Venezuela Travel Guide

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Area

Venezuela occupies a territory of 916.445 km2, located north of the South American continent and bordered by the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia. 

Buses

It is necessary to travel by bus from a bus terminal or “terminal de pasajeros”. These are generally fast and have guaranteed day and evening routes between the principal urban areas. “Most major bus companies have a higher quality intercity service called “servicio ejecutivo”.

Car Rental

Most of the big international car rental companies operate in the major cities alongside local companies. All that is required for you to drive in Venezuela is a full valid British or European driving licence.

Climate

Venezuela is located between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer which renders a sub tropical climate. It experiences two seasons: the “dry” season or summer between December and April and the “rainy” season or winter between May and November. The length of the seasons and the amount of rain vary according to the regions and the Amazon, for example, is rainy all year round. Average temperatures roughly vary between 22°C and 30°C throughout the country all year round with the exception of the Andean region, where temperatures can drop to 0°C in winter, and Caracas which enjoys a constant spring climate due to the refreshing effect of the Avila National Park. All months have particular conditions that make for a pleasant journey. In the summer months, the level of the rivers descends uncovering lakes and white sand beaches and insuring an all day blue sky and sunshine. It is a good time for trekking in the Orinoco river delta, the Llanos or the Andes where the concentration of animals increases in the waterways. From May to November, the rains generate a green explosion, invigorating the rivers and waterfalls which makes it a good time to visit Canaima and Angel Falls.

Cruise Ships

Each passenger is allowed two bags of up to 70 pounds (31.8 kilos) each, plus carry-on luggage, photo or video camera, and binoculars. Professional filming equipment, diving and climbing gear require special permits.

Customs & Immigration

At the airport visitors will have their passport and visa (if required) checked. A Tourist Card (Tarjeta de ingreso, DEX-2) is given to visitors free of charge by the airline. It must be filled out and shown at Customs who will stamp it and return a copy which must be kept inside the passport for the duration of the trip and returned upon departure from the country. The tourist Card is valid for 90 days and can be extended.

Diving

Venezuela offers one of the best diving experiences in the world. Best Location is Los Roques National Park, but also Morrocoy and Mochima National Park are great diving locations.

Dress

Venezuelans love to dress up, and accentuate their best features - this is not a modest country but it is very stylish.. Any length of skirt is acceptable but you will rarely see local women wearing shorts. In the evening it is customary to really dress up when going out for dinner or dancing. At other times, it is better to dress simply and with style. Sadly, there is some extreme poverty in the big cities and our advice is leave expensive jewellery at home. Be sure to pack some warm layers or a shawl as air conditioning can be fierce.

Drink

Fresh fruit juices are readily available, as are batidos, a thicker juice, and milkshakes (merengada). Sugar cane juice with lemon (papelón con limón) and fresh coconut milk are also on offer. Beer is ubiquitous, and the most popular brand is Polar. Rum, the commonly found spirit, comes in several varieties and is mixed with coke to make Cuba Libre, a favourite drink amongst Venezuelans. Coffee is domestically produced in Venezuela and is the most common hot beverage. It is always offered to visitors as a welcome drink.

Eating Out

Because the extensive immigration, in Venezuela is it possible to found virtually any international dish. The traditional Venezuelan lunch is pabellón, and consists of rice, black beans, and meat, with a side of fried plantain slices. The above dishes are known as "comida criolla", or Creole food.
Venezuela is a leading producer of fine cacao beans and Venezuelan chocolate can be excellent. The El Rey brand has consistent quality.

Electrical Current

Venezuela uses a 60 Hz and 120 V power system. The power plugs are identical to those used in North America (referred to as A and B type power plugs).

Guide Books

There is a good choice of guide books for Venezuela: Bradt, Lonely Planet,FootPrint, Insight, Cultushock among others.

Health & Insurance

Treatment at public hospitals is free, though private facilities are of a much higher standard. The best-equipped hospitals are located in Caracas and the state capitals. Health insurance is recommended.

Language

Spanish is the official language of Venezuela, but the native indigenous languages are officially recognized by the Constitution. Spanish is the official language of Venezuela, accompanied by numerous indigenous dialects (usually never heard except in the Amazon region). English is not commonly spoken or even understood, even in the major cities (including Caracas). Therefore it is almost essential to have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish.

Media

No local English newspapers are published in Venezuela. But the most well know English newspapers and magazine can be easily found in the big cities.

Money, Banks & Credit Cards

The unit of Venezuelan currency is the bolívar. The official exchange rate is Bs 4.53 per US dollar (to November 2010). The US dollar is the most convenient currency to use and it will be readilychanged in any authorized money exchange office or “casa de cambio”. Exchange in the black market will get you a better fare but is illegal. Traveler’s checks are rarely used as it is difficult to change them outside of Caracas. The most convenient brand to use is American Express, but they need to be changed in a bank and these have limited bank hours. Major credit cards are widely accepted in most important tourist destinations. Cash can be drawn at the airport in Caracas with the Bancomat card in Maestro or Cirrus cash points.

Population

The total population of Venezuela is 27,030,656, as established in the year 2006. The population of Venezuela is characterized by a rich cultural and traditional display. This cultural diversity in the population of Venezuela is further reflected in the diversity of religious beliefs. Venezuela people posit a diversity in their culture, language, tradition and custom. The ethnic population of Venezuela characterizes the diversity of Venezuela land and people. Some of the most important ethnic communities in Venezuela are the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans and the Africans. The languages that is mostly spoken is Spanish, which is also the official language of the country. Some of the other most popular languages comprise indigenous Venezuelan languages.

Public Holidays

Venezuela holidays, like most in Latin America, follow a calendar marked by the Catholic holidays and the cycles of the sun.

Jan 01: (New Year's Day);
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday: Carnival
From Palm Sunday to Easter: Holy Week
Apr 19: Beginning of the Independence Movement
May 01: Labour Day
Jun 24: Battle of Carabobo
Jul 05: Independence Day
Jul 24: Birth of Simón Bolívar
Oct 12: Day of Indigenous Resistance
Dec 25: Christmas

Railways

Practically non existent.

Taxis

Taxis in Venezuela are chipper compared to Uk or Europe. At difference with most taxi services in the world, in Venezuela there is not taximeter, nor any other form of measure the fare. The way it is measure is by a "Carrera" which varies between driver. Due to this way of charging, it is a custom to ask and often negotiate the fare before getting inside the taxi.

Telephone Services

The GSM network covers most of the country including remote areas like Los Roques or Canaima You may use your phone with a foreign SIM card in roaming. There Are 3 main GSM Networks: Movilnet and Movistar will require quad-band phones for European users, Digitel will work with any European phone. Check with your mobile company prior to travelling.

Time

All of Venezuela is on the same time zone, 4 hours and 30 minutes behind Greenwich Mean.

Vaccinations

No immunizations are necessary to travel to Venezuela. We nevertheless recommend asking your physician or a specialized centre for more detailed information. For those traveling to the southern Amazon, a vaccination yellow fever is recommendable as the disease is endemic in some areas and compulsory for passengers continuing to Brazil; there also are malaria carrying-mosquitoes and therefore antimalarial drugs are recommendable.

Visas

To enter Venezuela you need a passport valid for at least six months. A visa is not required for citizens holding European or British passports.No more than 20 Kilos (44 pounds) of luggage (one suitcase) may be checked on flights to or from Guayaquil to Quito Additional luggage can be sent to the hotel in Quito and stored at your hotel. These restrictions do not include small carry-on flight bags or camera cases.