You should exercise a high degree of caution in Venezuela due to high levels of serious crime and ongoing political tensions. There is a constant risk of street crime (often armed), especially in Caracas and other cities.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, be obtained before travelling to Venezuela. Travelers intending to participate in extreme sports they should check beforehand if their insurance will cover these activities. Travelers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Safety and Security
Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. You should not visit barrios (densely populated slums), due to very high crime rates. Try to avoid city streets in central Caracas and the "Sabana Grande" area due to violent robberies.
Avoid walking or driving in isolated areas and try not to walk alone at any time, especially at night. Carjacking is a problem by day and night.
Avoid any obvious displays of wealth that could make you a target for robberies. There have been incidents of "express kidnappings", where people are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release. Refusal to cooperate with the demands of perpetrators of these attacks have resulted in death or serious injury to victims.
Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting "spiked" food and drink. Also be wary of accepting pamphlets as there have been reports of attacks and robberies occurring where pamphlets are distributed that are soaked in skin penetrating substances that intoxicate the victim.
In the recent past, demonstrations, roadblocks and strikes have occurred, causing traffic jams in the capital, in major centres throughout the country and on main highways. Because of the unpredictable nature of these demonstrations and the potential for violence, Irish citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance, avoid large gatherings and other public areas where disturbances could occur and monitor local developments.
Prior notice of demonstrations is often included in the local English language newspaper "Daily Journal". National strikes can be called at short notice, causing disruptions to air travel, public transport and banking facilities.
You should not attempt to cross blockades, even if they appear unattended. Curfews may also be in effect. Political tensions between Venezuela and Colombia are particularly heightened. You are advised to monitor local news and regularly check this Travel Advice for any changes, particularly those affecting the border region with Colombia
You should avoid travel in the region within 80 km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in the states of Zulia, Tachira and Apure. Terrorist, narcotics and illegal armed groups are active in these states and there is a higher risk of kidnapping.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
The security situation is serious due to increased criminality, especially on the Araya and Paria peninsulas. A high degree of caution should be exercised at all times. Travellers should remain in groups and in tourist areas. There is a serious threat of kidnapping as well as security concerns related to drug trafficking at both the Brazilian and Guyanese borders. Security forces in these areas are scarce.
The road between Caracas and Caracas International Airport (Maiquetia) is dangerous and there have been muggings and kidnappings by bogus taxi operators at the airport. Where possible you should avoid travelling on this route during hours of darkness, and particularly between 2300 and 0400. Journey times can be unpredictable and you should allow extra time for any journey to and from the airport. Transport to and from the airport to your final destination should be arranged in advance of arrival.
The airport itself can be a dangerous place. If approached by an officer purporting to be an airport official, even if they are in uniform and/or present credentials, you should try to ensure that you remain in a busy area of the airport and, if possible, check with other airport or airline staff that the officials are genuine. Theft is also common in the airport and you should pay extra attention to your personal belonging.
When taking a taxi in Caracas or other towns/cities, it is advisable to use only pre-booked taxis rather than hailing them in the street. Official taxis have yellow number plates. Hotels will normally book a taxi from a reputable company or supply their own limousine service.
There are growing concerns about the incidence of all of the above types of crime on the island of Margarita. Travellers are advised to exercise particular caution there.
The Guardia Nacional have increased random drug and security checks at Caracas International Airport (Maiquetia). This has led to some passengers missing their flights. If you are taking an international flight from Caracas you should arrive at the airport 3 hours before departure, in order to allow time for security procedures. Where possible travel at night should be avoided on the road to and from Caracas International Airport. Only licensed taxis bearing a clearly identifiable number should be used.
Local Laws and Customs
For entry requirements for Venezuela, please contact the nearest Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate.
If you are resident in Venezuela, including Margarita, the only place where you can apply for or extend your residency permit is the main Venezuelan Immigration Office (ONIDEX) in Caracas. The telephone numbers are: (0212) 483 20 70 / (0212) 483 35 81 / (0212) 483 27 06
There have been reports of other ways of obtaining a residency permit, including at least one company offering residency permits for the island of Margarita, but these permits may be of dubious legality and should be avoided.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, obtaining a replacement passport can take up to two weeks, due to time and distance factors. You should take necessary precautions to keep your travel documents secure at all times. Obtaining a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one.
Drug trafficking is a serious problem in Venezuela. Do not handle illicit drugs. Arrests for drug trafficking are common and conviction leads to severe penalties, including up to two years being held on remand prior to sentencing and lengthy prison sentences (usually ten years) in harsh and dangerous conditions in Venezuelan jails. Many prisoners carry firearms and explosive devices and violence is common. You should be extremely wary of any offers of remuneration or hospitality in Venezuela in exchange for transporting packages in your luggage back to Ireland.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Venezuela has suffered exceptionally heavy rains which have affected wide areas of the country. Travel has been affected in many areas, and road conditions remain poor.
Venezuela is located in an active earthquake zone and is subject to earthquakes. The rainy season extends from May to December when hurricanes, flooding, and landslides may occur. Transportation, utilities, emergency and medical care, as well as food, fuel, and water supplies may be disrupted. You are advised to monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the weather channel, or the National Hurricane Centre website.
Additional Country Info
Dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever are present in Venezuela. You are advised to contact your local doctor for advice on inoculations and preventative measures. Tap water is considered unsafe to drink unless it is first filtered or boiled. Bottled drinking water is available.
For up to date information on the swine flu epidemic in Venezuela, please visit the website of the Venezuelan Ministry of Health - http://www.mpps.gob.ve/ms/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=535 (Spanish).
Strict currency controls are in place in Venezuela. It is best to obtain local currency (Bolívars) before travelling, where possible. Bureaux de change, including at the Maiquetia International Airport, will exchange US dollars for Bolívars, as will some major hotels. Some banks will buy US dollars for Bolívars or sell Bolívars against a foreign credit card. US dollar travellers' cheques are accepted at most Italcambios offices.
Credit cards are accepted in most towns and all major cities. However, it can be difficult to withdraw cash from ATMs using credit cards and there is also a serious problem with credit card fraud and cards being "cloned".
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS