The Ultimate Guide to Land Border Crossing: Argentina to Bolivia

Written by Peter Lauffer
July 10, 2023

Traveling from Argentina to Bolivia by land is an exciting adventure that offers stunning landscapes and cultural experiences. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the border crossing from La Quiaca in Argentina to Villazon in Bolivia. Whether heading to Tupiza or Uyuni, this guide will provide you with all the information you need for a smooth and hassle-free journey.

How to get to the Border

To embark on this journey, it is recommended to start from Salta or Jujuy in Argentina. If you're departing from Salta, be prepared for an early start, as the direct journey takes around 7-8 hours. To ensure you reach Bolivia on the same day, catch a bus leaving at 7 a.m. from San Salvador de Jujuy, which takes approximately 5-6 hours. Alternatively, if you're departing from Tilcara, the journey will be around 3.5 hours. I recommend staying a night in the scenic village of Purmamarca.

La Quebrada de Humahuaca. Colored Mountains on the way to La Quiaca, Argentina

Enchanting Landscapes

The road from Salta or Jujuy to La Quiaca will take you through barren yet captivating desert landscapes. As you travel, you'll encounter packs of wild llamas roaming freely, men on horseback dotting the horizon, and breathtaking red rock backdrops. Don't forget to keep your camera handy to capture the unique beauty of this region.

Accommodation Options

While it is not recommended to stay overnight in La Quiaca or Villazon, there are nearby towns where you can find decent accommodation. On the Argentinean side, Humahuaca (160km from the border) is the nearest town with various accommodation options. On the Bolivian side, Tupiza is a popular choice for travelers (90km from the border.) 

Waiting on the Argentinean Side of the Border to cross over to Villazon, Bolivia

Exiting Argentina and Entering Bolivia

Crossing the border between Argentina and Bolivia has become streamlined, making it relatively quick and hassle-free. As you leave Argentina, you must show your passport on the Argentinean side to obtain the exit stamp. At the same time, you will receive a paper that allows you to enter Bolivia. It is crucial not to lose this paper as it will be required when you leave Bolivia. The paper in the passport is the only proof you enter Bolivia legally. There is no entry stamp for Bolivia in the passport. Upon crossing the short river bridge to the Bolivian side, you will no longer have any border formalities to complete.

Traveling with Different Passports

Depending on your passport, the entry process may vary slightly. Visitors traveling with South American, Canadian, or European (Schengen) passports, including Swiss and Norwegian, will only need to follow the steps mentioned earlier.

However, if you are traveling with a US passport, you must obtain a visa on the Bolivian side. This process typically takes around 20-30 minutes. It is essential to fill out forms and bring all the required documents and extra copies of the passport to the border and pay the visa fee in USD cash. Ensure that your bills are in excellent condition, preferably in denominations of USD 100, 50, and 10, as credit or debit cards are not accepted for the visa fee. The required documents for the visa at the border might change; for this reason, consult the official website before you travel.

Villazon Downtown. Main street to the border.

Arriving in Villazon, Bolivia

Congratulations, you have now arrived in Villazon, Bolivia! From the border, it's a 10-15 minute walk uphill to reach the bus terminal. Along the way, you'll come across several exchange offices where you can change your USD or Argentine pesos for Bolivianos. It's advisable to exchange Argentine Pesos into Bolivianos at the border or in Villazon itself, as Argentine pesos are not accepted further away from the border. If you need cash, there are ATMs available in Villazon. Still, if you get cash with a foreign Debit or Credit Card, it's recommended to withdraw money in Tupiza or Uyuni, where you have ATMs from different banks available.

Currency Exchange Tips

When traveling from Argentina to Bolivia, it's best to exchange your Argentine pesos for Bolivianos on the Bolivian side in Villazon. There are numerous "Casas de Cambio" near the border where you can compare rates. However, if you're traveling from Bolivia to Argentina, exchange your Bolivianos for Argentine pesos on the border in Bolivia. It's advisable to bring USD bills in excellent condition, preferably in denominations of USD 100 and 50, as they offer better rates when exchanging cash. For Argentina, avoid using ATMs for currency exchange due to unfavorable rates, if you exchange cash USD bills, you get double the pesos than when taking out cash with your Debit or Credit Card. 

Ferrobus waiting in Villazon

Continuing Your Journey

From Villazon, there are regular bus departures to various destinations. The best option is to purchase your tickets directly from the bus line ticket offices at the terminal building. Bus travel in Bolivia is incredibly affordable, especially when compared to Argentina. If you're heading to Tupiza, the journey will take 1.5 to 2 hours. When you arrive in Villazon before midday, you should be able to reach Uyuni at dawn. Otherwise, it's highly recommended to spend a night in Tupiza before continuing your journey to Uyuni.

For those seeking a more extended adventure, you can find connections from Villazon to La Paz (24 hours) and Potosi (6 hours). It's important to note that trains from Villazon via Tupiza, Atocha, and Uyuni to Oruro depart only on Thursday afternoons. The train departures are often canceled, but when the train runs, you travel comfortably. 


Embarking on a land border crossing from Argentina to Bolivia is an unforgettable experience. From the enchanting landscapes to the seamless border crossing process, this journey offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of both countries. Plan your accommodation, carry all the necessary documents, and exchange your currency wisely. Whether heading to Tupiza or Uyuni, let this ultimate guide be your companion for a successful and memorable trip across the border. If you're seeking an exciting adventure that takes you across international borders in a breathtaking and secluded setting without the hassle of transportation, unfriendly border officials, and finding accommodation, look no further than the Buenos Aires to Lima tour with Rail South America. This journey promises to be an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.

Highway between Tupiza and Uyuni

Additional Information

  • It is advisable to carry extra copies of your passport and other important documents.
  • When exchanging currency, compare rates at multiple exchange offices to get the best deal.
  • Check with your hotel in Argentina for recommendations on where to exchange money.
  • Be cautious of touts and stick to purchasing bus tickets from official ticket offices.
  • Consider bringing a universal power adapter for charging electronic devices during your journey.

Get inspired by some photos of this amazing trip:
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