Venezuela is famous for its dramatic landscapes – some of which are considered to be the best in the continent, but in more recent years, political turmoil and instability has plagued the country. With a fight for power between a dictator and democracy, Venezuela has struggled to function.
Since the first half of 2019, tourism in Venezuela has dramatically dropped and almost ceased to exist due to the protests, hyperinflation, and overall challenges within the country. Now, nearly a year later, the country has still not stabilized and travel to Venezuela is not advised. But there will always be those who are willing to travel to high risk areas, so our guide will provide you with up to date travel safety and information.
Bienvenidos – Welcome to Venezuela
Deep in the valley lies Caracas, which is the capital of Venezuela and the country’s largest city. As a major hub for the country and all of South America, the city is important for national and international businesses like petrol and banking. But Caracas is also the center for Venezuelan culture and there are many noteworthy museums, theaters, and galleries. However, Caracas is known to be a rather dangerous city and travelers should take extreme caution as they explore the streets. It isn’t the place for everyone, but for the few who are willing to tough it out, Caracas will show you its hidden beauty.
Culture and Language
Venezuela has a similar history to its neighboring South American countries in the fact that it was once dominated by indigenous people who were colonized by the Europeans. By 1502, Spain began its colonization of Venezuela, which saw the country favored for its rich natural resources. But it wasn’t until Simón Bolívar led Venezuela to independence in 1821 that the country began to flourish.
But Venezuela has had its periods of trouble with political instability that has threatened the balance of power within the country and its international relationships. Hugo Chávez was Venezuela’s dictator from 2002 until 2013, when he died. His long reign led to the recent instability within the country, which began the Venezuelan Presidential Crisis since January 2019.
The presidency has been a major issue within the country with dictator Nicolás Maduro currently in power within the country, but Juan Guaidó recognized as the rightful president by several foreign nations. As Maduro attempts to retain control of the country, Venezuela has spiraled into chaos. As of the current year, it is estimated that 4 million people have left the country as the lack of food, medicine, and safety have begun to affect Venezuela.
Another major issue in Venezuela has been hyperinflation, which has happened sporadically throughout the years, but started to get drastically worse by 2019. Now, the cost of everyday items has skyrocketed and made it nearly impossible to purchase on the low monthly salaries. A shortage of cash has also made it difficult to travel in Venezuela, as there is not enough currency circulating throughout the country.
But despite the difficulties, the Venezuelans who have remained in the country, whether by choice or no other option, are relatively positive. Many locals are still very friendly and inviting to the limited number of tourists who do visit their country and they are eager to show what their life has become under crisis.
Yet, it is best to not discuss politics while you are in the country. You’ll find that many Venezuelans may be eager to discuss the current political situation, but it can be dangerous as personal views are what have divided the country and created the crisis. Many people are displeased with both Maduro and Guaidó. However, many locals do want travelers to understand the desperation of their situation, but that doesn’t mean that you have to particularly discuss who they support or don’t support.
Spanish is the official language in Venezuela and the most commonly spoken. There are indigenous languages still spoken in rural areas, but they are not very common for tourists to encounter. Travelers will also find that English is important in Venezuela because of its international relationships with business and tourism. However, you shouldn’t expect to be able to travel around Venezuela speaking English because the vast majority of locals will not speak English. You are more likely to encounter English in the streets of the capital in affluent neighborhoods.
For US citizens who are interested in visiting Venezuela, you will need to obtain a visa prior to your arrival to the country. There are no visas upon arrival. You will need to contact the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC for the most current visa information and applications. It is also required that you apply for the visa three months in advance of your intended travel date to Venezuela. The visa will cost $30 US dollars and will grant you legal travel within the country for one year.
Other visa requirements include having a US passport with at least 6 months validity remaining. Your passport also needs to have on blank page for your entry stamp, which is required to show proof of your arrival in Venezuela. A currency restriction of $10,000 US dollars is also in affect for entry and exit from the country.
If you are traveling from a yellow fever country, you will need to receive and have proof of a recent vaccination. The International Certificate of Vaccination is accepted. We also recommend that you are up to date on all your vaccinations and be especially cautious that they have current boosters for measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and chickenpox.
With the current situation, it is also very difficult to have access to reliable healthcare or medicine. If you regularly take medicine, you should bring enough for the duration of your stay in Venezuela as it will be nearly impossible to obtain a prescription.
