Venezuela: Beautiful Sights, Rude People?

Angel falls in Venezuela

Angel falls in Venezuela

In a recent discussion on the Thorn Tree travel forum, a traveler with the nickname of Lobito says that he has traveled to every South American country with the exception of Guyana and Surinam, and finds that while the geography of Venezuela is stunning, the people are consistently rude.

He continues:

I also have during all my travels never met people who were so ignorant, uneducated and rude not only towards foreigners but to each other. At the same token I have met some very friendly locals who would go out of their way to help me.

Just to give you two examples during my travel in Venezuela.

A woman in a bus wants to breastfeed her baby. A man in front her reclines his seat to the degree that there is no space left for the baby. The woman asks the man to lift up his seat a bit. The man says: No, I want to take a nap.” That’s it; for the next 2 hours he remained in this position – I hope he slept well. We could not believe it. A teenaged boy sitting next to me also expressed his disgust and I was happy that he realized what was going on here. This is what I call “rude’ and it has nothing to do with cultural level etc. Actually it may occur elsewhere but in Venezuela it happened far too often.

Next I enter a bus and there is only one seat left. A man has his shopping bag on it and part of his body spread out while his arm is dangling out of the window. The driver asks the man to make space. He refuses. He is then asked to remove his bag; he slowly complies but does not move his body one inch. I had to sit next to this guy uncomfortably for one hour until he left.

I observed dozens of similar incidences; I must say this has never occured to me anywhere in South America. I have talked to other Venezuelans about this and some agreed that there is a problem. The only explanation I have is lack of education and ignorance. 

Just go to a beach in Venezuela and see the litter left behind by the locals; they don’t even realize there is a problem. At the same time you see modern highways with crews cleaning up the litter thrown out from cars, modern shopping centers absolutely spotless next to houses where the garbage piles up on the walls.

I agree that there are countries in SA with lower levels of literacy and with more poverty. As travellers we all accept this.

In Colombia I had once a conversation with a very poor man who was working in a mine: he knew more about Spanish history than I did. Something like this impresses me.

After all the negative comments Venezuela offers a few destinations such as the Angel’s Falls which are worth the trouble. 

I arrived in Caracas early afternoon, passed immigration quickly and changed money at the airport downstairs at one of the car rentals. The black market rate was BF 3.0 for 1 US$ – the best I could get at the beginning of August (supposedly it is BF 4.0 now). I noticed right away that food prices are high: a hamburger for BF 22, meals BF 30 and up.

I then walked over to the domestic terminal to get a flight to Puerto Ordaz (100 km from Ciudad Bolivar). Waiting in line at ASERCA a supervisor came out and a woman and I asked him about seat availability; he said “none today” and turned to chat with his friends totally ignoring us. The woman walked away but I waited another 10 minutes and managed to buy a ticket for BS 338 which I found to be rather expensive. The 4 p.m. flight was delayed by 90 minutes due to problems with the brakes as we could see; nobody told us anything. Upon arrival in Puerto Ordaz I decided to look for a hotel because it was now dark. The taxi-driver suggested several places in the $ 150 – 200 range (this is an oil-rich area with business travellers) but I had a list for posadas and got the last room in one of them for $ 85 which was listed for $ 25 in my guide.

Next day I went to Ciudad Bolivar by bus and it was extremely hot (all year round). I also found that the three days Angel’s Falls tour costs now BF 1,500 (US$ 500 for me or nearly $ 700 if charged to a credit card). I must say the trip was worth the trouble (not necessarily the money). Beware that after 6:30 p.m. Ciudad Bolivar is almost totally deserted.

After the tour my next destination was Cumana at the Caribbean coast (buses as usual deep freezers; take your winter closing while the temperature outside is 35 degrees Celsius). Shortly after dark the first power outage hit us and the town was locked down. Power came back shortly before midnight and the water started flowing again for a well deserved shower. I then spent several days in Santa Fe to explore Mochaima Park. I must say I have never seen so much garbage and trash floating in the water than at Venezuelan beaches. It was totally disgusting to be in such a beautiful place and the locals could not care less.

Prices were a bit more acceptable and the sea food was very good. After 3 days I got tired of the power outages and lack of water and moved on to Puerto la Cruz before boarding a Maracaibo bus to Valencia 8 hours away. Half way to Caracas the bus had a total hydraulic failure and stopped in the middle of the two-lane highway. The traffic chaos was imminent and it was getting dark. Nobody knew what was going on, the police arrived, someone tried to fix something but the only one who had a light was I. And suddenly the driver and the police took off (probably to the next bar) and left 60 passengers behind. Finally at 11 p.m. a new bus arrived and we finally got to Valencia at 3 a.m. – something I wanted to avoid. The city had 160 murders in July and a taxi-driver got killed out of nowhere just the day before as I could read in the newspaper the next morning. Out of desperation I was willing to spend any amount of money just to get some safety. The taxi-driver took me to a 4 star hotel which was full. Next a 5 star hotel who were not interested in letting me in, several more locked up places and finally a hotel for $ 60 in a tiny room with at least functioning bathroom.

The next day I paid BF 30 for the ride to the terminal to board a bus to Chichiviriche. A Spanish couple suggested to forgo Choroni because it was overcrowded by local vacationers, expensive and noisy; they also were robbed in the area and the woman lost her passport. But Morrocoy National Park was not much better with hundreds of ignorant people pulling their ice-chests filled with 6 packs and dumping their trash everywhere they went. The beaches were littered with garbage and bottles were floating in the warm beautiful blue waters of the islands. What a pain!

2 days of nightly power outages (which at least stopped the permanent loud music until someone hooked up his system to a generator and kept us awake until 3 a.m.) were enough for me. I moved on to Marracay where I spent a boring week-end. I wanted to visit the Rancho Grande research place in the mountains but the bus driver the terminal did not want to let me off and suggested a taxi. I said “thank you”.

The last day I took the bus to the La Bandera terminal in Caracas and for BF 100 (not negotiable) got an official taxi-driver who drove me safely to the airport. Three hours later I arrived in Miami, went to the Best Western Airport hotel where for less than $ 100 I had a clean large room with everything in it (refrigerator, microwave, etc) and the best breakfast (included) I had for a long time. And I thought Miami was a place to avoid.

In summary it was an interesting trip. I would have visited Merida if I had had more than the 14 days but I am not sure if I am returning soon. In the whole I spent over $ 1,500 with moderate accomodation and a few restaurant visits.

I did not talk about politics because that is a different topic.

However, a woman by the name of AnaSauvalle responded with the following:

I think it all depends on the individual experience. I’ve travelled all over South America and Venezuela was unquestionably my favourite. All the people we met were so friendly, we met hardly any tourists, were welcomed by locals who were happy to discuss the country, its politics, way of life etc. Nor did we spend much money. I agree there is virtually no infrastructure for tourists – for us that was just what we wanted.

On the other hand, I went to Peru, absolutely hated it, found the locals really rude, everyone trying to rip you off, the country so expensive to name a few points, yet when I wrote an account the same way you have I was inundated with as many responses from people who agreed with me as those who didn’t.

Sometimes it’s just a question of luck……..

To anyone who is wondering whether or not to go my advice is do it.

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