Operating Tips for Travel to Venezuela – Local Area, Culture and Hotels
This is a post by author Walter Lindo. Walter is Managing Director for Universal Aviation Venezuela – Caracas. Walter is an expert on business aircraft operations in Venezuela and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Singapore and continues from our last article: "Business Aviation in Venezuela Series: Landing Permits, Overflights, and Special Permits".
When operating to Venezuela confirm that you have all required documentation and be aware of currency control restrictions. Personal safety is best managed by sticking with known and secure transportation sourced by either your ground handler or hotel.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. What are required personal documents?
For operating to Venezuela you’ll need a valid passport and may, depending on nationality, require a visa. Customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) will want to see your hotel confirmation to confirm where you’re staying. If you’re operating to Venezuela from one of the Santo Domingo area airports, Venezuelan authorities need to know this in advance and you’ll have a special form to fill out on landing. From time to time, depending on where you’re arriving from, yellow fever vaccinations may be required. It’s always best to check on documentation requirements with your ground handler pre-trip.
2. Are there other visa considerations?
If visas are required they must be obtained prior to arrival in Venezuela. Certain nationalities may qualify to receive a "pass" on arrival – rather than have to present a visa – but this should always be confirmed with your ground handler.
3. Any agricultural restrictions to be aware of?
At this time there are no restrictions in place in terms of removing food or catering from the aircraft. This situation, however, may change so it’s always best to speak with your ground handler.
4. Are there security issues to consider off-airport?
There are some urban areas that should be avoided in Venezuela. In Caracas, for example, avoid the ‘barrios’ area. It’s best to consider additional security precautions when in the vicinity of cities bordering Colombia.
5. Is driving or renting vehicles advisable?
Rental vehicles are not recommended during stays in Venezuela due to security concerns, limited parking availability in city centers, and the way the locals tend to drive. Road signs are often not clear or may be few and far apart and not in English. Also, if you find yourself in the wrong part of a city you may face security issues and/or dangerous situations.
6. Do local events impact operations to Venezuela?
Large local holiday periods typically do not affect business aviation operations to Venezuela. Support services – including transportation, hotels and restaurants – remain open and available. During periods of oil industry conventions and presidential summits airport activity will be busier and you’ll face some limitations in terms of preferred hotel accommodations.
7. What are hotel tips for Caracas?
It’s recommended to stay in large chain hotels close to the city center due to security concerns, services, and amenity availability. Expect to pay crew rates of 350 – 500 USD per night for 4- or 5-star downtown hotels. There are two recommended airport hotels at SVMI – the 4-star Aerobuilding Express and Marriott Playa Grande. When traveling locally always utilize secure ground transportation arranged by either your hotel of ground handler.
8. Are there hotel considerations when staying in smaller cities?
You’ll generally find 3-star hotels in Venezuela’s smaller cities and your ground handler will recommend the best options. For hotel accommodation in smaller cities prices are about 200 USD per night. Always use secure transportation, arranged by your hotel or ground handler, whenever traveling locally within Venezuela.
9. Any additional tips for hotels in Venezuela?
Some hotels state that they are 5-stars but are actually 4-star category hotels by international standards. Hotel prices in Venezuela – and particularly Caracas – are high and this has to do with currency restrictions and the fact that there’s limited supply of 4- and 5-star accommodations. Be aware that ground handlers are not usually able to offer special hotel rates. For this reason it’s best to coordinate this with your 3rd-party provider. During busy convention times preferred hotel accommodations may be scarce so it’s best to bookrooms at least 15 days in advance. When no large local events are taking place short notice accommodation requests can usually be accommodated.
10. How will currency controls impact our stay?
Hotels will not accept cash for payment of rooms or services and charges must usually be over 100 USD to use a consumer credit card. Exchanging currency at your hotel will not be possible and you’ll need to go to specific banks, or the airport, to do so. While hotel restaurants are expensive in Venezuela there’s the advantage that meals can be charged to your room and this makes things easier from the currency control perspective.
Be prepared for very expensive hotels and hotel restaurants while in Venezuela and be aware that local currency exchange controls may complicate your stay to some degree. Venezuelans are laid back and friendly toward visitors. A stop in Venezuela is something to look forward to assuming that all hotel, transport, and service arrangements have been researched and confirmed in advance.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Venezuela, contact me at email@example.com.