From Coro, its a long desert highway to Maracaibo. There’s not much to see… and no cool wind in your hair.
Maracaibo is sweltering hot and where the traffic comes to a halt. You will crawl through the city.
This happens to be the last chance to buy gas before the border (100 km). After here, there are gas stations, but they won’t sell it to you. You need a special ‘chip’. In principle, this is supposed to prevent people from crossing from Colombia and smuggling away gasoline at impossibly low prices. In reality, it just makes long lines in Maracaibo and gives a black-market monopoly to the local chip-holders.
In any event, you can buy gas on the side of the road ‘illegally’ from people holding golden soda bottles. The marked-up rates are still 1/4 the price of gasoline in Colombia.
If you happened to cross from Colombia and all you saw was this 100 km stretch of road, you would be forgiven for turning around and going back to Colombia. This is a harsh place. It’s FARC territory. Extreme living standards produce extreme ideologies.
Except for getting turned away at a few gas stations, and maybe 30 police checkpoints (seriously), we didn’t make any stops until we got to the border. It took a long time.
Total number of police stops in Venezuela: too many to count.
Number of corrupt officials encountered: zero.
At about 10 km from the border, there is a SENAT office on the main road where you stop and hand in your temporary vehicle papers and get an exit stamp in your passport (vehicle owner only). Then about 5 km from the border, there is a toll booth where they actually try to collect a toll and exit fee. This has got to be the only operational toll booth in the country. We paid the 5 bucks and got a receipt – they insisted we would be asked for it at the next checkpoint – we weren’t. Then, finally at the border you will get out at customs and a nice lady will write down your information and then you take the form to the window and stamp out. Easy peasy. There was no inspection of any kind. The one border guard we talked to was very nice (possibly drunk) and just waved us through.
On the Colombia side, there’s just one stop. Park in the dirt lot on the right – in front of the DIAN office. Walk across the street to the aduana and get your entry stamp. It’s all computerized and it only took a few seconds. You get 90 days. Back at the DIAN office, they will want copies of all your documents (vehicle title, passport with stamp, license). There is a copy shop next door and there are plenty of money changers. Get rid of your Bolivars, as they are worthless everywhere else in the world. Getting the vehicle paper was straightforward, but took forever. Again, no inspections of any kind.
While processing my documents, the guy broke his stamp. If you’ve done this before, you know how important this stamp is. It was comical, actually – like this guy’s authority was instantly sapped from his body the second his stamp broke. He didn’t know what to do with himself. We managed to fix it enough to make one more smudge and we were on our way into Colombia – the first country we have re-entered from the opposite direction we left!