Venezuela


Overview

Venezuela travel guide, including map of Venezuela, top Venezuela travel experiences, tips for travel in Venezuela, plus where to see anteaters and climb the fl

With more beauty queens than anywhere else and the highest waterfall in the world, Venezuela sure is easy on the eye. Christopher Columbus described the south-east of the country as “paradise on earth”.

Venezuela offers amazingly diverse experiences, from delving into the Amazon rainforest to taking a dip in the gently lapping Caribbean sea. In the west is Los Llanos, the great plain where local flora and fauna – such as scarlet ibis and Orinoco crocodile – share their territory with cattle and llanero cowboys.

Further west, at Mérida, you can be whisked off your feet by the highest cable car in the world as it glides up through the mist-swirled peaks of the Andes. Pull on your hiking boots and march out onto the grassy trails of the páramo and the highland pastures studded with wild flowers.

In the east, where Venezuela meets Brazil and Guyana, the Gran Sabana – watered by the mighty cascade of Angel Falls – soars to the flat-topped tepui, including Roraima, the 'lost world'.

 

A stop on your Venezuelan itinerary should certainly be Mochima National Park on the coast, where you can hire a boat and chug round the clusters of islands until you find a deserted cove where you can drop anchor and spend a day padding across your own beach. Or perhaps head to the spectacular Los Roques archipelago, with miles of pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Climb the tepui (flat-topped mountain) Roraima for stunning views from a ‘lost world’
  2. Head upriver and overland in Venezuela to the highest waterfall in the world: Angel Falls
  3. Swim with turtles in beautiful Caribbean archipelago Los Roques
  4. Relax with some pampering massages between shopping trips and beach visits on Margarita Island
  5. Pick up some Chocolates El Rey: they will change your perception of chocolate forever
  6. Explore Los Llanos, watching out for giant anteaters lumbering across the savannah

Wanderlust tips

Share in some Venezuelan obsessions by watching a hammy telenovela (soap opera) or catching a live baseball game. Venezuela has a macho culture and women are regularly wolf-whistled. The best and safest way to deal with it is to ignore it.

 

Further Reading

Travel in Venezuela: vital stats

When to go to Venezuela

Venezuela is generally considered to be a year-round destination. The dry season (December to April) is more pleasant for travelling but the mighty waterfalls in the Gran Sabana of the south-east look more impressive during the wet season.

International airport

Simon Bolivar International Airport (CCS) is 27km from Caracas

Getting around in Venezuela

Most Venezuelans use buses to get around and services between major centres are regular and cheap. Go for servicio ejecutivo or bus-cama for extra comfort. Shorter distances are covered by large cars known as por puestos, carros or carritos which ply a fixed route and leave when full. Renting a car (and filling it with petrol) is cheap in Venezuela but driving standards are poor. Several airlines offer domestic flights. Venezuela is not a good place for cyclists.

Venezuela accommodation

Venezuela isn’t short of accommodation but there are almost no hostels or organised campsites. Posadas (family-run guesthouses) are a good bet if you’re on a budget as many of the cheaper hotels rent out rooms by the hour. At the top end, Caracas and Isla de Margarita have the most options. Note that walk-in prices are usually cheaper than those online. Only the most expensive hotels accept credit cards.

Venezuela food & drink

Arepas are a national favourite – dense disks of white maize flour that come baked or fried with a variety of fillings and sit heavy on the stomach. Pabellon criollo is a robust plate of shredded beef, often accompanied by plantanos (cooking bananas), caraotas negras (black beans) and rice. Orinoco river fish are a delicacy, but best enjoyed close to the source. Coffee drinking is an art form; a zingy negrito (espresso) will kick start your day, but ask for it ‘sin azucar’ (without sugar) if you don’t share the nation’s sweet tooth.

Health & safety in Venezuela

Check with your GP or local travel clinic about vaccinations and malaria prevention. Yellow fever and dengue fever are a risk. Crime is a problem in Caracas: try and leave your money and valuables somewhere safe before walking the streets. Venezuelans go a bit Wacky Races behind the wheel so take extra care when crossing the road and never assume that drivers are going to stop.

Further Reading on travel in Venezuela

  • The Hacienda (Virago Press, 1998) by Lisa St Aubin de Terán. Memoirs exploring the decaying powers of the Venezuelan elite
  • Hugo Chavez & the Bolivarian Revolution (Verso Books, 2005) by Richard Gott. A close look at Venezuela’s controversial president
  • Jungle Rudy (Marion Boyars, 2004) by Jan Brokken. True story of an explorer adopted by Pemón Indians
  • Venezuela (Insight Guides, 2004)
  • Venezuela (Lonely Planet, 2007)