What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Venezuela
Christopher Columbus called Venezuela “paradise on Earth,” with its diverse wildlife and beautiful scenery, located on the northern coast of South America. On its Caribbean coast, you’ll find a great number of tropical resorts, and to the northwest, you’ll find the Andes Mountains. As the 33rd largest country in landmass in the world with a total area of 353,841 sq mi. The capital of the country is the city of Caracas. Learn about all the beauty traveling to Venezuela has to offer. From wildlife, culture, music, art, and its people. We explore all this and the government turmoil currently going on.
If you’re planning to visit this beautiful but currently troubled country here are some things that you’ll want to know:
There are three major groups of people in Venezuela, and the country has become its cauldron, where these people mix and live together. You have the Indigenous Venezuelans, the Africans, and the Spanish or the Peninsulares. Cultural syncretism has made the Venezuelan culture we know today, which we see a lot of similarities with the other countries in Latin America but with their own unique qualities.
The Peninsulares, particularly the Spanish, have the greatest influence on the country since their colonization. Their influence on the country’s music, language, and architecture can be traced back to Andalusia and Extremadura. They are settlers during the colonial era, and they came from that region and have molded the majority of the socio-economic structure in Venezuela. Bullfights are brought to Venezuela as well, and they still take place there, though currently highly controversial in the country.
The indigenous Venezuelan and African influence has been greatly hindered to some few words, food, and names of places. Though musical influences from Africa, particularly the drums, are still present in the country’s cultural characteristics. Over the years, through immigration from India and Europe have also shared their influences into the country. The country’s oil-rich resource has attracted a number of people from developed countries and has brought with them their own culture as well.
Venezuela is a country that leads in the conservation of its wildlife. They have designated more than half of their territory as a protected area for their diverse indigenous wildlife. The world’s average protected territory is only 14.8 percent, which demonstrates Venezuela’s interest in maintaining its biodiversity.
They are one of 17 countries that are considered as “mega-diverse.” This title has a requirement that it should have a large number of various species that are not common anywhere else in the world. The country is home to 23 percent of reptilian species, and half of the amphibian species that live there and are endemic to Venezuela and other regions.
You will have a grand wildlife holiday when you visit Los Llanos. The heartland of Venezuela, which is its largest Savannah, is seasonally flooded and where you’ll see a great number of wildlife. The bird life, humpbacked cattle, capybara, the largest rodent, the giant anteater, caiman, puma, and the anaconda coexists with the cowboys of the region.
Art and Music
With the Spanish influence in the country, most of the early art in Venezuela were largely religious motifs. This gradually changed in the late 19th century when artists expressed in great ardor historical and heroic demonstrations that represented the country’s desire for independence. In the next century, Modernism took over the art world with notable artists including Arturo Michelena, Manuel Cabré, Armando Reverón, and Cristóbal Rojas.
The country’s national musical instrument is the cuatro. The Llanos region has produced some of the famous traditional songs and styles, namely: “Alma Llanera,” “Florentino y el diablo,” “Concierto en la Llanura,” and “Caballo Viejo.” Groups like Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa have greatly demonstrated the country’s indigenous musical style. In the 19th century, Teresa Carreno emerged as a world-famous piano virtuoso.
Recently, classical music has been seen to come out from Venezuela with The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra has hosted excellent concerts in many famous European halls and has garnered numerous accolades as well. The country has a government-funded, voluntary education for music programs that are now being followed by different countries around the world to bolster their musical acclaim.
It is unfortunate that Venezuela fell five places to 148 of 180 as assessed by the Reporters Without Borders in 2019. Venezuela has most of its TV channels controlled by the government, and most information that doesn’t paint a good picture of the government is not covered or just partially covered. Printed news and magazines are also uncommon. Along with the underdeveloped IT infrastructure, which delivers a slow and poor service, it has helped the state control information and implementing blackouts. The major source of information is on Social Media and has become one of the major tools to circumvent the state’s stranglehold on information. To protect yourself and have access to other sources of information on the internet, you’ll have to use VPNs. With the mentioned control of the state of access to the internet and limiting its resources, this will require you to get the best VPN for Venezuela. These services will allow you to get past the firewall placed by the state to access sites that they deem anti-government propaganda or dangerous.
Attractions and Sites
Venezuela has been blessed with a wide array of beautiful spots and memorable experiences. When visiting, take your time to explore all the diverse areas of this beautiful country. Don’t miss the capital city as it offers its own type of adventure, with a number of cultural sites and surrounding attractions.
As the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls is located in Venezuela. This amazing site in the Canaima National Park is remote and difficult to access, but flights going to the falls can be easily arranged. The rainy season is the best time to go and see the falls which are between May and November when water is abundant, and falls do not disappear during mist, meanwhile during the dry season, falls may have only little trickle and visitors are advised to check in advance to make their trip worthwhile.
