|Preface Last Updated: 6/8/2005
Caracas is a dynamic, bustling city—an interesting and enjoyable
post—but often a confusing and frustrating place to get to know. The
city sits in a superb natural setting, flanked by a majestic
mountain (the Avila), but the overwhelming immediate sensation of
the city is of crowded traffic and undistinguished skyscrapers.
Indeed, skyscrapers, as well as the Avila, contribute to a strong
sense of Caracas as a vertical city. To make maximum use of the land
in this metropolis of 4 million people, buildings are constructed
upward rather than outward. The many high-rise apartment houses
built along roads that spiral around steep hillsides emphasize the
city’s height. Most apartment dwellers have magnificent views, as do
their less affluent counterparts who live in the ranchitos that
carpet the many slopes throughout the city. Night and distance
disguise the harsh reality of the ranchitos: The lights of the tiny
homes illuminate the hills, creating the appearance of a glittering
fantasy land rising against the dark sky that is breathtaking in its
As the crow flies, Caracas is only a few miles from the ocean,
but there is no sense of the sea in the city. Indeed, the nearest
unpolluted beaches are several hours of hard driving away. But it is
worth persevering in efforts to reach the ocean, because the coast
is edged with idyllic beaches where graceful palms lean toward azure
bays defined by a curve of white sand.
Caracas is over 400 years old, but, in its haste to become a
world-class city, has preserved little of its past charm or texture.
Although the colorful food markets typical of Latin America exist in
Caracas, the distances and traffic involved in getting to them are a
strong enough deterrent to prevent most foreigners from making
regular visits. Caracas, however, is full of surprises: certain
hillside roads will suddenly afford a beautiful view of the city
below with its undulating red tile roofs that stretch throughout the
valley and which are nostalgic testimony to a bygone era when
Caracas was known as the “city of the red roofs.”
At first glance, Caracas looks like home—a relatively modern
North American city full of modern skyscrapers, dazzling shopping
malls, an efficient metro system, a plethora of Pizza Huts, and
theaters showing American films. (Venezuelans often refer to
citizens of the United States as “North Americans.”) A widespread
knowledge of English attests to strong cultural and business ties
with the U.S. Many homes are equipped with large round satellite
antennas to provide access to American TV stations. Venezuelans who
do not know English watch shows from the U.S. that have been dubbed
in Spanish. The World Series is broadcast live every year, another
indication of American cultural influence.
However, for all of its modernity, Caracas is still an
overcrowded urban area with many similarities to cities in other
developing countries—potholed streets, temperamental telephones, and
so forth. And although the people dress and act in many ways like
their counterparts in the U.S., Venezuelans are, after all, the
product of a different culture and history.
Venezuela’s varied beauty, strategic location, and natural
resources, as well as its varied social structure, combine to make a
tour here challenging and interesting.
This is the official post report prepared by the post. The
information contained herein is directed to official U.S. Government
employees and their families. Any other information concerning the
facts set forth herein is to be regarded as unofficial information.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:25 PM
Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America,
between 0 degrees 5’ and 12 degrees 15 N, and 59 degrees 45’ and 73
degrees 09 W. It covers 352,150 square miles, about the size of
Texas and Oklahoma combined. The capital, Caracas, is situated in
the magnificent Avila Mountains on the north coast at about 2,700
feet above sea level, giving the city a permanent springtime
climate. The temperature and climate are close to perfect, making
outdoor activities, including dining, very popular.
The Orinoco River and various mountain ranges, all branches of
the Andes chain, divide the country into a number of distinct
South of the Orinoco, which is the third longest river in South
America, are located the wild and largely unexplored Guayana
highlands. This area comprises over half of the area of the country
and is rich in mineral resources and in developed and undeveloped
hydroelectric power. In the Gran Sabana area, erosion has caused
unusual formations characterized by rugged relief and flat-topped,
cliff-edged mountains called “tepuis,” the Pemon Indian word for
mountain. These sandstone mesas form part of one of the oldest
geologic regions in the world, and they have the highest percentage
of endemic flora of any formations on earth. Roraima, one of the
most famous of the tepuis, was the setting for “Lost Worlds.” Arthur
Conan Doyle never actually visited the area, so the reader cannot
expect realism in his adventure story, but his characterization of
the “tepuis” reflects widely-held beliefs, and the “tepuis” continue
to be endlessly fascinating.
Another section of the Guayana highlands is the mysterious and
remote Amazonas region, home to various indigenous groups such as
the Yekuana, Yanomami, and Piaroa. Although carrying the name of the
great river to the south, most of this area lies in the Orinoco
drainage basin. The remaining portion of the Orinoco waters go to
the Amazon, marking one of the great anomalies of nature—a river
called the Casiquiare that crosses the watershed between the Orinoco
and Rio Negro (which connects to the Amazon) and joins two of the
great rivers of the world. It is possible to travel by water from
the Orinoco through the Casiquiare and Rio Negro and to the Amazon.
Legends of this route were the basis for many famous explorations by
Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries.
North of the Orinoco is a great expanse of lowlands that occupies
approximately one third of the national territory, known as the
“llanos” or plains. During the dry season the entire area is almost
desert-like. But during the rainy season, flooding rivers make the
area a maze of water. Alexander von Humboldt, visiting the area in
the early 1800s, referred to it as an ocean covered with seaweed.
This area contains “hatos” or working ranches, some of which have
turned to ecotourism. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from boats
or vehicles, sighting capybaras, ocelots, monkeys, tapirs, caimans,
and exotic and extensive bird life—more than 350 species have been
recorded in the region, including scarlet ibis, or corocoros, with
their spectacular plumage. Visitors can also fish for piranha which,
despite the dictionary definition, do not usually attack humans.
Spurs of the Andes Mountains run along each side of the Maracaibo
basin and part of the seacoast. The bulk of Venezuela’s population
traditionally has lived in these northern highlands, attracted by
the temperate weather and fertile soil. The city of Mérida is very
near Pico Bolivar, Venezuela’s highest mountain and a popular spot
for climbing. The longest cable car (teleférico) in the world runs
from Merida to Pico Espejo high in the clouds above. It can be warm
and sunny in Merida and snowing on Pico Espejo, some 3,100 meters
(10,170 feet) higher.
A tropical coastal plain stretches along most of Venezuela’s
1,750-mile coastline. This narrow strip of land between mountains
and sea widens in the west to form the Maracaibo basin. The climate
is uniformly hot and humid. The area around Maracaibo is inhabited
by the Guajiro and Yukpa indigenous groups, and you can still see
them in their native dress. At the Laguna de Sinamaica, there are
traditional houses made of papyrus and thatch, and built on stilts
in the water. When Amerigo Vespucci arrived in 1499, he came ashore
at this point and named it Venezuela, or little Venice.
The Orinoco defines much of Venezuela, rising from its headwaters
deep in Amazonas, and traveling 2,150 kilometers (1,335 miles) to
the Atlantic in the Orinoco Delta region. As it travels east and
north, the Orinoco widens, splits and reforms. The Delta is a vast
region marked by islands and large rivers (small in comparison to
the Orinoco), and is home to a large number of birds, making it a
birding paradise. The Warao Indians inhabit this area, still using
their native language and existing in a manner that has not changed
greatly over the centuries.
Population Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:26 PM
Venezuela’s population in 1998 was estimated to be 22.8
million[R1], of which close to one fourth live in Caracas. The
national rate of population growth is approximately 1.77% (1998
estimate). Over 34% of the population is under 14 years of age.
Rapid population growth and migration from rural areas have produced
densely populated cities, while vast areas of the interior are
There are approximately 24,000 U.S. citizens in Venezuela, many
of whom live in Caracas. Most of these U.S. citizens are associated
with U.S. or multinational corporations, primarily in the oil
service and telecommunications sectors.
Venezuela proudly regards itself as being a melting pot. About
21% of the population is Caucasian, 10% black, 2% Indian, and the
remaining 67% is of mixed race (mestizo.)
The Capital City of Caracas
Caracas is a cosmopolitan city. Perhaps a quarter of its
residents are immigrants or their descendants from Europe, Arabia,
and Africa. These people play an important role in the city’s
commercial and professional life. In the 1970s, the booming
Venezuelan economy attracted large numbers of people from other
Caribbean and Andean countries.
Caracas occupies a valley rimmed by the majestic Avila Mountain,
which forms a rugged barrier between the city and the Caribbean. It
is the political, cultural, and economic center of the nation.
The architecture of Caracas is predominantly modern. In the
western part of the city, some of the old-world Spanish colonial
charm has been retained. To the east are the newer areas,
characterized by skyscrapers and freeways with modern, comfortable
residential areas dotting the valley floor and spreading up the
In contrast with the modernity of much of Caracas and the genteel
charm of the historical sections are the sprawling “ranchitos” or
settlements built by poor immigrants from the interior regions and
from neighboring countries.
Justifiably, the “Caraqueños” refer to Caracas as “The City of
Eternal Spring.” Caracas has a mean average temperature of 71°F.
Daytime temperatures range from 60°–80° during the dry season to a
maximum of 80°–90° during the hot parts of the summer rainy season.
Nights are cool and pleasant year round. Winter temperatures
sometimes drop to the low 50s. A consistent east-west wind blows
almost every day, keeping the air quality of the valley fairly
clean. There is no daylight savings time in Caracas; therefore, it
becomes dark every night at about 7 p.m.
The city has many familiar U.S. features: major arteries ablaze
with neon signs advertising U.S. products, many U.S. stores and
restaurants (designer stores, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Chili’s,
TGI Friday, Outback, Tony Roma's , and Wendy’s), supermarkets, some
department stores, large shopping centers, air-conditioned theaters
showing U.S. films, and even drive-in restaurants. Late-model U.S.,
Japanese, and European cars congest the streets.
The U.S. appearance, however, is superficial. Caracas is a city
that combines the dominant Latin culture with the vitality and zest
of the Caribbean. The combination is not Venezuelan, but uniquely “Caraqueño.”
Historical Summary of Venezuela
Discovered by Columbus in 1498 on his third voyage to the New
World, Venezuela was first explored by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo
Vespucci in 1499. According to legend, they named the country
Venezuela (Little Venice) after seeing the Indian houses built on
stilts in Lake Maracaibo. Venezuela was one of the first New World
colonies to revolt against Spain (1810), but it was not until 1821
that independence was achieved. Francisco de Miranda began the task,
which was completed by the great Latin American hero and statesman,
Simon Bolívar, Venezuela’s national hero and native son.
Venezuela, together with what are now Colombia, Panama, and
Ecuador, was part of “Gran Colombia” until 1830, when it withdrew
and became a sovereign state. Until as recently as 1958, Venezuela’s
political history as an independent nation could be characterized as
ruled by a series of military dictators.
During General Juan Vicente Gomez’ rule (1908–35), oil was
discovered in the Maracaibo Basin, and Venezuela changed from a
poor, largely agrarian country into one of the richest nations in
Latin America. The modern political forces set in motion by the new
oil economy produced a brief experiment in democracy that lasted
from 1945 until 1948. This era was ended by a military coup and a
10-year dictatorship under General Marcos Perez Jiménez. In 1958, a
combination of political groups ousted him and restored democracy.
Until the elections of 1998, the President had always been a
representative of one of the two so-called traditional parties,
Acción Democratica (AD) or the Social Christian Party (COPEI).
Former Presidents are: Rómulo Betancourt (AD) 1959–64; Raúl Leoni
(AD) 1964–69; Rafael Caldera (COPEI) 1969–74; Carlos Andrés Pérez
(AD) 1974–79; Luís Herrera Campins (COPEI) 1979–84; Jaime Lusinchi
(AD) 1984–89; Carlos Andrés Pérez (AD) 1989–93; Ramón José Velázquez
1993–1994; and Rafael Caldera 1994–1998.
In 1992, during the second presidency of Carlos Andrés Pérez, a
young Lieutenant Colonel of the Army, Hugo Chavez Frías, led an
unsuccessful coup d’etat for which he was arrested and jailed. Pérez
was eventually removed from office after he was charged and indicted
for corruption. Ramón Velásquez became interim president until the
elections of 1993, when Rafael Caldera was once again elected.
