Getting there & away
Caracas has three public bus terminals – two intercity stations and a central one for shorter journeys. In addition, several smaller, less chaotic private terminals cover the same destinations.
The Terminal La Bandera (693-6607; Av Nueva Granada; La Bandera), 3km south of the center, handles long-distance buses to anywhere in the country’s west and southwest. The terminal has a left-luggage office (1st hr US$0.50, per hr thereafter US$0.20; 6am-9pm Mon-Sat, 7am-7pm Sun) on the right side of the top level and a friendly Spanish-only information desk near the ticket offices.
The terminal’s layout can be confusing. To get to the ticket offices, go up the ramp to the top level. Ignore the numerous touts attempting to shoo you over to their bus companies. A chart inside the entrance shows where the 40 or so bus companies go and the locations of their ticket offices, all of which are on the left side. Below is a list of the most reliable lines serving the most destinations, along with their window location numbers.
Expresos Flamingo (693-7572; 40)
Expresos Los Llanos (445 7391; 41)
Expresos Mérida (693-5559; 44)
Expresos Occidente (693-6489; 1)
All buses depart from the level directly below the ticket offices, with the exception of buses to Maracay and Valencia. To reach those, you must go to the other end of the terminal, then down one level. From the same location, por puestos (collective taxis/minibuses) travel to San Felipe, Barquisimeto and Maracay, departing as they fill.
The terminal is inconveniently not linked to La Bandera metro station, but 350m away through a chaotic, unsafe neighborhood. From the metro, take the Granada/Zuloaga exit, cross the avenue and turn left. Leaving the terminal, go down the ramp to the left and proceed 350m, past two gas stations, and cross at the stoplight to the metro. Alternatively, you’ll find secure taxis inside the station, departing from opposite the por puesto stand.
The Terminal de Oriente (243-2606; Autopista Caracas-Guarenas) handles all traffic to the east and southeast of the country; international buses to Colombia also leave from here. The terminal is on the eastern outskirts of Caracas, on the highway to Barcelona, 5km beyond Petare (about 18km from Caracas’ city center). It’s accessible by local buses (20 minutes, US$0.40) from metro Petare: take the ‘Av Francisco de Miranda’ exit, go left to the avenue and left again to find the bus stop. A taxi from Altamira will cost about US$12. The terminal features ATMs and a helpful information desk.
Buses servicing regional destinations (La Guaira, Los Teques, Santa Teresa, Ocumare del Tuy etc) still depart from the old central Nuevo Circo regional bus terminal (Av Lecuna; Nuevo Circo), though it’s absolute chaos. Be prepared to wait in long lines and – when your bus finally arrives – to scramble on.
Modern, comfortable buses from these smaller stations are pricier than those out of the major terminals but make up for it in convenience and straightforward access. All of the terminals listed have ATMs and snack bars.
Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos (266-2364; www.aeroexpresos.com.ve; Av Principal de Bello Campo, Bello Campo; Altamira) Services Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Maracaibo, Maturín, Ciudad Bolívar and Puerto La Cruz.
Peli Express (239-9058; Corredor Vial Parque del Este; Los Dos Caminos) Has a terminal on the east side of Parque del Este, just south of the Museo del Transporte, with several lines servicing Puerto La Cruz, San Cristóbal, Mérida, Maracaibo, Barinas, Carúpano, Coro, Valencia, Cumaná and Ciudad Bolívar, among other places.
Rodovías (577-6622; www.rodovias.com.ve in Spanish; Av Libertador, cnr Amador Bendayan; Colegio de Ingenieros) Offers frequent services to Barquisimeto, Valencia, Cumaná, Carúpano, Ciudad Bolívar, Maturín and other destinations. From the metro station, it’s a 150m walk east (left exiting the station).
Driving into and out of Caracas is pretty straightforward. The major western access route is the Valencia–Caracas freeway, which enters the city from the south and joins Autopista Francisco Fajardo, the main east–west city artery, next to the Universidad Central de Venezuela. From anywhere in the east, access is by the Barcelona–Caracas freeway, which will take you directly to Autopista Francisco Fajardo.
To rent a car, you are generally better off making arrangements from home with international car-rental companies. Operators at the international terminal of Aeropuerto Internacional ‘Simón Bolívar’ include Avis (355-1190), Hertz (355-1197; email@example.com) and Budget (355-2782; www.budget.com.ve in Spanish). You’ll find more desks of local car-rental companies in the domestic terminal.
Ferries run to Isla de Margarita from La Guaira, the port of Caracas, in high season and when there is sufficient demand. You can book tickets at Conferry (0501-2663-3779; www.conferry.com in Spanish; Torre Banhorient, Av Casanova, Sabana Grande; 8am-11:30am & 2-5:30pm Mon-Thu, 8:30am-4:30pm Fri; Plaza Venezuela). There’s no passenger service to Los Roques, only freight boats.
The Aeropuerto Internacional ‘Simón Bolívar’ (www.aeropuerto-maiquetia.com.ve in Spanish), 26km from central Caracas, has two terminals, one for international and the other for domestic flights, separated by 400m. There’s a free, though infrequent, shuttle service between the terminals.
The international terminal (355-3110) has a good range of facilities, including an Inatur tourist office branch, five car-rental desks, half a dozen casas de cambio, three banks, four ATMs, post and telephone offices, restaurants and cafés, and a slew of travel agencies. The domestic terminal (355-2660) provides all of the same facilities.
At the time of research, the international/domestic airport tax was a hefty US$44/19 plus a further US$17.50 departure tax. In most cases, taxes will be included in your ticket price but it’s always worth checking beforehand. To check for any further increases, see the airport website.Italcambio, with several branches on the 2nd level of the international terminal, changes cash and traveler’s checks and is open till midnight. Advances on Visa and MasterCard are given in the Banco de Venezuela (Rampa Level; 8:30am-3:30pm Mon-Fri). Otherwise try one of the ATMs on the upper level (although some foreign cards do not always work in Venezuelan ATMs). Note that airport casas de cambio do not change bolívares back into foreign currencies; if you get stuck with any, consider cashing them in for liquor or cosmetics at the duty-free shops.
To phone from the terminal, buy a phone card at a newsstand. Maiquetía has the same area code as Caracas, so just dial the local Caracas number.