The US government has also placed a Level Advisory on the country, which recommends that you do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens. There are no US consular services in Venezuela as all diplomatic personnel left the country in March 2019. For US travelers, this means that any assistance from the government is non-existent and you will have to travel at your own risk. There are also shortages of food, electricity, water, and medicine throughout the country.
While it is difficult to access Venezuela, you can still travel to and around the country. But you should be hyper aware at all times while you are in Venezuela. The US government also recommends that high-risk area travelers enroll in their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STTEP) and be prepared for the worst. This can include drafting a will with your attorney and giving your family access to important documents or information in case of emergency.
For those who are still interested in traveling to and around Venezuela, it is important that you understand the risks and consider your safety for the duration of your trip. Firstly, you should never take any method of transportation that is not officially licensed. You should never walk around alone in Venezuela and stay in your accommodation location after dark.
Caracas, the capital, has become more dangerous than it previously was due to the current crisis. Before, Caracas was considered to be unsafe, but now many people will say that it is dangerous for travelers, even in the touristy areas. Outside of the city can be dangerous as well, as there is less infrastructure and extremely limited access to resources.
For your safety, it is suggested that you have a local contact or guide who can accompany you for the entire duration of your trip. Many travelers who are going outside of the tourist areas of Caracas and into the rural areas of the country will even hire private security to guarantee their safety. You should not attempt to drive yourself and instead hire a private driver.
Gas is increasingly difficult to access outside of Caracas and many gas stations, even within the capital are left empty. If you do choose to travel outside of Caracas, you will need to carry all the gas that you’ll need for the duration of your trip with you. This will mean that you’ll have to fill extra containers with gas and take them with you on your journey. You should bring more gas than you need because it is not accessible outside of the capital, Caracas.
You should also plan all your travel into and around the country for daytime hours. Kidnappings have become an increasing problem within the country as the locals grow more desperate and nighttime travel is the most dangerous. It is even recommended by the US government that you do not travel from the Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas at night due to the increased danger.
You should also avoid using ATMs that are not in well-lit areas. You should also avoid using an ATM within the area around the International Airport because of the increased risk for crime. Instead, you should look for ATMs within the capital that are in the safer and touristy areas. Chacao, La Castellana, and Altamira are considered to be safer areas in Caracas.
With Venezuela in a crisis and the tourism at an all-time low, many travelers would think that it would be cheap and affordable to visit the country now. But that is not the case and you will find that due to the limited access to resources, it can be expensive to visit and travel around Venezuela. You will need to be fully prepared with a pre-planned spending budget to ensure that you have access to the resources you need and safe places to stay in for the duration of your stay. The most important parts of your budget will be airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Airfare is difficult to find because many airlines have limited the number of flights or suspended their services to Venezuela. With less access into the country, flights have become very expensive. The average cost for an airline ticket from the United States to Venezuela is $1,200 US dollars. However, you can find cheaper flights by booking further in advance. If you book early enough, you may be able to find airline tickets for about $800 US dollars.
With virtually no tourism, there is no high season anymore. But the most popular times to visit the country are from December to April, which is the dry season. The climate of Venezuela is hot all-year round, but with less rain, travelers usually choose to only travel during the dry months.
Accommodation is also important, but it is extremely important that you choose safe places to stay. This often means that you will not be able to save money on accommodation because hotels will be safer than hostels. Most hotels in the country will cost $50-$130 US dollars per night. These types of hotels will have a Westernized style and have better security to guarantee your safety.
Many travelers are also eager to try the local food as it allows them to connect to the country’s culture and national identity. Venezuelan cuisine will vary by region, but the most popular ingredients include rice, beans, corn, plantains, and meat. Arepas are the most popular street food item in Venezuela, which can be eaten with any meal. Arepas are like mini corn flour tortillas with beans, rice, cheese, and meat on the inside. Pabellón criollo is the national dish of Venezuela, which is rice, beans, meat and plantains.
But food has been majorly affected by the crisis and the prices have inflated. Hyperinflation has made food more expensive, but for travelers it will still be considered affordable. Most meals in local areas can be purchased for less than $10 US dollars, but for the current Venezuelan market, that is incredibly expensive. In the touristy areas, you should expect to spend no more than $30 US dollars for a nice meal for two people.
Drinking is also an interest for many travelers and most drinks can be purchased for less than $3 US dollars in Venezuela. This is affordable and can be easily worked into a budget. Non-alcoholic drinks will be even more affordable with coffee often costing less than $1 US dollar.
