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Country Guides for South America

Venezuela

Venezuela

Home to the world's highest waterfall, towering mountains, vast plains, Amazon jungle, South America's largest lake, the immense Orinoco River and thousands of miles of Caribbean beaches, Venezuela is a land of wondrous landscapes and dramatic scenery. A number of fine national parks and wildlife refuges host a wide variety of animals, from jaguars and howler monkeys to flamingos, and the lovely Margarita Island is a great place to explore the colorful marine life of the tropics. History is well-represented in beautifully restored and preserved colonial architecture, and there are some terrific museums to explore.

Language: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects

Major International Airport:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
CaracasSimon Bolivar Int'lCCS14 miles NW

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling to Tropical South America depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. You should observe the precautions listed in this document in most areas of this region.

Diseases found in Tropical South America (risk can vary by country and region within a country; quality of in-country surveillance also varies)

Food and Waterborne Diseases
Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout Tropical South America and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage ( hepatitis). Brucellosis is occasionally seen in travelers, most commonly acquired through eating or drinking contaminated milk products.

Other Disease Risks
Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) are other diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Epidemics of viral encephalitis and dengue fever occur in some countries in this area. Bartonellosis, or Oroya fever (a sand fly-borne disease), occurs in arid river valleys on the western slopes of the Andes up to 3,000 meters (9,842 feet). Louse-borne typhus, a rickettsial infection is often found in mountain areas of Colombia and Peru. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection that can be contracted in fresh water in this region, is found in Brazil, Suriname, and north-central Venezuela. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries. (For more information, please see Swimming and Recreational Water Precautions.)

If you visit the Andes Mountains, ascend gradually to allow time for your body to adjust to the high altitude, which can cause insomnia, headaches, nausea, and altitude sickness. In addition, use sunblock rated at least 15 SPF, because the risk of sunburn is greater at high altitudes.

Malaria
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness.

Humans get malaria from the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. Prevent this serious disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of South America, should take an antimalarial drug.

Chloroquine is the recommended drug for Paraguay.

Travelers to Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

Yellow Fever
Yellow fever is present in this region and vaccination is recommended if you travel to the endemic zones. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain countries if you have visited an endemic area. For detailed information, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Other Health Risks

Injuries
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from motor vehicle injuries: avoid drinking and driving; wear your safety belt and place children in age-appropriate restraints in the back seat; follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed; obey the rules of the road; and use helmets on bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes. Avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus. Where possible, hire a local driver.

Vaccinations

Routine Vaccinations
Check with your healthcare provider: you and your family may need routine as well as recommended vaccinations.

Before travel, be sure you and your children are up to date on all routine immunizations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP). See the schedule for adults and the schedule for infants and children. Some schedules can be accelerated for travel.

See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Recommended Vaccinations
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Tropical South America. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • typhoid vaccine. typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.

Required Vaccinations
Yellow fever is present in this region and vaccination is recommended if you travel to the endemic zones in any of these countries. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain countries if you have visited an endemic area. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Staying Healthy

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid children's eyes and mouth and use it sparingly around their ears.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
  • In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito and insect bites.
  • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
  • Do not drink beverages with ice.
  • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
  • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
  • Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.

After You Return Home

If you have visited a malaria-risk area, continue taking your antimalarial drug for 4 weeks (chloroquine, doxycycline, or mefloquine) or seven days (atovaquone/proguanil) after leaving the risk area.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.



Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Visitors to Venezuela are at risk from malaria, filariasis, encephalitis and dengue fever transmitted by mosquito bites, onchocerciasus from blackfly bites, leishmaniasis from sandfly bites, Chagas disease from triatomine bugs, and tick-borne relapsing fever. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

With the exception of first class resort hotels and restaurants, the water supply in Venezuela is contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

Maiquetia Airport, the international airport serving Caracas, is dangerous. Because of the frequency of robberies at gunpoint, travelers are encouraged, if at all possible, to arrive during daylight hours. If it is not possible to arrive during the day, travelers should use extra care both within and outside of the airport. All arriving passengers are urged to make advance plans for transportation from the airport to their place of lodging. If possible, travelers should arrange to be picked up at the airport by someone who is known to them. The Embassy has received frequent reports recently of armed robberies in taxicabs going to and from the airport at Maiquetia. There is no foolproof method of knowing whether a taxi driver at the airport is reliable. It is no longer possible to rely on the fact that a taxi driver presents a credential or drives an automobile with official taxi license plates marked "libre." Incidents of taxi drivers in Caracas overcharging, robbing and injuring passengers are common. Travelers should take care to use radio-dispatched taxis or those from reputable hotels. Travelers should call a 24-hour radio-dispatched taxi service from a public phone lobby or ask hotel, restaurant, or airline representatives to contact a licensed cab company for them.

