Your Definitive Guide to South America Visas: What Do You Need For Your Trip?

Your Definitive Guide to South America Visas: What Do You Need For Your Trip?

Perhaps the most daunting thing about travelling is the entry requirements of each country. Visas can be tricky, with some nationalities requiring them in advance and others being able to get them at the border. 

Visa requirements are prone to change which means what is true one minute may not be so the next. As such, it is always important to research what visas you need and make sure that you double-check this information a few days before you travel (just in case).

We here at South America Backpacker know how confusing this can all be and in an attempt to make it easier for you, we’ve compiled this South America visa guide! 

Disclaimer: All of the above information is the result of hours of research and internet trawling for the most up to date information out there. Please bear in mind that whilst we always try to keep our articles up to date, this is a mammoth task for a small team like ours! If you do find anything that needs updating, please let us know so that we can continue to provide the most current and useful information.

However, please bear in mind that visa requirements are subject to change often. Always do your own research and contact the relevant embassy if you have any queries about the visa requirements. After all, there is nothing worse than arriving at a border only to be sent straight home again!

Visa Guide to South American Countries A-Z

Visa information for Argentina:

Argentinian flag

If you are travelling as a tourist and do not require a visa, you will usually be granted a 90 day stay on a multiple entry basis. This allows you to enter the country numerous times within the period granted. 90 days is the maximum that can be given. 

The nationalities that don’t require a visa to enter Argentina include all South American countries, USA,  UAE, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most western European countries. 

For those of you who do require a visa to enter the country, these will be charged at $50USD each.

Contrary to what you may read online, as of August 2018, Australians, Americans and Canadians no longer need to pay a reciprocity fee. 

Passports must be valid for the entirety of the stay granted in Argentina. For example, if you plan to stay for 30 days, the passport must have at least 30 days of validity left. 

Onward travel required: Those flying to Argentina are legally required to have proof of onward travel.

Staying longer in Argentina?

Renewal of your visa: An extension to your visa can be given at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (Buenos Aires Immigration Office) however, you can only extend once for the current trip that you are on. Needless to say, you should go to extend your visa before it runs out. 

The visa extension given will never be more than the length of the original stay granted. For example, if you enter Argentina and are granted a 90-day stay, the maximum you could extend for is another 90 days. For nationals not from Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the cost to extend your visa is around $15USD. 

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: If you are from a nation that doesn’t require a visa, it is possible to travel to one of Argentina’s neighbouring countries and then re-enter to get a new entry pass into the country. 

Limits on the number of border runs/visa extensions: According to the Consulate website, the number of times that a traveller can re-enter the country in this way cannot be determined in advance. It is solely based on whether the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones are satisfied that you are not hiding your immigration purpose.  

Overstay penalties: The fee for overstaying your visa is AR$600 (around $15USD) which must be paid at the airport upon your departure. Police can demand identification at any point which could cause lots of problems if your visa is no longer valid!

Travelling to Argentina? Read our travel guide to Argentina here!

Visa information for Bolivia:

Bolivian flag

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most countries in South America and western Europe (including the UK) do not need a visa to enter Bolivia. 

If you do not require a visa to enter Bolivia, you will be given a free 30-day entry stamp on arrival. 

Visas are required for citizens of the UAE, China, Russia and the USA. There is no cost for the first three countries however, travellers from the USA will be required to pay $160USD for 90 days entry (valid for 10 years). Be aware that damaged or torn bills will not be accepted. 

Although it is theoretically possible to get a visa on arrival, some airlines are reluctant to fly passengers who do not already have a visa if required. Therefore, we recommend getting them in advance. 

To obtain a Bolivian tourist visa, you must:

  • Fill in an application form
  • Provide proof of flights or travel itinerary
  • Provide a hotel reservation or invitation letter
  • Hold a certificate of yellow fever vaccine
  • Provide 2 passport photos
  • Hold a passport with at least 6 months validity
  • Show proof of funds if necessary
  • Citizens from the USA also require a police certificate 
  • Cash for fee (if required)

If you are visiting Bolivia, you are required to have at least 6 months validity on your passport after your length of intended stay in the country. You should also ensure that you have at least one empty page in your passport for stamps before you travel. 

Entry vaccinations required: Visitors to Bolivia could be refused entry if they do not hold a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. This applies if you are flying from a country with risk of the disease. 

Onward travel required: You could be asked to show proof of this at borders.

Staying longer in Bolivia?

Renewal of your visa: Renewing your tourist visa in Bolivia is thankfully, very simple. Simply head to the Immigration Office in a major city. You can renew for another 60 days, free of charge. 

