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Precisely after two weeks of deciding to go to South America, I submitted my visa application for Bolivia. As a result of a series of events, I had made plans to travel to South America and decided to start from Bolivia.
It was pretty easy to obtain a Bolivia visa for Indians or any other nationalities. It still is. So having Bolivia as a starting point was a good idea.
That being said, at that time, I knew absolutely nothing about the country.
The biggest salt desert in the world? The Amazon rain forest in Bolivia? Cheap cost of living? Its uniquely indigenous culture? I knew none of it. Yet I had to travel to Bolivia, and I needed a Bolivia tourist visa for that.
Now the catch with Bolivia is that I could get a Bolivia visa on arrival. But at that time, I was dipping my toe into this whole backpacking-and-traveling adventure, and I simply didn’t know whether I wanted to take a risk with a visa on arrival.
Having a stamp on my passport meant was like this security blanket.
And it proved to be a really good decision when I arrived at the Santa Cruz airport where everything was in Spanish and I didn’t speak any of it.
I ended up traveling in Bolivia for a long time and visited many of its attractions such as the Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, the mines, and a lot more places. I also studied Spanish in Bolivia.
In case you want to study Spanish, or do business, or become a digital nomad or teach English in Bolivia, check out my detailed guide on visas to Bolivia.
So now, as per my vows of making the visa application process smoother for anyone, irrespective of their citizenship, I am going to spell out my experience with tips and steps.
Do I Need a Visa to Go to Bolivia?
Ok when you think about the tourist visa for Bolivia, there are 3 groups.
Group 1: Countries in Green
Group 2 : Countries in Yellow
Group 3 : Countries in Brown
** Countries in orange are part of Mercosur countries **
- If your country is in Group 1, you are visa-exempt for Bolivia. You can enter without a visa with an entry stamp for 30 days. So you don’t need a visa on arrival. Examples- Australia, Philippines, EU, USA etc.
- If you are from a Group 2 country, then you can get a visa on arrival for 30 days. Examples- India, South Korea, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh.
- For those from Group 3 countries, the only option is to apply for a tourist visa for Bolivia in a consulate prior to your travel. The application process might take around 1-5 weeks. The Bolivia visa fee is normally 30$. Examples- Indonesia, Pakistan.
So if you are wondering about how to get a visa for Bolivia, here is actual application process.
1. Submit Visa Application for Bolivia 30 days before Travelling
Ok, is the trip all planned? Apply for the visa when you are sure that you will travel within 30 days. Why? Coz’ the visa will be issued for 30 days, and is valid from the day it’s issued. For example, if your visa was issued on 15 January 2019, you must enter Bolivia by 13 February 2019. Try not to arrive on the last day though.
And once you are sure that your Bolivian adventure is on the cards, find out the nearest consulate of Bolivia. I strongly recommend you to apply the visa at the consulate before you travel even if you qualify for visa on arrival for Bolivia.
A good reason for that is depending on where you are from, you might not need to pay any visa fees.For example, citizens of India, South Africa, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka etc can get the visa for free at a Bolivian consulate. Another good reason is that Bolivia is known to be notorious with the visa on arrival.
So don’t take chances.
The visa application portal for Bolivia is centralized which means no matter which part of the world you are in, you need to fill up the application on the website of Bolivia’s foreign ministry.
The website is in Spanish, but a little google translate will help you out with that. Once you find the visa section, you will be redirected to another website where you could apply for the visa.
- Choose the type of visa as ” Visa de Turismo, conforme a normativa vigente y reciprocada/ Tourist visas in accordance with current regulations and reciprocity”, and fill in the personal details, and upload your pic.
- When you go forward, the website will ask you the number of days you want to stay in Bolivia. The maximum number of days allowed when applying for the visa is 30. If you are planning to travel for more than 30 days, the only option is to extend it when you are there.
2. Bolivia Visit Visa Requirements- Document Checklist
Bolivia visa requirements are pretty straightforward. Once completed with the Bolivia visa application form, you can download it as a PDF. Now you need to get all your documents ready. Here are the requirements for tourist visa for Bolivia.
Visit the website of Bolivia’s consulate in your country beforehand to check if there are any additional requirements.
1. Sworn statement for visa application,
obtained from http://www.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/.
2. A valid passport with at least 6 months of validity.
3. A certificate of vaccination against Yellow fever.
4. A recent 2″ x 2″ passport type photograph.
5. Travel itinerary and booking accommodation. Letter of invitation if someone is sponsoring you.
6. Proof of financial solvency: Account statements for the last 3 months.
7. A residence permit or a resident visa for the country you are in, if you are not in your home country.
I got my Yellow fever vaccination done in AIIMS, Bhubaneswar in India. For Indians, it can be done in any of the vaccine centers authorized by the government of India. If you are from a different country, find out where you can get the vaccine.