Los Roques Archipelago (Archipiélago Los Roques)
The beautiful chain of islands in the central coast of Venezuela is a must-see for their beautiful beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs. Los Roques has controlled the development of this area, keeping high-rise hotels away, making it the perfect spot to escape the mega-resorts and crowds. Gran Roque is a small fishing village, the main settlement with its single-story homes painted in the typical bright colors seen throughout Venezuela. One of the highlights for many visitors is the little island of Cayo de Agua, that can be reached by boat, this is one of Venezuela’s most beautiful beaches, with shallow turquoise waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Isla de Margarita (Margarita Island)
Isla de Margarita is a highly developed tourist area with high-rise hotels and major beach destinations in Venezuela. It can be found approximately 40 kilometers north of the mainland; this is one of Venezuela’s major tourist destinations for sun-seekers. People from all over come for the beautiful soft sand beaches, which are popular with the tourists, as well as Venezuelans.
Parque Nacional Morrocoy (Morrocoy National Park)
Two-Hour drive west of Caracas is the Morrocoy National Park. These coastal areas are known for their white-sand beaches and coral reefs. Diving is one of the main activities that can be done if you are looking for an underwater adventure. The park is also home to a large number of birds, from osprey and parrots to flamingos and scarlet ibis. There are two main access points, one at Tucacas and the other at Chichiriviche, with boat services to the islands available in locations. The park is easily accessible and, as a result, very popular with Venezuelans.
Canaima National Park and the Gran Sabana
Canaima National Park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers three million hectares. It is associated with Angel falls, but in reality, it is just a small area of the vastly diverse park. The waterfall that spread across the entire area is one of the highlights of the place. Swimming at the base of the waterfall is a must-try for tourists since it can provide a refreshing escape from the heat.
The tabletop mountain of Roraima has an alluring appeal for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Roraima rises up from the surrounding lowlands, like an island in the sky that has been intriguing people for centuries, with its bizarre rock formations, waterfalls, and meat-eating plants. Roraima is one of the highest tepuis in Canaima National Park. It is also one of the most easily accessible and popular hiking routes.
Orinoco Delta can be found northeast of Venezuela and offers a different landscape and experience compared to the other parts of the country. It is the home to all kinds of different wildlife, from monkeys to macaws and to piranhas. Tourists can rent riverside lodges for multi-day packages that take guests out in boats for wildlife viewing and visiting local Warao people.
Caracas: Galipan and the National Pantheon
Galipan has fantastic vista from atop of a hill, particularly on clear days, when you can see Caracas and the coast. At the top are stalls with vendors selling a variety of goods, and a number of decent restaurants offering some tasty treats. It is the country’s most sacred shrine and houses the remains of prominent Venezuelans, including those of Simon Bolívar.
Oil and Hyperinflation
Venezuela is one of the leading producers of oil in the global market. Most of its government-funded services are dependent on its oil production. It has the largest amount of proven reserves in the world. The Orinoco oil belt has the majority of its over 290 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. However, it must still be processed and refined, which poses a challenge economically and technologically for the country. It is also a major producer of natural gas in the Americas, second only to the United States. But these resources are underutilized and are only used to aid in the production of mature oil fields rather than exported. This is important to know because, right now, Venezuela is suffering from Hyperinflation that is largely a result of the government’s mismanagement of its primary GDP.
The United States had long been Venezuela’s leading importer of their oil, but recently they diverted to countries like India and China. Geopolitically, there has already been an existing tension between the United States and Venezuela during Hugo Chavez’s reign as president during the turn of the century.
Currently, Venezuela is experiencing Hyperinflation, something to consider when you’re thinking of traveling there; it has become the main cause of the rise in crime rate and poverty. In 2016, the government declared a state of emergency as the inflation rate hit 800% and by 2018 it was estimated to have been at 80,000%. Now, it is difficult to tell what the rate is, but if you just buy a cup of coffee, you can say it’s around 380,000%. This is bad for its citizens as their money has rapidly lost its value, and the prices of basic commodities surged unimaginably.
It is very difficult to get out of Hyperinflation with very few countries that have experienced it. This has made one-tenth of its population flee the country, which is the largest human displacement in the history of Latin America. Citizens are now turning to the black market to protect their savings by converting them to dollars.
With the country’s political climate and state of its services, it is strongly advised that you go through a travel agency when you travel to Venezuela. These agencies are updated with the current information about the country and can book internal flights, buses, and can help you with money changing and transfers.
There is a lot of planning and monitoring involved with transportation, especially for an internal long-distance trip. You should book internal flights in advance as domestic air travel shrunk, and you’ll have to regularly check in the last two hours if you can still board. Long-distance buses are a safe way to travel, but you’ll have some problems with ticket availability. You can use taxis to travel between cities because of low fuel prices.
Venezuela has produced six (6) Miss World winners and seven (7) Miss Universe winners. Irene Saez, one of the winners, is also famous for running for the presidency in 1998.
As a Spanish colony for many years, just like many of its Latin American neighbors, people here are predominantly Roman Catholic.
It originates over the Catatumbo river when the cold mountain air mixes with the heat of Lake Maracaibo; it produces the “Catatumbo Lightning.” There can be over 100,000 lightning strikes in a single night, which makes it one of the most unique geographical phenomena in the world.
It is unfortunate with the mass exodus of professionals from the country and their dire monetary situation. But you’ll surely miss a lot of beautiful things to learn and discover if you won’t even think of visiting this country. With adequate vigilance and safety measures, you can immerse yourself with its diverse experiences that you can take with you even when you’re already long gone home.