Are you a bit curious what the rules are for border crossing by and with a vehicle?
As it turned out, the principle is fairly straight-forward:
Step 1: The vehicle’s Rider and Passenger go through exit country’s immigration office and get exit stamps.
Step 2: Rider unregister/export the vehicle with exit country’s custom office.
Step 3: Both the Rider and Passenger go through entry country’s immigration office and get entry stamps.
Step 4: Rider register/import the vehicle with entry country’s custom office.
Simple enough? But of course that is just the principle, the actual procedures obviously vary from country to country, and often within the same country from border to border. Let’s not forget the actual execution of procedures would inevitably differ from day to day, officer to officer.
So just a few days ago we were reminded how something so straight-forward can be so exhausting. Here is a photo journal of our Brazil-Bolivia border crossing.
8:23 AM (Timer: 0:00) – Arriving at Brazil border. We made arrangements for this early arrival hoping for a quick exit.
Q quickly spotted a few other overland motorcycles already beat us to it. Turned out they were a group of Brazilians.
8:24 AM – Got shocked from the length of the line for immigration. Q said the line was three times longer previous day. Oh dear.
Is it me or the supposedly single-file line looked a bit chaotic?
9:08 AM (Timer: 44 minutes) Luckily the line moved reasonably fast, and we were done with the exit stamps (Step 1) and Q is onto exporting Casa (Step 2) at the Brazilian custom office. And what do you know, no line – hooray!
9:35 AM (Timer: 1 hour 11 minutes) Just luck has it we got a Custom officer who only typed with one finger at a time. Who knew it was at least ten times slower than with both hands? In the mean while, being exempted from this step, the Brazilian motorcycles were long gone, instead some bus parked way too close for Casa’s personal space.
9:38 AM Finally got our export paper and now to Bolivia. In this case, we were lucky that the two borders were only a few steps away from each other. We have seen some with an hour drive’s nothingness in between. Bye bye, Brazil!
We were a little surprised to have caught up with the Brazilians. I wondered why.
Also surprised to see that there were no lines at the Bolivian immigration.
9:47 AM It took less than ten minutes and it was done. I honestly don’t know what accounted for the difference on both sides. Oh, and for Bolivian standard, this is a very proper immigration office. The last one we had was on Paraguay-Bolivia border and we had to go around a farm-house-like place looking for someone who could stamp our passports.
9:57 AM It caught my attention that the money exchange “office” was set up right opposite immigration. Banks are not always available at borders, so there is a lucrative market for private business.
10:00 AM – The Brazilian bikers finished their paperwork and got their money exchanged.
10:12 AM Q finished his paperwork fairly smoothly, with only a few papers that needed to be copied. Minor details. I thought we were done with the border crossing.
10:25 AM Not so fast. Q was told by the Custom officer that he had to get a “transit” pass from somewhere in town. Took us a few wrong turns to figure out the location. It turned out to be the police station.
See the sign on the door that says “Transito"? That’s where we get our paper.
Further down where the women stood in front of was a prison cell. I counted four people lying on its floor in a very cramp and smelly-looking space.
Guess who else were there? It’s our Brazilian friends!
Okay, I didn’t know exactly happened in that transito office, but I do know that the officer typed up some form for each vehicle by type writer, which by the way was almost as fast as the one-fingered computer typer earlier. Some senior police officer had to sign the forms. And we get the paper only if we pay for it first. Aha, here is the cat out of sleeve. We didn’t know if it’s corruption for sure, but we didn’t see any proof of service payment when we asked for it. Anyway, it’s only 50 Bolivianos (~5 euros), so we swallowed the funny taste and paid up.
11:23 AM Three hours later, we are finally on Bolivian road.
So it doesn’t matter how many times we have crossed borders with Casa, every time it will always play out differently. Luckily so far we have passed all the borders and games.