Safety and security
Crime and political unrest
There are extremely high levels of serious crime in Venezuela. The risk of armed robbery and muggings, homicide, kidnapping and carjacking is high in all major cities in Venezuela, as well as in rural areas. Violent incidents occur regularly on public transport. In Caracas, the central area and the Sabana Grande areas are particularly dangerous, as are the barrios in western and eastern Caracas. If you're the victim of a crime, don't resist – victims are often killed or injured for failing to cooperate. Police response times are reported to be poor or non-existent.
Political demonstrations have increased in recent months and there is significant political and social unrest in Caracas and throughout Venezuela. Demonstrations occur regularly and some have resulted in violence. There have been regular large political demonstrations and protests in Caracas and other cities during April 2017, which have led to arrests, injuries, and deaths. Avoid all political demonstrations, which can turn violent with little warning. You should remain vigilant and informed. During and ahead of demonstrations, there's often travel disruption as a result of road closures. The authorities often use tear gas and buckshot to disperse protests.
There are severe shortages of basic foodstuffs, bottled water, toiletries and medication, including basic over-the-counter medicine. Medical treatment, including emergency medical treatment, is unavailable in many parts of the country, including Caracas.
The road between Caracas and the airport (Maiquetia) is dangerous and there have been muggings and kidnappings by bogus taxi operators at the airport. There have been armed robberies on buses travelling to Maiquetia Airport, and along Avenida de La Libertador in Caracas. Incidents of violent crime within the airport are rising and foreigners are often targeted. Do not use ATMs are the airport. Do not take a taxi from the airport; ensure that a friend or trusted transportation service is waiting to collect you if you travel. There have been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers or money changers.
If approached by an officer purporting to be an airport official, even if they are in uniform and/or present credentials, you should try to ensure that you remain in a busy area of the airport and, if possible, check with other airport or airline staff that the officials are genuine.
If you are taking an international flight from Caracas you should arrive at the airport three hours before departure, to allow time for security procedure. Don't stay in an airport hotel unless you can make safe transport arrangements between the hotel and the airport.
Tourist travel can often involve flying in light aircraft. There have been several accidents in recent years on the main tourist routes, including Los Roques, Canaima and Merida - some with fatalities. The International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. A number of international airlines have reduced or suspended flights to Venezuela – you should contact your airline or travel operator in advance if you choose to travel for information on possible disruptions
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against boats in and around Venezuela's waters, especially east of Puerto La Cruz and in waters between Venezuela and Trinidad. Take suitable precautions and avoid these areas if possible.
Kidnapping and border issues
There is a serious threat of kidnapping in Venezuela, including 'express kidnapping' (victims are kidnapped from the street and forced to withdraw money from an ATM). There are security concerns related to drug trafficking at both the Brazilian and Guyanese borders and security forces in these areas are scarce. The land borders between Venezuela and Colombia and Venezuela and Brazil have been closed since 11 December. In general, border closures are common and can happen at very short notice. We advise against all travel within 80km of the Colombian border due to particularly high rates of violence, trafficking and activities of armed groups.
Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting 'spiked' food and drink. Also be wary of accepting pamphlets as there have been reports of attacks and robberies occurring where pamphlets are distributed that are soaked in skin penetrating substances that intoxicate the victim.
Road conditions across Venezuela are poor. Carjacking is a problem by day and night. There are regular police and National Guard checkpoints throughout the country. Drive slowly through these and stop if asked to do so. There have been reports of attempts by the police and National Guard to extract bribes.
All vehicles must carry a spare tyre, wheel block, jack wrench and special reflector triangle. Driving under the influence of alcohol is common, especially during weekends. Many vehicles are in poor condition and drivers routinely ignore red lights. In the event of an accident, both vehicles must remain in the position of the accident until a traffic police officer arrives. Insurance companies won't pay claims on vehicles that have been moved without a police accident report.
Do not hitch hike under any circumstances
When taking a taxi in Caracas or other towns and cities, use only pre-booked taxis rather than hailing them in the street. Hotels will normally book a taxi from a reputable company or supply their own driver service.
Tue, 09 May 2017 14:13:19 BST