It took an entire week get the bus cleared by US customs.
In reality, I had all the customs release forms complete and in my hands before the bus even arrived. But, due to an apparent clerical error, no one was able to verify and let me drive away with it. Showing the forms with the official stamps didn’t help – it wasn’t in the computer. Lots of confused phone calls and ‘not my job’ responses later, our agent finally saved the day and found someone in the Houston customs office to clear it in the system. One more week and it would have been confiscated.
We had been waiting around Galveston and were so confident that it would finally get released on Friday that we decided to go to Sonny’s Place to celebrate and wait for the call. If you know Sonny’s, you might guess what we found when we got there. “Closed for repairs.”
It’s all part of the allure. Getting in. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I’m guessing I’ve only made it inside 50% of the time. The rest of the time they were closed for repairs. In all that time, nothing has ever been repaired.
Anyway, the call finally came. We ran down to port and then waited another hour for our ‘escort’ – some doofus with port credentials that charges $50 to follow him to the WWL office.
There was Red Beard. Filthy, but all there. Just the original dings and scratches and nothing missing. So much for all those horror stories we’re heard about RORO.
There was also a gleaming fully restored Texas Splitty, likely being shipped to a European buyer at an astronomical price. It made our bus look pretty sad – but at least ours probably has better stories to tell.
I signed a few documents and gave it a quick look over and that was it. We were given a Gate Pass and were free to drive* into the USA.
It’s been a while.
So, to sum it all up…
Port and doc fees in Colombia: $110
WWL freight + fees and port fees in Galveston: $580
Galveston agent and customs clearance fees: $190
Galveston ‘port escort’ fee: $50
Total cost to ship a VW bus from Colombia to Texas: $930 USD
Or, maybe more interestingly, it was $350 for the actual shipping freight and $580 for administrative junk.
Our virtual friends over at Life Remotely have written up a detailed account of their shipping experience with WWL from Brazil to Galveston, and I would recommend using it as a guide of what to expect. Coincidentally, our vehicles rode on the exact same boat – just a few months apart.
*I got a “one-trip” temporary vehicle registration from the Texas DMV that legally allowed me to drive on this day only. It was $5, but required proof of insurance.