Posts tagged bolivia

Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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Bolivian Salt Flats Tour – Exploring South America’s Weirdest Landscape

An Unforgettable Trip to the Salt Flats of Bolivia

Uyuni salt flats is a mystifying place. You must have seen the regular mountains, rivers, glaciers, deserts, but before the Salar de Uyuni, I had never seen salt flats, at least not as gigantic as the one in Uyuni. The Uyuni Salar are the world’s largest salt flat, extending over 9,000 square km. 

On top of the vastness, the Salar del Uyuni is special because it is high up near the Andes at a height of 3,600 meters above sea level.

When you stand upright in these bizarre salt flats of Bolivia, you see a salt desert billowing into the infinity and beyond. The copper mountains with the mix of an occasional snowy volcano try their best to fringe the horizon. Walking on the Salar could be the closest we can get to walking on the moon.

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Copacabana, Bolivia– The Town on the Shores of Lake Titicaca

I traveled from Cusco to Bolivia on an overnight bus, and Copacabana was, first, just a rest stop before La Paz. While I slept in the bus on an almost full bed, I kept an eye open as travelers had told me that the buses in Bolivia are theft-prone. The bus didn’t stop anywhere, and nothing unpleasant happened. Our minivan crossed into Bolivia, and though the bus driver was reluctant to bring us to Copacabana, he left us in the town( thanks to some Chilean travelers who almost made the fraud driver cry.)

After getting down at Plaza Sucre, I strode straight towards the Casa del Sol homestay that my travel friend Alison had finalized for our Copacabana stay. Things to do in Copacabana Bolivia were many, and she wanted to stay rooted in one place in this lakeside village of Bolivia. That was my first time in Bolivia, and I didn’t know that the country would later surprise me with its indigenous culture, delicious salteñas, historical sites, and relics, imposing mountains that never leave you alone, high cities, and the consumption of an insane amount of coca leaves to keep it all going.

Recommended Read: My Comprehensive Bolivia Travel Guide

I trudged up the cobbled lanes with my rucksack, passed by the main market, crossed the Basilica of the Virgin of Copacabana, turned to the left, and descended a very steep lane to find the homestay nestled in the sunshine for the weather was pleasant at that time of the year(March). I had been used to the high altitude (almost 3900 meters above sea level) for by then I had done many things in Peru, including exploring Cusco and visiting the many islands of Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side.

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Samaipata – A Bolivian Village You Must Experience

Samaipata is easily one of my favorite places in Bolivia. Why? Maybe this quaint village in east Bolivia showed me how to slow down. Or perhaps the Bohemian attitude of Samaipata made me think about life differently. Or maybe the German and the Dutch and the Arabs who have settled down in Samaipata taught me that home is where the heart is.

I cannot pinpoint any one reason, but Samaipata, a lush town in the foothills of Andes, calmed me down. It is after all the resting place in the mountains (the meaning of Samaipata in Quechua).

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Why You Must Visit Santa Cruz –The City of the Bolivian Riches

When I had stuffed myself with enough streetside potato empanadas, I flew from La Paz to Santa Cruz. My dream was to see the wild jaguars in the forests near Santa Cruz, amongst the many other things to do in Santa Cruz Bolivia.

Drifting off through a one-hour flight and waking up to chew upon the dry fruits that the Boliviana de Aviación attendant served, I landed at the Viru Viru international airport and hopped onto the airport shuttle to go to the central plaza. My travel friend was staying in a fancy hostel there.

As always, I had not read much about Santa Cruz. But my curiosity to talk to the local people makes up for my lethargic online research, mostly. In a casual conversation, the manager of the Santa Cruz airport shuttle told me that Bolivia was still furious about losing the Pacific coast to Chile. He added that the elite businessman and politicians of that wealthy city we were in had stopped caring as they were busy securing their bank balances.

And that is how I was introduced to Santa Cruz, a city where you would forget that you are in Bolivia, if not for the cholitas selling sinful salteñas on the roadside.

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Bolivia Visa for Indians – Getting the Visa from India and South America and the Extension Process in Bolivia

Bolivia gives a visa on arrival to most of the western countries (excluding the USA), to other South-American countries such as Chile and Peru, and India. But you can only get the Bolivia visa on arrival if you land at Santa Cruz or La Paz airports, and this visa costs USD 55. As I was crossing into Bolivia via land, I decided to get a visa before the visit, and so I went to the Bolivian consulate in Cusco. The visa application process was fast; the visa was free; I had the visa in an hour.

If you are planning to get a Bolivia visa on arrival, then please confirm by calling the Bolivian consulate in Delhi, as I have heard mixed reviews of Indians who tried getting a visa on arrival in Bolivia.

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My Essential Bolivia Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know About Bolivia

When I think of Bolivia, I remember stout, brick-red mountains.

Women adorning traditional Bolivian clothes mending potatoes in fluorescent open fields.

Bolivian men with wrinkled faces driving taxi up the steep streets and roads.

Potato and cheese empanadas being sold in kiosks on the streets in Bolivia.

Bolivian soaps running on the TV in local food courts.

People marching against the democratic government and Chile.

Golden sunshine beaming in through the blue sky.

Enormous graffitis watching us from the walls of the big city of La Paz.

The charismatic Uyuni salt flats and the blue lagoons sprinkled with pink flamingoes spread in the midst of the driest desert of the world.

Tiny villages bustling with international tourists who went there looking for a simpler life from around the world.

The gorgeous high lake of Titicaca where the indigenous Bolivian people first established themselves but now only a couple of thousand Bolivians live on the legendary islands on the lake.

Sky trolleys flying people from their homes to run their chores in the administrative capital of La Paz.

And the clingy high altitude that never leaves you oxygenated while you are traveling in Bolivia.

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