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A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

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A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Hi All,

I think this thread may be due for an update. As a foreigner (Canadian), I’d like to share what I know and have experienced since my last trip to Venezuela, which is current dating from June 5, 2018. Being born and raised in Canada, having completed my university (medical) studies in Canada/USA, and working in Canada/USA, my perspective is westernized.

I usually visit Venezuela (VZL) about 1-2 a year and have been there six times. I have local friends that usually help me, but my last visit was done mainly on my own, with the help of the TripAdvisor (thanks, Tiomat2016!) and FlyerTalk community! If anyone has any questions or concerns, I’d be more than willing and happy to answer them directly on this message board or via PM. Also, Tiomat2016 is the KING of advice!

TRAVEL (How to get to VZL)

I think the available options shouldn’t be too difficult to find. I consider it outside the scope of this post. Nevertheless, if you have questions, please let me know. There are creative ways to get to VZL, such as using BOG/MDE/AUA/CUR/POS as entry points.

CURRENCY EXCHANGE (How to get local currency and how to use it)

The local currency in VZL is the bolivar (VEF). The official exchange rate (from USD to VEF) as of today, June 5, 2018, is 1$=80,000VEF. This is the exchange rate you will get if you use your foreign credit/debit card. The black market exchange rate, as of today, is 1$=1,600,000VEF – this rate changes daily (use DolarToday.com to check rates). Cash is hardly used in VZL. The only way to pay for goods, at the favorable exchange rate, is to use a local credit/debit card or local bank transfer. There are services offering the opportunity to borrow an individual’s credit/debit card and ID (thanks, Tiomat2016!). I was using a woman’s ID and was successful 29/30 times with it. Only once, did I get rejected by the merchant because of my woman’s ID (I was buying a bottle of water). I went next door to another pharmacy and bought the bottle of water without a problem. There are daily debit and bank transfer limits depending on the bank you are using. If you would like more information, please PM me – Tiomat2016 is also very knowledgeable.

Exchanging USD to VEF is done through local trustworthy contacts. I would never use someone I met on the street or didn’t know. If you want a local contact, PM me – Tiomat2016 is also very knowledgeable. You can Paypal/Uphold/Zelle the amount in USD, and these people will transfer you the equivalent amount in VEF to your Venezuelan bank account.

HOTEL (Where to stay)

I’ll keep this unique to Caracas. If you have any questions regarding other cities, please let me know. I would say the best place in Caracas to stay is the Hotel Renaissance Caracas La Castellana, a Marriott chain located in the affluent neighborhood of Altamira. Using the black market currency exchange, you would be looking at ~25-30$ a night for a regular room, ~35-40$ a night for a regular room with lounge access, and 45-50$ a night for a suite. Customer service is great and there is a nice restaurant on the first floor ($7-8 a meal) and a nice bar in the lobby ($1 a drink). For comparison, a meal at McDonalds/Subway/KFC runs for 1-2$. The Renaissance La Castellana also has a very nice pool/gym. For Western standards, I’d give this hotel a solid 4 stars. There are other options in the city such as the Embassy Suites by Hilton Caracas, InterContinental Tamanaco, and Gran Melia. Although I haven’t frequented these three hotels, from talking with locals and other foreigners, the Renaissance is the go-to place. Other options include 3-star hotels for about $5-10 a night, but I wouldn’t trust them.

According to government regulations, hotels can request that a foreigner pay in USD, and not in VEF. There are a couple of solutions to this: 1) A Venezuelan makes the booking in their name and checks in themselves, then gives you the room’s keys. 2) You book the hotel in your personal name in advance and prepay in VEF the full amount via bank transfer before arriving. If using method #2, there are some very important particularities with the check-out process. Please send me a PM and I’ll fill you in.

TRANSPORTATION (How to get from the airport to your final destination)

The local rate for a taxi going from the city center to the airport is 5$; however, the taxi service should be prearranged. Prearranging a taxi is difficult unless a trustworthy local can help you. If you need help with this, I’d be more than happy to help – please PM.

