VENEZUELA TRAVEL GUIDE
Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America with diverse natural attractions. Along its Caribbean coast are tropical resort islands including Isla de Margarita and the Los Roques archipelago. To the northwest are the Andes Mountains and the colonial town of Mérida, a base for visiting Sierra Nevada National Park. Caracas, the capital, is to the north.
Venezuela is home to the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls and the second-longest river in South America, the Orinoco. It also has the longest coastline on the Caribbean sea. Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and also has vast untapped reserves of natural gas. Ecologically, Venezuela is considered among the 20 Megadiverse countries of the planet; more than 40% of its national territory is covered by protected areas.
Venezuela is currently in a state of widespread civil, economic, and political crisis. Most governments in the world have advised against all travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, widespread shortages in basic goods (medicine, food, drinking water), and arbitrary arrest and detention of foreigners.
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VENEZUELA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Caracas
- Government: Republic
- Currency: Bolivar Soberano (VES) US dollar (USD)
- Area: 912,050 km²
- Population: 28,87 million (2018)
- Language: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
- Religion:Nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
- Electricity: 120V, 60Hz (US plug)
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VENEZUELA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 19 March, San José Day (banks only)*
- 19 April, Declaration of Independence
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 24 June, Battle of Carabobo
- 29 June, St. Peter and St. Paul Day (banks only)*
- 5 July, Independence Day
- 24 July, Birth of Simón Bolívar
- 15 August, Assumption (banks only)*
- 12 October, Day of Indigenous Resistance
- 1 November, All Saints Day (banks only)*
- 8 December, Day of Loyalty and Love for Hugo Chavez, Immaculate Conception*
FESTIVALS IN VENEZUELA
- Diablos Danzantes - (May or June) In Caracas, Diablos Danzantes (Dancing Devils) features hundreds of diabolically clothed dancers parading through the streets to the sounds of pounding drums. The Venezuelan fest, which blends Spanish and African traditions, takes place on Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter.
BEST TIME TO VISIT VENEZUELA
Venezuela's location perched 8° above the equator, means it generally enjoys a balmy warm climate. Temperatures don't fluctuate wildly, hovering between 26°C and 28°C and making the country something of an all year round destination. The coastal regions on the Caribbean feel balmiest, and the lowland areas also enjoy a tropical climate. The main factor in temperature variance is altitude. The mountainous Andean regions are significantly cooler, and temperatures can drop to around 9°C.
- Venezuela's rainy season runs from May to December. During this period, there is the possibility of flooding in certain low-lying areas, such as the Llanos and in some valleys of the Andes.
- The dry season is from December to April, with January and February being the coolest months, and July and August being the warmest.
The best time to visit the Andes mountains is from October to May, before the rains come in June. Venezuela's weather is quite changeable, and even during the dry season there's always a chance of rain. If you're up in the northern mountainous region, you're likely to encounter a good few downpours.
VENEZUELA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Tropical; Hot, Humid; More Moderate In Highlands
VENEZUELA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN VENEZUELA
Venezuela has only one ski resort, Merida. With a cable car that reaches close to the top of the country's highest peak, Pico Bolivar at 4981m, the skiing here is only for the very competent and brave!
HIKING & CYCLING IN VENEZUELA
The best time for outdoor activities in Venezuela is from November to April, during the dry season. Bear in mind that it rains almost every day at the summit of Mount Roraima .
BEACH OPTIONS IN VENEZUELA
The beaches in Venezuela are best enjoyed during the dry season from November to April. Be sure to check out Los Roques, Margarita Island and Playa Colorada for great beach destinations.
SURFING IN VENEZUELA
The best time for surfing in Venezuela is from late December to April, when the swell is consistent. The hurricane season from August to November brings some powerful swell but is not very consistent.
KITESURF IN VENEZUELA
The season with the most consistent wind in Venezuela for kitesurfing is from February until June, but the wind can be good enough from December until July. The most popular spots are Los Roques, Adicora, El Yaque on Margarita Island and Isla de Coche.
