Top events in Venezuela

October
01

This prestigious biennial arts festival is the oldest of its kind in the country, founded in 1943. The exhibitions span the whole range of modern...

October
12

Also known as Dia de la Raza; in recent years with changing political trends, this national holiday is less of a celebration of Columbus’s ‘...

December
08

A new holiday in honour of Hugo Chávez, former president and still beloved by many supporters, following his death in May 2013. The day was...

Choroni--Playa-sans-nom-2
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Choroni--Playa-sans-nom-2

© Creative Commons / Jean-Marc /Jo BeLo/Jhon-John's

Venezuela Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

912,050 sq km (352,144 sq miles).

Population

28.5 million (2013).

Population density

31.2 per sq km.

Capital

Caracas.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1811.

Head of state

President Nicolás Maduro since 2013.

Head of government

President Nicolás Maduro since 2013.

Electricity

120 volts AC, 60Hz. US-style flat two-pin plugs (with or without grounding pin) are the most commonly used fittings.

Though best known for its oil wealth and feisty politics, Venezuela is in fact a superb travel destination, endowed with an astonishing array of landscapes and opportunities for adventure. With 2,800 km (1,740 miles) of Caribbean coastline, this South American country is bordered by Colombia to the west, Brazil to the south and Guyana to the east.

Tropical beaches, vast wetlands, great rivers, idyllic colonial towns, little-explored jungle and majestic mountains are among the varied settings. Its location on the north coast makes it one of the quickest and cheapest destinations for flights from Europe and the US. Caracas, its modern capital, is the gateway for visitors, but most of the country’s attractions lie beyond the frenetic city, with some 40 percent of national territory protected by national parks and reserves.

Visitors can choose from a wealth of activities or just kick back and enjoy the resort experience. The clear, warm waters of its coast and numerous offshore islands are ideal for snorkelling and diving. The tropical lowlands of Los Llanos harbour an abundance of wildlife and lush vegetation, with eco-tourism ranches offering excellent bird-watching safaris. The Guyana Highlands are home to ancient ‘tepuy’ plateaux and dramatic waterfalls, including the awesome Angel Falls, the world’s highest. The Orinoco, second-longest river in South America, feeds the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Delta, where indigenous inhabitants still live in homes on stilts. And the Andes, backbone of the sub-continent, rise in the west of the country, with tall snow-covered peaks to challenge trekkers and mountaineers.

Originally inhabited by Carib and Arawak Indians, Venezuelans today comprise a rich cultural mix of European and Afro-Caribbean roots, reflecting the country’s history of successive waves of conquest and colonisation. US-inspired baseball may be the national sport, but the taste for colourful lively carnivals and dance owes more to its Latin and African heritage. Don’t miss, for instance, the amazing Diablos Danzantes – ‘dancing devil’ festivals, particularly popular in villages along the central coast.

Venezuela was claimed as a Spanish territory by Christopher Columbus in 1498. His very first landfall on the South American mainland was here, on the Paria Peninsula. Spanish rule was administered from a distance, leaving the various regions to develop separately from the capital, Caracas. In the 18th century, Simón Bolívar, South America’s ‘Liberator,’ led widespread resistance to colonial meddling. After decades of bloody civil war, Venezuela finally became a sovereign state in 1830. It wasn’t until the discovery of huge oil reserves in the 1920s, however, that Venezuela emerged as a wealthy modern economy. Nevertheless, a vast gulf still separated rich and poor.

The disaffected masses of poor Venezuelans eventually found a new champion in the figure of Hugo Chávez, firebrand former army officer who served six terms as president between 1998 until 2013. Chavez delighted his supporters and infuriated the ruling classes, nationalising industries and decrying the “evil imperialist” influence of US petro-dollars. Today, following Chavez’s death from cancer in 2013, the cult of “Chavismo” has if anything grown stronger.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 29 September 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

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 and Apure. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Tachira state. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in these states and there is a risk of kidnapping. The opening hours of the land border crossings with Colombia have been reduced as a measure to fight smuggling. Until further notice, borders will remain closed from 6pm until 5am.

Political demonstrations have taken place in most major cities, including Caracas and Merida (see below), San Cristobal, Valencia, Maracay, Maracaibo, Barquisimeto and Porlamar. Some of these demonstrations have been violent, with roadblocks on main streets and avenues, and have included the use of firearms. There have been injuries and deaths.

In Caracas there has been violence in the areas of Chacao and Altamira which are not normally affected in this way. Although protests in Caracas have reduced in size and frequency, further demonstrations could occur without warning. Further demonstrations are expected. You should remain alert and avoid any large gatherings. Protests may also cause disruption to travel plans.

There have also been spontaneous violent protests in Merida City. Most tourist attractions outside Merida City have not been directly affected, but you should seek local advice from your travel company before you set out.

International airlines in Venezuela have recently reduced the availability of flights to and from the country. This has made it more difficult and expensive to buy flight tickets, especially if paid in local currency. Some flights have been cancelled or postponed at short notice.

Heavy rains have affected wide areas of the country and road conditions remain poor. States most heavily affected are Aragua, Carabobo, Capital District (Caracas) and Falcon.

Levels of street crime are high. Armed muggings and ‘express kidnappings’ are a regular occurrence. Resistance to robbery has resulted in victims being shot dead. Take care at all times, especially when arriving in the country.

Around 9,500 British nationals visit Venezuela every year. Most visits are trouble free.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism.

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.

Newsletter