Or Crossing the Border from Peru into Bolivia
September 12, 2015
For those considering traveling from Peru into Bolivia at Lake Titicaca I’ve documented below our experience taking the tourist bus across the border. Although the journey can feel a little unsettling at times, everything went according to schedule.
When we arrived from Cusco at the Puno bus station we bought our onward ticket to Copacabana in two days’ time. Since we were then planning to continue on to La Paz, the clerk sold me a ticket to La Paz with a stopover in Copacabana. This worked out fine, but we had to change bus companies for the Copacabana / La Paz leg and therefore did not have a confirmed seat on that bus. This didn’t pose a problem for us as we arrived early enough at the Copacabana bus station to get a seat assignment, but beware that seats can sell out.
Puno to Copacabana
Arriving at the Puno bus station at 6:30AM for the 7AM departures we first had to pay a 1.5 sole tax noted by a stamp on your ticket.
At the bus gate we were informed that there was a protest blocking the road between Copacabana and La Paz. Passengers scheduled to travel to La Paz via Copacana were thus directed to a different bus that bypassed Copacabana while passengers ending in Copacabana could stay on the bus as planned.
Unlike the “luxury” bus from Cusco to Puno this was a slow tourist bus. At times I thought we would never make it up the hills.
The scenery wasn’t as pretty as on the bus ride to Puno, populated most of the way and lacking the golden hills of the previous trip. Some lake views but much of the trip is further inland.
About 2 and half hours into the trip we reach the money changer stop to stock up on bolivianos if needed. Some say you can get better rates in Puno or later on at the border. The rates seemed about the same to us and we changed enough money to get us to La Paz.
Crossing into Bolivia
The assistant on the bus explained the procedure for crossing the border and personally walked Don and me through as we needed to buy visas ($160 US good for 10 years) whereas most nationalities don’t.
First you pass through the Peruvian exit control. The line was fairly long and slow and the bus attendant moved us to the front so we would have time to get our visas on the Bolivian side.
You then have to walk about 200 meters across the border. At the Bolivian immigration office we had to show our documents and pay for the visa. Although we had the applications filled out, all the clerk seemed to want was the copy of our passport with the documents indicated on the online instructions: a copy of the yellow fever vaccination, return flight itinerary, 1 photo and a hotel reservation – the one I had was in Spanish but was for only one night in La Paz in two days’ time. The email confirmation I had for the 2 nights on Isla del Sol starting that night was of no interest.
The clerk took a photo for the visa and placed it in our passport. This was in addition to the photo needed for the visa application.
When we paid he was very picky about our bills, checking the edges of each to ensure that there were no tears of any kind. Two of our bills were rejected.
Back on the bus it’s about another 30 minutes into Copacabana. At the entrance of town you have to pay 2 bolivianos. The attendant did have change though.
We arrived in Copacabana at about 12:30PM local time (Bolivia is one hour ahead of Peru) with plenty of time for a quick lunch and catch the ferry on to the Isla del Sol.