Venezuela - Consular Information Sheet
November 30, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Venezuela is a middle-income country
with a well-developed transportation infrastructure. Scheduled
air service and good all-weather roads, although sometimes poorly
marked and congested around urban centers, connect major cities
and all regions of the country. Venezuela's tourism infrastructure
varies in quality according to location and price.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and a visa or tourist
card are required. Tourist cards are issued on flights from the
U.S. to Venezuela for persons staying less than ninety days. For
current information concerning entry, tax, and customs requirements
for Venezuela, travelers may contact the
Venezuelan Embassy at 1099 30th St. N.W., Washington D.C.
20007, tel. (202) 342-2214, Internet: http://www.embavenez-us.org.
Travelers may also contact the Venezuelan consulates in New York,
Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Houston, San Francisco or
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Cross-border violence, kidnapping,
smuggling and drug trafficking occur frequently in remote areas
along the 1,000-mile border between Venezuela and Colombia, specifically
in Venezuela's Zulia, Tachira, Barinas, Apure and Amazonas states.
In February 1997, two vacationers, one of them a U.S. citizen,
were kidnapped from Venezuela in southwestern Apure State near
the border with Colombia. Colombian guerrillas, who frequently
operate on both sides of the border, were suspected in the kidnapping.
The victims were released after payment of a ransom. In March
1999, three American citizens were abducted in Colombia and taken
across the border to neighboring Apure State in Venezuela, where
they were murdered. Colombian guerrillas later admitted publicly
to killing the three Americans.
In September 2000, Venezuelan Government officials noted increased
activity of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) along the tributaries of the Orinoco River in northwest
Amazonas State. Visitors to this area, and in the border region
in general, should take proper precautions. U.S. citizens planning
to visit isolated border areas should consult the U.S. Embassy
for the latest security information.
"Express kidnappings," in which victims are seized
in an attempt to get quick cash in exchange for their release,
are on the rise in Venezuela's capital, Caracas. In September
2000, four American citizens were kidnapped from their home in
the capital city. The incident lasted only a few hours until the
victims obtained money from a local bank to pay the demanded ransom.
While not identified as specific targets of such "express
kidnappings," foreigners may be viewed as more likely to
have access to large sums of money, so Americans should be alert
to their surroundings and take necessary precautions.
Sporadic political demonstrations, which may at times turn violent,
occur mainly in urban centers. The purpose and location of such
demonstrations are often announced in advance. The number and
intensity of demonstrations fluctuate, but they tend to occur
at or near university campuses or secondary schools. Areas subject
to sporadic demonstrations include the Los Teques area of metropolitan
Caracas, the Universidad Central de Venezuela campus in Caracas,
and the University district in Valencia, Carabobo State. Most
major tourist destinations, including coastal beach resorts and
Margarita Island, are not generally affected by protest actions.
However, the city of Merida, a major tourist destination in the
Andes, is the scene of frequent student demonstrations.
Travelers may keep informed of local developments by following
the local press, radio and television. They should also consult
their local hosts, including U.S. and Venezuelan business contacts,
hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers. American citizens
traveling or residing in Venezuela are advised to take common-sense
precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event
where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest, no matter
where they occur. Additional advice about demonstrations may also
be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers listed
CRIME: Most crime is economically motivated. Pickpockets
concentrate in and around crowded bus and subway stations, especially
the area around "Parque Simon Bolivar," near the "Capitolio"
area in downtown Caracas. The "barrios" or "ranchitos"
(the poor neighborhoods of tin-roofed brick homes that cover the
Caracas) and isolated urban parks can be very dangerous. These
include the "El Calvario" section of the El Silencio
area in Caracas, the "23 de Enero" slum area in the
Catia area of Caracas, and most areas within the sprawling neighborhood
known as Petare in eastern Caracas.
There have been incidents of rock throwing from highway overpasses
bordering the slum neighborhoods in an attempt to force cars to
stop and assess damages. Once stopped, the passengers are robbed
by waiting accomplices. In a 1999 incident, a U.S. Embassy family
member was killed by a rock that shattered the car's windshield.
Most criminals are armed with guns or knives and will use force.
There have been cases of theft from hotel rooms and safe deposit
boxes, and theft of unattended valuables on the beach and from
rental cars parked near isolated areas or on city streets. A guarded
garage or locked trunk is not always a guarantee against theft.
Subway escalators are a favored site for "bump and rob"
petty thefts by roving bands of young criminals, many of whom
are well dressed to allay suspicion and to blend in with crowds
of workers using the subways during rush hour. Armed robberies
are common in urban and tourist areas, particularly in Caracas
and Maracaibo. Travelers must exercise caution in displaying money
and valuables. Numerous four-wheel drive vehicles have been targeted
for carjacking in the Caracas and Maracaibo metropolitan areas,
including vehicles driven by U.S. Embassy employees and/or spouses.
There have been incidents of unlicensed cabs ("piratas")
overcharging, robbing and injuring passengers. Travelers should
take care to use radio-dispatched taxis or check to make sure
that the license plate reads "libre," which indicates
the cab is licensed. Travelers arriving late at night at the domestic
terminal of the international airport should be aware that "pirata"
cabs are known to prey on tourists arriving on delayed flights
after licensed cabs have left for the evening. Travelers should
call a 24-hour radio-dispatched taxi service from a public phone
in the airport lobby or ask the airline representatives to contact
a licensed cab company. Drivers of licensed cabs permitted to
carry passengers at the airport will have laminated identity cards,
in addition to license plates reading "libre."
