Border Crossing Information
All the following is based on crossing from Riohacha in October 2009.
For British passport holders the Venezuela website says you need a visa if entering by land but this is incorrect. Canadians have also entered without problems.
- Vehicle title
- Driving license
- Insurance certificate (if you have one, otherwise just say that you plan to get Venezuelan insurance at the first town).
- Copies of each of the above (but if you do not have these they may do them for you)
Pull over before the archway, go into big aircon building on left and hand over vehicle documents. The procedure takes about 20 minutes so take advantage of the aircon, comfy seats and toilets. Immigration is in the same building.
While you are waiting you might want to change dollars into Bolivars at the restaurant across the road (not at the bank as the black market rate is over double).
Temporary vehicle import permit
Have your vehicle inspected by police and hand in import permit.
Alex, Dom & and Adam DodgyDrive.net Entered Venezuela at Maicao, Colombia and exited at Santa Elena towards Brazil. The Venezuelan side of the borders were easy and efficient. We were subjected to a vigorous inspection of the vehicles on the way out (!?) but not on the way in. We were told on the way out that we shouldn't be carrying spare fuel as this is illegal in both Venezuela and Brazil but it was not confiscated and we carried on with it.
Border Crossing - Cucuta to San Antonio de Tachira
Get an early start, this crossing will take a while. Note that Venezuelan customs are only open Mon-Fri during normal business hours, although the border is open 24/7. San Antonio and Cucuta are both free zones, so it doesn't matter if you get caught halfway. Make sure you have enough cash (either BsF or USD) to last your whole trip in Venezuela - getting cash out at banks in Venezuela is impractical and you'll pay the official rate, not the more attractive black market rate.
The Colombian customs and immigration are on the left hand side of the road, before the bridge that connects the two countries. Park in the lot next to the customs shack, and find the roaming DIAN officer to cancel your permit. He will cancel the permit, but requires the original, so you'll need to make a photocopy of the cancelled permit for the Venezuelans. Keep the original, and join the line at immigration. Once you have an exit stamp, head to the photocopy shop - head left out the door of immigration, around the corner of the building. You'll need copies of:
- The cancelled Colombian permit
- Exit stamp in your passport (with photo page of passport on same paper)
- Credit card (proof of funds)
- Drivers Licence
- Vehicle title
Hand back the original permit to the customs officer, then head over the bridge to Venezuela. Pass the soldiers inspecting vehicles (coordinates N7.81714 W72.44785), and head for the "Zona Primera" - turn immediately to the right, into the parking lot behind customs. Head to the far corner and park in a marked bay. Return to the soldiers, next to whom is a booth with the title SAIME - that's immigration. Fill out your entry card and get the entrance stamp.
Next head down the road (N7.81767 W72.44695) for copies of the entrance stamp and Estampillas (22.5 BsF as of 21/08/12, but explain it's for a vehicle permit, and the cashier will know how much). When I crossed, that shop had run out of stamps, so I found another office at (N7.81420 W72.44409). Insurance is compulsory in Venezuela, so stop off at the insurance office (N7.81667 W72.44437) and get covered (and get a photocopy).
Armed with this mountain of paperwork, head back to the inspection station. On the other side of the motorcycle parking lot is Customs. Turn left through the doors, and left again until you come face to face with a row of windows. Approach the appropriate window and get the attention of the disinterested customs officer. Once your paperwork is handed back, head to the office on the other side of the road to have it countersigned. Then return to the original window and resubmit the paperwork. He/she will then folow you to the carpark to inspect the vehicle. The officer will then need to get a signature from his boss, and this may take some time.
When this is all done, you will need to proceed to the transit police office (N7.81350 W72.44443) and get the permit signed again.
You're done. Hopefully there's enough sun left to enjoy that cheap fuel and get out of town
Roads and Driving
Road conditions are pretty good and drivers are no more crazy than anywhere else in Latin America. Rush hour in Caracas is pretty hectic and you should be careful of motorbikes filtering through stationary traffic at 40mph.
There are some strange laws relating to motorbikes, which change from state to state so seek local advise. These include no riding after dark and no riding with 2 people of the same sex.
Tolls are frequent but do not charge anymore, or only charge a miniscule amount for private vehicles.
Fuel is so cheap in Venezuela it isn't even worth the effort to work out the price per litre. Suffise to say that if a tank of gas in the USA costs $80 in Venezuela it will cost about $5.
Long lines can form at gas stations as they often run out and are sometimes few and far between. Some places only allow you to buy a small amount at a time and will not let you fill extra tanks. This is mostly near borders as lots of fuel is smuggled into neighbouring countries.
Camping and Hotels
There are very few campsites but some hotels have secure parking or parking lots nearby. No-one leaves cars on the street at night. Most gas stations will have security guards and make good places to stop. People are usually friendly and happy to let you park for the night on their property. No-one recommends wild camping or stopping in remote areas as crime is a big threat.
Take as many US Dollars into Venezuela as you can physically carry. At time of writing (Oct 10) 1US$ will get you 8.0 Bolivares Fuertes on the black market or 4.3 at a bank or ATM. Apart from fuel, quite expensive at the black market rate; official rate makes it extortionate.