Despite the horror stories you may have heard, getting a Bolivian tourist visa as a US citizen or an American passport holder is an easy, straightforward process. There is no need to sweat out the details, no need to agonize about what surprise requirement a border official might spring on you, and no need to satisfy the Bolivian border officials’ fetish for perfect-condition dollar bills.
The solution is easy: Get a visa from a Bolivian consulate, and not at the border. If you are in Cusco, this is an easy process.
WHY GET A VISA AHEAD OF TIME
Peace of mind. I’ve read stories of other travelers having a hard time during their border crossing into Bolivia. Some were simply unprepared, while others had to deal with unreasonable immigration officials who are hoping for a bribe. If you arrive at the border already armed with a visa, you avoid these potential issues.
No need for pristine-condition dollar bills. This is a big deal. And very annoying. Based on other travelers’ accounts, the Bolivian border officials are grand sticklers about this. The bills have to be in perfect condition. They take a lot of time inspecting the bills for tears, smudges, or any imperfections. One traveler had five of his $20 bills rejected. He posted a picture of those bills and they looked immaculate to me. On the other hand, if you follow the process below, you won’t have to worry about the condition of your dollar bills.
This process may seem like a long one but it really isn’t, and neither is it complicated. Many travelers will tell you not to bother with getting a visa ahead of time. You could be lucky and everything goes smoothly at the border, and that would be awesome. But you will still need to prepare these documents, and fill out the same forms anyway. The only extra thing you have to do is a trip to the Bolivian consulate, which, if you are in Cusco, is only a 15-minute bus ride away.
Note also that these are the same steps to take if you were to apply for a Bolivian visa in Lima, or some other city. If you apply at a Bolivian consulate in the United States, you will probably not get the visa on the same day.
- Bank statement. The statement needs to show your name, the balance available, and with a recent date. I blotted out the account number. Print your bank statement, and also create a JPG (image) copy of it for the online form.
- Itinerary. Write up an itinerary. This does not have to be accurate. Just list the cities you want to visit and the dates you intend to be there. Don’t sweat this out. Just make up a two-week itinerary. Print it out and also create a JPG copy of this for the online form.
- Hotel reservation. Bolivia requires that you have a place to stay while you are in the country. This could be in a form of a hotel booking or an invitation from someone in Bolivia where you can stay. Just make a booking and cancel it. Booking.com lends itself to this requirement (cancellation is almost always free). A one-night booking was sufficient for my application. Print out the booking receipt which shows your name, hotel address, and date of stay. Also, create a JPG copy of it for the online form.
- Passport copy. Make copies of your passport. Just the ID page is sufficient. Also, create a JPG copy of it for the online form. Your passport must have at least 6 months validity, though I don’t know how strictly they impose this.
- Photo. Take a photo of your face. Square up the dimension of the pic (same length and width) using an image cropping utility. In my case, I took a square selfie with a white background using my iPhone. No need to have a printout of this photo, just the JPG file with a maximum file size of 150Kb. This will be uploaded when you start the online form.
- Visa fee of $160 in cash. These can be in the condition that regular/normal people use. They do not have to be in new, pristine condition.
- Yellow fever vaccination: We had our yellow fever vaccination before we started this trip. They did not ask for this, but sometimes they do. I think it depends on the consul or the border official.
PROOF OF ONWARD TRAVEL
- Proof of onward travel: Border officials may ask for proof of onward travel. This could happen in a few countries and we’ve seen lots of people trying to create fake documents for this. We made a flight reservation and chose the Pay in Person option as the mode of payment. This holds your reservation without requiring an actual payment, but you get an official-looking flight reservation. They did not ask for this either when we crossed.
HOW TO APPLY FOR THE TOURIST VISA
Fill up the visa application form online at http://www.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/
The first step requires that you submit your email address. After that, open your inbox and look for the code that will be sent to you.
Go back to the site and enter that code, and then fill up the rest of the form.
Some tips on the form:
- I left some fields blank if it did not apply, eg. Surname 2, etc.
