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Venezuela

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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Venezuela due to high levels of serious crime, political uncertainty, food and medicine shortages and problems with local currency. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources for new security risks.
  • Do not travel to within 80 km of Venezuela's border with Colombia due to the presence of criminal gangs and terrorist groups. This region includes parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas.
  • Border closures with Colombia and Brazil occur frequently and with short notice. Border closures can last for many days. See Local travel.

  • Civil unrest, demonstrations and protests are common, particularly in major urban centres including Caracas, Valencia, Maracay, Merida and San Cristobal. Avoid public gatherings as they can become violent. Some have resulted in deaths. See Safety and security.

  • Venezuela has one of the world's highest crime rates. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, drive-by shootings and carjackings, is common. Australian officials adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car. See Safety and security.

  • Central Caracas, the Sabana Grande area, the Maiquetia Simon Bolivar Airport area and the road between the airport and Caracas are particularly dangerous. There have been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers and other violent crimes. See Safety and security.

  • There are frequent shortages of basic foods, medicines and other items. Long queues for basic necessities can lead to protests, fighting and theft. Electricity is sometimes rationed, including without warning. See Safety and security.

  • Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Venezuela but the Canadian Embassy in Caracas and the Australian Embassy in Colombia can help you. The Canadian Embassy can issue Australian Provisional Travel Documents and provide other consular assistance on an appointment only basis. See Where to get help.

Entry and exit

You won't need a visa for tourist visits of less than 90 days, but you will need a passport valid for at least six months and proof of return or onward travel. You can be detained or deported if you don't comply with your visa conditions. Ensure your visa status is up to date by contacting the Venezuelan migration department (in Spanish).

Entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Venezuela for up-to-date information.

If you're travelling to Venezuela through the United States (including Hawaii), you must meet US entry/transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travel. More information: United States

Other formalities

You may need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Venezuela. Yellow fever, which occurs in Venezuela, is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. Some airlines may require you to show a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

More information:

Dual national children (under 18) travelling alone or with one parent will need a notarised letter of consent signed by both parents including details of travel and a copy of their birth certificate, for entry to and exit from Venezuela. Both documents must be translated into Spanish and certified by a Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate. More information: Embassy or Consulate of Venezuela

A departure tax applies to all travellers departing from an international airport. Payment must be made in cash, in Venezuelan Bolivar. The departure tax is sometimes included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.  

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Venezuelan Bolivar Fuerte (VEF). Australian dollars cannot be easily exchanged for local currency. There are two official exchange rates (as well as black market rates). It's illegal to change money at any rate other than the official government rate. Money changers will exchange USD and travellers cheques for VEF.

The inflation rate is very high. You could face difficulties in accessing funds from your Australian bank account. Differences in exchange rates can result in much larger amounts of Australian dollars being required for small transactions. Credit card transactions are charged at the official rate.

In March 2017, the Venezuelan Government removed the 100 Bolivar note from circulation.  Demand for large denomination notes is high and notes are in limited supply.

International credit cards aren't always accepted by point of sale machines and you'll need to enter your passport number. ATMs have extremely low limits for cash withdrawals on international cards. Don't rely on ATMs as your main way to access money.

Banknote shortages have led to increased pressure on Venezuela's card payment processing infrastructure. Debit or credit card transactions may take longer than expected, or require several attempts. Credit card fraud is common. Always keep your card in sight.

Safety and security

Crime

Reconsider your need to travel to Venezuela due to high levels of serious crime, political uncertainty, food and medicine shortages and problems with local currency. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources for new security risks.

Do not travel to within 80 kilometres of the border with Colombia due to the presence of criminal gangs and terrorist groups. This region includes parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates. Actual crime rates may be higher than official figures indicate. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, drive-by shootings and carjackings, occurs throughout Venezuela. Many criminals carry firearms and victims who resist can be injured or killed. Police response times are poor. Most murders and major crimes are never solved.

Australian Government officials are instructed to adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car in Venezuela because of the high threat of serious crime.

