Foreign travel advice

Venezuela

Summary

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • within 80km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in the states of Zulia, Tachira, Barinas, Apure and Bolívar
  • within 80 km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in Amazonas state as far south as 100 km (62 miles) south of Puerto Ayacucho
  • within 40km (25 miles) of the rest of the Colombian border

Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in these states and there is a risk of kidnapping.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela, due to ongoing crime and instability. If you’re in Venezuela, you should keep your departure options under review. If the political situation worsens, the British embassy may be limited in the assistance that it can provide.

There have been regular large political demonstrations and protests in Caracas and other cities throughout 2017, which have led to arrests, injuries, and deaths.

You should remain vigilant and informed. Avoid protests and demonstrations, which can turn violent with little warning. During and ahead of demonstrations, there’s often travel disruption as a result of road closures. The authorities often use tear gas and buckshot/plastic pellets to disperse protests. In case of renewed prolonged protests, you should take precautions by securing several days’ worth of food and water provisions.

The Venezuelan government has ordered the temporary closure of the border with Colombia (open to foot traffic only). Contact your tour operator before you travel for more information.

There’s a high threat from violent crime and kidnapping throughout Venezuela. Take care at all times, including when arriving in the country. During 2017 there have been major, unpredictable outbursts of violence in several cities, including Caracas, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay and Ciudad Guayana. Law enforcement presence in these cities is low and incidents of violent crime are on the rise.

Power cuts are common and you may find yourself without water or electricity from short to extended periods of time.

There are intermittent shortages of fuel for cars throughout Venezuela, including in Caracas.

There have been recent reports of bribes being solicited by authorities at Maiquetia (Caracas) International Airport.

UK health authorities have classified Venezuela as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Terrorist attacks in Venezuela can’t be ruled out.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks in Venezuela can’t be ruled out.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should remain vigilant.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Safety and security

Crime

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to within 80km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in the states of Zulia, Tachira, Barinas, Apure and Bolívar; within 80 km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in Amazonas state as far south as 100 km (62 miles) south of Puerto Ayacucho; and within 40km (25 miles) of the rest of the Colombian border. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in these states and there is a risk of kidnapping.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela.

In recent months, there have been major unpredictable outbursts of violence in several cities, including Caracas, Barquisimeto, Valencia and Maracay. Law enforcement presence in these cities is considerably reduced and incidents of violent crime are on the rise.

Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active along the border with Colombia and kidnappings are common. There’s a high threat from violent crime and kidnapping throughout Venezuela, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Armed robbery, mugging, carjacking, and burglary are all common and are often accompanied by violence. These crimes can occur at any time and in a wide range of places. This includes on the street or the beach, in supermarket queues or when travelling in private vehicles or public transport, or indoors.

Private security services, including the use of armoured cars, are increasingly becoming the standard for business and official visitors and residents. Use of armoured vehicles is now common in Caracas, especially after dark and for transport to/from the airport.

In response to the high level of crime, the Venezuelan government regularly carries out security operations. Avoid getting caught up in these operations.

Due to the high level of crime, you should take care at all times, including when first arriving at the airport in Venezuela. Always be alert. Avoid using your mobile phone or displaying other electronic equipment or valuables on the street or in a vehicle.

The risk of crime is higher after dark, although many incidents also occur during daylight. Try not to go out alone if you are not familiar with your surroundings. Don’t camp on or visit beaches after dark. If you can, ask your tour operator, friends or work contacts to help you make safe transport and accommodation arrangements.

If you’re the victim of a crime, don’t resist. Resistance has frequently resulted in victims being shot dead.

In Caracas, Sabana Grande is not a safe area in which to stay; reasonably priced hotels can be found in safer areas like Chacao. Don’t visit ‘barrios’ (heavily populated slums), as these are unsafe. Avoid queues for supermarkets, pharmacies and other shops as they can turn violent.

British nationals walking in the Avila National Park have been robbed at gunpoint. If you want to visit the Avila, stick to popular trails and times and where possible go in a group.

Only use pre-booked taxis rather than hailing them in the street. Hotels will normally book a taxi from a reputable company or supply their own limousine service.

Avoid public transport. A number of robberies at gunpoint have recently been reported on the Caracas metro. There are regular reports of passengers being robbed on public buses.

Political situation

Frequent protests have taken place over the past year in Caracas and other towns and cities across the country. Some have been in response to economic issues like electricity, water and food shortages, others have been political protests.

Some protests have resulted in injuries or deaths. There have also been cases of looting in response to shortages of goods, and crowds lynching suspected criminals. The police and National Guard are heavily armed and protests can take place or turn violent with little warning. The authorities often use tear gas and buckshot/plastic pellets to disperse protests, and they sometimes arrest large numbers of people. You should avoid large public gatherings and you should not cross police lines or civilian-run barricades. Remain alert at all times.