However, you will need to do this on two separate occasions, a maximum of three days before your current visa expires. Visa extensions are only granted for 30 days at a time and can only be extended to 90 days in total (per year). You will need your passport and immigration card plus photocopies of these and your Bolivian entry stamp.

Overstay penalties: You will be charged a set fee per day (20 bolivianos at time of writing) if you overstay your Bolivian visa. Bear in mind that travellers who overstay longer than a couple of weeks may attract the attention of immigration and could be banned from re-entering. It is also possible that Bolivian border officials may ask for a bribe if you have overstayed. 

Bus company Bolivia Hop has lots of good and easy to understand information on its website regarding visa requirements and details. 

Travelling to Bolivia? Find group tours, guided bike rides, cooking classes and more here!

Visa information for Brazil:

Brazilian flag

Nationals of all EU and South American countries, as well as New Zealand, are allowed to enter Brazil for up to 90 days, visa -free. 

Citizens from USA*, Australia*, Canada* and China all require visas. 

  • The following countries can apply for an electronic visa before their visit. 

For more information on whether your country needs a visa for Brazil, check out the UK consulate website. 

Visa fees are generally based on reciprocity which means that costs are determined by what a Brazilian National would have to pay to enter the other country. At the time of writing, the fees are as follows:

USA – $200USD 

Australia – $150USD

Canada – $100USD

China – $144USD

These fees can be paid by debit card or postal order. You cannot pay for a visa on arrival at the airport. 

To obtain a Brazilian tourist visa, you must:

  • Book an appointment with the Consulate

Or

You must provide the following original documents when required:

  • Valid passport (with at least two blank pages)
  • One passport photo
  • Copy of your return travel and itinerary (can be an e-ticket or a booking reservation from a travel agent)
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your trip. You must provide one of the following:
    • Bank statements and three months transactions
    • International credit card statements and three months transactions
    • Your most recent three payslips

The visitor visa (VIVIS) will allow you to stay for up to 90 days in the country. This is counted from the date you enter the country and allows for multiple entries.  

Visitors to Brazil must have at least 6 months on their passport, starting from their date of entry. 

Onward travel required: This is mandatory for travellers visiting Brazil, as is being able to show proof of sufficient funds for your trip. Bank statements can be used to show this. Generally, the accepted budget is $150USD per person each day of your trip. 

Staying longer in Brazil?

Renewal of your visa: You can extend your Brazilian visa for up to the same period which was originally granted to you when you entered the country. You must request a visa extension whilst your current visa is still in date with the Federal Police. 

Please note: Schengen Area member state passport holders, (except Liechtenstein, Iceland, Poland, Norway and Portugal) are only permitted to remain in Brazil for 90 days every 180 days. This means these citizens are not eligible for a visa extension. 

Overstay penalties: The penalty for overstaying your Brazilian visa is a fine of 8 reais (around $2USD) a day. It is possible to pay this fine when you leave Brazil or when you return. You will not be allowed to re-enter the country until you have paid this fine. 

If authorities catch you with an out of date visa, you will be given 7 days in which to leave the country, as well as receiving the standard overstay penalties and a six-month ban. 

It is worth bearing in mind that overstay is one of the most common reasons to refuse a Brazilian e-visa in the future. 

Travelling to Brazil? Read our travel guide to Brazil here!

Visa information for Chile:

Chilean flag

A visa is not required for citizens of the following countries, the UK and most other EU countries*, USA, Australia*, Canada, New Zealand and South American countries.

Upon entry, you will be granted 90 days entry into the country. You will also be given a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo’ (Tourist Card) which you must keep safe and present to immigration when you want to leave the country. 

*Travellers from Greece are only permitted 60-day entry on arrival. 

* Australians are required to pay a $117USD reciprocity fee. 

Visas are required for Chinese and Indian citizens. Once approved, they will be granted 90 days entry.

The following documents are required for a tourist visa application:

  • Valid passport
  • Criminal background check issued by police
  • Health certificates pertaining to infectious/contagious diseases
  • A clear description of your financial situation (e.g. payslips or bank statements)
  • Contact person in Chile (name and address)
  • 3 passport photos
  • Application letter to Consul detailing visit motivation and length of stay
  • Applicant telephone number and proposed dates of travel

Travellers entering Chile are only required to have a valid passport for the duration of their stay. 

Onward travel required: You may be asked for proof of onward travel. 

Staying longer in Chile?

Renewal of your visa: It is possible to renew your tourist card for an additional 90 days at the Departamento de Extranjería. To do this you will require copies of your passport and tourist card. The cost is around $100USD.

