Venezuela holidays

Experience Venezuela

Best Places to Visit

For those looking to experience the culture of Venezuela, Caracas is a must-visit, with many regional festivals and numerous museums. There's also no end of arts and crafts markets here, making it a great place for shopping. Caracas is also home to the Universidad Central de Venezuela Stadium, where baseball fans can take in a game.

Visitors looking to escape the urban jungle and see some wildlife can head to one of the most famous rainforests in the world, the Amazon Rainforest. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, with new species being discovered all the time.

The country also boasts many stunning beaches on the Caribbean coastline, the longest coastline in any single nation in fact, and it is home to a staggering 600 offshore islands. With sandy beaches and turquoise waters, the coast is a popular tourist spot. Margarita Island and Los Roques are both popular destinations, but it's hard to find a bad place along this stretch.

Coro was originally the first capital of the country after emerging from the collapse of grand Colombia in 1830. As a result, the city is rich with colonial architecture; so much so that the historic downtown area is considered a Cultural World Heritage site.

Mérida, a town found in the Andes Mountains, is also known for its sights, all be it of a different kind. With stunning scenery, it is the perfect place for those looking for outdoor activities, with hiking especially popular here. As a university town, it also has its fair share of nightlife; visitors can rest their feet in one of the many bars after a tough day on the mountains.

Los Llanos in the northeast of the country is a stretch of plains that is well known for its wildlife. This region floods during Venezuela’s rainy season, turning the plains into wetlands. Due to this flooding, the area supports a huge range of wildlife, including around 70 species of water birds. Day trips out to enjoy jeep safaris and boat tours can easily be arranged, giving visitors an insight into this natural landscape. Tours offer the opportunity to see caiman crocodiles, fluorescent scarlet ibises and Orinoco dolphins - it is the ideal place for tourists looking to get back to nature and spot some incredible animals that simply can’t be seen back at home.

Top Landmarks

The sheer diversity of the country means that around 40 percent of its territory is named as protected areas. Even the Venezuelan Central University in Caracas is a World Heritage site due to its stunning architecture.

One of the best-known landmarks is, of course, the Andes Mountains. Stretching some 7,000kms, this enormous range can be found in the north-west of the country. The scenery here is just breathtaking and many outdoor sports are available, ideal for visitors with a passion for adventure. With a number peaks to be scaled, the highest being Mount Aconcagua at 6,962 metres, the Andes draw many travellers in their own right.

Another must-see landmark is Angel Falls. Found in the Guayana Highlands, the world highest waterfall plummets some 979 metres from the top of a shelf in Canaima National Park. Unsurprisingly, it is a huge tourist attraction, and it's possible to see it in all its glory by helicopter.

Ciudad Bolivar is the most popular staying point for those flying to Angel Falls. A lively tourist town, it boasts good nightlife and plenty of hotels. Guayana itself is largely uninhabited but is home to the Orinoco River, the second longest river in South America. This area also boasts the Amazon Rainforest along with sites such as the Tabletop Mountains. Trips are available to all of these landmarks, many of which have to be seen to be believed.

Entertainment

While the rest of South America boasts the tango as its most famous export, there is no doubt that Venezuela's best-known export is oil. Despite this, the country has numerous spots that are perfect for nightlife and local music.

Caracas is the undisputed queen of nights out. Being the capital, it boasts many music venues to cater for all tastes and numerous clubs where revellers can dance the night away. Clubs such as Transnocho Lounge and Le Terezzadel Ateneo are known haunts of the ultra-hip crowd; however, Samoa offers mainstream music and good cocktails.

Merida, in the Andes, is a famous university town. Unsurprisingly, it has a reputation for being the place for nightlife. With plenty of bars and clubs, along with the novelty of partying in the Andes, it's a hit with tourists and locals alike.

El Maní; es Así; is a long-running bar that is easily the best place to experience traditional salsa music. Found in Caracas, it is home to a varied crowd. Tourists come to admire the dance and locals come to show off their moves. After one or two of the intricate cocktails, many visitors join in.

Teatro Trasnocho Cultural might not be the ideal spot for those looking for a traditional theatre experience, but it is well worth a visit. Known to push the boundaries of traditional theatre, it showcases up-and-coming talent and new works by local playwrights.

Although there are cinemas across the country, it is rare to find a film that hasn't been dubbed into Spanish. Some alternative cinemas show local films with English subtitles, though.

Dining Out

There are many local dishes that can be tried across the country, with both the big cities and small towns offering a taste of the traditional cuisine. Arepas, a thick corn tortilla that is split and then stuffed with any number of fillings, is a staple on many menus.

Hallacas, a mixture of meat, raisins and olives, covered in cornmeal and steamed in plantain leaves, is an interesting take on a traditional tamale dish. Cachapas are pancakes made with corn and topped with telita, a salty cheese.

Street food is common across Venezuela, with empanadas, a variety of savory pastries often stuffed with meat, and perros calientes, spicy hot dogs, being the most commonly served items. For a sit-down lunch, Venezuelans often have pabellón. This is a rice and meat dish featuring black beans and plantain slices.

