Foreign travel advice

Venezuela

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.

Safety and security

Crime

There is a high threat from violent crime and kidnapping throughout Venezuela, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Armed robbery, mugging, carjacking, and burglary are all common and are often accompanied by extreme levels of violence – do not resist an attacker. These crimes can occur on the street or the beach, in supermarket queues or when travelling in private vehicles or public transport, or indoors. Remain alert and avoid using your mobile phone or displaying other electronic equipment or valuables on the street or in a vehicle.

Private security services, including the use of armoured cars, are increasingly becoming the standard for business and official visitors and residents. Use of armoured vehicles is now common in Caracas, especially after dark and for transport to/from the airport.

In Caracas, reasonably priced hotels can be found in safer areas such as Chacao district. Do not visit ‘barrios’ (heavily populated slums), not even on organised tours, as these are unsafe. British nationals walking in the Avila National Park have been robbed at knife/gunpoint. If you want to visit the Avila then stick to popular trails and times (usually the morning) and where possible, go in a group and with someone who knows the park.

Only use pre-booked taxis rather than hailing them in the street. Hotels will normally book a taxi from a reputable company or supply their own vehicle service.

Avoid public transport. A number of robberies at gunpoint have been reported on the Caracas metro. There are regular reports of passengers being robbed on public buses.

Travel

A number of Venezuela’s land and sea borders are closed. The sea borders with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are currently closed, with no air or sea traffic operating between Venezuela and these islands. There are no direct air services between Venezuela and the USA. The land borders with Brazil and Colombia can take time to cross and can be dangerous. If you’re planning travel in the region on any of these routes, contact your travel company for more information.

You should take particular care to check the local situation ahead of any travel to Canaima National Park and the Gran Sabana area of Bolívar State. Occasionally, protests by locals have led to the closure (sometimes for days) of Canaima airport and main roads (eg parts of Road 10 between El Callao and the Brazilian border). There are shortages of fuel and other essentials across almost all of the country.

There have been reports of bribes being solicited by authorities at Maiquetia (Caracas) International Airport. Normal check-in for flights is 2-3 hours in advance. Police and immigration checks can be lengthy. Departure taxes are normally included in the price of a ticket, except at Puerto Ordaz Airport. Check with your airline before paying anything extra.

Do not make any non-official payments at airports and ask for a receipt for any customs duty payments you make. If you bring any personal items or merchandise into the country with a total value of over US$1,000 which are considered to be “new”, you will need to pay import duty. Further details on import duty taxes can be found on the Venezuelan customs authority (SENIAT) website (in Spanish).

Tourist travel can often involve flying in light aircraft. There have been several accidents in recent years on the main tourist routes, including Los Roques, Canaima and Merida - some with fatalities. A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network. The International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out its most recent audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Venezuela in 2013.

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air and Avior airlines ROI (Avior Venezuela) which is banned from entering the European Union. UK government officials have been told to avoid using both airlines.

Travelling to and from Maiquetia Airport (Caracas)

Criminal groups operate in the Maiquetia airport area. Members of these groups work inside the airport to spot passengers who appear to be wealthy and then inform car hijackers and muggers waiting on the roads outside the airport. Some passengers have been followed from the airport and assaulted on the way to or on arrival at their destination in Caracas. Avoid displaying expensive jewellery, electronic items or other valuables; don’t bring large amounts of cash to Venezuela; and be alert at all times. Passengers have also been robbed when returning to their cars at the airport car park.

Avoid travelling on the road between Caracas and Maiquetia airport during the hours of darkness. There are fewer cars on the road during this time and the risk of crime is much higher. Don’t stay at an airport hotel unless you can make safe transport arrangements between the hotel and the airport.

There have been armed robberies on buses travelling to Maiquetia Airport, and along Avenida Libertador in Caracas. Ideally, arrange to be met at the airport by friends, business contacts, or your tour operator. If that isn’t possible, consider travelling by licensed taxi. If you have to take a taxi, use a licensed taxi from the official taxi rank outside the arrivals hall.

Beware of bogus taxi-drivers at the airport. Don’t accept offers of transport in the arrivals hall and do not board a taxi if there are other passengers already inside the car.

If you’re coming to Venezuela to work, bring a letter from your employer and your local contact organisation details (including a Spanish translation). There have been occasions when passengers have been asked for bribes at the airport. Exchange currency at official exchange booths only.

The National Guard carries out random drug and security checks at Maiquetia Airport, particularly on departure. Departing passengers are sometimes asked to accompany an officer to a local hospital for an x-ray. Beware of bogus security officials; if you’re in any doubt ask other airline or airport staff.

Road travel

Heavy rains and lack of maintenance can affect road conditions. Seek local advice about your route before you set out, leave plenty of time for your journey and stick to the main roads. Avoid travelling after dark.

You should take particular care to check the local situation ahead of any travel and particularly to Canaima National Park and the Gran Sabana areas of Bolívar State. Fuel shortages are common across all parts of the country.

You can drive in Venezuela using a British driving licence for up to 1 year. After that you will need to get a Venezuelan driving licence. Make sure you have copies of insurance documents, driving licence and passport with you at all times. Failure to produce documents can result in your vehicle being seized by the police.

There are regular police and National Guard checkpoints throughout the country. Drive slowly through these and stop if asked to do so. There have been reports of attempts by the police and National Guard to extract bribes. Ask for a written record giving details of the offence and the officer’s details. Most major roads charge tolls.

All vehicles must carry a spare tyre, wheel block, jack and reflector triangle. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal but common, especially during weekends. Many vehicles are in poor condition and drivers routinely ignore red lights. In the event of an accident, both vehicles must remain in the position of the accident until a traffic police officer arrives. Insurance companies will not pay claims on vehicles that have been moved without a police accident report.

You should avoid hitchhiking and cycling at all costs.

Sea travel

There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against boats in and around Venezuela’s waters, especially east of Puerto La Cruz and in waters between Venezuela and Trinidad. Take suitable precautions and avoid these areas.

Beaches

The waters of the Caribbean can be deceptive. There are strong currents and undertows in some areas that can make swimming hazardous. Lifeguards and warnings are not normally in place.

Security incidents are common on beaches at any time of day. Beach clubs can offer better security as can going with people that know the area.