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: It is possible to travel to a neighbouring country and then re-enter to get a new entry pass into Chile.

Overstay penalties: Fines are issued to travellers who overstay their visas. 

Travelling to Chile? Read our travel guide to Chile here!

Visa information for Colombia:

Colombian flag

You do not need a visa to enter Colombia if you are from most South American countries,  USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada* and most western EU countries including the UK.

*Entrance fees for Canadians were abolished on May 1st, 2019.

Upon arrival, you will be given a 90-day multiple entries stay in the country. 

Citizens from China and India require a visa. To check whether you need a visa, head to the consulate website. 

The easiest way to obtain a Colombian visa is online. Complete your application online here. 

In terms of cost for a Colombian visa, these are the current fees:

  Colombia & Rest of World Europe & Cuba
First payment $52USD €40EUR
Second payment (if visa is granted) $82USD €63EUR

To enter Colombia, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.

Onward travel required: This is a requirement although it is rarely enforced. The same is the case with showing adequate funds for your trip. A recent bank statement showing upwards of $1200USD is generally sufficient. 

Staying longer in Colombia?

Renewal of your visa: It is possible to extend your stay in Colombia by an extra 120 days. The maximum you can stay in Colombia is 180 days in a calendar year. Previously, it was a requirement to go to Migracion Colombia office to extend your visa. However, this can now be done online here. 

It is advised that you renew your visa no later than 5 days before your current one expires. All of the supporting documents can be uploaded in PDF format at the end of the form. You will need the following:

  • Copy of your passport (the page with your photo and personal details)
  • Copy of your Colombia tourist entry stamp
  • Proof of onward travel 

The cost to renew your visa is 99,000 pesos ($144USD) unless you are from a Schengen country in Europe, in which case it is free. 

If you prefer not to use the online service, you can still go to your local Migracion Colombia office. These are located in most major Colombian cities. Be aware that some offices may require you to arrange an appointment in advance. 

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: You can leave the country and then return with a new 90-day entry stamp. 

Overstay penalties: If you overstay your Colombian visa, you will be required to pay a fine. To avoid any delays when you fly, it is worth paying this fine a few days in advance (after you have booked your flight) at the Migracion office. The starting point for fines is around 380,000 pesos (around $118USD), although this changes depending on how long you have overstayed. 

If you overstay by less than 6 months, you will simply be required to pay the fine. You can re-enter Colombia with a new visa in the same year (provided it is still under the 180 day in any year rule). 

However, if you overstay by more than 6 months, you will need to pay the fine and leave immediately. If you have overstayed, you will need to visit the Migration office and ask for a ‘salvoconducto’ no more than 15 days before your departure. This is a temporary permit that allows you to stay in the country until your departure date, even though your visa has expired. You will need to present this to the airport staff when you leave. 

To obtain a ‘salvoconducto’ you will need to present the following:

  • Passport
  • Copy of your passport (photo and personal data page)
  • Copy of your most recent Colombia visa stamp
  • Credit/debit card to pay the fine and also for the ‘salvoconducto’

A ‘salvoconducto’ costs 60,000 pesos (around $19USD) and you will still need to pay the fine which could rise as high as 5 million pesos ($1558USD)! Don’t say you haven’t been warned. 

Travelling to Colombia? Read our travel guide to Colombia here!

Visa information for Ecuador:

Ecuadorian flag

Most people travelling to Ecuador will not require a visa, including those from South America, the UK and most of Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. On arrival, you will usually be granted 90 days entry (in a 12-month period). This allows for multiple entries. 

You will be presented with an embarkation/disembarkation form when you enter the country which will be stamped with your entry date. This will need to be kept safe with your passport as it will be required when you exit the country. 

A handful of nationalities will require a visa to enter, including Ethiopia and Kenya. Please check the official Consulate website to see whether you require one. 

For travellers to Ecuador, you must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates.  

Onward travel required: This is a legal requirement so you could be asked to show proof of your return ticket. Officially, you could be asked to prove evidence of sufficient funds, however, this is rarely enforced. 

Please note: It is also an official requirement that travellers to Ecuador hold relevant health insurance to cover their stay.  

Staying longer in Ecuador?

Renewal of your visa: You are allowed to extend your Ecuadorian visa only once before your current 90 day period is up. The maximum that you can extend for is another 90 days and you can only do this if you pay the accompanying visa extension fee. It is surprisingly challenging to find the up to date cost for extending your Ecuadorian visa. From what we found, it looks like it is currently around $131USD. This was the price in Jan 2019. 

