Is Venezuela Safe? | Gringo’s Travel Guide
Is Venezuela safe?
The short-answer to that question is a resounding: NO!
Do not go to Venezuela these days, gringo. That’s one of the worst travel ideas around right now, as Venezuela is in the throes of a crisis that’s led to mass electrical outages, food shortages, a lack of medicines in the hospitals, and downright chaos in many cities.
Go to Colombia.
Check out Mexico.
Hell, even visit Brazil.
If you’re looking to visit off-the-beaten path places where you’ll find a little danger in the air every now and then, check out the countries above. You’ll be able to get your kicks in there.
That’s a whole different animal. A beast to be exact. Venezuela is not a place you want to visit as a traveler right now. With one of the highest murder rates on earth, and many more unreported murders, you’ll be lucky to get out alive. And I’m no hyping here.
Venezuela is dangerous, dangerous right now.
Alas, I know you’re here for more than me hyping up the dangers of a country I’ve never stepped foot in. So below, you’ll find a detailed account of the only person I know who has stepped foot in Venezuela semi-recently. Back when Venezuela was still receiving some international flights from western nations. Back when the crisis was just really bad — not utterly horrific.
You’ll find his story, along with a detailed breakdown of crime statistics throughout Venezuela and an account of the issues facing visitors and residents of the country.
I’ll discuss everything you’ll need to know about safety in Venezuela, including:
Gringos Visiting Venezuela?
Without further ado, take it away @traveler197…
That was the question on my mind as I boarded a plane in Lima bound for Caracas in February 2017. Venezuela was to be my 84th country, and it was the one for which I conducted the most planning. A lot of planning. In the wake of reports of severe civil unrest and food shortages, my previous trips to Iran, Honduras, and Bangladesh seemed like package tours to Disneyland.
I decided I would entrust someone on the ground to design my Venezuela trip. After contacting several operators found from a sparse collection of TripAdvisor reviews, I ultimately opted for Hike-in-Venezuela.
These guys were great from start to finish. I was primarily in touch with Andreas, who addressed all of my concerns without the least bit of attitude.
My ambition was to see the Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall. But February is usually a dry month and access to the Falls was not a certainty.
So I pitched Andreas the idea of doing a trek to Roraima, said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” Andreas informed me that this trip would take at least 5 days. So I had to decline. I can’t take 5 consecutive days off work in February.
That’s prime hustle and grind season. So he pitched me a 3-day/2-night Orinoco Delta tour. He mentioned I would hang out with Warao and go piranha fishing. Sold!
Back to that flight to Caracas. I had snagged a business class upgrade on my Copa flight to Caracas. Not the fanciest service, to be frank, but the flight had enough champagne, or an equivalent thereof, to calm my nerves. It was warm and sunny as I arrived to Caracas airport’s international terminal.
Andreas’s guy, Elia, was to meet me and escort me to the domestic terminal. I had heard horror stories about that 5-7 minute walk between the two terminals. Recently, however, the authorities had erected a secure, indoor tunnel linking the two, and it could not be accessed by non-passengers. Elia and I quickly spotted each other at the arrivals lobby.
But first, we had to change money. I won’t get into the specifics of Venezuela’s currency situation. But for purposes of this report, there’s an official rate (i.e., the rate applied by payment intermediaries regulated by the Venezuelan government, such as credit card processors), the black market rate (e.g, the extremely favorable rate you get when you exchange your dollars on as street corner in Caracas – strategy not recommended), and lastly the tourist rate, which can literally be anything between the first two.
If I recall correctly, Elia and I went exactly down the middle between official and black market. I furnished 20 USD, and he took out a fat wad of Bolivares as follows:
We then set out towards the domestic terminal. But there was a problem: his car wouldn’t start. Appropriately enough, we were right in front of a “Welcome to Venezuela” sign.
So we set out upon that 7-minute “walk of doom.” It went without issue, though admittedly I showed up to the domestic terminal covered in sweat. I checked my bag as my flight was scheduled to depart in 2 hours. Except, I was in Venezuela.
~ Venezuela…Expect Delays on Delays ~
Suspecting that I was in for a long wait, I headed over to the domestic terminal’s premium lounge and checked in with my Priority Pass. It looked alright, but the Wi-Fi was down and there was no coffee or alcohol.
That’s like 2/3 of my existence.
Perplexed, I headed over to Subway to spend those Bolivars and make some friends before my flight to Ciudad Bolivar, a base city for Venezuela tourism.
Rather than arrive in Ciudad Bolivar at 7 PM as scheduled, I arrived a bit past midnight. A driver took me to a rather nice traveler’s lodge and announced he return at 4:30 AM to take me to the Orinoco Delta. In the morning, the driver – José I believe was his name – had no shortage of anecdotes.
As we drove past dozens of abandoned production facilities in the vicinity of Ciudad Bolívar, José confided that he was formerly a commercial representative for an Italian mining firm.
His company, like many others, was driven out by the Maduro government in a bid to cleanse Venezuela of ‘foreigner capitalist poison.’ Left without work, José was now driving me to a place where ‘work’ took on a different meaning.
