“Venezuela, the last backpacker frontier, a beacon for those wishing to explore uncharted South America”
EAT! Arepas. Who has better Arepas? Venezuela or Colombia? The hotly contested debate still rages; I gotta tell you though; Venezuelan areas are a whole different ballgame; imagine any meal ever… now put it in an arepa. Chances are you can find it in Venezuela.
DRINK! Beer! Starting at around 5 cents a beer, or something ridiculous, you can get truly sloshed for a buck in Venezuela! Be sure to stave off those morning hangovers with a cup of tasty Venezuelan coffee.
WEAR! Local garb. In Venezuela, it makes sense to try not to stand out too much – avoid wearing your shiniest adventure gear and try to blend in with the classic t-shirt and trousers combo. It’s well worth having a sun hat in Venezuela and warm gear for when you climb Roraima.
BEWARE! Valuables. As with all larger cities, be careful of pickpockets – don’t show off your laptop, mobile phone or valuables. Avoid travelling alone or on the street. Taxis are so cheap that it is easy to get around without exposing yourself to risk. Make friends on Couchsurfing who can advise you on the situation on the ground and keep you up to date.
TALK! Spanish. Most Venezuelans don’t speak much English at all, this is probably one of the hardest countries to travel in South America if you don’t speak Spanish… bring a phrasebook!
PREPARE! Bring supplies. Due to the inflation and the lack of supplies in most shops, it makes sense to bring some basics with you; I carried across toilet roll and shower gel etc from Colombia as well as bringing powdered milk (a hard to find luxury) for my Couchsurfing hosts.
Welcome to an adventurer’s playground!
Venezuela…. A land of towering tepuis, steaming jungles and golden beaches. The kidnap capital of South America and a country to be avoided, if the backpacker grapevine is to be believed (it isn’t). Venezuela is hands down one of the best countries in the world for backpackers on an extreme budget in search of adventure.
With spiralling inflation and periodic food shortages, life for Venezuelans can be tough. This has led to a surge in black market prices for the USD and it is now possible to get around 800 Bolivars for just one dollar… 800 bolivars will get you an internal flight or 48 beers. You could fill up 400 cars – Venezuela has the cheapest petrol in the world – or buy a meal for two, complete with wine, in a posh restaurant. Venezuela is lubriciously cheap…. And this isn’t the best part.
The best part is that Venezuela is an adventurers dream come true; The stunning angel falls, the world’s highest table-top mountain, isolated islands, lost cities and pristine jungle; this is a country just beginning to open up to foreign tourists. Venezuelans are a friendly bunch, often shocked to meet backpackers (there aren’t many around) but always keen to help; many Venezuelans Couchsurfers kept a protective eye over me whilst I explored the country. So, what do you need to know about Venezuela? Well, firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that there are some safety concerns with visiting this country.
However, what you have to bear in mind is that despite many people, Venezuelans including, adamantly advising you not to go the only way to really get to the heart of a destination is to go yourself. I went, nothing bad happened to me. I met other backpackers out there, nothing bad happened to them.
Use your common sense, don’t flaunt your camera for example, and you should be fine. Know the exchange rates when changing money on the black market, this will help you avoid getting screwed. Venezuela is, in my opinion, well worth the risk although I wouldn’t recommend newbie backpackers start here. Having a bit of Spanish goes a long way in Venezuela as most folks don’t speak English. So, you’re gonna do it, your gonna head off on a real adventure – it’s time to pack your bags and discover the highlights of Venezuela…
The highest tabletop mountain the world and the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Lost World’, Roraima is a truly stunning mountain covered in steaming jungles and battered by relentless rains. Short periods of calm exist and it is possible to snatch glimpses of stunning views from the top. The trek takes around five to seven days and you can do the whole thing, including a guide and porter, for around $100 a person.
A truly stunning national park and the best place to get up close and personal to capybaras, anacondas, caimans, buffalo and thousands of species of bird. Fish for piranha, explore by horseback and 4 x 4 and spend your evenings watching the sun race across the plains with a cold, five cent, beer in hand.
The highest falls in the world are just a two day trek through isolated jungle to get to and the trek is well worth it. You can fly past the falls, although this is comparatively expensive, or even trek to the top of them over eight days.
Perfect palm-fringed beaches and crystal clear waters make this one of the best places in all of South America to catch some sun and chill out. Los Roques is comparatively expensive as you have to fly in and out of the islands.
The heady student capital of Venezuela and a great place to go out partying. Take your pick from white water rafting, paragliding or trekking expeditions; there is plenty of adventure to be found here. Merida is a good place to base yourself and to exchange a bunch of your money; it’s a hell of a town to play in if you’re a Venezuelan millionaire!
So there you have it folks; everything you need to know about exploring Venezuela; one of the last backpacking frontiers. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.
About Will Hatton: Writer and photographer. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will is currently hitchhiking from England to Papua New Guinea, a journey which will take over 18 months. Will blogs over at The Broke Backpacker about his adventures in some of the world’s least-visited countries, you can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.