Cross-border violence, kidnapping, smuggling and drug trafficking occur frequently in areas along the 1,000-mile border between Venezuela and Colombia. Some kidnap victims have been released after ransom payments, while others have been murdered. In many cases, Colombian terrorists are suspected. Colombia 's National Liberation Army (ELN) have had a long history of kidnapping for ransom, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are active in the kidnapping trade. Common criminals are also increasingly involved in kidnappings, either dealing with victim's families directly or selling the victim to terrorist groups. In-country travel by U.S. Embassy employees, both official and private, within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuela/Colombia border, is subject to strict limitations and is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The State Department warns American citizens not to travel within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuela/Colombia border. U.S. citizens who elect to visit areas along the border region with Colombia against this warning, apart from the Colombian terrorist threat, could encounter Venezuelan military-controlled areas and may be subject to search and arrest. The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Venezuela of all U.S. Government personnel. Private travel by U.S. military personnel to Venezuela requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy. Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.

The incidence of political demonstrations in Venezuela has decreased markedly since the referendum in August 2004. Nevertheless, travelers should be aware that violence, including exchanges of gunfire, has occurred at political demonstrations in the past. Demonstrations tend to occur at or near university campuses, business centers, and gathering places such as public squares and plazas. Most major tourist destinations, including coastal beach resorts and Margarita Island, are not generally affected by protest actions. However, the city of Merida, a major tourist destination in the Andes, has been the scene of frequent student demonstrations, some of them violent.

Sporadic incidents of harassment and intimidation of U.S. citizens by pro-government groups, Venezuelan airport authorities and some segments of the police have been reported over the past few years. Additionally, anti-American sentiment, expressed in graffiti, harsh political rhetoric, newspaper advertisements and rally pamphlets, exists in some segments of Venezuelan society.

Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following the local press, radio and television. Visitors should also consult their local hosts, including U.S. and Venezuelan business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Venezuela are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, no matter where they occur. Venezuela is an earthquake-prone country and is occasionally subject to torrential rains, which can cause major disasters such as the one in Vargas State in 1999. Travelers who intend to rent or purchase long-term housing in Venezuela should exercise care to choose structures designed for earthquake resistance. Such individuals may wish to seek professional assistance from an architect or civil/structural engineer, as does the Embassy, when renting or purchasing a house or apartment in Venezuela. Americans already housed in such premises are also encouraged to seek a professional structural assessment of their housing. For further information on seismic activity, you may wish to visit: http://mceer.buffalo.edu/infoService/bibs/buildings.asp; http://www.seismo.ethz.ch/GSHAP or www.oas.org/CDMP/.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Caracas has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. Most murders go unsolved. The poor neighborhoods that cover the hills around Caracas are very dangerous. These areas are seldom patrolled by police and should be avoided. Armed robberies are common in urban and tourist areas throughout Venezuela. Crimes committed against travelers are usually money-oriented crimes, such as theft and armed robbery. Incidents occur during daylight hours as well as at night. Many criminals are armed with guns or knives and will use force. Jewelry attracts the attention of thieves. Travelers are advised to leave jewelry items, especially expensive-looking wristwatches, at home. Theft from hotel rooms and safe deposit boxes is a problem, and theft of unattended valuables on the beach and from rental cars parked near isolated areas or on city streets is a common occurrence. A guarded garage or locked trunk is not a guarantee against theft. Pickpockets concentrate in and around crowded bus and subway stations in downtown Caracas. Subway escalators are favored sites for "bump and rob" petty thefts by roving bands of young criminals. Many of these criminals are well dressed to allay suspicion and to blend in with crowds using the subways during rush hour. Travelers should exercise caution in displaying money and valuables.

The State Department has received reports of robberies during nighttime and early morning hours on the highways around and leading to Caracas. Reports have specifically involved cars being forced off the La Guaira highway leading from Caracas to the Maquetia International Airport, and the "Regional del Centro" highway leading from Caracas to Maracay/Valencia, at which point the victims are robbed. The Department recommends avoiding driving at night and in the early morning where possible. Drivers traveling on highways during nighttime and early morning hours should exercise caution.

"Express kidnappings," in which victims are seized in an attempt to get quick cash in exchange for their release, are a problem in Venezuela's capital, Caracas. Kidnapping of US citizens and other foreign nationals, from homes, hotels, unauthorized taxis and the airport terminal has occurred. U.S. citizens should be alert to their surroundings and take necessary precautions.

