These days traveling to Venezuela seems to be a hard decision to take for some travelers. Many of them get divided between visiting one of the most mega diverse countries in the world or to skip it from their journey thanks to the political –and quite difficult- situation that the country is facing. And yes, the condition is not perfect around but, no, it is not a reason not to visit the country. I am sure you can ask to lot of travelers that have been around lately how was their trip and they have no regrets. Plus, here I am going to leave those things that you should know and that may be helpful if you decide to visit my beautiful country. And for sure, you can always ask if you feel that you can still have some doubts. And yes, you can hear many things around but for me this is a decision you will make based on how open you are to face different realities. That’s what traveling teach us, no?
1.- Go for tour packages: I am not best friend with this kind of deals, I think that sometimes they are overpriced and that you have a really closed itinerary –not in all of them-. But, in this case, it would be a good idea to buy a holiday package to travel in the country if it is going to make you feel more secure. And actually, there are lots of excursions -like visiting the Angel Falls- that only can be made with a tourist package. There are lots of travel agencies and nice people organizing private’s tours around amazing landscapes, and the best of it is that they are going to be with you all the time and you will feel safer.
2.- Local travel bloggers: If you decide to skip the tour packages , don´t worry, I am sure you can make it in your own! What I can tell you is that you must do a previous investigation of the places you want to visit. There are many Venezuelan travel bloggers leaving some great histories from their trips along with nice tips to go around the country! Here I leave you a list of some of them that for sure will help you a lot!
3.- Book in advance: As I said before, if you decide to go to Venezuela you really need to take your time to investigate about the places you want to visit and, as well, try to get, at least, your accommodation in advance. Or, in the worst case, have an idea of the places where you can stay the night and how to get there. Nowadays Venezuela is not a country to wonder around to find a place to spend your nighttime. This is not a tip, it is a really needy thing to do.
4.- Stay at “posadas”: This are very small hotels that are normally run by their owners at their houses, it is quite of a home stay. There are lots around the country and they are much cheaper than a hotel and you will get the chance to get closer to Venezuelan people. There are two guides that may be very helpful for you if you are already around the country and you can find them: “Guide to camps, posadas & cabins” of Elizabeth Kline and “Guía Valentina Quintero”.
5.- There is no hostels culture: Posadas may be the closest thing you will find to a hostel in Venezuela but they still offer private rooms. This kind of room, toilets and spaces shared for cheapest prices are almost impossible to find around. The only one I can truly recommend you is one located at Maracaibo city –close to Colombian frontier from Maicao- that is called “Pa´que Jose”. This really nice place is run by their owners in their own place where they have received hundreds of visitors already.
6.- Yes, you can camp: Is true, you can hear around that Venezuela is not a really safe country this days and I will not tell you that is a lie. But, even thought the situation is quite tricky there are many places where you can still camp and be safe. The majority of National Parks around the country count with a special area for camping, which is sheltered by their owns workers. Once more, you just need the time to investigate and ask which the best places to camp are. If you have never done it before, here I leave you my own version of camping for dummies.
7.- These days is a really cheap destination for travelers: Thanks to an exchange control that does not permit the normal change of international currency in the country, there exists an official and not official –black market, as we call it- rate of exchange. And the last one, benefits the tourists a lot, because they can get around 10 times more than with the official rate. This kind of exchange it not legal but there is people all over the country that are more than willing to buy your dollars –many travelers exchange the currency in the frontier borders-. You only have to be careful, once more, with how and where do you exchange the money.
8.- Pick a small destination: I think that many travelers, me included, are looking for big and popular cities at their destination – we always want to go to the places from where we have heard the most- but, with Venezuela, I would advise you to find the small towns. First is going to be cheaper and second you are going to be safer. This doesn’t mean that you cannot visit the main cities of the country but it is not a secret that they tend to be the most dangerous one while in small towns you will find a more peaceful time and you will get to see different things from the one you had it mind. Venezuela landscapes will surprise you.
9.- Use planes or bus and avoid traveling by night: From Caracas you can find flights to almost every part in the country and they are quicker and, once more, tend to be safer -all internal flights can be booked within Venezuela with no problem, you just may try to buy them with some previous days from your trip date-. The same with buses, you can find routes to almost any part of the country but some of them will required you to make more than one bus change –you will need to be very patient with transport-. And please, DO NOT travel by night, never! Avoid any night route; you better spend your day traveling than pass a bad moment.
10.- Avoid places that are lonely: If you get to beaches or mountains where you planned to spend your day and there is no one around do not stay! Try always to find spots where there is people that can make you company. Lonely places are more likely to be, not dangerous, but to be visited for little thieves –they won’t make you any harm but they may take away your things and we do not want that-.
11.- Go around with locals: This is the best thing you can do. Is not because I am Venezuela but we are really very friendly people. We love to chat –a lot- and to help others. So, if you are lucky, find a Venezuelan buddy to go around and ask him/her to show you the country the best way they can. You won´t be alone, you would feel at home and you will spend a really nice time.
12.- Bring medicines and personal hygiene products: Due to the difficult political situation that the country is going through shortage is a daily basis. For that I recommend you to bring your toilet products –including toilet paper- for the days you are going to be around. And as well the basic medical kit, which almost every traveler has when they go abroad, to prevent that you get sick and you don’t find the medicine that you may need.
13.- Try all you can: Please, once in Venezuela, because I know you will want to go, try everything! Starting with our lovely arepas! But you also have to eat cachapas, empanadas, tequeños, pastelitos and our typical plate “pabellón”! Visit our beaches, our mountains, our deserts and discover our forests, I know you won´t regret it!