Why I stopped traveling while working remotely in South America

Since I was 13 years old, I had been dreaming with traveling all around the world. I’m a Software Engineer who has been working remotely for the past 3 years. I decided to begin my journey in South America specifically in Peru, this is an amazing land with a lot of nature to enjoy and rich food variety, I enjoyed a lot staying in Cuzco.

Macchu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu

Flying back to Lima using LATAM (Blunder)

After a beautiful month in Peru, I decided to flight from Cuzco to Lima and then to take the bus to Paracas => Ica => Arequipa, looking to end up closer to Bolivia. Unfortunately, I googled the flights, and I was redirected to LATAM, where they have a US$177 hidden charge for foreigners. By this time, they wouldn’t notify you at all that you have to pay for this, I lost US$130 because I refused paying US$177 more, I complaint, they created the famous case, and after a few days they said: ‘This is our policy, we can’t do anything about it’.

I ended up paying US$25 for a bus from Cuzco to Arequipa and stayed there for a month. Later, I visited Ica and Paracas, where I had a lot of fun:

Huacachina, Ica, a extraordinary desert oasis in Peru.

The Border! Where the nightmare begins.

It was time to get out of Peru and many people told me, “you’re in Arequipa you can go to Bolivia through Copacabana or Desaguadero” (wrong, not a good idea). I took a bus from Puno to Desaguadero. For overstaying in Peru, I knew there is a fine for each day I overstayed, I got to the immigration office and an immigration officer told me I had to pay 1 dollar for each day in the nearest bank, which was about 7 minutes away in moto-bike:

We got there… and guess what? The system was down… this can happen… the bank officer told me I can go back and pay in cash in the immigration office. I went back and told the immigration officer why I couldn’t make the payment at the bank!

I went back on the same moto-bike because he decided to wait for me, it was really cheap like 2 dollars for the round trip of 7 minutes each way.

I told the officer the system was down:

Immigration officer: I can’t receive any cash, you have 2 options: wait until the system is back up or you go back in 2 hours to Puno and pay in that bank there.

me: Sir, I was just told I can pay here because there’s no system.

Immigration officer: hmm, let me see what I can do, please wait for some minutes there.

I sat down while he was discussing what to do with other agents what to do, all of the sudden he called me back:

Immigration officer: Ok, I’ll help you, I will get your cash but the fine just raised from 1 dollar per day to 1.6 dollars in the last 5 minutes.

me: What? But I had this paper that you wrote to me before increasing the price, how is it possible that 5 minutes later is 60% more?

Immigration officer: Well, you can pay those US$56 if you go back to the bank but paying here will be after the increase and you will have to pay me US$20 extra, because I have to pay to a moto-bike to go and pay this later when the system is back.

I decided to pay because it was more stressful to go back to Puno and pay in the bank, but this was really strange: How is it possible that a new increase starts in the middle of the morning (~10:30am), and why would you use an external to carry money from a public institution to the bank of the Gov??

Your biggest enemies in the border (👮)

Out of Peru, and in the middle of nowhere on my way to Bolivia.

The border! Nowhere, between Bolivia and Peru.

A police officer approaches me on my way to the border and we have a kind conversation:

Policeman: Where are you from?

Me: From the Dominican Republic.

Policeman: and what are you doing here?

Me: Traveling through South America to get to know your beautiful land.

This kind conversation continued for a few minutes and until he took me to a room to be investigated. There were like 5 cops looking into my bag and questioning every single thing and after ~15 minutes:

Policeman: What about this camera? Do you have a receipt?

Me: No, because I bought it a while ago.

Policeman: how can we know that this is yours?

Me: Lol, you can look at the pics, all are mine.

Policeman: ok

The interrogation continued for another 15 minutes, they knew how much money I had in my pocket, since the beginning: I had US$300 because I wasn’t able to contact my bank to tell them I was moving to Bolivia, so I got some cash just in case my credit cards wouldn’t work in Bolivia.

Then they asked me to give them my phone, after digging into it for a while they finally got what they were looking for: NSFW content from a group in WhatsApp!

And, yes, like many people in their 20s, I was in a group chat where NSFW content was sometimes shared.

