South America border crossing (overland)

South America is a perfect place for long travel not only because its natural and cultural diversity and beauty but also because of favorable visa policy of the region. Most tourists don’t need visas for the majority of South American countries. Hopefully our South America border crossing guide will be helpful for you!

Citizens of South American countries can travel around the continent only with their ID cards but only them. All other tourists have to get a stamp every time they enter and leave a county. Nevertheless not very strict border control between some countries if you enter or leave without a stamp you’ll be illegal and can be deported or banned from coming back.

All borders you can cross by bus, car, cycling or walking it doesn’t matter. We didn’t pay any fee at any border in South America but tourists from some counties have to pay check before not to be unpleasantly surprised. In our South America border crossing guide we write some detailes about it. It’s better to arrived at any border before 6 pm there are some that work till late or even 24 hours but it’s difficult to find out before you are there. Especially if the Immigration office is not at the border itself but in the nearby town. Otherwise you’ll have to sit and wait till next morning.

If you fly in to any South American country at check in desk airline staff can ask you to show your exit ticket from the country you are flying to. If you don’t have one they can refuse to register you on the flight. For example for our flight from Panama to Colombia everybody were asked to show their exit tickets and those who didn’t have one had to book or buy urgently otherwise they couldn’t fly. To prevent any trouble it’s always better to have an exit ticket.  We wrote an article on How to booking a flight without paying. At overland border crossings nobody ever asked us any exit ticket or booking.

South America border crossing

Argentina

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 81 countries;
  • Passport valid for the duration of your stay;
  • No entrance fee for most of the countries. Canadians and Australians pay the reciprocity fee about US$100.

Check the conditions of entering Argentina for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We entered and left Argentina several times and never had any problem or were asked to show any booking, exit tickets etc.

We crossed Argentinean border at Lago del Desierto, Paso Casas Viejas, Paso de Integracion Austral, Paysandu and Puerto Iguazu. Everywhere Immigration offices are located right at the border no need to walk around trying to find it.

For Argentina tourists from some counties get 90 days every time they enter. And for others they get 90 days that they can stay in the country during 6 months so every time they enter within 6 months period the immigration subtracts days already spent in Argentina before. To be sure check for you county or ask at the Immigration when enter.

For more details on traveling in Argentina go HERE.

Enter and exit stamps of Argentina and Paraguay. South America border crossing

Enter and exit stamps of Argentina and Paraguay. South America border crossing

Bolivia

Formalities

Formalities

  • 30 days on arrival (can be extended) for tourists from 51 countries. List of the countries from Group 1 citizens of these can get 30 days on arrival for free. Countries from Group 2 citizens of these can get 30-day visa on arrival for about 100$ or get a free visa at any Bolivian embassy or consulate free of charge.  List of the countries from Group 3 citizens of these need to get visa beforehand at Bolivian embassy or consulate;
  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended length of stay in Bolivia;
  • No entrance fee for most of the countries. US citizens pay 160$ for their visa nevertheless they obtain it on arrival or in advance.

Our experience

Our first try to enter Bolivia from Brazil at Cobija the middle of nowhere in the Amazon wasn’t successful we weren’t allowed to enter. We went back to Brazil and tried to find a Bolivian consulate and found it in the end. But it was closed no timetable or any info on when they open. A man from a nearby office told us sometimes they opened at 9 am sometimes didn’t. We decided not to wait there and continued through Brazil towards Peru.

The second time was successful we crossed from Peru at Titicaca lake. South Africans and Russian are from Group 2 so we can get visa on arrival and pay for it or get free visa in advance. Of course we don’t like paying when it’s possible not to pay and got free 30-day visas at Bolivian consulate in Puno.  Otherwise no other trouble with entering or leaving Bolivia.

Bolivian visa. South America border crossing

For Bolivia unlike for other South American countries some tourists need visa or have to pay to get it on arrival for about 100$, which is crazy! If you don’t want to pay you can get visa beforehand in a consulate of one of the neighbor countries. We got it in Puno, Peru. The entire process was easy and fast, we applied in the morning and in two hours got back our passports with visas. They always give standard 30-day visa even if you ask for more.

