We were pretty eager to get out of Puno, so we filled up the tank and took off for Bolivia. The frontera was only about two hours away.
Once again, we were running out of time on our tourist permits and had to split. We managed to spend almost 3 months in Peru – nice place. Next time, we’ll have to make time for the jungle and Amazon basin.
So, we circled around the bottom of the lake hit the border near Yunguyo. A quiet little town with zero traffic.
On the Peru side, there are four buildings grouped together and everything is easy. First to the police to make sure we’re not fleeing justice, then to the aduana to get stamped out, then to the SUNAT to cancel the vehicle permit. All easy.
Then, there was one last ‘check’ at a different police building – they guy that controls the gate. Here, I was surprised to find that the old-timer was looking for a little propina and started hassling me. He wanted to see all my papers and insisted that my California driver’s license wasn’t valid in Peru and I was in big trouble. Uh, what? We’re LEAVING the country! We’ve been stopped by police almost every single day and had no problems (except one time when another cop tried the same game).
We went back and forth a few times and I attempted the above logic. I’m guessing this scam hasn’t worked for him in quite a while, and I wasn’t budging. He didn’t seem to have the energy to really make a game of it, but he gave it a shot anyway. Eventually, he just gave my papers back and told me to get an international license the *next time* we come back to Peru. Right.
They lifted the gates and we drove a few hundred meters to Bolivia. This is where I was expected trouble, but everything went very smoothly. It helped that we were prepared.
If you want to come to Bolivia and you are from anywhere else but the US, you just come in and get stamped. No problem. If you are from the US, you need a tourist visa that happens to cost $135 USD each – payable in cash. Thanks, W.
We had our visa applications all ready (get one here) with color photos, yellow cards, fake hotel reservations (required, though not necessarily fake), and copies of all sorts of other things required with the application. You can get your visa in advance, but I hear it can be difficult as the embassy folks are real sticklers for the details.
At the border, they hardly even looked at our paperwork and just took our pile and pushed it aside. The US cash was the important part – and it has to be new and crisp bills – they check carefully. For our $405 USD, we each got a sticker in our passport with lots of stamps and scribbles. We walked across to another desk and they entered us in the computer and gave us more stamps. This gives us permission to be in the country for any 90 days over a 5 year period.
I’ve heard of people skipping the entire country because of the visa expense. Again, pretty ridiculous considering the grand scheme of things. I figure it averages out to just over $1 USD per day to see another amazing place. Besides, you’ll make your money back after you see how barrato the country is – a traveler’s bargain. Trout dinner for $3 USD. Big beer for $1 USD. Hotel room for $6 USD!
After our visas were complete, we walked next door to get our vehicle papers – again very easy. They will give you 30 days by default, but you can ask for 90. Once again, there was one last stop at a police building where a guy wrote our information on a ledger and insisted we pay him 10 Bolivianos (about $1.50 USD) for the pleasure. It’s another scam – it’s not official and you won’t get a receipt. I heard about it in advance. I even asked at the aduana if it was required and they just shrugged – it’s just the way it is. I give him his propina and the gate opens and we’re officially driving in Bolivia.
Less than 10 km down the road is Copacabana, where we find a spot to camp on the lake at the edge of town. There also happens to be a German couple camping down here in a tricked out classic Mercedes truck. A few minutes later, some Australians pull up in a shiny Land Rover and pop their top. A little later, we’re surprised to see our friends Fred and Regine roll up in their T5. After sundown, the stars appear to hang right over the town in the distance. Clearly, this is the place.