Visa Requirements for South Africans traveling to South America


Green Mamba


Map of Bolivia. Picture from National Geographic website

What visas do South African Passport holders need to travel to South America?

Surprisingly, the “green mamba” (RSA passport) gets you into many South American countries without a visa!

We are planning to visit Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil so for those countries South Africans only need to get a visa for Bolivia. Here are some websites for more information about what countries require visas: Visa & Vaccination Requirements for South Africans visas_south_america_for_sa.php

The Travel Agencies we asked were not very helpful or informative when it came to the Bolivian visa. Well, none of the agencies in Bloemfontein knew much about getting a Bolivian visa. I suppose Bolivia is not a huge tourist attraction for bloemfonteiners… Or not yet.

Flight Centre said they could help me for R800 per visa but then we would need to have proof of booked accommodation in Bolivia and also know exactly when we would be entering the country and when we would leave. But because we want to backpack and don’t have a fixed itinerary Flight Centre could not assist us. They could not even give us advice on how we should go about getting visas and left us in the deep-end to figure it out by ourselves.

STA travel said they could help but they charge R1700 per person to help with the visa application. That is way too much money! They gave us the cheapest quote for plane tickets though.

After extensive googling, speaking to my friend, Willem, who has backpacked in South America before, and many emails and phone calls to the Bolivian embassy we now have Bolivian visas! It was quite a mission. It doesn’t have to be if you know how…

Instead of handing in proof of accommodation (because we haven’t booked anything yet), we could instead hand in the following which would also make us qualify for a visa: a copy of our flight details in and out of South America, a very rough itinerary and proof of funds. You need proof that you have money in the bank or access to funds via a credit card.(They probably don’t want random people to try and work there!?) It seems the travel agencies were not aware of this option.

Here is the website with contact numbers and email address for the Bolivian Embassy in South Africa. The embassy is located in Johannesburg.

The easiest way to go about getting the visa would be if you live in Johannesburg. Then you send an email and ask them to send you the forms and the list of documents you need to send in. The cost of the Bolivian visa is R500 per person.(August 2013) You then make an appointment to drop off your documents and then in less than 10 working days arrange a time to fetch your passport again.

If you don’t live in Johannesburg, you will need to arrange with a friend or family member to take and fetch your documents. To courier to an embassy costs quite a bit of money (packages cost much more when they need to go to an embassy) and the lady at the embassy does not particularly like dealing with courier services as she says they arrive at bad hours.

We got someone who was driving from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg to drop off the money, our passports and documents at the Bolivian embassy. We didn’t know we had to make an appointment and the lady was not too pleased with us! So remember to make an exact time appointment!

Our second option would have been to post everything to a friend in Joburg and he would have gone to the embassy for us. When our passports were ready the embassy emailed us and luckily my cousin living there could fetch them for us.

If you don’t live in Joburg and don’t know anyone in Joburg it could be a bit of a hassle. So make friends with people in Joburg. If you have no friends you must either make a trip to drop off and fetch your documents yourself or ask the embassy nicely if a courier service could assist.


Salt mounds, Uyuni, Bolivia. Photo from Wikepedia

Is Bolivia going to be worth the effort of getting visas? Apparently it is…. But we will only be able to confirm this once we have been there and done that. I’m hoping it will be!

This entry was posted in Packing, Tips & other, South America and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Visa Requirements for South Africans traveling to South America

  1. Pingback: 9 Tips for Backpacking South America | jam4joy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s