81. COLOMBIA-VENEZUELA

A brief summary on the border crossing

We appreciate that other travellers share their border crossing experiences and give lot of useful info on the topic but we don’t write about it as I think it is so different for everyone. However I decided to write about this one.

We got to the Colombian side of the border by 9AM (the short drive from our last night camp was a very slow and packed with road works so we were already behind)

We wanted to get cheap diesel on the Colombian side from the roadside black-market fuel sellers but there are only one or two places that sells diesel. Eventually we needed to ask someone where to find diesel and he was kind enough to drive us to the only guy who sells it. And it wasn’t at all cheap but didn’t have a choice.
Fill up with fuel before the border, in Venezuela the first 100-150km they only serve locals with a barcode chip with fuel.

Then came the money changers. We changed $1 to BsF64 and we were OK with that as the official rate is $1 to BsF 6.2.

A few motorbikers with a spare helmet offered to take us to the border through the heavy traffic but there was no point as we have to drive up to the offices anyway. At least that what we thought.

So we joined the enormous traffic to the Colombian border. The two lane road has three line of vehicles + the bikers buzzing through between the cars, and that becomes one lane.
Try park up at the money changers then walk up (or take the bikers) to Migracion and Aduana for the exit stamp and the cancellation of your temp import.
It is very disorganised and there is no way to stop/park near Migracion/Aduana. We made the mistake to drive through the gate, then we had to do a U turn in the heavy traffic (millions of bikers and thousands of impatient car drivers) to find a spot to park. We asked a couple of police guys for this manoeuvre and for the parking and it was OK. The paperwork took 5 minutes. Once we have done our paperwork the policemen advised us to drive back into Colombia and do another U turn to join the same heavy traffic we have done once.
Once we were through the gate (again), our papers cancelled, we were heading the right directions, and the easy part was done.

Ticking along with the traffic through the bridge. On the Venezuelan side, right over the bridge, keep straight (the traffic will take the left) in to a huge car park, you might see some trucks parking there. That’s the car park for Aduana. There’s a chain gate but they let you in. Very spacious area, plenty of place to park.

The good news is that right there is Aduana with friendly people. The Aduana lady advised us what we needed to do before start the Custom process.

1. Migracion. Get the Entry stamps in to our passports
2. Purchase a stamp for the vehicle (BsF 50)
3. Get vehicle insurance
4. Photocopy all papers (passport -photo and stamp pages, vehicle registration, driving licence, insurance)

All these places are in town. She told us where Migracion was but we had to find the rest of the offices ourselves. In the car park, by chance met a motorbike traveller who accidentally bought 2 vehicle stamps but only needed one so bought the stamp of him.

We found the Migracion (about10 mins walk -but you can take the bikers) Got our stamps in our passports for 90 days stay.

In front of Migracion, there are a couple of photocopy places. One of them was closed and the other out of ink or something but they sent us a few blocks up the road to third one. There was no other photocopy place and when we walked back, the first shop was open now. The lady did our copies.

The photocopy lady called her friend when we asked for insurance. The friend arrived within minutes and took us to her office a few corners up where was her family car-insurance business. First we had to argue for the cheapest possible insurance (BsF 650) as they wanted to sell us the most expensive one of (BsF1400)
They have rates by weight so at least we knew which range of weight we have to be in but they tried to sell us the highest rate for 30 tons vehicles. Of course the whole family was around us talking at the same time, trying to persuade us for the high price.
Once we were ready to leave, the girl agreed to make our insurance for the lowest price for our vehicle. And from this moment they were very friendly and helpful and chatty.
Don’t forget to make a photocopy of the insurance papers for Aduana.

Once this was done we walked back to Aduana. It was lunchtime. (12.00-13.30!!) We missed it by 12 minutes. Even in England we get only 1 hour lunch. (plus these guys are going home at 4PM!)
I remember reading up on Venezuela beforehand; former president, Hugo Chavez turned the clock back by 30 minutes, claiming that this will increase the country’s productivity. It made me wonder, “was that the time when the country increased their lunchtime by 30 minutes?”

We took the opportunity to walk back in to town and try to buy a data card to our phones. But it was lunchtime there too. The only shops open were the shops providing cooked meal. So we decided to cook lunch ourselves too.

Once lunchtime was over, we could finally hand in our papers (we forgot to make photocopies of the insurance so John ran back while I filled out a couple of forms) Eventually all was in order. The Aduana lady took our papers and John’s passport.
In a few minutes she handed a form to us, we had to walk over the road to another office where we had to hand in this form, the guy stamped on it, we took it back to our lady and now, all we had to do is wait. She advised us that it might take 30-60 minutes.

We walked back to town to see if we can buy the phone cards. We found out that -at least at the border, we need a Venezuelan ID card to register to buy a simple data chip for our phone so they couldn’t help us.

Back to Aduana we had to wait another 30-40 minutes (it was after 3PM at this point and I was hoping we ‘d get our documents done today) Finally the lady came out with our papers. All was done.

The last thing we had to do was to drive up to the Police station -also back in town, for inspection and the last stamp and signature. We knew where the Police office was as it is round the corner from Migracion.

They don’t really make it easy for drivers here. I have no idea how the 30 ton truck drivers get their inspection.

Once we were there, we had no choice but park on the “no P” sign right in front of the Police station. We got an incredibly angry and rude guy + two younger officers. All they cared about was the triangle and the fire extinguisher (2 of each) First they tried to say that was something wrong with one of our extinguishers or something but we explained that this is a proper EU regulated device and it is more than requied for vehicles etc. Then the angry guy lost interest and vanished with our papers. One of the young officers told us that he loves England and would like to visit London one day, but he only could say that once his boss wasn’t around. Then the angry guy gestured me from inside to come over. He stamped and signed the paper and handed back to me.

It was 4PM and finally we were done, ready to leave. On our way out of town towards San Cristobal there’s a police check and we were stopped and asked for our papers, passports. But after this we were ready to find our night spot in a quiet and cool area up in the hills.

NOTE:
At police checks they ask for passports and vehicle papers -so far no one cares for insurance.
We made photocopies of our passport (both pages) We hand out those. When they ask for originals, we say they are at the embassy in Caracas. So far it works.
Make sure you have enough fuel for a few hundreds kms. There is no fuel for foreigners for the first 100-150 kms from the border and even after that it can be tricky to find diesel -if that’s what you’re after, (petrol seems OK in those stations)

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