Venezuela

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 25 August 2014.   This advice contains new information under Safety and security: Crime (violent crime continues to be a significant problem in Venezuela. There have been recent reports of motorcycle gangs robbing passengers in vehicles stopped in traffic). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Venezuela because of high levels of serious crime and ongoing political uncertainty.

Venezuela overall

Border areas with Colombia (within 80kms)

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Venezuela because of high levels of serious crime and ongoing political uncertainty. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Since February 2014, demonstrations have occurred regularly in major urban centres throughout Venezuela, particularly in Caracas, Valencia, Maracay, Merida and San Cristobal. These have been associated with violence and have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. Tensions remain high and demonstrations may continue. Australians should avoid all political gatherings and demonstrations as they have the potential to become violent. See the Safety and security: Civil unrest/political tension section for further information.
  • A number of major international airlines have reduced or suspended flights to/from Venezuela. Australians in Venezuela should contact their airline or travel provider for information on possible disruptions.
  • Venezuela has one of the world’s highest crime rates. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, is endemic throughout Venezuela. Due to high levels of serious crime in Venezuela, Australian officials have been instructed to adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car.
  • The Maiquetia Simon Bolivar Airport area and the road between the airport and Caracas is particularly dangerous due to violent crime. There have been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers. See the Crime section for more details.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel within 80 km of Venezuela's border with Colombia. This affects travel to parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas that are within 80 km of the border. The presence of gangs and terrorist groups make the region unsuitable for travel.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Venezuela. The Canadian Embassy located in Caracas, provides consular assistance to Australians in Venezuela. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Chile can also assist Australians.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy. You must be able to produce evidence of travel insurance to enter Venezuela.
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Entry and exit

A visa or tourist card is required to enter Venezuela, along with a valid passport and proof of onward travel (such as a return flight). Visa and other 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 the most up to date information.

The Venezuelan government has advised that all foreigners in Venezuela must hold a current travel insurance policy. Foreigners travelling to Venezuela without appropriate travel insurance may be denied entry or be required to purchase a policy when entering the country.

Since early 2014, a number of major international airlines have reduced or suspended flights to/from Venezuela. Australians in Venezuela should contact their airline or travel provider for information on possible disruptions.

For entry into and departure from Venezuela, Venezuelan or Australian/Venezuelan dual national children (i.e. under 18) travelling alone or with one parent require a letter of consent signed by both parents providing details of travel, and a copy of their birth certificate, translated into Spanish and certified by a Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate. Australians travelling with children are advised to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Venezuela for further information.

Venezuela is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Venezuela (see Health section). As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for Venezuela and all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

You are required to pay an airport tax on departure from any international airport in Venezuela. This must be paid in local currency and in cash. You should check if the tax has been included in the price of your ticket.

If you are travelling to Venezuela through the United States of America, or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity, and carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Border areas: We strongly advise you not to travel within 80 km of Venezuela's border with Colombia, because of risks from terrorist groups and cross-border political tension. This affects travel to parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas that are within 80 km of the border. Colombian terrorist groups, such as the FARC and ELN, and narcotic gangs are active along Venezuela's border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana. Kidnapping for ransom in these areas has resulted in the death of victims, including foreigners. The Venezuelan military conduct search and arrest operations to maintain law and order in border regions.

Troop movements and border closures could occur at short notice.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Australians in Venezuela should be aware that ongoing social and political tensions could prompt unpredictable violent incidents. Political demonstrations are common and can lead to disruptions to services. Prior notice of demonstrations is often included in the local English language newspaper 'Daily Journal'.

Since February 2014, demonstrations have occurred regularly in major urban centres throughout Venezuela, particularly in Caracas, Valencia, Maracay, Merida, San Cristobal. These have been associated with violence and have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. Tensions remain high and demonstrations may continue. Australians should avoid all political gatherings and demonstrations, as even peaceful protests can quickly turn violent.

Australians should be particularly vigilant during days of national or commemorative significance, as the likelihood of civil unrest may increase.

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

Crime

According to official figures, 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 and carjacking, is endemic throughout Venezuela. The vast majority of murders and major crimes go unresolved.

Australians in Venezuela should avoid central Caracas and the Sabana Grande area. There are increasing levels of crime in poorer areas of Caracas, in Cumana, Maracaibo, Paraguana, Valencia, and on the islands of Los Testigos. These areas are seldom patrolled by police. The Avila National Park is a known target area for criminals. You should also avoid walking or driving in isolated areas, especially at night.

Street crime is common and often turns violent. Crime involving firearms occurs frequently. There have been recent reports of armed motorcycle gangs robbing passengers in vehicles stopped in heavy traffic. Victims who have resisted robberies have been killed.