The police officer grabbed a law book from Bolivia, where I read, the treat of children and naked photos without their authorization is illegal and will be paid with 10 to 15 years of jail.

NO, the pictures were not about children, this is how they’re trying to play with the words, so you’re in the middle of the pressure.

Me: Sir, these pics come from a WhatsApp group I’m in, the photos are downloaded automatically, by the way, the group administrator just prohibited the sharing of this kind of content, look the message:

Message from the Lead

Policeman: I don’t care about that message, I don’t know if you’re a group of people that traffic children.

Me: You can read the channel, and you’ll see what is this group about.

Policeman: no, I’ll take you to jail for investigations, it’ll be about 3 months and then we’ll decide how many years of jail you will have.

At this point I was really confused and wanted to tell them all my thoughts like: Let me see you cellphone, I’m sure you have these kind of pics coming from you WhatsApp, but this could only make it worse.

He asks to the other cops about his handcuffs and right before handcuffing me, he says: “We can fix this.” Then I knew what they wanted.

Me: Sir, How?

Policeman: Well, you tell us, you have money and we don’t have to take this to a higher situation.

Me: What? ok, how much you want?

Policeman: You tell us.

Me: US$40.

Policeman: That’s nothing!! I’m putting my head at risk for you.

Me: US$80.

Policeman: No, that’s not enough because I’m leaving you free and risking my job because of this.

Me: Tell me how much you want.

Policeman: US$200.

Me: Whattt? Sir, I told you I only have US$300, and I don’t know if my bank will work, you’re telling me to survive with US$100 this month?

Policeman: Your call, we can take you to jail now.

At that moment I thought: Sh*t, these guys would do anything to take all my money, they would even introduce something illegal in my bag or steal all my stuff while I’m in jail trying to make my case. I thought, I better finish this now and give them what they want.

Me: ok.

Policeman: DELETE THE PICS, he screams.

he takes his phone out, and take a picture of my face.

Policeman: I got this pic, just in case you go into some problems in Bolivia, I don’t want to hear about you again.

I deleted the pics, gathered my stuff and walked to immigration offices, which were about 300 meter away.

I knew, because I’m from the Dominican Republic, I was supposed to get my visa at the Bolivian border. I talked to the immigration agent, he tells me, “if you want me to give you the Visa bring me these documents”:

  • Copy of passport.
  • Affidavit of property
  • Bank statement that proves my economic solvency
  • Copy of my Credit Cards
  • Yellow fever vaccine

This is when I realized I was assaulted under Bolivian rules without even getting into Bolivia.

I proceeded to go back to Desaguadero to get the required paperwork and I found out they ran out of Yellow Fever vaccines many days before. Lucky me!

My current status:

  • I was forced to pay 60% more to an immigration officer in Peru for overstaying.
  • Bolivian policemen robbed me 200U$ for “breaking” a Bolivian law on a non-Bolivian soil.
  • And now I have to go back to Puno to get the required vaccine.
  • Facepalm!

BACK TO PUNO

I went back to Peru’s immigration department and got my visa extended for 30 more days, and went to Puno (which was like 2 hours away) until I could get the vaccine on Monday.

Finally, I went on Monday to get my fever vaccine. The lady in charge of the Vaccination Department told me: I’m sorry I can’t open a capsule of this vaccine unless there’s a newborn.

- Ok, What can I do?

- Come back in 2 hours and see if a newborn comes to have it.

I went for a little walk and got back. Guess what? No newborns.

Me: when do you think a newborn will come?

Nurse: We don’t know and they can probably not come today.

Me: okkkk, so you mean that if I’m going to a dangerous place where I can get killed by this fever you won’t give it to me because there’s no newborns?

Nurse: Children have preferences.

She suddenly left the room.

This doesn’t make any sense, I talked with another nurse in the room and asked her what’s the reason behind this rule, she told me:

Nurse: This is a rule that she made up, there have been 3 more adult people other than you begging for the vaccination and they left because she won’t open it unless there’s a newborn.

So, this lady is so irresponsible that she would let all the adult die before opening a capsule!