To extend your visa, you must visit the Migration Office with these three things:

  1. A completed application form
  2. A photocopy of your passport
  3. A photocopy of your entrance stamp

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: Unlike in other countries, you cannot do visa runs in Ecuador to extend your legal time allowance in the country. The only way to extend your stay is to go through the official channels. 

Overstay penalties: If you overstay your allocated time allowed in Ecuador, you will receive a fine.  If you do not pay this penalty, you will be banned from returning to Ecuador for two years and your name will remain on immigration watch lists. Assuming that you pay the fine, you will be allowed to return on an official visa issued by your nearest Ecuadorian Embassy abroad. 

Travelling to Ecuador? Find group tours, rafting trips, National Park visits and more here!

Visa information for Guyana:

Guayana flag

Citizens from North and South America, Western Europe including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan do not require a visa to enter Guyana. 

If you are from a country which is entitled to visa-free entry, you will usually be granted 30 days on arrival. 

Citizens from Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), China, UAE and India will need a visa. 

To obtain a visa you must present the following documents:

  • Completed application form
  • Valid passport
  • 3 recent passport size photos
  • Evidence of sufficient funs

Tourist visas cost $30USD. 

For all travellers to Guyana, you must have a passport with at least six months validity, from the date that you enter the country. 

For more information on visas in Guyana, check out this website. 

Staying longer in Guyana?

Renewal of your visa: To extend your visa you will be required to visit the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown. 

Overstay penalties: Unlike some other countries in South America, overstay penalties are very severe in Guyana. As well as being charged a fine of up to G$50,000 ($240USD) you will also face up to one year imprisonment and deportation (at your own expense). 

Travelling to Guyana? Read our travel guide to Guyana here!

Visa information for Paraguay:

Paraguay flag

Citizens from the UK and most of Europe can enter Paraguay without a visa. Upon arrival, you will be granted a 90-day stay. 

Those travelling who are from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia will be required to obtain a visa. Generally, visas will need to be arranged in advance for most nationalities but citizens from the countries listed above can get them at immigration upon arrival. You will be granted up to 90 days within the country. 

To apply for a visa for Paraguay in advance you must provide:

  • A completed application form
  • A passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  • Return air ticket
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Visa fee: single entry $72USD, multiple entry $110.

These are the prices for the countries which can get a visa upon arrival:

Country Single entry/ Multiple entries
Australia $147
Canada $164
New Zealand $153
Russia $175
USA $175

The cost for single/multiple entries is the same for those who are able to arrange visas on arrival. 

To enter Paraguay, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. 

Onward travel required: This is a requirement of entering Paraguay. You could also be asked to show proof of sufficient funds for your stay. 

Staying longer in Paraguay?

Renewal of your visa: Your visa can be extended for an additional 90 days at the National Immigration Office. However, you can only stay for a maximum of 180 days in a one year period. 

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: It is possible to leave Paraguay and re-enter at one of its many land borders. You will receive another 90-day entry upon arrival provided this will not push you over 180 days in a year period. 

Travelling to Paraguay? Read our travel guide to Paraguay here!

Visa information for Peru:

Peru flag

Travellers from the USA, Canada, Europe including UK, Australia, New Zealand and all South American countries do not require a visa to enter Peru. 

Citizens from China will be required to get a visa. For the full list of countries which require a visa, see this list. 

The maximum amount of time that you can spend in Peru in any one year is 183 days. Upon entry, you could be granted a 90-day or 183-day visa. If you require the latter, simply ask for this when you arrive at immigration. This will be granted at the discretion of the immigration worker. 

Those who require a visa to enter the country will need to provide the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Valid passport
  • Proof of onward travel
  • Accommodation reservation
  • *Proof of sufficient funds (a bank statement displaying a minimum $1255USD)
  • Passport photos
  • Application fee

*This only applies if you are applying for a visa. 

A tourist visa costs $30USD. 

Travellers to Peru must enter the country with a passport valid for at least six months. It must also have at least two blank pages. 

Onward travel required: This is a legal requirement for travellers entering Peru. Although it is rarely enforced, your airline could ask you for this and refuse you to board if you fail to provide proof. 

Staying longer in Peru?

Renewal of your visa: Tourists can no longer apply for a visa extension whilst in Peru. Those who have entered on the Tarjeta Andina de Migración (TAM, a form completed and handed over at the border) you will need to exit and re-enter Peru. 

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: If you were given a 90-day entry upon arrival, you should have no problem obtaining a new one if you cross a border. However, if you have already spent the maximum of 183 days in a year, you may be refused entry. However, this seems largely dependent on luck and the disposition of the immigration officer. There is no clear rule here. 

