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Venezuela - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to Venezuela due to the significant level of violent crime, the unstable political and economic situations and the decline in basic living conditions, including shortages of medication, food staples and water, in the country. A nationwide state of exception (state of emergency) has been in effect since January 15, 2016.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice for the Global Update: Zika virus infection recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Venezuela. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
If you decide to travel to Venezuela despite this advisory, carefully plan your trip to Venezuela before your arrival. Seek help from a reputable tour company, family or friend who has a good understanding of the current situation. Stay in accommodations with good security.
Venezuela has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. Murder and other violent crimes, including armed robbery, home invasion, carjacking and kidnapping for ransom, are pervasive throughout the country. Violence against locals and visitors alike can occur in both urban and rural areas, including in those popular with tourists. Organized criminal groups and gangs are rampant. Many criminals carry firearms, and victims are often injured or killed for failing to cooperate. If you are threatened, stay calm and do not resist.
Armed robbery may occur anywhere at any time throughout the country and particularly in the capital city of Caracas. Criminals have targeted pedestrians and motorists, sometimes from motorcycles. Incidents frequently occur on public transportation. Do not walk on city streets at night, and avoid walking alone in less busy or isolated areas during the day. Do not visit “barrios” (heavily populated slums), especially in eastern and western areas of Caracas but also in any part of the country, as barrios are extremely unsafe.
Simón Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetía, is dangerous; incidents of violent crime occur frequently, both inside the facilities and in the surrounding areas. Kidnappers and armed robbers have targeted foreigners, who are assumed to be holding large amounts of foreign currency given the difficulty in obtaining Venezuelan bolívars outside of Venezuela. Criminals often approach tourists at the airport and offer to exchange money. They may also pose as taxi drivers. Arrange your travel so that you arrive and depart the airport during daylight hours and have a friend, family member or a trusted transportation service waiting to pick you up upon arrival. Do not take a taxi from this airport.
Incidents of crime along intercity roads are common, including on the road linking Simón Bolívar International Airport to Caracas. Armed bandits set up illegal roadblocks and rob vehicles, including intercity buses. There have been incidents of motorists being robbed after stopping to assess the damage to their vehicle from improvised spikes on the road or stone throwing from highway overpasses and bridges near poorer neighbourhoods. Criminals commonly travel on motorcycles and peer into vehicles. Keep your valuables out of plain sight. Remain vigilant when driving, especially when stopped, and always drive with the doors locked and windows closed. Exercise extreme caution when driving after dark, when the risk of becoming a victim of serious crime increases.
Street crime is common, particularly in major cities, and often results in violence. Pickpockets are active in crowded bus and subway stations. Do not show signs of affluence or display valuables, particularly jewelry and electronics, including cell phones. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and keep foreign currency out of sight. Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure. Theft from hotel safes occasionally occurs. Maintain a low profile and remain aware of your surroundings at all times, in all places.
Express kidnappings are frequent and can occur anywhere in the country. Victims are usually kidnapped from the street and forced to withdraw funds from an automated banking machine (ABM). Use ABMs located in secure locations during daylight hours only. Be extremely cautious after having exchanged or withdrawn money and be discrete when handling money in public. Do not use ABMs at the airport.
Authorities (e.g. police, airport, immigration) and criminals posing as authorities have harassed and extorted money from tourists. If you experience such problems, report the incident to the Canadian embassy in Caracas.
Be careful when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, and be especially wary when offered rides or invitations. Avoid accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of crime. Incidents of drugging followed by robbery and assault, including sexual assault, have been reported.
There have been incidents of piracy against ships in coastal areas and marinas, some involving a high degree of violence, including murder. Owners of small vessels, including private yachts, should be aware of the risk of attack and take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
Police response times are poor or non-existent in most parts of the country, and most reported crimes do not result in prosecution.
Demonstrations and social unrest
Demonstrations of varying sizes occur almost daily throughout the country. Political tensions can trigger large-scale, nationwide demonstrations. Road blocks and large crowds can cause disruptions to traffic and public transportation in city streets and on main highways. Incidents of social unrest, including looting, are on the rise. Curfews may be imposed by authorities at any time and should be respected. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they may turn violent without warning. Do not attempt to cross road blockades, even if they appear unattended. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media. Do not participate in political discussions or activities in public, or appear to take sides on any local issue related to the current political situation, as doing so could lead to attack, arrest and deportation.
