How to Cross Borders from Peru to Bolivia
Crossing borders from Peru (either Cusco or Puno) and Bolivia (Copacabana), can be either a complete nightmare or absolutely easy task. Read our travel guide on how to cross borders from Peru to Bolivia, or in the opposite direction to make your experience as smooth as possible.
Crossing borders is exciting, but only when everything goes according to a plan, otherwise the procedure can turn into a ridiculous theatre which will take a couple of hours of your time, money, and plenty of nerves.
Therefore, it is always better to be well prepared (have your documents and all required paperwork in order) and be ready for unforeseen situations. Although we thought that crossing borders between Peru and Bolivia when we took a direct bus from Cusco to Copacabana should be stress-free, we soon found out it necessarily does not have to be this way.
This is the reason why we've decided to create this short travel guide, and walk you through the process, so your border crossing between those splendid South American countries will be quick and hassle-free.
Make sure your friends and travel companions on the bus read this guide as well because there is nothing worse than be let into the country, and wait on the bus for others, who were not that well-prepared.
In this guide, we describe the journey as we did it, from Peru to Bolivia, but even when you travel from Bolivia to Peru, you can use it as well.
First, we must say there are two border crossings between Peru and Bolivia, Desaguadero and Yunguyo.
We used the latter one as our final destination was Copacabana, a small village on the shore of Lake Titicaca, but in case you are heading straight to La Paz, the bus company may use Desaguadero border crossing.
Make sure you know that ahead of time, just ask the provided when booking bus tickets.
HOW TO CROSS BORDERS FROM PERU TO BOLIVIA
The first step, before you cross borders from Peru to Bolivia, is to choose a bus company you want to travel with.
When you look online, there is rarely a company in South America which has 100% positive reviews, and the same problem is here in Peru.
It is really hard to give you advice on which company to choose.
We traveled with Cruz del Sur (they have a new route scheduled) from Cusco and did not have the slightest problem.
The journey was uneventful, seats were comfortable, and we felt safe all the time. The bus was a double-decker (the ground floor is usually more expensive, but also safer), and there was a bathroom on board, so we did not have to stop along the way, there was also minimum breaks along the way to pick up other passengers.
If we remember correctly, after Cusco, there were only two destinations where it was worth to get off or get on the bus, and it was in Juliaca and Puno.
We did not find necessary to spend more days in Puno, which is a town on a Peruvian side of the borders on the shore of Lake Titicaca, because we had a feeling it is enough for us to see the lake from one place, and there was no need to enjoy views first from Puno and then from Copacabana, but there is, of course, a possibility to break the journey.
The bus from Cusco to Copacabana takes 11 hours, and you will travel on an overnight bus, while from Puno to Copacabana the bus ride takes only 5 hours.
When choosing the bus company, it is necessary to ensure, that you will not have to switch buses at the borders and that the company will take care of you for the length of the journey.
We know that some travel agents in South American countries can promise you anything just to secure the sale, but we found bus companies and staff working there honest, and we were never lied or cheated on when we asked the direct question.
Once you board the bus, make sure you have a snack, enough water, and warm clothes.
Not only drivers in South America like to blow cold air on passengers, so the temperature on board is often close to freezing, but you must also remember, that this part of the continent is at high elevation, so it is chilly here, especially in the morning and during the night in general.
When we mentioned the altitude, it is for sure better to be well-acclimatized, because if your first destination in Bolivia is Copacabana, you should know it is 3800 meters above sea level, but even if you continue to La Paz, the city is high as well 3640 meters above sea level.
But we believe that if you are arriving from Cusco, where you most likely visited Rainbow Mountain, hiked Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek, or from Arequipa, where you for sure did not miss Colca Canyon, you should be fine already.
Once you arrive at the border crossing, you must first get off the bus and walk to a small office on your left.
It is the Peruvian border, where you should only get a stamp that you are leaving the country. If you were not illegally in the country or you did not stay longer than your tourist visa allows, this process should be fairly quick.
