Crossing borders is one of the most annoying things about traveling. As an American, one of the most irritating border crossings I’ve ever had to do was the one from Peru to Bolivia. While my British friends were able to sail right through, there was the whole process of me having to apply and receive my Bolivian visa on the spot. I had to get paperwork, vaccinations, passport photos, and worst of all, pay $160 US just to enter the country. All this while I was having internal anxiety attacks about whether the bus with all of my belongings was even going to wait for me.
My second time crossing over into Bolivia, I opted to go with BoliviaHop. This was a company that I collaborated with in Ecuador and Peru, but I decided to trust them on my own accord to get me in and out of Bolivia. Like most Peru to Bolivia border crossings, the border crossing would happen en route from Puno to Copacabana. I was lounging around in Cusco for a few weeks and had already visited Puno and Copacabana before so I opted to knock out the entire journey from Cusco to La Paz in one go.
Although border crossings can tend to be hectic, I was confident that I had done everything right this time. I already had my Bolivian visa from a few years back and I timed my departure from Peru to be exactly within the visa limits. I arrived in Peru on September 10th. By my math, I’d have to be out by December 10th to avoid any visa complications. That’s 90 days right?
The month of October boasts a whopping 31 days, meaning my September 10th to December 10th Peruvian expedition actually amounted to 91 days.
What does that mean? It means I’d have to pay a 4.20 soles fine for each day I overstayed. That’s not too much, so that’s a good thing at least. Unfortunately, I exchanged all my soles for Bolivianos literally one minute ago. And I’d have to pay the penalty tax at the bank at the nearest town which is a distant walk or a pricy tuk-tuk ride away.
I quickly exchanged my Bolivianos for exactly 4.20 soles at a criminal rate before hopping in a tuk-tuk and watching as the rest of the BoliviaHop passengers breezed through the border. Shouldn’t take long to pay the 4.20 soles fine at the bank though, right?
Wrong again. Rural Peruvians love to move slowly. And the line of about a dozen people in front of me was in no rush. I mean, they didn’t have a bus to catch. Why would they be?
The process was maddening, and amounted to close to an hour for something that would have taken 2 minutes had I counted my days correctly. I tuk-tuked back to the border, paid the man, and then grabbed my belongings.
BoliviaHop left behind a guide just for me to help me cross the Bolivia border. This time was much easier than the first time, considering I already had my 10-year multiple entry visa in my passport.
The BoliviaHop bus had already left, which I can’t complain about because they have a schedule to meet for the other travelers. The guide paid for my colectivo van to Copacabana and sent me on my way. The colectivo dropped me off right at the BoliviaHop meeting point and had Alejandro waiting for me so he could store my stuff during the 4-hour layover.
Customer service in Bolivia? Another pleasant surprise. I spent those few hours stretching my legs, having a nice meal, and hiking up to Cerro Calvario before hopping back on the bus to La Paz.
Another good thing about BoliviaHop is they often time stops so that you have enough time to do the one must-do activity there without actually having to spend the night or lug your stuff with you on those tours. For example, in Puno, you’ve got a few hours to do a tour of the floating islands. In Copacabana, you’ve got a few hours to take the boat ride and hike around Isla del Sol. All your luggage will be stored safely by BoliviaHop and you’ll be certain that the bus will wait for you to get back.
Although the journey from Cusco to Bolivia can be a phrenetic one, BoliviaHop truly made it easy. I had peace of mind the entire time because I knew there was no way they would abandon me at the border. Another bus company? Who knows. They might waltz all the way to La Paz with my backpack in tow and I would be stranded at the border with no idea what to do.
The buses are extremely comfortable, as well. They come with charging ports, blankets, and full reclining seats. My journey was a hectic one but I made it right to the doorstep of my hostel in La Paz without too much trouble. That’s another great thing about BoliviaHop. If your accommodation is centrally-located, you get chauffeured right to your hostel at no extra cost. Considering the size of the BoliviaHop bus and the cramped, trafficked streets of La Paz at all hours of the day… that is a lot of extra trouble.
If you want a border crossing with peace of mind, I cannot recommend PeruHop and BoliviaHop enough.