Venezuela: Useful Information
South America's Hidden Gem
• Visas and travel warnings: American, Australians, the British and Irish, Canadians as well New Zealanders will just need a passport to travel to Venezuela and Caracas. They do not need a visa. For more information on visa requirements to Venezuela see http://www.venezlon.co.uk/visa_eng.htm. Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries in South American at the moment (especially along the boarder with Columbia). Before you leave you should check if your country has any travel advisory notices out for Venezuela or Caracas.
• Crime is wide spread in Caracas (and other urban centres in Venezuela) so English-speaking holidaymakers will need to keep a discrete profile while in the cities so that they don’t stand out as “gringos”. Elsewhere in Venezuela, crime, while still present, is less of an issue.
• Political tension in Venezuela has been relatively high recently, and places such as Plaza Bolivar in Caracas can be a hot spot for demonstrations. At the moment political tension between the US and Venezuela, makes it awkward for Americans to travel here – especially the cities.
• Nightfall: After dark many areas of Caracas become a no-go area, such as the El Capitolio and the centre of town. Elsewhere in Venezuela crime is less of an issue, so you can enjoy Venezuela at night.
• Pedestrian safely: You can’t trust that drivers in Venezuela will obey the laws, so look for moving cars even at red lights. Motorcycles too are known to travel on the pavements to avoid the congested streets in Caracas. You do not have right of way as a pedestrians in Venezuela, so be careful when crossing the streets.
• Tipping: A 10% service charge is usually added to restaurant bills in Venezuela. Generally, a further tip (10%) is left on the table if the service was good. There is no need to tip taxis drivers (unless they handle luggage), although it is customary to give baggage handlers a tip of $1 per bag. Hotel porters, hairdressers and guides expect a tip of BsF1/$.50.
• VAT: Sales tax in Venezuela is 16.5 % and is charged on everything except basic foods and medicines.
• Money: There are several banks and ATMs in Caracas where you can get Bolivars including, Citibank, Banco Venezuela, Banco Provincial, Banco Union and Banco Mercantil. You cannot exchange money at hotels in Venezuela. There are rigorous foreign exchange controls in Venezuela with fixed official rates of exchange for the Dollar. Be wary of unofficial currency exchanges which may offer better exchange rates but are illegal. Be careful with credit card use in Caracas, as card fraud is common here. You may also find that some ATMs will not accept a foreign-issued debit card in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela.
• Directions: Taxi drivers navigate by main cross streets and landmark buildings, not street numbers.
• Electrical: Venezuela uses 110 volts electricity.
• Haggling: Do not haggle in shops in Caracas and Venezuela, although you can with street vendors. If you are worried about being over charged, check the prices in some other shops before you buy.