Getting Around Venezuela
Almost all significant towns are connected with scheduled services operated by domestic airlines, including Aeropostal (www.aeropostal.com), Aserca Airlines (www.asercaairlines.com), Avior (www.aviorair.com) and SBA Airlines (www.sbairlines.com).
A flight may be the best, though not the cheapest, option for reaching some of the more far-flung destinations, particularly Angel Falls (Canaima) and the Amazon region. Schedules are unreliable however, and you should book flights in advance, especially during the summer and national holidays.
The airport tax for domestic flights is Bs.F.120, often included in the airfare. Passengers that enter the country with Tourist Card and stay for less than 30 days do not have to pay the tax.
For most visitors, driving in Venezuela is not worth the effort. The paperwork is daunting, and many locals drive aggressively and with scant regard to the rules of the road. Above all, there are plenty of cheaper and easier alternatives, primarily buses and taxis. If you decide to drive, do be aware that drivers routinely ignore red lights. When filling up on petrol, pump attendants expect a tip.
Side of the roadRight
The quality of roads is variable but the main roads in Caracas and to the interior are good.
Most major roads are paved, but some routes have many potholes; on these roads a 4-wheel drive is recommended. Many smaller backroads are dirt or gravel, which turn into a mudbath in the wet season; a 4-wheel drive is best at this time too.
Most of the international car hire companies operate at the airport and in major city centres. You can often get better rates by booking online from home. Drivers need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car, and sometimes older for 4-wheel drive or luxury vehicles.
Taxis are plentiful in Caracas and other cities; they are not expensive but they don’t have meters so agree on the fare before you set off. Official taxis in Caracas are white, with yellow licence plates; they are safer than unmarked minicabs.
‘Por puesto’ shared taxis are also common and usually take the form of minibuses or old US cars (known as busetas or carritos). They follow set routes and are considerably cheaper, but you will probably have to pay the extra passengers’ fares if you don’t want to wait for it to fill up.
There is an abundance of buses covering the whole country, making this the best way to get around. Fares are cheap, though the condition of the buses varies widely, from rusty old wrecks to gleaming modern luxury coaches complete with bed-seats, icy air-conditioning and TV/DVD players.
Bus terminals in Caracas serve different parts of the country. Terminal de Oriente, for the east, southeast and Colombia, is found at metro Terminal de Oriente and is 15 minutes away by taxi. Terminal la Bandera serves the west and southwest and is five minutes by taxi from the metro station of same name. Luxury coaches with their own terminals, and serving various destinations, include Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos (www.aeroexpresos.com.ve).
All vehicles must carry a spare tyre, wheel block, jack wrench and special reflector triangle. You must be at least 18 years old to drive in Venezuela and 21 years old to rent a car. Speed limits are officially 80 to 120kph (50 to 75mph) on major roads and 40 to 60kph (25 to 37mph) in residential areas, though in reality limits are rarely enforced. Seat belt use is compulsory. You can't ride motorbikes in Caracas after 2200.
TACV (tel: +58 212 781 9743; www.automovilclubvenezuela.com). In the event of an accident, both vehicles must remain in the position of the accident until a Traffic Police Officer arrives, otherwise insurance companies will be unable to pay claims. For emergencies, call 911.
Drivers must have their licence and insurance documents with them at all times; both foreign licences and International Driving Permits are valid.
Caracas has a metro which is comfortable and inexpensive; with convenient links to long-distance bus stations (www.metrodecaracas.com.ve). Elsewhere, local transport is handled by both conventional bus services and por puestos (share-taxis). Fares for the latter are similar to those on the buses, though generally higher after 2100 and at weekends.
From the airport, authorised taxis (black Ford Explorers, with an oval yellow logo) line up in front of the international and domestic terminals. Pay in advance at the signposted ticket office. Do not go with unlicensed taxi drivers.
Apart from the Caracas subway and a suburban light-rail line, there are no passenger trains operating in Venezuela.
Ferries link Isla de Margarita with the mainland at Puerto La Cruz (journey time is around 2 hours from either point).