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Driving and Public Transportation

Venezuela - Driving and Public Transportation


Travelers in Venezuela are obliged to carry identification. There are military checkpoints on many roads, so while travelling by car or bus keep your passport handy, ideally you should keep a colour photocopy of your passport. Should your passport be stolen, this will facilitate procedures with your local consulate. The military presence is constant, yet is not usually cause for concern. That having been said, there are corrupt officials. It is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings when, for instance, bags are being checked for drugs. A soldier of the Guardia Nacional sometimes plants drugs to solicit a bribe or steal valuables. Penalties for drug use are severe, and the burden of proof falls on the accused, the police may also demand bribes using the same modus operandi.

There is no national railway system in Venezuela, which leaves three options for travel inside the country: car rental, using buses, and using cars-for-hire. Drivers in Venezuela are generally aggressive and unconcerned by traffic regulations. The traffic in Venezauela is very bad, the drivers are crazy and all drivers wants to be the first. Thus, car rental is not recommended in general. The very cheap price of gas, however, makes this option fairly economical. The expensive part of renting a car will be the insurance. The fuel price for 95 oct fuel unleaded is 0.097 BsF/liter, at official exchange, about 0,045 US$/liter. About 0,18 Us$/gallon.

When approaching a crosswalk in Venezuela, it is important to remember that pedestrians do not have the right of way as they do in the U.S. and many European countries. If you slow down or stop at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross, you could cause an accident with unsuspecting motorists.

The bus system is extensive and extremely affordable (in part due to the low price of gas). Bus terminals are hectic, but it is usually easy to find a bus to any major city leaving within a short amount of time. Short bus rides (2 hours) may cost 15 BsF (15.000 Bs old) (about 7 US$ at official exchange and 3 US$ at unofficial exchange rate)), and even extremely long bus rides (9 hours) will only cost 50 BsF to 60 BsF per person (equal to about $23 or 28 US$ at official exchange or 9 US$ and 11 at unofficial exchange rate). The larger buses are typically air-conditioned. In fact, they are usually overly air-conditioned, so it is worth bringing a blanket with you. Buses are an easy and convenient way to get around the country.

If you decide to travel by bus a good option is 'Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos' they have their own terminal in a residential zone of Caracas (Chacao, Bello Campo), baggage is checked on the buses (as in an airport). The units are clean, safe and well maintained, plus the drivers are trained to respect the speed limit (there are many accidents on regular buses on Venezuelan highways, most of them caused by speeding on poorly maintained roads). They are more expensive than a regular bus, but still cheap by American/European standards. You may pay with credit card and buy ticketc in advance by phone.

For smaller towns, there may not be regular buses. In such cases, one can use cars-for-hire, called "por puestos." These are typically old and run-down vehicles, but they are affordable. They are more expensive than buses, typically costing 15,000 Bs per person for a one or two hour ride (about $8 US). The main problem is that they typically wait to have a full car (4 or 5 passengers) before undertaking a route. The driver will usually try to convince you to pay for the extra passengers if you want to leave right away. The cars are popular, however, and one does not usually wait long for a car to fill up.

Travel within cities is usually via taxi. Taxis are more expensive than any other form of transport, but still affordable when compared to North American or European equivalents. A ride across town will usually cost 8,000 Bs to 15,000 Bs (depending on the city). The taxis do not have meters and will charge more at night. This is normal in Venezuela and typically cannot be argued.

Local buses exist, and usually connect the terminal to the center of each city. They typically cost BsF 0.8 - 1, depending on the city. Bus routes usually remain a mystery to the uninitiated.

Caracas has a clean, modern and cheap metro system, currently being expanded.


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