Crimes you could encounter include:

  • mugging and kidnapping, including by criminals posing as taxi operators at Maiquetia Simon Bolivar Airport
  • violent street crime and robbery near ATMs, money changes, or damaged vehicles
  • armed motorcycle gangs robbing passengers in vehicles stopped in heavy traffic
  • 'express kidnappings', where people are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs
  • harassment and extortion by criminals posing as officials
  • drink or food spiking, which is commonly followed by robbery and assault (including sexual assault)
  • petty crime, including pickpocketing on public transport and theft from hotel rooms, safe deposit boxes and rental cars.

Areas where crime rates are especially high include:

  • Caracas, including central Caracas, Sabana Grande district, Avila National Park and poorer areas including Cumana, Maracaibo, Paraguana, Valencia and on the islands of Los Testigos
  • The Maiquetia Simon Bolivar Airport area, and the road between the airport and Caracas.
  • 'barrios' or 'ranchitos' (slum areas), especially after dark
  • Margarita Island (Isla de Margarita)
  • tourist and resort areas

If you travel to Venezuela despite the risks:

  • arrive in or leave Caracas during the day and organise transport before you arrive at the airport
  • be alert to your surroundings and pay attention to your safety and security at all times
  • carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location
  • keep vehicle doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight, including when moving
  • avoid walking or driving in isolated areas, especially at night
  • only use official taxis that you have booked through your hotel or at the airport
  • if you're female, take particular care when dealing with strangers or new acquaintances and be especially cautious about accepting rides or invitations

If, despite our advice, you decide to travel an area where there is a threat of kidnapping:

  • seek professional security advice
  • have effective personal security measures in place.

More information:

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations and other civil unrest is common, particularly in major urban centres such as Caracas, Valencia, Maracay, Merida and San Cristobal. Essential services are sometimes disrupted. Since April 2017, unrest has intensified, often becoming violent. Numerous people have died, been injured and arrested.

Social and political tensions are continuing. Spontaneous demonstrations and other ongoing unrest is likely. Violent incidents and military response are possible.

Days of national or commemorative significance could motivate civil unrest.

National strikes can be called at short notice, potentially causing disruptions to air travel, public transport, banking facilities and government services.

Shortages of basic necessities and related long line-ups at grocery stores have led to fighting, looting and theft.

Political and other tensions between groups on either side of the Colombia-Venezuela border contribute to significant security threats in the border region. The Venezuelan Government has closed the land border with Colombia on a number of occasions, often without notice, due to security and smuggling concerns. The border crossings in the states of Tachira, Zulia, Apure and Amazonas could reopen and close again at short notice. There are restrictions on the right to free movement, assembly and protest in border municipalities. 

  • Avoid all demonstrations, protests, political activity and large public gatherings.
  • If you are in an area where a protest or similar is occurring, leave if it is safe to do so.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Be particularly vigilant during days of national or commemorative significance.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Keep spare supplies of food, water, medicines and other necessities.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Venezuela.

Terrorist groups are particularly active in the region within 80 kilometres of Venezuela's border with Colombia. This region includes parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas.

Colombian terrorist groups, such as the ELN, and criminal gangs are active along Venezuela's border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana. Kidnapping for ransom in these areas has resulted in the death of hostages, including foreigners.

The Venezuelan military conduct search and arrest operations to maintain law and order in border regions but threats remain. Troop movements and border closures can occur at short notice.

If you travel to Venezuela despite the risks:

If, despite our advice, you decide to travel an area where there is a threat of kidnapping:

  • seek professional security advice
  • have effective personal security measures in place.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Road travel

Driving in Venezuela is dangerous. Hazards include poorly maintained roads and vehicles, drunk drivers and drivers ignoring red lights, particularly at night. Rural roads are often unmarked with little or no street lighting.

Outside major cities, you also face a risk of extortion by armed groups, including some posing as police, who set up illegal road blocks.

There are regular police and National Guard checkpoints. Drive slowly through these checkpoints and stop if directed. There have been reports of checkpoint official asking for bribes.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Seek local advice and monitor local media for information on your proposed route before you travel.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Venezuela with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to one year. After one year you'll need a Venezuelan driving licence. Get your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Always wear a helmet.

