Ok, so you’re going to Venezuela! You’ve had the jabs. You’ve dusted off your backpack. What now?
To help you get the most out of your trip we asked our team of experienced guides at Osprey Expeditions Venezuela to put together a list of travel tips, so cunning the people at Lonely Planet will be eating their notepads!
For more detailed information on specific tours please see tours & programmes. We can also give free advice about accommodation to suit every budget from backpackers to business travellers.
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 immunisations include: Yellow Fever, Typhoid (oral vaccine now available) Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A (Hepatitis B is less of a risk for travellers on an organised tour, it is transmitted through blood or secretions or sexual contact with an infected person), Rabies. Oral anti-malarial tablets (Mefloquine is recommended because the malarial strains in Venezuela are chloroquine resistant). Although Malaria is not a risk up 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, diarrhoea medicine such as Imodium, or Lomotil, Band-Aids and moleskin for blisters, water sterilising 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, dusting powder with fungicide for your feet, 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, undercooked, 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 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 diarrhoea, drink lots of fluids (no alcohol or milk) rest and take some medicine.
In terms of altitude, heights in 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 then. 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 jewellery, 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 in dark streets, alleys, poor neighbourhoods 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, the most vulnerable to crime is Caracas where you will be spending the least amount of time.
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..
It is best to change currency at either a Casa de Cambio at the airport or a bank. If you fly into Venezuela via the Maiquetia (Caracas or Simón Bolívar Internatioanl Airport) airport, change your money upon arrival. There are several Casas de Cambio in the main hall on the ground floor, including Italcambio, which changes cash and travelers cheques and usually offers the best rates. It’s open daily until the last flight. At other airports throughout the country, the casa de Cambio hours may very, usually following a nine to five schedule with a break at midday. Also at the airport, advances on Visa and MasterCard can be obtained in the Banco de Venezuela on the upper level, but only during normal business hours (Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 11:30 am and 2 to 4:30 p.m.). Credit cards are useful. The most common is Visa, from which you can obtain a cash advance at Banesco or Banco Provincial. American Express and MasterCard are the second most widely accepted credit cards. You can get a cash advance from your American Express card at Corp Banca. Some ATM´S provide Bolívares from a VISA card, such as Banesco. Cirrus is the preferred network, although + is excepted in some machines.
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.
Flights & Arrival
From Europe you can fly to Caracas directly with the following airlines:
Paris – Air France,
Lisbon – TAP
Madrid – Iberia, Santa Barbara or Air Europa
From North America you can fly to Caracas directly with the following Airlines:
New York: American Airlines
Miami: American Airlines, Santa Barbara
From Latin America you can fly to Caracas directly with the following Airlines:
Colombia, Bogotá: Avianca, Copa Airlines
Costa Rica – San Jose: Lacsa
Panama: Copa Airlines
Argentina, Bolivia & Brazil: Aerolineas Argentinas,LAB and TAME
Santa Domingo: Aserca Airlines,
Puerto Rico: American Airlines
Curaçao: ALM, DAE
Aruba – Air Aruba, ALM, Aserca,
Bonaire – ALM
Most people will arrive to Caracas when visiting Venezuela. 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.
The International terminal has a variety of facilities, including a tourist office, car rental desks, several casas de cambio, a bank, post and telephone offices, a restaurant, several cafes and snack bars, many travel agencies and stores to by 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.
We recommend avoiding 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 to anywhere in Venezuela from a public phone, you can buy a CANTV phone card.
If you will be arriving late to Caracas please feel free to contact us and we can arrange an English speaking taxi transfer to a safe, clean hotel in Caracas.
There is a bus service between the airport and Caracas, this can be found directly in front of the airport’s doors. Along with the buses, there is an official taxi service. This service is recommended over any drivers that approach you in the airport, as they may have been known to bring tourists to a remote place and fleece them. A taxi to Caracas shouldn’t cost you more than US$40 and to Macuto 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 outside the terminal further than bus stop and taxi stand, both of which are just at the buildings doors.
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 extensions of the pass, up to 60 days each are possible. A tourist visa, 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 application form.
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. 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 & 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 outersocks, 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.