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.
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.
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.
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!
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!