Border crossings are arduous and - for US citizens in South America - costly. So, when I walked directly into Bolivia without a bag check, an entry payment, or any paperwork, I was confused. I asked a guard if I’d missed something, and he waved me into the country. I’d been expecting to owe another $60 entry fee, so I was happy to have saved time and money.
15 hours later, I arrived in La Paz, anxious to reunite with Frank. But, when I checked in the hostel, they asked to see my border entry papers - which, of course, I’d never received. They sent me to a nearby immigration office to get the small green slip of paper, which they thought would take 20 minutes.
I dragged Frank out of bed and we headed out to explore the city, via a quick stop at the government office.
210 dollars, six hours, four visits to the bank, three trips to a photocopy store, several long lines, and countless conversations with confused and incompetent employees consumed the entire day. Frank, my hero, stuck it all out with me.
First, they’d smacked me with a “border evasion ticket.” Evasion. Right.
Next, they told me the law had changed in the four days I was in Argentina. Effective June 1, 2015, Americans (and only Americans - I’ve grown to hate this passport) need a $160 visa to enter Bolivia. Then, after five hours, they informed me that they had no system to process this new visa, and I needed to go to the airport - at rush hour. Thankfully my disbelief and anger seemed to inspire some creativity, and they found a way to issue the visa from the city office. It was a small victory in a day full of brutal defeats. Between two Bolivia entries, I’d paid $265 just to enter the “cheapest” country in South America.
By the time I received my visa, the sun was setting. We hurried to an overlook and watched as the surrounding mountains blanketed the city in shadow. Sure, it was beautiful, but my god was I ready for a beer.