President Caldera pardoned Chavez in 1994. In December of 1998, Hugo
Chavez, candidate for radical change, won a landslide victory in the
presidential election, garnering more votes than anyone in
Venezuela’s history. Part of his radical change was a complete
rewriting of the constitution of 1961 by a specially elected
Constituent Assembly. The new constitution was ratified by a
referendum in December 1999. Chavez was reelected president in July
Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:27 PM
Venezuela is a representative democracy. The 1999 constitution
provides for direct popular election of the President every six
years. The President is the chief of state and head of the national
executive branch. He appoints the Vice President. Cabinet members
with the rank of Minister also assist the President. State
governors, legislators, mayors, and municipal council members are
The legislative branch consists of a unicameral National
Assembly. Legislators are elected by popular vote through a
combination of proportional representation and direct election. They
serve 5-year terms.
The judicial branch consists of a Supreme Tribunal of Justice
divided into six specialized chambers with 20 justices in total and
other courts with differing jurisdictions. The Republic of Venezuela
is composed of 22 states, one federal district (which includes much
of the Caracas metropolitan area), and one federal dependency (which
includes 11 federally controlled island groups).
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:28 PM
The Venezuelan Government has made a strong commitment to
fostering culture, education, and the arts, backing these efforts
with considerable state funding. Venezuelan cultural life is
centered in Caracas, where about a quarter of the country’s
population lives. The Teresa Carreño Performing Arts Complex opened
in 1983 and is one of the most architecturally dramatic art
buildings in the world..
The National Cultural Council (CONAC), the major government
funding source, actively promotes the arts and culture outside of
Caracas, as do individual state arts councils. Regional development
councils, large state industries, and private foundations also
contribute to the arts. Foreign embassies sponsor performing artists
on tour and U.S.-Venezuelan bi-national centers also promote
cultural and artistic activities.
Music is perhaps the best developed of Venezuela’s cultural
attractions. There are four major orchestras in Caracas alone. The
National Symphony gives regular concerts at the Teresa Carreño
Theater and often has visiting conductors and soloists.
World-renowned musicians have performed with the National Symphony.
The newer Municipal Orchestra was established to accompany the
Municipal Opera and a variety of ballet and dance groups.
The Philharmonic Orchestra has a regular concert season.
Additionally, there is an active and excellent youth orchestra, with
several other ones around the country that nurture provincial talent
and send their best students to Caracas for membership in the
national youth orchestra. Choral music is popular, with many groups
each devoted to a particular choral specialty (baroque, modern,
etc.). Popular music, such as jazz and rock, is well-liked in
Venezuela and well-known entertainers come to Caracas. Salsa and
merengue remain the most popular music and dances among Venezuelans.
However, other music, such as “llanero music,” typical of a certain
region of Venezuela, is also popular.
The Caracas Metropolitan Opera has a regular season in June and
July, performing the standard repertoire with a mixture of artists
from its own opera school as well as from Europe and the U.S. The
opera school also gives workshop productions throughout the year,
and independent entrepreneurs sponsor ad-hoc performances.
Ballet has received enormous stature and impetus with the great
success of the world-renowned New World Ballet of Caracas, which has
two regular seasons, spring and fall. Many experimental groups are
being spawned, founded by Venezuelans trained abroad. There are
well-established ballet schools in Caracas, as well as in major
cities of the interior, that give periodic recitals. Many of these
schools accept non-Venezuelan students.
Caracas is an active theater city with several plays being
performed at any given time. Additionally, there are experimental
groups, university players, children’s theater, the well-established
Caracas Players who perform in English, and a venerable tradition of
puppetry. Caracas has an annual theater festival, and is also the
host of a biennial international theater festival. The International
Theater Institute (ITI) has an office in Caracas.
The Venezuelan Institute of Folklore sponsors traditional
festivals, regional fairs, and dance groups in an effort to foster
and preserve traditional Venezuelan culture. Such festivals and
other activities are often associated with local saints’ days. For
example, a popular dance known as “Los Diablos Danzantes de Yare”
(the dancing devils of Yare) is performed on the feast of Corpus
Christi. The village is approximately 50 miles from Caracas and the
event draws a considerable crowd from the capital.
Caracas has three major museums: one devoted to Venezuelan
painters, another to contemporary art beginning in the late 19th
century, and the third to fine arts with representations of all
periods and all countries. Art galleries dot the city and are
numerous, some with international connections. Provincial capitals
also support local art museums. Venezuela’s internationally known
artists include Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz Díez, Hector Poleo,
Alejandro Otero and his wife, Mercedes Pardo, and Cornelis Zitman.
Art shows and auctions sponsored as fundraising events by such
public service organizations as the Venezuelan American Association
of University Women, the North American Association, and Hadassah,
are very well attended.
The Venezuelan education system is overextended and underfunded.
The Venezuelan government remains committed to the idea that every
citizen is entitled to a free education, and nine years of education
are compulsory. The student population, and the education budget,
have increased, but there are many children who do not go to school
because they are undocumented aliens or because of poverty.
There have been significant gains since the 1950s as a result of
the Venezuelan Government’s policy of “massification” of education.
Adult illiteracy, for example, has declined from 40% in 1950 to less
than 10%. In 1950, there were only four universities in Venezuela;
today there are over 90 institutions of higher education. In 1958,
there were 853,683 students in the entire system; today there are
over 6 million.
The issue today in Venezuelan education is not quantity, but
quality. The Ministry of Education’s efforts now lie in adapting the
curriculum to the demands of an increasingly technological society,
in expanding compulsory education, and in upgrading teacher
qualifications. However, financial difficulties and a demographic
bulge (75% of the population is under 35 years of age) are likely to
cause some dissatisfaction in the future.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/12/2004 10:36 AM
Venezuela is one of the wealthier nations in the Western
hemisphere. In 2001, Venezuela’s GDP, measured at the average
exchange rate, was $126.1 billion, or $5,111 per capita. The
Venezuelan Government dominates the economy; state companies control
the petroleum, minerals, and basic industries.
Petroleum is and has been the cornerstone of the Venezuelan
economy for over 50 years. In 2001, the petroleum industry accounted
for about 76% of merchandise export earnings, nearly 48% of
government revenues, and about 26% of GDP. In 2001, Venezuela was
one of the largest sources of petroleum imports to the U.S., taking
into account crude oil and refined products, as well as indirect
imports via Caribbean refineries. Venezuela produced an average of
3.0 million barrels of oil a day in 2001, and exported about 2.7
million barrels of crude oil and products a day. Venezuela is one of
the founding members of OPEC. Although Venezuela benefited from the
increase in petroleum prices beginning in the early 1970s, it
suffered from oil price declines in 1986, in 1998 and in 2001. Oil
prices started to recover again in March 2002. Venezuela’s huge oil
reserves will keep it a major oil producer for at least the next one
Venezuela’s total 2001 merchandise exports were $26.8 billion.
The country’s most important non-petroleum exports include aluminum,
steel, iron ore, petrochemicals, seafood, cement, plastics, tobacco,
paper products, and fruit. More than half of Venezuela’s exports are
to the U.S, which is its most important trading partner. Venezuela
imported $17.4 billion worth of merchandise in 2001, up from the
previous years. Principal imports include machinery, transportation
equipment, semi-manufactured goods, and agricultural commodities.
The U.S. supplies around 33% of all imports; Venezuela is the United
States’ third largest export market in Latin America.
In contrast to the highly concentrated pattern of Venezuela’s
exports, the internal economy is quite diversified. Hundreds of
small- and medium-sized industries provide many of the products
needed by a local market for consumer goods. In the late 1950s and
early 1960s, Venezuela encouraged foreign and domestic investment in
the automobile, tire, and food production industries to reduce
imports of consumer goods. During the boom years of the 1970s,
Venezuela allowed more imports to satisfy growing domestic demand,
while restricting foreign investment in line with general Andean
Pact policy, although these restrictions began to disappear in the
late ’80s. Venezuela’s opening of its petroleum sector to foreign
investment in 1996 created tremendous trade and investment
opportunities for U.S. companies. However, these opportunities have
stalled due to the current political and economic uncertainty.
The climate for foreign investment took a turn for the worse
during the second half of 2001 with the passage of 49 laws under
“Ley Habilitante.” Continued political and social demonstrations
during 2002 have not helped to recover the appropriate investment
Automobiles Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:29 PM
The primary highway street system in Venezuela is good, but often
poorly marked, particularly in residential areas of cities. All
major routes and connecting roads are paved. Driving in Venezuela is
a challenge; careful and defensive driving is recommended. Large
potholes and protruding manhole covers are plentiful and drivers do
not generally obey traffic signals or move in any predictable
fashion. Mountain roads, and some main roads, suffer from landslides
and washouts during the rainy season. Many roads, including the
Caracas-La Guaira (airport) highway, have poor quality surfacing and
can be extremely slippery and hazardous when wet. It is best to have
doors locked and windows closed to prevent unexpected theft at red
lights or traffic jams. Gas stations and garages can be found
throughout the country. Unleaded gasoline is available.
Most people consider a car to be essential in Caracas, although
taxis and "por puestos", or small public buses are plentiful.
Furthermore, the subway is good and fairly safe to use. Extra
caution should be exercise at Subway station entrances. Traffic is
usually heavy both during the week and on weekends when leaving the
city. Traffic within the city is normally lightest on Sundays, which
is a good time to get to know the city. Parking can be very
difficult, particularly in older sections, but parking garages exist
in many areas of the city. Bicycles and motorbikes are problematic
due to the steep hills and heavy traffic. Most apartment buildings
used by the Embassy provide lockable parking for their tenants.
Traffic moves on the right side of the road. Due to the heavy
traffic and scarce parking, compact or medium-sized cars are most
suitable. However, your car needs to have sufficient power to
navigate up the steep winding roads that are ever present in much of
A simple, easily serviced car is best. In determining whether to
bring a new car to post, please consider that the road conditions
are very hard on vehicles. You may prefer to sell your vehicle here
rather than ship it to your next post after its exposure to the mad
conditions in Caracas. It may be difficult to obtain parts for cars
here, and prices tend to be higher than in the Washington area.
Replacement parts for standard transmissions (which wear out in the
heavy stop-and go traffic) are almost impossible to obtain locally.
Automatic transmissions are recommended. Air-conditioning is
recommended. Rules governing free importation of automobiles into
Venezuela are as follows: The Chief of Mission may import up to two
personal vehicles every 3 years, one of which must be a make and
model that assembled in Venezuela. These vehicles can only be sold
or transferred after they have been in the country 3 years or when
the Ambassador is transferred. The amount of tax to be paid if a
vehicle is sold is computed on a sliding percentage scale. Other
diplomatic personnel and career consular officers may import and
sell one motor vehicle of any make or model every 3 years or at time
of transfer, vehicle is sold. All personnel must request and obtain
a written clearance from post before shipping any vehicle. For the
latest list of approved models, contact either the post management
officer (PMO) at State or the General Services Office at post. The
list is subject to change. Gasoline is very inexpensive here and is
priced uniformly at all stations. High-octane gas and excellent oil
are sold at all filling stations. Service station attendants expect
tips. Unleaded gasoline was introduced to Venezuela in October 1999.
Unleaded gasoline will become increasingly more prevalent at gas
stations throughout the country. Therefore, there is no longer any
need to remove catalytic converters or modify oxygen sensors. Remove
tools, radios, cigarette lighters, windshield wipers, hub caps,
stereo equipment, easily removed speakers, and other removable parts
and ship separately whenever feasible, due to the possibility of
pilferage. It may be difficult to obtain parts for cars here, and
prices tend to be much higher than in the Washington area.
Bring spare parts, particularly special or fast-wearing parts, as
local spare parts are often costly, of inferior quality, and are
often unavailable. The roads are very hard on tires; accordingly,
bringing extra spare tires is advisable. Personnel accredited to the
host government, both diplomatic and non-diplomatic, are not charged
for vehicle license plates or registration. A minimal inspection fee
is charged for registration of cars. The Embassy assists all
personnel to obtain valid Venezuelan drivers' licenses, though at
the present time, use of a valid American drivers license suffices,
though for 1 year only. Documents needed are a valid passport,
carnet, two photos, a copy of a valid stateside license, and a
health certificate that is obtained at special locations throughout
Caracas. The current fee for all this is exonerated. Once all this
is obtained, it is presented to the Shipping & Customs Section,
which will then compose a letter to the Foreign Ministry to obtain
All drivers must have third-party liability insurance purchased
in Venezuela. Minimum third-party insurance costs about $110 yearly.
