All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy travel policy for their safety and well-being. The policy divides Caracas into three zones: yellow, orange, and red. When traveling to and from the Yellow Zone, U.S. personnel are strongly encouraged to notify the Embassy. The Yellow Zone includes the Baruta neighborhood (Las Mercedes, Santa Rosa de Lima, San Roman, Prados del Este, Valle Arriva, Cumbres de Curumo, La Trinidad, Cafetal, Santa Paula, San Luis, Caurimare, Cerro Verde and El Penon). When transiting through the Orange Zone between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., U.S. personnel are required to notify the Embassy when leaving home and when departing the zone. In addition, they must request armored vehicles for travel in the zone between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The Orange Zone includes the following neighborhoods: Northern Chacao (El Bosque, La Castellana, El Rosal, Country Club, Chacao, Altamira, Los Palos Grandes, Campo Alegre and Chacaito), Eastern Libertador (Montalban, El Paraiso, Vista Alegre, San Bernardino, Los Chaguaramos, Valle Abajo, Santa Monica, Bello Monte, Coche, El Valle, Sabana Grande, Ciudad Universitaria and La Florida), El Hatillo (Las Marias, Oripoto, La Boyera, Los Pinos, Los Geranjos, Los Naranjos, La Lagunita and El Hatillo), and Western Sucre (Sebucan, Los Chorros, Montecristo, Los Dos Caminos, El Marquez, Horizonte, La Urbina, Macaracuay, Santa Cecilia, La Carlota, Terrazas del Avila, Urbanizacion Miranda, Boleita and Los Ruices). Unofficial travel into the Red Zone is prohibited. U.S. personnel are only authorized to transit through the Red Zone on official business during daylight hours provided they remain on one of the city’s highways. The Red Zone includes the following areas: Western Libertador (El Retiro, 23 de Enero, Blandin, La Vega, La Rinconada, Las Mayas, Tazon, Oropeza Castillo, Lomas de Urdaneta, Propatria, Casalta, Lomas De Propatria, Carapita, Antimano, Tacagua, Ruiz Pineda, Caricuao, La Quebradita, El Altantico, Sarria, La Candelaria, San Martin and La Yaguara), Eastern Sucre (Barrio Piritu, Barrio La Rubia, Barrio Altavista, Petare, Caucaguita, La Dolorita, Paulo Sexto, El Llanito) and Baruta (Las Minas, Santa Cruz del Este, Ojo de Agua, La Naya, Las Minitas). Lastly, U.S. personnel are required to leave public establishments in any of the zones by 2:00 a.m.
Significant antagonism exists between supporters of the government, known as “Chavistas,” and the opposition – represented by its umbrella group, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity Table). Large political rallies or protests could take place in major cities at any time. U.S. citizens should avoid these large rallies.As outlined above, by enrolling in STEPU.S. citizens can receive email alerts regarding demonstration notices posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
The Venezuelan government maintains a strict regime of currency exchange controls. The official exchange rate of the Venezuelan Bolivar (Bs) to the U.S. dollar ($) is 6.3 Bs/$ (effective February 13, 2013). It is illegal to exchange currency in Venezuela at any exchange rate other than the official rate. Authorized exchange houses (“casas de cambio”) can buy U.S. dollars, or dollar-denominated traveler’s checks and exchange them for bolivars at the official 6.3 Bs/$ rate. Exchange houses cannot, however, buy bolivars and exchange them for U.S. dollars. The Venezuelan Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (CADIVI) is the sole legal authority authorized to sell U.S. dollars for bolivars. Authorized exchange houses are located in the international airports and near most major hotels. Some hotels are also authorized to offer exchange services. It may be difficult to find exchange houses outside major cities, so a good supply of Venezuelan currency would be essential for such travel. Visitors can use U.S. debit cards from major issuers to withdraw bolivars from Venezuelan automatic bank machines at the official exchange rate. Visitors can also use most major U.S. credit cards for purchases in Venezuelan shops, restaurants, and other businesses. Independent analysts say credit card fraud is a significant risk, however. Credit card transactions are also at the official exchange rate.The Embassy cannot provide currency exchange services.
Travelers will likely encounter individuals in Venezuela who are willing to exchange Bolivares for U.S. dollars at a rate significantly higher than the official rate of exchange. These "black market" currency exchanges are prohibited under Venezuelan foreign exchange controls. Persons charged with violating foreign exchange controls can face criminal penalties. Travelers charged in such activity may be detained by the Venezuelan authorities. Additionally, in accordance with an October 2005 law, any person who exchanges more than 10,000 U.S. dollars in the course of a year through unofficial means is subject to a fine of double the amount exchanged. If the amount exceeds 20,000 U.S. dollars the penalty is three to seven years imprisonment. Any person who transports more than 10,000 U.S. dollars into or out of Venezuela by any means must declare this amount to customs officials.
Credit cards are generally accepted at most upscale tourist establishments, but foreign exchange controls have made credit card acceptance less common than in the past. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have representatives in Venezuela. Due to the prevalence of credit card fraud in Venezuela, travelers should exercise caution in using their credit cards and should check statements regularly to ensure that no unauthorized charges have been made. Most major cities have ATMs with 24-hour service where users may withdraw local currency, but many of these ATMs will not accept U.S.-issued debit cards.
Many U.S. citizens residing in Venezuela have experienced difficulties and delays in renewing their residency visas. U.S. citizens are advised to plan accordingly in advance. Venezuelan authorities can and do ask foreigners for proof of their identification and legal status in the country.
Venezuelan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Venezuela of items such as plant and animal products, firearms, medications, archaeological or "cultural heritage" items, and pirated copies of copyrighted articles. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington or one of Venezuela's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Adventure Tourism: Venezuela has many natural attractions, including the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls. Travelers should note, however, that many of these attractions are in remote areas of the country. Medical services may be very limited, and transportation to larger cities may be difficult to arrange or time-consuming in the event of an emergency. Travelers should be aware of the increased risks due to the remoteness of some areas and precarious medical and transportation conditions.