Venezuela - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Venezuela


Venezuela means 'Little Venice' in Spanish, the name given to this northerly country in South America by the early explorers when they found the natives living on the Sinamaica lagoon, in houses built on stilts, close to the present day oil rich city of Maracaibo.

The people have a reputation for being welcoming and friendly, although there is a problem with street crime in the larger cities - Caracas in particular. Venezuela has an abundance of natural resources, including one of the biggest oil reserves in the world. The resulting revenues have helped build good infrastructure and encouraged the country's leadership to forge an independent path in international relations.

Nature has also blessed this country with diverse landscapes, from miles of beautiful Caribbean beaches to open plains, towering mountains, tracts of Amazon rain forest and even a small desert. In the southeast in Bolivar State the Gran Sabana National Park contains the spectacular Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.

Venezuela's cities are similarly scenic, particularly the capital, Caracas, which sprawls in a long, thin valley flanked by the majestic Avila Mountain. Caracas is lively, green and clean, with a rich cultural life, vibrant nightlife, great restaurants and marvellous modern shopping malls. A favourite excursion in Caracas is to ride the cable car to the summit of the Avila. The popular city of Merida, in the Andes, also has its cable car, and this one takes tourists on a one-hour journey to the highest point in Venezuela, the Pico Bolivar, which reaches more than 16,404ft (5,000m).

Venezuela has a little bit of everything that Latin America has to offer, with the addition of thousands of miles of Caribbean coastline, and the constantly pleasant temperature that makes it good year-round destination.

Information & Facts


Although the temperature in Venezuela is warm with a high humidity, formal business attire is the norm. People should be addressed as Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) and Señorita (Miss) unless otherwise specified. Shaking hands is a customary greeting, and business cards are exchanged on meeting for the first time; it is best to have one side translated into Spanish. Meetings are prompt and generally occur over lunch; evening dinners are generally reserved for socialising. Business hours are 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.


Being situated just above the equator, the weather in Venezuela is pleasant all year around. However the dry season (September to April) is the best time to visit, though the Angel Falls are most impressive towards the end of the wet season.


The international country code for Venezuela is +58 and the outgoing code is 00. City/area codes are in use, for example Caracas is (0)212. Mobile telephone GSM networks cover Caracas but are sparse outside of the city. Internet cafes are available in Caracas and tourist resorts.


Photography of military installations and the Presidential Palace is prohibited.

Duty Free

Travellers to Venezuela do not have to pay duty on the following items: 25 cigars and 200 cigarettes; 2 litres of alcohol; and 4 small bottles of perfume. Those travellers arriving from international destinations do not have to pay duty on goods to the value of US$1,000. Prohibited items include flowers, fruits, meat and meat products, plants and birds or parts thereof.

110/220 volts, 60Hz. American two-pin plugs are generally used.

There are no vaccination requirements for Venezuela, but those who plan to travel in areas outside the main cities should be immunised against yellow fever, Hepatitis A, and typhoid. Some airlines travelling to Venezuela will insist on a yellow fever certificate before boarding the plane, and travellers are advised to check with their airline before travel. There is a risk of malaria, particularly in jungle areas, but prophylaxis is not necessary for travel to Caracas or the coastal areas. Medical advice should be sought at least three weeks prior to departure. Insect protection measures are vital to avoid both malaria and dengue fever, which is on the increase. Mains water should not be drunk, but bottled drinking water is available. Venezuela's hospitals offer free emergency treatment, however the private hospitals are better quality, though expensive. Public hospitals suffer from a shortage of basic supplies, as do private hospitals and clinics outside Caracas. Health insurance is advisable.

Spanish is the official language of Venezuela.

Venezuela's currency is the Bolivar Fuerte (VEF), which replaced the Bolivar (VEB) in January 2008. The revaluation means that Bs. 1,000 becomes Bs F 1. It is divided into 100 centimos. US dollars are the most favoured foreign currency so it is best to have cash and travellers cheques in US$. Foreign currency and cheques can be changed at bureau de change offices found in most larger cities and tourist destinations. Some banks (e.g. Banco Mercantil) will now buy US dollars for bolivares or sell bolivares against a foreign credit card; some major hotels will also swap US dollars for bolivares. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday. It is best to obtain local currency where possible before travelling, and bolivars should be exchanged before exiting Venezuela. There are ATMs in the cities (however some travellers have experienced problems using them), and most credit cards, including MasterCard/Eurocard, American Express and Visa, are accepted in major cities. Diners Club has more limited acceptance. Visitors are also warned that there is a serious problem with credit card fraud.

Passport Visa

Those entering Venezuela on a visa require a passport valid for at least six months. If travel is for touristic purposes, passports valid for two months will be accepted as long as the passport expires after the departure date. Tourist Entry Cards are issued free of charge by air carriers allowing for a stay of up to 90 days and are essential for entry into Venezuela. Visitors must have return tickets or tickets for onward travel as well as all documents required for the next destination and sufficient funds. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


The 1,000-mile (1,609km) long border between Venezuela and Colombia is notorious for the risk of violence, kidnapping, smuggling and drug trafficking. Visitors should give the border region a wide berth. Foreign nationals have also been kidnapped for ransom or violently mugged in Caracas and visitors should be alert to this threat in hotels, taxis and, in particular, the airport. Street crime is high in Caracas and other cities, and foreigners should be particularly cautious at night. Passengers have been robbed at gunpoint by bogus taxi-drivers at Caracas airport; it is best not to accept offers of assistance within the arrivals hall, only at the official taxi rank directly outside. Only licensed taxis bearing a clearly identifiable number should be used. The road from the airport to Caracas is undergoing major reconstruction, and journey times can be long and unpredictable. The road is best avoided after dark due to the recent spate of armed robberies taking place on the highway at night. Passengers arriving on late flights are particularly vulnerable. Unlicensed taxicab operators have been known to overcharge and rob passengers; travellers are advised to only use licensed radio taxis or those from reputable hotels. Political demonstrations, sometimes with violence and gunfire, occur regularly in Venezuela (many Venezuelans carry guns) and should be avoided. Pickpockets are very active in the city centres, particularly around bus and subway stations. Armed robberies and muggings are on the increase and theft of unattended valuables left on beaches or in cars is common. Obvious displays of wealth, and talking on mobile phones on the street, should be avoided to reduce the risk. The coastal beach resorts are generally trouble free, though visitors should use common sense in ensuring the safety of their person and possessions. There have been recent cases of robberies and assaults after tourists have been drugged - either through spiked drinks or pamphlets impregnated with substances that are handed out on the streets or in shopping centres. Safety standards in light aircraft are variable and there have been several accidents on the main tourist routes, including Margarita and Canaima/Angel Falls; visitors are advised to go with established companies operating modern multi-engined aircraft.

GMT -4.5.

Tipping is at the discretion of the client and not obligatory. A 10% service charge is usually added to restaurant bills, but in budget places tipping is uncommon. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, but it is customary to give baggage handlers some small change per bag. Tips in Caracas are usually the highest.

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