SAFETY

I don’t necessarily think VZL is as dangerous as people make it out to be. Sure, you should be careful and not walk around with a gold Rolex and gold chain, but the same would hold true if you were walking some streets in NYC. Use common sense and you should be fine. Do not take one of the airport taxis, do not exchange dollars on the street, do not flaunt your wealth.

All in all, Venezuela is a beautiful place. Money goes a long way: Michelin restaurants for 10$, massages for 1$, manicure/pedicure for 1$, designer haircuts for 2$, etc… Beaches are beautiful, and Los Roques and Angel Falls are breathtaking. A potential great tourist destination…!

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9 replies to this topic
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1. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Hey man, this is a great post ... thanks.

To stay longer in Venezuela, especially in Caracas, I believe it is very hard to be without a car ... as public transport is collapsing, taxis are difficult, walking very often impossible or dangerous ... also restaurants, gyms, apartments are always hidden in different complexes ... any tips on renting or getting car?

Also any experience with renting an apartment for longer periods ... months?

Thanks.Cheers.

For those interested in the crossing from Colombia to Venezuela through Cucuta, you can read my experience here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29432…

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Canada
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2. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

You are very welcome! Venezuela is very beautiful, and I think many of the travel warnings are much too radical. Be careful, and you will have a great time.

Public transportation is a hassle. Forget taking a bus to navigate Caracas - I'm used to Google maps telling me exactly when and what route to take. Buses in Caracas are very disorganized. The metro isn't as bad as is portrayed, it will take you to point A to point B and is very easy to understand. However, as with any busy city, avoid it during rush hour and watch out for pickpocketers.

With many people leaving the country, and automobile parts for broken cars being hard to find, there isn't much traffic on the streets anymore. I was driving a friend's car, and I'd compare the driving to NYC; you have to be a little aggressive when driving, but it's fine and fun. Also, Google maps when driving works tremendously well, even the locals use it. However, if you want to follow the rules; for foreigners to drive in Venezuela, not only do you need your driver's license which is valid in your country of residence, but you also need an International driving permit (IDP). You can apply for an IDP in your country of residence.

You are right that taxis are a hassle, especially considering cash is almost non existent. At the Hotel Renaissance Caracas La Castellana, they offer a service where you may pay the front desk (either when departing or arriving) and they pay the taxi for you. Other hotels may offer the same service. Another option is to have a local trustworthy taxi contact and they can pick you up / drop you off / wait for you.

In the past I stayed at a friend's apartment for 3-4 weeks, but I never rented from a stranger. I have friends who have left Caracas, and would probably be willing to rent out their apartment. PM if interested, and I can reach out to them.

Edited: 08 June 2018, 00:43
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Venezuela
Venezuela
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Caracas
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Capital Region, Venezuela
Renaissance Caracas La Castellana Hotel
Renaissance Caracas La...
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Caracas, Venezuela
Canada
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3. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Sorry, I realized I didn’t answer one of your questions pertaining to getting/renting a car. Unfortunately, I have no idea, but Tiomat2016 might know or I can ask a friend

Madrid, Spain
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4. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Great post Eij1 and thanks for the mentions, I'd never do it better. I'll be in Venezuela in two months and I hope to have fresher information soon. I didn't know that you are from the medical sectoor as I am!

I agree with everything and only have to add two small things. Those hotels that you mention are the most expensive ones, there are others that are 4-5 stars with good services (i will always give to Venezuelan hotels one star less than what i'll do for what you call "western standards") and a little less expensive than the ones you mention.

For the flights I don't know if there is any problems from North America, as the people I know always travelled from Europe or me from the Caribbean, so the way to arrive is always direct or almost,and I don't know very well from USA(I only did the opposite way) but I know that there are American flights from Miami and other places in USA and with Avior, from Miami. And not less than two or three flights a day from Panama. In addition to all those options you mention.

