5. Is it safe to travel?
As safe as the Vatican… for a child.
Did I have any bad experience? Absolutely,I went to a bar where they played Jarabe de Palo and Melendi… twice!. OK, just after that I got robbed in the main square in Merida. They punched me in the face and took my $30 phone I had for the occasion. Usually these are straightforward deal, where the mugger pulls a pistol and takes your phone. But the poor dudes didn’t even have a gun so they assaulted me and left me with a bleeding nose and a purple eye. A minor incident compared to listening to Pau Dones “Bonito”. Have to say I was not in my best condition after spending $2 in beer, but that didn’t stop me from moving to the next bar and keep partying.
But hey, someone said that thief is the most honest business transaction, and going to Venezuela and not being robbed is like going to Amsterdam and not…
6. Will Nicolas Maduro anally rape you while scratching his mustache on your back?
Very unlikely, he is too busy plundering the country.
Murió Bolívar y dejó un caballo blanco; el Zorro dejó un caballo negro; Simón Díaz dejó un caballo viejo;…..murió Chávez y dejó un burro !Someone. You may not know Spanish or understand the references, google is your friend. Or just ignore and carry on
7. Is Venezuela a dictatorship?
It depends where you draw the line. Let’s say it’s not Saudi Arabia, but the democracy levels nowadays are lower than anywhere else in the region. There are elections, but they seem quite rigged. When it comes to deal with authorities, corruption is the norm.
8. What about poverty?
The economy is collapsed. However, extreme poverty doesn’t seem evident. I didn’t see more people begging in the streets than in other places of South America. The saddest sights probably come from Cucuta (Colombia) where many Venezuelans are living on the streets after crossing the border on foot.
So if you want to be featured in humanitarians of tinder, stick to Africa or India. The darker, the best. Always.
9. Show me the money!
Sometime soon, likely one Scandinavian county, will claim to be the first cashless economy, but Venezuela did that already in 2018. Only city buses and a few more things were paid in cash
Pretty much all the Venezuelan bolivars were abroad, mainly in Cucuta so transactions were made by card, or by bank transfer with mobile apps.
When I was there the official exchanges was $1 = 80 bolivars, but market rate was $1 = 650000 bolivars credit or 250000 cash. A bit before my arrival they started to print 100k notes so I was lucky to get a bunch of those. Before bolivars where sold by weight in Cucuta as all the notes were something like 100.
Inflation was above 100% per month, and minimum wage about $3 per month. Prices were changing every day, so was the exchange rate. Imported goods had dollarized prices, so similar to other countries, but local ones were next to free for foreigners
Some reference prices (in bolivars, remember $1 = 650k B or 250k cash):
- 1 bolivarian beer (22cl) in a nice bar 90k
- 1 liter bolivarian gasoline 1 or 6 (depending on octanes), yes $1 = 250k liters!
- Bolivarian city bus ticket 2k (only cash). As most people were only carrying notes of 100 or 50, this was not an easy transaction :), so often need a bag to carry cash
- 8h bolivarian night bus 450k
- 40kgs of bolivarian mangoes 80k
- 1 iced bolivarian coconut 30k
- Bolivarian bananas, cheaper than bolivarian mangoes
- OK, I stop… Vegetarian meal 75k (only cash)
- 1 Pizza in fancy restaurant 600k
- 1 kg rice 450k
- 1kg arepas flour 400k
- 1 SIM card with call and internet for 1 month 90k
- 1 Stamp for international post 200B (not 200k, only cash) Of course post never arrived. I could write a chapter about my adventures in the post office, next time.
- Big apartment with 3 rooms $50 month (gringo price)
- 4 rolls of toilette paper 450k
- 50 post cards 2000 (only cash), so yes, 1 roll of toilette paper = 15oo post cards (approx) They are a bit rough, but do the job
- 1 wisdom tooth removal 3.5M
- For geeks, you can buy Venezuelan state made laptops that they give for free to students and come with Canima OS, the world famous Bolivarian linux distribution
10. Why so much queuing?
Long queues with people waiting inline for hours are as intrinsic to Venezuelan landscape as arepas, and they are not trying to buy the latest iPhone. There maybe several reasons: buying bus tickets, gasoline, public services related, girls that knew I was in town, or just system is down for whatever… But two are the 3 most common:
- Bank. It was only possible to withdraw 10K from an ATM per day. The bank system was collapsed and banking procedures gruelling.
- Shops, a truck with subsidized food arrives in the morning with whatever comes that day. Items are rationed, ie 1kg rice per head at 1k Bolivars.
- Colombian border, Venezuelans fleeing the country. There is a good amount smuggling going on at that border in both directions as well.
11. How are Venezuelans?
Super friendly, honest and usually well educated. They are good fun and very welcoming. Met some amazing people there. And they point at things with their lips! how awesome is that? You don’t have to raise your arm or move a finger.
12. How is it to travel in Venezuela
Things are changing from one day to another so it depends when you go. A few months after I left they cut 5 zeros to the currency, there was cash flowing again and prices were not that cheap for foreigners, a beer went up to almost $1. The government put in place some ideas to recover the economy, like a cryptocurrency called “Petro” or giving citizens gold mini-ingots to protect savings from inflation. Surprisingly they failed 🤷♂️.
One thing is for sure anytime you go and won’t change soon, the chaos. Buses break and don’t get fixed, power cuts, water cuts, internet cuts… and services not working are a constant and it doesn’t the situation will improve any time soon. Not as bad as the Western media depictions, but still quite.
Traveling in Venezuela is an experience totally different to anywhere else. It may feel like a black mirror dystopia. I am very happy I went, but was happy of leaving as well. It’s amazing to see how humans adapt to change and difficult environments. I am not Paulo Coelho, so I am not gonna give here a cheap philosophical speech. Just going to say, that I felt privileged to be able to go and leave when I pleased, unlike most Venezuelans that have to live with it.