I found the following message on the Lonely Planet ThornTree page; I'm embarrassed to say that it looks as though I may have been spreading mis-information about the Carnet/Libreta. My only excuse is that I was a victim of the mis-information too! - Jon

Posted by: Sandra Marquez
Email contact:
City, Country: South America
Dated: June 9, 2002

 My boyfirend and I are on a year long + trip through South America. We are travelling with a Toyota 4 Runner, a trailer, and a motorcycle in ther trailer. Although we realize few people travel by car as tourists, there seems to be a lot of false information about it, particularly re border problems and the carnet de passage. We heard through several books, the internet, magazines, etc. that travellers in a car needed all sorts of paperwork or carnets to cross borders. We also heard all over that the best place to get this approval was from the Venezuela auto club(whose offices, by the way, are now in San Antonio and Caracas only). We even heard several times how helpful and friendly they are. Well, they are helpful and friendly because they are charging a LOT of money for a completely unecessary service and for some reason travellers continue to beleive they need this. We arrived at the San Antonio office with all of our paperwork (titles, license, etc.), extra passport-type photos, etc. We questioned the staff there - asking many questions - and were told that we HAD to have the carnet to cross borders in South America, that it was impossible to cross into Colombia (where we were headed) without it, and that all the countries we were visiting must be listed. The cost for this was $400US. They then suggested that our international drivers licenses were not as good as theirs and we should buy new ones from them (we declined). Then, they decided it would cost us another $800US for carnets for the trailer and motorcycle, which we also declined. Before we paid, after having spent hours there with all the paperwork, we asked once more if we absolutely needed this permission and were told yes, we would be turned back at the border without it. We had always wondered why this was available in Venezuela (what if you start in another country?) and why the Venezuela Auto Club kept popping up in our research, but it was universally suggested so we went ahead. At the bridge at San Antonio we were just waved at and went ahead to immigration. Immigration was quick and easy. We had to ask where to go for the Aduana and they kindly drove ahead of us to show us (it's quite a distance from the border). The Aduana were very easy and helpful and, before the agent stamped the carnet, my boyfriend decided to ask him if we needed it. The agent said that people always brought them in so they stamped them, but it wasn't needed. They assumed it was like a souvenir or something. When he was told how much we had paid for it, the entire office broke out laughing. Assured that we did not need it at all, we returned to San Antonio and to the auto club office, asking for our money back. They refused and again told us that we couldn't leave Venezuela without it; when we showed them our papers and that we already had, they told us that maybe we could get into Colombia but no other South American countries. They became very upset, made us speak to the Caracas office (to a fellow who is often named as the helpful one), ignored us, cursed at us, etc. We asked one last time if we were going to get our money back, were refused, and we went to the police. After hearing the entire police office laugh over the $400 for a carnet, they brought the agent from the auto club down, scolded him for misrepresenting the situation, and demanded he give our moeny back, which he did. We have been to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina; no one has asked for a carnet, we have had no trouble whatsoever. No one has asked for any money. All that is needed is the title, registration, and a driver's license (international or state). It is usually very simple and quick. We hope to get the word out that this carnet is a money making scheme pure and simple, and quite a lucrative one at that. There is no insurance provided with it - it is just a paper that is definitely not needed. Thanks, Sandy Marquez

February 2002

Jon Dreyer