Travel is wildly fun. Applying for a visa is not. It’s the opposite. Frankly, it sucks and it will feel begin to feel like a homework assignment and you’ll keep putting it off and off…until the very last moment when you’ll realize – SHIT! IF I DON’T SEND THIS IN NOW, I WON’T BE GOING!
If you follow these basic steps you can breeze through the process and have your shiny little visa stamp and you will be able to enter Bolivia and enjoy the scenic sights of La Paz or snap all kinds of crazy photos on the Salar de Uyuni like these…
These steps are assuming you will be applying for a tourist visa and you have an American (USA) passport. Furthermore, this set of steps is specific to the Los Angeles, CA consulate. (If you’re not on the West Coast double check which consulate you must send your information to or post questions as comments).
The following are things you will need before sending in your packet of information:
- Your USA Passport. (Make sure it’s valid for 6 months+)
- Passport sized photos. (Many drugstores and groceries now offer this quick service. It’s about $12 for a set of photos. Here’s a $2 off coupon at your local CVS.)
- Bank statement showing you have money in your account. (Next time you go to the bank just ask for a statement printout that shows you have more than $2,000 in your account. (The Bolivian government does not list a specific amount of money you need to have in the account. I believe they indicate you need to show you have $50.00 for each day you will be in the country. The point, for them, is to ensure you have enough to survive / won’t become a crazed delinquent and fuck up their lovely little country.
- Yellow Fever vaccine. Have you had a yellow fever vaccine in the last ten years? If so, just show a printout of that yellow little booklet they give you. If no, then you likely should get one before your trip. According to the LA consulate website, it is a required piece of your application, however I did call them and was told it is NOT necessary in your application. Now the choice is yours. I’d suggest just getting it to be safe. You can get the vaccine from your local doctor or head to Walgreens and they even let you make an appointment online.
- Trip Itinerary and Flights. The website information is a bit vague – you could show your airline tickets, a guided tour itinerary, or your hotel reservations. From the Bolivian government’s side of things, you imagine they want to see how you will arrive their country, how you will leave their country, and where you will sleep in their country. Demonstrate those pieces and you’ll be fine. I sent an email I had from Expedia (showing my flights from Cusco to La Paz and then from La Paz to Bogota – this shows I’ll be leaving Bolivia) and then I sent a printout of my TripIt plans – just showing I will be on a tour of the Salt Flats. Then I sent a confirmation email from a hostel we booked for two nights in La Paz. I read somewhere in the application process that you just need to show where you will sleep for two nights.
- Sworn Statement (online application on Bolivian gov. website) – takes about 30 minutes to complete. Print a few copies out when you are at the final screen.
- Credit Card Authorization form. Aka the $$$. This whole visa process is all about you paying their Government. The fee is $160.00 USD. I know it seems high. It is high. But hey, that must be what’s keeping the tour buses and the Rick Steves’ Food Walks from Bolivia. Might as well get some airline miles while you pay so use their CC authorization form here.
When you do go onto the Bolivia government website for the Sworn Statement you’ll want to have a few sizes of your passport photos saved digitally. Something that is about 2 x 2 and you can save to be under 150KB. I suggest using Pixlr to re-size an image – https://pixlr.com/editor/
You can find detailed step by step instructions here on how to fill out the online form.
Now, to start the whole thing off, visit the official website here and best of luck!
You then head to your local USPS and acquire two white priority mail envelopes. On the first, write your home address in the FROM and the consulate address in the TO (below), and on the second envelope do the reverse (consulate back to your home address).
When you approach the USPS mail person at the little desk, ask them from two tracking numbers and then have them fold the second envelope inside the first envelope.
VERY IMPORTANT – make sure you slide your USA passport into the envelope! Don’t forget (that would really suck)
When I inserted all the paper forms and the small little 2 x 2 passport photo, I put them all inside my Passport on the page with my photo / information. Then I put the CC authorization form on the very top. (It’s all about the $$$ right?)
Ok, you’ve triple checked, you have everything in there, then ask the mail person for a receipt and mark the TWO tracking codes you will keep.
Be sure to send your packet to the Bolivian Consulate in Los Angeles, CA