Venezuela is on the fringes of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country is in South America. Its neighbors are Guyana in the east, Brazil in the southeast, and Colombia in the southwest. The country is famous around the world for having the highest waterfall – Angel Falls.
In the northwest, there are several Caribbean islands. Visitors flock to the islands to enjoy the vibrant beaches. East of the Islands, in the central region, is Morrocoy National Park. The national park is the primary tourist destination in the entire country.
The northeast has similar scenery to the tropical north region, but with a smattering of hills. South of the northeast region is Guayana. The region that extends to Guayana is a vast stretch of uninhabited land, which is rich in thick Amazonian forests. Because of the open terrain, the south-central region is home to ranches and farmlands. Rolling plains give way to the towering mountains of the Andes in the southwest.
Caracas is the capital city of Venezuela. The cosmopolitan atmosphere coupled with a lively night scene attracts droves of visitors. However, be cautious to prevent being robbed. Coro is the historical capital of Venezuela. Ciudad Guayana (Guayana City) is a unique place where the water of two rivers meet but do not mix because of their various densities.
Another rare phenomenon occurs in Maracaibo. The phenomenon is rightfully named the “Catatumbo Thunder.” For 297 nights every year, you can find electric storms throughout this city. Barquisimeto, also known as the “Twilight City,” has magical clouds. Beautiful images weave themselves into the clouds during these famous sunsets. People visit the city just to go cloud gazing!
Places to See in Venezuela
The tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls is also one of the most stunning places on the globe. Its clear waters fall from the rim of an ancient table-topped mountain, descending an entire kilometer before reaching the ground. The falls are located in Canaima National Park and they are a sacred place for the locals. Also, double rainbows can often be seen in the spray of the waterfall.
Parque Nacional Henri Pittier
The oldest national park in the country is home to over 580 species of exotic birds and such animals as jaguars, pumas, and monkeys. Hummingbirds, herons, tanagers, toucanets, and curassows are just a few examples of the inhabitants of the park.
Parque Nacional Mochima
Parque Nacional Mochima is on the northeast coast of the country. This area includes hundreds of offshore islands and islets and offers its visitors such activities as snorkeling, swimming, diving, and fishing. There are also numerous beaches available, in case you want a lazy afternoon. On the other hand, Los Roques archipelago is fantastic for birdwatching.
Isla de Margarita
The largest island in the Caribbean, Isla de Margarita offers a plethora of swimming and superb seafood. With over a hundred miles of white sand beaches on the island, you will find everything you could want.
Teleferico de Mukumbari
The world’s longest and highest cable car is called Mukumbari, which means “the place where the sun is born.” It offers easy access to the starting points for various mountain treks. Plus, the cable car itself is worth visiting, even if it is just for a joy ride.
Cuare Wildlife Refuge
If you want to admire the colonies of pink flamingos and scarlet ibis, go to Cuare Wildlife Refuge, situated four hours away from Caracas. The best time to go is September.
Mount Roraima was the inspiration for The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the tallest of the Gran Sabana’s table-topped mountains. The rocks are pierced by beautiful waterfalls and filled with marvelous greenery. You can go on a trekking trip or just relax and watch the beauty of nature.
Located in the foothills of the Avila range, Caracas, is a vivid modern metropolis. The city has a vibrant cultural life and nightlife, boasting numerous world-class museums. However, don’t forget it is also one the most dangerous cities in South America, be careful.
Merida, located on snow-capped Andean peaks, is not just an excellent destination for hiking, rafting and watching wildlife. It also boasts rich cultural and historical heritage, several nice museums and a vibrant nightlife.
If you take a tour from Maracaibo to the Guajira Peninsula, you will find yourself in a place where indigenous people have lived since the first Spanish settlements in the area. The houses on stilts reminded conquistadors of Venice, which is how it got the nickname “Little Venice.”
You don’t have to go to Africa to go on a safari. The regions surrounding the Amazon also offer you this opportunity. Numerous tour operators in Puerto Ayacucho organize river trips deep into the jungle, where you can fully enjoy watching wildlife.
When to Go
Venezuela generally boasts a balmy warm climate. The rainy season is from May to December. January and February are the coolest months, whereas, July and August are the warmest. The best time to visit the Andes is from October to May.
What to Wear
The country’s weather is fickle. Even during the dry season it always rains. So, you should take clothes for all conditions.
Spanish is the official language of the country. Many people speak second languages, such as English, French, German, and Portuguese.
English is spoken in the capital but rarely outside of it. You will need to learn some basic phrases in Spanish to communicate with the locals.
One USD is equal to 9.98 Venezuelan Bolivar. The currency exchange is available in banks and Casas de Cambio (exchange offices). High-end hotels can also change money, though they often offer less favorable rates. It is advisable to bring U.S. Dollars.
It is illegal to exchange money on the black market. Also, if you want to change any money back into dollars, you will need an official receipt of the original exchange. Most banks have ATMs, and they are available throughout all major cities. Also, credit cards are well acceptable in the main cities and tourist centers.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
If you are planning to stay in Venezuela for a long time, think about getting a local SIM card. There are numerous mobile offices in malls. The main providers are Movilnet, Movistar, and Digitel, which offer great coverage and 3G connection in urban areas as well. Rates are very cheap. But keep in mind, you will have to provide your passport to buy a SIM card.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the country, except for the most remote rainforest lodges. Most hotels, posadas, as well as restaurants and cafes, provide it for free. Some accommodations even offer computers you can use if you don’t have your laptop on you. In public squares in most cities, you can also find free Wi-Fi. Or visit one of the Internet cafes, which are numerous in urban areas.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities are the minority.
Venezuelans are known for their warmth and friendliness. People usually greet each other with a kiss, or with an abrazo (a mixture of a hug and a handshake). Handshakes are for greeting strangers. There is a different standard of “personal space” here so don’t be surprised if people get a little too close for your comfortability. Since 2011, smoking is banned in all public places, including malls, restaurants, bars, discos, and workplaces.
The local cuisine is based on roots and vegetables: yams, yucca, plantains, rice, and beans. It also consists a lot of different sweet desserts and tropical fruit. Rum and Scotch are the main alcohol drinks. Brazilian Brahma beer is a lighter alcohol option and is also brewed in Venezuela. The drinking age is 18. Local specialties include Arepas, Pabellón criollo, Hallaca, Cachapas, and Hervido.
Locals usually eat late, especially in Caracas. Outside of the capital, restaurants can be closed even as early as at 8 pm. The “Menu Ejecutivo” or fixed-price lunch is a good choice that is available in larger restaurants. In most bars and restaurants a 10% tip is added to the bill. However, in fancier facilities, it is common to leave a 10% tip.
San Cristóbal, Mèrida, Valencia, Puerto La Cruz, and Maracay are other cities worth a visit. Simon Bolivar International Airport in Vargas is the primary international airport in Venezuela. Rail transport is nonexistent in the country. Taxis are plentiful in Caracas and other cities; they are not expensive, but they don’t have meters so agree on the fare before you set off.
Getting around by bus or car will require your passport because drivers will constantly check them. Most of the international car hire companies operate at the airport and in major city centers. It is better to book in advance via the Internet, to get the best rates. Drivers need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car, and sometimes even older for a 4-wheel drive or luxury vehicles. Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Caracas has a metro system, which is comfortable and cheap. In all the other cities, local transportation is operated by bus services and por puestos (shared taxis). To get from the airport, you can use one of the authorized taxis, which line up in front of the international and domestic terminals. You should pay in advance at the signposted ticket office. You should not use the service of unlicensed taxi drivers.
There are no passenger trains operating in Venezuela. Also, ferries link Isla de Margarita with the mainland at Puerto La Cruz.
Electricity & Plug Type
As for electricity, Venezuela uses types A and B sockets. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 120V.
How to Arrive
LASER Airlines and SBA Airlines offer direct flights to Miami, but not to any other U.S. or European destinations. However, European carriers such as Air France, Iberia, and Air Europa operate direct flights from mainland Europe.
There are no international railroads from neighboring countries.
The main ports of the country are La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, and Maracaibo. Ferries used to run between Venezuela and Trinidad, but they have been suspended.
Where to Stay
Due to the increase in tourism, there is no problem finding a hotel throughout the country. However, the prices vary greatly. In Caracas, it will be difficult to find a budget accommodation. To visit popular destinations such as Isla de Margarita, Archipielago Los Roques, and Canaima you need to book well in advance. Keep in mind that during holiday seasons the rates may increase up to 30%.
Many tourists choose such spots as Gran Sabana, Henri Pittier National Park, Isla Margarita and Santa Elena for camping. In Venezuela, camping on the beach is also legal, but be aware of safety concerns.
Hostels can be found in Caracas, Valencia, Cuidad Bolivar and on some islands in the Caribbean.
Posadas are low-key family-operated inns, which are usually located in atmospheric colonial buildings. Facilities vary greatly and can be found in both urban and rural areas.
These are holiday compounds in protected nature zones, such as Canaima, the Rio de Caur, and the Amazon. They usually consist of huts and campsites, with restaurants to serve the guests. Package tours usually include walks in the surrounding areas, river trips and visits to indigenous communities.
Hatos are big cattle ranches on Los Llanos plains, which were turned into ecotourism facilities. Package tours usually include accommodation, meals, and safaris around the zone’s wildlife.
How Safe is Venezuela
Venezuela has a reputation for violence and political instability. However, if you are an adventurous traveler, it is definitely worth a visit. Just make sure to be careful and avoid all doubtful situations.
As for health, having insurance is highly advisable. Although health care in the country is free it is experiencing a crisis, as is much of the country. When visiting the country, make sure you have the following vaccinations: tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and sometimes malaria and rabies. Also, a vaccination certificate for yellow fever will be necessary if you come from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission, including Brazil.
Bottled water might be difficult to find in Venezuela. You should boil or filter all other water before drinking, this is an essential safety precaution. Meat, poultry, seafood, milk, fruit, and vegetables are safe to eat. If you eat out, all you need is to be sensible, make sure food was freshly cooked and fruit and vegetables have been washed. The same applies to ice in your drink.
October 18, 2016 11:58 am