Venezuela – Country guide
Voltage: 60 Hz and 120 Volts . The plugs used are A or B.
Venezuela’s original inhabitants descended from the Carib and Arawak Indian groups, who were then conquered by the Spanish. Africans were brought to the country as slaves by the various groups of European fortune hunters who followed as the country’s bounties were discovered. And, with the discovery of oil, the rest of the world followed. Today, a fusion of Africans, Creoles, and Indians comprise two-thirds of the population.
Venezuela is sophistication fueled by oil. Known for its grace and hospitality, it is an extravagant collage of wonders, natural and man-made. Caracas, Venezuela’s cosmopolitan capital, sprawls through a long and narrow coastal valley. Business, finance and government dominate and the architecture is an eclectic mix of colonial, classic and avant garde. There is an extensive system of freeways that knife through rows of downtown skyscrapers into the glorious countryside. There you will find a beach lover’s paradise, a steady stream of sunny days, a 3,000km coastline, and 72 Caribbean islands just offshore.
Within easy reach of Caracas, nature exists close to its original unsettled state–vast llanos (plains) where cattle range freely, the towering Andes with extravagant waterfalls, deserted coral islands, and dense rain forests of the upper Orinoco that still shelter primitive Indian tribes. The variety of Venezuela’s people is reflected in the city’s cuisine: Spanish seafood, Argentine churrasco, French haute cuisine, Italian pasta, German sausage, Brazilian feijoada, American, Middle Eastern, and Asian. Venezuelan dishes include barbeque, arepas (cornbread stuffed with just about anything), pabellón criollo (a popular plate of white rice, black beans, thinly shredded meat, and fried plantains) and fresh, exotic tropical fruit.
Dining establishments range from street vendors to formal five-star restaurants that can be followed by a range of after-dinner entertainment, such as disco, salsa, jazz, and elaborate live shows.
GETTING TO VENEZUELA
Direct flights or with layovers from main world cities to the main international airport Simon Bolivar International, approximately a 30-minute from Caracas. The airport has two separate terminals, one for international flights and the other for domestic flights. A mere 400 meters separate them. There is a free shuttle bus between the terminals.
The international terminal has a variety of facilities, including a tourist office, car rental desks, several money-changing offices a bank, post and telephone offices, a restaurant, several cafes and snack bars, many travel agencies and stores to buy gifts or literature.
You won’t find currency exchange services at the domestic terminal, but there are many car rental agencies and a few fast food outlets.
Citizens of Citizens of the following countries may not require a visa to visit Venezuela for up to 90 days only for tourist purposes: Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominica, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Grenada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Iran (max. 15 days), Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Nevis, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Spain, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, United States of America, and Uruguay.
All nationals are advised to check with the Venezuelan Consulate prior to departure to obtain current details of any documentation which might be required.
Local Currency The national currency is the Bolivar (Bs.), currently set at a national exchange rate of 1,920 Bs/1 US dollar (March 2004). Many travelers consider the best forms of currency to bring are cash, travelers checks or credit cards. The easiest way to access local currency is a credit card, followed by traveller’s cheques and then cash. The US dollar is the preferred currency for exchange.
Credit cards: The most common is Visa, from which you can obtain a cash advance at Banco Union or Banco Provincial. American Express and MasterCard are the second most widely accepted credit cards. A passport is required for all bank transactions. You can get a cash advance on your American Express card at Banco Consolidado.
Some ATM´S provide bolívares from a VISA card.
Travelers Checks Most tourist companies DO NOT ACCEPT credit cards except for flights. They do accept cash or travelers checks. American express travelers checks can be changed at most “Casas de Cambio” and banks, but for Thomas Cook travelers checks you must go to the “Maso International” in Caracas.
Do not attempt to transfer funds by ordinary check, this may take a month.
With respect to cash, it is advisable to bring $200-$500 for personal expenses. Travelers checks and credit cards are safer than cash. Finally, the place to report the loss or theft of Amex cheques and apply for a replacement or refund is the Turisol. Its head office is located in Caracas and other branches can be found in Barquisimeto, Maracay, Valencia, Maracaibo, Merida, Puerto La Cruz and Porlamar. As a rule, it is wise to bring more in travelers checks than cash. Do not rely on credit cards for the bulk of your expenses.
Credit card machines in Venezuela have maximums, which are quite low. If you know how much a service will cost before arriving it is wise to bring that sum in travelers checks.
Exit Tax (Government tax) is levied on all passengers, when leaving Venezuela: VEF 110/ USD 51.16. Airport Tax is levied on all passengers embarking on: a. International flights from all international airports: VEF 137.50/ USD 63.96 b. Domestic flights: VEF 27.50
HEALTH & VACCINATIONS
All travelers should visit a doctor 4-8 weeks before departure, since most vaccines don’t provide immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given. Don’t forget to take your vaccination certificate with you.
Malaria: A Prophylaxis with Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycycline is recommended for Angel Falls and for rural areas in the states of Apre, Amazonas, Barinas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Sucre, and Tachira.
Yellow Fever: Recommended for all travelers, except those visiting only Caracas, Valencia, and the northern coastal areas
Hepatitis B: Recommended for all travelers.
Rabie: For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats.
Measles and Rubella: Two doses of MMR vaccine recommended for all those born after 1956 and greater than 12 months of age if not previously given. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given a single dose of measles or MMR vaccine.
Proof of immunization required for all Venezuelan nationals and foreign residents living in Venezuela, over the age of six months, who leave Venezuela and travel outside the Americas through international airports or ports. Though this only applies to Venezuelan nationals and foreign residents living in Venezuela, all travelers are encouraged to carry proof of measles and rubella immunization, to avoid delays.
Altitude sickness may occur in travelers who ascend rapidly to altitudes greater than 2500 meters. If your health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, we strongly recommend to get extra travel insurance. Find out in advance if your travel insurance will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Bus: Long-distance bus routes connect virtually all cities and towns within the country. Bus quality varies widely but the major lines all offer modern, air-conditioned executive-class service as well as service with ultra-reclining seats. Taxis In Caracas taxis are not metered and fares should be negotiated with the driver beforehand. Travelers are advised to hail only white taxis with yellow number plates or to use official taxi stands. From the airport, authorized taxis line up in front of the international and domestic terminals.
CLOTHES YOU SHOULD BRING
Regardless of the time of year and the place you wish to visit, we recommend that during your stay in Venezuela, comfortably fitting pants, cotton shirts, hiking boots, tennis shoes, quality sun block, and a hat.
Venezuela is a safe place to travel to, when one takes the normal travel security precautions. If you follow common sense, you don’t need to travel in fear. Of the places you will visit, the most vulnerable to crime is Caracas where you will be spending the least amount of time. Our recommendations are that you don’t travel alone, don’t walk in dark streets, alleys, poor neighborhoods or isolated places.
The climate in Venezuela varies from region to region and between the rainy season (June-November) and the dry season (December-May).
The average temperature in most areas is 27ºC. The dry season is better for climbing or trekking.
The rainy season is better for rafting and seeing the waterfalls and lush landscapes. During the rainy season the rain usually comes in the night or in brief bursts in the afternoon.
On the northern Caribbean coast, the weather is mostly dry all year, sunny, and around 28-30ºC. In July and August the temperatures in this region can reach 35-38ºC. In Mérida, daytime temperatures are usually around 23-25ºC, but on overcast days they can reach as low as 7-10ºC.
In the mountains at night, the temperature can get down to 0ºC, and at higher altitudes it can drop to -5ºC. So goes the saying in the Andes, “summer by day, winter by night”.
During the dry season the Llanos are dryer than the Andes, with oppressive heat at the height of the dry season (in February). The rainy season drenches the plains, but the temperatures remain the same.
In the Gran Sabana, the average range is 20º-27ºC, but at elevations higher than 3,280 feet, the range is 10º-20ºC. Here the differences between the seasons are more pronounced than in the rest of the country.
The Amazon and Orinoco Delta regions are warmer than the national average and have plenty of rain.
The key to preparing for Venezuela’s varied climates is to bring several layers of non-bulky clothing. For the most part, light, casual clothing, comfortable shoes and jeans are appropriate. (Shorts are rarely worn except at the beach).
However, you will want to prepare for colder weather for Andean expeditions. For the warmer-rural regions, loose, light cotton or synthetic clothes are appropriate, with long sleeves and pants to protect you from insects, a hat to block the sun, sunglasses, SPF 15+ sunscreen, and insect repellent.