Venezuela travel guide
With its reputation for violence and political instability, many travellers opt to give Venezuela a wide berth. But those brave enough to visit this feisty South American nation will discover a country of extraordinary diversity and abundant natural beauty; a land of lofty Andean peaks, mysterious Lost World plateaus, wildlife rich rainforests, vibrant cities and idyllic Caribbean islands.
At the heart of all this lies Caracas, Venezuela’s thronging capital. A hotchpotch of hillside favelas, crumbling colonial buildings and glistening skyscrapers, the city has much to offer visitors; there’s a fine collection of museums, galleries and historic monuments, not to mention a pulsating nightlife. Even the food’s good, nowadays. But for all its appeal, most of Venezuela’s attractions lie beyond the capital city, hidden away in national parks and reserves which cover an impressive 40% of the country.
The lush tropical lowlands of Los Llanos harbour abundant wildlife, with eco-conscious hatos (ranches) offering safaris to view caiman, puma, anaconda, capybara, hundreds of birds and much more. Then there are the table-top mountains of the Guyana Highlands, whose summits loom over golden savannahs and bristle with prehistoric flora and fauna. These towering peaks spawn dramatic waterfalls, including the awesome Angel Falls, officially the world’s highest.
Those with an appetite for adventure can be sated with an excursion into the virgin rainforest of Amazonas, Venezuela’s least-visited region, where indigenous communities cling onto traditional lives in the jungle. Alternatively, head to Mérida to tackle the soaring Andean peaks or go piranha fishing in the Orinoco, South America’s second longest river, which empties into the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Orinoco Delta.
Beyond that, the clear waters of the Caribbean lap onto Venezuela’s stunning coastline, where numerous offshore islands provide ample opportunities for reef diving, partying and pandering to pleasure. Amongst them the Los Roques archipelago, which is the epitome of Caribbean island idyll and a very long way from the unsavoury headlines of the mainland.
912,050 sq km (352,144 sq miles).
31,518,855 (UN estimate 2016).
32.1 per sq km.
Interim-President Juan Guaidó since 2019.
Interim-President Juan Guaidó since 2019.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Areas where FCDO advises against travel
Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.
Within 80km of the Venezuela-Colombia border
FCDO advises against all travel to within 80km (50 miles) of the border with Colombia. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active along the border area with Colombia and there is a risk of criminal kidnapping.
FCDO advises against all travel to Zulia State, which has prolonged power cuts, water shortages, violence and local conflict.
Within 40km of the Venezuela-Brazil border
FCDO advises against all travel to within 40km (25 miles) of the border with Brazil. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active along the border area with Brazil and there is a risk of criminal kidnapping.
All other areas of Venezuela
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela, due to ongoing crime and instability.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and see support for British nationals abroad for information about specific travel topics.
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Venezuela set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Venezuelan Embassy in the UK (in Spanish).
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Venezuela.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Venezuela, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you plan to leave.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
If you’re a resident in Venezuela, your passport must be valid at the time of your arrival. Your residence visa or permit must also be valid.
If you arrive by air, you can stay for up to 90 days visa-free on a ‘tourist card’, issued on arrival. You must show your return or onward travel ticket.
If you’re arriving overland or by sea, you may need to get a visa in advance. Contact the nearest Venezuelan embassy or consulate for advice.
You can apply for an extension of up to 90 days before your tourist card and entry stamp expire. Apply and pay the fee at any SAIME (immigration service) office (in Spanish). If you live in Venezuela, you must apply at the main regional SAIME office of the state where you are living.
If you overstay your allowed time, you may be arrested and fined when leaving Venezuela.
If you’re a Venezuelan dual national, you must use your Venezuelan identity documents for entry and departure of the country. The authorities may not allow you to depart Venezuela if you are not in possession of a valid Venezuelan passport, as required by law.
Travelling with children
Children travelling unaccompanied, with a guardian, or with one parent, must provide a travel permit from the non-travelling parent(s). This permit is available from the nearest local SAREN (Servicio Autónomo de Registros y Notarías) office, or the respective Court for Children and Adolescents.
If the child is resident overseas, you can get the permit from the nearest Venezuelan embassy or consulate.
