Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Venezuela, U.S. citizens will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Driving regulations in Venezuela are similar to those in the United States, although many drivers do not obey them. Defensive driving is a necessity. Motorcyclists often weave in and out of lanes and cars, so caution is advised. Child car seats and seatbelts are not required and are seldom available in rental cars and taxis. Some Caracas municipalities have outlawed the use of hand held cell phones while driving. Outside the major cities, night driving can be dangerous because of unmarked road damage or repairs in progress, unlighted vehicles, and livestock. Even in urban areas, road damage is often marked by a pile of rocks or sticks left by passersby near or in the pothole or crevice, without flares or other devices to highlight the danger. Severe flooding, construction projects, traffic accidents, and other such disruptive occurrences can shut down primary and secondary roads for unexpectedly long periods of time, and detours are often not well-marked or easy to follow. Traffic jams are common within Caracas during most of the day and are frequently exploited by criminals. Armed motorcycle gangs often operate in traffic jams and tend to escape easily. Cases of armed robbery by motorcyclists and theft of other motorcycles have increased and may result in death if the victim does not comply. Stops at National Guard and local police checkpoints are mandatory. Drivers should follow all National Guard instructions and be prepared to show vehicle and insurance papers and passports. Vehicles may be searched. Inexpensive bus service is available to most destinations throughout the country, but the high incidence of criminal activity on public transportation makes bus travel inadvisable. Peak holiday travel occurs during summer and winter school breaks and major civil and religious holidays, including Carnival, Easter, Christmas, and New Year's holidays. Lengthy delays due to road congestion are common during these peak periods.
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