Bolivia: Visa on Arrival for Indian Passport Holders

Before I finalised the countries in South America that I would be visiting, I took the effort to call up and speak to their respective consulates in India. The Bolivian consulate confirmed that visa on arrival is granted to Indian citizens at a cost of USD 60. The officials also provided me with a list of documents that need to be carried for the visa of arrival.

City view of La Paz

City view of La Paz

Ankur, being his usual meticulous self, printed a copy of each one of them and neatly filed them in a folder for me. It should be easy, I thought. I have taken so many visas on arrival – Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia and the most recent one in South America – Ecuador.

Bolivia from up above...

Bolivia from up above…

It most certainly was not easy. I met rude and arrogant immigration officials. I paid USD 99 after a very harrowing experience with a very rude immigration officer who did not understand English and asked me to sit down without telling me what was happening. I have been to over 30 countries, including Ecuador and Brazil in South America, and this has been the worst experience ever – very rude and unfriendly and almost got me to tears. I was told that if I have visas from so many countries, why did I not take the Bolivian visa in advance and why did I simply show up here? Two officials tossed around my papers and lost my boarding pass and the green immigration form…each said he did not have it; I kept running between the two trying to find it – very embarrassing…and they kept asking me to go to the other one!

Had it not been for a local passenger who knew English and Spanish who was kind enough to translate, I would have been lost.

No one told me where to go, where to pay – one official said the other will do it, while the other said ‘ it needs to go to my boss’ and sent me back to the first one. I kept asking what documents can I give them and that I have a connecting flight to La Paz soon but they didnt seem to bother telling me what was going on and I was asked to sit down saying ‘I need to call hotel’. It took over 1 hour 20 minutes to get the visa and I was the only one for a visa on arrival! I had alI the documents in place, return ticket, yellow fever card, hotel bookings, original bank statements – all that was stated in the list that was shared with me. I obviously couldn’t make it to the 1720 flight that I had booked and was put in the 1855 flight. However, the experience was terrible and I felt most unwelcome in Bolivia.

It was really kind a ground staff lady from BOA who hand held me through the process, rearranged my pick up in La Paz and called the hotel to inform about the change.

Finally...reached the hostel after getting the visa!

Finally…reached the hostel after getting the visa!

I finally got the visa. I had taken the flight Bolivian Airways flight from São Paulo to Santa Cruz and had an onward flight booked from Santa Cruz to La Paz. I had collected both the boarding cards from São Paulo and the boarding pass clearly mentioned that I was transiting through Santa Cruz with final destination as La Paz. I was still asked to get the immigration done at Santa Cruz, which I thought would have been done in La Paz.

Hope Bolivia is nicer than this … and my first experience is simply an aberration!

The friendly airline crew that made me feel at ease...

The friendly airline crew that made me feel at ease…

Hoping that future travellers from India to Bolivia have a better experience. My advice… get your visa from India or the Bolivian embassy in any other country … it’s free of cost (for Indians, if taken in advance) and will save you all this trouble and anxiety!

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8 Responses

  1. Oh no!!!! What a horrible experience! In all fairness, it’s very rare for me to meet a friendly immigration officer but this experience you had is quite traumatizing! I hope Bolivia is better than that for sure, the immigration officers you encountered were definitely not ambassador of tourism of their own country. :-/

  2. I am so sorry that you experienced this, its one of my fear of travelling; miscommunication. I truly hope you had a great time after all of this. Looking forward to reading about all of the other places you’ve visited.

  3. What a terrible experience and I can only hope that the rest of your time in Bolivia was much nicer. This obviously is much more than just a translation/language issue. Those officers at the airport so desperately need some form of training to be far more sensitive and efficient. The impression they give of their country is so poor and the sad part is that they probably don’t even realize the damage they are doing to their country’s reputation and tourism. In time, things will have to get better (one can only hope).

  4. I hope other Indians can learn from your experience. The officials should treat all people with respect, you especially as you came well prepared and organized. It’s experiences like this that forever give you a bad impression of a country.

  5. Kassie

    Oh geez! Visas on arrival are usually so easy, but every once and awhile it can go wrong! I’m so sorry that that happened to you but so glad that you finally got it sorted out. I guess if I want to do to Bolivia I should make sure all my papers are solid and ready to go before I leave. Hope the rest of your trip went smoothly!

  6. Riely

    Such a terrible experience! It’s such a shame that immigration officers can’t seem to have an ounce of empathy to travellers, who are heading into unknown territories. I know myself I am always nervous to go through the immigration process even when I have nothing to hide. That would have been so horrible to be treated in such a way. Hope your trip to Bolivia was much better!

  7. Oh shame sounds like an awful experience that you handled really well! I have always had no problems with visas on arrival but I did once cry at the airport in Malta because they didn’t want to let me in even though I had a residency permit 🙁

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