For more details on kite surfing in Venezuela expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN VENEZUELA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
VENEZUELA TRAVEL TIPS
At the moment no budget information for Venezuela is available.
Venezuela's currency has been in a period of double-digit inflation for the past several years, and has now reached a period of hyperinflation, so keep in mind that any information you see from tour guides or blogs regarding prices quoted in VES and exchange rates will probably be hopelessly out of date, even if it was published only in the last few months. For most things, prices quoted in US dollars from old guides are, however, likely to still be approximately the same when converted using the informal exchange rate. Most Venezuelans will advise that you not even think about coming to visit unless you have a local friend in the country who can help you navigate the currency system.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF VENEZUELA
- Climb Mount Roraima - Marvel at the eerie majesty of Mount Roraima, the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Spanning the borders of neighbouring Brazil and Guiana, Roraima is the tallest of the Gran Sabana's tepuis (table-topped mountains). Its sheer rock faces are pierced by graceful waterfalls and its ancient crags are lined with endemic, insect-eating plants. Adventure companies take organized treks up Roraima, a challenging but thrilling expedition requiring a minimum of five days.
- Dance with the Devil in San Francisco de Yare - Every year as part of the Corpus Christi celebrations in May or June, up to 100 dancers in ghoulish devil masks perform a colourful ceremony in the small town of San Francisco de Yare, south of Caracas. Based on a Catholic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, the "Diablos Danzantes" can also be seen in several towns along the central coast, including Cata, Chuao, Cuyagua, Naiguatá, Ocumare de la Costa, and Tinaquillo.
- Dive at Parque Nacional Mochima - Snorkel, swim, dive or fish at Parque Nacional Mochima on the northeast coast, with hundreds of offshore islands and islets. Some – like the popular Isla de Plata – are surrounded by coral reefs; and there are countless beautiful beaches for just lazing around. The archipelago Los Roques is another underwater wonderland, fantastic for birdwatching, diving and snorkelling off its gorgeous white-sand beaches.
- Enjoy a slice of German life in Colonia Tovar - Check out Colonia Tovar, a slice of Deutschland in the forested mountains west of Caracas. Settled by German immigrants from the Black Forest in the mid-19th century, the town retains its Old World traditions, food and architecture. With its quaint rustic hostels and homemade culinary specialities, Colonia Tovar makes for a touristy but surreal excursion from the capital.
- Go on safari in Amazonas - Get up close to birds, monkeys and caiman on a jungle safari in the far south Amazonas region. Based in the largest town of Puerto Ayacucho, specialist tour operators take river trips to lodges deep in the jungle, where you can go wildlife watching. Treks to see spectacular tepuis (table-top mountains) such as Auyan-Tepui and Cerro de la Neblina are also available.
- Head underground in Cueva del Guácharo - Linger in the beautifully preserved centre of Coro, an early colonial settlement near the Caribbean coast. The town is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites and is also the gateway to the Paraguaná Peninusula, a prime windsurfing destination. Surrounding Coro are the Médanos de Coro, a national park composed of huge sand dunes, the country's only desert landscape.
- Make your way to Mérida - Get to know Mérida, a delightful university city perched amidst snow-capped Andean peaks. More than just an excellent base for hiking, wildlife watching and white-water rafting, Mérida has a rich cultural history, with several fine art and archaeology museums and buzzing nightlife.
- Marvel at Angel Falls - Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world, and, for many, it is also the most stunning. Its glistening waters spill from the rim of an ancient sandstone tepui(table-topped mountain) into a freefall of nearly one kilometre (0.6 miles) before crashing into a pool. Double rainbows can often be seen in the spray-drenched air above. Located in Canaima National Park, 600km (373 miles) south of Ciudad Bolívar, the waterfall is a sacred site for the local indigenous people.
- Observe perpetual lightning at Lake Maracaibo - Marvel at the magical natural phenomenon of lightning minus the accompanying thunderclap at the Parque Nacional Ciénagas del Catatumbo, along the southwest shore of Lake Maracaibo. The spectacular displays of forked lightning storms over the water can be witnessed daily throughout the year. The park is also rich with birdlife and animals, including capybara and manatees.