- Where it asks how many days you want to stay in Bolivia, I just put 15 days to match our fake itinerary even though we intended to stay for 90 days.
- In the Emergency Contact section, I only filled up the name, Country, Address, and phone number.
The last step (step 5 of 5) requires you to upload copies of your itinerary, passport, bank statement, and proof of lodging. This is where you will use the JPG copies of your documents.
As you can see in the screenshot, the files size cannot be more than 500 Kb.
When a file is successfully uploaded, an icon will appear next to the “Attach” column (the 3rd column).
After you have uploaded all the files, you can review the form by clicking Form Print Preview (optional step). Then click Finish Visa Application.
The website will assign a code to your visa application.
Click Display visa application form. Print two copies of the form, and sign them.
Bring all the printed documents with you to the Bolivian Consulate in Cusco (map), within 15 days of submitting the online visa application.
To get to the Bolivian consulate in Cusco, take any eastbound bus/combi that says Todo Ave Cultura. You can take this bus near the town center, or ask your host. Ask the driver or assistant to drop you off at the Parada Magisterio. Or monitor your location in Maps.me and get off near the consulate.
At the consulate office, even before your turn, ask where to pay the visa fee for American citizens. The immigration officer should give you a little piece of paper that has the account information to which you will deposit the money. He will also give you directions on how to get to the BCP branch (map), which is only a couple of blocks away.
Go to BCP bank, proceed to a teller, and deposit $160 to the account (hand the piece of paper with the account info to the teller). The teller will give you a receipt.
Bring the receipt back to the consulate office.
When it is your turn, give the officer all your printed documents, and the bank receipt. He will review the docs, print out a visa, and tape it to your passport. Then you have your Bolivian visa.
HOW IT WENT FOR US
We had everything printed out at an internet cafe in Cusco and then went to the consulate.
He gave us the bank account info and we deposited the money at BCP. Our dollar bills were in okay shape, they had folds, and not nearly perfect condition at all, but the bank teller accepted them without problems.
When we returned to the consulate, there were some people ahead of us so we had to wait a bit.
When it was our turn, it took less than 10 minutes and we got our visa.
The consulate had wifi, and a disturbing notice posted on the walls.
When we crossed the border into Bolivia, we filled up a one-page immigration form, gave it and our passport to the officer. He stamped our visa and that was it. It only took five minutes. Just to be safe, we had printed copies of our documents with us, but we did not need them.
How to go from Cusco to the Yunguyo border
The bus from Cusco to Puno costs only 15 soles. When you arrive in Puno, walk to the Terminal Zonal which is a few blocks away (take a quick side-trip to the dock at the end of Calle Bachero for a nice lake view). At the Terminal Zonal, take a colectivo (van) to Yunguyo. It costs 8 soles. From Yunguyo, take a taxi to the border, about 3 soles per person if you share the ride. There are money changers on the Peru side. The rates are not bad.
Visa Validity Period
The visa is valid for ten years with a maximum of up to 90 days per calendar year. When you enter the country, you will be given 30 days on the passport entry stamp. If you want to stay longer than 30 days without doing a border run, you need to go to an immigration office to get an extension. You can do this as early as 5 days before the end of the 30-day period.
Most cities in Bolivia has an immigration office. You just go in, ask for an extension and they will stamp a 30-day extension on your passport, no charge. You can get the extension twice for a total of 90 days. I don’t know why they do this, it seems to me like it is pure red tape. Many countries in Latin America give you 90 days up front.
16 thoughts on “Bolivia Visa Made Easy for US Passport Holders”
For anyone traveling to Bolivia, you did an excellent job of explaining the process, how easy it was, and exactly what to do and where. Great information.
Thanks, Jackie! Next week back to our stories. This time of caves and dinosaurs 🙂
Thanks! Do you plan to visit Bolivia in your travels? We are really enjoying it so far.
Good info. Had a hard time at the Desaguadero border as a US passport holder. Had to illegally run back into Peru to get a shop to print documents for me and pay a couple bucks there. Luckily the officer let me skip the long line and let me catch my bus on time into La Paz.