Comprehensive and collision coverage, with a deductible, costs
between $200 and $600 a year, depending on the make and size of the
automobile and number of cylinders. There is a quirk, however, in
local insurance policies; unless your entire car is stolen, you do
not get paid for any stolen parts. Therefore, many employees prefer
to obtain collision and comprehensive coverage through U.S. firms.
Given the rise in crime in Caracas, we recommend that POV owners
obtain theft insurance through U.S. insurance companies. To import
and register a privately owned vehicle with the Venezuelan Vehicle
Registration Office, the Embassy needs the title and original bill
of sale. The car market in Venezuela is volatile and dependent on a
fluctuating exchange rate. However, vehicles are generally more
expensive than in the U.S. You may be able to purchase a vehicle at
a more reasonable price from someone leaving post; check the Embassy
paper (the Turpial) and with the CLO. Before deciding whether to
bring your own car or buy one locally, it would be best to confirm
the market. Though they are scarce during rush hours and late at
night, several taxi companies have dispatcher service. Most taxis do
not have meters, so fares should be negotiated prior to travel.
Fares are currently inexpensive compared to those in Washington,
D.C. There is a minimum charge, and tips are not generally expected,
though tipping is becoming more expected than previously. Prices
increase with the lateness of the how, the holiday seasons, and for
out-of-town destinations. Riders may want to take a map along, since
many drivers are unfamiliar with the city.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:29 PM
The primary street system in Venezuela is good, but often poorly
marked, particularly in residential areas. All major routes and
connecting roads are paved. Driving in Venezuela is a challenge;
careful and defensive driving is recommended. Large potholes and
protruding manhole covers are plentiful and drivers do not generally
obey traffic signals or move in any predictable fashion. Mountain
roads, and some main roads, suffer from landslides and washouts
during the rainy season. Many roads have poor quality surfacing and
can be slippery and hazardous when wet. Gas stations and garages can
be found throughout the country. Unleaded gasoline is widely
Traffic is usually heavy during the week, but is lighter on
weekends. Parking can be very difficult, particularly in older
sections, but parking garages exist in many areas of the city.
Bicycles and motorbikes are problematic due to the steep hills and
heavy traffic. Like in the U.S., traffic moves on the right side of
Public transportation in Caracas consists of buses, taxis, and
the Metro system. The Metro system is clean and efficient, and runs
through most major parts of town. Service is not available to a few
of the better parts of Caracas, and there is no Metro service near
U.S. employees of the Embassy are advised to use only those taxis
working from hotels or those handled by a dispatcher service. There
are taxis at the Embassy during the work week that are safe and
dependable. Most taxis do not have meters, so fares should be
negotiated prior to travel. There is a minimum charge and tips are
not generally expected. Prices increase with the lateness of the
hour, the holiday seasons, and for out-of-town destinations.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:29 PM
Commercial flights, domestic and international, use Maiquetía
airport, situated about 25 miles from Caracas (about one hour by
car, depending on traffic.) Various U.S. and Venezuelan air centers
offer frequent daily flights between Caracas and many cities in the
U.S. Several national airlines provide service between Caracas and
other Venezuelan cities and the Caribbean. There are other commuter
airlines providing transportation between the major cities within
Venezuela. Many carriers from Central and South American countries
fly into Caracas, making travel to these countries relatively easy.
There is regularly scheduled air service to Caracas from the United
Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal and Holland.
There are many smaller commuter airlines that provide transport
between the major cities and within Venezuela and to many outlying
areas that are not accessible by road.
Travel to some of the Caribbean islands may be complicated
because of limited flight schedules. Persons living in Venezuela can
take advantage of the proximity to the Caribbean islands, and
flights are frequent. Trinidad and Tobago are just an hour away, and
other islands equally accessible.
Reservations to and from the U.S., particularly during the
summer, Christmas, and Easter seasons, are difficult to obtain on
short notice. Personnel who plan to arrive during these periods,
should request reservations. Because many Venezuelans travel
frequently to Miami and the U.S., flights may be fully booked at
some times of the year. Reservations should be made as far in
advance as possible.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 6/9/2005 12:55 AM
Local telephone service is reliable, and national and
international calls may be dialed directly. AT&T, Sprint, and MCI
calling cards can be used in Caracas to call the U.S. directly, and
the Englishspeaking operator can be reached by dialing
AT&T-800-11120; Sprint-800-11110; or MCI-800-11140. Collect calls to
the U.S. can also be placed by dialing 800-11121. The U.S. company
GTE (Verizon) acquired a controlling interest in the Venezuelan
telephone company CANTV in 1992. CANTV’s monopoly ended in November
2000, opening the sector to competition.
Telephones and Telecommunications
Wireless Service Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:27 PM The three
most-used cellular telephone providers in Caracas are CANTV,
Movistar, and Digitel. Cell phones are becoming more and more
popular in Venezuela, and most Caraqueños carry and use them
frequently. Because public pay telephones are not always easily
accessible, the Embassy recommends the use of cell phones for those
who travel around the city or country. They are especially handy in
the event of emergency, when traveling outside of the city, or to
obtain directions if you get lost driving in Caracas (for most, this
is not an unusual experience). Also, some areas outside the city may
not have normal telephone service, but cellular service may be
available. Cellular telephones are widely available in Caracas. If
you plan to bring a cellular telephone to use in Venezuela, it must
comply with local technical standards (analog telephones: NAMPS
technology; digital telephones: CDMA, with EVRC decoder, in the 800
MHZ band range).
Internet Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:30 PM
Internet service is readily available and of good quality in
Caracas. In 2004, there are five major service providers. Prices and
services for each are comparable, with unlimited monthly service
costing approximately $40–$55. In addition, the local telephone
company charges for time connected, so actual monthly internet
expenses can be considerably higher than the monthly fee, that is
why broad band service is becoming so popular. Nonetheless,
communication by e-mail is much less expensive than long distance
telephone charges for international service. Further, the ability to
shop by internet is a wonderful convenience in Caracas. Prices on
the net are generally lower than those for similar items in Caracas,
and the selection is greater.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/8/2005 10:46 AM
U.S. diplomats should use the Embassy's APO address for sending
and receiving all personal mail, magazines, and packages. Venezuelan
domestic and international mail is slow and unreliable. APO mail
comes to us from Miami. Allow up to 6 weeks for SAM mail to arrive.
All parcels must fit in a mailbag.
Following are restrictions for this APO:
- The maximum girth is 60” but then item can only be 25" in
- The maximum height is 32” but then item can only be 18" in
(The size restrictions are strictly enforced.)
- Customs declaration/forms are required.
- Parcels must not contain firearms or ammunition of any type.
- Meats, including preserved ones whether hermetically sealed or
- All alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
- Fruits, animals and living plants are prohibited.
- No registered mail is accepted; however, certified mail is
An APO address is considered a U.S. address and the same postage
rates apply. The APO is almost like a state side post office with
all transactions being in U.S. dollars.
The APO address is:
NAME UNIT 49?? APO AA 34037
The unit number is a four-digit number beginning with 49. The
Welcome to Caracas email contains the four-digit unit numbers for
Although there are few delays in clearing unaccompanied
airfreight (Airfreight cannot be cleared through customs until a
diplomat is accredited). Use of the APO is recommended for items
that you will need upon your arrival at post. The APO has been
notified of your assignment to Caracas and will hold your letters
and packages until you sign-in with them.
The embassy's electronic addresses are:
http://embajadausa.org.ve/ (internet) and
http://10.180.1.29/embassy/index.htm ( State Department Intranet).
The email address of the Community Liaison Office (CLO) is
firstname.lastname@example.org and the APO is email@example.com
Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:31 PM
Caracas has a variety of TV programs in Spanish and English. The
Super Bowl, World Series, U.S. Open, and other major U.S. sporting
events are telecast, along with a number of NFL games. Spanish soap
operas are popular, as are game shows and sitcoms. Some U.S. series
are dubbed in Spanish, and others are available in English. There
are satellite dishes on many of the apartment buildings that capture
HBO, Showtime, USA, Disney, and news channels such as CNN. The
Embassy suggests that employees ship televisions with the “SAP”
feature that allows dubbed programs to be heard in the original
Cable is available from three cable TV companies (Super Cable,
Inter Cable and DirectTV) at a cost slightly greater than the same
service in the U.S.
Since acquiring cable hookups and internet service can be a
frustrating experience, the Embassy has established a Help Desk
through the switchboard to assist employees in making arrangements
for cable TV, internet service, and other residential telephone
services. Newcomers are encouraged to contact the switchboard for
Radio stations in Caracas are similar to those in the U.S. There
are stations broadcasting Latin American music, U.S. rock, jazz and
classical, in the same broadcast bands (FM and AM) as in the U.S.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
6/8/2005 4:31 PM
Caracas has a lively and competitive press with seven daily
newspapers. There are two major papers, El Universal and El Nacional,
which feature in-depth coverage of Caracas and foreign news. Caracas
also has an English-language newspaper, The Daily Journal, which
publishes opinions of well-known U.S. columnists and uses wire
services as its principal sources of news. The Wall Street Journal
can be received via mail subscription. Some 20 magazines are
published in Venezuela, and international versions of Newsweek and
Time are available locally, as well as many other U.S. magazines.
Health and Medicine Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:32 AM
Venezuela offers outstanding medical services. Caracas has highly
respected general practitioners and specialists of all types, many
of whom have had U.S. training and speak English fluently. The
Embassy will provide a health and medical information booklet
listing recommended doctors by specialty. There are several clinics
organized by groups of doctors that include facilities similar to
well-equipped hospitals in the U.S.
Most medical problems can be resolved at post. When medical
travel is authorized, Miami is the evacuation point. Information on
Miami hospitals is available in the Health Unit. The patient may
elect to go to another hospital in the U.S. on a cost constructive
basis, if desired. U.S. military personnel have access to Wilford
Hall Air Force Hospital in San Antonio and to medical facilities in
Puerto Rico when referred by the Embassy nurse and approved by
Hospital medical insurance (one of the programs available to
Foreign Service personnel) to fill the “protection gap” is
recommended to cover outpatient treatment that is not included in
the Department of State’s medical program. Emergency room treatment
requires payment in advance; for this reason, employees should have
a MasterCard or Visa credit card (American Express generally is not
accepted). For cases requiring hospitalization, the Embassy has
letters of agreement with five local hospitals that guarantee
payment by the Embassy when employees or family members are
Military personnel may be hospitalized under the International
SOS program, and do not have to pay out of pocket.
All personal outpatient physician and dental visits must be paid
for at the time of service, either in cash or via credit card.
Employees with insurance may then submit receipts to their insurance
providers for reimbursement. Insurance company reimbursement forms
are often available on the internet, or if not, should be brought to
post. The cost of medical care in Venezuela is generally less than
in the U.S.
Caracas has many U.S.-trained dentists, and many dental offices
measure up to U.S. standards. The cost of dental work in Caracas is
generally less than that in the U.S.
Eye examinations by U.S.-trained specialists are available at
reasonable prices, as are lenses and frames for glasses.
Many pharmacies are open 24 hours daily. If you require
particular medicines regularly, bring a supply with you or make
arrangements to have them mailed. You will be able to find most
drugs locally, but supplies can be erratic. Online prescription
service is recommended as one method of maintaining adequate amounts
of prescription medicines.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:33 AM
The Embassy employs one or two nurses, and a doctor (Post Medical
Advisor) who are available for consultation at the Embassy Health
Unit and who administer to the needs of Embassy personnel and their
family members. A regional medical officer (RMO), stationed in
Colombia, visits the post quarterly. The RMO psychiatrist, based in
Lima, also visits Caracas quarterly, or as needed. As of May of
2003, the Embassy also employs the regular services of a Venezuelan
doctor who is available for consultation twice a week. The health
care available in Caracas is excellent, and the Embassy uses the
services of four Venezuelan medical advisers who are U.S.-trained.