I needed to go out of Peru. Everyday, I spent was a lost day at work, so I spoke with the lady and told her I wasn’t sure I had received this vaccine in my country. After a lot of begging she gave me a certification saying that I received this vaccine back in my country and charged me 5 Soles ~=1.5 USD for the card. Since I was in Puno I did my visa paperwork there, and guess what? I didn’t need the vaccine for this visa! Someone told me that this was only if you’re going to the jungle and you can get it in La Paz ( I later got it there really easy).

After everything I’ve been through, my biggest fear was to get robbed by different cops in the border 😥, since now I have visa, I decided to take a Bus from Puno to La Paz which goes through the border of Copacabana and I got into Bolivia successfully!!!

Bus goes in a different boat, and we were going in a different one.

Days in La Paz

I stayed a couple of days in this city, it was quite interesting the structure (well called one of the new seven city wonders). There, I had the opportunity to go to the Salar of Uyuni! Beautiful place!

Sunset in Uyuni

I’ve heard people talking about how tour agencies sell you travel packages with many destinations to visit but they only take you to half of these, this was my case with an Agency called Tours Lipez… at least I could take lots of beautiful pics:

Pics with Projections, I have some more in my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTHtcH2lLX-

Last nightmare! Another cup of bitterness!

We were on our way back to La Paz in a bus a company called “Panamericana” overnight, bus departed at 9:00 pm and it was supposed to arrive at 5:30am. I put my big bag in the luggage area and my valuable things under my legs in a reclining seat, I took my laptop out (blunder: you never take your laptop out in a Bolivian Bus) to plug my cellphone, lights out, we take a small sleep. 5:30am in the morning

Driver: Tourists can stay until the sun goes out so you don’t get robbed, locals may leave.

We stayed for some minutes, some people left, I checked my backpack the laptop wasn’t there!!! My Razer Blade 2016 was stolen in the trip! 😭😭😭

I went to the police and described the incident. There were two tourists behind our seats and a couple of ~35 years old with 4 kids on the right side of our seats, no one else behind.

When I described this to the police…

Police Officer: Sir, this is something that happens constantly in those overnight buses, people get on the bus to steal the passengers while sleeping and then leave silently the bus. People have reported robs of thousands of dollars taken from their bags and digital devices like Cameras, luckily you had stolen only your laptop!

Reeeallyyy??? I was really pissed by this moment, I could only say: Okkk!!!

How is it possible that the police knows about this and they do nothing?

This can be fixed by putting uncovered polices on these buses until they get the actors. Put cameras on the bus. This is a broken System and a shitty corrupted society!!! South America corrupted system I sh*t on you!! 😡

These are the theories, from the less likely to the highest one:

1- The tourists in the seat behind took the laptop from under my seat, really slowly so I couldn’t notice, while we were trying to sleep.

2- The bus stopped twice on the road, someone got in, and took the laptop and then left the bus in the following stop.

3- The couple with the kids took the laptop, used the kids for distracting while taking the laptop out from the bag, We sometimes moved our heads to the aisle of the bus and we saw the kids moving so we ignored the movement, We just thought it was hyperactive kids moving around, but the real thing is that it was a distraction.

I had to buy a laptop in Bolivia since I just couldn’t stop working while I was there. Most of the computers in their market are really overpriced and I ended up paying US$850 for a computer that is about US$450 in Amazon.😭😥.

I have made a decision after this nightmare:

I will only come to South America for vacations, and will visit the other countries only in vacations, because you can get robbed and the internet is really unstable.

My Recommendations:

* Don’t travel and work remotely in South America, it’s dangerous for your stability.

* Only take buses that are secure, in Peru I took Cruz del Sur and Oltursa they used to take pics and make videos of every person in the bus, while walking into it and everybody seats.

* Keep your valuable stuff close to your chest all the time, people is expert stealing stuff, they’re smarter than you.

* Tours agencies will always try to get your money, read TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google maps, before buying anything and consult with multiple agencies before booking any.

* Never flight in LATAM they have hidden prices.

* Avoid borders, if you can pay for flights do it.

* Avoid the police, they are NOT your friends.

This won’t stop me from fulfilling my dreams, I had really good experiences as well, I had the opportunity to see beautiful places, meet beautiful people and to eat delicious food, I will just change the way of traveling, and will stay in safer places and only go to these places for vacation! See you soon when I get to your country! 🤗

Happy traveling! ✈️

DAKAR in Uyuni