Dangers & Annoyances
Venezuela cannot be called a safe country, but by using some common sense, you can minimize risk.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and keep displays of wealth to an absolute minimum especially in the larger urban centers.
- Caracas is by far the most dangerous place: always take taxis after dark. The metro is not recommended.
- Police are not necessarily trustworthy, so do not blindly accept their demands. Ditto security personnel at airport screenings and border crossings.
- Passports are often required for the most banal transactions. Always carry your passport (or a copy with the entrance stamp).
- The border with Colombia is considered risky.
Before you travel: Important Venezuela Information
Venezuela is a tricky place to travel at present and showing up on a whim is a bad idea. Because of security concerns, we cannot recommend traveling here at present. There is a basic lack of services for the ordinary citizen – food, healthcare and personal security – so a traveler with no knowledge of the lay of the land could find themselves seriously out of their depth in a hurry.
Money & the Black Market
Venezuela is in the process of a slow economic meltdown, mainly because the government kept the now-defunct bolívar fuerte (BsF) pegged at a totally unrealistic rate of six to the US dollar. A new currency, the bolívar sovereign (BsS) was introduced in 2018 but rather added to the chaos.
Even before the currency shift, hyperinflation and a thriving black market were rampant. Traveling in Venezuela is simply not possible without using this system, and so it’s important to either bring cash US dollars with you to change on arrival (ask at any hotel or any travel agency and they’ll be able to point you in the direction of a money changer) or by sending money electronically to a trusted travel agency or posada (hotel or guesthouse), who will then provide you with cash on arrival. It’s important to have a reliable contact in the country (agency or such) and to be met when you arrive in the country, as even paying for a taxi or bus fare without the black market will be prohibitively expensive. Never use ATMs or credit cards in Venezuela, as these will give you the terrible official rates as well.
Venezuela is without doubt one of the most dangerous destinations in South America and it’s important to know that at present there are always risks in coming here. The only way we can truly recommend visiting is if you organize a trip with a Venezuela-based travel agency in advance.
Some easy ways to minimize your exposure include avoiding Caracas altogether, always taking taxis after dark, avoiding public buses, not using your phone or camera on the streets, not wearing expensive jewelry or watches, and arranging for transfers from airports and bus stations in advance with your hotel or travel agency. Do not use unofficial taxis, change money with strangers or stay in hotels you don’t know to be safe. Take local advice seriously and carry a copy of your passport and entry stamp with you at all times rather than carrying your actual passport with you. Finally, be discreet about the often enormous piles of cash you’re forced to carry due to the currency being so weak.
We recommend using a travel agency in Venezuela, however independent and experienced a traveler you may be. Travel agencies know the most up-to-date information, can book internal flights and buses for you (both impossible from abroad), and can assist with changing money and organizing transfers. Internal flights should be reserved several weeks in advance due to overbooking and enormous demand as domestic routes shrink, and you should check in at least two hours in advance, preferably three, to ensure you can board. Long-distance buses are generally safe, but tickets are not always available at short notice. Many travelers go between cities using taxis as fuel prices are so low and the powerful dollar makes this affordable. It’s also the safest method to get around over land. You should avoid using buses to get around Caracas, and even the metro is not well recommended.
US and Israeli citizens require visas to visit Venezuela. These must be obtained in advance and in person from a Venezuelan consulate abroad, and are a headache. While they only cost US$30, they can take several weeks to issue, so plan well in advance. Citizens of most other countries can travel visa free.