My Dear Venezuela, Travelling to a Country That Is Hurt

Seguridad para viajar a Venezuela

Venezuela is a beautiful country, surrounded by nature, unique people and charming places. The truth be told, the political and social tumultous situation the country is passing through hurts me inside as it was my own. I’ve had the chance to travel to Venezuela twice, one in 2011 and the last one in 2016.

My bonds to the South American country are very strong for I have a lot of loved people in my life that are from Venezuela. It’s indeed one of the countries that have left the deepest of marks in me. Such is the case that people often tell me that I have a Latino Spanish accent. Well, I wonder why!

Venezuela, the land of happiness

What to see in Venezuela

My willingness to show the beauty of Venezuela crashes with the insecurity that media insists on dumping on our daily lives. Nothing further from reality, I’m not going to say Venezuela is not a dangerous country and that there’s not insecurity in the streets but my eagerness to show the beautiful places of Venezuela would win the statistics.

I already dedicated an emotional post to Venezuela, an open letter that came from inside but this time I would like to share more useful tips that will help you if you want to visit Venezuela some day.

I want to stay realistic and at the same time give you some tips about safety in Venezuela and show you the other side of Venezuela that’s not promoted. Close your eyes, breathe and start to read below as if you didn’t know anything about the country. One, two, three.

Useful information to travel to Venezuela

Before you go

  • The country’s entire name is República Bolivariana de Venezuela in tribute to Bolívar, liberator of five South American countries. Don’t worry about forgetting the name, you’ll see a statue of him in every plaza of Venezuela.
  • It’s not Caribbean-warm weather all over the country. Climate changes from the jungle, dessert, Llanos to Los Andes. The weather is so diverse in Venezuela that you’ll have to carry with you both the slippers (cholas), to visit the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life, and warm clothes to climb the highest peaks of Venezuela, located in Merida.
  • The little economy that’s left is based on gas. Nowadays, nothing is produced in the country because the wrongly called “Socialism of the 21st century” killed the national production chain by encouraging the import of foreign like products from their allies in exchange of gas. This means a litre of gas is cheaper than a litre of water. You can fill the tank with 30 cents of a dollar, yes, the whole tank!
  • Shortage is real. At 2017 date, 48% of Venezuelan population is poor and 90% of Venezuelans can’t afford food. I’ll give you an example so that you can have an idea: the minumum wage is $27, an egg carton costs $3 and one chicken $2.30. How can they live that way? However, the situation for the tourist is easier because we own foreign currency and crisis ends when crossing the border to leave the country.

Best time to travel to Venezuela

Climate is stable all year along but is divided in two seasons, the dry season from November to April and the humid, from May to October. It changes from region to region and it depends more on the height of the place you visit than on interior and coastal places.

The Andes area is the coldest in the country, Merida for instance is at 1,600 metres and its highest peak—Pico Bolívar—is at 4,978. In Maracaibo, on the other side, the average temperature is 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Farenheit) and, wait for it, to a humidiy of 80% (you melt, instantly).

I recommend visiting Venezuela in humid season especially if you want to visit Parque Nacional Canaima in its glory. If you can’t go in humid season as it happened to me, Salto Ángel (Angel Falls) is still beautiful but not as impressive. However, it has its advantages as going up the water saults that are dry and observe tepuyes in the distance.

Travel to Canaima National Park in Venezuela

Travel to Venezuela

How to get there

By plane

Airlines that operate from Europe to Venezuela are Air France, Avianca and American Airlines, often stopping by in those countries. From Latino America and the United States Copa Airlines is also available.

I don’t suggest flying with Conviasa, a very corrupted government airline. Even if Venezuela is one of the countries with more abundant reserves of oil in the world, Conviasa affords to rent planes from other companies. They are usually late and leave people stranded at international airports for several days.

The rest of the companies had to stop flying to Venezuela because the government didn’t pay for their services anymore. There’s an alternative to flying:

By land

Travel from Colombia to Venezuela

For a while the border of Venezuela with Colombia remained closed because—according to the President of Venezuela—”bachaqueo” (smuggle from Venezuela to Colombia) was hurting the economy. How sad it is that he forgot he’s a Colombian himself and that Venezuelans and Colombians are and will always be brothers and sisters.

Today the border is open but I don’t recommend you to cross it especially if you have European or American passport for police and guards will want to “matraquearte” (steal from you). I heard several stories and I lived it in flesh that Venezuelan guardias nacionales ask for money; from 20 a $50 or everything you have to let you in (and this is not only at the borders)

In my case I had to fly from Colombia to Venezuela because the border was closed. It was more expensive but we avoided incoveniences or troubles in the border. Options to go to Venezuela by land are:

Travel by bus from Colombia to Venezuela

The safest border crossing point in Venezuela is the one from San Antonio de Táchira to Cúcuta. Even so, everyone including Venezuelans, have to often bribe Venezuelans guards to get in.

The crossing point Maicao – Maracaibo is not safe mainly because guajiros, the indigenous people that own La Guajira, a part of Colombia and Venezuela operate bands to steal as you get in both countries.

Travel by bus from Brazil to Venezuela

The crossing point from Boavista to Santa Elena de Guairén and Ciudad Guayana (Puerto Urdaz) is very frequent since it’s used by Venezuelans that go to Brazil to buy food. Even if it’s very expensive for them to buy in Reals, it’s a chance to get supplies.

Requirements to travel to Venezuela

European passport holders: Europeans can travel to Venezuela without a visa up to 60 days.

United States passport holders need a visa to travel to Venezuela.

Latino America passport holders: everyone from these countries can travel to Venezuela without visa up to 60 days except from Guyana, Suriname, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

If you are from another country that’s not listed above, check if you need a visa to travel to Venezuela.

Security in Venezuela, is it safe to travel around Venezuela?

As I’ve said before, I can’t omit data on criminality  n Venezuela. I can only tell you about my experience visiting the country.

To start with, you will soon realise about the Venezuelan paranoia, a common characteristic of Venezuelans that is present in their daily lives. It’s an automatic embedded gift that consists in thinking ahead of time about what could happen or go wrong. The insecurity in the country and the fact that most Venezuelans have had a first-hand experience of kidnapping or armed robbery justifies it, however, most of the time they are protecting you of what could happen. Venezuelans are always be there to take care of you.

Having that in mind, there are some things one needs to know about safety:

  • Avoid certain situations like walking at night in the centre of any city which ironically are the unsafest places.
  • No “dar papaya” (don’t give papaya) as it’s said in Colombia which means not to leave it easy for thieves to take advantage of you. Don’t know show any valuable item such as cameras, mobile phones or money.
  • Become camouflaged. They are so used to warm weather that a few people go with shorts and sandals. Look around you and analyse how you are dressed up and if you are an easy target according to that.  W
  • When taking a taxi only take the so-called de línea or trusted ones. It’s very normal to give the plate number to a friend in case something happens and to inform that you arrived home safely.

I have a story on Venezuelan kindness that I would like to share with you. I will always remember that one time that I was going back home from Venezuela in 2011. I was at Maiquetía airport in Caracas. I get to the desk to proceed with the check-in and I’ve been told, “everything is allright, you just need to pay the fee to leave the country”. I had forgotten about the fee! I only had 20 bolívares, 10 euros and a credit card I couldn’t use. There was no other way but to beg for money all around the airport. Almost crying I approached people telling them I needed the money to get to Spain. I don’t remember how much it was but it would be something like 15 euros at that time and I got them in just 30 minutes!

Is it cheap to travel around Venezuela?

I could say that it is cheap to travel around Venezuela right way but the truth is that it always depends on the exchange rate to which you transfer your euros or dollars. There’s the official exchange rate, with which you are losing 99% of your money and the paralell or black market, illegal but more than normalised.

If you bring foreign currency and money is exchanged to the normal rate, everything will seem cheap to you, even if it’s half of the salary of an average Venezuelan.

Tips on how to use your money in Venezuela

The high inflation in the country (3,000% to 2017 date) makes bolivar—the local currency—to be hiper devalued. There are two exchange rates for the tourist, the official and the so-called black one.

  • Don’t pay with your credit card. Never! Example: I’m going to buy something which value is 3,800 bolívares (around $1). If I pay it with my credit card instead of cash I’ll be paying $316 because the official exchange rate will be applied.
  • Don’t withdraw money for the same reason.
  • In order to exchange money do it with somebody you trust. Most Venezuelans own a bank account abroad. That way you could transfer the money to that account and they can give you the bolívares in hand. In fact, this is their way to save money in a strong currency for theirs is devalued day by day.
  • The dollar is always better valued than the euro. Bring dollars with you to the extent possible.

Health tips

  • There’s no mandatory vaccine to travel to Venezuela but it’s recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever if you go to the jungle.
  • When I went to Venezuela in 2016 and half of the world was alarmed by news on Zika, I met a lof of people that had been infected by Zika and Chikungunya and affirmed it was just a flu that and symptoms went away by resting and taking ibuprofen.
  • Travel with a health insurance to Venezuela: although public health is free it has its restrictions and medicines’ scarcety is a reality.

The beauty in Venezuela: my top 3

Time has come to show you my reasons to travel to Venezuela. I list my top three destinations in Venezuela, the places that impressed me the most. There are so many beautiful places in Venezuela and it’s hard to choose but another day I’ll dedicate another post for it. For now, my top three places to visit in Venezuela are:

Merida – Los Andes

Merida is the first place I arrived to, my first destination in South America by 2011. I must admit that looking through the window and seeing myself surrounded by mountains is what amazed me the most in this beautiful city.

The capital of the state with the same name is Merida. Merida is something else, it hooks. The rythm of big cities like Caracas or Maracaibo stay behind, far behind. Merideños or gochos are considered the most peaceful and honest in the country. Gochos are calm, welcoming and respecful, for some reason they breathe Andean air.

Tips to travel to Venezuela

The city is the reflection of their character, student-like, calm and safer than the rest of Venezuela. Merida is a student and party city and an important spot for nature lovers. Going up the longest cable car in the world, climbing its peaks, river rafting or parachuting in Tierra Negra are some of the adventures you can find.

Cuándo viajar a Venezuela, Sudamérica

La Guayana – Parque Nacional Canaima

Canaima lagoon is where I’ve felt the tiniest in my life. Enormous nature surrounds you and being able to contemplate is a luxury. Its waterfalls hit hard to the compass of a pure and unspoilt environment. To swim in its waters is the synonym of feeling free and being certain that we live in an unique planet.

Overflying Salto Ángel (Angel Falls) has been one of the best experiences of my life. Although I went during humid season and the waterfall was no more than a trickle of water, observing those tepuyes that are thousands of years old was a privilege. I felt like in the movie UP but I flew free, without a house but with imaginary colourful balloons.

Viajar a Canaima, Venezuela

Parque Nacional Morrocoy

That pristine water, that first time I saw the Caribbean Sea, was in my dear Venezuela. My braids moved to the rythm of the wind and salsa music. I was happy before such beauty.

I really hope natural beauties of Venezuela be available and affordable for everyone in some years and that tourism gets back in a country that needs it more than ever.

 

¿Quieres leer más historias? - Would you like to read more stories?