Road travel

Heavy rains and lack of maintenance can affect road conditions. Seek local advice about your route before you set out, leave plenty of time for your journey and stick to the main roads. Where possible avoid travelling after dark.

There are regular reports of intermittent petrol shortages throughout Venezuela, including in Caracas. Often, only low-grade (91-octane) petrol is available.

You can drive in Venezuela using a British driving licence for up to 1 year. After that you will need to get a Venezuelan driving licence. Make sure you have copies of insurance documents, driving licence and passport with you at all times. Failure to produce documents can result in your vehicle being seized by the police.

There are regular police and National Guard checkpoints throughout the country. Drive slowly through these and stop if asked to do so. There have been reports of attempts by the police and National Guard to extract bribes. Ask for a written record giving details of the offence and the officer’s details.

All vehicles must carry a spare tyre, wheel block, jack and reflector triangle. Driving under the influence of alcohol is common, especially during weekends. Many vehicles are in poor condition and drivers routinely ignore red lights. In the event of an accident, both vehicles must remain in the position of the accident until a traffic police officer arrives. Insurance companies won’t pay claims on vehicles that have been moved without a police accident report.

Hitchhiking and cycling are both extremely high risk, you should avoid both in Venezuela.

A high number of violent incidents have been reported in Caucagua east of Caracas. You should avoid stopping in this area.

Air travel  

On 27 July, Colombia-based airline Avianca suspended flights to and from Venezuela.

The normal check-in time for domestic and international flights in Venezuela is 2 to 3 hours in advance. For some airlines it is longer. You won’t be able to check in or drop bags if you arrive after your airline’s deadline, so you should check cut-off times with the airline in advance. There are also often lengthy police checks, so avoid arriving late at the airport.

Departure taxes are normally included in the price of a ticket, except at Puerto Ordaz airport. If the tax has increased since you bought your ticket you may need to pay the difference before entering the security baggage check area for departures. Check with your airline before agreeing to pay anything extra.

There have been reports of travellers being asked to pay bribes to enter and leave the country at Maiquetia airport. Don’t make any non-official payments and ask for a receipt for any customs duty payments you make. If you bring into the country any personal items or merchandise with a total value of over US$1,000 that are considered to be ‘new’, you’ll need to pay import duty. Further details on import duty taxes can be found on the Venezuelan customs authority (SENIAT) website (in Spanish). If you’re asked for a bribe or not given a receipt for a payment, please inform the British Embassy in Caracas.

Tourist travel can often involve flying in light aircraft. There have been several accidents in recent years on the main tourist routes, including Los Roques, Canaima and Merida – some with fatalities. A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out its most recent audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Venezuela in 2013.

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.

Travelling to and from Maiquetia Airport (Caracas)

Criminal groups operate in the Maiquetia airport area. Members of these groups work inside the airport to spot passengers who appear to be wealthy and then inform car hijackers and muggers waiting on the roads outside the airport. Some passengers have been followed from the airport and assaulted on the way to or on arrival at their destination in Caracas. Avoid displaying expensive jewellery, electronic items or other valuables; don’t bring large amounts of cash to Venezuela; and be alert at all times. Passengers have also been robbed when returning to their cars at the airport car park.

Avoid travelling on the road between Caracas and Maiquetia airport during the hours of darkness. There are fewer cars on the road during this time and the risk of crime is much higher. Don’t stay at an airport hotel unless you can make safe transport arrangements between the hotel and the airport.

There have been armed robberies on buses travelling to Maiquetia Airport, and along Avenida Libertador in Caracas. Ideally, arrange to be met at the airport by friends, business contacts, or your tour operator. If that isn’t possible, consider travelling by licensed taxi. If you have to take a taxi, use a licensed taxi from the official taxi rank outside the arrivals hall.

Beware of bogus taxi-drivers at the airport. Don’t accept offers of transport in the arrivals hall and do not board a taxi if there are other passengers already inside the car.

If you’re coming to Venezuela to work, bring a letter from your employer and your local contact organisation details (including a Spanish translation). There have been occasions when passengers have been asked for bribes at the airport. Exchange currency at official exchange booths only.

The National Guard carries out random drug and security checks at Maiquetia Airport, particularly on departure. Departing passengers are sometimes asked to accompany an officer to a local hospital for an x-ray. Beware of bogus security officials; if you’re in any doubt ask other airline or airport staff.

Sea travel

There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against boats in and around Venezuela’s waters, especially east of Puerto La Cruz and in waters between Venezuela and Trinidad. Take suitable precautions and avoid these areas if possible.

Beaches

The waters of the Caribbean can be deceptive. There are strong currents and undertows in some areas that can make swimming hazardous. Lifeguards and warnings are not always in place.

Security incidents are common on beaches at any time of day.

Electricity and water

You may find yourself without water or electricity from short to extended periods of time.

