How is life in Caracas right now

Getting there

If you want to travel to Venezuela in 2017, your troubles will likely begin before you've even stepped foot in the country.

If you're American, you'll need a visa. You'll need to apply for this in-person, at a Venezuelan consulate. You'll need proof of employment, proof of address and a copy of your bank statement in addition to your application...which may get denied for no discernible reason.

Most airlines have stopped offering services to the country. This has more to do with low demand and the fact that the Venezuelan government owes them money than it does with the political instability.

Here are some airlines that are still flying to Caracas:

American Airlines

Delta

Caribbean

Air France

Avianca

Copa

TAP Portugal

It also periodically closes its border with Brazil and Colombia to crack down on smuggling, so crossing by land isn't always easy. Border crossings into Venezuela are notorious for crime as well - many tourists report getting robbed or extorted. Venezuelan police are often the perpetrators of this.

If you manage to arrive by air, the first thing you will notice is that the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas is eerily empty. There just aren't very many people who have the money to leave the country, or who want to come into the country.

You need to be extremely careful at the airport. As you've probably heard, you'll need to bring a lot of cash to the country. Don't put it all in your bag, as the airport security will see it when you scan your bag and shake you down for a bribe. Hide it well and spread it out. Some on the body some in the bag.

Many workers are also in cahoots with criminals, who will rob you if you wandered outside. You will be asked to change money. Don't do it. You will be asked if you need a taxi. You don't. The 'official' black 4x4 taxis waiting outside the terminal aren't 100% trustworthy

So you must arrange transportation beforehand. This is best done through an Airbnb host. Don't go outside the airport until you have located your (trusted) driver.

If you are unable to arrange something through your host, taxitocaracas.com is a safe service from the airport to the city.

Exchanging Money

Exchanging money is a bit tricky. You won't want to do this at a bank, as the official exchange rate set by the government will make Caracas prohibitively expensive. Instead, you'll have to exchange your US dollars on the black market.

Don't worry, this isn't as sinister as it sounds. You won't have to do the exchange discreetly in a back alley with a unsavoury dude with a mask. Exchanging money this way is a common occurrence and every Venezuelan will know someone who can do this for you.

The ideal way to do this is to arrange something before you arrive. That way, you won't be walking around the airport with thousands of US dollars. Find an Airbnb host that has a PayPal account, or something like it (if they don't, a relative in the States of theirs probably will), and ask if they would be willing to turn your USD into Bolivares, to be waiting for you upon your arrival.

If this isn't an option, make sure they will be willing to do this for you upon your arrival (they will probably say yes).

Again, this is something you'll want sorted before you arrive. You will need plenty of Bolivares to get by in Venezuela. Hotels in Caracas will no longer exchange US dollars for you.

Cost of Living

Despite Venezuela's currency crisis, by no means is everything dirt cheap here in the capital.

Here are some current prices in Caracas to give you an idea:

Buy a one/two bedroom Apartment: $30,000-$60,000

Nice Apartment Rental/Month: Less than $500

Litre of Milk: $3.00

Loaf of Bread= $0.50

Full tank of gasoline= $0.05 (yes, about 5 cents)!

Metro ticket= Less than 1 cent

Coffee in a cafe= $0.50

Considering the minimum monthly salary at the moment is about $40 USD, you can imagine why people are pissed off. To put that in perspective, a cheap cell phone in Caracas costs about $300...or, more than 7x times the average monthly salary. 

Getting Around

Contrary to what the media would have you believe, Caracas is not a war zone...not yet, at least. There are massive protests going on, but as a foreigner they won't effect you directly unless you walk into one. It is still a (somewhat) functioning city, with people going to work, riding the subway and passing time with their families.

You won't exactly get the dystopian vibe that you feel when you see videos of Caracas on the news.

And, although the food shortages are very real, and you'll see people cued up outside grocery stores, this won't really impact you either. The Venezuelans that can afford it buy the food they can't get in supermarkets in bodegas or on the black market ('black market' simply means unofficial food vendors). If you have money here you will not go hungry.

People still eat out at cafes and restaurants too (there are tons of cafes in Caracas). But due to the shortages, they won't have everything that's listed on the menu.

To get around, there is a subway system and plenty of taxis (cars and moto-taxis). If you dress down, the subway should be safe enough to ride during the day. I wouldn't ride it at night.

Stay Safe

The situation here isn't so dramatic that you will be robbed the second you step out of your apartment or hotel.

You should be more or less OK walking around the nicer areas of Caracas during the day (Los Palos Grandes, Altamira, Las Mercedes, Colinas de Bello Monte are examples of safer neighbourhoods - there are truly no neighbourhoods here that are entirely safe). As a general rule, stick to the east side of the city, not the west. 

But there are no guarantees.