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Border Crossing Procedures

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Border Crossing Procedures

1. Posted by Jacobuh (Budding Member 10 posts) 10y
  • This question mainly refers to all South American and Central American countries*

Im planning my trip, and one thing I'm unsure about is the procedure to cross borders into another country. Im betting it varies from country to country, but can someone give me a general rundown of how it works?

Also, I've done some research on acquiring visas for entry into countries, and all it says is to call the embassy. I cant call for information right now because Im deployed and we dont have reliable phone services over here. I want to be prepared when I call when I get back to the states, so can someone explain to me the process of getting visas? Also, is calling the embassy the only way to obtain a visa?

Thanks All!

2. Posted by helsbells1 (Budding Member 70 posts) 10y

For Central American countries, it really depends on how long you are planning on staying there. Most of the countries you are allowed to stay for 90 days and you have to leave for 73 hours before you are allowed to return, if you do this you will not require a visa at all. I didn't enter South America so not sure it the rules are the same there.
The crossings are easy (from my experience, but I have heard a few horror stories!), If you are crossing over land then you have to pay a departure fee for leaving the country you are in, and get an exit stamp in your passport, you then cross the actual boarder, and go to immigration in the new country for your entry stamp (this is where they will tell you how many days you are allowed in the country).
I must let you know that there is no overland crossing between Central and South America as there are no roads connecting Panama and Columbia, and it is WAY too dangerous!!!!!
I hope this helps.

3. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

Assuming you are a USA citizen, then it should be relatively simple for all the countries in South and Central America, with a few exceptions. Check out the Travel.State.Gov site for information on the entry and exit requirements for the countries you plan to go to. I know that Brazil requires a visa, but most do not. There might be others, so make sure you check.

Most places give you a tourist card when entering that you need to surrender when exiting. Don't lose it.

Assuming you don't need a visa, it's a simple process of going through exit procedures (handing over your tourist card, getting a stamp in the passport), wandering over to the border post of the country you are entering and going through entry border procedures (filling out a tourist card, getting a stamp in the your passport). In generally, I have never been asked a question in Central and South America when entering by either land or air. They read the information on the tourist card, stamp your passport and you are away.

Some places will charge for entry, and the fee depends on your citizenship and the method of entry.


4. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

Quoting Jacobuh

So can someone explain to me the process of getting visas? Also, is calling the embassy the only way to obtain a visa?

Thought I would answer this as well. Sorry for two posts instead of one.

Assuming you need a visa (check out the link to the site above), there are two methods of getting one: in advance from an embassy or at the time of entering the country. Both methods don't work for all countries, so be sure that you read the information on the site carefully, and follow up by checking with the embassy if you are unsure.

You can submit your application to an embassy or consultate of the country you want enter. You might be able to do this in person or via mail. In person, they will take your passport and keep it anywhere from 1 day to 3 weeks, depending on the country. Via mail can take much longer due to delivery times.

In some countries, you can just show up at the border and get a visa at the time of arrival. This can depend on the type of visa you need to get as well. This can take a long time sometimes, as you will need to see a border guard.


5. Posted by john7buck (Respected Member 458 posts) 10y

South America in general is pretty easy. If you are crossing by bus, the bus will stop, everybody gets off and gets in line with their passport. You shouldn't need a visa in advance for most countries, the stamp serves as your 30 day visa in most cases. When you enter a new country they generally give you a piece of paper and this can be important to hold onto as it is collected upon exit. The exception for Americans is definitely Brazil. Because of our attitudes and practices toward allowing entrance to Brazilians, you have to get a visa in advance to enter (which when I was there cost US$150). You can do this in Buenos Aires, or as I found out from necessity at an office near the border crossing (I wouldn't recommend this). They'll probably also fingerprint and photograph you, as is the case in US Customs.

I'm not sure what countries you are going to, but I can tell you from experience that Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia will only require your valid passport upon entry.

Hope that helps.

6. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 10y Embassies and Consulates of all countries in all countries The only place that issues VISAS for any country if required by the traveller is the Embassy, Consulate or Honorary Consul of that particular country outside the country where the visa is required. For example if you are travelling to Peru to do business or are sponsored by a company for a work permit there you require a Peruvian Business Visa, if driving through Mexico to Central America in your vehicle you require a Mexican Transmigrante Visa, etc. If arriving by plane check with the embassy or consul of the country first.