Power cuts are common and there is water supply rationing ongoing through the country.

Local laws and customs

Don’t handle illegal drugs. Drug trafficking is considered a serious crime in Venezuela. Detection methods are sophisticated and drug traffickers should expect to be arrested. Conviction leads to severe penalties, including up to 2 years on remand before sentencing and then a lengthy prison sentence of between 8 and 12 years. Conditions in Venezuelan jails are harsh and dangerous, and among the worst in the region.

It is an offence to photograph military or strategic installations including military airports and the Presidential Palace. Avoid plane spotting.

Many basic groceries are in short supply. You may not be able to find them in the supermarket or they may be rationed.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

If you are arriving by air, you can enter for up to 90 days on a tourist card issued on arrival. You must have a valid return ticket. If you are arriving overland, or by sea, you must get a visa in advance from your nearest Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate.

Don’t overstay the 90 days or you may be arrested and fined when departing. Extensions of up to 90 days can be arranged at any SAIME (immigration service) office for a fee but you must apply before your tourist card expires.

If you are living in Venezuela, the only place where you can apply for or extend your residency permit is the main SAIME office in Caracas. Avoid companies offering residency permits as they may not be genuine.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months for entry into Venezuela.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website

Dual nationality

Any dual national Venezuelan must use their Venezuelan identity documents to enter and leave the country. The authorities may not allow you to depart Venezuela otherwise.

Travelling with children

Children travelling unaccompanied, with a guardian, or with one parent must provide a letter from the non-travelling parent(s) confirming that they consent for the child to travel without them. This letter must include all the travel details and must be notarised by a local notary public. If the child is resident overseas, the letter must be notarised by the nearest Venezuelan consulate/embassy. The child should carry this letter while travelling within in the country and also when leaving Venezuela. Children may be denied exit from the country if they do not have this letter.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Venezuela. The ETD must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Venezuela. The usual visa requirements for land and sea arrivals apply.

Money

Strict currency controls are in place in Venezuela. There are currently two official exchange rates (as well as a black-market rate). Bureaux de change will exchange US dollars and US dollar travellers’ cheques for Bolivars.

Use official currency exchange booths only, which should change money at the higher of the two official rates (DICOM). It’s illegal to change money on the black market. There are no facilities for visitors to change bolivares to US dollars, or any other currency, when leaving Venezuela.

Debit and credit cards are widely used in Venezuela and have the advantage of removing the need to carry large amounts of cash. However, international credit cards aren’t always accepted by point of sale machines and you’ll have to enter your passport number. ATMs have extremely low limits for cash withdrawals on international cards and queues at ATMs are frequently targeted by criminals. You shouldn’t rely on ATMs as your main way to access money in Venezuela.

There’s a serious problem with credit card fraud and cards being cloned. Take care whenever you’re using your credit or debit cards.

100 bolivar bank notes will be phased out in 2017; higher value bank notes are being introduced, but supplies are limited and it may be difficult to get cash.

If you run out of money and discover that your bank cards do not work, you can arrange with friends and family overseas to deposit funds into any Western Union branch, and pick up the deposited funds at any Grupo Zoom branch nationwide.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Medical facilities in Venezuela vary widely in quality. In large cities, private clinics provide acceptable quality care for routine treatments but are vulnerable to acute shortages of medical supplies and medicines. More complex treatments may require evacuation. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Public health facilities are poor, with frequent shortages of medicines and funding. Ambulance services in remote areas are unreliable and hospitals often lack adequate medical supplies and equipment.

The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation has reported that there is a shortage of 80% of medical supplies due to the economic crisis. Make sure you bring enough medication for your stay including extra medication in case your return is unexpectedly delayed. If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip dial 911 from a landline or a mobile phone; calls to this number are free of charge.

Nationwide ambulance services like Primera Respuesta and AeroAm can help you get back to Caracas or other major cities in the event of an accident.

Contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

UK health authorities have classified Venezuela as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Dengue fever and malaria are present throughout the country, although the central and southern states are the most affected, especially during or shortly after the rainy season between September and March. There have been reports of an increase in cases of malaria throughout Venezuela in 2016.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Venezuela. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Insect repellent can be difficult to purchase locally so you should bring enough for your stay.

Tap water is unsafe to drink. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Natural disasters

The hurricane season runs from around 1 June to 30 November, and can affect parts of northern Venezuela. Keep an eye on weather reports on local TV and radio. You can also monitor weather updates on-line from the World Meteorological Organisation and the US National Hurricane Centre and follow the advice of the local authorities. See our tropical cylones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

During the rainy season from May to November there may be flooding in low-lying areas (eg the Llanos) and in some valleys in the Andes (Merida State). There may be disruption to transport, services and infrastructure.

Venezuela is vulnerable to earthquakes. Monitor media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.