Police responsiveness and effectiveness in Venezuela varies widely from community to community, but in general does not rise to the level of efficiency expected of police forces in the U.S. Travelers have reported robberies and other crimes committed against them by individuals wearing uniforms and purporting to be police officers or National Guard members.

There have been a number of confirmed incidents of piracy and armed robbery of pleasure craft off the coast of Venezuela. Some of these incidents have involved a high degree of violence, including the severe beating of a U.S. citizen in 2002 and the fatal shooting of an Italian citizen in January 2004. U.S. citizen yachters should exercise a heightened level of caution in Venezuelan waters.

During 2004 and 2005 the Embassy has learned of several instances where women lured young American men to Venezuela after establishing "relationships" with them over the Internet. Some of these young men were robbed shortly after they arrived in Venezuela. Others were recruited to act as narcotics couriers or "drug mules." In three instances, the young men were arrested at the airport with narcotics in their possession and are now serving long jail terms in Venezuela.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



Source: U.S. Department of State

While Venezuela is situated in the tropics, the climate is moderated by altitude. The low-lying and coastal areas have a tropical climate with hot, humid, wet summers and hot, dry winters. The highland weather is more moderate, with cooler temperatures and less humidity. The rainy season in Venezuela is typically from May through November, although many areas can expect some precipitation year round.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Caracas14236"
Ciudad Bolivar12739"
Coro6615"
Maracaibo7723"
Merida22071"
San Fernando12154"

Venezuela's electrical current is 120/60 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in these countries provide grounding.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

On December 31, 2005, the U.S. Government will begin to phase in new passport requirements for U.S. citizens traveling in the Western Hemisphere. By December 31, 2007, all U.S. citizens will be expected to depart and enter the United States on a valid passport or other authorized document establishing identity and U.S. citizenship. The Department of State strongly encourages travelers to obtain passports well in advance of any planned travel. Routine passport applications by mail take up to six weeks to be issued. For further information, go to the State Department's Consular website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html.

A valid passport and a visa or tourist card are required. Tourist cards are issued on flights from the U.S. to Venezuela for persons staying less than ninety days. Venezuelan immigration authorities have been requiring that U.S. passports have at least 6 months validity remaining from the date of arrival in Venezuela. Some U.S. citizens have been turned back to the United States for having less than 6 months validity. Passports should also be in good condition, as some U.S. citizens have been delayed or detained overnight for having otherwise valid passports in poor condition.

Venezuelan immigration authorities may require that American citizens with dual American-Venezuelan nationality enter and exit Venezuela with a valid Venezuelan passport. For this reason, dual nationals traveling to Venezuela should travel with both a valid U.S. passport and a valid Venezuelan passport.

Venezuela's legal code mandates that minors (under 18) who are residents of Venezuela (regardless of nationality) and who are traveling alone, with only one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. This authorization must reflect the precise date and time of the travel, including flight and or other pertinent information. Without this authorization immigration authorities will prevent the child's departure from Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government no longer recognizes blanket or non-specific travel authorizations. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Venezuela Embassy or a Venezuelan consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Venezuela, only notarization by a Venezuelan notary is required. A permission letter prepared outside of Venezuela is valid for 90 days. A permission letter prepared in Venezuela is valid for 60 days.

These requirements do not apply to children who are not Venezuelan citizens or who do not reside in Venezuela. However, the requirements do apply to children who are Venezuelan citizens, even if they normally reside outside of Venezuela and are making only a short visit. The requirements do not apply to non-Venezuelan residents who enter Venezuela with a tourist card or tourist visa and who do not exceed the permitted 90-day stay. Beyond that time, immigration authorities may require the appropriate signed permission before allowing a child not traveling in the company of both parents to depart the country.

Travelers entering Venezuela from certain countries are required to have a current yellow fever vaccination certificate. The Venezuelan government recommends that all travelers, regardless of their country of departure, be vaccinated for yellow fever before entering Venezuela.

An exit tax and airport fee must be paid when departing Venezuela by airline. The exit tax is currently 29,400 Bolivares , and the airport fee is currently 73,500 Bolivares. In many instances, especially with non-U.S. airlines, the exit tax and airport fee are not included in the airline ticket price and must be paid separately at the airport upon departure. Authorities usually require that payment be made in local currency. Both the departure tax and the airport fee are subject to change with little notice. Travelers should check with their airlines for the latest information.

For current information concerning entry, tax, and customs requirements for Venezuela, travelers may contact the Venezuelan Embassy at 1099 30th St. N.W., Washington D.C. 20007, tel: (202) 342-2214. Visit the Embassy of Venezuela web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Venezuela is -4 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Venezuela would be 1:00 pm

The unit of currency in Venezuela is the bolivar (VEB).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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