QuickPeek: Border Crossing. New Friends!

Finally we are headed to Bolivia. It had been long time in coming, but finally we are on our way. The first time we were headed here, we turned around in Ecuador to ride the Amazonias. We skipped the second option of riding south from Manaus and finally when we were in Sao Paulo, we avoided getting to Bolivia by paying an exorbitant fee to extend the Brazil Visa. So here we were, At Jujuy, with a ticket in hand to the border town of Salvador Mazza and bidding farewell to Lucia, another amazing person we have had the opportunity to share time with. Our bus was at 2:45 AM and Lucia was sweet and offered to give us a ride to the bus station around 11 pm ish.

We took the red eye to the border where we had a potential contact waiting for us. A long story of how we happen to have a contact with someone we had never met before! Our lovely friend Lucia (the other Lucia from La Serena), Fernanda’s (who we met via warmshowers) mum, had a friend in a village near the border town of Yacuiba, Alberto. Alberto had a friend Efrain who I managed to contact a day before we started and had to exchange photos so we could identify each other at the border, heh! Well, such is the kindness of strangers, people with big hearts are so much around, we just have to look and seek!

We arrived at Salvador Mazza at 10 AM as scheduled and we walked up to cross the border over to Bolivia, armed with the knowledge that there was a entry visa fee (about $54 for me and about $160 for Krista) and that would give us 90 day access into the country. And the adventure began…

The Argentinian Immigration stamped us out and one of the ladies had to go of and enquire about our entry condition into Bolivia. We were escorted to the Bolivian Immigration office where they pointed out that we had to have a visa before arriving and if we wanted to get a visa at the border, we needed to furnish a bunch of documents, including

  • Copy of passport
  • Yellow fever vaccination
  • Return tickets
  • Confirmed stay at a hotel (or a notarised invitation from a Bolivian National)
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Bank statement demonstrating funds
  • And a 660 Bolivian pesos ($100) entry fee for me

Son of a bitch!

The border officers were very friendly and polite though and they explained in detail about how we can go about doing everything. However, we were not allowed to prepare the documents in Bolivia as we were denied entry and have to go back to Argentina. However, we were stamped out and at the moment were stateless. Shucks. I was sensible enough to exchange some cash (as I had to pay in Bolivianos and Krista had to pay in USD) and headed to the border. After walking up and down between the immigration offices, we were given a notice that said we were denied entry into Bolivia and we headed to the Argentinian side to nullify our exit. That took a while and during this time, Efrain, our extended friend from Bolivia showed up and asked us what was happening. He was shocked about the complication, but was super helpful in getting us around the little village to do the paperwork.

At a cyber cafe, we made a rudimentary itinerary, printed out all the documents, made photocopies and Krista made a temporary hotel booking followed by passport photos. We were lucky to get things done as the entire place shutdown at noon and we managed to beg one of the stores to open their shutters just for a few more minutes to finish up the documents. The consulate was closed by this time and we had to head back to the frontera to ask them to stamp us in. Once again, we had to swing between the two offices and eventually were stamped out of Argentina and back to being stateless.

After walking up and down the two immigration offices, we waited another hour or so while they slowly processed our documents, questioned us about the bookings, made telephone enquiries about the flights etc and finally were ready to stamp us in. Then came the fiasco of them not accepting US dollar bills that had any smidgen of ink on it! I don’t understand what it is with soiled US bills. Same story as Burma. They took all of half an hour inspecting the bills and eventually stamped us in for a 30 day visa each! Shucks!

During all this time, our friend Efrain was super patient and couldn’t believe the hoops we were being put thro to enter the country! He was even lovely enough to go out and make an additional copy of the passport while we waited in limbo! Thanks man! You were a trooper!

He drove us to his beautiful grape farm outside of Yacuiba and we picked up some veggies which were beautiful and reasonably priced along the way. Once home, we walked about his farm which was a beautiful place and were super glad to our long chain of friends who have made this contact happen! Thanks all, it was a challenge getting across, but finally we are here! Yay Bolivia!!

Track Notes

Expenses: SG$ 136.53
Comments: A pretty frustrating border crossing experience.