When everyone got the exit stamp, we walked a short distance to Yunguyo, a border crossing on Bolivia side.
Here, you must again go to a small office on your left.
It is important to have your documents in order, but in general, you do not need anything unusual for crossing borders between Peru and Bolivia.
Have your passport ready (passport must be valid for another six months), and you must fill in TAM immigration card, which you will receive at the entry. As usual, you should not cross borders with a large amount of cash, and it is better to leave seeds and food behind.
We think it is not worth it to travel with coca leaves as you can buy them first thing in the morning in Copacabana, or overall anywhere in Bolivia.
Always check up-to-date requirements for your country, us, Czechs, do not need a visa to enter Bolivia (most of the countries do not), but citizens of countries with a less strong passport might be required to get visas on Bolivia embassy before arrival.
Because of the reciprocity principle, the US citizens must pay $160 when entering the country, so keep dollars with you all the time.
We had yellow fever vaccination card but were not asked to show the proof.
We also were not asked for passport photos, the proof of onward travels or a hotel reservation in the first destination in Bolivia (it was Copacabana for us), but it is always better to have it, just in case.
It is possible to exchange money here at the borders, but we opted to wait, and withdraw money later in Copacabana as the rate at the borders was not that favorable.
There is no fee to enter or exit either Peru or Bolivia. If you are asked to pay, it is a scam or corruption, and you can refuse to pay for it, and do not forget to report it.
In case you need a copy of documents, or a photo, there is a small copy center open right next to the immigration office, where they can help you out immediately. The border, early in the morning was empty, there was only our bus and a bus going from the opposite direction (a girl from the other bus told us someone had stolen her passport on the bus, so watch your belongings all the time), so the immigration process was quick.
We did not have to take our backpacks with us for control, but police dogs were walking around the bus.
Once you got your stamp, go back to the bus, and wait for other travelers. Then the bus will take you to Copacabana.
Once you arrive in Bolivia, do not forget to change the clock on your phone or watch, as Bolivia is one hour ahead of the time in Peru.
Taking the bus is the easiest way how to cross borders.
If you prefer to split the journey and stay for example first in Puno, and then in Copacabana, you can take colectivos, but it means you must find a colectivo in Puno, this one will take you only to the border, you will cross the border to Bolivia on foot, and then you will have to find another colectivo to Copacabana.
Although this way is for sure doable, and you might save a couple of dollars this way (even though we are not that sure about that), we think there is no need to make your travels more complicated, than it has to be.
Please note, that although tourists are allowed to stay in the country for 90 days, you will get the stamp only for 30 days, and in case you want to stay longer in Bolivia, you must visit an office in either La Paz or Sucre, where you will get the official extension.
It is always better to reserve your bus tickets at least one day in advance, to make sure there will be a seat available, especially when traveling on a strict schedule or during high season.
Most of the bus companies sell tickets only at the bus station, but you can also purchase tickets from more reputable companies online, or there is a well-rated service between Cusco and Puno, in case you prefer to break your journey and explore floating islands.
When looking for accommodation in Puno, there are plenty of options on where to stay.
We've handpicked three best hotels in the destination for every budget:
If you are heading directly to Copacabana, it is a good idea to reserve your accommodation in advance, because you will arrive in the village early in the morning, tired after all night on the bus, and it is much more comfortable to know where to go, we did not even have a problem with an early check-in.
Here are three best hotels for every type of traveler:
If you are looking for other ways how to visit Lake Titicaca, nowadays, there is quite a large selection of tours.
Another way, how to cross borders from Peru to Bolivia is by rental car.
Although it is still not that common to explore those countries independently by car, it is more usual to either use tours, shuttles or public transport, you can check out the rates, and consider whether this would be an option for you.
Always ensure with the travel company that you can cross borders with the car, if yes, you will most likely have to drop off the car in the country where you also picked it up.
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