No, the visa on arrival has nothing to do with this animal that you will spot everywhere in Bolivia. In the earlier blog I shared the visa requirement and process for a tourist visa to Bolivia.
However, I was not given a visa by the Bolivian consulate because they deemed that my application was incomplete(read the blog on visa requirement to understand this better). Since I was running out of time, the only option was to get visa on arrival at Santa Cruz airport in Bolivia.
I was flying from Sao Paulo to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Indians, since we fall in Group II nationalities can avail visa on arrival for a price. This should have made me breathe easy, right?
But easy was the last feeling on my mind the couple of days leading up to the flight. A Wikipedia page said that Indians can get visa on arrival only at La Paz airport. There was no reference about any other Group II person having paid for visa on arrival at Santa Cruz airport. Plus, the fee structure was not clear. Some places mentioned 50 USD, others said 150 USD – quite a long range right?
So feeling rather anxious I boarded the GOL flight from Sao Paulo to Santa Cruz. The air hostess handed over two long ass forms to fill for immigration and then customs. For some reason, this made me even more nervous.
Did Visa On Arrival Work?
There wasn’t a long queue at the immigration and I was at the counter within five minutes of landing at the Santa Cruz airport.
The immigration officer did look a bit puzzled to see that I did not have a Bolivian visa on my passport. ‘I will pay now’ I explained.
He asked me for the relevant documents(flight going out, details of stay, visa for onward destination; etc). What he did not ask for was proof of economic solvency.
I was then directed to another counter for payment. Here, I was made to fill a form similar to the one I had filled online for the consulate. What’s interesting is that they accepted my friend’s letter as a proof of stay, whereas at the consulate they had insisted that the letter had to be notarised.
So within 15 minutes, I had my 30 day visa on arrival at the Santa Cruz airport. Yes I had to pay 92 USD, but guess at least it helped me understand how this process works.
Later, I went back to the immigration counter and got my entry stamp on the passport. Free bird!
What Should You Keep In Mind For Visa On Arrival In Bolivia?
Visa on arrival in Bolivia is not a breeze unless you belong to the Group I countries listed by the Bolivian ministry of external affairs.
For citizens of Group II countries, you must have all the documents that they ask for in the normal visa application process. Citizens belonging to Group III countries, you will be refused entry if you do not have visa before you enter Bolivia. Read about it here.
If everything is in order, a 30 day visa should be easy to get. You need to pay 92 USD(as of December 2015) for visa on arrival in Bolivia. The officer at the payment counter confirmed that the same fees apply for all Group II nationalities except for citizens of USA who need to pay around 150 USD, but also get longer duration on their visas.
So keep the dollars handy because I did not spot any ATM in the airport prior to crossing immigration. To be doubly sure, carry 150 USD in cash. As far as I noticed, you cannot pay by card at the visa on arrival counter.
Guess that’s it. After that I had to endure the longest customs clearance queue of my life. But that’s another story. Hope this blog helps you with your questions on visa on arrival from someone who has experienced it firsthand.
If you have any other related questions, shoot them in the comments section and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, stay eccentric!