Travel days are always a bit hectic and it’s multiplied by 10 when you’re changing countries and don’t speak the language fluently. Well today was the big day for me to make my way from Peru to Bolivia following the edge of Lake Titicaca around.
I thought I’d done all my planning and preparation, though I try to keep that side of myself reigned in so I’m not over planning. As it turns out, you can never be prepared enough for a border crossing. I knew from other travelers and a bit of research that Bolivia is a bit hard on American travelers. While in most countries I scoot through Immigration and Customs without a snag, Bolivia had other plans for me.
I took a bus from Puno, Peru to the border and was continuing to a quaint little town called Copacabana also on the shores of Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian side. When we arrived at the border we were hustled off the bus to go through the Peruvian exit requirements and told that we had to change our money here as there would be no other options and no ATM’s in Copacabana. So I lost about $30 changing over my Peruvian money.
I don’t normally change any money at the border but since I knew I’d have to pay $135 US for a Bolivian Visa I had come with extra cash. I was told in Puno that I’d be able to pay with Peruvian Soles but the bus driver said I was misinformed. As it turns out he was only partially right.
I changed my Peruvian Soles for Bolivian Bolivianos and made my way across the border. The bus actually drives you to the border but you have to walk yourself across. On the other side I dutifully waited in line only to get to the front and learn there was a different line for Americans. I then had to fill out a form and pay the Visa fee. At this point I learned that Bolivia wouldn’t accept Bolivian Bolivianos for the fee but that I’d have to switch the money again to US Dollars. Ugh! There went another $25 or so in change fees. ….and yes, there were options to change money that the bus driver had conveniently forgotten on the Bolivian side of the border with better rates too.
Walking back from the cash changer’s store I was surprised to see my bus driving away! That’s when I did a crazy run with flailing arms and screaming that while now seems utterly embarrassing….at the time it’s probably the only reason I’m not still sitting in Bolivian Customs. So to answer the earlier question, ‘They wouldn’t really leave me would they?” As it turns out, yes, yes they would have if the passengers hadn’t seen my seizure run and gotten the bus driver to stop. Apparently, many of the passengers had a connecting bus that we were more than a little late for so the driver was willing to sacrifice the solo American for the greater good.
At the end of the day, I got Bolivian Customs sorted out with only a little more hassle and made my bus into Copacabana just in time to experience a Bolivian Christmas. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!