Venezuela, the kidnap-capital of the world. Spiralling inflation, armed gangs of protestors and police with a reputation to shoot first and ask questions later. A powder-keg waiting to explode. A destination for only the suicidal or the foolish
Or at least that is what I had been expecting…
Why Go to Venezuela?
Everybody I had met had told me that to visit Venezuela was point blank stupid. I had been travelling for six months, winding my way down Central America and into Colombia, getting ever closer. The whole time I had been on the look out for someone, anyone, who had actually been to Venezuela and lived to tell the tale. I had yet to meet a soul who had successfully backpacked around Venezuela. That didn't stop people giving me advice, when it came to Venezuela, everybody had an opinion.
- “It's impossible to visit Venezuela without getting robbed”
- “Do you have a death wish man!?”
- “I heard they forcibly evicted all foreigners?”
- “Isn't it unbelievably expensive there?”
- “Your going to die… I hear the girls are hot though”
The 5 Reasons to Visit Venezuela
Despite all of the rumours and half-truths that were thrown at me, it turned out that there was five crucial things nobody seemed to know about this truly incredible country…and these are the reasons to visit Venezuela.
1. Venezuela is Unbelievably Cheap
Venezuela was without a doubt the cheapest country I have ever been to, I changed money on the black market, which is pretty much the norm for anybody lucky enough to have US dollars, and was absolutely amazed at what I could afford. For one dollar I could get twelve beers. For four bucks I could stay in a five star hotel room, for six bucks I could catch a flight, for eighty bucks I could go on all inclusive, truly amazing, four day wildlife tour. Venezuela is a country where you can easily get by on just fifty bucks a week, with a budget of $100 a week, I lived like a king.
2. The people of Venezuela are friendly
Everywhere I went, people seemed somewhat bewildered to see me. I met only a handful of other backpackers whilst in Venezuela, all of whom spoke better Spanish than me. Locals never seemed to sure what to think of a tattooed gringo with a scraggly pack and terrible Spanish attempting to hitch a ride or make new friends whilst out on the town. Ultimately, most people were incredibly kind to me, possibly out of a sense of responsibility, and nothing bad ever happened to me.
I found the Couchsurfing community in Venezuela to be thriving and I made some great friends throughout the country, despite my terrible Spanish! I found the local people to be really concerned for my wellbeing and to be incredibly helpful when I was sorting out buses or trying to find somewhere to stay.
3. You can fill up a car for 1 cent in Venezuela
I knew Venezuela was going to be cheap, although just how cheap it was truly shocked me. What I didn't know was that I could fill up a car with gas for less than 1 US cent. That is not a typo. Venezuela has more oil reserves than any other country in the world and you can buy a full tank of gas for less than it costs to buy a bottle of water.
4. The rum and food is amazing!
Rum… I've always quite liked the idea of becoming some sort of rum aficionado. Once I started a foreign rums collection, then I had a party and that was kind of the end of that dream. Venezuelan rum is without a doubt some of the best in the world and buying a bottle of the absolute best stuff, Santa Teresa, is comparatively expensive – as in, it will cost you about $4 for the bottle.
This is a rum which costs $6 a shot back home. I spent a fair bit of my time in Venezuela sipping on rum… Don't even get me started on the food, because it was so cheap I was eating in the kind of places I could never even dream of entering under normal circumstances. For less than $10 you can expect a three course dinner in a truly classy establishment with a couple of cocktails to wash it all down…
5. It is so worth the risk
It took me a few days to get my head around Venezuela, I spoke to lots of people and tried to get a better understanding of the very complicated economical and social issues in the country. It's no wonder people had been telling me not to go; Venezuela can be a scary place, especially if your living there.
Saying that, for a wandering backpacker, it is so worth the risk. With some truly stunning sites, the table-top mountain of Roraima being my favourite, dirt cheap adventures and a welcoming people; Venezuela is prime adventure territory – just play your cards right and play it safe.
I personally would love to go back to Venezuela and would recommend it to anyone who has some decent backpacking experience under their belts. This is not a destination for newbies. For the more experienced backpackers, with some time in The Middle East or Western Africa under their belts, this is the next big thing…
Will blogs over at The Broke Backpacker about his adventures around the world, you can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter or, if your really friendly, hunt him down on the road for a cheeky pint.
Writer and photographer. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will is an avid hitch-hiker, couch-surfer and bargain-seeker. He is a devout follower of the High Temple of Backpackistan and the proud inventor of the man-hug.