SAFETY AND SECURITY
The security situation in Venezuela remains unstable and could deteriorate with very little warning. A nationwide state of exception (state of emergency) has been in effect since January 15, 2016.
INTERNATIONAL BORDER REGIONS
The maritime borders with Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire are closed. Flights to and from those islands are suspended until further notice.
Direct flights to and from the U.S. are also suspended.
Armed criminal groups frequently operate on both sides of the border with Colombia, conducting illegal activities such as:
- drug trafficking
- black market sales
There is a high military presence in a number of municipalities located along the border. Nevertheless, general lawlessness, particularly in the area within 20 km of the border with Colombia, increases the risk of extortion and kidnapping in this region.
Smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal mining also occur along the borders with Brazil and Guyana which pose a greater security risk in this region.
Stay informed of the security situation, as well as which border crossings are open, and their hours of opening.
AT THE AIRPORT
Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía (Caracas) 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. 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
- Have a friend, family member or a trusted transportation service waiting to pick you up upon arrival
- Don’t take a taxi from this airport
Venezuela has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.
Violent crimes are pervasive throughout the country but particularly frequent in the capital city of Caracas. Crimes include:
- armed robbery
- home invasion
- kidnapping for ransom
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 don’t resist
- Don’t walk through city streets at night, and avoid walking alone in less busy or isolated areas during the day
- Don’t visit “barrios” (heavily populated slums), especially in eastern and western areas of Caracas but also in any part of the country. Barrios are extremely unsafe.
Street crime is common, particularly in major cities, and often results in violence. Pickpockets are active in crowded buses and subway stations.
Criminals often target pedestrians and motorists, sometimes from motorcycles.
Authorities (e.g. police, airport, immigration) have harassed and extorted money from travellers. If you experience such problems, report the incident to the Canadian embassy to Colombia, in Bogotá.
Police response times are poor or non-existent in most parts of the country, and most reported crimes don’t result in prosecution.
- Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Don’t 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
- Maintain a low profile and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
Express kidnappings are frequent and can occur anywhere in the country. Victims are usually kidnapped from the street and forced to take the criminals to their houses to give foreign currency, electronics or other valuables.
- Be careful when dealing with recent acquaintances, especially when they offer rides
- Be discrete when handling money in public
There are shortages of medicine and medical supplies. This has led to difficulties in the health care sector.
Basic food and personal care products are available but very costly. You will need U.S. currency to purchase them.
Power outages and rationing of electricity is common in many parts of the country, including in Caracas. Outages lasting several days may occur suddenly. Other services are often disrupted during such events, including:
- medical services
- public water supply
- communications, mainly cellular telephone and Internet
- purchasing goods
- transportation, including flights
Rioting, fighting and theft occur during power outages.
Water rationing is common in most parts of the country, even during the rainy season, due to water shortages in municipalities.
Fuel may also be scarce outside of cities, particularly in the border areas with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
Ensure that your emergency kit is complete.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND SOCIAL UNREST
Large-scale and violent demonstrations frequently occur in Caracas and many other areas across the country. They have resulted in many arrests, including of foreign reporters, injuries and deaths in the past.
Demonstrations can take many forms, including:
- large-scale gatherings
- national strikes
- roadblocks, including on major highways
Demonstrations can lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Don’t attempt to cross road blockades, even if they appear unattended
- Don’t participate in political discussions or activities in public, or appear to take sides on any local issue related to the current political situation
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Telecommunication infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. Interruptions are frequent. It is very difficult to make international calls.
Some areas don’t have cellular coverage. Check local providers’ coverage.
Pirate attacks and armed robbery against ships occur in coastal waters. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.
Live piracy report – International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre
SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
It is unsafe to drink tap water in Venezuela.
- Use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth
- Avoid fruits that you cannot peel, and all raw vegetables
ON THE ROAD
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country.
Unmarked road damage or construction poses a hazard. Street lighting is often inadequate.
After heavy rains, sewer grates may have been displaced and potholes may be hidden in puddles.
Outside of cities, gas stations and restaurants can be few and far between, and gas pumps are often empty.
Drivers do not respect traffic laws. They are extremely aggressive and reckless. Drinking and driving is prevalent.
Incidents of crime along intercity roads are common. Armed bandits set up illegal roadblocks and rob vehicles, including intercity buses.
Crime increases at nightfall.
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.
- Keep your valuables out of plain sight
- Remain vigilant when driving, especially when stopped
- Always drive with the doors locked and windows closed
- Avoid driving after dark
Public transportation has declined in number and quality due to the shortage of parts and reduced capacity for maintenance and repair of vehicles.
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
There is a high risk of theft on both inner city and intercity buses, especially at night.
Licensed taxis are safer than unlicensed taxis. Mototaxis are not recommended as drivers can be reckless.
- Pre-book a licensed, radio-dispatched taxi
- Avoid hailing a taxi in the street
- Advise a friend of your movements, the taxi company’s name and the taxi number
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Travelling within or out of the country on short notice can be difficult. International and domestic commercial flights are limited. Some international airlines have reduced the number of flights arriving to and departing from Venezuela or have suspended services altogether.