Motorists have also been robbed after stopping to assess damage caused by objects thrown from a bridge or overpass. Drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times.

'Express kidnappings', where people are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, also occur. Victims have been killed or injured while resisting perpetrators' demands.

There have been reports of harassment and extortion by criminals posing as officials. Australians should exercise care when dealing with those in official uniform or carrying official identification.

Travellers have been robbed and assaulted (including sexually assaulted) after accepting spiked food and drink. In some cases, hotel workers and taxi drivers have been implicated. Women should take particular care when dealing with strangers or new acquaintances and be especially cautious about accepting rides or invitations.

Petty crime such as pickpocketing is prevalent, particularly on public transport in Caracas. Thieves, sometimes armed, are known to target hotel rooms, safe deposit boxes and rental cars.

Crime rates are higher in 'barrios' or 'ranchitos' (slum areas) after dark. Tourist and resort areas may be targeted by criminal groups.

Incidents of violent crime occur regularly on Margarita Island (Isla de Margarita). Hotels and tourist areas have been targeted, and a number of tourists have been killed. Travellers are advised to take extra security precautions on the island.

The Maiquetia Simon Bolivar airport area and road between the airport and Caracas is particularly dangerous. The road should be avoided at night, particularly between the hours of 11pm and 4am when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Incidents of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi operators at the airport have recently been reported. Foreigners, including Australians, have been attacked and robbed. Licensed, radio-despatched taxis can be organised in advance by hotels or by telephone at the airport. You should avoid sharing taxis with strangers. If possible, travellers are advised to arrive in or leave Caracas during the day and to organise transport to the city through their hotel before they arrive at the airport.

Advice to Australian officials: Due to high levels of serious crime in Venezuela, Australian officials have been instructed to adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car.

Incidences of piracy have occurred off the shores of Venezuela. See our Piracy bulletin.

Money and valuables

There are limitations on foreign exchange transactions throughout Venezuela and money exchange facilities may be difficult to locate on weekends. It is illegal to exchange currency at any rate other than the official government rate. Exchanging currency on the black market is a criminal offence with possible penalties including prison sentences. Credit card transactions are charged at the official rate, but care should be taken when using credit cards due to the high levels of fraud.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

When travelling by road outside major cities, there is a risk of extortion and being caught in road blocks set up by illegal armed groups, including some posing as police.

Driving in Venezuela can be dangerous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles, and local driving habits including driving while intoxicated and ignoring red lights at night. Rural roads are often unmarked with little or no street lighting. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Much of the infrastructure in Venezuela is in a poor state of repair. Airlines, ferry companies and public transport providers, including state-owned companies, have been criticised for not carrying out routine maintenance on their fleets. Lack of adequate maintenance by providers (including the Caracas metro system and tourist ferries to Margarita Island) could lead to cancellations and delays, and could compromise safety.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Don’t be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements with tour operators.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Venezuela. See our piracy bulletin for more information. The International Maritime Bureau runs a 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which issues daily reports broadcast to all shipping on the Safety Net service of Inmarsat-C and weekly reports on its website.

Airline safety

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

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Venezuela, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences, including possession, 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 and 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.

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

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Under Venezuelan Nationality and Citizenship Law, Australian/Venezuelan dual nationals are required to enter and leave Venezuela on a valid Venezuelan passport.

Australian/ Venezuelan male dual nationals over 18 may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Venezuela.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you’ll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of public medical facilities in major cities is limited and in rural areas is very limited. Basic medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are often in short supply. Good private hospitals and clinics can be found in Caracas and other major cities. Such facilities are very expensive and will usually request up-front cash payment. Medical emergencies may require evacuation to Caracas or to another country. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable.

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; and Venezuela Divers in Ciudad Ojeda.

Venezuela is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Venezuela. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

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. Chloroquine and sulfoxidine-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. We recommend you take the appropriate prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever, measles, mumps, rubella and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not 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 from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The national emergency number is 171, however operators may not speak English.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Venezuela. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Caracas provides consular assistance to Australians in Venezuela. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The address is:

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: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/venezuela

The Australian Embassy in Chile can also assist Australians. The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Santiago de Chile

Isidora Goyenechea 3621
13th Floor, Las Condes
Santiago de Chile
Telephone: (56 2) 2550 3500
Facsimile: (56 2) 2550 3560
E-mail: consular.santiago@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.chile.embassy.gov.au

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

If you are travelling to Venezuela, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Venezuela is in an active earthquake zone.

The rainy season extends from May to December when hurricanes, flooding and landslides can occur. However, tropical storms and hurricanes may occur in other months. In the event of severe weather, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Seek local advice before entering affected areas.

If you are travelling during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. Information on hurricanes or other severe weather conditions can be obtained from U.S. National Hurricane Center and Tropical Prediction Center or the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.