May 20th, 2012 - Venezuela cheapest gas in the world
Entering Venezuela was an exhausting and time consuming task. Even with the help of our Colombian friends Alex and Carolina the whole process took over 5 hours. It was an absolutely ridiculous procedure that was lengthened even more by the poor and extremely slow work ethics of the Venezuelans. It’s a fact that things take longer in Latin America but the Venezuelans took it to a whole new level of slow. We were sent on a wild goose chase all over the city to get insurance, photo copies and to collect numerous stamps and signatures. Every document needed approval and each one had to be in a different building. At one point we were even taken into an office where one of the officials made a really poor attempt at asking for a bribe. Needless to say we played dumb and paid him nothing. Finally in the late afternoon as the office was closing a young lady slides our permits across the counter. “Yay! We’re finished!” Nope. As one final act of insanity we had to take the permits down to the police station and have them stamped.
We were so happy to be finished with the border formalities and so thankful for Alex and Carolina’s help that we treated them to dinner. I could only imagine how long that process would have taken if they hadn’t been there. Trying to figure out where to go, asking for directions and then figuring out what to do when you got there, all would have been extremely difficult without fluent Spanish. After dinner Alex and Carolina escorted us to a hotel on the outskirts of town and went over our route through Venezuela before saying good bye.
For months we had been receiving warnings about Venezuela and how it’s not safe due to its current political status and increasing gorilla activity. This was nothing new for us, we receive warnings about every country we visit but something felt different about Venezuela. My gut feeling was telling me to pass through Venezuela as quick as possible and when travelling the best thing you can do is to follow your gut feelings. Our Colombian friends had invested a lot of time researching a safe route through Venezuela for us and we intended to follow it and hammer out as many kilometers a day as possible. Luckily for us the price of gas made riding longer days extremely affordable.
On our first day riding in Venezuela we were finding it difficult to purchase gas. We had been to a couple gas stations that had no gas and when I asked where I could get gas they would just point down the road. Eventually we came to a gas station packed with cars and I knew they had gas. We were waved from one pump to the next as the attendant would shake his head. Finally one attendant took the time to explain that we needed an electronic chip in our vehicle to activate the pump and without one we couldn’t buy gas. This was a vain effort by the government to try and stop Colombians from buying cheap gas in Venezuela or to try and stop Venezuelans from selling their gas to Colombians for a nice profit. Just as we were about to leave the attendant waved us over and said that a man has offered to use the chip on his van to pump us some gas. We pulled our bikes close to the van and when the van was full the attendant topped up our motorcycle. The man in the van paid for everything and wouldn’t accept any money from us. We thanked him and were overwhelmed by what we thought at the time was generosity.
Only Venezuela’s neighboring state to Colombia requires vehicles to have an electronic chip to purchase gas so after half a days ride on the pristine pavement of the Autopista we pulled into a gas station to fill the bikes. It all happened so fast and before I knew it the bikes were full, I had paid and we were rolling away very confused. “Was that right?” I said. We stopped and started working the conversion in our heads which soon lead to laughter… we had just purchased 22.7 Liters (6 Gal) of gas for $0.22USD. That’s right it’s not a typo, we purchased gas for 1 cent per Liter! I ran the calculations and conversions over and over… I couldn’t believe it! How is that even possible? Venezuela is a country rich with oil but it doesn’t come out of the ground as gasoline! There is a lot of processing and transport involved in making gasoline and then on top of all that someone has to pay the attendant standing at the pump all day filling vehicles. The only answer I got was “It’s subsidized by the government” and however much that hurt my brain to try and comprehend the truth was I really didn’t care because I was getting gas for 1 cent a Liter!!! We later figured out that the man with the van that had “generously” purchased gas for us had paid $0.60USD to fill his van and both our bikes…
Since gas is basically free the people of Venezuela drive around in the biggest and shittiest cars and trucks possible. We’d see them racing down the road spewing out retched smoke, most likely getting an amazing fuel economy of 1 inch per gallon. The taxis were the best and I wish I could have captured some better photos of them. They seemed to be in competition with each other to see who could have the biggest and crappiest car loaded with the most stickers. The doors and panels would be all miss matched and the bumper, if it had one, would be a solid chunk of rust. In an attempt to “pimp” out their ride and give their taxi the upper hand they would jack up the back end and install super wide drag racing tires. Most of the taxis didn’t even have the word taxi anywhere on the car but they were easy enough to spot, just wave down the biggest piece of junk on the road sporting a huge “NOS” sticker.
The riding was long, flat, hot and dry with nothing to see so we didn’t feel bad about more or less skipping Venezuela. On our last day riding in Venezuela the terrain changed and we found ourselves on a magnificent highway rolling over lush green hills surrounded by mountains. The area was stunning with camping opportunities everywhere and it reminded me of Northern Canada but my strange gut feeling still lingered inside me. I had no desire to camp or explore any of the beautiful gravel roads that stretched off into the mountains and I found this extremely unsettling. We had been treated with kindness and respect throughout Venezuela and had never felt in any kind of danger but I still couldn’t shake my awkward feelings towards this country. The feeling followed me all the way to the border and it wasn’t until we entered Brazil that the knots and butterflies in my stomach went away. We rode a total of 5 days in Venezuela covering 2111 km’s… total money spent on gas for BOTH motorcycles including filling up before heading into Brazil… $2.08USD. That has to be the cheapest gas in the world…