Overall, Venezuela is still affordable, but it is important to understand that travelers are the fortunate ones who can afford to pay the hyperinflated prices. While the most expensive parts of your budget will be the airfare and accommodation, you can save money by eating locally. For budget travelers, it is possible to travel around Venezuela, but we highly suggest that you have a decent emergency fund in case you need to leave Venezuela unexpectedly or purchase limited resources.
Hyperinflation has destroyed the Venezuelan economy and for many locals, the prices of everyday items have become impossible to afford. For many travelers, the price increase is not enough to be considered expensive, but it is important that you understand the country’s current situation.
Venezuela’s currency is called the Bolivar after its old leader, Simón Bolívar and it has lost about 98% of its value. This means that 1 Bolivar is equivalent to $248,487 US dollars, which makes it the least valued currency in the world. It also means that Venezuela is not currently using their national currency in the streets because of its extremely low value.
For travelers, purchasing anything in Venezuela is difficult because most international credit cards are not accepted within the country. It is also impossible to carry the amount of cash you need in the local Bolivar because the hyperinflation means that everyday items will cost thousands of Bolivar. Seriously, even something like toilet paper can cost over $30,000 Bolivar.
Instead, Venezuela has begun to use the US dollar because it has more value. But hyperinflation has also made the US dollars have a high value in Venezuela. It also means that travelers will need to carry US dollars in cash for the duration of their stay. You can enter Venezuela with up to $10,000 US dollars, which should be sufficient for the duration of your stay. But it is better to take all your traveling money in cash than to attempt to rely on credit cards.
How to Get Around
Traveling around Venezuela has become more dangerous as the country’s crisis has been ongoing. We do not recommend that you use any local transportation without a hired guide. Instead, private drivers are the safest way to travel around Venezuela.
Tour guides will be the most expensive way to travel around Venezuela, but they can provide invaluable resources like safety and local knowledge. There are a wide range of prices with some guides costing about $100 US dollars per day or up to $300 US dollars per day for a full excursion.
However, guides can accompany you while you travel and provide you with safe places to stay if you venture outside of Caracas, take you to touristy areas, walk your around the city, and provide general protection. With a guide, you may be able to save money by taking local transportation, which would cost less than $1 US dollar or arrange other safe transportation methods for you.
Top Places to Visit: Cities and Points of Interest
With the decrease in tourism and concern for safety, it is important that you choose the right places to go in Venezuela. Here, we will give a brief overview of the places that are still safe for tourists to visit.
While the capital is not considered to be very safe, there are still safe areas for tourists. After all, the Simón Bolívar International Airport is nearby, and many tourists will head to Caracas to spend some time after a long journey. The news and international government often paint Caracas in a negative light, but if you stay in the safe areas and stay conscious of your surroundings you will have a good time exploring the city. Again, it can be helpful to hire a local guide who can take you to the touristy areas and help keep you safe. However, you should not explore at night and you should be wary of unlicensed taxis and crime on the local subway system.
Angels Falls is the gem of Venezuela as it is the country’s most famous natural landmark and the world’s highest waterfall. The falls are located in Canaima National Park and are a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many travelers are eager to explore the park for a view of the falls, its lagoon, and the nearby beaches. Roraima is also located within the national park and showcases more of the dramatic landscape from which the falls cascade.
For the thrill seekers, Mérida is the place to go because it offers a full array of exciting outdoor sports. Here, travelers can kayak, raft, bike, and paraglide to their heart’s delight. But the laidback vibes of the town are also appreciated and with a youthful energy due to the local university, this town has become a tourist hotspot.
Los Roques National Park
With over one thousand keys to explore, the Los Roques National Park is one of the most beautiful seaside locations in Venezuela. The stunning white sand and crystal-clear water is the perfect place to escape and relax. With surf, coral reefs, rocky beaches, and lagoons, you can also get out and explore the beauty of nature.
Get Out and Go
While Venezuela has never been considered to be a safe travel destination, the jaw-dropping beauty of the landscape cannot keep explorers away. However, with the current political crisis and situation within the country, it is important that you do your research and understand the risks you’ll take if you choose to take a trip to Venezuela.
While we don’t want to encourage or discourage your travel to the country, you should understand that there are many tourist areas that were once considered safe but are now inaccessible due to violence in the area. With hostile borders, much of the country will have to be left unexplored. But for those who want to witness the current situation and explore Caracas, a trip can still be worth the adventure. For anyone who does visit Venezuela, you should be prepared, travel smart, and always make safety your top priority.