I was a little caught off guard about this as we don’t need visa’s for virtually all of the East and most of South America. I presumed Bolivia would be the same but I was wrong. There’s a lot of bad information out there about this visa – I hope this post will clear it up.
Bolivia groups all countries into 3 groups and treats them all differently when it comes to getting visas. Group 1 – no visa needed. Group 2 (South Africa is in here) require a ‘watered down’ visa and Group 3 require a full on visa. I’m only worrying about group 2 in this post.
I’ve met a few South African’s in South America that have rocked up at the Bolivian border and discovered they need a visa. As a result of the ‘watered down’ version of the visa Group 2 countries need, you may be able to apply at the airport (but I’m led to believe you’re lucky if this happens). The same applies with land border crossings. The catch here is you’re going to pay BIG BUCKS and despite all my research, I’m unable to determine if this is a fee or a bribe as the amounts always change but the one thing you can be certain of is the amount is always north of $100.
If you apply at a Bolivian Consulate, the visa is free – this makes me doubt the legitimacy of the fee completely.
As a result of all the uncertainty and potential fleecing I could expect at the border, I opted to head back to Quito (the closest consulate to where I was) and apply directly there. If you’re on a long backpacking trip, I’d encourage you to apply in one of the South American capital cities (Bogota, Quito, Lima, etc) as you arrive and get it done this way.
- Fill in the online form. It’s not an online application but the Bolivians want the form and all the supporting documents uploaded online. Here’s the link: https://portalmre.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/
- In order to apply, you need:
- Confirmation of onward travel out of Bolivia. This can be a flight or bus ticket – I booked a bus ticket into Calama in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and they were happy with that.
- A bank statement showing you have enough cash for your trip.
- Proof of accommodation – I booked a random set of hotels on Booking.com which I cancelled as soon as I got the visa. How one nails down 3 weeks of accommodation in advance whilst backpacking confounds me.
- Yellow fever certificate.
All these documents will need to be uploaded online and then you have to bring copies of all of them through to the consulate too. Admin much?
The Quito consulate only accepts applications from 9:00 – 12:00 every day despite their website stating otherwise. Once you’ve applied, you can collect your passport the next day.
Why go through this mission?
Doing it this way means the visa is free and you won’t be wasting time as the chances are you’ll be touring the big city you’re in anyway. Applying at a border crossing doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide the documents, that you’ll still need to do AND then you’ll still be fleeced.
May the force be with you!