Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
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From Bucaramanga on a rough road I came to Cucuta on my way to Venezuela. I stayed in a budget hotel right across the road from the bus terminal. In the afternoon I
went into the center of town to find a branch of Citibank because their ATM machines allow you to withdraw larger sums of money than the other banks. I wanted to
change my Colombian money for USD the next morning to take to Venezuela.
Taxi Tour of Sights
After a nights sleep I hired a taxi for an hour to take me around Cucuta to show me some
of the sights in the city which there are a few. In the middle of the big roundabout near the terminal there is a train and a monument of a man with a bow and arrow.
From here in the taxi I went to see the Virgen de Fatima monument at the top of the hill, she stands upon a globe upon a white pole. The views of the city
are great. Next he took me to see La Batalla de Cucuta monument, it's a large brick work that twists up towards the sky. There are cannon here and a statue of a man
called Manuel Guillermo Mora J, he is a former Mayor of Cucuta. From up on the hill I pointed out a church that I wanted to see. On the way he showed me a strange monument
called Ansicur, it is a shoe and pays tribute to the manufacturers of shoes called Calzado Pauletti. We arrived at the white church called Iglesia Perpetuo Socorro.
In front of the church is a white bust of Arturo Villamizar Berti, a poet and writer. He donated land for the churches construction. Nearby I saw a tall column
called Padilla, then he took me to see the Jesus statue Cristo Rey situated in a poor neighbourhood and standing above the houses. The taxi driver was enjoying giving
me this tour because the bill was going up and up. He suggested a few more things I should see but I told him I needed to get back to the hotel and get my things. I needed to eat
lunch and get to Venezuela so I asked him to head back in that direction while seeing some things along the way. I saw the palace called Palacio de Gobierno which is
in a main city street and stopped off at Santander park with fountain and statue of Francisco de Paula Santander
(1792-1840) in the middle. There is a church
on the opposite side of the road. We passed a park with Cucuta's founder Juana Rangel de Cuellar (1649-1736) in statue.
Change Money to $USD
After lunch I got my backpack from the hotel
and went across the road to the bus terminal. I knew I could change some money here at the money changers. I presented $1400,000 Colombian pesos to the young man in
the office. He said I would get a rate of 0.5, therefore I would get $700USD in cash, that was the deal. He then got his boss in and he took out his calculator and
worked out a rate where I would only get $636USD. At this point I said no and took my money. He then changed his mind and said I would get $700USD, so I gave my money
back and got my $700USD.
The guys at the bus terminal then gave me a twisted story about how dangerous Venezuela was and that I needed their special taxi guy to escort me over the border and
help me with border control etc. They said this would cost $50USD. I said no way, I can do this myself. Then they dropped the price to $20USD which I agreed to. The taxi
stopped at the D.A.S. office for my Colombian exit stamp, then took me across the Simon Bolivar bridge to San Antonio which is the border town in Venezuela for their
passport procedures and then to a bus going to San Cristobal
the bus terminal in Cucuta and San Antonio I saw money changers on the side of the road also. This border crossing is quite simple, safe and straightforward. I
think you could get a taxi to bring you here for half the price that I paid. Don't let those guys at Cucuta's bus terminal scare you with their 'Venezuela is dangerous' stories. Now I was in Venezuela for the first time (Dec 2010)!