Venezuela bureaucracy

Now that the boat was docked all I needed to do is check in. Well, that became a long story: on Saturday I walked to the office of the Capitania de Puerto office. There was an official there, he had a look at my paperwork and then told me to come back on Monday.

Thus on Monday I returned, next to the Capitania de Puerto office there is small building which is supposed to be the `one stop’ location for pleasure craft check in. There was one official present, a friendly and helpful guy who explained to me what was needed: proof of a bank deposit (about $10), two `stamps’ (about $10 each) and four copies of my passport, boat registation and zarpe (check out from Bonaire). Took a cab to the bank, took a number for the deposits line and waited about 1.5 half for my turn. Deposited the money (all in Venezuelan Bolivars, about 3750 to the dollar, which I had changed at a mini-market on Saturday). The off to the post office, on the way I ran into a place where I could make the necessary copies. Funny enough the post office is not where you buy these `stamps’. The lady behind the counter told me where to go in rapid Spanish, way too fast for my limited skills. But a friendly lady wrote it down for me. It turned out that she was married to a Dutchman and she said that maybe she could give me a ride to stamp-office. When we got to here husband’s office it turned out to be a good old grumpy Dutchman, who by no means was going to have a stranger in his grand new SUV. But his wife was friendly enough to tell me to walk straight ahead for the stamps-store. I found the right street and shopping mall that was written down for me, but could not find anything that looked like a post-office (I still thought you buy stamps at a post-office, typical gringo I guess). After walking up and down the street I asked a local street vendor, he spoke a little English and explained to me it was a little kiosk inside a mall right around the corner. And indeed, in what looked like a little tabacco and refreshments kiosk, that is where you buy these `stamps’. All well, mission achieved, back to the office for checking in (a good half hour walk in the noon sun).

The same friendly official was there, looked quite suprised when I said I had all I needed. But apparently the customs and immigration officials that were supposed to work from that office were not there. Supposedly since there was not cooling (nor electricity) in the office. So I was told to come back the next morning at 9:30.

Next morning at 9:30 I am there, another Dutchman attempting to check out was waiting there, while the official was on the phone (I presume talking to immigration and customs people) giving them the full load (my Spanish might be limited, but it is still quite clear when someone is angry). Anyway, he told us there would be no customs person that day. While he is explaining us where the main customs office is (on the other side of La Cruz at the container terminal) an immigration lady showed up. Much to everyones surprise. So, we both got the immigration part of our process done and took shared a cab to customs. This was a nice big and new building, after some asking around we found the right entrance and someone walked us to the office where an official was going to help us out. And sure enough, he did, another 800 Bolivars was needed to pay for the customs stamp, but that could be paid right there (wow!). Then a cab back to the small one-stop checkin office. They looked at our papers from customs, turned out we needed to make two copies of the customs document, so we went to the next door ferry terminal for the copies. Needing copies must be a common thing in Venezuela, a long line of people at the copy counter, needing copies of their identification before they can enter the ferry to tax-free Margarita. With our copies we got back to the office once more, now all we needed was the paperwork from the Capitan de Puerto. Turns out that this done by the Bomberas Marina (the marine fire brigide) right next door. Rob was lucky enough to get his paperwork resolved right there and then, for whatever reason I had to return later that afternoon to pick up mine. So, in the afternoon I got back (was able to borrow Rob’s foldable bike, saving me to walk the 2.5 kms or so). Waited for a little bit, my paperwork was found, including the magic stamps, then I was told that the electricity was out (not sure if that was for the typewriter or the computer), I could wait or come back the next morning. Decided that waiting was not that appealing, and I went back this morning at 10 on my own bike (having been around for a few days, I felt ok riding around on my bike, taking a little risk with traffic and bike theft, but having a bike and not using it seems a little silly). When I got there this morning they had my paper within a minute, so, after arriving on Friday, I finished all paperwork before noon on Wednesday, not too bad…….

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