Venezuela is also famous for producing some of the best cacao beans in the world, meaning the local chocolate comes highly recommended. The local rum is also world renowned. It tends to be very dark and potent, with several bars serving their own unique blends.

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Need to know

Language

The official language in Venezuela is Spanish as it is the first language of over 95% of the population. Spanish is spoken in its Venezuelan form here, and there are also many indigenous dialects, but these are rarely spoken outside of the Amazon region. English is not commonly spoken - even immigrant languages are more likely to be Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic or German. However, English is now taught as a compulsory subject in Venezuela’s equivalent of secondary school and also in universities to help students to understand English texts. The young generation living in the big cities, therefore, tend to speak basic English, and many people within the tourist industry have a basic grasp of the language due to the influx of English-speaking visitors, so basic communication shouldn’t be difficult in the popular areas. A Spanish phrasebook would still be a useful tool for everyday travelling in Venezuela, however, and would undoubtedly come in handy.

Currency

The official currency is the Bolivar Fuerte (BsF), which replaced the old bolivar in 2008. The Bolivar Fuerte is strictly controlled, making it hard to exchange. However, all banks and some bureaux de change exchange US dollars pounds sterling and Euros. There are many illegal money changes which offer fluctuating exchange rates but tourists are advised to stick to the banks when exchanging money. All banks have ATMs which accept foreign cards. Changing BsF into other currencies can be difficult, so relying on card and carrying minimal cash is advised.

Visas

A stamp for a 90-day stay is issued on arrival to citizens of the United Kingdom. Officials will simply ask visitors the purpose of their visit and a tourist card will be issued. Anyone travelling for business or work purposes will need to obtain an appropriate visa before arrival.

Climate

Thanks to the country's proximity to the equator, the average temperatures vary little throughout the year. The exception to this is in the mountain regions, which can see temperatures as low as 15°C in the peaks. However, most of Venezuela is low lying, with temperatures remaining between 21°C and 29°C all year round.

Main Airports

Simon Bolivar International Airport, also known as Maiquetia Airport, is the main international airport in Venezuela. Located just outside of the capital of Caracas, with buses frequently running from the airport to the city, this is the main destination for the majority of European flights. International flights do run to Maracaibo and Valencia, but services to these airports are limited and can be more expensive.

Flight Options

There are currently no direct flights from London to Venezuela; however, several airlines fly directly to mainland Europe. Venezuela also has numerous daily flights from North America, meaning it is possible to fly to New York and then on to Venezuela. Air France fly direct to Caracas from Paris while Alitalia flies from both Rome and Milan.

Travel Advice

Flying with a budget airline to Charles de Gaulle, Paris, then taking a direct flight to Venezuela is advisable. Flying direct to New York from London and then onto Venezuela means more options regarding flight dates, but is usually the most expensive way of getting here. Booking early is advisable. From the airport, there is a free bus into the capital which runs until late, so although taxis are available, they are not always necessary.

Other Transport Options

With roads linking Venezuela with both Colombia and Brazil, driving into the country is an option. Border controls are strictly enforced and border control officers frequently search vehicles. It is also possible to get a bus across the border, but such buses wait at immigration while all passengers' passports are stamped.

Getting Around

Domestic flights are cheap and there are many connecting the major tourist spots with the capital. Buses are cheap and the network is extensive. Road conditions vary widely, but petrol is inexpensive and renting a car gives visitors the chance to head off the tourist trail.

Car

Car hire in Venezuela is reasonably priced and the cheap petrol makes it an economical option. Drivers should be aware that traffic can be bad across the country and that insurance may not be included in the rental price. Road rules are largely ignored by locals, so it is advisable to drive with caution. Driving is on the right and the road network, while not very well maintained, is extensive.

Air

The air network has services between the major cities. Caracas is the main hub for domestic flights but several airlines fly to San Antonio del Táchira, Valencia and Barcelona. Aeropostal, Aserca and Laser all fly to these cities.

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VENEZUELA`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. The native stilt houses of Lake Maracaibo reminded Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci of the watery streets of Venice, thus resulting in Venezuela’s name, which translates as “little Venice”.
  2. Venezuela’s Angel Falls is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall – an incredible 15 times taller than the Niagara Falls.
  3. Catatumbo Lightning regularly strikes over the area where the mouth of the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo. This natural atmospheric phenomenon is caused by a mass of storm clouds over 5km above the water, creating intense flashes of light for around 10 hours per day, for up to 160 days each year.

FACTS

  1. The native stilt houses of Lake Maracaibo reminded Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci of the watery streets of Venice, thus resulting in Venezuela’s name, which translates as “little Venice”.
  2. Venezuela’s Angel Falls is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall – an incredible 15 times taller than the Niagara Falls.
  3. Catatumbo Lightning regularly strikes over the area where the mouth of the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo. This natural atmospheric phenomenon is caused by a mass of storm clouds over 5km above the water, creating intense flashes of light for around 10 hours per day, for up to 160 days each year.

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