A number of U.S. citizens have reported that Venezuelan officials
at airports, immigration offices and police stations have demanded
bribes. U.S. citizens should report immediately to the U.S. Embassy
any such demand and attempt to provide the Embassy with the name
and badge numbers of the individuals.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad,
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs;
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Caracas is good at
private hospitals and clinics. Cash payment is usually demanded.
Most hospitals and clinics, however, accept credit cards. In rural
areas outside Caracas, physicians and medical supplies may be
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas
may face extreme difficulties. Please check with your own insurance
company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including
provision for medical evacuation, and for the adequacy of coverage.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical
evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of
dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the
overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed
later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition
of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Venezuela is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Traffic jams are common within Caracas during most of the day.
Driving regulations are similar to those in the U.S. although
many drivers do not obey them. Defensive driving is a necessity.
Child car seats and seatbelts are not required and are seldom
available in car rentals and taxis. Outside the major cities,
night driving can be dangerous because of unmarked road damage
or repairs in progress, unlighted vehicles and livestock. Even
in urban areas, road damage is often marked by a pile of rocks
or sticks left by passersby near or in the pothole or crevice,
without flares or other devices to highlight the danger. Stops
at National Guard and local police checkpoints (alcabalas) are
mandatory. Drivers should follow all National Guard instructions
and be prepared to show vehicle and insurance papers and passports.
Vehicles may be searched. Economical bus service is available
to most destinations throughout the country. Peak holiday travel
occurs during summer and winter school breaks and major civil
and religious holidays, including Carnival, Easter, Christmas
and New Years holidays. Lengthy delays due to road congestion
are common during these peak periods.
For information concerning Venezuela's driver's permits, vehicle
inspection, any road taxes or mandatory insurance, please contact
the Embassy of Venezuela at (202) 342-2214 or search their web
site: http://www.embavenez-us.org. For additional
information about road safety, please see the Department of
State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas
feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Venezuela's Civil Aviation
Authority as Category 2, not in compliance with international
aviation safety standards for oversight of Venezuela's air carrier
operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are
ongoing, Venezuela's air carriers are permitted to conduct limited
operations to the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance.
No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Venezuela's
air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have flights
conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
The DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from
Category 2 countries for official business except for flights
originating from or terminating in the United States. For information
regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact
the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Venezuela's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested
or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in
illegal drugs in Venezuela are strict, and convicted offenders
can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Prison conditions are
extremely harsh, as numerous foreigners (including Americans)
arrested for possession or trafficking of drugs can attest. The
minimum prison sentence for trafficking (with no differentiation
for category or quantity of drugs) is ten years.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: U.S. citizens visiting areas along
the border with Colombia, particularly the military-controlled
areas, may be subject to search and seizure. For further information
regarding travel to border areas, please contact the U.S. Embassy
U.S. citizens who do not have Venezuelan "cedulas"
(national identity cards) must carry their passports with them
at all times. Photocopies of passports prove valuable in facilitating
their replacement should they be lost or stolen.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS: Foreign exchange transactions must
take place through commercial banks and exchange houses at the
official rate. Hotels and banks often restrict transactions to
their clients only. Money exchange by tourists is most easily
arranged at "casas de cambio" or exchange houses. Credit
cards are accepted at most upscale tourist establishments. Visa,
MasterCard and American Express have representatives in Venezuela.
U.S. citizens using credit cards at some commercial establishments
have had the numbers lifted and used by others. Purchases not
made by the legitimate cardholder are then reported on the next
statement. Visitors should be aware of this trend. Outside the
major cities, a good supply of Venezuelan currency is necessary
as it may be difficult to find exchange houses. Most major cities
have ATMs with 24-hour service where users may withdraw up to
100 dollars equivalent in local currency daily. The ATMs are linked
to many global networks.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or
visiting Venezuela are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the
U.S. Embassy in Caracas or the Consular Agency in Maracaibo
and obtain updated information on travel and security within Venezuela.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle Suapure and Calle F, Colinas
de Valle Arriba, Caracas. The Embassy is open from 8:00 a.m. to
5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, tel. (011)(58)(2) 975-6411. In case
of an after-hours emergency, callers should dial (011)(58)(2)
Direct consular office phone lines are as follows: (011)(58)(2)
975-6411 ext. 2208 for information on applications for U.S. passports,
or 975-9234 (preferably mornings) for information on Reports of
Birth or other U.S. citizen services. The American Citizen Services
fax number is (011)(58)(2) 975-8991. Additional information is
also available at the Embassy's Internet web site at: http://usembassy.state.gov/caracas/
or at the
Consular Section's web site at: http://usembassy.state.gov/caracas/wwwheins.html.
A part-time consular agent in Maracaibo provides services for
U.S. citizens in western Venezuela. The agent is available to
the public every Monday from 8:15 am to 12:15 pm, at the Centro
Venezolano Americano del Zulia (CEVAZ), Calle 63 No. 3E-60, Maracaibo;
tel. (011)(58)(61) 91-1436 or 91-1880.