were any requirements at all and ended up staying in Puno for a night to take care of things. There was another American guy that knew he had to pay a fee but thought it was 160 soles instead of 160 dollars, and ended up taking a taxi back to Puno to get the cash. Both examples were lack of planning and gross negligence on their part but I suppose it’s not something everyone thinks of.

 

Worry not, print your documents at the Peru-Bolivia border

For me, I used my Canadian passport but my girlfriend is American. We had the money (in dollars!) ready, but did not know about the other documents required. When we checked into the Bolivia Hop bus station in Cusco, they flat out told us that we were out of luck and would have to stay in Puno to print out all the documents in order to cross the border. After some begging and crying, they finally told us that there was in fact a store to print all the documents at the border.

Bolivia print documents at border American

Located right next door to the Bolivian immigration office is this beauty of a print shop, equipped with internet, computers, and printers!

 

Peru-Bolivia border

From Puno, the border is ~3 hours. At the border, there are shops to stock up on supplies and to exchange any left over soles to Bolivianos.

First order of business is the Peruvian exit stamp. This is relatively quick. Give the officials your passport and the immigration form you received upon entry and it’s done. If you lost the form, it’s only 25 soles to replace. If you’ve overstayed the tourist, it’s a mere 10 soles a day.

 

Peru exit stamp

Entering the Peruvian immigration office to get our exit stamps

Walk about 100m to the Bolivian side and enter the Bolivian immigration office. Assuming you have everything, all you’ll need is to fill out their standard immigration form and it is complete.

Peru Bolivia border

Walking from the Peruvian side to the Bolivian side

 

Bolivian Border Print Service

For the Americans that forgot to print their required forms, this will be your absolute savior. There is a little shop adjacent to the immigration office that has a computer, printer, and internet! The owner also takes passport photos as well!

Bolivian Immigration office

The outside of the Bolivian Immigration office

My girlfriend ended up printing most of her documents here (bank statements, flight tickets, etc.) so she could finally enter. Total cost was only 10 soles. He could have easily charged 5x as much and we would have paid it.

In the end, the Bolivian immigration officers didn’t need all the documents listed on their website. The only documents we ended up printing were:

Bolivia border passport print

Erica not impressed with me taking photos of her but at least she was able to get all her documents!

  • Two passport photos
  • Hotel Reservation
  • Itinerary/Ticket exiting Bolivia
  • $150

After 20 minutes with the officials, my girlfriend finally got her visa. From the border, it is a short drive to Copacabana.

Bolivia passport photos american

The “Passport Photos” that we got for the visa application. Red background??

For the one American who brought 160 soles instead of 160 dollars, he had to take a taxi back to Puno to get the necessary funds before returning to the border, and finally taking another taxi to meet us in Copacabana! Amateur hour!

Peru bolivia border Copacabana

Our bus waiting for us at the Bolivian side of the border

Continue Reading:

Ultimate Guide To Crossing the Peru Bolivia Border
Showing 8 comments
  • Avatar
    Victor
    Reply

    Hi Johnny

    I’m a US/Italian Dual citizen and entered Peru on my US passport. I had read about the possibility of bribing the Peruvian border officers to assist in this case. I did this two days ago and it worked. Here’s how:
    -Showed the peruvian officer that you have two passport and want to enter Bolivia with the non-US one
    -She refused and said I had to exit Peru on the same one as I entered with
    -I asked if there was any fine or tax I could pay to leave as an Italian (I think the language is key, use the word “Multa” (fine) or “Impuesto”(tax) and definitely not “Soborno” (bribe)
    -She said she would check, and came back a minute later and said yes it could be done for a cost of 30 USD. I had 20 dollar bills and she had no change, so I offered 100 soles instead, about the same value, which she accepted.
    -She gave me an exit stamp on my US passport, and THEN she gave me an entrance and an exit stamp on my Italian passport (same date, but it doesn’t matter because the stamp says Puno, where there is an airport)
    -Showed the Italian passport to the Bolivian authorities, they didn’t bat an eye, stamped and sent me on my way

    • Johnny
      Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Viktor! Wow thanks for that helpful and very detailed data point. Someone else commented a few months back on doing the same thing but thanks for the step by step analysis. This will certainly help other dual US citizens in the future (and saved you $130 as well!) Congrats and enjoy the rest of your trip!

  • Avatar
    Wanjun Li
    Reply

    Hi Johnney: How about the yellow fever certificate? Does every one have this certificate to cross into Bolivia. Thanks

    • Johnny
      Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Wanjun, when I went in 2016, it was listed as a requierment but no one checked anything. I know they passed some rules recently that require it and I’ve heard they are checking it more strictly. This only applies if you’re entering from a country that is known to have Yellow Fever. These are the countries that are listed on their website.

      AFRICA – Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda.

      AMERICAS – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.

      I’ve read through some forums and it seems that most people have not been asked to provide proof of Yellow fever vaccination. So knowing what I know of Bolivia, I’d guess they probably won’t care if you have it or not. I still recommend getting it just so you have it out of the way when traveling through Africa, but I don’t think you’ll run into many problems right now.

  • Avatar
    Jack
    Reply

    I’m a dual citizen US/ UK and entered Peru on my American, thinking I would be able to switch at the border. It wasn’t until the night before that I️ realized I would not be able to switch. I️ arranged all of my documents and was ready to enter as an American but at the Peruvian checkpoint one of the officials looked into my bag and saw my British passport. He pulled me aside and accepted a $50 bribe to stamp my British passport which was much better than the $160 the Bolivians were charging. Not saying this will always work but I️ got lucky.

    • Johnny
      Johnny
      Reply

      Wow thanks for that data point! Definitely a lucky but smart move. I guess the moral of thay story is if you’re a dual citizen and you’ve mistakenly and unknowingly entered Peru with your American passport, when it’d time to leave, make sure both passports are visible to increase the chance of the border agent doing something like this!

  • Avatar
    Kyle
    Reply

    Johnny,

    I’m looking at doing the border crossing and was wondering about arranging a visa prior through the consulate in the US. Do you know if the border requires any documents if the visa application required the same?

    Excited to do a similar itinerary to yours! Cheers!

    • Johnny
      Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Kyle, are you asking if the border requires the same documents that the visa application does back home in the US? If so, the answer is yes. However, if you get the visa beforehand, then obviously you won’t need to provide anything when you’re at the land border as you already have the visa. Hope that helps and nejoy your trip!!

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