This was a helpful article but there are some other things I discovered which I documented in this public FB post. I hope it helps others.
1) Read the article above.
2) You MUST fill out the application online. It is not just an option. Printing out the form and filling it in, will not suffice.
3) The Visa application website is not a secured site. No https, no SSL certificate. You will be submitting personal information in a way that it could be stolen in transmission. For this reason I initially downloaded the form and filled it in by pen and was hoping to bring that to the consulate with me. That was not acceptable. There is a risk with using their site. Weigh if the risk is acceptable to you against your desire to go to Bolivia
4) For US citizens the fee must be paid in US bills. You can’t pay in the equivalent local currency, or by credit card, or by electronic transfer.
5) Even the bank may reject some of your bills if they are not pristine. So be sure to bring extra in case some are rejected. They did not like one of my $20 bills. Luckily I did have extra that was accepted.
6) You are told you need two photographs. All that is needed is a digital picture to submit with the form that meets the requirements similar to a passport photo.
7) Allow yourself plenty of time to spend at the consulate. Even if everything is perfect you will have to visit it twice. The second time after making the deposit in the bank. Contrary to the article, you can’t get the account to deposit to before meeting with the consulate. Also the back won’t take a deposit without the slip from the consulate, even if you have the account number.
8) After you fill out the form online you MUST print it out. Even though they have a record of it and even though a printed form filled out by hand is not acceptable, they require you to print it out.
9) If you forget something and need to print it out, you can do so here. Go to Marcavalle plaza at -13.527515,-71.945788. On the east side at the second floor is a place where you can rent time on a computer and print things out. You will go up a set of stairs that don’t clearly go anywhere next to a restaurant. The consulate may point you to a nearby Cafe with internet, but you can not print there. Neither can the little shops that advertise they do photocopies. The consulate also directed me to one of these. I went to six different places before I found the one I described.
10) Make sure you bring printed copies that match exactly what you filled out online.
11) Fill out all parts of the form, even the ones that don’t say required, such as the emergency contact, as the consulate will still want this.
Most of these issues I faced, but some were from others there that same day. In the end I did get my Visa. I hope this helps some one else.
Thank you for sharing your experience Andreas!
Just wanted to say this was incredibly, incredibly helpful to me. Thank you so much for posting this! Two things, ill add to your post… they did reject two of my 20 dollar bills, which had come from an ATM and had ink on them. The bank teller just told me to go downstairs to the ATM, take out better bills and return, so it wasnt a big deal. Also, I was told to bring black and white copies of everything by my bus company (not sure if that actually mattered, but just figured Id mention it).
Thank you again for a super informative post. I followed this step by step!
Thank you for the updates. We will make note of these in the post. I’m so glad this helped. Enjoy your time in Bolivia. If you get cold in the high altitude you can get some cheap used clothing at the El Alto market in La Paz. It’s also an interesting place just to walk around.
I’m currently in Cusco and will be going to the consulate next week to get my Bolivia visa. When I submit the online form does it ask for proof of onward travel or do I only need to provide that at the consulate? I plan to travel from Puno to Copacabana so I assume they won’t ask for an onward ticket at the border if I end up getting my visa in Cusco? I just want to make sure because I’m going to rent an onward ticket and don’t want it to expire before I need to use it as proof. Thanks for all of the info!
Hi Brian, I don’t believe the online form asked for proof of travel. We had proof for our visit to the consulate but they didn’t ask for it. It might be random who they ask for proof so I’d definitely have it ready. The border crossing was so easy because we already had the visa from Cusco and no documentation was required at the border. Instead of renting you can also go online to “purchase” an airline ticket. Then when you get to the payment method choose the option to pay at the airport. Your ticket will be held for you for 24 hours and then automatically cancelled when you don’t show up to pay it. You have to do it in the morning before going to the consulate, but IMO it was the easiest method and is absolutely free. Enjoy your travels! Let us know if you run into any issues.
