To say that Venezuela is not my favorite place in the world is an understatement. Do not get me wrong there are some nice places in Venezuela that are worth seeing.
It’s just a pity that you can not move them to another country.
There isn’t much to recommend in the Cities in Venezuela they are big, dirty and ugly. I now understand why some people fly into Caracas then immediately hop on another plane to whatever it is they want to see there.
Of the cities/towns I guess Merida was reasonable. That’s about it.
One of the problems with Venezuela is the exchange rate. It was about 1 to 4 through the ATM’s however the cash rate on the street if you had USD was about 1 to 7 or 8. Everything is priced as if you are getting the cash rate which, if your not becomes somewhat problematic.
Obviously carrying a heap of cash is one way around the problem of the exchange. Being on a long trip I do not have a lot of cash on me, only a little for emergencies certainly not enough to fund my time in Venezuela. So for the most part I found myself stuck using the ATM’s.
Having a whole wad of USD on you in this day and age, particularly with a country with a reputation as bad as Venezuela is a fools game. I seem to have met more travelers who have been robbed in Venezuela than the rest of South America combined.
One other way around the problem is to stay at a Posada or book a tour through someone who is from the western world but lives in Venezuela. They will often let you do an international transfer into their bank account based in Germany or wherever to pay for your accommodation/trip then pay you out the balance at the ‘unofficial’ cash rate. Of course you loose on both ends of the transaction since I got charged a rather large fee on my end for the transfer and there was another fee charged on the other end. However it’s better than the ATM’s.
I guess the other problem with that is you have to trust that the person that you’ve just transferred that rather large amount of cash to is actually going to pay you out.
One of the other problems that I touched on above is the reputation, unfortunately it’s not just a reputation. Yes travelers get the cash and other valuables stolen if they are unlucky all over the world. It just seems to happen a little more frequently in Venezuela.
One of the problematic areas is the night buses where your odds of having your valuables stolen increase. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to avoid the night buses.
I ended up taking one, despite my best intentions not to, from Ciudad Bolivar to Merida. The lights flicked off on the bus almost straight away and I was fumbling in the dark with my cable and padlock to secure my bag. I remember thinking that I was perhaps just being a little paranoid since no one else was securing there stuff still thankfully I locked up the bag. (The cable is just one of the light weight ones you can buy from travel/trekking stores and was one of my better purchases).
There were some French backpackers towards the back of the bus who didn’t lock up there gear and unfortunately the one nearest the isle woke up in the morning to find that while his bag was still there the contents had been removed including his camera, iPod & wallet with all his cash and credit cards. Thankfully he didn’t loose his passport which happened to be in his pocket because he’d forgotten to put it back in the bag after the last security check.
If you find yourself having to take a night bus in Venezuela all I can recommend is to secure your gear as best you can. Buy yourself a padlock and lightweight chain if you do not already have a lock and cable on you. Also try to get the window seat since you and your bags are a little harder to get to that way.
Of course none of that is going to help if your bus gets held up by guys with weapons. That happens in Venezuela as well, though thankfully not to me.
Anyway enough of this I think you get my point of not liking Venezuela! I will do two more entries for my time in Venezuela this time on a more positive note. As I said there are some nice ‘places’ to see that can be rather spectacular in Venezuela and certainly more than I could afford to see as unprepared for the problems in the country as I was.
So the next entry will be on Angel Falls, yes I will endeavor to include pictures as well!