The child should carry this travel permit while travelling within the country and also at time of departure from Venezuela. Children may be denied exit from the country otherwise.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Venezuela guide.
Depending on your circumstances, this may include a yellow fever certificate.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Venezuela (in Spanish). You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
You must declare any goods, including personal luggage, worth more than 1,000 US dollars. You may have to pay import tax if your goods appear to be new.
Taking money into Venezuela
Declare cash or travellers cheques worth 10,000 US dollars or more when entering Venezuela. You must pay tax on the excess.
Local banknotes are in short supply. Most people use card payments, bank transfers and US dollars instead. You may need to attempt debit or credit card transactions several times due to poor connectivity.
If you find your bank cards do not work, you can arrange for friends and family overseas to deposit funds through Western Union and pick up the deposited funds at any Grupo Zoom branch.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Venezuela
Terrorists are likely to try and carry out attacks in Venezuela.
Political and economic situation
The UK does not accept the legitimacy of the current administration put in place by Nicolás Maduro. National presidential elections are due to be held in 2024.
Basic public services including health care and security, and the supply of electricity, water and fuel, have deteriorated in the last decade. Prolonged power cuts affect living conditions and cut mobile networks and internet. There are serious shortages of everyday essentials. Consider storing tinned food and water.
Avoid political rallies and demonstrations, as they may turn violent and the police and army use tear gas and buckshot to control crowds. Monitor developments closely and keep up to date with this travel advice.
Commercial flights to and from Venezuela remain very limited. Caracas International Airport is often affected during power failures, causing what few flights there are to be delayed or cancelled. Keep in close contact with your airline or travel agent to see if your flight is affected.
Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Armed robbery, mugging, carjacking and burglary are all very common and often accompanied by extreme violence. Do not resist an attacker. Remain alert and avoid displaying electronics or valuables while on the street or in a vehicle.
Private security services are becoming standard for business and official visitors and residents. Armoured vehicles are commonly used in Caracas, especially after dark and for transport to and from the airport.
Avoid public transport. A number of robberies at gunpoint have taken place on the Caracas metro. There are regular reports of passengers being robbed on public buses.
Use pre-booked taxis only. Hotels will normally book a taxi from a reputable company or supply their own service.
Laws and cultural differences
Always carry identification with you. You can carry copies of the photo page of your passport and your entry stamp. Keep your passport in a safe place where you can access it quickly if you need to. Local security forces may ask you to show ID at any time, particularly at police checkpoints. If you cannot produce it, you could be arrested and detained pending an investigation.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Drug trafficking is a serious crime in Venezuela. Detection methods are sophisticated, and drug traffickers should expect to be arrested. Conviction leads to a lengthy prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years. Conditions in Venezuelan jails are harsh and dangerous, and among the worst in the region.
Using cameras and binoculars in secure areas
It is illegal to photograph military or strategic installations, including military airports and the presidential palace. Avoid plane spotting.
Networks and internet
Internet service is generally slow as high speed connections are not widely available. Mobile network operators run modern 4G (LTE) networks in most major cities, while they also operate slower legacy 3G (WCDMA) networks for their nationwide voice and data services.
Power cuts can affect mobile signals and internet across the whole country, including Caracas. Keep in contact with your airline or travel agent as flights can be delayed or cancelled when there are power cuts.
Same-sex relationships are not illegal. However, showing affection in public will most likely be frowned on by locals and may draw negative attention from the police and other security forces. Venezuelan law does not recognise same-sex partnerships, so same-sex partners have no rights as next of kin.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Age of consent
The age of consent in Venezuela is 18 and sex with anyone 17 and under is illegal. Offenders face long jail sentences.
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 normally in place.
Travelling to and from Maiquetia Airport, Caracas
Be especially vigilant around Maiquetia airport as this is a known hotspot for criminal activity, from low-level pickpocketing to armed robberies. You could be targeted at the arrival or departure terminals, at the airport’s car park and during travel to or from the airport. If you show signs of wealth this could lead to targeting by criminals.
You are at most risk when travelling to and from the airport at night. There have been armed robberies on buses on this route. Ideally, arrange for friends, business contacts or your tour operator to meet you at the airport. If that’s not possible, consider travelling by licensed taxi from the official taxi rank outside the arrivals hall. Do not accept offers of transport in the arrivals hall and do not get into a taxi if there are passengers already in the car.