The Health Unit maintains a supply of vaccines but recommends
that all needed immunizations be received prior to arrival at post
since the Embassy cannot guarantee that all vaccines needed will be
Health and Medicine
Community Health Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:33 AM
Although health standards among the upper-and middle-classes are
good, overall health conditions are undermined by poor sanitation in
the “ranchito” communities that surround the cities. Infectious
hepatitis, amebiasis, and other intestinal problems, such as
diarrhea caused by virus, bacteria, or parasites, are health
problems that may affect Embassy personnel, especially when
traveling to rural areas. Gastroenteritis is one of the principal
public health problems in Venezuela. Dengue fever, spread by
mosquitoes, is a rapidly expanding disease in Venezuela and is a
concern. Personnel are advised to wear protective clothing and to
use insect repellant, especially in areas where mosquitoes are
The climate in Caracas favors some allergy sufferers. However,
the altitude, climate, and prevalence of tropical pollens during all
seasons can also aggravate asthma and hay fever conditions. Sinus
problems may also be aggravated. Respiratory infections, such as
colds, tend to occur more frequently here than in the U.S.
Health and Medicine
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:33 AM
The yellow immunization card is normally not checked when
entering the country, but yellow fever vaccination is recommended.
Yellow fever immunization is checked when traveling from Venezuela
to neighboring countries, such as Brazil. Because the vaccine is
infrequently administered by the Health Unit and is inconvenient to
obtain locally, the Embassy recommends that personnel and family
members be vaccinated before arriving at post. Typhoid, tetanus,
Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B immunizations are recommended and are
available in the Health Unit. Immunizations against cholera are
considered unnecessary. Rabies, once endemic to the country, has
been mostly controlled. There has not been a documented case in
Caracas for at least 20 years, but it is a risk in rural areas.
Post-exposure immunization against rabies is available at post.
Malaria can be a problem in rural areas where Embassy personnel
sometimes travel. Mefloquine (lariam) or doxycycline is the
recommended prophylaxis against malaria.
Sunburns are a common problem due to the close proximity to the
equator, and employees are advised to use sunscreen. Sunscreens and
suntan products are available in local pharmacies and at some
stores, but are more expensive in Venezuela than they are in the
The city’s faulty water pumping system has resulted in
intermittent interruptions of the water supply in some parts of the
city. Some Embassy residences have more problems than others with
the water going off. Tap water is not safe to drink and should be
boiled before consumption. Non-fluoridated bottled water is
available and most apartments have bottled water delivered. The
Embassy maintains a list of reliable distributors and post will
fully reimburse employees for their water bills. Fluoride tablets
for children are recommended, since the water does not contain
fluoride. Tablets are available on the local economy, or at the
Caution should be used in eating salads, slaws, raw or rare meat,
and other possible sources of parasites. Food from street vendors is
particularly suspect. Cooking, boiling, or peeling of all raw fruits
and vegetables is recommended due to the risk of cholera and
Hepatitis A. The Embassy suggests to personnel not to eat raw
seafood in smaller towns outside Caracas.
In case of emergencies or medical evacuation, the absence of
adequate records could be serious. New arrivals should have medical
clearances and copies of their medical files forwarded from their
previous post and M/MED Washington. Individuals should also hold a
copy of their records themselves so that the copies in the Health
Unit are used only in case of emergency.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 7/12/2004
Employment opportunities for family members are excellent, and
many spouses have found employment at post. Family members are
currently employed in the APO, Community Liaison Office, Health
Unit, Narcotics Affairs Section, Regional Security Office, General
Services Office, Political Section, Foreign Commercial Service,
Consular Section, and as secretaries or administrative assistants
elsewhere in the Embassy. Some of these FMA positions are part-time
shared positions. Newcomers may check with the Community Liaison
Office or the Human Resources Office regarding current employment
opportunities. Some positions are designated sensitive and
appointees may require a security clearance. Employment at the
international schools is frequently available for qualified
teachers, especially at the beginning of the school year.
The Embassy has a bilateral work agreement with the Government of
Venezuela that permits the employment of family members of
diplomatic and consular personnel accredited to each receiving
country on a reciprocal basis. Family members employed under the
terms of this agreement must waive immunity from civil and
administrative jurisdiction on matters arising out of such
employment and are liable for Venezuelan income and social security
taxes. Spanish fluency is usually a requirement.
Caracas is a dynamic metropolitan center that hosts many regional
offices of U.S. and other foreign firms. Therefore, jobs are
sometimes available for qualified spouses, especially those with
good Spanish. However, for those hired in Venezuela, the pay scale
is generally substantially lower than for comparable positions in
the U.S. Therefore, family members may wish to try to obtain a
position in Caracas while still in the U.S.
When funds are available the Embassy has a summer hire program
for students 16 years and older who are children of U.S. direct-hire
employees. Many community service and volunteer organizations also
American Embassy - Caracas
Post City Last Updated: 6/9/2005 12:58 AM
The Embassy occupies a 27-acre mountainside site in the Colinas
de Valle Arriba area, overlooking Las Mercedes, with a spectacular
view of the valley. It is a five story, modern-contemporary building
with the exterior composed of red granite and the interior occupying
95,000 square feet. Parking is available on site. All agencies are
housed within the Embassy’s chancery building.
The address of the Embassy is:
Calle F con Calle Suapure, Urb. Colinas de Valle Arriba, Caracas,
The Embassy telephone number is 975–6411. The after-hours number
is 907-8400. When dialing from the United States, the complete
number is 011-58- 212-975-6411.
Embassy office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour for
lunch, Monday through Friday. A Marine Guard and a duty officer are
available at all times. The mission observes all legal U.S. and
There is a cafeteria in the chancery that serves breakfast and
lunch daily. It normally has a daily soup, various salads, several
hot lunch specials, and a variety of other items.
Arrival At Post
All incoming U.S. direct hire employees are met at the airport
upon arrival. If a miscommunication occurs and a newly-arriving
employee is not met, that person should telephone Post One for
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/15/2005 8:45 AM
The Embassy will try to arrange for all newcomers to move
directly into permanent quarters. If necessary, temporary lodging is
provided in government-owned or -leased quarters. If the employing
agency subscribes to the welcome kit service, a welcome kit will be
placed in the apartment of the new arrival. These kits include
glasses, dishes and silverware; miscellaneous kitchen items
including pots and pans; wastebaskets; linens and towels; iron and
ironing board; and coffeemaker.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/23/2005 3:33 PM
The U.S. Government owns two residences, and 16 apartments in
complexes near the Embassy. The Embassy also leases over 60
apartments in the area.
The Embassy assigns quarters to personnel of all agencies, except
for officers of the Defense Attaché Office and all members of the
U.S. Military Group. These persons reside in private leases, and
should contact their employing offices for more information.
Apartments are allocated according to position, rank, and family
size. Many apartments have beautiful views of the valley or of the
Avila mountains. Most apartments have three to four bedrooms, a
family room or den, living and dining rooms, and a small maid’s
quarters with bath. Many apartment buildings have amenities such as
pools, tennis courts, and play areas for children. Most apartments
are located close to the Embassy and to grocery stores.
Apartments vary considerably in the amount of storage space
available, and the Embassy cannot provide alternate or additional
storage space. Arriving employees should not bring more than will
fit into a mid-size apartment in the U.S. The square footage
measurements for Embassy apartments usually range from 1,200 square
feet (for junior officers with one or fewer family members) to 2,000
square feet (for mid-level officers with 3 to 4 family members).
Please check with the general services office, the community liaison
office, or the hiring agency at post for more information.
Caracas is considered a medium-threat post for crime. Therefore,
the Emergency Action Committee (EAC) has determined that personnel
will be assigned to apartments that meet security standards applied
to posts in this threat category. These leased apartments provide a
24-hour front gate attendant and are equipped with locks and other
RSO security hardware, including alarms. The Embassy local guard
force operates a 24-hour residential mobile patrol and response
Every effort will be made to pre-assign employees to permanent
housing. Employees should provide information on arrival date,
special needs, and preferences as far in advance as possible. The
community liaison office, the sponsor, and the general services
office can take this information and answer questions.
Furnishings Last Updated: 9/15/2005 8:46 AM
All residences except those provided for DAO, Homeland Security,
and Military employees, are supplied with furnishings, and are
equipped with a range, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. Microwaves
and dishwashers are often built into leased apartments, but the
Embassy does not usually provide these items if they are not already
a part of the lease. New arrivals can check with their employing
agencies if they have questions.
Due to the year-round cool weather, air conditioners are
generally not necessary in Caracas, but they may be found in some
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/15/2005 8:46 AM
Caracas has 110v, 60-cycle, single phase AC current. Power
blackouts and voltage fluctuations may occur, but they are not
frequent. The Embassy recommends that employees bring voltage
regulators and similar protection for highvalue electronic equipment
such as televisions, VCRs, computers, stereos, etc.
Electric fans, including overhead and portable fans, are useful
and are available locally, but are more expensive than in the U.S.
Dehumidifiers may also be helpful. Employees may wish to bring these
from the U.S. in their household effects.
Space heaters and central heating are generally unnecessary.
Radios and TV sets compatible with U.S. electric requirements
need no adjustments to operate in Venezuela. All TV stations
broadcast in color. A cable-ready TV should be brought or purchased
locally if cable connections are desired.
Telephones from the U.S. can usually be installed; but bring all
cords, jacks, etc., to post. Some exchanges can handle only
pulse-type telephones, not touchtone. The Embassy will provide one
telephone per apartment for employees. Employees in Embassy-leased
quarters who want more than one telephone, or who want an answering
machine should bring these items or plan to purchase them in
Blockbuster Video and other video stores can be found in Caracas,
and many of the movies are in English with Spanish subtitles.
Children’s movies are often dubbed.
Food Last Updated: 6/9/2005 1:02 PM
Caracas offers a broad range of quality food products. Large,
U.S.-style supermarkets are located throughout the city, and there
are also convenient corner stores (“abastos”), and farmers’ markets
(“mercados libres”). The grocery stores offer many imported
products, as well as local brands. The “mercado libres”, generally
open on Saturdays, are both fun and economical.
Caracas is not a consumables post; but if you have room in your
household effects, you may wish to bring a good supply of your
favorite specialty canned goods, cosmetics, and paper products.
Locally grown vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, beans,
artichokes and peas, are quite good. Tomatoes and salad vegetables
are also available. These may be purchased from supermarkets,
mercados libres, or truck vendors on the streets. Bananas (cambur),
papaya (locally called “lechosa”), coconuts, pineapples, mangos,
melons, and citrus fruits are abundant. Local peaches and apricots
are disappointing. Local oranges are suitable only as juice oranges;
fresh squeezed fruit juices and iced juices (“batidos”) are sold
everywhere and are excellent and inexpensive.
Bread, meat, and fish are available in supermarkets. Many U.S.
employees prefer to buy these items at the bakeries, “frigorificos”
(meat markets), and fish markets that dot the residential areas.
However, good quality meat and fish are also available in the
supermarkets. Beef is reasonably priced, although the cuts of beef
are different than in the U.S. Venezuelan beef is range-fed and not
normally aged. It is leaner than the U.S. corn-fed animal and tends
to be a bit less tender than the equivalent cut of meat in the U.S.
Pork is excellent and reasonably priced. Lamb, if available, is very
expensive. Certain cuts of veal are available. Seafood is always
obtainable and of good quality. Tuna tends to be less expensive than
in the U.S., while other types of fish, such as grouper, may be more
expensive. Grouper (mero), red snapper (pargo), salmon, and tuna
(atun) are especially popular. Shrimp may be considerably less
expensive than in the U.S. Cold cuts and sausages are varied and
Fresh pasteurized and homogenized milk is available in Caracas,
as is long life milk.
Canned foods are expensive compared to fresh foods, since most
are imported. Neither the selection nor the quality of baby foods is
comparable to that available in the U.S. Infant formula is
available, although all brands are not in stock at the same time.
Local cheeses are excellent, although different from U.S.-style
cheeses. A wide variety of international cheeses is available. Good
quality eggs are plentiful.
Venezuelan ice cream is excellent, but expensive. It is available
in the usual flavors, plus some tropical fruit flavors not found in
Paper products are available but some are of inferior quality.
