Paisa Tours: Guide to Medellin and Colombia


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Travelling between Colombia & Venezuela


Worth it?

Although brother countries, Colombia and Venezuela offer starkly different travel experiences. Whilst Colombia is choc-a-bloc full of wonderful natural and cultural attractions and equally full of warm and welcoming friendly local people, Venenezuela is rather different. Colombia welcomes "gringos" or those of a Western complexion - unfortunately many people in Venezuela do not, in part due to the suspicion the local people feel that is caused by the propaganda and anti-Western rhetoric espoused by the Chavez government.

From my personal experience, I've found that Venenezuelans can be rather unfriendly folk - I've visited twice (once as a backpacker, and once on a fam trip organized by the tour operator I worked for in UK). The level of service received in Colombia (whether in restaurants, hotels or from other tourism providers) is almost always exceptionally high - however in Venezuela, levels of service aren't anywhere near as high. In Venezuela there are of course exceptions - generally speaking the educated people see through the propaganda their government feeds them, and are warm and welcoming to "gringos" in a typically Latin fashion. Sadly, the same cannot be noted with regards to the population as a whole - especially with regards to the authorities.

So what's worth visiting in Venezuela if you've already travelled around Colombia? Angel Falls definately - but remember that the falls are only in their full flow from June to August (the rest of the year they are often a disappointing trickle!) The islands of Los Roques Archipelago are genuinely beautiful too - accommodations are quite pricey though. Other worthwhile attractions include the Orinoco Delta, the enormous Llanos plains and the highland town of Merida.

Nonetheless, if you do decide you want to cross the border from Colombia to Venezuela, below you'll find some hopefully useful information about how to plan it.

Travel Towards Venezuela - Pamplona, Cucuta and the Border Crossing

For travellers, the most frequently used border crossing into Venezuela is found at Cucuta.

Travelling through Northern Colombia, you'll probably want to stop off in San Gil / Barichara / Bucaramanga en route - San Gil especially is a great backpacker stopover point. Make sure you read that section...

Pamplona is en route from Bucaramaga to Cucuta, the latter being on the border with Venezuela. As Cucuta is such a swelteringly hot, unattractive, crime ridden city, it makes far more sense to spend the night in tranquil Pamplona before crossing the border. The only reason to head this far North is if you plan on crossing over into Venezuela.

Beautifully set and with a cool climate, Pamplona is one of the oldest (dating from 1549) towns in this region of Colombia. Full of museums, the (in part colonial) town has both a cultured air and studenty feel to it. It makes sense to stay here, catch a bus to Cucuta (two hours away), and then cross over into Venezuela. There's an handful of good value budget hotels in Pamplona, such as 1549 Hostal.

Tama National Park is nearby. Recently an 820 metre high waterfall was discovered in the park, making it one of the world's highest. Check the local security situation before visiting.

Take note that Cucuta's bus station is ugly and full of English speaking professional con artists, fraudsters and tricksters who pray on international travellers - ignore everybody and act confident. The border crossing is 10km from Cucuta - great rid of your pesos in Colombia, and take plenty of dollars with you to Venezuela - dollars are more useful than the inflation plagued local currency of Venezuela, the Bolivar. There's regular buses and shared taxis from Cucuta's bus terminal to San Antonio del Tachira, which is just over the border in Venezuela. From San Antonio del Tachira, there's various bus departures to Caracas - all these buses are overnight buses and depart in the late afternoon or evening. Alternatively there's flights to Caracas from nearby (50km away) San Cristobal airport. If you want to bus it to Merida, you'll need to change in San Cristobal.

Other Border Crossings into Venezuela

If you're coming from/going to Colombia's Caribbean coast, it makes more sense to cross the border at Paraguachon, which is one the main road between Maracaibo (Venezuela) and Maicao (which is in Colombia's beautiful La Guajira department). There's plenty of buses that run between Maracaibo and Maicao, plus there's also direct buses between Maracaibo/Caracas and both Santa Marta and Cartagena, which are two of Colombia's most frequently visited tourist destinations.

One is generally advised not to travel at night in areas near any of these border crossings - either on the Colombian or Venezuelan side.

There are other border crossings in addition, but none are particularly safe or useful/relevant.



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