This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Yunguyo
Closest major cities: Puno, Peru and Copacabana, Bolivia
Cost for Visas: USD$135 for US citizens, Bs360 (USD$51) for South Africans
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 1 hour
Date crossed: Friday October 5, 2012
Note: The Bolivian aduana office closes between 1:00–2:00pm Bolivia time, this is 12:00-1:00 Peru time. Plan accordingly.
We left our delightful hotel in Chucuito and drove 70 miles to the border at Yunguyo, arriving about an hour and a half later. Expecting the steep US visa fee we had drawn USD$300 in Cusco from an ATM.
We stopped at the chain blocking the road and parked on the right side. First we headed to immigration, but the nice ladies told us we had to go to the police station first. We mistakenly went across the street to the wrong police office and they sent us back to the other police office just next to immigration. Why there needs to be two police buildings less than 100’ apart is yet to be determined. In the photo below you can see the correct police office, the light blue, green colored building on the right side. Immigration is the building to left of that.
A very unofficial-looking man took our passports and tourist cards, stamped the back of our tourist cards and returned both documents. We went back next door to immigration. The ladies stamped us out of Peru and kept the tourist cards.
Next, we walked back across the street to the unmarked white aduana building. The official asked to see our title and vehicle permit. He kept the vehicle permit for Peru and shooed us away. The photo below is the aduana building.
We went to the small shop next to where we parked and changed some soles to bolivianos at a rate of 1 sole to 2.5 bolivianos. Not a great rate, but we only changed a small amount, so no big deal.
Back in the car, we pulled up to the gate, but the police officer shook his finger at us and told us we had to go talk to the police first.
We went back to police station number 1 (the one right next to aduana) and waited while another overlander argued about something in Spanglish. Finally another police officer who must have noticed us waiting outside asked us a few random questions about where we were going and where we were from. He also asked to see our insurance from Peru.
We were a bit nervous about producing insurance. We bought one month of “mandatory” SOAT when entering, but this had since expired. We didn’t bother to renew because I had learned that if you had another policy that covered you for liability you would be fine. I handed over the 14-page Sanborn’s insurance we bought in the States. He flipped through it nonchalantly, then said thank you, handed back the insurance and told us we could go. Whew.
We drove about 500 feet, through the arch and parked on the side of the road just before the gate. The aduana official met us outside and said he was closing up to go to lunch, so we should come inside and get our permit first. Kobus took the vehicle papers and went to get the permit while Jared and I went to the immigration building next door to start the visa paperwork.
At aduana Kobus had to present his passport, the vehicle title and a copy of each. After quite a while of entering information into a computer the official finally produced a permit.
Meanwhile, back at immigration, Jared and I were given two forms to fill out. One was a simple tourist card and the second was a visa application specifically for US citizens. Note that you can fill this out online and bring a printed version to the border to save time.
After completing the paperwork we each handed in our passport, the two forms, a copy of our passport photo page, and a single passport photo. We did not see any places that advertised photos, but there were a couple printing and photocopy shops so you could sort it out if you needed to.
The official stapled our visa form, photo and passport copy together and then politely asked us to hand over the USD$135. He diligently checked all of the bills for tears. With our stack of cash in hand he affixed a visa sticker in our passports. The visa is valid for 5 years, 90 days per entry and is valid for at least 3 separate entries. Then we had to take our passports to the other side of the small office to a second official who ripped our tourist card in half, and added two stamps to our passports.
Kobus met us at the immigration office. The official consulted the laminated paper taped to his desk and declared that South Africans need a 30-day visa. He only had to fill out the tourist card and present it with his passport and unfortunately, Bs360 (USD$51).
The official explained that Kobus could have gone to the consulate in Puno, Peru and gotten a visa for free, but at the border the cost is Bs360. The amount was printed clearly on the visa so we are pretty sure he wasn’t making it up. Kobus was not able to get more than 30 days or a multiple entry visa. If we enter Bolivia again he will have to pay the fee a second time. Doh.
Kobus went through the same process of getting the visa and then going to the second official for a stamp and to turn in half of his tourist card.
Officially broke, with our vehicle permit in hand, we tried to leave again but this police officer intercepted us. He said to me quite frankly, “I want to go eat lunch, you need to move your car.” Then he handed me the vehicle permit and told me to go to the transito office and he told Kobus to go with him to move the car.
Kobus drove the car to the other side of the gate and the police officer promptly took his lunch break. At the transito office an official asked for the driver’s identification. I produced a copy. He entered Kobus’ information and the vehicle plates into a register. Then he stamped the back of our vehicle permit and returned the documents.
We returned to the car and drove 10 minutes to Copacabana where we were delighted to find not only an ATM machine, but delicious home cooked empanadas and a hotel room for USD$10.
Best part about this border: Laidback and relatively quick.
Worst part about this border: A whopping $321 in visa fees.