Over the years, Venezuela has not lent itself well to the
media. More well known around the world as a place stunted by political
isolation and instability, the land of the great Simon Bolivar has long been
left untouched by tourists. It's a shame, really, as the country is absolutely
teeming with all the great tourism experiences travelers dream of - history,
brilliant sandy beaches, and mountain landscapes that beg to be explored. Though
safety is an issue in parts of the country, it would be a mistake to let this
absolute wonder of a travel destination go untraveled.
Spanish is the most commonly spoken language throughout
Venezuela. However, to call Venezuela a “Spanish-speaking nation” is a bit
misleading. There are over forty spoken
languages in the country that include Wayuu, Warao, and many more. That being
said, most of the other languages are spoken in extremely rural areas of the
country, and nearly everyone speaks fluent Spanish. English is not widely
spoken, although a percentage near the border of Guyana does speak it. You'll
also find Portuguese near the border of Brazil and there is even a small town
called Colonia Tover that was once a German enclave and still speaks the
language to this day.
Money is somewhat an issue in Venezuela thanks to fixed
currency exchanges set by the government. Upon visiting, you might receive an
exchange rate from a bank machine at about 1USD to 6.2 VEF. However, if you
were to exchange U.S. dollars (USD) at a black-market money exchange you could
get as much as 10VEF to 1USD. Thus, the
cost of travel to Venezuela greatly depends on how much USD currency you have
with you. It should also be noted that you can't get USD from any Western
Union-type option in the country as foreign currency is officially blocked. You
might also have trouble bringing somewhat large amounts of USD into the
Safety is a concern anywhere in the world, and Venezuela is
one of the cases where you'll need to be extra cautious. Before going, you should seek out up-to-date
information on the locations you want to visiting. When you're there, don't
wander around with large amounts of money, keep your electronics hidden away,
and be sure that it's safe to walk alone in areas where you may need to do so. Safety
is a real concern in Venezuela, but it doesn't need to scare you away from a
visit. It really is one of the most geographically stunning locations in the
world, and with a little caution, you won't have any problems.
Venezuela is home to a huge section of the Caribbean Sea. As
such, there is a wealth of white sand-sealed islands scattered just off the
coast. The most popular of these islands is Isla Margarita. This palm-strewn
paradise is the playground of Venezuela's elite as well as international
visitors looking for a luxurious getaway. Without exaggeration, this really is
one of the most stunning places in all of South America.
Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall, is a sight so
spectacular it hardly seems earth-worthy. And while the falls themselves are
unreal, the option of taking a 2-day river cruise through the jungle to end up
at the base of the falls is just as incredible. You can also book a sightseeing
flight over the falls, which will give you an extraordinary view of Angel Falls
as well as the nearby tabletop mountains, known locally as tepuis. These
tepuis, and the jungles surrounding them, house some of the most unique
wildlife in the world, much of which has still yet to be discovered.
The true beauty of Venezuela is its diversity; from the
Caribbean, to the jungle, and now to the high Andes in Merida. This is the
outdoor and adventure hub of Venezuela with hiking, climbing, paragliding, and
rafting all available. Moreover, it is also home to the world's highest
teleferico (cable car), which leads all the way to the top of Espejo Peak,
which stands a breath-taking 15,633 feet above sea level.
Venezuela is not a destination for every tourist. A visit
there takes preparation and experience, but for those who do make the trek, the
rewards are well worth the extra effort.
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Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited over 70 countries on 6 different continents and specializes in adventure travel. For more, visit him on his blog, Brendan's Adventures or check him out on Twitter.
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