Villazon, Bolivia/La Quiaca, Argentina – Crossing the Border

Once we arrived in Villazon, we had to walk about a mile to get to the border crossing at La Quiaca. We were on a mission as we didn’t know what time the buses left for Salta, our next destination. Villazon seemed to be quite pleasant and very quiet. Nobody hassled us when we got off the bus. People are used to travellers walking to the border. We did stop one person to make sure we were going in the right direction, but we really didn’t encounter many people. We passed through a market with many shops and stalls, but it wasn’t very busy. If we weren’t in a hurry, it would have been nice to hang out and explore the town a little bit, or sit down and have a snack and a beer!

We were very lucky when we arrived at the border crossing as we got there before a big crowd arrived. The officials were surprisingly very helpful and some even spoke English. Many people were crossing by foot and there were lanes set up for cars too. The place was very busy. All was very orderly until we got to the window. Yes people, there is only one window! We handed our passports over (mine included my reciprocity) and then we had to wait a few minutes. In those few minutes, there was a bit of a mad rush with a few people pushing ahead. We eventually got our passports and documents back and had to go through x-ray – well the bags went through x-ray! After we got the all clear, we had to walk about another half mile to the bus station at La Quiaca. We were now in Argentina!

Bus stations are another story altogether and are something we are not big fans of after our experience in Mendoza. However, after a bit of negotiating, we got a Flecha Bus to Salta, and just in time too as there was one getting ready to leave. Although the place seemed chaotic, there was some sort of organisation and we were personally guided to our bus so we wouldn’t miss it. It is little things like that which can make your journey in a foreign place less stressful.

We thought all was fine on the bus until the bus pulled over and made an unscheduled stop. It seems the police were going to do a check, with the sniffer dogs, of the entire luggage in the hold. It was at that point when I remembered that I still had some coca sweets in my backpack, but the dogs weren’t interested in that. One of the chaps got called off the bus, but after a half hour we were back on the road and none the wiser – one disadvantage of not being fluent in Spanish. At this point I was checking my paperwork in case I needed to hand it over when I discovered my reciprocity was missing and in its place were photocopies of two birth certificates. It was then I remembered that there was a woman with baby twin boys who were part of the mad rush at the window when we handed our documents over. The officials gave me back the wrong papers, and in our rush to get across the border I forgot to check them. I felt really terrible and learned a valuable lesson. I wasn’t worried about my paperwork as I had copied it onto several devices and would be able to print off a copy at the hotel, but I really felt bad for the lady and her babies.

Lesson for the day and the rest of the trip: Always check your documents before you get back on the bus!