Border between Bolivia and Brazil
15.11.2016 - 16.11.2016
The journey to the border began with an overnight train trip. The seats on the train were comfortable, but Bolivian trains travel on narrow tracks and the ride was very bumpy. We arrived in a small town near the border and took a short taxi trip to the border.
Our guide warned us that leaving Bolivia and entering Brazil is complicated. He shared a story of waiting with a group for over nine hours on one occasion. When the taxi dropped us off, there did not appear to be many people waiting, so we were optimistic that our wait would not be too long. Once we joined the line, we walked across the street to exchange some of our American dollars for Brazilian reals. This transaction was completed in a small back room, behind a grocery counter and next to a bathroom. The man in charge of changing the money had a small safe behind him, and a desk that was covered in various papers and books. In addition to changing money, selling water, and providing a bathroom, we could also leave our luggage in a corner of his shop while we waited in line to leave Bolivia.
The opportunity to inch along the line, without dragging our packs, was great. It took approximately two hours to reach the office of the official who checked our passports, took the piece of paper we received when we entered Bolivia, and then receive permission to exit the county. We then walked back and retrieved our packs and walk across a border and promptly joined another line to enter Brazil.
Fortunately a bus was waiting for us so we could load our bags into the bus and line up without our cumbersome luggage. There were less than fifty people in the line, but it still took ninety minutes to reach the government official who stamped our passport, giving us permission to enter Brazil. For most of the time there was only one person working in office and he appeared to alternate between checking the passports of visitors and the documentation of Brazilian nationals.
As we waited in line, our group had a philosophical discussion about the differences in various cultures. Waiting almost four hours to cross a border is considered a normal experience for some people, while in other places bureaucrats would be held accountable and a lineup of four hours for fifty people would only happen once!