ABOUT Venezuela lies at the northern extreme of South America, bordered by Colombia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the North. In all, the country is just over 900,000 square kilometers and divided into 23 states. Its borders seem to hold all of South America in miniature, there are fine stretches of the Andes, huge areas of Amazonian rain forests, fertile plains known as llanos, miles of Caribbean shoreline, and even a small desert. The nation also has a few geographical superlatives, including the world's highest waterfall and South America's biggest lake. Venezuela is as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one. Parts of its shoreline could easily be mistaken for that of a paradisiacal Caribbean island, and at night the discos in Caracas come alive with rhythms from all over the Caribbean. The main international airport is Simon Bolivar International Airport located in the Vargas state. It is approximately a 30-minute ride from Caracas. Buses are available during the day, departing from Parque Central next to Calle del Sur. Buses run from 7am-6pm. A taxi ride from the airport will cost US$70. Travellers in Venezuela are obliged to carry identification. There are military checkpoints on many roads, so while travelling by car or bus keep your passport handy, ideally you should keep a colour photocopy of your passport. Should your passport be stolen, this will facilitate procedures with your local consulate. The military presence is constant, yet is not usually cause for concern. There is no national railway system in Venezuela, which leaves three options for travel inside the country: car rental, using buses, and using cars-for-hire. Drivers in Venezuela are generally aggressive and unconcerned by traffic regulations. The traffic in Venezuela is very bad. When approaching a crosswalk in Venezuela, it is important to remember that pedestrians do not have the right of the way as they do in many European countries. Caracas being the capital and the largest city in Venezuela, Caracas is known for being one of the most cosmopolitan and modern cities in South America. There are lots of places to visit, such as theaters, malls, museums, art galleries, parks, well-conserved colonial architectures and even gastronomic restaurants. 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).
CLIMATE There are really only two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season lasts from December to April, the wet one from May to November. The average temperature is about 27C, but cooler temperatures prevail at higher elevations, especially in the Andes.
BEWARE We advise against all travel to within 50 miles of the Colombian border in the states of Zulia, Tachira and Apure. Also against all but essential travel to the remainder of Tachira state. Take care in the rest of Apure state, including the tourist area of Los Llanos. If possible, visit this area only as part of an organised tour. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in these states and kidnappings are common. Take particular care if you are attempting to cross in to Colombia from any state as border crossings can attract criminal activity. Only use official crossing points. Kidnappings occur in Venezuela. Although most kidnap victims are Venezuelan residents, foreigners have also been victims. Remain alert at all times. Sabana Grande is not a safe area in which to stay in Caracas; cheap hotels can be found in safer areas like Chacao, La Castellana and Altamira. Don’t visit ‘barrios’ (heavily populated slums), as many of these are unsafe. There is a high risk of street crime (often armed) throughout Venezuela, especially in the major cities and on beaches, including on the popular tourist island of Margarita where there have been several incidents of armed robbery. Resistance to robbery has resulted in victims being shot dead. Take care at all times. You should remain vigilant and be aware that common crimes such as mugging and pick pocketing are often accompanied by violence. Avoid displays of wealth, including visibly displaying your mobile phone. Take care if you make or receive calls. You can reduce the possibility of your phone being detected by criminals by switching off functions like Bluetooth and Wi-fi. The risk of crime is higher after dark. Try not to go out alone. Don’t camp on or visit beaches after dark. Resistance to robbery has resulted in victims being shot dead. Don’t accept pamphlets in the street or major shopping centres, as there have been incidents of these having been impregnated with potent and disorienting drugs which permeate the skin. Tourists’ drinks have also been spiked. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers.