The Great Bolivian Scavenger Hunt!

My list of requirements to fulfill the Great Bolivian Scavenger Hunt (for U.S. citizens only). My limited Spanish required me to learn very quickly!

I spent July 7th to August 3rd, 2011 in Bolivia.  The ridiculously complicated visa application process, which I call the “Great Bolivian Scavenger Hunt,” was well worth the delay in Paraguay.  This is what the Bolivian government wanted from me:

  1. Visa application form.
  2. Passport photocopy.
  3. Paraguayan visa stamp photocopy.
  4. Hotel reservation (and I never book hotels in advance).
  5. Transportation reservations exiting the country (which is impossible if you don’t know how long you’re going to stay and tickets are generally bought on the date of departure).
  6. Photocopy of credit card.
  7. A hand-written note stating my intent to travel to Bolivia to see the salt flats, to mountain bike down the “Death Road,” and to see Lake Titicaca.
  8. A passport-sized photo with a RED background. (I travel with passport-sized photos because I know that many countries require that for the visa.  But only Bolivia requires a photo with a RED background.  Thus, I had to get more photos taken of me, which required more time, money and effort than was reasonable for such a trivial requirement.)
  9. A notarized document from the police department saying that I hadn’t murdered anyone, committed any larcenies, raped people or committed other heinous acts in Paraguay.  (Yea, believe it.  This took two trips:  One to the police department and one to the notary office.  More money, time and effort required on my part because mine is, of course, limitless- along with my patience.)
  10. Yellow fever vaccine. (This required a little bit of finagling in order to get a physician to write a note saying that I had my yellow fever vaccination eight years ago when I was in Peace Corps Zambia.  I almost didn’t go to Bolivia because of this last requirement, but I came up with this solution and it worked- thank goodness!)

Furthermore, an act of God was required at the border crossing to come up with the money to pay for the visa because the border control wouldn’t accept a wrinkled 100 USD bill!  I almost had my baggage thrown off the bus and I was almost abandoned at the Paraguay-Bolivian border had it not been for the kindness of a stranger who lent me the last 120 Bolivianos (17.42 USD) that I needed to pay for the visa.
Because the border control guards wouldn’t accept my $100 dollar bill, I had to exchange it for Bolivianos at a rate that will almost certainly guarantee the cholita woman a one-way ticket to hell.  (I traded it for 600 Bolivianos when I should’ve gotten 700 Bolivianos, a $10-dollar profit on her part and $10 loss on mine.)  I begged everyone on the bus to lend me the difference, and at the moment when they were about to throw my baggage off the bus and proceed without me, a stranger lent me the money.  That guy will probably end up in heaven.