A couple weeks ago my Colombian tourist visa was expiring so after a bit of research outlined here, I found myself having to take a quick border hopping trip to Venezuela. It was on Saturday, March 10th and I had a few objectives for the day:
- Obtain the visa in the least amount of time possible in order to...
- Make it back to my friends' Chad and Alejandra's going away barbeque at 7p.
- Test my theory of whether or not it was actually possible to do this in one day.
Before travelling anywhere in Colombia and Central and South America for that matter, I always check the flight prices vs. the bus prices first. Oftentimes, you will find flights for close to the same price you would pay for the bus and you'll end up saving a lot of time. These are some of the airlines I check for flights within Colombia:
- Copa Airlines
Some of these are local discount airlines which don't show up on consolidators such as Hipmunk, Kayak, and Google Flights so I suggest checking their sites individually for the best prices.
In this instance, the bus from Medellín to Cúcuta was going to take between 13-17 hours and cost $100,000 COP. I found a flight on EasyFly for $139,000 COP that only took a little over an hour. Around $20 USD more to save up to 16 hours. Perfect!
So Saturday morning I woke up bright and early for the 7 a.m. flight and hopped in a taxi out of El Poblado heading to the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH), the airport in Medellín for domestic flights. The great thing about this airport unlike the José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) is it's located about 5 minutes from El Poblado and only costs about $5,000 COP whereas getting to MDE takes about an hour since it's in Rio Negro and costs $50,000 COP.
After a quick 1 hour flight, I landed in Cúcuta. Now I had to get to the border. There are local buses that go from the airport to downtown Cúcuta for around $2,000 COP where you can then transfer to another bus (an additional $5,000 COP) that drops you off at "Puente Simon Bolivar", the bridge which passes over the Tachira River and marks the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Taking the local buses would take around an hour while a taxi was about 20 minutes, so in the interest of time I negotiated a taxi fare to the border for $15,000 COP.
Before crossing the bridge, I stopped at the C.E.N.A.F. building (Centro Nacional de Atencion en Frontera). It is the white building on the left just before the bridge and where the DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) office is located. Here you will obtain your Colombia exit stamp in order to properly leave the country.
I made my way across the street to a little refresqueria where I noticed a big FC Barcelona poster on the wall. I grabbed some lunch and chatted with the owner about soccer for a bit. When travelling almost anywhere in the world, bring up the subject of soccer and you'll instantly make a new friend. We both agreed on the prowess and work ethic of Messi and how overrated Cristiano Ronaldo is.
I made my way back to the border and hopped on a motor-taxi to cross the bridge. I could have walked it but I thought what the heck, it was only a dollar and would make for a fun photo.
The agent came back. I held my breath. He looked down, stamped my passport, wrote something in it and handed it back to me. As I walked away, I peeked inside.
I hopped in a taxi and made my way back to the airport. Because I didn't know how long it would take to get across the border, find the appropriate offices and account for any delays for the bureaucratic process I hadn't bought my return ticket back yet. I stopped at the ticket counter and inquired about prices. The ticket was going for about $250,000 COP. I pulled out my phone and went online to see if I could beat the price. I found a cheaper one online and went back over to see if I could just buy it at that price at the counter instead of wading through the screens on my phone. As I walked up the agent informed me that the lady in front of me had just bought the last ticket back. Doh! Then I looked up and saw that I was in the line for ADA and not EasyFly which was right next door. Pulled out the phone again and was able to snag a ticket back for $190,000 COP on EasyFly, not bad.
Wasn't quite done with the fees yet though. Paid one last airport tax of $4,500 COP before boarding the plane.
I had left that morning at 7 a.m., made it across the border to Venezuela, received my new entry stamp and was back to Medellin in less than 12 hours...just in time for my friends' barbeque! A very productive day indeed!
- From Medellin, take a bus or flight to Cucuta, Colombia.
- Obtain your exit stamp before crossing into Venezuela.
- Locate the Onidex in San Antonio del Tachira and get your entry stamp to Venezuela.
- Purchase "impuestos de salida" stamps from the small office across the street from the Onidex.
- Go back into the Onidex and obtain your exit stamp from Venezuela.
- Cross over the bridge and go back to the DAS office to receive your entry stamp back into Colombia.
If you're just looking to renew your tourist visa in Medellin and you still have extensions remaining, click here for the current requirements and how to do it.
If you've been in Colombia for 6 months already and you're not sure if you have extensions left or what to do, check out this post, which might help.
You may also be interested:
How to get a refund on the Colombian 16% IVA value-added tax.
The Best Medellin Restaurants Part 1
The Best Medellin Restaurants Part 2
The Best of Medellin Dining and Entertainment Part 3.
How to get to the Medellin international airport for cheap (under 10,000 COP).
Joseph is an avid traveler, food junkie and thrill seeker who's goal is to share inspiring photos and stories from around our beautiful world.