Imported paper towels, toilet tissue, Kleenex, and napkins are
available in the supermarkets.
Frozen vegetables, fruits and fruit juices are sometimes
available, but variety is limited and in some cases products may
have been thawed and refrozen.
Many U.S. fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, Burger King,
Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Subway, Chili’s, T.G.I.
Friday’s, Tony Roma’s, Papa John’s Pizza, have locations in Caracas.
There is a MAKRO Superstore in Caracas that is similar to the
PACE or Sam’s Warehouse stores in the U.S. Membership is required.
These stores carry U.S. and Venezuelan products; many items are sold
in bulk. There are also other stores, such as Plan Suarez, that sell
in bulk and do not require membership.
The Embassy recommends that employees bring (or buy locally)
collapsible shopping carts. Stores use small plastic bags, and
carrying several bags of groceries in an elevator to an apartment is
much easier with a cart.
Clothing Last Updated: 6/9/2005 1:02 PM
Caracas’ climate is moderate, and a summer-weight wardrobe is
appropriate all year, although spring-weight clothes can be worn
December through February. An umbrella is necessary for the rainy
season, but raincoats are seldom seen as they are usually too hot to
wear. However, rain gear is helpful if you plan to go into the
jungle areas where rain is prevalent. Sportswear and beachwear
suitable for the U.S. are fine for the clubs and beaches. Shorts are
seldom seen on the streets except for joggers, cyclists, and other
sports enthusiasts. However, shorts are commonly worn at the beach
and at Embassy and expatriate gatherings.
Good casual clothing is expensive to purchase in Caracas and hard
to find. Larger men’s and women’s sizes are not normally available.
Shoes are of good quality and reasonably priced in Venezuela, as
are other leather articles, such as handbags and briefcases. Large
size women's shoes (over size 9) and wide women’s shoes are
difficult to find in Caracas.
Many employees fill their clothing needs with mail order or
internet shipments through the APO.
Sunglasses are essential, as is an informal hat or cap to protect
the head from the sun when outside for any length of time.
Men Last Updated: 6/9/2005 1:02 PM
Summer-weight suits are comfortable in Caracas’ warm climate and
are appropriate for office and formal occasions. Sport shirts,
“guayaberas,” and slacks or blue jeans are worn for informal
Dark suits will suffice for almost all evening occasions. A black
dinner jacket is also appropriate. White dinner jackets are unusual
in Caracas. For the rare occasion, dress suits, tuxedos and morning
clothes can be rented.
Women Last Updated: 6/9/2005 1:03 PM
Summer-weight suits and dresses are comfortable in Caracas’ warm
climate and are appropriate for office and formal occasions. Fabrics
such as cotton, linen, lightweight wool, and light synthetic fabrics
are useful. Blue jeans are popular for casual wear. Women dress up
for evening occasions and follow the latest European and U.S.
fashions. Cocktail dresses or nice evening dresses are normally worn
to cocktail parties and dinners. Evening pants are permissible.
Silk, satin, and sheer knits are popular fabrics for formal wear.
Long evening dresses are appropriate for formal occasions such as
the Marine Ball. A light sweater, shawl, or dressy jacket is useful
for the cooler evenings.
There is a wide selection of formal clothing for women in Caracas
but prices may be substantially higher than in Washington, D.C.
Beautiful and expensive fabrics are available; patterns are also
available but are not always fashionable. If you sew, bring a good
selection of notions and patterns.
Lingerie and hose are available for women but these items are
inferior in quality to U.S. products. Many women find it useful to
bring a large supply of lingerie and hose to post.
Children Last Updated: 6/9/2005 1:03 PM
Durable summer wear is the best clothing for children in Caracas.
Blue jeans are very popular among all ages. Bring light sweaters for
cool evenings and mornings. Heavy pajamas or sleepers with feet are
needed for infants in winter (December-February).
More information on children’s school uniforms is included in the
section of this post report on educational opportunities.
Some U.S.-style children’s shoes are made and sold in Caracas.
They are somewhat wider than standard U.S. shoes. The quality of
children’s shoes varies.
For teenagers, one dressy outfit for occasional parties or school
functions may be required. Jeans are universal wear for day to day
activities. T-shirts are very popular.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:31 AM
Popular U.S. brand name, but locally produced toiletries,
cosmetics, and household supplies can be found in Caracas. Drugs and
medicines are price controlled and can often be bought at prices
below those in the U.S., many without prescriptions.
Camera film of all types is available, but expensive. Printing
and developing services range from excellent to satisfactory. The
APO can also be utilized for purchasing and processing of film.
Venezuela has its own recording industry, and also imports U.S.
and European records. Records, prerecorded tapes, cassettes, and CDs
are available, but the selection and quality may not be up to U.S.
standards and the cost will be greater than in the U.S. Many
employees use the internet to order tapes and CDs, and ship them to
post through the APO.
Gift wrapping paper (by the sheet, not by the roll) and Christmas
cards are available in Caracas, although many of the cards are in
Spanish. There are some decorations available but the quality may
not be up to U.S. standards. There are, however, some decorations
made by local artists that are quite nice. Quality stationery is
available, but hard to find and expensive. There are a few English
language book shops, but most employees order through Amazon.com,
which normally ships orders to arrive within 7 to 10 days, or other
sources. Children’s toys and games tend to be very expensive, and
the Embassy suggests bringing a supply of children's gifts to avoid
the unnecessary expense.
Supplies and Services
Basic Services Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:31 AM
Dry cleaning and laundry services are reasonably priced, and the
quality is good. Tailoring, shoe repair, radio and TV repair,
electrical work, plumbing, fumigation, and auto repair are also
good. Standards of workmanship and cost vary considerably. Imported
equipment therefore should be in good repair. Good hairdressers and
barbers are available in a wide price range—from about $8 for a
haircut to $80 for highlights and a cut.
While the tradition is slowly changing, some stores still close
between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and close in the evening at about 7
p.m., even in the malls. There are a few malls in which stores are
open on Sunday, but most shops are closed. Many establishments in
Caracas close during the holidays from about December 15 through
Supplies and Services
Domestic Help Last Updated: 6/20/2005 2:56 PM
Many families employ a general maid who cooks, cleans, irons, and
cares for the children. Very few U.S. families have more than one
full-time servant. However, some families do employ drivers,
especially those with working parents and children. Large families
may also wish to have a full or part-time nanny. Housekeepers are
available on a daily or weekly basis. Waiters are also available at
daily or hourly rates.
Trained professional household help is rare. Venezuelan
immigration laws permit diplomatic and consular officers to bring
servants from their previous posts. The Embassy will run a security
check on all household employees. Some families prefer that their
maid have a health check as tuberculosis can be a problem here;
there are clinics in Caracas that provide this service and issue
Venezuelan, Colombian, Peruvian, Bolivian and West Indian
(primarily Trinidad and Grenada) women are the most common domestic
servants. Domestics from the islands of Trinidad and Grenada will
speak English, but it is not always easy to find them and it will be
rare to find English speakers from the other countries.
Most people pay Bs.350,000 to Bs.550,00 per month for a live-in
maid and approximately Bs.25,000 to Bs.35,00 per day for a day maid.
(The exchange rate is currently Bs.2,150 to the USD). Most
individuals are hired by word of mouth. We advertise community
domestic hire information in our weekly embassy newsletter. If
interested, we encourage you to interview several candidates upon
arrival. Please make sure you contact the CLO upon arrival regarding
hiring practices in Caracas, to check the sample contract we provide
as well as a handout on Venezuelan labor law regarding domestic
hire. You can also bring help with you if you are coming from a post
where you have a maid/nanny with whom you are very happy. The Human
Resources Office of Embassy Caracas will assist you with those
If you will be in the Washington area before coming to post, it
is a great idea to stop by the Overseas Briefing Center. They offer
excellent information for all of us when we are in transition.
The Turpial, the Embassy newsletter, lists persons who are
seeking work as maids. Additionally, the CLO often has names of
maids who are looking for work and who have been recommended by
departing U.S. families.
In December, “aguinaldos,” or small tips, are expected for all
those who have served you all year—the newspaper man, bus driver,
mailman, garbage men, water delivery men, and others. In an
apartment building, the concierge (“conserje”), security guards
(“vigilantes”), and housekeepers expect a tip, too.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:43 PM
There are several major English-speaking church communities in
Caracas: St. Thomas Moore, a Roman Catholic parish, is served by an
Italian priest who speaks English. The United Christian Church, an
interdenominational Protestant Church; the International Christian
Fellowship, the Bethel Baptist Church; and the El Salvador Lutheran
Church all have U.S. ministers. St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral
(Anglican/Episcopal) has a British bishop. There is also the First
Church of Christ Scientist and the Centro Evangelico Pentecostal.
They all have services in addition to religious instructions and
Sunday school or Bible studies for children on Sunday mornings. The
Mormon community has several wards throughout the city. The Jewish
(orthodox and conservative) congregations have several synagogues:
Or Shalom Synagogue (conservative), Union Israelita de Caracas
(Orthodox, Ashkenazic) and Jabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva Gedola of
Venezuela are but a few. The Or Shalom Synagogue is the only
conservative synagogue; it is small, but has many English-speaking
members. Services are conducted in Spanish and Hebrew. For Muslims,
there is an outstanding and beautiful mosque that is the tallest in
These congregations offer a variety of social activities that
provide good opportunities to meet others from the international
community. Religious announcements are printed in the
Education Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:45 AM
There are several excellent schools in Caracas. Most Embassy
children attend one of two schools: Escuela Campo Alegre (ECA), and
Colegio Internacional de Caracas (CIC), which range from nursery
(age 3) through grade 12. Documentation that may be required for
enrollment includes: official school transcripts for past 2–3 years,
transfers, grade cards or school records from last school attended,
standardized testing scores, any special evaluations done by school
or outside sources, and samples of a student’s work. All of the
documentation should be in English. Check with the individual school
to determine the exact records required for admission. Entrance
placement examinations may be given to assure correct placement. A
certificate of medical examination and immunization record are also
required. These should be obtained before arrival, but individuals
may also get them through physicians in Venezuela.
The web site for CIC is www.ciccaracas.org.ve This site also
includes emails for the school’s administrators, and up-todate news
about the school. The telephone and fax numbers are 58 (212)
945–0444, and 58 (212) 945–0533.
The web site for ECA is www.eca.com.ve. The telephone number is
58 (212) 993–7135. The fax number is 58 (212)993–0219.
Both ECA and CIC are private. They require a registration fee,
tuition payments, and transportation fees that are all covered by
the education allowance.
By Venezuelan decree, uniforms are required at all schools in all
grades. Both ECA and CIC children wear navy blue, full-length slacks
or dark blue jeans. Elementary school children may wear dark blue
shorts. Girls may wear navy skirts. Students must wear official
school shirts, the colors of which vary with the grade level. The
shirts can be purchased at the school. The CLO office has a detailed
list of exactly what is needed at each school and at each grade.
Contact the CLO before coming to post because you may be able to
purchase your supply of slacks, shorts, and shoes before arriving at
The school year extends from late August through mid June. The
program of instruction closely parallels the U.S. system. Both ECA
and CIC use a contained classroom system at the elementary level and
departmentalized classes in middle and secondary school. Both
schools are accredited by the U.S. Southern Association of Schools
and Colleges. Instruction is in English. Most of the teachers are
recruited from the U.S. and are U.S. certified. The Venezuelan
Ministry of Education requires that all students receive some
instruction in Spanish and certain civics and history courses.
Library, science labs, and computer facilities in these schools are
very good in comparison with U.S. averages.
Both CIC and ECA have a full-time administrative staff that
operates under the direction of an annually-elected Board of
Directors on which the Embassy has representation. The schools also
sponsor Parent Teacher-Student Associations (PTSAs) and provide
ample opportunities for formal consultation and informal exchanges
between parents and teachers. Full-time nurses are on duty at both
schools. Bus transportation is available to both schools from most
neighborhoods where U.S. citizens live.
Special resources for children with learning disabilities are
available at the schools, but are very limited. Parents of children
with learning disabilities should check with the schools directly,
with the CLO, with the Employee Consultation Service, or with the
Office of Overseas Schools to determine whether programs available
at the local schools are adequate.
