Spectacular Venezuela, home to some of South America’s most incredible landscapes, has a bit of an image problem at the moment, and with good reason. Hyperinflation has led to a dramatic drop in living standards and the supply of basic goods, while personal safety, particularly in Caracas, is worse than anywhere else on the continent. Yet few countries in the world have this degree of natural beauty: Andean peaks, Caribbean coastline, idyllic islands including Los Roques Archipelago, grassland savanna teeming with wildlife, the steamy Orinoco Delta, Roraima Mountain and the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls.
This is true trip-of-a-lifetime stuff, and right now you’ll have it pretty much all to yourself.
Interesting facts about Venezuela
1. Venezuela’s name comes from the Italian word “Veneziola,” derived from “piccola Venezia” (little Venice). It was named so by the explorer Amerigo Vespucci who saw native stilt houses built over Lake Maracaibo, reminding him of Venice.
2. Lake Maracaibo, which is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela at its northern end, is the largest lake in South America and one of the oldest on earth (20-40 million years old).
3. In Venezuela summer is every day of the year because the country only has two weather seasons: the hot and dry season, and the hot and wet season. Venezuela also experiences a meteorological phenomenon called Catatumbo lightning, which only occurs at the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it meets Lake Maracaibo. Lightning repeatedly strikes the lake for 10 hours at a time, for up to 160 days a year.
4. Venezuela is blessed by Mother Nature; it has oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts, grasslands, canyons and forests. The country is considered one of the top seventeen countries in biodiversity, a nature-lover’s paradise.
5. The world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall, Angel Falls, at a height of 3,212 feet is about 15 times taller than the Niagara Falls.
6. The Monument to the Virgen de la Paz in Trujillo, Venezuela is the world’s highest statue of the Virgin Mary and the highest habitable sculpture in the Americas, being just inches taller than the Statue of Liberty and Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer.
7. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves (almost 300 billion barrels) and the world’s eighth largest proven natural gas reserves (almost 21,000 quadrillion cubic feet).
8. Because the government subsidizes the oil industry, Venezuelans enjoy the cheapest petrol in the world (about $0.01 per litter). Of course, nobody has to budget for a fill-up; people just pay with the loose change they find in their cars.
9. Baseball is Venezuela’s most popular sport and there has been a professional league since 1945. Besides that, many Venezuelan players have moved north to star in the U.S. Major Leagues.
10. Venezuela is a multicultural and multiethnic country made up of immigrants from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, the Middle East, Africa and descendants of various indigenous groups.
11. Maybe it’s because of its multiracialism that they say Venezuelan women are the most beautiful in the world. These beauty queens have won the Miss Universe title 7 times, Miss World 6 times, Miss International 6 times, and Miss Earth 2 times. With 21 major titles, Venezuela has won more major beauty pageants than any other country.
12. Venezuelans eat arepas (thin, flat corn cakes) constantly. In 2014, Thrillist.com ranked the Venezuelan arepas the world’s best breakfast; the truth is people in Venezuela eat arepas for lunch, dinner and snacks as well. Filled with almost anything, including super-savory white cheese, gouda cheese, fish, chicken, avocados, ham, eggs, pork or beef, this flatbread is truly the world’s tastiest and most versatile meal.
Before you come to Venezuela, you should make an appointment with a travel specialist at your local hospital. Make sure you have medical insurance that covers you outside your home country, including evacuation to your home country in case of emergency. Do not travel against medical advice. Take your insurance policy (or a complete photocopy) with you, obtain and bring a yellow International Vaccination Certificate card.
Recommended immunizations include: Yellow Fever, Typhoid (oral vaccine now available), Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A (Hepatitis B is less of a risk for travelers on an organized tour, it is transmitted through blood or secretions or sexual contact with an infected person), and Rabies. Oral anti-malarial tablets (Mefloquine is recommended because the malarial strains in Venezuela are chloroquine resistant). Although Malaria is not a risk in the Andes, it is a threat in the regions of Amazonas, The Llanos, Guayana, Barinas and Portuguesa. In these areas it is wise to protect yourself with insect repellent, long sleeves and pants, and a mosquito net. Other insect-transmitted diseases include Chagas´ Disease and Dengue Fever, but there are no vaccinations against these–just remember to use a mosquito net in the tropical regions, keep your skin covered, and avoid sleeping directly on a dirt floor in a mud hut.
It is advisable to bring: an extra pair of glasses or contacts and copy of your prescription, contraceptives, diarrhea medicine such as Imodium, or Lomotil, Band-Aids and moleskin for blisters, water sterilizing tablets such as iodine or a filter, antacid, aspirin/painkillers, tampons (they can be expensive here), anti-malarial tablets, anti-infective ointment (bacitracin), insect repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, foot powder with fungicide, chapstick, coughdrops, a water bottle, wet-wipes, biodegradable soap and other toiletries, a flashlight (head lamp preferable) with extra batteries and an extra bulb.
While in Venezuela, avoid uncooked, under-cooked, partially cooked or reheated meat, fish or eggs, raw vegetables, tap water, ice cubes, stream water, shellfish and fruit that you can´t peel yourself. While our staff boils the water we give you and prepares the food at temperatures hot enough to kill bacteria, keep the above precautions in mind if you venture out to eat elsewhere. Wash your hands before you eat, especially if you handled money. Stick to more processed dairy products and boiled or bottled water. If you get diarrhea, drink lots of fluids (no alcohol or milk), rest, and take some medicine.
The highlands around Mérida reach up to 16.000 feet/ 5300 meters above sea level. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, dizziness, and lack of appetite, general malaise, and / or shortness of breath. If you notice these symptoms develop into vomiting, migraine, insomnia and/or rasping in the upper chest or coughing unrelated to a cold, tell your guide immediately.
If you need in-patient medical treatment, call the 24-hour hot line on your health insurance policy and note the time of the call, the person you spoke with and the reference number. Obtain a medical certificate for attention you received and keep your receipts.
It is wise to obtain travel insurance for lost or stolen property. You must report damaged property to the airline right away, and obtain a “property irregularity report” from them. Don’t leave baggage unattended except in a locked hotel or apartment. Put valuables, extra cash and documents, in the safe deposit box in the hotel. When they are not in the safe deposit box, lock these things in different places in your suitcase. Always carry a photocopy of your passport and leave your actual passport in the safe deposit box except when it is required to show it. Do not unpack or expose large sums of money in public. Don’t wear a fancy watch or jewelry, and don’t carry valuables in an open bag or unlocked luggage. Travel light, wear your wallet in front instead of in back. When carrying your passport, cash or documents put them in a money belt under your clothes, don’t travel alone, don’t walk along dark streets, alleys, or in poor neighborhoods or isolated places. Report any loss to the police and/or hotel authorities within 24 hours and fill out a written report. Submit your claim before the deadline on your policy, along with proof that you traveled, your receipts, a written report of the loss, and your original policy document.
If you follow common sense, you don’t need to travel in fear. Of the places you will visit, Caracas is the most vulnerable to crime, and this is where you will be spending the least amount of time.
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 7-10æC. In the mountains at night, the temperature can get down to 0æC, and at higher altitudes it can drop to -5ºC. A local saying goes, “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 & Canaima National Park area, the average range is 20æ-27æC, but at elevations higher than 3,280 feet, the range is 10æ-20æC. Here the differences between the seasons are more pronounced than in the rest of the country. The Amazonas region is warmer than the national average and has 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. Appropriate layers (synthetic is preferred) include: thermal underwear, a light T-shirt, pants, medium-weight turtleneck or wool shirt, a heavier sweater or “pile” jacket, pile pants, a vest or insulated jacket, a wind and waterproof shell on top and bottom for the coldest times, a hat and gloves, lightweight nylon hiking boots or well-waterproofed leather boots, layers of socks: light synthetic or cotton liners and heavy synthetic or wool outer-socks, a warm blanket, plastic bags to keep your clothes dry, a rain poncho, and a 3 season sleeping bag made for –15 to -5æC (synthetic is better than down, if yours is down bring a waterproof cover). While hiking, a T-shirt and shorts or pants is usually suitable, but nights in the “paramo” are cold. You will also need a tent and stove. A rain fly for your backpack is recommended for mountain treks. 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.
Although Venezuela is not a particularly dangerous country to travel in, it’s recommendable to keep money and documents as secure as possible. A good investment is a money belt that can be found at almost any luggage or travel store in your home country. Remember that money belts are only useful if worn under clothing. We recommend that you leave a bulky wallet at home and don’t carry money, documents or valuables in your back pockets—an easy target for pickpockets.
Make sure you have a passport with at least 6 months validity. Airlines give out 90-day tourist passes at no cost, if you show your return ticket. Two 60-day extensions of the pass are allowed. A tourist visa for USA Citizens, which is valid for up to one year, may be obtained at a Venezuelan consulate in your home country. The cost is up to US$30. You must submit one passport photo, your passport with 6 months validity, references from a bank or employer, your return ticket, and the application form.
From Europe you can fly to Caracas directly with:
Paris – Air France
Lisbon – TAP
Madrid – Iberia, Air Europa, Estelar Airlines
From North America you can fly to Caracas directly with the following Airlines:
Miami: American Airlines, Avior Airlines, Laser, Estelar
From Latin America:
Colombia, Bogotá: Avior, Laser Airlines, Copa Airlines.
Panama: Copa Airlines
Argentina, Bolivia & Brazil:
Santa Domingo: Laser Airlines
Most visitors arrive in Caracas. The Simon Bolivar airport is in Maiquetia near the port of La Guaira on the Caribbean coast, 26 km from central 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.
Avoid any individuals that approach you claiming that they are from the tourist office (they’re not) and offering help and information; you’ll end up paying a considerable fee for their services. There is a Tourism Bureau of Venezuela office (open daily 7 am to 12 am) located on the ground floor, and the staff will be happy to help you with various types of information.
If you need to phone anywhere in Venezuela, we can help you get a SIM card for Venezuela, click here for further information.
If you will be arriving late to Caracas please feel free to contact us and we can arrange a taxi transfer to a safe, clean hotel in Caracas.
There is a bus service between the airport and Caracas, located directly across from the airport’s doors. There is an official taxi service., recommended over any drivers that approach you in the airport who have been known to bring tourists to remote places and fleece them. A taxi to Caracas shouldn’t cost you more than US$40 and to Playa Grande US$20. It’s wise to agree upon the rate before boarding the taxi. Additionally, expect night time fares to be about 10-20% higher.
Finally, if you’re arriving late to Maiquetia, don’t venture beyond the terminal’s bus stop and taxi stand, both of which are just outside the building’s doors.