We spent 3 weeks in Venezuela in August 2007 and concentrated on the National Parks in the east of the country: the Orinoco Delta, Cainama & Angel Falls and Roraima. Of course like most tourists we were concerned about security but must say we never had any negative experience and never met anybody who had.
Venezuela’s main assets are its national parks and its natural wonders. We would rank Roraima top even though physically highly challenging, then Canaima & Angel Falls, actually a must when visiting Venezuela, and the Orinoco Delta. To visit the last one only pays off if you stay a Warao village and watch the activities all day. Travelling up and down one of the many rivers in the delta is exciting in the beginning but becomes rather boring, since the scenery does not change much. Also there is not a whole lot of wild life to see. We did not go to Merida, but only heard positive comments about it. We also did not spent time on the beach.
Since anybody visiting Venezuela will go through Ciudad Bolivar, to stay at Posada Don Carlos is a must, we talked to people who traveled most of South America and said that this is probably the best budget accommodation to be found. Otherwise it is a strange city, streets are deserted by night and the locals spend the evenings / nights on the river bank, drinking beer from coolers and listening to their stereos built into the trunks of their cars, the volume is usually deafening.
This kind if entertainment we observed already right after our arrival in Venezuela. We spent the first night at the Hotel Catima near the airport in Caracas, a good option. Immediately after we stepped out of the hotel we noticed two local peculiarities that would accompany us throughout Venezuela. The ever present garbage on the street and the loud music coming from speakers sometimes meters high. Venezuela seems to lack an efficient system to collect garbage and what’s more, most people seem to accept that any kind of garbage is dropped anywhere anytime.
Transport between cities is very easy, very modern busses carry passengers across the country, the fares are extremely low. BUT: bring warm clothes or a sleeping bag, the temperatures are similar to those in a fridge, we are not exaggerating.
Budget accommodation and cheap food is not problem to be found and even tours can be organized for little money while getting to see the same as those who paid twice as much. This is especially true with the black currency market that is widespread in Venezuela: you can get up to 3.900 Bolivares per USD against 2.150 on the official market and with credit cards – Bring USD cash, bigger notes get you a better exchange rate.
The local alcoholic drinks are beer and rum and of course the usual soft drinks. We came across very few places serving fruit juice, if, then in Brazilian eateries near the border. The fruits, except bananas, offered in shops look rather poor and most locals prefer “arepas”, “empanadas”, rice, beans and chicken or meat. Fast food found in food stalls, bus stations, etc, … is always deep fried. The consequences of this diet on the people are obvious throughout the country, the fact that portion are simply enormous contributes further to the problem. When entering Brazil we were simply struck by the difference.