International border regions
Armed criminal groups frequently operate on both sides of the border with Colombia, conducting illegal activities such as smuggling, drug trafficking and black market sales. Despite a high military presence in a number of municipalities located along the border, there is an increased risk of extortion and kidnapping due to general lawlessness, particularly in the area within 20 km of the border. The situation is less prevalent in La Fría (state of Táchira) and Puerto Ayacucho (state of Amazonas) and on main highways.
Smuggling and drug trafficking also occur along the borders with Brazil and Guyana.
The land border with Colombia is currently only open to pedestrians. There is an increased military presence in a number of municipalities located along the border. Stay informed of the security situation, as well as which border crossings are open, and their hours of opening.
Severe shortages of basic food items and necessities, including medicine and personal-care products, have led to long line-ups at grocery stores and pharmacies across the country. Rioting, fighting and theft occur in line-ups. Fuel may also be scarce outside of cities.
Municipal water and power shortages occur in parts of the country, including in Caracas, even during the rainy season. Ensure that your emergency kit is up-to-date.
Telecommunication infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. Interruptions are frequent. Some areas do not have cellular coverage; check local providers’ coverage.
It is very difficult to make international calls from local landlines or cellular telephones.
Road conditions, safety (see Crime, above) and road signage are poor throughout the country. Traffic laws are rarely observed due to the lack of police enforcement. Unmarked road damage or construction, drunk drivers and reckless motorcyclists pose hazards. Be especially vigilant after heavy rains, as sewer grates may have been displaced and potholes may be hidden in puddles.
Driving is risky at night. Crime increases at nightfall. Drivers often do not stop at red lights or stop signs, and some do not turn on their vehicle lights. Street lighting is often inadequate.
Outside of cities, gas stations and restaurants can be few and far between, and gas pumps may be empty due to poor distribution.
There are many control points throughout the country. Stopping at Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela and police checkpoints is mandatory. Follow all instructions and have vehicle and insurance papers and passports readily available. Vehicles may be searched. It is not uncommon for authorities to seek bribes.
In the case of an accident, vehicles must not be moved until a traffic police officer fills out a report. This law is not always respected. Police response times are often slow.
Passengers of taxis and public transportation have been victims of robbery and assault, often at gunpoint. Chauffeur or transportation services, including those provided by travel agencies, are safer options. Hotels can help book transportation from a reputable company.
If you must take a taxi, it is best to pre-book a licensed, radio-dispatched taxi instead of hailing one in the street. Licensed taxis are generally safer than unlicensed taxis. Advise a friend of your movements, the taxi company’s name and the taxi number. Mototaxis are not recommended as drivers can be reckless.
There is a high risk of theft on both inner city and intercity buses, especially at night. There is a risk of theft in the subway, and some subway stations are unsafe. Only take the subway during daylight hours, and avoid peak hours. Seek advice from locals before using this means of transportation.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
Some international airlines have reduced the number of flights arriving to and departing from Venezuela or have suspended services altogether. Flights may be expensive and difficult to book. In Venezuela, check in at least three hours in advance for international flights and at least two hours in advance for domestic flights.
Excursions and recreational activities
Avoid excursions that are not offered by tour operators. Before undertaking extreme or eco-tourism activities, ensure that businesses offering excursions follow proper safety measures.
Beach and aquatic equipment may not meet Canadian safety standards. Ensure that equipment is safe and in good condition, and that helmets and life jackets are available. Check that your travel insurance covers accidents related to recreational activities.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Venezuelan authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Venezuela, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected arrival to that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays of up to 90 days)
Business visa: Required
Work visa: Required
Student visa: Required
You cannot extend your stay beyond the 90-day period except in exceptional circumstances. Remaining in the country beyond this period or without a valid visa could lead to detention and deportation. Ensure that your status is up-to-date at all times. Contact the country’s migration department, SAIME (Servicio Administrativo de Identificación, Migración y Extranjería; website in Spanish), for more details.
Canadians travelling by land or sea may require a visa from a Venezuelan embassy or consulate before their arrival.
Other entry requirements
A return or onward ticket is required to enter Venezuela.
Ensure that you receive an entrance stamp in your passport from Venezuela’s immigration office at the port of entry.
Exit taxes and airport fee
Travellers departing from any international airport in the country are required to pay an exit tax and an airport fee. These taxes are included in the cost of airplane tickets for flights departing from Simón Bolívar International Airport. Amounts payable and methods of payment vary depending on the airport. Travellers should check with their airline.
Dual citizens (Canadian and Venezuelan) must enter and exit Venezuela using their Venezuelan passport and Venezuelan identification card. Immigration authorities have allowed dual citizens to enter the country without Venezuelan documents but then prevented them from leaving without them. Contact SAIME if you require Venezuelan documents.
Consult Laws and Culture for more information.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries.
See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
Proof of vaccination is required if arriving from Brazil, including travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus , yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Locally acquired mosquito-associated Zika virus is currently being reported in this country. Zika virus infection is primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause fever, rash, and joint pain. It can also be transmitted through blood, semen and from an infected pregnant woman to her developing baby. Most people do not develop symptoms and recover fully without severe complications. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus infection is a cause of both microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Other neurological disorders have also been associated with Zika virus infection. Protect yourself from mosquito bites in daylight and evening hours. There is no vaccine for Zika virus infection.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
The quality of medical services and facilities has deteriorated across the country in recent years. Most medical establishments lack equipment, medicine and supplies. Some private hospitals and clinics in major cities provide adequate services, which are expensive. Payment is required in advance of treatment. Outside of major cities, many hospitals are in very poor, unsanitary condition, with old equipment, particularly for specialized care. Throughout the country, patients are often asked to bring their own medical supplies in order for procedures to be done at the hospitals. Hospitals have run out of x-ray film and x-rays are provided to patients on a CD-ROM along with a written report. Most health-care providers do not speak English or French.
Emergency and ambulance services are very limited and response times are slow, especially in rural areas.
There is a severe shortage of pharmaceutical drugs throughout the country. Some medicines are no longer available in hospitals and medical facilities, and most hospital pharmacies and drugstores no longer stock basic medicine or supplies. Bring all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you may need with you, and pack an extra supply in case you are away for longer than expected.
Travel health insurance
A Travel Advisory may affect your travel health insurance. Make sure you understand any terms and conditions in the insurance policy in regard to Travel Advice and Advisories from the Government of Canada. You should have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and medical evacuation to another country, if required. Contact your insurance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. Consult Well on Your Way—A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad for more information.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Penalties for possession of illegal drugs, including marijuana, include immediate detention, incarceration and lengthy jail terms. All departing visitors are thoroughly screened for drugs by the Bolivarian National Guard. Pack your luggage yourself and keep it with you at all times. Do not carry anything through customs for anyone else.
Venezuela has strict regulations concerning the importation of foreign-registered motor vehicles. Offenders face heavy fines and/or confiscation of the vehicle. Before arrival, contact the nearest Venezuelan embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date regulations and procedures.
You must declare the importation of any new item, even personal, worth more than US$1,000 to customs officials and pay appropriate taxes.
You must carry your passport at all times.
Photography of sensitive installations, including the presidential palace, military sites, government buildings and airports, is prohibited.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Venezuela. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Venezuelan citizen. While you must enter and exit Venezuela with your Venezuelan Passport and identification card, you should carry your Canadian passport with you and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
The currency is the Venezuelan bolivar (BsF or VEF). The law prohibits the sale and purchase of any foreign currency outside of authorized institutions, such as currency exchange houses or banks. Anyone caught exchanging foreign currency outside of authorized institutions is subject to a fine. Only U.S. dollars can be exchanged.
The Government of Venezuela will withdraw all 100-bolivar bank notes from circulation on March 20, 2017, rendering them invalid. It could be difficult to obtain cash up to and after that date.
Credit cards are generally accepted at major hotels and stores, and at airports. Identification is required for a credit card transaction. Cash payments are often required in rural areas and for smaller purchases in urban areas. It can be difficult to obtain local currency. Banks often restrict transactions to their clients only. Exchange money at official exchange houses, which may be scarce outside of major cities, or at the front desk of your hotel, if the service is provided. Do not use the black market. Obtaining cash advances at ABMs can be challenging: some do not accept international credit cards; many ask for additional codes to confirm identity; malfunctions and insufficient cash are recurring problems; and there are often line-ups during weekends. Check exchange rates with your bank. See Safety and security for more information on using ABMs.
If you are entering or leaving Venezuela with more than US$10,000, you are required to declare it to the authorities. Anyone convicted of selling or purchasing more than US$20,000 in foreign currency is subject to detention and a fine. Very few exchange houses or banks will exchange bolívars outside Venezuela. For more information on currency exchange, consult the Banco Central de Venezuela (in Spanish).
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.
The rainy season extends from May to December. Heavy rains, flooding and landslides can occur during this period. In the event of heavy rains, coastal roads and highways may not be fully operational and some utilities, especially water services, may be disrupted.
Venezuela’s coastal range (littoral cordillera), which includes Caracas, is located in an active seismic zone.
Dial 171 for emergency assistance.
Caracas - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Caracas and follow the instructions. You may also place a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613 996 8885 by dialling 0 800 100 1100 first.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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