Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Crossing the Border: La Quiaca, Argentina to Villazon, Bolivia

 I was particularly nervous of this border crossing because I had heard many horror stories about crossing into Bolivia. I heard from other Peace Corps volunteers that crossing from Paraguay to Bolivia was particularly tricky, and that I needed to show them 9 different documents from my yellow fever vaccine to a paper saying I have no criminal record in Paraguay. That was actually a big reason why we didn't go right into Bolivia from Paraguay! This border crossing at Quiaca, I heard, could take 6 hours to get through. Was not looking forward to that.
We had a short (for us) 7 hour ride from Salta to Quiaca that left at 12:30am and arrived at 7:30am. Since it was an overnight ride we thought everything would be ok but it was not. The cellphone of the guy across from us kept ringing and no one was waking up but us! Then the people behind me (after kicking my seat many times) woke up at 6 and decided that since they were up, it was ok to talk at high conversation volume. Also, cell phone guy kept his curtain open and the streetlights kept blinding me so I had to wrap my hoodie around my face. I keep thinking about those little eye covers you get on a plane that I left in my dresser in Paraguay.

We get off the bus, hit the bathroom then take a taxi for 7 pesos to the border. It was chilly compared to when we left salta and I felt the difference in altitude right away.
We got in line to stamp out of Argentina thinking we may be at this for awhile but the crossing went really well! We actually had the most wait time getting out of Argentina. There was only one person at the window and she had decided to close the window and disappear for 40 mins out of the hour we were waiting. Got stamped out without a prob, walked across a little bridge and we were in Bolivia! Only took half an hour to get in as well and that was with me buying a visa! I told this guard on the bridge that I was from the States and he took me right into the office and gave me this big white paper to fill out. I'm sure they were happy for me to show up since I was about to give them $135 USD but they were quite nice. I just had to hand over the money and a copy of my passport and that's that. They explained that I had the visa for 5 years and I can only be in Bolivia for 90 days out of each year and only enter 3x per year. When Nick and I were walking out another guard came over to me and explained again that I could only enter 3x per year and had 90 days in country. They reaally wanted to get that point across to me.
We exchanged some money, there are lots of places to, and headed for the terminal and right away jumped on a mini bus to Tupiza for 15 Bolivianos which is like, $2.20 for an hour and 15 min ride.

So far I like Bolivia! I was a little nervous going in because of the border crossing and just thinking about what the border crossing was like going from Argentina to Paraguay but Villazon wasn't bad and Tupiza has it's charm. I love that you can see Bolivian women wearing traditional garb still, something Paraguay doesn't have. They have swishy skirts and high socks, colorful blankets, a bowler cap and usually two braids, it's very quaint. And of course it's great to be back to these prices, still have a budget you know!

The bridge between Argentina and Bolivia

View of mountains surrounding Tupiza
Me walking across the bridge from our hostel into the center of Tupiza with all my stupid, big, heavy bags


  1. Hello,

    I am an American planning to cross the border from ARG to BOL. If I dont have American Dollars can I pay with pesos?

    Thanks so much, Federico

  2. Great article and useful information about border crossing.

    US Entry Waiver