Venezuela is a country in South America.
|Currency:||Bolívar fuerte (VEF)|
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Currency issues, super corrupt police, distrust, political unrest, and insecurity make Venezuela an intimidating and dificult destination, but your road-hardy persistence and travel smarts will reward you with incredible experiences in a unique, dynamic, and nearly untouristed gem of a country. Buy your money on the black market, talk to people, observe but don't opine upon the political situation, have a nice glass of Cacique rum or a couple of comically small Polar beers, and let the rumba begin.
Venezuela's territory encompasses every imaginable climate. In the south, you can find snow capped mountains, charmingly anachronistic Andean villages, and the bizzare dreamscapes of "el paramo". In the northwest, you have the desert peninsulas of La Guajira and Coro. The caribean coast can suprise you with paradise beaches that you'll have to yourself, rowdy fishing villages, and beautiful beach spots where tranquility is unknown to hordes of rich kids in SUVs, each one blasting the ubiquitous reggaeton on gigantic speakers, and rumbeando all night long. The center of the country is the plains, a popular area for viewing wildlife. The Orinoco and Amazon river basins are straight up rainforest. People live in houses built on stilts and commute in canoes in the area around Maracaibo. The southeast, known as the Gran Sabana, is an undescribably amazing landscape like nowhere else on earth. Don't listen to what the news says about Venezuela; go experience its amazing natural beauty, taste it, smell it, let it charm you and then spread the word.
In Venezuela a ride is called "la cola" and hitching is called "agarrando la cola", a linguistic survivor from the bygone days of grabbing a horse's tail during an exhausting trek. Pretty cool, no? Even cooler is that hitching is ten times easier than in neighboring Colombia and twice as easy as in Brasil. Classic thumbs up hitching works, but asking for "una cola" at gas stations, in congested city traffic, or at scenic lookouts never hurts. Toss some soldiers a few bolivares and you can have an interesting ride in a military vehicle. It's even possible to hitch on yachts to the postcard perfect archipelago Los Roques. Rich people from Caracas pay a captain to navegate their yacht from the mainland to the islands then fly to the islands, play with their expensive boat and fly home, meaning that empty luxury vessels are making the journey to the islands every Thursday/Friday and returing every Sunday/Monday. Ask around at the ports nearest Caracas, buy the capitan and crew some food and maybe some rum and enjoy jetset vagabonding.
Going to Brazil
It is quite possible to hitch all the way on this route (from Ciudad Guayana to Manaus), although it might take some time (~4 days). Although it is common in Venezuela to take passengers on the back of pick-ups, in Brazil such practice is not allowed.
I hitched from Ciudad Guayana to Manaus in 3 days in April 2014. The road was paved and in great condition! The Gran Sabana was very beautiful. Longest wait was two hours at the last town before entering the Amazon. -Keith
Don't change your money at an exchange office or bank and don't take any money from an ATM! You will get the official (government-set) rate of about 11BsF per USD. Better change your money on the black market.
In January 2015 the Dollar-Bolivar rate is around 180 BsF per USD but it goes up quickly. The daily parallel dollar (Dolar paralelo, as it is called in Venezuela) can be followed on the twitter page of Dolar Today. The Euro-Bolivar rate is also indicated. The website dolartoday.com seems to be blocked inside Venezuela but a mirror page can be found on twitter also.
In Santa-Elena de Uairen, near the Brazilian border it is very easy and safe to change Brazilian Reals on the street. Look for people wearing red shirts, they will change your Reals, Euros or Dollars.
In Caracas it is much harder to change Reals and you will get a bad rate. Euros and Dollars are easier. The change agents can be found on the North side of the Asamblea Nacional near Plaza Bolivar. They don't give you the rate that is announced on Twitter and they try to rip you off every time. Locals are afraid of them and recommend you to find other ways to change your money, for example through acquaintances. (For Venezuelans it is a way of saving money, because the BsF loses its value quickly.)
One trick the change agents try to pull is take your Dollar bill, start counting your Bolivars, change the Dollar bill for a fake one (without you seeing it) and then cancel the transaction and give you the fake Dollar bill. Make clear to them that you are not stupid. Don't be intimidated by them and ask different agents for their best deal.
Most tour agencies, hotels, and hostels allow you to transfer money from a European or American bank account and they will give you the equivalent in Bolivars. (Although it can be a lot more difficult for accounts in the UK.)
When in the Venezuelan Andes 3 mates and I once hitched the 50km or so back to the city of Merida as we had no idea when the next bus was. We got a lift in the back of a pickup truck in around 15 minutes and got a lift straight to Merida no problem. Scenery was amazing and the back of a pick up is a far better way to experience the place than an overcrowded bus. - 7th of April, 2010
The Península de Macanao in Isla de Margarita is incredibly easy to hitch. There's only one bus route going out of Boca de Río towards the towns on the NW coastline. Folk will pick you up quickly cos they're aware of the lack of transport, make sure you ask for water though cos it's a scorching desert! I recommend the fishing beaches up by Punta Arenas: El Tunal, La Pared, etc. If you ask the villagers nicely, they'll let you sleep on their beach undisturbed. - anonymous
I also hitched from Puerto Ordaz down to Santa Elena in Edo Bolívar. In the first day, I got as far as Tumeremo, including an amazing ride with some firemen who kept feeding me beer! The second day, I managed to get into La Gran Sabana, including catching the bus (Expreso Los Llanos) at Km 88 without paying. Once in La Sabana, it was trickier, but I think that was partially cos of the long, straight roads which invite speeding and also cos it was during the Carnavales (mid Feb) so all the transport was families with 4x4s full of camping gear. In the end, a Colombian guy took pity on me and gave me a ride in order to lecture me on personal hygiene. - anonymous
In 2011 two friends and I crossed all of Venezuela hitch-hiking from Boa Vista in Brazil to Cucuta in Colombia. We got quite a few rides in trucks (sometimes all three of us and the trucker on two seats at the front of a small truck cabin!), and a lot in the back of pick-up trucks. If it hadn't been for the incredibly poor roads and the awkward positions we were forced to endure them in it would really have been perfect hitch-hiking conditions! - Marcool