Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Border Crossing: Peru / Bolivia

December 19th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Bolivia | Border Crossings | Dogs | Peru

We cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually). These articles are not a definitive guide to crossing borders nor should they be used as a sole source of information. They are our experiences.

When, Where, and Which Direction: December 7, 2013 – Yunguyo, Peru > Copacabana, Bolivia

What We Needed:

  1. Passports (and 1 copy of passenger’s passport and 2 copies of driver’s passport),
  2. Peruvian Tourist Cards,
  3. Peruvian Auto Import Permit,
  4. Bolivian Visa Application Form,
  5. A 2″ x 2″ color passport photo each,
  6. $270 in immaculate USD bills,
  7. Vehicle Title (and 1 copy),
  8. Vehicle Registration (and 1 copy), and
  9. Driver’s License (and 1 copy).
There were also a number of additional items that we had read we might need and did not, but had with us anyway. Even though we didn’t use them, it still seems worth it in retrospect to have spent a few cents for copies as insurance in case we were asked to produce such items. They were:
  1. Confirmation of our lodging while in Bolivia,
  2. An “itinerary” for our time in the country,
  3. Yellow Fever Vaccination Records (and a copy of each), and
  4. A credit card with one of our names on it to show economic solvency.

The Process: The border is marked by a stone archway that can be seen from a fair distance. A chain across the road on the Peruvian side marks their border area. Park along the side of the road or in the gravel lot behind the buildings on the left side of the road which can be accessed immediately before the chain. Go to green building on the left side of the road where a policeman will stamp your tourist card. Then go to the yellow building next door that says “Control Migratorio Kasani Peru” to turn in your tourist card and receive your exit stamp in your passport. Next, cross the street to the white aduana building where an agent will process the cancellation of your temporary vehicle import permit. We were asked only for the permit despite having read that we may need our SOAT (Peruvian insurance) and were given a portion of the permit paper with a cancellation stamp to take with us.

Peru Bolivia Border

Approaching the border from the Peruvian side.

Peruvian Aduana

Aduana at the Bolivian border as viewed from Peru.

Peruvian Migracion

Migracion at the Bolivan border as viewed from Peru.

Drive over the chain, up the hill, and through the stone archway. Park in the gravel lot directly to your left before the gate across the road. Walk down the hill, past the aduana building and the restroom to the migración building, all of which are on the left side of the road. Request a tourist form and fill it out. An agent may come by to check paperwork. Once the form is completed (or whenever they ask), supply the agent at the window on the far left with your passport, photocopy of passport, visa application form, tourist form, 2″ x 2″ passport photo, newly finished tourist form, and $135 in immaculate US dollar bills. He will organize everything on his end and then supply you with a tourist card. Take your passport and tourist card to the next window over (to the right) for an entrance stamp.

Next, head back up the hill towards the aduana office. Once inside, look into the first door on the right and let the agent working there know that you need a temporary auto import permit. He will need a copy of your title, a copy of your registration (if your plates aren’t listed on your title as ours aren’t), a copy of the driver’s passport, and possibly a copy of the driver’s license. Wait for five minutes while he kindly and efficiently creates and prints your permit. Sign by the x and then be sent on your way. After passing through the gate, an officer will request to see the auto import permit (and perhaps other documents, but that was not the case for us) before setting you free in Bolivia.

Peru Bolivia Border

Driving between the Peruvian border station and the Bolivian border station.

Bolivian Side of Border

The Bolivian side of the border as viewed from the stone archway.

Note 1: The visa fee and paperwork apply to US citizens, but not to citizens of all countries. If you are not a US citizen, do further research.

Note 2: Vehicles from a handful of nearby countries can complete the process for the temporary auto import permit online prior to arrival at aduana.gov.bo. We read a poster all about it.

Costs: The only cost on either side of the border is the $135 USD per person reciprocity fee charged for entrance to Bolivia.

Dogs: The closest that anyone ever got to our car was when we were driving into Bolivia with documents in tow. An officer approached the vehicle, and Ian stretched his arm out as far as he could. The officer seemed fine not having to walk further, refused our passports when we offered them, and sent us on our way. Since crossing the Darien and having purchased enclosed kennels (and also having to rearrange the way we pack to make room for them), we’ve left one kennel accessible on travel days. When we near a border, we put the top half on and toss some items around it so that it’s not quite as obvious that we have pets. If asked, we would tell the agent immediately that we had two dogs and offer up the paperwork that we always carry, prepared to pay whatever fee they’d ask, but it’s just nice when we don’t have to deal with that.

Our Experience: Despite the long list of documents we needed and the hefty fee for our entrance, we actually rank this border crossing up near the top with our recent happy experience from Colombia to Ecuador. In fact, this crossing was actually our fastest border since Canada (well, or Mexico if you don’t count the 4 days we spent returning to the border after we screwed it up). We were originally planning to cross at Desaguadero because it is a more direct route to La Paz; however, after doing some reading online about safety and hassle, watching a nauseating video of the foot-traffic crammed street at Desaguadero, and seeing a much calmer video of the quiet road near Copacabana, we opted to tack the extra hour or so onto our drive and go with what we thought to be our least stressful route. And glad we are that we did so!  We waited in line only once the entire crossing, and even then, it was for less than 30 seconds. The staff we interacted with on both sides of the border were friendly. Peruvian migración helped point is in the right direction, Peruvian aduana saw us outside and called us in despite the sign in the window that clearly stated that they were on their lunch break, Bolivian migración agents were laughing heartily at a cartoon while processing us, and the Bolivian aduana agent was one of the most competent border officials we’ve worked with so far on this journey.

Driving this route offered us a few other nice perks. First, we entered Copacabana within minutes, a resort town (with yachts!?) with food and an ATM. Score. We changed no money at the border, so stocking up here was great. Second, about 20 minutes down the road was a lake crossing with no bridge. More on this in our Rafting Across Lago Titicaca post, but suffice it to say, it made for a fabulous treat during a travel day!

Note 1: We read before that being prepared and being able to anticipate what was coming next was part of what made things run smoothly. We were indeed quite prepared for this crossing, and it was well worth it. After being shaken down in Peru, we didn’t have high hopes for a border crossing with a country that faces similar problems. We took ourselves through the process exactly as we had read about it though, and everything went swimmingly.

Note 2: The Bolivian migración agent carefully checked each one of our bills, asking for a replacement for one of them. Don’t mess around with less than perfect bills. We took ours from an ATM in Cusco. Most were perfect, but one got sent back to us.

Vangabonds Border Crossing Number: 14

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