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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Travel tips to go to Venezuela!

Hi  there!

Afer getting lots of emails asking about traveling to Venezuela, we decided to compile some of them in this kind of Frequently Asked Questions post. in this way we hope to help many people planning to travel to this Country. If you got more doubts, do not hesitate to contact us, we will answer your questions and update this article with those new FAQ's...

Taxes:
NONE, No matter what your Travel Agency told you, NONE airplane ticket in Venezuela has the Airport Tax included, as the government ordered these taxes must be paid directly in the airports (and ports!) of the Country. So, take into account everytime you take an airplane in Venezuela... after check-in, you must pay this tax part separately, in a proper place for doing so (and properly identified). What is included in the airplane ticket is the Departure Tax, but not, the Airport Tax . Today (25/05/2011) domestic flights tax costs 38 bolivares per person and international flights tax costs 190 bolivares p/p in cash. They do not accept dollars neither credit card.


Connection flights:
Maiquetia Airport, which serves Caracas city (It is not located in Caracas), is divided in two terminals: Domestic and International, so... once you arrive from an international flight, after passing by
Immigration and get your luggage... you must go to the Domestic flights Terminal trough an internal corridor.

It is convenient to combine connections in a way that you have plenty of between both flights (specially on the way leaving) as the domestic flights may delay... actually, It is rare when they are on time.

Remember, after the check-in for your connection, you must go and pay the tax in bolivares (local currency), bellow, we´ll talk about money exchange.



Personal safety:
Margarita, general speaking, is really quite. Being a combination of this Caribbean Island air with a small city (Porlamar), allows us to walk relaxed, but always taking into account basic security tips that you have it follow in any city you are not familiar with. Following advices are the result of a lot of stories and safety procedures we have heard and read around the World... Basically, point is not to  get too much attention on you.
- Try not to use expensive stuff as necklaces, watches, jewelry in general..
- Everywhere you go, ask about risky places/time, we mean, a few areas are just risky after certain time, or in certain conditions. Always, avoid lonely places, specially at night.
- Be relaxed and enjoy your trip, but be alert with suspicious attitudes and people who is watching you (of course, do not get confused If somebody is flirting with you! hehe). Imagine in a pub where everybody is enjoying themselves... in the corner, there is one or two serious guys, just watching everybody... this is the kind of attitude we are talking about.
- If you like to talk and meet new people... do not give too much information about yourself, for example, never say you came to buy 250 blackberries and you have a lot of money in the hotel! And later tell the hotel name and your room number!? You know... just to avoid..
- If you are shopping and you got a car, It is not convenient to let your bags in the car while you continue shopping, please, take your bags with yourself and try to reduce the number of bags.
- In case you must take your bags to the car (for weight or size), leave somebody watching the car, or simply move your car to other location (let people think you are leaving). It is easier to open a trunk than we can imagine.
- Always leave the room windows and door closed and locked (in Trinidad & Tobago, a friend of mine was stolen... somebody entered trough his window in the middle of the night, in the 8th floor!?)

Caracas.
Actually, It is indeed a very dangerous city, but you can go being well advised or If possible, with a local person. Try to get accommodation and entertainment only in good areas. (Altamira, La Castellana, Las Mercedes etc) and If you wish/need to go to downtown ( to see historical places and interesting museums) go early, and If possible, with a local, not wearing jewelry and very alert.
 
In case of a unfortunate situation, keep calm and give everything they ask for, do not contradict and do not make eye contact with the robber.

In case of any event with a police man (possible extorsion), understand your situation... you are ina foreign Country, you do not know the law and have nobody to defend you, but don't worry. just keep keep humility and tranquility at all times, I mean it, give some excuses (reasons?) for whatever you're being acused (speed limit, food or beverage transportation, excess luggage, some 'missing' document etc) and try to get out of the situation in the fastest and cheapest way. If that guy decides to go for his boss, its going to be more expensive.. In Venezuela, there is always a way to solve any of these situations, very often a couple of good excuses and one smile are good enough... so be cool, humble, and remember your goal: get out of the situation as fast as possible.

we've got a couple of files with personal security recommendations originally designed for Oil Industry employees, if you want to, we can email them to you.They can be shocking at first sight but keep in mind it was designed thinking in many cities around the World and is the result of a very experienced people on this matter. 


Money Exchange:
Today, (actually for the last 8 years), access to foreign currency is restricted by the government. This means you can not go to a Money Exchange Office and convert your money into Dollars or any other foreign currency. This situation forced a parallel market with a price quite different from the official-one. If you prefer, you can still go to a Money Exchange Office  and get the official rate (4.30 Bs/US$) or you can search for a transaction in the black-parallel market (7.5 BS/$).

Credit Cards, as any transaction that occurs under legal procedures, will give you official rate (4.3 Bs/US$) minus operational fees.

We specially recommend first option in case you need to take a connection flight. In this case you'll need local currency to pay Airport Tax plus something to eat (maybe).. In any case you shouldn't exchange a lot, just what you need (20$?). We recommend this because the airport is kind of risky for black-market operations and it should be done (at all times) with previously recommended people (if possible).

In any case, if you decide to go for the second and risky option please remember:
- don't worry, you don't need to look for them, they'll come to you (and, many BTW). - take all precautions you might think of!
- exchange only small amounts
- reduce number of notes, accept only 50 and/or 100 Bs. (It's easier to cheat when amiunt is bigger)
- count your money, and keep notes extended
- if possible take a counterfeit pen with you
- if you are not alone, tell the other person to watch around and also watch the exchanger while your are busy counting your money
- do it out of sight of any police but, at the same time don't let them take you to a 'quiet place'

In any case, in this case, we'd prefer to take the first option, remember you are arriving and you are supposed to carry 'a lot of money'..

About second option we talked already and, basically, security steps are the ones we mentioned.
Anyway, we insist money should be exchanged in small amounts, at the same pace you need it,
even so, there are cases in which we get a big doubt: If I don't have security box in my hotel: Should I let all my money there? Should I have it with me at all times?
- well you can split it to split risks
- money you are carrying with you should be distributed, not all in one pocket
- money in the hotel should be locked and hide as well as possible
- we keep it for you hehe

Remember, in any hotel worldwide, personal stuff can be 'missed'... (I have lost even pants during my trips!?)

Another option could be exchange through bank transfers or deposits. In this way you will only carry what you need avoiding problems and making 'withdrawals' whenever you need. In this case you don't need to worry for carrying too much cash (for more information email us).

Well, this has been the compilation of advices and tips we can give to those travelers that wish to visit this land called Venezuela, he hope It's useful for you. If you want to add some comment, request files, or make some donation for this site kidding hehe  share your experience: Go ahead!
Cheers!

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