At 9 AM that day, we arrived to a small port village of an Orinoco tributary, where the local indigenous peoples, the Warao, were unloading goods recently brought in from Trinidad & Tobago.
Warao literally means “the boat people,” and I had read that they were an industrious, non-confrontational minority. Most live in huts right on the shores of the Orinoco river and its tributaries. After a few positive interactions, I was taken to my new base, the Orinoco Delta Lodge.
The next 24 hours or so were jam-packed with activities. I vividly recall canoeing around an Orinoco tributary and spotting pink river dolphins. Had the canoe flipped into the piranha-infested pool, Traveler100 would have probably been renamed to Traveler 3/4.
It was truly special to meet and greet with some Warao. They asked me about my life around the world, and whether I’m afraid of flying. I still am, who isn’t?. Among the family there was a non-Warao Venezuelan who had courted his Warao wife in a fish market in Maturín.
He proudly proclaimed that albeit he lived poorly among the Warao, life in the jungle was better. It was unlike life in the city, rife with armed violence and arbitrary assaults. The family elder then offered his views of modern Venezuela, but spoke of the late Hugo Chavéz as if the latter were still alive.
I arose early the next morning to go piranha fishing with a Warao guide. We hooked chicken meat onto some homemade, wooden rods and went full Rambo. He caught about 17 of those rascals before I caught my first one.
Observing the master, I placed the bait in a seemingly quiet portion of our designated fishing area. Jerking the rod a bit, I finally enticed a piranha onto my hook.
“Now you can call yourself Warao!,” exclaimed the guide. But I wanted no part of the unhooking process. I like my hands how they are, thank you. I asked my Warao companion to set that particular piranha aside as my hard-earned breakfast.
Breakfast ended sharply at noon and José took me back to Ciudad Bolivar airport. A couple of nerve-wracking flight delays later, I found myself en route to Curaçao for some R&R. That’s it.
No traumatic confrontations, no robberies, and yes, I left Venezuela in one piece.
~ Thinking of Going to Venezuela Soon? ~
If you are interested in travel to Venezuela, I hope you have lengthy travel experience in the Americas and/or a very high tolerance for stress and unpredictability.
Is Venezuela safe?
No, it’s not. Not even for short trips planned with a tour guide. Even for short trips, have an exit strategy. When people go from prosperous to hungry, change can happen fast.
Personally, I’d like to return to see the Angel Falls and hike Roraima. In such event, I would certainly contact Andreas and his team, again.
Is Venezuela Dangerous in 2020?
Now that we’ve got the take of a buddy who has actually been to Venezuela semi-recently, let’s discuss how things have regressed in Venezuela lately.
In 2020, Venezuela is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous countries on the planet.
Te lo juro.
I would caution any and every foreigner thinking of going to Venezuela to stay away. Far, far away. Don’t get any closer than Colombia, jefe.
And this is coming from a guy who has spent time in San Salvador, El Salvador and Mazatlan, Mexico — home of the Sinaloa Cartel. I’m not against going to dangerous spots to get some boots on the ground information, but I wouldn’t dare step foot into Venezuela.
Just look at some of these frightening tales coming out of Venezuela as of late…
Tales of a reported detained at the border for no reason (Read More):
“Please wait here.” said the guard who wasn’t a thief, as if we had a choice. He left the room with the cameras and our phones.
Jose paced with his hands on his face.
“Brother, I don’t think you realize how bad this is. They disappear people like me.” He pulled on his hair as he circled the room.
He stopped, looking me. “How much money can you get a hold of? Right now.”
“Not much. Maybe if I made some phone calls and emptied my account I could come up with a few thousand dollars.”
“It’s not enough.” said Jose. He sighed. “Look. If we can’t get some money together you’re going to be on a bus to a prison in Caracas. They’re not going to kill a gringo. If I’m really lucky I will be there beside you.” He resumed pacing.
“But it’s more likely I will be buried outside in a ditch.”
If that’s not bad enough, the government has also sanctioned their “special forces” unit to extrajudicial killings (Read More):
Venezuelan special forces have carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings in the past 18 months and then manipulated crime scenes to make it look as if the victims had been resisting arrest, the United Nations said on Thursday in a report detailing wide-ranging government abuses targeting political opponents.
Oh, and people are so hungry they rob restaurants. Not banks, not stores, not people…restaurants! (Read More):
Desperate people in Venezuela don’t rob stores or banks. There would be no point; cash machines have been mostly empty since early this year, when hyperinflation transformed the bolívar into a worthless piece of paper.
But desperate people in Venezuela do rob restaurants.
As the country creaks into its fifth year of economic crisis, hunger is on everyone’s minds. Nine out of 10 households say they don’t have enough money to buy food. Nearly two-thirds go to sleep hungry at night. Catholic non-profit Cáritas calculates that a family would need 98 times the minimum wage to afford a basic food supply.
