Venezuela sucks. And is awesome at the same time.

Do you wanna hear a very tragic (and complicated) FML story?

Ok so, I arrived in Venezuela about a week ago. I had heard thatthere are two exchange rates for money here; the black market rate (5-6 bolivars to the dollar) and the “official rate” (2.25 bolivars to the dollar). Obviously banks use the official rate. So, on the Brazilian side of the border before coming in we attempted to withdraw cash to exchange in Venezuela and double our money (and make things affordable). We tried 2 out of 4 bank machines at a bank that doesn’t normally work for me. It didn’t work with my card.

We entered Venezuela. We went through immigration no problem, and moved on to customs (for the vehicle). It was here that we learned the state insurance that you are legally required to buy, is expensive. Why? They ONLY sell it by the year. THE YEAR. The total cost of one year’s insurance in Venezuela at the official rate? $338 CAD. The price at the black market rate? $100 CAD. SUCH A DIFFERENCE. We were obviously unable to do much about it, though so we proceeded to look for a bank machine to withdraw the cash. That’s what this post is all about. Long story short, we were stuck with no cash on the weekend having to wait until Monday for the banks to open so we could manually withdraw the cash.

Alas, Monday finally came around. We woke up early and headed straight for the bank around the corner. I should point out that we had 0 money left that day, and thus had to wait until after getting cash to eat.

After waiting in line forever at the first bank, we finally reached the teller who took one look at my visa/plus card and just said “no”. Totally uncool. We headed out for the next bank, about a block away. Luckily we didn’t have to wait in line too long there and they seemed to be able to do cash withdrawals on VISA cards. Thank Jesus! As the woman was in the midst of processing the transaction Josh had an obvious revelation that we should go back to Brazil, and see if the teller at the Brazilian bank could do a cash withdrawal. At that exact moment the teller came out with the visa receipt. I asked if it was too late to back out of the transaction, and she said it was already done and I had no choice but to sign. What a bitch.

We took the cash and got into the car feeling really stupid about what we’d just done. I tried to reassure Josh telling him that none of the bank machines at ‘Banco do Brasil’ have ever worked for me, and that the teller probably couldn’t withdrawal the cash anyways. We decided to check. We drove back to the border (all the while getting more and more suspicious looks from the military checkpoint lads) and went to the Brazilian bank. We’d got there right as it had closed for the day, and decided to give up. However, a woman inside the bank withdrawing cash seemed pretty eager to help us, and managed to get the security guard to come over so we could at least ask if they can do cash withdrawals on VISA cards. He just pointed at the bank machines and looked at us like we were idiots. It was at that moment the Brazilian woman pointed out that ONE of the FOUR machines had a little sign taped over it saying “foreign cards”.

Yes, the machine worked. We withdrew a whole bunch of cash and headed back to town to see if we could get the cash advance canceled or refunded at the other bank. This may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you it was the difference of about 500 dollars. At this point we were both delighted, and incredibly enraged at our own stupidity.

We proceeded to drive back to the bank, and beg them to cancel the VISA transaction to which they replied “No, we can’t. You can’t cancel VISA international charges.” Which is actually totally false (we called VISA international) and rather they just didn’t want to cancel the transaction. What jerks!

In the end we wasted an entire weekend (waiting for the banks to open totally unnecessarily), hundreds of dollars on crappy exchange rates, and lot’s more cash trying to call VISA and get some answers. And after all that, we had to go buy the ridiculously expensive insurance (remember, it’s only sold by the year).

So far, Venezuela’s only saving grace is the fact that it sells the world’s most inexpensive fuel. It’s a little less than a dollar to fill up the tank. No complaints there.

Oh, and one last and very important thing. Through all this commotion I learned that if you hand someone your VISA card, you have authorized them to make a transaction. Simple as that. And if you didn’t want to make that transaction? VISA won’t help you. When travelling in the future, I now know never to rely on VISA to help me out.

One Response to “I was robbed by the country of Venezuela”

  1. Allen said:

    “It’s a little less than a dollar to fill up the tank. No complaints there.”

    Oh, holy shit.

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