Overstay penalties: If you overstay your Peruvian visa, you will be fined at $1USD per day. It is possible that the fine could be less hassle and actually cheaper than leaving and reentering Peru (although we certainly don’t recommend this)! 

Not all border points accept fine payments so make sure you check this prior to trying to leave the country. 

Travelling to Peru? Find group tours, guided treks, cooking classes and more here!

Visa information for Suriname:

Suriname flag

The USA, Canada and most of Europe including the UK, will require a visa to enter the country. Alternatively, you can apply for a tourist card for stays of less than 90 days. It is now possible to apply for an e-visa or e-tourist card before travel, although it is still possible to obtain these at airports.

Visas and tourist cards are not available at land borders. 

The difference between the two is that visas can be used for multiple entries whereas the tourist card will cover you for single entry only. 

To obtain a tourist card you must:

  • Submit a valid passport (with at least 6 months validity)
  • Present a round trip ticket and a trip itinerary

The Tourist Card Fee (single entry only) costs $40USD or €35.

Several countries are exempt from visa requirements. For a full list of visa-exempt countries, please see the Suriname Embassy page. 

To enter Suriname, your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months. 

Staying longer in Suriname?

Overstay penalties: You can receive a one year ban from re-entering the country if you overstay. This will be marked in your passport. 

Visa information for Uruguay:

Flag of Uruguay

Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and those from Europe including the UK and the USA do not require a visa to enter Uruguay. 

If you do not require a visa to enter, you will be granted a stay of up to 90 days. 

Citizens from China and India will require a visa. 

The following documents are required to apply for a visa:

  • Visa application
  • Passport
  • Photograph
  • Round-trip flight itinerary
  • Covering letter which explains the purpose of your visit and itinerary
  • Bank statements covering the last three months. You will need a few thousand US dollars. 
  • Copy of credit/debit cards
  • Accommodation reservation
  • Police clearance (could be requested)
  • Travel history (not necessary but appreciated)

The cost of a visa is $42USD. This fee will only be payable if a visa is granted. An interview is usually required. 

To enter Uruguay, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. No additional period of validity is required. 

Onward travel required: This is something that you could be asked for, as well as proof of sufficient funds for your trip. There is information online to suggest that you could also be asked to present documents which show proof of your trip’s purpose e.g. tourism. A hotel reservation or something similar should suffice if called on. 

Staying longer in Uruguay?

Renewal of your visa: To extend your visa for an additional 90 days you will need to contact the Dirección Nacional de Migración. This extension will come with a fee. 

Travelling to Uruguay? Read our travel guide to Uruguay here!

Visa information for Venezuela:

Venezuela flag

Canadian, Australian, European and British citizens do not need a visa to enter Venezuela. Citizens of these nationalities can enter the country for 90 days upon arrival with a tourist entry card, provided on aircraft or at borders. 

Please note: Nationals arriving by boat will need to arrange a visa in advance of travel. 

However, those from China and the USA will require a visa for their stay. This must be obtained in advance and costs $30USD. They are multi-entry and are not available on arrival. 

To apply for a Venezuelan visa, you will need to submit the following:

  • Original passport and two copies of the photo and information page
  • Visa application form
  • 2 recent passport photos
  • Proof of travel arrangements (including onward travel)
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Letter of employment – This letter must state that you are in good standing with your current employer. They must also detail the dates of your annual leave (for this trip) and your expected return date. It must also specify your length of employment, salary and position. 

Everyone entering Venezuela must hold a passport which is valid for at least six months with at least one blank page. 

Entry vaccinations required: Travellers who enter Venezuela from certain countries (please contact the Venezuelan Ministry of Health for more information) could be asked to show proof of a yellow fever vaccine upon entry. 

Onward travel required: Proof of onward travel could be asked for and if not shown, this could prevent you from being given a tourist entry card. However, this is not always enforced. 

Staying longer in Venezuela?

Renewal of your visa: You must extend your visa before your current one expires. To do this, you will need to contact the Immigration service (SAIME) and pay a fee for the extension. You can extend for another 90 days. 

Overstay penalties: If you overstay your given time in Venezuela, you could be fined or even arrested.

Travelling to Venezuela? Read our travel guide to Venezuela here!

Got more up to date visa information for us? Let us know in our Facebook Community! 

Our Recommended Travel Resources

  • Join Our Facebook Group: South America Backpacker Community
  • Travel Insurance: True Traveller and World Nomads.
  • Flight Search: Skyscanner.
  • Accommodation: Booking.com and HostelWorld.
  • Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind wingingtheworld.com, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks.

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