There are various border posts located on the boundaries between Peru and its five neighboring countries: Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast and Chile to the south.
These border points vary greatly in terms of traffic. Some are bustling and slightly chaotic transportation hubs, while others are remote outposts with little more than a wooden shed and a simple gate. In general, the border crossing process is straightforward.
Problems can occur, however, so it’s a good idea to be prepared and have all your documents in order.
Peru Border Crossing Formalities
If your paperwork is in order, you shouldn’t have many problems with border officials when you cross between Peru and neighboring countries. For most tourists, the only necessary documents are a passport and some form of visa or entry/exit card.
For Peru, the standard tourist “visa” is the Tarjeta Andina de Migración (TAM, or Andean Migration Card). If you enter Peru by air, you should receive your TAM during the flight. Fill it in and present it upon arrival. The bottom third of the TAM will be handed back to you -- keep it safe, as you’ll need it to exit the country.
If you exit Peru to a neighboring country, you will hand over your passport and TAM to the Peruvian border official. The official will stamp your passport and retain your TAM. You now cross over to the border post for your next destination (Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia or Chile), show your passport and collect the relevant entry form for that country.
If you enter Peru from a neighboring country, just reverse the process. If you are coming from Chile, for example, you first need to exit the country at the Chilean border post. You then pass through to the Peruvian border post, where you collect, fill out and hand over a fresh TAM with your passport.
Potential Peru Border Problems
If your paperwork is not in order, you will have problems exiting or entering Peru. Potential problems include:
- You have overstayed your time in Peru: for each day spent in Peru beyond your originally allotted time (normally 183 days), you must pay a one dollar per day overstay fine. You can pay this at the border post or airport before exiting Peru (read more about Peru tourist visa extensions).
- Your have lost your passport or your passport has expired: you will need a new passport before entering or exiting the country.
- You have lost your TAM: you will need a replacement TAM, available in various immigrations offices across the country.
- You need a yellow fever vaccination: you do not need a yellow fever vaccination to enter Peru. Some South American nations, however, require proof of vaccination before entry.
- You are carrying illegal or prohibited items: whatever you do, do not attempt to carry drugs or other illegal items between borders. You’ll also need to check the customs regulations before crossing. Carrying items such as fruit and vegetables between countries is often prohibited.
Border crossing areas are notorious for attracting criminals and other undesirable characters. Keep a firm grip on your bags and watch out for pickpockets. If someone other than a border official approaches you -- perhaps offering to help you with your paperwork -- the safest option is to say no.
Be aware of potential scams at all border crossing points. There have been reports of taxi drivers scamming tourists along the Peru-Chile border. On the Peru-Bolivia border near Lake Titicaca, police officials have reportedly confiscated money from tourists, claiming that the cash is counterfeit. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash across borders; ideally, take only what you need to get you across the border.
Transport Across Peru's Borders
If you’re travelling by public transport in Peru, the most common overland border crossing options are bus, minibus and taxi. Depending on the nature of the border, some drivers will take you to the exit point and wait for you on the other side of the border.
Sometimes, however, you may need to arrange further transport once you have crossed the border. There are usually plenty of taxis and buses waiting for passengers, so you shouldn’t have many problems arranging onward travel.