As for the travel itinerary for visa for Bolivia, I bought two refundable tickets on Orbitz.com. One from Delhi to Santa Cruz de la Sierra two months after present day, and the other from La Paz to Delhi with a date of 80 days after the date of arrival in Bolivia.
For the proof regarding booking accommodations, I made a refundable bookings for a hostel in Santa Cruz de la Sierra for a week only.
To show them that I indeed had money, I submitted original account statements for the last 3 months, attested by the bank.
3. Submit the Documents at Bolivian Embassy
Now is the time to get printouts of all these documents and go to the consulate. Like most of the consulates, the consulate of Bolivia in Delhi receives visa applications in the first half of the day.
I went there the day after I completed my application and submitted my application form along with the flight itinerary, hostel reservation, the original yellow fever vaccination proof, a recent pic, and my passport.
There was no one else in the lobby when I got there. The receptionist in the embassy was really friendly and she asked me to wait while she took the documents inside to be verified.
4. Bolivia Visa Interview
In my case, the interview happened the same day of submission. The consular officer asked me a few questions.
Q : Why do you want to visit Bolivia?
A : I have heard a lot about Bolivia and about its unique culture. I want to visit the salt desert and other cities like Sucre and La Paz. I am also planning to learn Spanish out there.
Q : How long do you plan to stay there?
A : Almost 3 months as 30 days are not enough for me to travel in Bolivia. I am hoping to extend my visa when I get there.
Q : Do you know anyone in Bolivia? Where will you stay?
A : I don’t know anyone in Bolivia. I will be staying hotels or hostels. I have made a reservation for a hostel for a week for now.
He gave this a little thought and sifted through the pages of my passport. “Ok, you can get the visa this week”, he uttered.
5. Getting the Bolivia Tourist Visa Stamp
I visited the embassy after three days and received my passport with the visa stamp, and traveled there after 3 weeks.
6. Planning the Perfect Salar de Uyuni Trip
If there is one thing and one thing only that you have to see in Bolivia, that’s the salt desert. At almost 11000 Sq kms, the salt desert of Uyuni is bigger than Singapore, Mauritius, Cyprus, Malta and a bunch of other countries.
So, find out the perfect way to visit this amazing place. There is nothing like it. (There is a tiny little salt flat in Utah though).
Bolivia Visa duration : 30 days
Bolivia Visa validity : Valid from the day it’s issued. The count for 30 days start from the day you arrive in Bolivia. For example, if your visa was issued on 15 January 2019, you must enter Bolivia by 13 February 2019. Try not to arrive on the last day though.
How long can you stay in Bolivia? 90 days regardless of citizenship.
Bolivia Visa fees : 0-30$ depending on your country.
Immigration in Bolivia: Entry/Exit Requirements
If you are flying to Bolivia, it’s much better to fly to La Paz. The immigration there is much more organized than the other airports. Make sure that you receive the Bolivian tourist card with the entry stamp and keep it secure until you leave Bolivia.
When should I apply for the Bolivia Visa ?
You should apply for it a week or a couple of weeks before you plan to travel, at max a month.
Can I Extend a Bolivia Tourist Visa?
Yes, you can extend it for 30 or 60 days easily although the process and fees would be different for everyone.
If you are from a country belonging to Group 1, you can extend your stay in Bolivia for 30 days easily.
Do US Citizens Need a Visa for Bolivia
Although in the past US citizens were needed to get a visitor visa for Bolivia before travelling there, now they can enter visa-free to Bolivia like many other nationalities.
Can I Get a Visa on Arrival for Bolivia?
Yes. But don’t go for it.
In practice if you apply for a visa on arrival at a Bolivian border, they might not be so picky about all the documents needed for tourist visa. Most likely you will only need to show your passport, yellow fever certificate and pay the fee. But you should have everything handy.
There have been cases where citizens of different countries who have tried the visa on arrival option have been turned back even though they fulfilled all the requirements. Depending on your citizenship, you might be subjected to treatments that others are not subjected to.
At land borders or airports, they only accept cash. And that too, freshly minted US dollars. And stories from the airport are no better especially if you are not from a first-world country.
I highly recommend you not to go for the visa on arrival option. Based on your citizenship, you need to pay Bolivia visa fees at the border which normally is about 95$, while you could get it for free in a consulate.
The Visa Project tips:
1. You need to make sure that you submit the application form and the required documents within 15 days of the application. The application form is valid for 15 days only.
2. Citizens from countries in Group 1 might have to pay an exit fee when they leave. It normally is around 25$ if you are leaving Bolivia and 2$ if you are flying domestic, but this depends on your country again.
Have you tried obtaining a tourist visa for Bolivia?
If you have tried obtaining a visa for Bolivia, let us know in the comments. The visa process is constantly changing and it will help me update the article if there is any change. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have.