Since the education at both schools is good, but the campuses are
quite different, the Embassy highly recommends visiting and meeting
with personnel from both schools to determine which school better
meets an individual child’s needs.
Escuela Campo Alegre (ECA) serves students from ages 3–18
(nursery through grade 12) from the international community in
Caracas. ECA has a Statement of Philosophy that outlines the
school’s basic educational beliefs. The programs are driven by 23
student desired outcomes and based on a belief that an international
school setting is an enriching and positive factor in the education
of children who will live and work in a global society.
The ECA curriculum is U.S. style, with a comprehensive,
standards-based academic curriculum throughout all grade levels. It
includes the International Baccalaureate Program at the secondary
level, a college placement program, and separate middle and
elementary curricula, differentiated according to developmental
needs. The school has developed an internationally recognized
technology program, fully integrated into the curriculum from
elementary to high school. There is a strong code of core values,
the Campo Way, as well as an important community service component
reflecting the philosophy that an academically rigorous program
should be accompanied by strong personal values and a responsibility
Over 90% of the graduating classes enroll in college, and the
school offers a full range of placement and achievement tests (PSAT,
SAT, SATII, TOEFL, AP).
The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges
and Schools (SACS), a recognized accrediting agency for U.S. and
South American international schools, and by the European Council of
International Schools (ECIS).
ECA is situated in a residential area of Las Mercedes, and has a
compact but well utilized physical plant. Facilities include a
recently modernized library/media center; two gymnasia, one with a
climbing wall and weight room; art, music and drama centers for each
division; a 630-seat professionally equipped auditorium with stage
and orchestra pit; fully equipped high school biology, chemistry and
physics labs; three middle school science labs and an elementary
science lab; five computer labs; internet connections in all
classrooms;, an Astroturf sports field; two sports courts; and a
cafeteria. An outdoor swimming pool will be completed by the end of
Enrollment in 2003-2004 is above 600. Professional staff is made
up of different nationalities represented. Maximum class sizes range
from 14 (nursery) to 22. The professional staff consists of 130
educators, over 80% of whom are hired from the U.S. or other English
* A comprehensive “English as a Second Language” program at ECA
is directed to the non-native English speaking population within the
* All elementary students have the equivalent of one hour of
Spanish daily. Spanish and French are offered at the secondary
* The middle school offers a program specifically designed to
meet the needs of students from 12 to 14 years of age.
* The physical education program at ECA includes league
activities in boys and girls soccer and basketball, and girls
volleyball. Intramural sports include volleyball, basketball,
baseball, hockey, soccer and tennis.
* There is a resource program that can assist in cases of mild
learning difficulties. Counselors at all levels are available for
students and parents.
ECA is also a center for many English-speaking community
functions. Art, music and cultural events are available for all
students. ECA has a chapter of the Junior and Senior Honor Society.
The school participates in the Merit Scholar program and the annual
International Schools Model United Nations Assembly in The Hague,
Holland. Cub and Boy Scouts, Brownies and Girl Scouts are popular
after-school activities. A school-sponsored activities program
offers a wide range of activities, from a weekend adventure program
at the secondary school to clubs in math, music, art, service,
computers, drama, journalism, choir, and cooking.
Parents of ECA students are kept well informed through regular
reporting, conferences, a weekly newsletter (Campo News), and a
program of parent forums on key instructional progress and issues
(Parents Ask and Family Nights). There is an active Parent Teachers
Association and many volunteer opportunities within the school.
ECA is centrally located; however, it is located in a residential
area, and parking and traffic into the campus are heavy. However, a
new multi-story parking garage should be completed in 2002. Students
are encouraged to use the bus service that covers most of the
residential areas in the east area of the city. The school buses are
equipped with video cameras and cell phones.
Colegio Internacional de Caracas (CIC) is an English-medium,
nursery-grade 12 school dedicated to the intellectual and personal
development of each student in a caring and supportive environment.
CIC’s challenging program prepares the international student body to
excel in the world’s finest schools and universities. Over 97 % of
the graduates attend four-year universities in North America,
Europe, and Asia.
The CIC academic program is comprehensive and challenges each
student to reach his or her potential. The faculty is excellent and
mirrors the diverse student population. One quarter of the student
population is from the United States, one quarter is Venezuelan, and
the remainder represents over 30 nationalities. The classes are
small and average 15 students. The advanced classes average 10
students per class. Students can graduate with a U.S. high school
diploma, and also a diploma granted by the International
Baccalaureate. Those receiving the International Baccalaureate
diploma usually receive advanced placement in their university
courses. Along with core academic classes, the school has excellent
resources for art, drama, technology, and athletics. Both the
elementary and high school have resource centers for those students
who need temporary academic assistance, and the school offers a
comprehensive guidance and counseling program, including the
services of a psychologist.
The physical education program at CIC includes soccer,
basketball, track and field, ballet, volleyball, tennis, and martial
arts. Other after school activities include drama, music, debate,
service club, and Odyssey of the Mind, which promotes problem
solving and divergent thinking skills. The school participates in
the National Merit Scholar Program, the National Honor Society, the
National Junior Honor Society, the Close-Up educational visit to
Washington, and sponsors the annual South American Model United
Nations conference attended by more than 200 students. CIC students
also participate in the Model United Nations Assembly in The Hague,
The CIC eight-acre campus includes extensive classrooms, four
computer labs, an auditorium, a large covered area for basketball
and volleyball, a full-sized soccer field, and a new physical
education facility, During the 2000–2001 school year, the school
began a five-year building campaign.
A great majority of CIC students are transient, and spend two to
five years at the school. A transition can be difficult. The school
prides itself of its pastoral program and its communication with
parents. The faculty is responsible not just for the students’
academic development, but also for creating an environment in which
every child feels nurtured and appreciated.
Several other good, private schools in the Caracas area, some
English speaking or bilingual, have been used by Embassy and North
American families. However, none is U.S. accredited and it is very
difficult for Embassy families to gain admittance as these schools
commonly have long waiting lists of local students. There are also
numerous private Spanish elementary and secondary schools in
Caracas, many of which are Catholic.
A bilingual Montessori style preschool is located in San Roman,
about 15 minutes from the Embassy and is available to students ages
2 through 5. The student- teacher ratio is approximately 1:6. There
are many other pre-school options available. A list of pre-schools
can be obtained from the CLO coordinator. Neighborhood Spanish
speaking nurseries are numerous. However, the student-teacher ratio
is often much higher at local Spanish-speaking pre-schools.
Other international community schools are:
Escuela Britanica offers kindergarten through grade eight, and is
occasionally attended by children of Embassy employees. The
curriculum closely follows the British system. Uniforms are
required. The education is excellent, but application must be made
early as no special places are held for the Embassy. Further,
transferability of credits to U.S. schools may be a concern.
Colegio Francia has a complete elementary school with instruction
in French and Spanish. At the Colegio Humbolt, instruction is in
German and Spanish for both elementary and high school grades.
Academia Cristiana Internacional de Caracas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The ACSI accreditation programs are for preschool, elementary, and
secondary schools. Recognized at the national level as well as by
many regional and state accrediting agencies, these programs provide
a comprehensive evaluation model for Christian schools. The ACSI
accreditation program was one of the first programs to be officially
recognized by the National Council for Private School Accreditation
The ACSI accreditation programs are for preschool, elementary,
and secondary schools and provide a comprehensive evaluation model
for Christian schools.
ECA in Valencia. Colegio Internacional de Carabobo, Director, Joe
H. Walker. E-mail: email@example.com Telephone number: 58
(241) 842-1807. In Maracaibo, there is the Escuela Bella Vista.
Away From Post Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:33 AM Most U.S.
citizens find that local private schools are adequate, except at the
university level, although some take advantage of the proximity of
the U.S. and send their children to boarding schools.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:33 AM
For Spanish-speaking students, college classes are available at
several universities. Universidad Simon Bolivar is free but entrance
is very difficult for foreigners. Universidad Andres Bello and
Universidad Metropolitana are private and charge tuition. Another
private university, IESA, the Institute of Higher Studies in
Administration, offers postgraduate studies in business
administration and management. Due to the general difficulty of
transferring foreign credits to the U.S., many individuals have
chosen to audit classes instead of enrolling in them. International
House offers graduate degree work in English for M.E. degrees
through Marymount College. Various programs in distance education
are also available.
The Audubon Society (La Sociedad Conservacionista Audubon de
Venezuela) maintains an environmental reference library, holds
meetings and has various excursions. The office is located in Las
The Caracas Circulating Library maintains a collection of current
bestsellers in English, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as a
children’s library. It is open three days a week, including Saturday
mornings. The cost is about $5 to join and $5 per month.
The Caracas Playhouse, an English language theater group,
produces plays and musicals with the purpose of developing amateur
theater in Caracas. Previous experience is not required for
The post strongly advises that a working knowledge of Spanish be
obtained before coming to post. Many Venezuelans do not speak
English. The Embassy provides instruction for employees and family
members under a contract with a local provider. Some individuals
also hire their own teachers. The price for private Spanish lessons
ranges from $5 to $15 an hour. Spanish and English instruction are
also available through the Centro Venezolano Americano. The CVA has
a lending library and sponsors a wide variety of cultural programs.
Other languages may be studied through various institutions such as
the Centro Venezolano Italiano and Alianza Francesa. English and
Spanish language lessons are offered through Instituto Cultural
The Venezuelan-American Association of University Women offers a
biannual study group program that is open to nonmembers as well as
members. Courses are offered in drawing, painting, sculpture,
photography, calligraphy, interior design, batik, education
(including Venezuelan Field Study), bridge, minilectures on
countries of the world, world religions, shorthand and typing,
Indians of Venezuela, music, languages, cooking, and physical
Classes in music, dance, physical fitness, arts and crafts,
languages, and many other subjects are available at commercial
institutions and from individuals.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:38 AM
Many apartment buildings in which Embassy families live have
swimming pools. There are also many private clubs with pools. Hotels
also offer swimming opportunities for Caracas residents in their
Sports clubs and health clubs in Caracas are numerous, excellent,
fully equipped and provide a wide range of facilities. There is a
very good gym close to the Embassy that has an outdoor track, many
aerobic and other classes (tae bo, baile, stretching), and an
Olympic-sized pool where swimming classes are offered for children.
Most sports clubs are also very expensive. A list of clubs is
available upon request and is included in the Welcome Kit. There are
no public golf courses in Venezuela, and golf is therefore a very
expensive activity. There are no public tennis courts, but at least
one semi-public court exists, and there are many tennis clubs in the
Informal sporting activities are organized through the Embassy.
Depending upon the level of interest, the Embassy has a softball
team, along with volleyball and basketball groups. The international
schools (ECA and CIC) sometimes permit Embassy personnel to use
their sports facilities in the evening.
Jogging and walking are popular activities, and the temperate
climate allows these activities year round. Hiking is another
popular activity, and excellent but steep trails lead up the sides
of the Avila Range. The plateaus offer sites for sports such as
softball, volleyball, soccer, etc. and picnicking is also popular.
The physically fit can hike to the top and view the Caribbean Sea
and port city of La Guaira on one side and on the other, Caracas.
There is also a jeep ride up the mountain from San Bernardino. The
teleferico in Caracas provides a quick ride to the top of the Avila
range for those not inclined to ascend it in other ways.
Venezuela offers a range of challenges and delights for every
kind of fisherman. One can troll for monster marlin, tuna, wahoo,
sailfish and other saltwater prizes along Venezuela’s Caribbean
coast, angle for trout in pristine Andean lakes, or land peacock
bass, catfish, and other freshwater game fish in the country’s many
rivers. A major draw for any angler is the abundance and large size
of fish. Venezuela’s waters have not been “fished out,” as have many
areas of the world. Side by side with beach, jungle and Andean
tours, one now finds that nearly all major travel and tourism
agencies offer fishing packages for both salt and fresh water. A
license is not required.
Hunting is not popular here and the rules and regulations are
vague and not enforced. All endangered species are off limits to
hunters at all times. There is a hunting season in Venezuela. A
hunting license is not required, but guns must be registered. The
post firearms policy is described elsewhere in this report.
