|Area||total: 912,050 sq km |
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km
|Population||25,375,281 (2005 est.)|
|Language||Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects|
|Religion||nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%|
|Time Zone||UTC -4|
Venezuela is a country in northern South America. Possessing shorelines on the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east and Brazil to the south, and is situated on the major sea and air routes linking North and South America. Off the Venezuelan coast are also to be found the Caribbean island states of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands is the world's highest waterfall and a major tourist attraction.
- Caribbean Islands
- Gran Sabana
- Administrative divisions
- 23 states (estados, singular - estado), 1 federal district* (distrito federal), and 1 federal dependency** (dependencia federal); Sucre, Tachira, Trujillo, Vargas, Yaracuy, Zulia
note: the federal dependency consists of 11 federally controlled island groups with a total of 72 individual islands
- Caracas - the capital.
- Merida - Outdoor capital of South America.
- Ports and harbors
- Amuay, Bajo Grande, El Tablazo, La Guaira, La Salina, Maracaibo, Matanzas, Palua, Puerto Cabello, Puerto la Cruz, Puerto Ordaz, Puerto Sucre, Punta Cardon
Tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast
- highest point
- Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 4,981 m
Venezuela was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically-elected governments have held sway since 1958.
Venezuela uses a 60 Hz and 120 V power system. The power plugs are identical to those used in North America (referred to as A and B type power plugs).
Please note: Airlines may require passengers to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country.
The main international airport is Simon Bolivar International Airport (locally known as Maiquetia airport) located in the Vargas state. It is approximately a 40-minute ride from Caracas. Buses are available during the day. A taxi ride from the airport will cost Bs. 30000 / US$15 during the day, or Bs. 60000 / US$30 at night. There are international flights to Maracaibo and Valencia, but the choices are very limited.
You can travel non stop from the US and most major european cities.
Continental Airlines links Caracas to Houston and Newark daily. American Airlines offers daily flights from Miami, San Juan, Dallas and New York. Delta Airlines offers a daily flight from Atlanta. Air Canada offers a non stop flight from Toronto twice a week.
From Europe, there are non stop flights from Paris (Air France), Milan (Alitalia), Madrid (Iberia, Air Europa), Frankfurt (Lufthansa) and Lisbon (TAP).
Copa Airlines, TACA, Varig, Avianca, LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas provide flights to the rest of Central America and South America.
For international departures, the airport tax is Bs. 73500 / US$38.3 and a departure tax Bs. 29400/ US$15. These taxes are paid at the airport, although many airline tickets might include these taxes.
For domestic flights, the airport tax is Bs. 14700. Aeropostal, Santa B�rbara Airlines, Avior Airlines, Conviasa and Aserca Airlines are the major domestic airlines in Venezuela.
WARNING: On January 5th 2006, Venezuelan authorities indefinitely closed the main access road between Caracas and Maiquetia-Simon Bolivar International Airport (CCS) due to a bridge failure.
An alternate road passing through Carayaca takes at least two hours driving time and a third alternate road, known as the old La Guaira road, is a two-lane, unmarked route that passes through slum areas. Carjackings have occurred on this road, and it should be avoided.
Officials are working on an emergency plan to reestablish the road connection, but it is unknown when the highway will reopen. Ask your airline for the latest news.
Travellers in Venezuela are obliged to carry identification. Along most roads there are military checkpoints checking your passport, so while travelling by car or bus keep you passport handy. The military presence is constant, yet is not usually cause for concern. That having been said, there are corrupt officials. It is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings when, for instance, bags are being checked for drugs. A solider of the Guardia Nacional sometimes plants drugs to solicit a bribe or steal valuables. Police may also demand bribes.
There are no trains in Venezuela, which leaves three options for travel inside the country: car rental, using buses, and using cars-for-hire. Drivers in Venezuela are, compared to typical North American drivers, more aggressive and less concerned with traffic regulations. Thus, car rental is not recommended in general. The very cheap price of gas, however, makes this option fairly economical. The expensive part of renting a car will be the insurance. The bus system is extensive and extremely affordable (in part due to the low price of gas). Bus terminals are hectic, but it is usually easy to find a bus to any major city leaving within a short amount of time. Short bus rides (2 hours) may cost 8,000 Bs (about $4 US), and even extremely long bus rides (9 hours) will only cost 30,000 Bs to 40,000 Bs per person (equal to about $15 or $20 US). The larger busses are typically air-conditioned. In fact, they are usually overly air-conditioned, so it is worth bringing a blanket with you. Busses are an easy and convenient way to get around the country.
For smaller towns, there may not be regular busses. In such cases, one can use cars-for-hire, called "por puestos." These are typically old and run-down vehicles, but they are affordable. They are more expensive than busses, typically costing 15,000 Bs per person for a one or two hour ride (about $8 US). The main problem is that they typically wait to have a full car (4 or 5 passengers) before undertaking a route. The driver will usually try to convince you to pay for the extra passengers if you want to leave right away. The cars are popular, however, and one usually does not wait long for a car to fill up.
Travel within city is usually via taxi. The taxis are more expensive than any other form of transport, but still very affordable when compared to North American or European equivalents. A ride across town will usually cost 8,000 Bs to 15,000 Bs (depending on the city). The taxis will charge more at night. This is normal in Venezuela and typically cannot be argued.
- the Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands
- the Canaima National Park
Spanish is the official language of Venezuela, acoompnaied by numerous indigenous dialects (especially in rural areas). Note that English is not commonly spoken or even understood, including in the major cities (including Caracas). However, it is usually worth a try attempting to speak in english as most english-speaking locals will usually help you if they hear you.
Venezuela uses the "Bolivar", abbreviated "Bs" as its currency. It is typically not easy to obtain Bolivar cash in one's country of origin. Instead, it is much easier to bring US dollars, and exchange them in Venezuela for local currency. Exchanging Bolivars back to other currencies is typically not possible due to strict foreign exchange controls. Inflation in Venezuela makes the exchange rate quite variable. Currently, banks and official money exchangers give 2150 Bs per US dollar. However, a number of other places (including many hotels and corner stores) may advertise that they exchange money. Currently these vendors seem willing to give a rate of 2700 Bs per US dollar (although this is obviously subject to change).
Many merchants (including bus drivers and taxis) do not like making change. It is best to have many small denominations of local currency, rather than large bills.
Arepas, Hallacas, Cachapas and the best "Perros Calientes" (Hot Dogs)
Venezuela has its fair share of poverty and crime. It is necessary to be vigilant when in crowded cities, as pickpockets and muggers may be around. There are certain sections of large cities that are not safe to walk at night. The outskirts of many cities are very poor and crime-ridden, and are not appropriate for tourists. In general, if one looks like a (presumably wealthy) tourist, these sections of town should be avoided. When in doubt, ask local inhabitants or taxi drivers whether an area is safe or not. Additionally, one must be wary of the corruption of officials (police and National Guard). Some officials may demand bribes or otherwise extort travellers. Keep watch of your belongings at all times. Despite all these recommendations, one is usually quite safe in Venezuela if they apply a little common sense, and avoid looking overly wealthy when travelling.