For the ground transportation I lived almost five years in Caracas and I never had/needed a car, only sometimes I drived other people's car I used to walk, using the subway/metro, taxis, buses when the service wasn't so bad and even moto-taxis when in a rush . But, what I can say is, first; it's better to follow the regulations of the country were you are travelling, that say in Venezuela nobody does it (almost nobody uses seatbelts, they don't stop in the traffic lights when they think it's not a good idea, I have been in cars where the driver is drinking a "cuba libre" more than one time, and not less than a half of the taxi drivers will be sending "sms", while driving,not to mention the absolute lack of technical controls), so I think that if you don't have the time to get your international driving license, it shouldn't be a big problem. I only rented a car once in Margarita, it's cheaper than in other countries but not so much, I did it with my spanish(EU) driving license without problems.

If you need more informations about renting cars agencies you can ask me, but for the prices in Venezuela I always found it easier and cheaper to call taxis or have a driver that I can call when I need to go somewhere which is cheaper than renting the car.

For renting appartments I do no, we are renting or room while we are not there, but you should have to share it with the couple living there, which is probably a good idea for the first weeks(people who can help ypu to learn how to move, behave) but if you want something to rent is not so easy, specially if you pay in "bolivares", paying in dollars it could become far easier, in that case you can contact any realstate company, or use those sites that rent rooms/appartments for holidays(I don't want to give commercial names), for the price you pay the renting will be probably cheaper than in any north american/european cities even if you rent it as a holidays location(but for months).

Hope to have been useful, and as i don't do it as a bussiness but because I loved that country and specially its people is great to see people as Eij1 that writes posts telling their experience when back.

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5. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

I tried to edit my "tipos" but I hadn't the time. I wanted to add too that there are a lot of taxi companies as global enlace, movil enlace, teletaxi etc.That accept bank transfers,work 24/07, are safe, and cheaper than the ones called from the hotels, specially the 5 stars ones!

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6. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Thank you both very much ... these posts are very helpful! I have left Venezuela a while ago, but plan to come back soon ... will get in contact with you once relevant. Saludos de Colombia.

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7. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

Saludos Stepan. I just sent you a message in pvt I don't know if you saw it. I understood that you are from USA as you talked about visas for US citizens, and there is somebody, asking for information in this forum about how to get a Venezuelan visa for US citizens. I told him to ask here as maybe you knew it and here is his post;

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29432…

Petah Tiqwa, Israel
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8. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

I have some questions:

1. I understand that it is ok in Venezuela to use somebody else documents or debit cards, to drive without documents etc. Right?

2. Should I go to Venezuela with enough dollars in effective for the time I stay there? I guess I will not be able to withdraw nor dollars nor bolivars from atm.

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9. Re: A foreigner's perspective of Vzla - Hotel/Currency/Transport

To answer your questions in order:

1. While my friend was driving me around, we actually got stopped at one of the routine police roadblocks. The police asked my friend (the driver) for his driver's license. So just like any other country, I think you need at least a driver's license if driving a vehicle.

Even here in Canada/USA my friend will sometimes give me his credit card and tell me to go buy him something at the local grocery store. You would effectively be doing the same thing in Venezuela. Is it technically legal? I don't know. Like I said in my post, 29/30 times I had no problem. The one time I did, I just went next door to get my bottle of water. Also, I noticed a lot of my Venezuelan friends sharing their ID/debit card - one person telling the other to go to the local shop to buy them something, like an avocado - they had no problems.

2. You can bring cash, sure. You won't need that much, as things are very cheap. However, if you have access to a local debit/credit card, you can add money to the local bank account using other means such as Zelle/Uphold/Paypal when trading with local reliable people. Think of Uphold as a much more popular version of Paypal.

Also, Venezuela is fine in terms of safety. As I was driving into the city during my most recent visit, arriving from the airport, I was stopped at one of the routine roadblocks: the police took me aside (routine check), and asked for my ID (I have broken spanish). I gave it to them. They then searched my suitcase and handbag. I didn't bother hiding my USDs in my handbag; they were in a Wells Fargo envelope. They saw my Wells Fargo envelope with USD cash, opened it, saw $500, and said nothing. They then told me to have a nice day and off I went. Venezuela is not as corrupt/unsafe as people let it out to be. Just like in any other country/city there are good and bad neighborhoods.

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