For various historical, political and socio-economic reasons Venezuela has for decades neglected its tourist sector and has only a basic understanding of contemporary standards of accommodation and service. In many places the local people and staff are friendly and welcoming, in others less preoccupied with visitors’ well-being. English is not always widely spoken, standards of security, cleanliness or attention to detail are not always excellent, especially in state-owned establishments.
When to go
The country is an all-year destination. The highlands have a permanent spring-like climate. The Caribbean coast is mostly dry and hot with plenty of sun. In the Gran Sabana grasslands the wet season is May-Oct. May to Nov is the best time for canoeing upstream to the Angel Falls. Climbing one of the tepuys is best done Feb-Apr. For wildlife-watching in the llanos, the prime months are Dec-Jan after the rains, when rivers are full and it’s not so humid. The Orinoco and Amazon jungle is hot and humid all year. Beach resorts can be very crowded at weekends and national holidays.
Getting local currency
Bolívar Fuerte. ATMs may not be usable if they require Venezuelan identity card numbers. Banks will offer advances on a credit card. Money exchange offices and many hotels exchange US dollars cash (very few accept euros or sterling and the rate will be poor). There is a healthy black market but consult our local representatives before endeavouring to acquire local currency this way.
GMT -5.5 hours (yes, really).
Average flight time to Caracas is 11.5 hrs. There are no direct flights from the UK to Venezuela, popular routes involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid.
A tour in Colombia to the west, with daily flights from Caracas to Bogotá taking just 1hr 45mins; the Inca archaeological sites of Peru (daily flights Caracas to Lima take 4hrs).
Carnival, countrywide, Feb-Mar. Most Venezuelan urbanites enjoy a 4-day weekend and choose to vacate the city and head for the beach.
Easter (Holy Week), countrywide, Mar-Apr. Many Venezuelans spend this week away at beaches and other popular destinations.
Feast of John the Baptist, Caracas (June 24). Celebrations in his honour have occurred from colonial time to the present, mainly among the Afro-Venezuelan populations. The pueblos around Caracas resound with beat of African drums and exuberant dancing. The feast runs through June and includes erotic rites, purification rituals and divination.