Thanks Bonnie! Which site allows you to get a ticket where you pay at the airport? That definitely seems like the best option. I’ve used Expedia before where I bought a ticket and cancelled it for a full refund within 24 hours but I was hesitant about doing it for Bolivia in case I have issues at the consulate and have to go back the next day after the 24 hours is up. And in that case, I’d be nervous about getting another Expedia ticket so soon after cancelling because at some point I would think Expedia would see what I’m doing and not allow me to cancel another ticket since I’ve done this several times already.
Also, I’ve read on some other blogs that Bolivia requires the onward ticket to have its final destination in your home country. This makes no sense, especially since I plan to visit Chile after Bolivia, but I’d rather be prepared for it and that’s why I was considering renting a ticket that would show I’d be going back to the US. I really don’t want to pay for the ticket renting service but since tickets back to the US are so expensive, I would rather pay a little for renting a ticket instead of paying a lot for an actual ticket back to the US and then have an issue cancelling it.
Yes, the purchase of a refundable ticket always make me nervous. We used United Airlines website for the 24 hour “free” tickets at the time we wrote this article and we had our destination of the tickets in the USA.
We were surprised how quickly our papers were processed at the consulate in Cusco. If you have all the paperwork as instructed on the website you should be fine.
We got our visa today! We didn’t have any issues. Here’s our experience…
The consulate opens at 8 AM and we arrived at around 8:30 AM. There was someone at the front desk checking everyone’s paperwork and we only waited around five minutes before he gave us the bank slip. The bank actually opens at 9 AM so we had to wait outside for 15 minutes. They didn’t inspect our bills and simply ran them through a money counter so, at least for us, the condition of the bills didn’t seem to matter. Our bills, all $20s, were in good condition but not pristine so I expected them to reject some of bills if they did inspect them.
After returning to the consulate, there was no one at the front desk and we waited another five minutes before someone came to the front. It was a bit hectic and there really wasn’t a line so we were just assertive and showed the man we already went to the bank and he told us to go upstairs. It seemed like some nationalities had to wait downstairs, but at least for US citizens, you need to go upstairs. But to be safe, you should probably ask someone downstairs where you should go, and if you are with someone else, have the other person go upstairs to wait on line while you wait downstairs. If you arrived at this point without going to the bank yet, it probably would have taken you a lot longer to get the bank slip since it seems like you might have had to wait on line with everyone else who had already gone to the bank or didn’t need to pay a visa fee. So maybe within the first hour of the consulate opening, they try to get everyone a bank slip as quickly as possible and then eventually give up and make you wait on line with everyone else.
We were fourth on line when we went upstairs but it still took a long time, probably another 45 minutes before we were finished. We got there at the right time because there ended up being around twenty people behind us before we were called into the office. So even though the bank doesn’t open until 9 AM, you should still get there as early as possible. The man we met with was very nice and did speak some English which was appreciated since we don’t speak much Spanish. We did have one little scare though when he misplaced our bank receipt. Not sure what would have happened if he couldn’t find it, but to everyone’s relief, he found it after a few minutes of looking around his office.
As far as all of the paperwork, I honestly don’t think they actually went over any of it in detail. When we first arrived, they did thumb through everything but I doubt they took another look at them. Maybe they do a more thorough examination after you submit your application online but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t. We ended up getting a 24 hour refundable plane ticket from Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires through Expedia which we did not submit in the online application since we got it right before going to the consulate. So other blogs that said we needed a flight back to the US were not accurate for us, but maybe if the person you meet with does scrutinize your paperwork or is in a bad mood, they might require it.
Thanks again for all of the guidance! I definitely recommend getting your visa in advance to avoid any headaches at the border since I’m sure they are more strict with all of your paperwork and the condition of your US dollars.
Congratulations!! I’m so glad you didn’t have any issues except for the wait. I agree with you and it is great advice to get there early. We allocated an entire day to get this done but were happy to be done in the morning.
After we got our bank slip we waited downstairs and were processed there so good idea you suggested maybe wait in both lines if you have two people:).
Enjoy your time in Bolivia. I’d love to know how it goes for you.
Can I save Visa application and print it later?