A bustling low-key border town where dusty 4x4 drivers wave at their friends, Santa Elena is the primary transit point for treks to Roraima and the first stop in Venezuela for travelers entering by land from Brazil. This small, friendly town is also a good base for exploring the Gran Sabana, though accommodations, food and tour prices are far higher here than elsewhere in the country, with the local economy calibrated more to neighbouring Brazil than the distant nearest cities of Venezuela.
Though the city is quite safe, it’s also a brazen black-market and smuggling hub. Gas prices in Brazil are almost 30 times higher than those in Venezuela, which means that there is serious money to be made. As a result there's a strong police and military presence around the town, but it shouldn't be anything to worry about as a traveler.