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  • Overview

    Venezuela means 'Little Venice' in Spanish, the name given tothis northerly country in South America by the early explorers whenthey found the natives living on the Sinamaica lagoon, in housesbuilt on stilts, close to the present day oil-rich city ofMaracaibo.

    The people have a reputation for being welcoming and friendly,although there is a problem with street crime in the larger cities,Caracas in particular. Venezuela has an abundance of naturalresources, including one of the biggest oil reserves in the world.The resulting revenues have helped build good infrastructure andencouraged the country's leadership to forge an independent path ininternational relations, but in many ways Venezuela is still a poorcountry, wrestling with a number of issues. More specifically, itseconomy is in freefall, with hyperinflation, power cuts, as well asfood and medicine shortages forcing millions to leave thecountry.

    Outside of its economic issues, Venezuela is blessed withdiverse landscapes, from miles of beautiful Caribbean beaches toopen plains, towering mountains, tracts of Amazon rainforest andeven a small desert. In the southeast, in Bolivar State, the GranSabana National Park contains the spectacular Angel Falls, theworld's highest waterfall.

    Venezuela's cities are similarly scenic, particularly thecapital, Caracas, which sprawls in a long, thin valley flanked bythe majestic Avila Mountain. Caracas is lively and green, with arich cultural life, vibrant nightlife, great restaurants andmarvellous modern shopping malls on offer. A favourite excursion inCaracas is to ride the cable car to the summit of the Avila. Thepopular city of Merida, in the Andes, also has its cable car, andthis one takes tourists on a one-hour journey to the highest pointin Venezuela, the Pico Bolivar, which reaches more than 16,404ft(5,000m).

    Venezuela has a little bit of everything that Latin America hasto offer, with the addition of thousands of miles of Caribbeancoastline, and the constantly pleasant temperature that makes itgood year-round destination. It is not a well-established touristdestination, but for some intrepid travellers this is part of theappeal of Venezuela.

    Although Venezuela's potential as a tourist destination remainslargely untapped, the country is home to some glorious naturalattractions and a few cultural gems.

    Top natural attractions in Venezuela include the spectacularAngel Falls, the highest waterfalls in the world, which can befound deep within the jungle of the beautiful Canaima NationalPark. On the other extreme, balancing out the wet greenery of therainforest, are the unexpected stretches of golden sand dunes foundin the Los Medanos de Coro National Park. Many travellers alsochoose to explore the lovely coastline and Margarita Island (IslaMargarita) is a particular favourite, with dozens of pristinebeaches and a vibrant nightlife.

    Most travellers start their journey in the capital, Caracas, andthis old city boasts some tourist attractions, but sadly the urbanareas of Venezuela have been hit hard by poverty and have becomeincreasingly dangerous for tourists. This is not to say that thecity has nothing to offer, but those sightseeing in Caracas areadvised to take precautions against crime. One of the best thingsto do in Caracas is take a trip on the cable car up the mountain,which earns travellers wonderful views of the city. Caracas alsoboasts a fun and feisty nightlife.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Situated just above the equator, the weather in Venezuela iswarm and pleasant all year round. Depending on altitude the countryexperiences a humid tropical or alpine climate. In most major urbanareas, including Caracas, temperatures average between 54°F (12°C)and 77°F (25°C) all year, although it can get significantly hotter.Most of the country experiences a rainy season between May andNovember, making the dry season (December to April) the best timeto visit, though the Angel Falls are most impressive towards theend of the wet season.

    Simon Bolivar International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated 18 miles (29km) north ofCaracas.
    Time: Local time is GMT -4.
    Transfer Between Terminals The terminals are connected, however passengers will need toexit and re-enter through security on connections betweeninternational and domestic flights.
    Getting to the city: A public bus services the city centre and taxis are availableoutside the baggage reclaim area. Tickets for taxis must bepurchased at the desks available in both arrival halls.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies include Hertz, Avis and Budget.
    Airport Taxis: Metered taxis are available. Visitors should only make use ofthose taxi companies that have been approved by the airport.
    Fascilities: Terminal facilities include information points, medicalservices, a post office, currency exchange facilities, a businesscentre, interfaith chapels, family bathrooms, VIP suites, meetingareas, duty-free shopping, restaurants and more.
    Parking Short-term and long-term parking is available near both theinternational and domestic terminal. No over-night stays will bepermitted in the short-term parking lot.
    Arturo Michelena International Airport
    Location: The airport is located seven miles (12km) from theValencia city centre.
    Time: Local time is GMT -4.
    Getting to the city: The airport is connected to Valencia by the Metro service.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport includeEuropcar.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are readily available at the airport to transporttravellers to their desired location. Fares should be negotiated inadvance, as many drivers don't like to run the meter.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities are limited.
    Parking The airport offers both short and long-term parking.
    Money:

    Venezuela's currency is the Bolívar Soberano (VES), whichreplaced the Bolivar Fuerte (VEF) in August 2018. It is dividedinto 100 centimos. US dollars are the most favoured foreigncurrency so it is best to have cash in USD. Foreign currency can bechanged at bureau de change offices found in most larger cities andtourist destinations. Some banks will now buy US dollars forbolivares or sell bolivares against a foreign credit card; somemajor hotels will also swap US dollars for bolivares. Banks areusually open Monday to Friday. Bolivars should be exchanged beforeexiting Venezuela. There are ATMs in the cities (however sometravellers have experienced problems using them), and most creditcards, including MasterCard/Eurocard and Visa, are accepted inmajor cities. Visitors are also warned that there is a seriousproblem with credit card fraud and using credit/debit cards willgreatly increase trip expenses.