- Ride the Teleferico de Mukumbari - Ride the world's longest and highest cable car, which runs a staggering 13km (8miles) from Mérida to the top of Pico Espejo, which kisses the sky at 4,765m high (15,629ft). Called Mukumbari, which means "the place where the sun is born," the cable car offers easy access to starting points for carious mountain treks, though it's worth riding just for the sake of it.
- Ski in the Andes - Enjoy the novelty of skiing in the tropics: the highest Andean peaks of the Cordillera de Mérida have a permanent snowline and can be skied between November and June, though at an altitude of 4,270m (14,000ft) this is recommended only for the hardiest. Several of the country's highest peaks are located here and specialist local agencies offer experienced guides and equipment in the nearby city of Mérida.
- Take a break on Isla de Margarita - Swim, soak up the sun and savour superb seafood on Isla de Margarita, Venezuela's largest Caribbean island. With 168km (104 miles) of beaches, it offers everything from the full-on buzz of its principal town Porlamar, to mangroves, marshes and sand dunes. There are many national and international flights and charters to Porlamar, as well as daily air-shuttles from Maiquetía airport, and ferries from Cumaná, La Guaira (Caracas) and Puerto la Cruz.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
REGIONS OF VENEZUELA
- ANDES - Mountainous and picturesque, this region is made up of the states of Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo.
- CARIBBEAN - With more than 600 islands or smaller formations, many of the best beaches can be found here.
- CENTRAL - The most populous part of Venezuela enjoys great beaches like the ones in the Morrocoy National Park and big cities, from Caracas and the nearby commuter towns in Miranda and Vargas out to the states of Aragua and Carabobo.
- GUAYNA - The immense and largely uninhabited area south of the Orinoco River, which makes up around half of Venezuela's national territory, includes rainforest in Amazonas, table-top mountains in the Gran Sabana and Bolívar state, and the flat marshlands extending out in the Orinoco Delta.
- LOS LLANOS - Vast open plains, home to cattle-ranching and amazing wildlife, make up of the states of Apure, Barinas, Cojedes, Guárico and Portuguesa.
- NORTH EAST - Stunning deserted beaches in Anzoátegui and Sucre, as well as hills and caves in Monagas state.
- NORTHWEST - Rich with oil from Zulia state, the northwest also boasts more beaches in Falcón and a lush agricultural countryside in Yaracuy and Lara.
CITIES OF VENEZUELA
- Caracas - Being the capital and the largest city in Venezuela, Caracas was once known for being one of the most cosmopolitan and modern cities in South America. There are still lots of places to visit, such as theatres, malls, museums, art galleries, parks, well-conserved colonial architectures and even gastronomic restaurants.
- Carúpano - A welcoming town on the Caribbean Coast famous for its carnaval and nearby paradisiac beaches.
- Coro - The first capital of Venezuela and a city of rich colonial architecture, a unique natural scenery and tourist attractiveness. Its historical downtown is considered as a cultural World Heritage Site.
- Ciudad Bolivar - Stop-off point for flights to Angel Falls, and a comfortable stopover to Brazil.
- Ciudad Guayana - Dominated by heavy industry, it is Venezuela´s most organized city and the main gateway to the Orinoco Delta and the Gran Sabana. It is locally still known as either Puerto Ordaz or San Félix. In this city you will find a curious and strange phenomenon where two rivers, "El Orinoco" and "El Caroní" find each other but don't mix up because of the density of their water. You can go and be face to face with this natural wonder from a boat and, if you are brave enough, take a dip.
- Maracaibo - Venezuela's second most populated city, swelteringly hot and built on oil industry. Here you can watch a natural phenomenon called "El relámpago del Catatumbo" or The Catatumbo Thunder, where 140 to 160 nights a year you can watch electric storms for up to ten hours at a time!
- Mérida - A charming university town in the Andes mountains, popular for outdoor activities.
- Puerto La Cruz - The city to go to if you want to visit the beaches in Eastern Venezuela.
- San Cristóbal - A leafy industrious city in the Andes mountains, bordering Colombia.
