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Preface Last Updated: 6/8/2005 4:25 PM

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 impact.

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 regions.

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 sparsely populated.

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 mountainsides.

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 2000.

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 elected locally.

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 hundred years.

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 climate.


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 Venezuela.

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 the license.

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 available.

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 the road.

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 the Embassy.

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 height.

- The maximum height is 32” but then item can only be 18" in girth.

(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 not, are


- All alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

- Fruits, animals and living plants are prohibited.

- No registered mail is accepted; however, certified mail is available.

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 each section.

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: (internet) and ( State Department Intranet). The email address of the Community Liaison Office (CLO) is and the APO is


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 English.

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 more information.

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 TRICARE.

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 admitted.

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 on hand.

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 common.

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 U.S.

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 Health Unit.

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 10:38 AM

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 welcome assistance.

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, Venezuela

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 Venezuelan holidays.

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 assistance.


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 service.

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 apartment units.


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 Caracas.

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 plentiful.

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 the U.S.

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 occasions.

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, 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 January 15.

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 health certificates.

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 arrangements.

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 South America.

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 English-language newspaper.

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 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 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 post.

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 towards others.

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 2002.

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 speaking countries.

* A comprehensive “English as a Second Language” program at ECA is directed to the non-native English speaking population within the school.

* All elementary students have the equivalent of one hour of Spanish daily. Spanish and French are offered at the secondary levels.

* 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, Holland.

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 ( 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 (NCPSA).

The ACSI accreditation programs are for preschool, elementary, and secondary schools and provide a comprehensive evaluation model for Christian schools.

Outside Caracas:

ECA in Valencia. Colegio Internacional de Carabobo, Director, Joe H. Walker. E-mail: Telephone number: 58 (241) 842-1807. In Maracaibo, there is the Escuela Bella Vista.


Dependent Education

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.

Other Opportunities

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 Mercedes.

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 participation.

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 Venezolano Britanico.

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 fitness.

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 pools.

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 area.

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 diving.

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 specific plants.

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 industry.

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 groups.

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 34037-0008

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 (212) 907-8684.

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 charges.

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 post.

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 closed.

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 officer.

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 accompanied.

Pet food is available on the local economy but individuals may want to bring their own, or order a preferred brand through the internet.

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 2:25 PM

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 these publications.

General Information and Background

Bauman, Janice and Young, Leni. Guide to Venezuela. Ernesto Armitano ed.: Caracas, 1989. Dalton, L. Venezuela. Gordon Press: 1976.

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: Washington, 1984.

Hofer, Hans. Insight Guides, Venezuela. Hofer Press Pte. Ltd: Singapore, 1993.

Kaye, Dorothy Karmen. Venezuelan Folkways. Blaine-Etheridge: 1976.

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: Albuquerque, 1969.

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.

Specialized Studies

Betancourt, Romulo. Venezuela’s Oil. George Allen & Unwin: London 1978.

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: 1969.

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

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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