    Language:

    Spanish is the official language of Venezuela.

    Electricity:

    120 volts, 60Hz. American two-pin plugs are generallyused.

    Entry Requirements:

    United States citizens require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date and a visa for entry to Venezuela.

    British citizens require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristic stay ofup to 90 days.

    Canadian nationals require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristicstay of up to 90 days.

    Australians require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristic stay ofup to 90 days.

    South African citizens require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristicstay of up to 90 days.

    Irish nationals require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristic stay ofup to 90 days.

    United States citizens require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date and a visa for entry to Venezuela.

    New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date, but a visa is not necessary for a touristicstay of up to 90 days.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Those entering Venezuela on a visa require a passport valid forat least six months. Tourist Entry Cards are issued free of chargeby air carriers allowing for a stay of up to 90 days and areessential for entry into Venezuela. Visitors not holding proof ofaccomdation could be refused entry. Visitors must have returntickets or tickets for onward travel as well as all documentsrequired for the next destination and sufficient funds. Immigrationofficials often apply different rules to those stated by travelagents and official sources.

    Travel Health:

    There are no vaccination requirements for Venezuela, but thosewho plan to travel in areas outside the main cities should considervaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A, and typhoid. Someairlines travelling to Venezuela will insist on a yellow fevercertificate before boarding the plane, and travellers are advisedto check with their airline before travel. There is a risk ofmalaria, particularly in jungle areas, but prophylaxis is notnecessary for travel to Caracas or the coastal areas. Medicaladvice should be sought at least three weeks prior to departure.Insect protection measures are vital to avoid both malaria anddengue fever, which is on the increase. Tap water should not bedrunk, but bottled drinking water is available. Venezuela'shospitals offer free emergency treatment; however, the privatehospitals are better quality, though expensive. Public hospitalssuffer from a shortage of basic supplies, as do private hospitalsand clinics outside Caracas. Health insurance is essential.

    Tipping:

    Tipping is at the discretion of the client and not obligatory. A10 percent service charge is usually added to restaurant bills, butin budget places tipping is not common. Taxi drivers do not expecttips, but it is customary to give baggage handlers some smallchange per bag. Tips in Caracas are usually the highest.

    Safety Information:

    The 1,000-mile (1,609km) long border between Venezuela andColombia is notorious for the risk of violence, kidnapping,smuggling and drug trafficking. Visitors should give the borderregion a wide berth. Foreign nationals have also been kidnapped forransom or violently mugged in Caracas and visitors should be alertto this threat in hotels, taxis and, in particular, at the airport.Street crime is high in Caracas and other cities, and foreignersshould be particularly cautious at night. Passengers have beenrobbed at gunpoint by bogus taxi drivers at Caracas airport; it isbest not to accept offers of assistance within the arrivals hall,only at the official taxi rank directly outside. Only licensedtaxis bearing a clearly identifiable number should be used.Passengers arriving on late flights are particularly vulnerable.Political demonstrations, sometimes with violence and gunfire,occur regularly in Venezuela (many Venezuelans carry guns) andshould be avoided. Pickpockets are very active in the city centres,particularly around bus and subway stations. Armed robberies andmuggings are on the increase and theft of unattended valuables lefton beaches or in cars is common. Obvious displays of wealth, andtalking on mobile phones on the street, should be avoided to reducethe risk of crime. The coastal beach resorts are generally troublefree, though visitors should use common sense in ensuring thesafety of their person and possessions. There have been recentcases of robberies and assaults after tourists have been drugged -either through spiked drinks or pamphlets impregnated withsubstances that are handed out on the streets or in shoppingcentres.

    Local Customs:

    Photography of military installations and the PresidentialPalace is prohibited.

    Business:

    Although the temperature in Venezuela is warm with a highhumidity, formal business attire is the norm. People should beaddressed as Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) and Señorita (Miss) unlessotherwise specified. Shaking hands is a customary greeting, andbusiness cards are exchanged on meeting for the first time; it isbest to have one side translated into Spanish. Meetings are promptand generally occur over lunch; evening dinners are generallyreserved for socialising. Business hours are 8am to 12pm and 2pm to6pm Monday to Friday.

    Communications:

    The international country code for Venezuela is +58 and theoutgoing code is 00. City/area codes are in use, for exampleCaracas is (0)212. Wifi isavailable in Caracas and tourist resorts,and free international calls can be made over the internet.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers to Venezuela do not have to pay duty on the followingitems: 25 cigars and 200 cigarettes; 2 litres of alcohol; and 4small bottles of perfume. Those travellers arriving frominternational destinations do not have to pay duty on goods to thevalue of US$1,000. Prohibited items include flowers, fruits, meatand meat products, plants and birds or parts thereof.

    Useful Contacts:

    Venezuela Embassies:

    Embassy of Venezuela, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 6471444.

    Embassy of Venezuela, London, United Kingdom (also responsiblefor Ireland): +44 20 7584 4206/7.

    Embassy of Venezuela, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 5151.

    Embassy of Venezuela, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 3465747.

    Embassy of Venezuela, Canberra, Australia (also responsible forNew Zealand): +61 2 6290 2967.

    Foreign Embassies in Venezuela :

    United States Embassy, Caracas: +58 212 975 6411.

    British Embassy, Caracas: +58 212 319 5800.

    Canadian Embassy, Caracas: +58 212 600 3000.

    South African Embassy, Caracas: +58 212 952 0026.

    Australian Embassy, Brasilia, Brazil (also responsible forVenezuela): +55 61 3226 3111.

    New Zealand Consulate-General, Caracas: +58 212 277 7965.

    Venezuela Emergency Numbers : 171 (General Emergencies)
    Venezuela