Spectator sports are as popular among Caraqueños of all ages as
they are among U.S. citizens. Professional baseball leagues, often
featuring major league U.S. and Venezuelan players, have a full
schedule of games after the U.S. season ends. The general level is
that of a triple A league in the U.S. Soccer is followed by many
Venezuelans. Some of the finest teams in the world tour here
occasionally and are worth seeing. Horse races are held every
Saturday and Sunday year round at a superbly designed and equipped
track. A large percentage of the city’s residents bet the weekly “5
and 6” (Cinco y Seis) ticket (picking five or six winners from the
last six races). Biweekly night races are held.
Recreation and Social Life
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:49 AM
Caracas has a number of interesting historical sites, including
both the birthplace and tomb of Simon Bolivar, a museum of fine
arts, a national art gallery, a museum of natural history, a science
museum, a museum of contemporary art, and a unique and interesting
Children’s Museum. There is also a lovely colonial museum, the
Quinta Anauco, that features Sunday morning and evening concerts
during certain times of the year.
Caracas also offers fine parks. Centro de Arte, La Estancia, is a
small but beautiful park that frequently offers Sunday morning folk
concerts. Parque Los Chorros, which is located at the base of the
Avila, offers a pleasant escape from the traffic and the noise.
Parque del Este has a nice aviary, planetarium, small zoo, and
replica of the Santa Maria, and is a popular spot for early morning
walkers and joggers.
The suburb of El Hatillo, on the outskirts of Caracas, offers
quaint colonial style shops, houses and restaurants. It is a popular
weekend spot. There are many shops in El Hatillo but one in
particular, Hannsi, sells handicrafts from all over South America,
and is a good one-stop shopping location for visitors.
There are many beaches within a day’s drive from Caracas. The
beaches at Rio Chico to the east, or at Cata or Choroni/Puerto
Cabello to the west of Caracas, are popular. The roads to the latter
beaches are steep, curving, and narrow, and because of the road
conditions, it takes about 4 hours by car to arrive at these
beaches. The islands in the Morrocoy National Park, four to five
hours from Caracas by car, and then reachable by boat, offer
beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. Camping is allowed on these
islands although there are no facilities. The islands of Los Roques,
reachable only by air (30 minutes from Caracas), are beautiful and
offer excellent snorkeling, too. Camping is allowed there also, but
again, there are no facilities. Beaches in Venezuela are not like
the beaches of Florida and California. They are generally very short
and narrow, not the type where one can take a nice long walk.
However, many are beautiful and some have crystal clear water. Many
people choose to stay in small guest houses (called posadas). The
daily rates, while not inexpensive, usually include meals. Boat
excursions are available to nearby islands.
There are several offshore islands that offer wonderful
opportunities for snorkeling and diving, including Bonaire, Curacao,
and Aruba. There are certified diving instructors in Caracas who
offer classes in English on a regular basis.
An interesting one-day excursion from Caracas over winding but
paved roads is to Colonia Tovar, a settlement of German immigrants
about 40 miles from Caracas. The picturesque houses and authentic
cuisine remind one of the Bavarian Alps. Another pleasant day trip
out of Caracas is to the Santa Teresa Rum Factory, where visitors
can tour an historic hacienda and enjoy a variety of entertainment,
including trolley and train rides. The Arte Murano glass factory and
other similar glass blowers in the Caracas area are a favorite spot
for buying Venetian-style glass.
In the Andean region of Venezuela one can enjoy spectacular and
beautiful scenery. The teleferico in Merida gives one a sweeping
view of the mountains, and the variety of scenery from the arid
highlands of the Mucubaji paramo to the lush jungle mountains at
Jaji is spectacular. Popular activities in this area are mountain
climbing, trout fishing, and horseback riding.
On the opposite side of Venezuela is the tropical jungle in the
State of Bolivar. Canaima is a small settlement in the jungle at the
base of the spectacular falls of the Carrao River. This place of
imposing beauty is a perfect trip for those who like adventure. It
is accessible only by air. An added attraction is an aerial view of
Angel Falls, highest in the world (3,312 feet). It was named for a
U.S. aviator, Jimmy Angel, who landed above them in 1937. A
four-hour boat ride to the base of the falls is also possible.
Venezuela is a bird watchers paradise, having an incredible
variety of species. For birdwatchers and anyone interested in
exploring the countryside, the local Audubon Society organizes
excursions regularly. Some excursions require a four-wheel drive
vehicle. There are also “posadas” that offer nature tours.
Trips to nearby Caribbean islands are popular. The Venezuelan
island of Margarita combines the charm of old Spanish colonial forts
and churches with some nice beaches. Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire,
Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago are other interesting islands to
visit. Trinidad is especially exciting during Carnival when the
entire island closes down and “jumps up” for 4 days to the music of
hundreds of steel bands. Bonaire and Curacao offer world class
Venezuela offers an abundance of scenery and different locations.
With special permission, persons can visit the indigenous tribes in
the Amazonas area. There is a paved road through the Gran Sabana to
the border of Brazil, offering spectacular views of the “tepuis”
(mesas) and the numerous waterfalls. The Orinoco River also offers
opportunities for fishing, boat trips, and birdwatching, whether on
a boat trip, a stay in the Orinoco Delta, or just a stop along the
way. In the llanos are “hatos” (ranches) for ecotourism offering
wildlife tours and piranha fishing. In Coro on the Atlantic coast, a
large area of sand dunes attracts visitors, who also enjoy the
sights of the colonial city. All of these areas are reachable by
air, and many by road.
Gardening is easy in Caracas, as almost anything grows. Many
apartments have window boxes for plants, herbs, and flowers. There
are numerous nurseries in Caracas and the climate is excellent for
gardening. Orchids are especially popular and are the national
flower. Individuals may want to bring seeds from the U.S. for
Recreation and Social Life
Entertainment Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:50 AM
Caracas is a city of many restaurants. There is a diversity of
international cuisine with Argentine-style steak houses and Italian,
Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, Arabic, and French restaurants, among the
most popular. Some restaurants provide music and dancing. Caraqueños
love to dine out and it shows in the atmosphere, ambiance, and
diversity of their restaurants. Many are located in the Las Mercedes
district, which is close to the Embassy. It is difficult to find
budget restaurants—dinner for two, excluding wine or liquor is
normally $40 to $50 minimum at average establishments and over $100
at the more upscale restaurants—and bringing children to restaurants
is not as common as in the U.S. However, several restaurants that
cater to children do exist and restaurants offering “pollo en
brasas” (rotisserie chicken) are normally inexpensive, as are many
Italian, pizza-type restaurants. Further, local beer is normally
inexpensive in restaurants.
The city also has many nightclubs, private discotheques and jazz
clubs, and there are many Latin clubs featuring salsa and merengue,
often with live music. A woman should have a male escort to enter
clubs in Caracas at night.
Modern movie theaters, including some drive-ins, are located
throughout the city. The majority of films shown are U.S. with
Spanish subtitles, but French, Italian, and Mexican movies are also
presented. Children’s films are normally dubbed in Spanish.
Venezuela does not have a highly developed feature length film
Recreation and Social Life
Social Activities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:51 AM
Caracas is a cosmopolitan city, offering opportunities to take
part in a variety of events. The extent and direction of social
activities depend largely on initiative. There are a number of
organizations to help newcomers become familiar with the city.
Groups and activities within the U.S. community include the
Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club International,
Lions Club International, the Audubon Society, a hiking club,
“Circulo Excursionistas,” and scouting. The Centro
Venezolano-Americano sponsors social and cultural events. The
“Circulo de Funcionarios Diplomaticos” (Consular Corps), an
association of consular officers from all countries represented in
Venezuela, has regular meetings and an annual banquet.
Damas Diplomaticas is an association of wives of diplomats in
Venezuela, although both male and female diplomats are encouraged to
join. This Association holds a yearly Christmas Bazaar in November
and an annual golf tournament.
The Venezuelan-American Association of University Women (VAAUW)
offers membership to university graduates only. Those who attended
college for two years may join as associate members. However, the
association's excellent and varied courses and many of their
programs and activities are open to non-members.
The Children’s Service League is a volunteer organization that
works with children and young adults, raises money for hospitalized
and handicapped children, and annually helps 20 institutions and
hospitals. CSL activities include sewing workshops, a
mini-bookstore, a bridge competition and a bowling league, as well
as the design, preparation, and sale of its annual collection of
Christmas and note cards. The CSL holds a Christmas Bazaar at which
these cards and handicrafts are sold.
The Newcomer’s Club welcomes newcomers to Caracas with tips on
how to adapt to its culture and social life. It is a good place to
meet other newcomers from outside of the Embassy. It has many varied
activities, including local excursions, an international cooking
group, tennis, golf, a book club, lunches, and other activities. The
club meets once a month, with an additional informal “coffee
morning” gathering during the month. Meetings are advertised in the
Daily Journal (an English language newspaper), and a newsletter
detailing club activities can be obtained at the meetings.
The Marine House hosts frequent parties that offer good
get-acquainted opportunities. In addition, there are a number of
Embassy functions offered by the CLO, the FSN Association, and other
Official Functions Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:51 AM
Senior officers are involved in the usual number of national day
receptions and other representational functions. Although junior
officers and staff are not as involved in official functions as
senior officers, many welcome the opportunity to entertain
Venezuelans and members of the foreign community in their homes.
All new personnel will be introduced to the Ambassador and DCM
shortly after arrival and to the other members of the U.S. Mission,
usually through their office sponsors.
Diplomatic and consular officers are announced to the Foreign
Office and other diplomatic missions by note. The Ministry of
Foreign Affairs annually publishes a Diplomatic List. The Department
booklet Diplomatic Social Usage gives valuable hints for all
incoming personnel and is available in Washington; a copy may be
available at the CLO office.
The practice of leaving cards with host officials and officials
of other missions is common. Business cards can be printed in
Caracas, as can invitations. Those with representational
responsibilities may use from 100 to 200 calling cards a year. “Mr.
and Mrs.” cards normally are not required. Informal cards with
envelopes for invitations, acknowledgments, and other notes are not
necessary but are useful. A widespread practice here is the use of
Mr. and Mrs. invitation cards, printed locally, giving the address
and telephone number.
The exchange rate is 2,150 Bolivares to the U.S. dollar.
Special Information Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:52 AM
All incoming employees have an office sponsor, who will provide
information on work in the Embassy, and a social sponsor, who will
help the newcomer and family become acquainted with life in Caracas.
There are periodic orientation sessions for newcomers and their
families to give them an introduction to the post and its agencies,
periodic teen security briefings, and activities that enable new
personnel to meet other personnel and their families at post. The
Regional Security Officer also conducts security briefings for all
incoming personnel and adult family members. The CLO coordinator has
additional written material that is helpful to newcomers.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/23/2005 3:28 PM
Shipments to Post
All shipments should be addressed as follows:
U.S. Ambassador (employee’s initials) U.S. Embassy Caracas,
Venezuela For: employee’s name
Surface shipments to Venezuela must have an original and one copy
of a bill of lading. Shipments of household effects must also have a
complete packing list of the items in the shipment. These documents
should be forwarded to the APO address (or through the Department)
to the General Services Office as soon as possible. The Embassy
strongly recommends use of the USDA in Miami to transship all HHE
and POV shipments. The port of La Guaira is the only port of entry
for HHE and POV shipments.
Employees of the Department of Defense should forward copies of
their HHE documents to:
U.S. Embassy MILGP Unit 4980 Attn.: AMC Station Manager APO AA
Documents regarding POV shipments should be sent to the
General Services Office Attention: Customs and Shipping Unit 4974
APO AA 34037
Normally, information on an ocean bill of lading is insufficient
for the Embassy to arrange customs clearance of automobiles. The
General Services Office must have the following information upon
arrival or as soon as possible after shipment of a vehicle: 1) make,
type, year, model, and color; 2) body serial number and motor serial
number; 3) gross weight; 4) shipper (usually the U.S. Dispatch
agent); 5) port of embarkation. A copy of the purchase document and
the title certificate are also needed.
Air shipments should be addressed in the same manner as surface
shipments. Air shipments of unaccompanied baggage and household
effects require an airway bill and packing list. This applies also
to shipments by military aircraft. Arriving employees should fax a
copy of the airway bill to the GSO customs and shipping unit at 58
Effects should be crated to withstand not only the normal hazards
of shipment, but also pilferage. Lift vans are preferable.
The Venezuelan Government will not clear household effects and
automobiles through customs prior to the arrival and formal
accreditation of the employee. Do not send these items too far in
advance, or the U.S. Government will incur excessive demurrage
Vehicles and Vehicle Shipments
Due to heavy traffic and scarce parking, compact or medium-sized
cars are most suitable in Caracas. A simple, easily serviced car is
best. In determining whether to bring a new car to post, please
consider that the road conditions are very hard on vehicles. After
exposing vehicles to the road conditions in Caracas, employees may
prefer to sell them in Caracas rather than shipping them to the next
Gasoline is inexpensive and is priced uniformly at all stations.
High-octane gas, unleaded gas, and excellent oil are sold at most
service stations in Caracas. Service station attendants expect tips.
Cars need not be boxed for shipment. Ship easily removable items
such as hub caps, radio aerials, windshield wipers, radios, dash
board knobs, lighters, mirrors, etc. separately. Do not place
personal papers or belongings in the glove compartment or trunk.
It may be difficult to obtain parts for cars, and prices tend to
be much higher than in the Washington area. Bring spare parts,
particularly special or fast-wearing parts, as local spare parts are
often costly, of inferior quality or unavailable. The roads are very
hard on tires, and if you plan to drive long distances, bringing
extra spare tires is advisable.
To import and register a privately owned vehicle with the
Venezuelan Vehicle Registration Office, the Embassy needs a copy of
the title and the bill of sale. Personnel accredited to the host
government, both diplomatic and nondiplomatic, are not charged for
vehicle license plates or registration. Vehicles should be shipped,
if possible, with license plates from the U.S. or the previous post
so that the vehicle may be driven in Caracas if there is a delay in
obtaining Venezuelan license plates. Make sure that all serial
numbers agree on all documents (ocean bill of lading and commercial
invoices). If the slightest discrepancy is found at the Venezuelan
port of entry, clearance of the vehicle may be delayed.
The Embassy assists all personnel in obtaining valid Venezuelan
drivers’ licenses, although use of a valid U.S. driver’s license
suffices for six months. Documents needed are a valid passport, two
photos, copy of a valid stateside license, and a health certificate
that is obtained at special locations throughout Caracas. (The
Embassy also offers the health examinations in the chancery several
times a year.) The current fees for these services are minimal. Once
these documents are obtained, they are presented to the General
Services Office, which will compose a letter to the Foreign Ministry
to obtain the license.
All drivers must have third-party liability insurance purchased
in Venezuela. A minimum third-party insurance cost about $110
yearly. Comprehensive and collision coverage, with a deductible,
costs between $200 and $600 a year, depending on the make and size
of the automobile and number of cylinders. There is a quirk,
however, in local insurance policies; unless your entire car is
stolen, you are not paid for any stolen parts. Therefore, many
employees prefer to obtain collision and comprehensive coverage
through U.S. firms. Given the crime situation in Caracas, the
Embassy recommends that POV owners obtain theft insurance through
U.S. insurance companies. A “marine” insurance policy is also
recommended to cover the vehicle during shipment.
The car market in Venezuela is volatile and dependent on a
fluctuating exchange rate. Before deciding whether to bring a car or
buy one locally, it is best to confirm market conditions with
someone at post. Vehicles sold by dealers may be more expensive than
in the U.S., but many departing personnel offer vehicles for sale at
moderate prices. Announcements are available in the Embassy
newsletter and from the CLO. Air conditioning is recommended—because
of the crime situation, the Embassy advises drivers to keep windows
Rules governing free importation of automobiles into Venezuela
are as follows:
* The Chief of Mission may import up to two personal vehicles
every three years, one of which must be a make and model assembled
in Venezuela. These vehicles can only be sold or transferred after
they have been in the country 3 years or when the Ambassador is
transferred. The amount of tax to be paid if a vehicle is sold is
computed on a sliding percentage scale.
* Other diplomatic personnel and career consular officers may
import and sell one motor vehicle of any make or model every three
years or at time of transfer. Corresponding customs duties or taxes
on a sliding percentage scale must be paid at the time the vehicle
is sold. All personnel must request and obtain previous written
clearance from post before shipping a vehicle.
* Non-diplomatic personnel, such as administrative and technical
personnel of the Mission, may import and sell only one vehicle,
provided the vehicle is imported into Venezuela within 6 months of
arrival. Again, a graduated tax must be paid at the time the vehicle
is sold. All non-diplomatic personnel must request and obtain
previous written clearance from post before shipping any vehicle.
If an employee sells his or her vehicle prior to the completion
of the three-year period, the Government of Venezuela will not
authorize free importation of another vehicle.
The Government of Venezuela considers motorcycles to be POVs.
Employees who ship a vehicle and a motorcycle will be required to
pay taxes on the motorcycle.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/15/2005 11:42 AM
Non-diplomatic personnel may import and sell one vehicle of any
type and model assembled in Venezuela during their tour, provided
the vehicle is imported into Venezuela within 6 months of the
owner’s arrival every 3 years duty free. Accredited diplomatic and
consular personnel may import and sell one vehicle of any type and
model every 3 years duty free. Embassy policy is that cars must not
cost more than $19,500 for passenger vehicles (base sticker price),
and should not be ostentatious. Large luxury cars may not be
imported. If in doubt, communicate with the general services
By bilateral agreement, all military members of the Defense
Attaché Office have the same privileges and are subject to the same
restrictions as Department of State personnel of corresponding
status and rank.
Non-diplomatic personnel are allowed duty-free entry of used
household and personal effects on initial arrival to Venezuela.
These effects must be shipped within 6 months of the employee’s
actual arrival to the country and are limited to four shipments of
any kind plus a car. Non-diplomatic personnel assigned to Caracas
are advised to combine shipments as much as possible to reduce the
number of free-entry requests.
Members of the Marine Guard are subject to the same duty-free
entry regulations as non-diplomatic personnel.
No currency restrictions exist on the import of dollars by U.S.
Government personnel or on the amount of currency that can be taken
out of the country.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Passage Last Updated: 6/13/2005 12:57 AM
New personnel must have a valid Venezuelan visa stamped in their
passports before coming to post. Holders of diplomatic and official
passports receive either diplomatic or courtesy visas. The visas are
good for one year. Before the expiration date, the passports should
be brought to the Human Resources Office for renewal. Diplomatic
passports will be renewed for the remainder of the tour, however,
official passports can only be renewed for one year at a time.
Holders of regular passports who are officially assigned to
Venezuela generally receive courtesy visas also. Foreign national
family members should obtain official visas.
Baggage of diplomatic passport holders is not normally subject to
inspection. Venezuelan Government inspectors are authorized to open
baggage of official passport holders and they occasionally do.
Bring at least six 2” by 2” photographs of yourself and all of
your family members. These pictures are necessary for Embassy ID
cards and the Venezuelan MFA carnet or cedula. You should have these
photographs with you when you arrive; however, additional ones may
be obtained locally at reasonable prices. The photographs must be
attached to the diplomatic note announcing your arrival. Household
effects and automobiles cannot be released from customs until the
note has been forwarded to the Ministry announcing your arrival.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Pets Last Updated: 9/15/2005 11:46 AM
All pets entering Venezuela must have a health certificate, an
export permit, and a vaccine record that must include rabies
vaccination. These should be issued by a veterinarian within 30 days
prior to their arrival, certifying that immunizations were given no
earlier than 12 months but no later than 30 days prior to departure,
and certifying that the animals are free from infections or
contagious diseases, including rabies.
Kennels for pets must meet FAA regulations; otherwise, the person
shipping the pet may have to buy an appropriate container at the
airport. Pets may not travel alone; they must accompany the owner.
Often carriers do not permit the pet in the cabin of the plane.
During the summer months, carriers may be unwilling to ship pets
from Miami to Caracas due to the heat. Arrangements for pet travel
should be made well in advance and double-checked before departure.
An export permit is required to ship a pet out of Venezuela. A
rabies vaccine certificate and health certificate must be obtained
from a veterinarian and these certificates must then be taken to the
Ministry of Agriculture to obtain the export permit. This must be
done 15 days before actual departure. Some local veterinarians will
obtain the necessary paper work for you. Pets must leave
Pet food is available on the local economy but individuals may
want to bring their own, or order a preferred brand through the
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/13/2005 2:24 PM
The Embassy strictly limits the importation and possession of
personal firearms and ammunition, including handguns, rifles,
shotguns, and other types of weapons. Individuals who wish to
request permission to import these items should notify the Regional
Security Office several months in advance.
Venezuelan law limits the types and quantity of firearms and
ammunition that may enter the country. The RSO maintains a current
list of the prohibitions.
All requests to import and possess firearms, or to obtain
licenses for firearms, must be approved by the Ambassador. The
possession of firearms in Venezuela is subject to review by the RSO
at any time.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
6/13/2005 2:25 PM
The basic Venezuelan currency is the Bolivar (abbreviated “Bs.”
in the plural), which is divided into100 centimos.
Checks written from personal checking accounts at U.S. banks may
be cashed at the Banco Provincial teller in the chancery.
Individuals can take the money in either Bolivares or dollars. The
APO will accept personal checks, very few vendors in Caracas take
personal checks from U.S. banks. Employees should bring a supply of
checks from their U.S. banks. It is also possible to open checking
accounts with Venezuelan banks, including the branch of Banco
Provincial at the Embassy.
The metric system is used in all local weights and measures.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/13/2005
Regulations on the importation and disposal of personal property,
including cars, are applicable to and binding upon all U.S.
Government employees. No item may be imported for the express
purpose of resale.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/13/2005 2:26 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
General Information and Background
Bauman, Janice and Young, Leni. Guide to Venezuela. Ernesto
Armitano ed.: Caracas, 1989. Dalton, L. Venezuela. Gordon Press:
Ellner, Steve. Venezuela’s Movimiento al Socialismo: From
Guerrilla Defeat to Innovative Politics. Duke University Press:
Durham, N.C., 1988.
Fox, Geoffrey. The Land and People of Venezuela. Harper Collins
Publishers: U.S.A., 1991.
Haggerty Richard. Venezuela: A Country Study. U.S. G.P.O:
Hofer, Hans. Insight Guides, Venezuela. Hofer Press Pte. Ltd:
Kaye, Dorothy Karmen. Venezuelan Folkways. Blaine-Etheridge:
Living in Venezuela. Venezuelan- American Chamber of Commerce and
Industry: VenAmCham, 1999.
Lombardi, John V. Venezuela: The Search for Order, The Dream of
Progress. Oxford University Press: New York, 1982.
Masur, Gerhard. Simon Bolivar. University of New Mexico Press:
Moron, Guillermo. A History of Venezuela (translated from
Spanish). International Publications Service: New York, 1971.
Naim, Moses. Paper Tigers & Minotaurs, The Politics of
Venezuela’s Economic Reforms. Carnegie Endowment: 1993.
Betancourt, Romulo. Venezuela’s Oil. George Allen & Unwin: London
Bond, Robert D. ed. Contemporary Venezuela and Its Role in
International Affairs. University Press: New York, New York, 1977.
Carillo, Jorge Salazar. Oil in the Economic Development of
Venezuela. Praeger Publishers: New York, 1976.
Levine, Daniel H. Conflict and Political Change in Venezuela.
Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1973.
Martz, John D. and Myers, David J. eds. Venezuela: The Democratic
Experience. Praeger: New York, 1977.
Powell, John Duncan. Political Mobilization of the Venezuelan
Peasant. Harvard: 1971.
Ray, Talton. The Politics of the Barrios of Venezuela. Berkeley:
Tugwell, Franklin. The Politics of Oil in Venezuela. Stanford
University Press: Stanford, 1975.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 6/13/2005 2:56 PM
New Year’s Day January 1 Carnival Monday and Tuesday before Ash
Wednesday Holy Week Holy Thursday and Good Friday in March/April
Declaration of Independence April 19 Labor Day May 1 Battle of
Carabobo June 24 Independence Day July 5 Bolívar’s Birthday July 24
Columbus Day October 12 Christmas Day December 25