In my series on World Borders, I report on my trips across many of the borders on this planet. This time it’s a relatively unusual one, as the name of the town, Desaguadero officially sits in both the countries Bolivia and Peru. Primarily however we call it Bolivian. The border is particularly lacking in security and checkpoints! Anyone can walk across, anytime, but here’s the proper guide on how to get from Bolivia to Peru…
How to book your bus from Bolivia to Peru
Bus travel is your best option, and my route took me from La Paz to Cuzco so that is the route I am covering here. I was staying in La Paz in Bolivia and to book your bus you have two options:
1. Book it through an agent at your hostel/travel agent nearby
2. Head to the bus station and book it there yourself
I was in a rush and had just returned to La Paz for the second time (having done the Salar de Uyuni tour) so I booked it through the hostel. There may be a slight extra charge but it saves the walk. If you head to the bus station you are very unlikely to get a bus booked instantly so you will need to book in advance. It’s the way Bolivian buses operate. Every Bolivian bus I took was FULL. And they always are. So book a day (or two days) before to make sure you’re on it.
If you book your bus at the station you will get a better rate as there are TONS of companies operating buses across the border to Cuzco, Copacabana and Puno. MOST travellers head to Copacabana or Puno and want to do Lake Titicaca. As I said, I was pushed for time as I wanted to do the 4 day Inca Trail hike at Christmas (arriving especially at Machu Picchu on Christmas Day) so I headed straight for Cuzco. That’s a 12 hour bus journey (that became about 16 hours due to breakdowns and delays). I chose Internacional Continente and though my bus had a 6 hour delay and broke down about 8 times, I had no issue with them whatsoever – their service was good, lunch was provided and they got me there safely, albeit only 5 hours before I was due to start the Inca Trail!!
La Paz Departure Tax
Even after you have bought your bus ticket there will be a departure tax for leaving La Paz. You have to buy this at the bus station and it cost me 2 Bolivianas. It’s standard procedure – it’s not a scam! If you don’t have the departure tax stamp on your ticket, they won’t let you through the gate to where the bus leaves from.
Getting from La Paz to Desaguadero
Once you’re on board your bus and leave La Paz behind, you will head to Desaguadero the town on the border. The bus journey is scenic and we were given a free cup of tea. As a traveller the views are outstanding and there are lakes visible. Later on in the journey on arrival into Peru we will be driving alongside Lake Titicaca. However a few things occur on the trip to Desaguadero:
1. We get bread rolls and tea just outside La Paz
2. Two Bolivian guys get on just before the border to check passports. This is fairly routine.
The Bolivian Immigration Checkpoint at Desaguadero
On the Bolivian side you get off the bus, taking all of your belongings and then you go to the Bolivian Immigration checkpoint. This is a small one storey, old building just in front of the bridge. You can’t miss it.
Simply hand in your departure card and get your exit stamp. There was a short queue when I was there. I think the locals don’t need to bother so you might see a few other foreigners in there.
Your bus will drive on through to the Peru side of the border and park somewhere to wait for you. At least it should. You might want to take a photo of your bus or remember its number plate.
You walk across the border on foot – it’s across a very small bridge. Nothing dodgy about it and nobody bothers you – to contrast with the Brazil – Paraguay border I once crossed.
Do You Need a Visa to Visit Peru?
OK, so this will depend on your nationality. I travel with British and Irish passports and neither need a visa for either Bolivia or Peru. I just filled in an arrival form in the immigration and got an entry stamp on my passport. I got 90 days in Peru stamped immediately.
The Peruvian Immigration Checkpoint at Desaguadero
Expect massive queues on the Peruvian side. I can’t remember exactly but I think we queued for an hour, with big bags and in the heat. Once we got stamped I then rushed to get money changed before getting on the bus.
Where can you get your money changed from Bolivianas to Peruvian Soles?
On the Peruvian side of the border there are lots of Exchange Places/Cambios and while the rate might not be the best, it’s a good idea to change your money here as you’re now in Peru and it might be a while before you reach a town (though admittedly Juliaca and Puno aren’t that far away).
Changing Your Watch in Peru
As bizarre as it sounds, as it’s only a few footsteps away, but Peru is one hour behind Bolivia, so adjust your watch while you wait in the queue.
What do the passport stamps look like?
Here’s my Bolivian exit stamp:
Here’s my Peruvian arrival stamp:
That my friends is pretty much all you need to know about getting from Bolivia to Peru at Desaguadero. It’s an easy border crossing, the biggest problem is the long queue in Peru. In hindsight it would have been nice to have been sipping a cold beer in the queue…
A few videos I made on my trip from Bolivia to Peru at Desaguadero:
Leaving La Paz by bus:
At the Bolivian side of the Desaguadero border:
On a bus in Peru passing the epic Lake Titicaca: