I have had a quick search of past threads, and read through LP and Footprint, and Venezuela does not seem to present any greater danger than other SA countries, perhaps with the exception of Caracas. However, it seems that few travellers go there and many we have met say that is because they have heard that it is dangerous, perhaps even more so than Colombia in some ways!?!
Can anyone help as it has left me a little confused. I am currently travelling in Brazil with my wife and we plan to enter Venezuela via Santa Elena de Uairen (from Manaus/Boa Vista). It seems a fantastic country from what we have read, with lots of things to do and see.
Can anyone tell me of any specific reasons why we should avoid it, or particular areas to miss out?
We would like to explore P.N. Mochima, Peninsula de Araya, Los Llanos and Merida mainly but would appreciate any advice anyone can give, especially experience of travelling or living in these areas.
I was in Venezuela with my boyfriend at the end of Sept / start of October 2007. We stayed in Merida for only a short time as we were at the end of our eight month trip and were running out of time and still had to get the waterfalls and back up to Caracas to fly home.
Merida itself is a nice enough town, the main attraction is the surrounding walks, which are supposed to be amazing.
Do not change take any local currency before you get there, the exchange on the ‘black’ market was quite good when we were there, you will see signs in shop windows changing money. The money isn’t fake, a lot of the locals have no confidence in their own currency and will buy dollars mostly and increasingly euros. For example if a bank was offering 2000 for a dollar, on the street you were getting nearly double that. It all depends on where you look, of course the rate isn’t as good at the borders.
If you go to Venezuela you should really check out the Angel Falls!! I will post more information tomorrow, I have it all written down in my diaries (which are at home while I’m stuck in work).
If you do want to go to Venezuela you should take the opportunity now as it can be a dangerous country but it is a place that will get worse before it gets better, and on a side note I do agree that its more dangerous then Colombia (they are some of the friendliest people in the whole of South America, many Bolivians and Peruvians advised of this again and again.). Saying that nothing happened to myself and my boyfriend. We weren’t robbed or attacked, the only thing was in one town a feeling of unrest as they were in the middle of an election campaign and there was a general bad vibe in the country.
Venezuela changed a lot since last year,prices are up 3 times,the Bolivar fuerte makes this what did the Euro in Europa.On the black market you get much less then last year.So more people as before,a lot of crime,special in Caracas.
Venezuela goes Cuba....
Really want to visit Venezuela as it seems a little off the beaten track, and a less obvious choice to visit - was just nervous that there is a sensible reason why people avoid it?!
We plan to spend abot 3 or 4 weeks there so any other information you have on other places you have visited would be really useful. We plan to get there by the end of June, early July - hoping that the wet season will not be too wet!!! Have heard that the caribbean coast is drier.......
I spent 2 months in Venezuela around November 07. Went all over mainly searching some rock climbing and some beaches; Caracas, Choroni, Coro, San Juan de los Moros, El Baul (los llanos), Santo Domingo, Merida Catatumbo, Baranqulla, Isla de toas (Maracaibo), Puerto la cruz, Playa colorado, Santa Fe, Miraflores, San Felix, Santa Elena.
The country on a whole is beautiful. It´s just a bit more difficult to travel than most countries because the people don´t care about tourism. You might go to a hotel and they can´t be bothered to give you a room when there are some available. Although bus travel is very easy. Just turn up at the bus station and you have a hourd of guys screaming at you their destinations and before you know it you are shoved on a bus and you´re off to where you want to go. much easier than buying a ticket and all that organized stuff.
Take dollars or euros and change on the black market. The best rate we got was about 5.5BF in a tour agency in Merida. Thats a bit better than the official 2BF to the dollar.
PN Mochima has very nice beaches. In los llanos we stayed in a farm near to El Baul. Nice river trips and horse riding. Merida is a good base for mountaneering, trekking, rock climbing and sports.
As for safety. No problems. And we heard of no problems too. In caracas we stayed in the center Sabana Grande which is a busy shopping street. they had improved the lighting in the area to make it safer at night. Abviously if you go wandering off the beaten track in this city you might get robbed or something.
Don´t go to San felix. It´s a dump. Caracas isn´t really worth it either although there is good rock climbing there. Maracaibo is also another big city not worth a visit. Everywhere else was pretty nice.
hope this helps
That´s great - it seems to be really difficult to get information from people who have actually been there!
The farm in Los Llanos sounds interesting, do they have a website or email address so we can find out more about it?
You have suggested exchanging dollars/euros, is it difficult to find ATMs there?
The lonely planet gives a really wide price scale for Venezuela ($20-$50 per day), what sort of budget do you think is right (we´re not planning to go to Los Roques or Caracas)?
The farm was called Mataclara. No website but I will pass you an email address in a private message.
They charged BF120 (US$30) per person per night which included two excursions per day and food. To be honest the place was a bit run down but we did some walking, horse riding, and a river boat trip. The manager Pepe was a nice bloke and he even cooked up a barbecue for us one day. Here are my photos from the ranch to give you an idea: http://www.daltrey.co.uk/cpg1416/thumbnails.php?album=18
There were some other ranches that you can stay at which were part of a package from a tour operator, but much more expensive.
You can get to area by bus to Tinaco from Valencia for example and then take a por puesto (mini bus sort of taxi) to El Baul.
There are plenty of ATMs to use but you will normally get more for your dollars on the black market. When I was there the ATM rate was about BF2 = US$1. I asked my friendly hotel staff to change cash they gave me BF5 = US$1. There is a web page that gives you an idea of what rate you should get which was quite accurate: http://www.inosanchez.com/content/view/204/102/ I think they use a Venezuelan company listed on the NY stock exchange to work out a street value of the local currency. However I checked this page today and it says that you should get only BF2.7 for a dollar. So I´m not sure how it is now.
When you pass the border from Brasil to Venezuela near to Santa Elena, the bus will stop just before the border for a "coffee break". Basically sereral money changers enter the bus brandishing 1000s of Bolivares to exchange. We changed with these guys, no problem. Here you can change euros, dollars, or reales. They gave us a reasonable rate of BF4.4 = US$1 so you´ll get an idea of the rates from these guys.
Lonely planet seems acurate for when I was there in Nov 07. Changing cash on the black market I spend between US$15 - US$25 per day. Double that if you take cash from an ATM. A cheap hotel (There are only backpackers hostels in Merida) was about US$10 and a cheap meal US$3, bottle of bear US$0.50. I suppose these costs are really going to depend on how the black market exchange rate is at the moment.
This should give you some idea I hope.
Thanks everyone for your help, we've been to Venezuela now and changed over Brazilian Reals for a much better rate than when we used the cashpoints (when we'd ran out of Bolivars)!
We are now in Colombia and I have to say I prefer it here, the people are great and it definitely feels safer