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.
If you are planning to drive a hire car or a UK vehicle, see information on driving abroad.
You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Venezuela for up to one year, and after that you will need a Venezuelan driving licence. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.
Heavy rains and lack of maintenance can affect road conditions. Get local advice about your route before you set out, leave plenty of time for your journey and keep to the main roads. Avoid travelling after dark. All vehicles must carry a spare tyre, wheel block, jack and reflector triangle.
Fuel shortages are common across all parts of the country. You must pay a set amount of US dollars for the amount of fuel you need, rather than simply filling up the tank. Pay the correct price, as petrol stations do not usually give any change. You should check the local situation ahead of any travel.
There are regular police and National Guard checkpoints throughout the country. Drive slowly through these and stop if asked. There have been reports of attempts by the police and National Guard to extract bribes for traffic offences, so ask for a written record giving details of the offence and the officer’s details.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal but common, especially at weekends. Many vehicles are in poor condition and drivers routinely ignore red lights.
If you’re in a traffic accident, you must stay at the scene until the traffic police arrive. Police can seize your vehicle if you cannot show them your insurance documents, driving licence and passport. You can show a copy of your passport as long as you can show both the photo page and the entry stamp. Insurance companies will not pay claims on vehicles that have been moved without a police accident report.
The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Venezuela that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to and from the UK. Check the ASL when considering which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Check whether your tour operator has concerns about airlines in Venezuela.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery in and around Venezuela’s waters, especially east of Puerto La Cruz and in waters between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Avoid these areas if possible, or follow advice for British nationals on piracy and armed robbery at sea.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
The hurricane season runs from June to November and affects parts of northern Venezuela. Follow the weather reports on local TV and radio. You can also monitor weather updates online from the World Meteorological Organization and the US National Hurricane Center. Always follow the advice of the local authorities.
During the rainy season from May to November there may be flooding in low-lying areas (for example, the Llanos) and in some valleys in the Andes, mainly in Merida State. There may be disruption to transport, services and infrastructure.
There is a risk of earthquakes in Venezuela. These are mostly tremors but there are occasionally more serious quakes. Monitor media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
This section has safety advice for regions of Venezuela. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.
Within 80km of the Venezuela-Colombia border
FCDO advises against all travel to within 80km (50 miles) of the border with Colombia. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active along the border area with Colombia and there is a risk of criminal kidnapping. Crossing the border from Colombia can be a lengthy process.
FCDO advises against all travel to Zulia State, which borders Colombia and is subject to prolonged power cuts, water shortages, violence and local conflict.
Within 40km of the Venezuela-Brazil border
FCDO advises against all travel to within 40km (25 miles) of the border with Brazil. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active along the border area with Brazil and there is a risk of criminal kidnapping. Crossing the border from Brazil can be a lengthy process.
Check the situation ahead of any travel to Canaima National Park and the Gran Sabana area of Bolívar State. Occasionally, protests by locals have led to the closure, sometimes for days, of Canaima airport. Main road closures may include parts of Road 10 between El Callao and the Venezuela-Brazil border.
All other areas of Venezuela
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela. Almost all states outside Caracas are experiencing increased crime and instability, including prolonged power cuts as well as water and fuel shortages and a general lack of essential services.
During power cuts or in an unstable security situation, the British Embassy may be limited in the assistance that it can provide.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.
Nationwide ambulance services like AeroAm (in Spanish) can help you get back to Caracas or other major cities if you’re in an accident.
Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on recommended vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Venezuela guide – these include yellow fever, dengue and schistosomiasis (a parasitic infection)
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Venezuela, mainly in the Andean region of the country: Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo states. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation has reported 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 delayed.
Healthcare facilities in Venezuela
Medical facilities in Venezuela vary widely in quality. In large cities, private clinics provide acceptable 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.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Venezuela.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Venezuela.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Venezuela
Telephone: 911 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters
- dealing with a death in Venezuela
- being arrested or imprisoned in Venezuela
- getting help if you’re a victim of rape or sexual assault
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Venezuela and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Caracas.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
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.