- Valencia - Twice the capital of Venezuela, now an affluent industrial city.
WHAT TO EAT IN VENEZUELA
The distinctive flavour of comida criolla, as Venezuela's cuisine is locally known, resides in roots and vegetables: yams, yucca, plantains, rice and beans. Beef from the cattle ranches of Los Llanos also figures prominently, most popularly cooked a la parilla (charcoal grilled) at the country's many steakhouses. Equally enticing are the varieties of fresh fish and seafood, often prepared in sancochos (stews) along the Caribbean coast. Freshwater trout are popular in the Andean regions, while pargo (snapper), carite (king fish) and dorado are delicious local sea fish, as well as shellfish, lobster, oysters and conch.
Venezuelans have a sweet tooth, and popular desserts include huevos chimbos (egg yolk in sugar syrup), cachitos (stuffed croissants), bienmesabe (sponge cake soaked in coconut milk) and quesillo (a creamy pudding made of egg, milk and caramel). From pineapples to papayas, mangos and chirimoya (custard apples), tropical fruit is fabulously varied and blended into batidos (shakes). Venezuela produces excellent rum and is a major importer of Scotch. Polar (served ice-cold) is the most popular of several local beers; Brazilian Brahma beer, a lighter option, is also brewed in Venezuela.
LOOK OUT FOR:
- Arepas - Corn buns, toasted and generously stuffed with all manner of savoury fillings. The most famous variations are the "reina pepiada" (shredded chicken salad with avocado) and “domino” (stuffed with black beans and shredded white cheese).
- Pabellón criollo - Shredded meat cooked with onions, peppers and coriander; served with fried plantains, black beans and rice and a slab of cheese.
- Hallaca - Corn dough filled with beef, pork, olives, etc, and steamed in banana leaves; a Christmas favourite.
- Cachapas - Slightly sweet corn pancakes, usually folded over hunks of white cheese and/or ham.
- Hervido - Hearty soup of beef, chicken or fish with root vegetables.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- Avoid tap water at all costs; ask for bottled mineral water.
- In Caracas, locals eat late. Outside of the capital and other major cities, however, many restaurants may close as early as 2000.
- The 'menu ejecutivo' fixed-price lunch is a good bargain, available at most larger restaurants.
- In most bars and restaurants, 10% is added to the bill; at fancier establishments it's customary to leave an additional 10% on the table.
LGBTQ IN VENEZUELA
WHERE TO STAY IN VENEZUELA
- Hotels: Venezuela’s hotel scene has hugely expanded over the past decade as tourism and nowadays, hotels are easily found throughout the country in a wide range of prices, with the exception of Caracas where budget accommodation is scarce. Book ahead if you plan to visit Isla de Margarita, Archipiélago Los Roques, Canaima or other major destinations during holiday periods, when rates may increase by 30%.
- Camping: It's possible to camp in Venezuela, and plenty of tourist hot spots such as Gran Sabana, Henri Pittier national park, Isla Margarita and Santa Elena have dedicated campsites. Camping on the beach is allowed, but safety is always a concern.
- Hostels: Found in Caracas, Valencia, Ciudad Bolivar, on the Caribbean islands of Margarita and Coche, in the mountain villages of Jají and San Rafael de Tabay, in the Orinoco river towns of Ciudad Bolívar and Puerto Ayacucho and on the coast at Coro, among other places.
- Posadas: An appealing alternative to hotels, posadas are generally low-key family-operated inns, often in atmospheric colonial homes. Amenities vary widely, with the smaller establishments offering humble accommodations and the larger ones sporting swimming pools and volleyball courts. Posadas are found in both urban and rural areas.
- Campamentos: These are holiday compounds in protected nature zones like Canaima, the Río Caura and the Amazon. They normally consist of a series of rustic huts or cabins, and many have restaurants serving tempting regional fare. Packages include tours of the surroundings, with nature walks, river trips and visits to indigenous communities.
- Hatos: These are big cattle ranches on the plains of Los Llanos that have been repurposed for ecotourism. Packages generally include accommodation on the ranch, meals and safaris to observe the zone's abundant wildlife.
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