Hell, they’re apparently even murdering children to ensure others in the family can flee Venezuela safely (Read More):
His stepfather murdered him and left his body in the house yard, in Caricuao. He wanted to leave the country with the mother, and her child was an obstacle.
It’s gotten pretty dire over in Venezuela, to say the least. Yet the tales above don’t even account for the day-to-day petty theft and minor crimes that have become a part of life for many Venezuelans.
Yes, by minor crimes, I’m talking about being robbed at gunpoint. Minor, eh?
Venezuela is very dangerous in 2020 and I don’t believe that to be hype. While I have not stepped foot into the country and don’t plan to, I know foreigners who have and I know Venezuelans who have fled.
The hype is real. Venezuela is in crisis and exceptionally dangerous. Do NOT visit Venezuela in 2020. Point. Blank. Period.
But don’t just take these tales and my word for it, let’s dig into the stats…
What the Stats Say about Safety in Venezuela?
Venezuela is one of, if not the, most dangerous country in the whole world.
There’s no hyperbole when talking about Venezuela safety concerns. For example, Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, has held the title of being the world’s most dangerous national capital every year since 2013. The city has a murder rate of over 100 people per 100,000 citizens. This makes Caracas the third most dangerous city in the world (Source).
However, it must be noted that many believe these statistics are somewhat skewed — as the Venezuelan government has stopped collecting and offering homicide statistics to journalists.
No matter how you slice it, there’s a lot of murder in Venezuela.
There’s also a lot of every type of crime. From petty theft to kidnapping, no one is safe in Venezuela.
Just looking at what the U.S Government went on to say about Venezuela as of late:
Venezuela – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.
Country Summary: On January 24, 2019, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members due to ongoing political instability. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela.
Violent crime, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, is common. Political rallies and demonstrations occur, often with little notice. Demonstrations typically elicit a strong police and security force response that includes the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets against participants and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism.
There are shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 ‘Avoid Nonessential Travel’ notice on May 15, 2018 due to inadequate healthcare and the breakdown of the medical infrastructure in Venezuela.
Consular access to detained U.S. citizens who also have Venezuelan nationality is severely restricted by the Venezuelan government and the U.S. Embassy may not receive access in these cases. Security forces have arbitrarily detained U.S. citizens for long periods. Venezuelan authorities may not notify the U.S. Embassy of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.
I dunno how closely you read that travel warning, but I dove into the whole thing, and one specific part really, really stood out to me…
Violent crime, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, is common.
Homicide and kidnapping are COMMON, folks.
Like these things happen on a daily basis and no one is surprised to hear about murders and kidnappings when they happen. Common, y’all.
When talking about Venezuela safety and security, that’s about all I need to know. You won’t catch ole’ Jake Nomada crossing that border anytime soon. Ya tu sabes.
Venezuela’s Crisis Issues
Much of the violence and murder in Venezuela stems from economic hardships found by average citizens. The country has suffered from economic hyperinflation over the past 5+ years. People have no money and no opportunity.
The Venezuelan Bolivar is currently worth less than toilet paper. The currency recently hit 10 million percent hyperinflation (Source). I don’t even know what that truly means, but it sounds pretty damn bad.
Oh, and $1 US Dollar is said to be worth upwards of $45,000 Venezuelan Bolivars at this point (Source). Although I have no clue the accuracy of that metric.
I won’t go much further into the Venezuela crisis here, as that’s a bit out of the scope of this article. But I will say that nothing functions properly — at least from the stories I’ve been told.
Hospitals don’t have medicine. Stores don’t have food in them. There’s barely any toilet paper left in the country. Things like milk and coffee are considered luxuries in Venezuela.
Venezuela is NOT Safe For Tourists!
If this has not been made abundantly clear thus far…
Venezuela is not safe for tourists.
Venezuela is not safe for journalists.
It’s not even safe in Venezuela for citizens of the country, as over 4+ million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past few years due to the crisis (Source).
No one is safe in Venezuela.
While I usually don’t like to hype the violence of certain places up, Venezuela is not just some place. It’s the most dangerous country in the world, as of writing this article. As such, there’s no reason a tourist or traveler should step foot into the country these days.
If you want adventure and excitement, check out Brazil or Colombia. Both are dangerous enough to keep you on your toes. Venezuela is dangerous enough that you’ll end up in a morgue.
Is Venezuela Safe? | Gringo’s Travel Guide
¡Ayyyee dios mio!
That’s a whole lot of words breaking down just how dangerous Venezuela is these days. Because it’s “most dangerous country in the world” dangerous.
Unless you’re a legit badass or considering suicide, it’s best to stay away from Venezuela. With President Maduro still in power, the country isn’t getting better anytime soon. And he’s clinging to power like his life depends on it…because it does.
Even if Maduro would be ousted tomorrow, the country is so far in the throes of hyperinflation and economic crisis, that I wouldn’t expect Venezuela to be safe for 2-3+ years after the regime actually changes. Speculation, of course. Either way, if you’ve been asking…
Is Venezuelan safe in 2020?
You should have found your answer above. Loud and clear ;(