Taxis

Crimes involving taxis occur (see Safety and security). If you must take a taxi, use a pre-booked, licensed, radio-dispatch taxi or a limousine service, preferably arranged through your hotel. Don't hail taxis on the street.

Public transport

Public transport providers, including state-owned companies, may not carry out routine maintenance on their fleets. This could lead to cancellations and delays, and could compromise safety.

Sea travel

Ferry companies may not carry out routine maintenance on their fleets. This may compromise safety and may lead to cancellations and delays.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Venezuela. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website. More information: Piracy 

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Venezuela.

More information: Air travel

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators are not always met. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy jail sentences served in local jails that are dangerous and among the worst in the world. Possession of even small quantities of marijuana may lead to imprisonment.

Drug trafficking in Venezuela is a significant problem. Authorities have invested in sophisticated detection methods in an attempt to identify drug traffickers. Travellers are screened for drugs on arrival and departure and can also be screened while waiting in the airport. More information: Carrying or using drugs.

Other laws

It's illegal to photograph military installations and establishments, or sites of strategic importance such as the Presidential Palace and airports.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Under Venezuelan Law, Australian-Venezuelan dual nationals must enter and leave Venezuela on a Venezuelan passport.

If you're male, over 18 years old and a dual national, you may be required to complete national service obligations if you visit Venezuela.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Most hospital pharmacies and drugstores no longer stock basic medicine or supplies due to short supply.

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Take enough legal medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay and an extra supply in case you are away for longer than expected.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Venezuela is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is preventable by vaccination.

Malaria occurs year-round in some areas of Venezuela, with the highest risk in rural areas of the States of Apure, Amazonas, Barinas, Bolivar (including the Angel Falls), Delta, Amacuro, Monagas, Sucre and Tachira. Antimalarial-resistant strains of malaria have been reported.

Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis) also occur, with more serious outbreaks from time to time. 

There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Venezuela. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is common. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever, measles, mumps, rubella and rabies) are widespread. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time. 

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases, such as bilharzia.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of public medical facilities in major cities is limited and very limited in rural areas. Basic medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are often in short supply.

Good private hospitals and clinics can be found in Caracas and other major cities, but are very expensive and usually require up-front, cash payment. Most health care providers do not speak English.

Emergency and ambulance services are very limited. Response times are slow, especially in rural areas.

Hyperbaric chambers are located at:

  • Unidad de Buceo PDVSA in Lagunillas Norte
  • Hospital Naval Raul Perdomo in Ctia La Mar
  • Compania Oriente marine Group in Puerto La Cruz
  • Venezuela Divers in Ciudad Ojeda.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to Caracas or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuations can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Venezuela experiences earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and landslides.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • seek local advice before entering affected areas.

More information: Earthquakes

Hurricanes and severe weather

The rainy season is from May to December, when hurricanes, flooding and landslides occur. Tropical storms and hurricanes can also occur in other months. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning.

If there is a hurricane or severe storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a hurricane may not be available for all those who stay.

If a hurricane is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

If you're travelling during the rainy season, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

More information: Severe weather 

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 171
  • Medical emergency: phone 171 or go to the nearest hospital
  • Crime: phone 171 or visit the nearest police station

Phone operators may not speak English. Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Venezuela. The Canadian Embassy in Caracas provides consular assistance to Australians in Venezuela, including issuing Provisional Travel Documents. You need to make an appointment to seek consular services by emailing crcas@international.gc.ca.

Canadian Embassy, Caracas

Avenida Francisco de Miranda con Avenida Sur
Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela
Telephone: (58 212) 600 3000; 600 3042 or 600 3043
Facsimile: (58 212) 263 4981
E-mail: crcas@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/venezuela

The Australian Embassy in Colombia can also help you.

Australian Embassy, Bogota

Edificio Tierra Firme
Avenida Carrera 9 No. 115-06
Oficina 2003
Bogotá, Colombia
E-mail: consular.bogota@dfat.gov.au
Website: colombia.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Embajada de Australia en Colombia y Venezuela
Twitter: @AusEmbCO

Check the Canadian Embassy in Caracas and Australian Embassy in Bogota websites for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact one of these embassies in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional Resources