Documents you need to apply for Bolivian visa

  1. Application form. You get it in the consulate, in Puno they give you an original and you have to make copies from it. There are many copy places around and it costs very cheap.
  2. Color photo 3×4 (without glasses). There are many photo center around as well.
  3. Copy of a page with photo from your passport.
  4. Printed booking of accommodation in Bolivia for the first couple of days. You can make it on booking.com, print and then cancel.
  5. Printed exit ticket from Bolivia or any other South American country. We always use Agent.ru site. Check our article Book a flight without paying.
  6. Copy of yellow fever certificate if you’re planning the jungle trip.
  7. Travel itinerary, places you want to visit and dates, just in general without many details;
  8. Financial prove, for example a front copy of your credit card. Only front with your name and number not the back with CVC number.

For more details on traveling in Bolivia go HERE.

Free 30-day Bolivian visa. South America border crossing

Free 30-day Bolivian visa. South America border crossing

Brazil

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 90 countries. Every time you enter Brazil you get 90 days. Citizens of US, Canada, Australia and some other must obtain visa in advance;
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry;
  • No entrance fee for most of the countries.

Check the conditions of entering Brazil for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We crossed Brazilian borders almost with all its neighbor countries and getting a stamp was never a problem. Though sometimes it was difficult to find an Immigration office because it isn’t always at the border. We crossed Brazilian border with Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay. The most “difficult” was to cross the border between Colombia and Brazil in Leticia-Tabatinga (Amazon) because both Immigration offices are not at the border but in the opposite sides of two towns. More info you can find in our article Amazon cruise by slow boat.

Once we exit and entered Brazil on the same day without getting a stamp from Bolivia because we couldn’t enter it. We explained the situation at Brazilian Immigration and got stamped in again without any problem.

Brazilian Immigration offices at the border (that we crossed)

  • Pacaraima – Santa Elena de Uairen (Brazil-Venezuela);
  • Foz do Iguacu – Puerto Iguazu (Brazil-Argentina);
  • Foz do Iguacu – Ciudad del Este (Brazil-Paraguay);
  • Assis Brasil – Inapari (Brazil-Peru).

Brazilian Immigration offices in the nearest to the border town (that we crossed)

  • Brasileia – Cobija (Brazil-Bolivia). Both Immigration offices are in the towns, the border is Rio Acre you cross it by boat;
  • Tabatinga – Leticia (Brazil – Colombia and Peru, so-called the Triple Frontier). Colombian Immigration is at the airport, Brazilian at the Police office.

For more details on traveling in Brazil go HERE.

At the border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Amazon river. South America border crossing

At the border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Amazon river. South America border crossing

Chile

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 89 countries. Every time you enter Chile you get 90 days. Citizens of Mexico and Australia can get visa on arrival but must pay the reciprocity fee;
  • Passport valid for valid for the duration of stay;
  • No entrance fee for most of the countries.

Check the conditions of entering Chile for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

Chilean border we crossed several times as well with Bolivia and Argentina, no problem, fast and easy. Nobody asked exit tickets or booking. The only one important thing don’t bring any fruit/vegetables/meat when enter Chile especially if you hitchhike. They scan your entire luggage at every border crossing and if find something your driver can get into trouble.

The only one border we had a queue was with Bolivia at Uyuni/San Pedro de Atacama because all people arrived by buses at the same time so we had to wait for 20 minutes.

For more details on traveling in Chile go HERE.

Chilean Immigration at O'Higgins lake, Patagonia. South America border crossing

Chilean Immigration at O’Higgins lake, Patagonia. South America border crossing

Colombia

Formalities

  • Up to 180 days on arrival for tourists from 95 countries;
  • Passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry;
  • No entrance fee.

Check the conditions of entering Colombia for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

Our South American journey we started in Colombia (Medellin) where we flew from Panama. There are two ways of getting to South America from Central America; to fly or to take a boat; no overland crossing. Though in theory it’s possible to get overland from Panama to Colombia in practice none would risk his life to do it, the border area between two countries isn’t controlled by official government and is considered to be a drug producing and traffic area.

At Medellin airport they ask for how long you want to stay and the name of your hotel/hostel and nothing else.

For more details on traveling in Colombia go HERE.

Bolivian Immigration office at the border with Chile, Uyuni salt flats. South America border crossing

Bolivian Immigration office at the border with Chile, Uyuni salt flats. South America border crossing

Ecuador

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from all countries (except 12 countries but hardly many people from these 12 really travel);
  • Passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry;
  • No entrance fee.

Check the conditions of entering Ecuador for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We crossed from Colombia to Ecuador at Ipiales. At the Immigration office they didn’t check anything but further on the road there were several check points with army guys and dogs. First they check your documents and can ask you to show your luggage. So coming from Colombia make sure you don’t have any weed if they find it you’ll get into a big trouble.

Paraguay

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 57 countries. 90 days on arrival for with ;
  • Passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the day you enter the country;
  • No entrance fee. Except citizens of US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan they pay from 100$ reciprocity fee.

Check the conditions of entering Paraguay for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We crossed to Paraguay at Ciudad del Este from Argentina by direct bus from Puerto Iguazu. Though you drive through Brazil you don’t need to stamp in and out there, the bus drives nonstop through Brazil right to Paraguay. So you get stamp out of Argentina and in to Paraguay. No worries for those who needs visa or have to pay to enter Brazil. You can get back to Argentina the same way.  The only one thing the bus doesn’t wait at Paraguay Immigration because most people are locals and don’t need to get a stamp. It stops at the Immigration office you get off get your stamp and then walk or take a local bus to get to your hostel. The Immigration office is basically in the city.

For more details on traveling in Paraguay go HERE.

The Triple Frontier; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay at Iguazu falls. South America border crossing

The Triple Frontier; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay at Iguazu falls. South America border crossing

Peru

Formalities

  • 90 days (180 for some countries) on arrival for tourists from 97 countries;
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months;
  • No entrance fee.

Check the conditions of entering Peru for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We crossed from Brazil and at the Immigration were asked for how long planning to stay in Peru I said one month and got only 30 days instead of 90!! It seemed enough since I didn’t plan to travel Peru again but in Cusco we discovered so many nice hikes that in the end spent more than a month in the country. I wanted to extend my stamp and went to the Immigration office in Cusco but they told me it’s impossible I can do it only at the border. I had two options to leave Peru and come back again or to pay a fine which is 1$ per every day you overstay. Since we wouldn’t overstay for more than a week it was cheaper to pay a fine than to take a bus out and back to Peru.

We went from Peru to Bolivia and crossed at Desaguadero (Titicaca lake) the main inconvenience was that you get a fine ticket but to pay it you have to go back to the town which is 2 km away. You’ll need as well copies of your passport (page with photo and with enter stamp). There is a copy place right next to the Immigration. The lesson if they ask you at any border for how long you want to stay always say the maximum period just in case.

For more details on traveling in Peru go HERE.

Uruguay

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 76 countries;
  • Passport valid for the duration of your stay;
  • No entrance fee.

Check the conditions of entering Uruguay for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We came from Argentina and crossed at Paysandu. Officers were very friendly and didn’t ask anything, we got our stamps and kept hitchhiking towards the nearest town. It was easy the first car stopped and drove us right to the famous beer festival in Paysandu.

Enter and exit stamps of Venezuela and Brazil. South America border crossing

Enter and exit stamps of Venezuela and Brazil. South America border crossing

Venezuela

Formalities

  • 90 days on arrival for tourists from 71 countries. US citizens need visa;
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the the date of entry;
  • No entrance fee.

Check the conditions of entering Venezuela for citizens of your country HERE.

Our experience

We walked to Venezuela from Brazil and crossed at Santa Elena de Uairen. At the Immigration there were no questions, nobody checked our luggage or tried to charge us anything. To get from the border to the town you need to take a taxi there are no buses and it’s far to walk. We exchanged some of our Brazilian reals  right at the border to have money for the taxi, which cost about 1$. I think for the taxi you can pay in Brazilian money as well if you are a bit scared to exchange money on the street. In that part of Venezuela Brazilian real is the best foreign currency to have the exchange rate is better than for US$ but only here.

We left Venezuela through the same border crossing and again no questions or checking luggage.

For more details on traveling in Venezuela go HERE.

South America border crossing

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South America border crossing

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