6 Comment

  1. Del Valle Fernandez Hernandez says:

    Muy buena la historia, pero el “papel’ aguanta todo, incluso cuando describes a Vzla como la “Republica Bolivariana”??? wt heck? Ahi tengo que corregirte. Porque Bolivar nunca hubiese querido llamarla de esa manera, de hecho nunca antes fue nombrada de esa manera. Maybe el ano en que naciste fue dentro del “cambio” que hizo el fiambre genocida traidor a la PATRIA: [Chavez], y por eso no la CONOCES como es realmente. Lee la Historia emancipadora; https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independencia_de_Venezuela
    Este engendro en 199 cambio todo este bello pais de lo que realmente es HOY DIA. Lee: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constituci%C3%B3n_de_Venezuela_de_1999
    Que empeno en personas como tu querer “tapar el SOL con un pulgar”, el tuyo. Mire “amiguita” yo creo que si realmente AMAMOS a nuestra nacion como tu “describes” deberiamos empezar por Organizar la verdadera OPOSICION y ACEPTAR que estamos en Dictadura, entender que con este malnacida “Republica Bolivariana” (Bolimarrana) JAMAS llegaremos a completar nuestro sueno, el sueno que deberiamos tener TODOS por igual que es el de LIBERTAR nuevamente nuestra nacion pero esta vez no de la Corona Espanola sino de la Invasion Castro-Comunista-terroristas que HOY dia habita en nuestra nacion cuando le dimos la espalda a la realidad y no nos ocupamos de estar ATENTOS a la Historia. Ejemplo; Invasion por parte de Castro en 1967 Machurucuto para una referencia mas actual, leer; https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidente_de_Machurucuto
    En todo caso estos Comunistas-genocidas tienen desde el 1960, para lograran entrar en el nuestro Pais, con sus “ideas” de miseria como es la que se vive hoy en dia en toda la nacion.
    Y que gracias al demonio de Sabaneta lo lograron. Segun estadisticas de especialistas fuera del PAIS, parece que Venezuela tardara unos 15 anos en recuperarse, dicen ellos; Yo, para ser mas pesimista, estimo que a la velocidad que va la miseria y destruccion del pais, tome unos 80 anos para lograr recuperarse. En todo caso, la realidad CRUDA de lo lo que es Venezuela en la Actualidad es que se vive en una Dictadura Castro-Comunista light, en donde la falsa oposicion, lease: MUD son el primer y mejor anillo de seguridad del regimen para que ambos BANDOS esten COMODOS y dandose oxigeno uno al otro mientras que la poblacion que es la menos afortunda MUERE en hospitales, calle, colas, en sus propias casa durmiendo por balas perdidas, son victimas de robos, secuestros en manos de colectivos, sicarios, terroristas, grupos que son apoyados dicho sea de paso y protegidos por el Mismo Regimen, que a la final, les conviene mermar la poblacion en lo maximo de las posibildiades para asi ELLOS, MUD-PSUV, seguir llamando a “elecciones” fraudulentas y mantener la burla de una “democracia FICTICIA”, te recomiendo este otro BLOG escrito por OTRO venezolano mas apegado a la reaidad: http://nomascne.blogspot.com/
    La VERDAD verdadera es que en venezuela no existen ningun tipo de seguridad SOCIAL, economica, politica, NI vital! Mija, permite contestarte en Castellano, porque es mi mejor “arma” mi propio idioma y se que sabras leerlo, pero “maybe” no entederlo.. Asi pasa con muchos que viven en “denial” actual, y tu pareces ser el monton de esos que sufren del mismo sindrome. Otro cosa importante y es mi punto mas fuerte que quiero resaltar, es que tal vez hayamos muchos que anoramos nuestras raices SI,, que sonamos con ir de “vacaciones” Si, pero sabes que? en MI posicion anti-Comunista no estoy de acuerdo con que se promueva irresponsablemente VISITAR un pais donde no existe lo VITAL que es: LIBERTAD a sus ciudadanos, no conforme con este Derecho universal que es violado a diario por la dictadura, no hay agua limpia, no hay sanidad, no existe centros hospitalarios, no hay seguridad de que no seras robado por la misma poblacion con la venia del regimen, no hay seguridad de que seras atendida con respeto, equidad y responsabilidad, y peor aun que el solo hecho de ir a Vzla representa no solo una amenza a mi VIDA sino la COMPLICIDAD en el 100% de mi ‘anoranza” de aprobar y ratificar a la Dictadura, al titere del Dictador y a la falsa oposicion como los Seudo-LIDERES de mi Republica-secuestrada- de la de las 7 estrellas, NO, rotundamente me opongo a esta ACCION estupida y melo-romantica de algunos venezolano. Si yo estoy en CONTRA radicalmente al Regimen, como se supone que voy a promover y o ir de visita gastar el dinero en donde el destino FINAL es el Bolsillo de los boliburgueses??, porque si sabes de economia algo, los $ que entran por concepto de “turismo” van directamente a las cuentas de los narco-traficantes miembros del regimen venezolano. NO, absolutamente No apoyo este TIPO de “promociones” y propagandas.., donde mis Dolare$ no iran a la mejora de Infraestructuras, calles, avenidas, escuelas ni mucho menos a hospitales…Es decir,no se requiere tener un Master en economia para aplicar la logica que es gratis y NACE contigo y saber exactamente que es asi. “Tenemos” un pais que muere lentamente ante los ojos y complicidad de muchos que no ven la cruda y patetica realidad que recorre las calles, barrios, ciudades, pueblos de la nacion. Te recomiendo que te revises ese DEDO con el que quieres TAPAR el sol, tienes un problema. De la “esperanza” solo queda el desengano, si las acciones no se llevan a CABO para RECUPERAR la Nacion, la REPUBLICA y la Libertad, de que vale escribir un “essay” que solo es eso, un ensayo de un PAIS que esta siendo destruido en la actualidad hasta con nuestra propia indiferencia. Tomemos el “toro por los cachos” y empecemos a trabajar en lo real, en los cambios que debemos hacer TODOS como individuos para que podamos cambiar el rumbo de la nacion, empecemos por aceptar que Tenemos y Sufrimos una realidad, que es cruda, si, es espantosa, que es actual, si, esta pasando ahora mismo, estan comiendo de la basura, que se puede cambiar? Si, cuando TODOS depongamos las fantasias, y ese afan de querer tapar el SOL, las estrellas, la luna y el Universo con tu dedo.!! Vivamos la realidad y enfrentemosla como tal. No podemos VENDER un sueno cuando la REALIDAD No existe! Venezuela tiene y DEBE ser recuperada por los venezolanos, para ser Liderada por venezolanos, y SER Gobernada por venezolanos DECENTES. Que VENEZUELA ES BELLA? SI, es hermosisimamente bella, que VENEZUELA ES INCREIBLE?Si, es increiblemente Increible , QUE VENEZUELA ES UNA TIERRA UNICA?No, porque es parte de un hemisferio hermoso tambien, pero es mi Tierra, la amo, la extrano, la anoro y la pienso, y SOLO organizandome para luchar y recuPerarla es la UNICA manera que la volvere a disfrutarla LIBRE, HERMOSA, INCREIBLE, Y UNICA!!! Quien se anota? entre tanto, no promovere un “turismo comunista” at all. Fin de mi nota. Del Valle Hernandez

