How to Slow Travel Across the Bolivia Brazil Border
Find out what is required and what to expect when crossing borders between Bolivia and Brazil by land. Read on for details.
The South American continent is vast and filled with natural wonders that beg to be explored. Two destinations that abound in natural attractions are Bolivia and Brazil. Crossing the Bolivia-Brazil border at its primary land connection in the Pantanal region requires two things: adequate documentation and a healthy dose of patience.
Read on to see how ensuring that you have the correct documents in hand and being prepared mentally will go a long way toward making this necessary step go as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Important Disclaimer: Though every effort has been made to provide the most current and up-to-date information, please keep in mind that international border crossings and their entry and exit requirements are very much subject to change. Political factors, natural disasters and global influences can affect a nation’s borders with little warning. Be sure to check with your country’s embassy (and your destination country) before you leave for your trip.
Crossing the Bolivia-Brazil Border
Though Bolivia and Brazil share an extensive border, for all practical purposes, the vast majority of it is inaccessible to all but the most intrepid jungle explorers. The national boundary reaches deep into the Amazon basin and Pantanal wetlands, where a motorized canoe is a far more appealing mode of transport than a car or bus.
Undoubtedly, your fastest, most comfortable and most convenient way of traveling between the two countries is by air. Flights between major cities on both sides of the border are by far the most practical way of covering long distances. Not surprisingly, they are also substantially more expensive than the extensive bus networks that navigate the (at times) tricky infrastructure.
So, if you’re on a budget or just insist on traveling overland, your first job is to make your way to the Pantanal region, either in the tiny town of Puerto Quijarro in Bolivia or the city of Corumba in Brazil. There is where you’ll find the primary border crossing between these two scenic giants.
Puerto Quijarro, Bolivia to Corumba, Brazil
The first order of business is getting to Puerto Quijarro, which is usually accessed by buses from Santa Cruz (22 hours!) or beyond.
There’s some ambiguity about the border control’s open/hours/availability. Supposedly, the hours of operation are between 9 AM and 6 PM Brazilian time, but many travelers report variations on the actual times, with the longest wait time in the morning. By all accounts, wait times will take several hours—if not more—so be prepared to wait.
Pro tip: Brazil recognizes daylight savings time, and Bolivia does not, so there could be a difference.
Here’s where that extra patience comes in handy.
Once you make your way through a tedious line, you’ll receive an exit stamp from Bolivian customs only after you present your passport and any other necessary documents for your nationality to enter Brazil.
At this point, you walk a few minutes to the officials on the Brazilian side for an entry stamp and access to the largest country on the continent. You can then catch a taxi to Corumba and a bus to many other cities. As is the case with Bolivia, any overland route will involve some very long travel times.
Of course, you could also take a few days to explore the marvelous Pantanal region, using Corumba as a jumping-off point for excursions.
Crossing the Brazil-Bolivia Border
If your travels are the reverse, from Brazil to Bolivia, the process is very similar, though Bolivian entry requirements can be much more rigid—especially for American travelers!
Corumba, Brazil to Puerto Quijarro, Bolivia
Again, you’ll likely be faced with long lines to get through immigration, but once the guard has given you an exit stamp (be ready to show this to Bolivian officials), you can just make your way across the border on foot to Bolivian border control.
For residents of the United Kingdom or European Union, no visa is required. For citizens of the US and a select few other countries (Afghanistan, North Korea, etc.), a visa is most definitely required and will cost $160.
On the Bolivian side, you’ll need to present your passport with six months of validity and an entire page available. There are no entrance fees (besides the visa for those who need it). And once you have your entrance stamp, you can move freely about the country.
Puerto Quijarro has a bus station where you can hop on a long-distance bus to Santa Cruz or other major cities in Bolivia. While it is possible to spend the night, with no attractions of any note, most move on right away.
What Do I Need to Cross the Border?
Here’s a list of the essential details to ensure a quick and easy border crossing.
No matter which side of the border you’re coming from, you’ll need to show your passport.
To enter Bolivia, your passport must be valid for at least six months.
To enter Brazil, no specific validity period is required for US citizens.
In each case, having a blank page in your passport is necessary.
Residents of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union do not require a visa to enter Brazil for stays up to 30 days. Other nationalities can check here to see if a visa is needed for either country.
Travelers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and European Union do not need a visa to enter Bolivia.
On the other hand, travelers from the United States will need one, and the process is best completed before your travel dates. The visa will cost $160 and allow for stays of up to 90 days. It’s good for ten years.
Important Note: In the event that you lose your passport containing your visa, you’ll have to shell out another $160 for a new one—so make sure you keep your passport safe!
Check here for the online visa application for Bolivia.
There are no fees required to exit either Brazil or Bolivia.
Proof of Exit
Be certain to get your exit stamp upon leaving both Bolivia and Brazil. This will be handled at the immigration office.
While not absolutely necessary, having small denominations of the local currencies can certainly make handling the transportation and meal arrangements a whole lot smoother. On the Brazilian side, they use reis (pronounced Hay-ICE).
On the Bolivian side, the unit of currency is bolivianos.
Proof of Onward Travel
Brazilian authorities will not ask for proof of onward travel. The same cannot be said of those on the Bolivian side.
Prepare to show proof of a round-trip ticket leaving Bolivia or other confirmation that you will be moving on.
You may also be asked to give the address and proof of reservation at a hotel/lodging or private accommodation. Save yourself the additional hassle by having this ready.
Proof of Economic Stability
Again, the Brazilian side will not ask for proof of economic stability but expect those on the Bolivian side to do so. A credit or debit card on hand will usually prove sufficient. It’s best not to flash large amounts of cash as proof, as this might incite the official to ask for a bribe.
There is no official entry fee to enter Brazil or Bolivia. Residents of the US and other select countries will pay for a visa (see above).
While there are no major safety concerns at this border crossing, it is always important to have your guard up.
As usual, with large crowds, be alert for pickpockets and other petty thieves. You can accomplish much by being mindful of your surroundings and keeping your belongings (especially that passport!) with you at all times.
It’s not unheard of to have an official ask for an “administration fee,” or as commonly known elsewhere—a bribe. There are no official fees to enter the country, but most just pay the “fee” rather than increase their already long wait time.
At the time of writing, travelers over a certain age (12 years old in Brazil/5 years old in Bolivia) must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter both Bolivia and Brazil.
Non-vaccinated visitors must show a negative COVID-19 test within the required time period (72 hours PCR/48 hours antigen).
Important note: If you enter Bolivia from Brazil, you may be asked to provide proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination.
Map of the Bolivia-Brazil Border and Beyond
Check out this helpful map to assist you in visualizing the locations involved and the logistics of getting between them.
Popular routes between the two countries are from the megalopolis of Sao Paolo, Brazil, to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. This will require either a reasonable flight or multiple days of overland travel, but if you choose the latter, you will have the benefit of seeing the breadth of these two amazing countries firsthand.
The Last Word
If you are dedicated to overland travel and wish to cross the land border between Bolivia and Brazil, the above information will help you get across as hassle-free as possible. Just have your documents ready and arm yourself mentally with calm and patience—you’ll make it through with flying colors.
You shouldn’t expect to pay anything when crossing the border, though US citizens will have to pay up before they get there by purchasing a visa ($160)
There is no minimum stay for either Bolivia or Brazil.
No proof of onward travel is required to enter Brazil. To enter Bolivia, yes, they will ask to see proof that you will leave the country within the allotted time.
While the actual process is easy and hassle-free, long wait times make this one a bit more tedious than others. Be sure to have the correct documentation, and if you need a visa, obtain one ahead of time for the least amount of delay.