Why You Should Get A Visa Before Arriving in Bolivia

We all know that you should get a Bolivian visa prior to landing in the country. But some of us *coughmecough* think it’s fine to wing it. I had read somewhere that even though they had advised this, you could just buy one when you land. It’s on the internet. It must be true.

The city was beautiful, as most are at night. I was standing in line talking to another traveler from DC that also did not have a visa. In broken Spanish, I asked the immigration officer whether or not we were in the correct line. I couldn’t quite understand his thick accent but he pointed to the booth and then back at the line we were in. I nodded without understanding. The lady in the local line next to us laughed, “I think he understood. But I think you go here, then go pay.”


So DC boy and I talked travel until we got to the front. As the guy flipped through my passport, he looked annoyed.

“Where’s your visa?”

“I need to buy it”

He handed me back my passport and pointed me toward the desk labeled cashier. We stood in line a whole lot more. When I finally got to the front, I pulled out my wallet. Uh oh. I knew I’d needed to get to an ATM that morning but was running late and had just enough for the visa. Somewhere between the room and here I must have dropped a $20.

In my broken Spanish, I asked if I could pay with a card.

“No. En effectivo” (Cash only)

I asked about an ATM. He whistled at another officer that had me leave my stuff and took me through immigration, up the escalator and to the wide selection of ATM’s.

“Which is the best one?” I asked in Spanish, knowing it made no difference.

He pointed me toward a green and white one singing a static sounding song. Fantastic. This must be a joke.

We wandered back down the stairs, in the back door to immigration and I got back in line. As I finally was in the final steps of getting the visa, the printer jammed. As I watched them load and reload paper, I couldn’t help but think this will make a great story one day. I was so deliriously tired that I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. I felt like a child that is not allowed to laugh, only making the situation so more funny. They must have thought I was crazy.

Finally, I made my way to customs. Their system involves pushing a button. If it alarms you get searched, if it doesn’t, then you don’t.

We all know that I won that contest.


After packing up my things that were thrown around the table, I went in search of wifi and somewhere to charge my phone. The only outlet was right next to the singing ATM! Not my day.

Bolivia was incredible. But make sure you have a visa. Or at least enough cash.

Have you ever had a serious travel mishap? Let me know below!


18 Replies to “Why You Should Get A Visa Before Arriving in Bolivia”

  1. My crazy story…never fine standby to mexico. This was years ago but i had a friend who had buddy passes and thought it a good idea to fly standby with 3 others. GOING NO PROBLEM COMING BACK MUY MAL. WE GOT STUCK IN GAUDLEHARHA for a day and half…never again

  2. My crazy story…never fine standby to mexico. This was years ago but i had a friend who had buddy passes and thought it a good idea to fly standby with 3 others. GOING NO PROBLEM COMING BACK MUY MAL. WE GOT STUCK IN GAUDLEHARHA for a day and half…never again

  3. I have had some travel days like this! Where I am just ready for it to be over! Haha. When I got to Bolivia I’ll definitely remember this and I will be prepared. …… I hope….

    1. For your sake I hope you remember too! Glad I’m not the only one that has travel days that are less than perfect.

  4. I think I would just need a Visa on Arrival for most of the South American countries, including Bolivia. 🙂 Best to look these things up before hand. That reminds me, I need to check if my e-visa to India works for land border crossings too.

    1. Wish I could help you with that one but I haven’t made it to India! Best of luck though

  5. I was terribly afraid you had much more trouble for that but luckily enough everything sorted out for good! That will definitely teach us a lesson: check first, because not everything that is written online is true! I’m glad you made it all right!

    1. I am lucky. It could have been much worse. I definitely learned my lesson!

  6. I absolutely loved this post and I found it really relatable! “It’s on the internet. It must be true.” – This is the story of my life. I really need to stop making decisions based on what the first Internet result is (I say this now, but I have a feeling, I’m still going to get sucked into doing just that). On a side note, is it recommended to get a visa beforehand for a lot of South American countries (or just Bolivia in general)?

    1. I am so glad I am not the only one that can be a little gullible! As much as I’d like to say I have learned, I might do something equally silly down the road! On that trip I went to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, none of which needed visas. I know Chile and Brazil do. But once again don’t trust that blog on the internet 😉

  7. Oh my gosh, that one. I almost had a similar experience on the way to Canada. The internet said I didn’t need a visa! But then the airline wouldn’t let me on the plane without one. Because apparently I did need a visa? Anyway, I’m guessing getting a visa beforehand is great advice for lots of places!

    1. Oh no! I hope you made it ok! At least you found out before boarding the plane.

  8. I had a similar experience when I travelled from Thailand to Cambodia. When I travel by land instead of flying in, I normally get overcharged.

    1. Unfortunately that doesn’t surprise me. I feel like a lot of places try to overcharge when they can :/

  9. Adventures and mishaps like this are frustrating (and sometimes scary), but they always turn into a wonderful story to share! This was an engaging read, and I’m glad you only lost a $20 bill, and not your wallet. I thought that’s where the story was going.

    1. I agree! It could have been so much worse!

  10. Sometimes it indeed makes sense to have a visa before hand even if we are entitled to visa on arrival! It can be for several reasons – I know of passport control authorities sometimes not knowing new changes, sometimes the visas are pricier on arrival and sometimes it will take us ages to get it stamped on arrival!…

  11. Good points. Always good to be prepared with visa and cash, when arriving into a new country. Glad everything resolved itself!!

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