    1. Hola, del Valle:

      Te contestaré poco a poco lo que mencionas. Primero: no es que describa a Venezuela como República Bolivariana de Venezuela sino que digo su nombre tal y como aparece hoy en día; cómo ha llegado a llamarse así es otra historia. España es una monarquía y a mí no me gusta pero eso la define y ese es su nombre, hay que aceptarlo como tal.

      No hace falta que me expliques sobre historia emancipadora, ya leí bastante, gracias. No sé en qué te basas para decir que no entiendo la realidad venezolana ni sé sobre la historia del país; supongo que dormiste conmigo algún día para saberlo.

      No sé por qué me acusas de tintes políticos cuando ni toqué el tema y cargas sobre mí tu frustración. Nunca negué la situación del país, si lees el artículo te darás cuenta de que no escondo la realidad ni miento en ningún momento. En relación al turismo, yo más bien creo que los dólares que entran al país y que son gastados de forma responsable, llegan a la gente que de verdad lo necesita y, en parte, ayudan a regenerar la economía del país.

      Tampoco sé por qué ni con qué fin me das un discurso político cuando estoy de acuerdo contigo en que el país debe ser reconstruido con el esfuerzo de los venezolanos, no sé cuándo dije lo contrario…

      El turismo no entiende de tintes políticos, que yo sepa el turismo no es comunista ni fascista; lo es la persona. Y más bien te recomiendo que revises tu dedo antes de ver los del resto. Yo solo vi el rayo de luz y mostré lo que a mí me aportó Venezuela, no sé de qué tapar el sol me estás hablando.

      Un saludo.

  2. Most Venezuelans don’t have a bank account abroad! Maybe most of the upper class…..

    1. Hi, Antony!

      Thank you so much for noticing that mistake in my text. I’ll correct it right away.

      Greets,
      Alba

  3. Otherwise a very lovely article!!

    1. Thank you so much Antony! Have a nice day =)

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