Fun times at the border.
We made it back from Uros and onto a bus bound for La Paz via Copacabana. The bus trip is best described as strange.
After a couple of hours travelling we stopped at a cambio (money exchange lady) near the border to swap our Peruvian Soles for Bolivianos, then drove another 10 minutes to the border. As we approached the bus man came and explained the crossing to us. In Spanish. Renée asked if anybody needed the explanation in English and most of the hands on the bus went up.
The process is supposed to be straight forward. Get off the bus at the Peruvian immigration office, get your passport stamped. Then walk 200m up the road and into Bolivia. Get your passport stamped at Bolivian immigration and hop back on the bus.
That’s how it worked for me; Renée wasn’t so lucky. In the Peruvian office she was informed she was a visa overstayer and would have to pay a fine.
The situation was a joke. When you enter Peru your passport is stamped with the number of days you can stay written. You are given an immigration card with the same stamp and duration.
My passport and immigration card said 100 days. Renee’s passport and immigration card said 100 days. Their computer said 100 days for me, but just 10 days for Renée.
Despite this obvious typo, the asshole customs man wouldn’t budge. Renée was fined US$28.
This might not sound like much but the fact is the fine was bullshit. It was an obvious data entry error. The more pressing issue though was the fine had to be paid in USD. We didn’t have any.
I had just changed all our cash into Bolivianos. A cambio outside changed this all back into USD. I’m sure I got a fantastic exchange rate. Then I had to sprint into Bolivia to make sure the bus didn’t leave us, while Renée paid the fine.
So yes, in the end we crossed the border. An hour or so later we swapped buses in Copacabana and continued for La Paz.
After about 40 minutes the bus man told us to get off the bus. There wasn’t much of an explanation. By now it was dark, but we all filed off as requested. It turns out there is a lake crossing. The empty bus goes over on a barge, while the passengers cross in small boats. Passengers are then left waiting in the square of a tiny town for 15 minutes for the bus to collect them.
After all this, another 3 hours and we were in La Paz.
Bienvenidos a Bolivia!