Venezuela is a country with extremely high biodiversity that is distributed among many different landscapes, which range from high Andean mountains, to rich Amazon rain forest, to extensive plains in the llanos, to paradisiacal beaches and islands in the Caribbean coast. Since the discovery of vast oil reserves, Venezuela has been one of the world’s leading oil exporters.
The country’s economy is dominated by the petroleum sector, which is the biggest source of revenue. Despite the richness of its land, agricultural revenues are minimal and Venezuela imports most of its food needs. Corruption is another big problem in the country. But the biggest concern of Venezuelans is the high crime rate; according to Wikipedia, Caracas has the second highest homicide rate of any big city in the world. Politically, the country remains divided between supporters of President Hugo Chavez and those who oppose him.
When I started my trip, I decided to go first to Venezuela since I grew up in Caracas. My parents moved there when I was just a couple of months old and I lived in that city for the first 20 years of my life. Finally, at the beginning of 1997 I left to go study abroad. Since then, I have gone back every couple of years to visit my family. On this page you will find tips and information related to my own personal experience in the country, as well as some links that I think could be useful for planning a trip. If you have any questions or would like me to provide any additional information, feel free to post a comment below.
PLACES I VISITED
During my latest visit to Venezuela, which lasted from the end of January till the end of February 2011, my primary focus was spending time with my family so my trip was limited to just a few places:
① Caracas: the city where I grew up, I have seen it change over the years but unfortunately it has not been for the best. While other cities all over Latin America have improved their level of quality of life for their citizens, Caracas just seems to get worse in my opinion. Criminality is still high and the city has plunged into a spiral of decay, so I could not wait to get out as soon as possible.
② Cuyagua: located within the Henri Pittier National Park, the oldest national park in Venezuela, it has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in the country. If you like peace and quite though, it’s highly recommended that you visit during weekdays when you can have the place mostly to yourself.
③ ⑤ Margarita Island: one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the country, and where my family lives so it’s always nice to visit and go around the island, no matter how many times I’ve already been there. This time I finally got my wish of going horseback riding in the Macanao Peninsula.
④ Coche Island: despite its proximity to Margarita Island I had never visited this place. It’s a tiny island where you can just seat, relax, admire the kitesurfers and eat delicious local food.
SOME LITTLE FACTS
Venezuela has tight governmental control on foreign currencies and the exchange rate is fixed by the state; however, there is a parallel black market where the rates fluctuate and are much higher than the official rate. Therefore, when going to Venezuela it is advisable to estimate how much you would spend during your stay and bring that amount in cash in order to get the unofficial rate. The easiest currency to exchange is the American Dollar but it’s also possible with Euros.
Cash can also come in handy since there are some bank/debit cards that don’t work in Venezuela’s automated bank machines and when using credit cards you can only get the official exchange rate so you end up paying double the amount than if you get the black market rate.
If you drive a car in your country, your jaw will drop to your feet if you make the calculation of how much it would cost you to fill up your tank in Venezuela. My sister drives a compact car and she only pays the equivalent to 0,25€ for a full tank!