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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23 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 🙁

  8. Naga Ghattamaneni

    Hi Sonia, Sorry to hear about your experience. I live in Brisbane, Australia and got Bolivia visa from Sydney consulate and paid AU$ 35 exactly 11 months ago. It was the easiest, fastest (2 days)and least expensive of all the 7 visas from South America that I got. I couldn’t make the trip as I overlooked the New Zealand transit visa. I hope to visit South America this year and I am hoping to see Ecuador as there is no visa for Indian for 90 days. I hope it won’t be a problem at the immigration. The other option is Bolivia which is on top of my bucket list, La Paz, Tiwanaku, Uyuni. It is very clear that there is visa on arrival option only by air, in some sites I read its only in La Paz, perhaps it’s in any airport. Last year I planned a road trip from Cusco to La Paz so I had to apply for visa in advance. After reading your experience I feel like applying for Bolivia visa in advance even though I will be flying into La Paz because immigration officials, if not all are ignorant of visa office rules and if we have language barrier it gets harder.

  9. Naga Ghattamaneni

    How was your experience with BOA airlines? Last year while I was planning La Paz to Uyuni I read reviews that the flight was rocky and congested. Flight saves time than traveling in an overnight bus so it’s preferable.
    You guys have incredible bucket list, some which I ticked off 🙂 Masai Mara safari was amazing, camping in the new year eve. Kenya was the easiest visa that I got, hardly 5 minutes at the counter in airport. Don’t miss the 12 Apostles and Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne if you come to Australia. Kangaroos are everywhere and in Brisbane Lone pine park you can take selfies with them, feed them. Completing the Trans Siberian train journey is on my list for over 5 years. I thought of doing it once I am done with my PhD and travel by road from Singapore to London. I met a guy in Brisbane who did it from Brisbane on a cargo ship to Singapore then by land to his hometown in UK. I am flying to US and Canada in a month and hope to see northern lights in northern Canada or Alaska but its cheaper to fly to Iceland. I guess winter time as you guys planned would be preferable than in fall. If you don’t mind can you tell me what lens specifications you used for northern lights photos. They are amazing. Happy travels.

    1. Australia is on the list … hope to get there soon! I have also written a post on why Iceland is the best place to see the lights … hope that helps you decide.
      I was very happy with BoA … it’s the best you can get in Bolivia… way better than Amazonas, which cancels very often. The staff was good too in BoA. I would recommend the airline… not that there were too many options 😀
      I was in no mood to take the overnight bus … the flight seemed best. The trip was costing me a fair amount and the flight was just adding USD 100 to it… not moving the needle too much… it was a wise decision 👍🏻
      For the lights, we have used a canon 18-135 lens. It’s not the lens that matter most… it’s the tripod, the settings of long exposure and preferably the use of a remote that help the pics turn out well.

  10. Chandru

    Hi Sonia,

    Which airport did you had this issue for visa on arrival? Reason I am asking is, planning for Bolivia and don’t have much time to apply for visa, so have to use the VOA process. I have been told VOA process via road is not available , only Lapaz Airport has this option.

    Is this true? Can you shed some light on this to help me ASAP?

  11. Anil reyat

    Hi Sonia ,My god I am thinking about go visa on arrival in Bolivia ,now I am confused,should I go with visa on arrival and which airport providing?

    1. I would recommend you take the visa before you get to Bolivia – its free. If you take one on arrival, it is charged. I took mine at Santa Cruz airport.

  12. Rhicha

    Wat a horrible story to hear , it scare hell out of me .. i will think twice now to visit Bolivia .. anyways hope u had nice stay.

  13. Pavan

    As soon as they saw the US visa on my Indian passport, they talked nicely to me. Such a bummer the way these immigration officials treat us.

    1. krishna

      Hello Pavan, Was you Visa on arrival visa or you took visa prior to departing from USA. Please let me know as i am planning to travel in december.

  14. Pranav

    I got my Bolivia visa for free in Santiago, Chile.The visa was free but involved 3 trips to the consulate (one – to get all the required information, one – to drop off my application and another one to pick up my passport). I went overland from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni. The immigration officer was rather amused to see an Indian passport.


    1. Ratheesh

      Dear Pranav,

      If I may ask, how did you manage to enter Chile without an onward Visa to Bolivia. I have considered doing this myself some point but gave up after reading stories of Chile entry where I need to show both onward tickets as-well-as documents for onward country Visa (which I wouldn’t have till I got in ). So a nicely knotted up situation if I intend to make this journey in my usual backpacking sense. Kindly throw some light

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