Disclaimer: I am currently traveling on limited internet and a super slow computer. The information is good and I will make it look better upon my return. 😉
If you are an American (that is an American from the United States) like myself, you may have recently heard that the rules for entering Venezuela have changed for us. On March 3, 2015 they announced a new visa policy for American citizens (http://caracas.usembassy.gov/m-visa-entry-venezuela-update-15.html):
“On March 3, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC posted updated tourist visa information for U.S. citizens planning travel to Venezuela. According to the website of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, U.S. citizens should plan to apply for a visa three months in advance of travel. U.S. citizens should expect to pay $30 for a one-year, multiple-entry visa good for a 90 day stay in Venezuela.
All U.S. citizens planning travel to Venezuela must have a tourist visa. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is aware that airlines have refused to board U.S. citizens who do not possess a Venezuelan tourist visa. The Embassy strongly urges all U.S. citizens planning travel to Venezuela to check both the Venezuelan Embassy’s English and Spanish webpages regularly for the most up to date information about visa application requirements and procedures. U.S. citizens should direct questions to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC or Venezuelan Consulates currently located in Boston, New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
Unfortunately for me I found this out only a few weeks before my trip to Colombia. Originally I hadn’t planned on going to Venezuela but as I spoke to friends and realized just how little it is travelled relative to many of the other countries in South America, it became more and more appealing. Unwilling to accept the text above, I opted to find out just how rigid they really are about it. I live in Boise, Idaho and my regional consulate was in San Francisco. But given my timeline, there was no way I was going to make it down there.
What I Found Out
When I went to Brazil back in 2013, I had actually received my visa in Quito, Ecuador. So, figuring I could do the same in Colombia, I contacted the consulate in San Francisco. However, they informed me that I have to apply from my own country and at my regional office. This was out of the question.
I continued to try to find consulates in Colombia that I could go talk to. For some reason it was hard to find a consulate in Cartagena while I was in the states… I wasn’t exactly sure one existed until I searched from within Colombia. There is a consulate in Cartagena and Barranquilla, and since I was on the coast these were the only two I consulted. I called and went to the consulate in Barranquilla only to have them tell me both times that I had to apply in the United States at my regional office. However, when I called the consulate in Cartagena, they said I could come in and apply between 9:00 am and 11:30 am Monday through Friday. Success!
Adam and I successfully applied but ended up withdrawing our applications before we paid the fee (we had some complications and didn’t get everything done to pay the bank before the 11:30 deadline). We had a three day weekend to look at options and decided that the time of year just wasn’t good for our trip. So that Monday after we applied we went and picked up our passports and continued on with our travels. Ultimately it just wasn’t the right time of year for the activities we wanted to do and Venezuela has closed the border with Colombia making bus travel either impossible or much more difficult. We have heard of people crossing but it is much more difficult and flying is much more expensive.
UPDATE: A friend we made while on the road has recently crossed the border. The information he gave us is that the border by Maracaibo is closed but it is open at Cucuta. By open he means it is heavily restricted but not a problem for non-Colombians. He took a bus from Santa Marta to Bucaramanga, then through the mountains to Cucuta. He waited 3 hours at the border for the entry stamp and had to travel a ways back and forth to cross. The last obstacle were police checkpoints at which he was the only one pulled off to have his stuff searched. He said the ordeal was uncomfortable… but doable.
Things to Know About the Venezuelan Consulate in Cartagena
Even though I didn’t actually acquire my visa, I really believe it is attainable in Cartagena. After visiting the consulates in both Barranquilla and Cartagena, it was clear that they both have different policies on a wide range of things. Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan on applying in Cartagena:
1. The consulate only handles visa applications from 9:00 am to 11:30 am during the week. Try to get there as early as possible to avoid a crowd and not have time to finish your application in the same day.
2. WEAR PANTS! I went to the consulate in Barranquilla in shorts and a T-shirt and they didn’t care. In Cartagena the doorman will not allow you to enter the building if you aren’t wearing pants… it doesn’t matter how damn snazzy your shirt is. They wouldn’t make an exception for the ignorant gringo who had already went to Barranquilla and begged and pleaded with them on the phone. But maybe you are more persuasive. Luckily the janitor had an extra pair of jeans and a Tyvek suit (no joke) that Adam and I were able to wear instead of buying some around the corner.
3. Come prepared. They didn’t make us turn in nearly what they required online. That being said bring what you need: passport, photocopy of passport, two passport photos (4cm X 4cm), and $30 worth of Colombian Pesos (you will be given a slip to take to the bank and pay). You can’t print of the application on the Cartagena Consulate website but they will provide one in the office. The application will ask for your dates of travel, address where you will stay, contact information for the person, and flight itinerary and number.
We came prepared with letters from our employers, bank statements proving funds and more but they said we wouldn’t need that stuff since we were in Colombia already. If you haven’t left the States yet I would recommend getting all of this stuff together before coming down. It just makes everything a lot easier. If you are reading this from Colombia, be happy to know you can get everything you need in Cartagena! And they said it would only take 2-4 days to process the application instead of the 3 months it claims.
If you find yourself in Cartagena and need to make photocopies or print anything off you can easily find some places. We were lucky and had an internet cafe across the street from our hostel. There is a place that does passport photos for 12,000 pesos just outside the center. Here are some addresses in case you really just can’t find anything on your own. Odds are your hotel or hostel can point you in the right direction though.
Printing and Photocopies
Across the street from “Casa Torices Real”
Cra. 14 #5139, Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Fotos Bellas Artes
09, Local 2, Lemaitre #10, Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Venezuelan Consulate in Cartagena
129 of 1402, Cra. 3 #8, Cartagena, Bolivar Colombia
(It is a big nondescript building; consulate is on the 14th floor)
Info From Their Website:
Address: Bocagrande, Cra. 3, Edificio Centro Ejecutivo, Piso 14.Oficina 14-02.Cartagena de Indias, Bolivar, Colombia
(0057) 665 0353 / 665 0382 / 665 4694/
(005) 665 0449
de Lunes a Viernes en el Horario de 09:00 am hasta 12:00 pm y de 1:30 pm hasta 04:00 pm