TRAVEL ADVISORIES VENEZUELA – EXERCISE A HIGH DEGREE OF CAUTION
TRAVEL ADVISORIES VENEZUELA – EXERCISE A HIGH DEGREE OF CAUTION
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Colombian guerrillas, who frequently operate on both sides of the border, are suspected in several kidnapping cases. Foreigners have been specifically targeted near the border with Colombia. Cross-border violence, kidnapping, smuggling and drug trafficking occur frequently in remote areas, specifically in the states of Zulia, Táchira, Barinas, Bolívar, Apure, Amazonas, Anzoátegui and Sucre.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
Demonstrations have been occurring regularly throughout Venezuela since mid-February 2014, particularly in the cities of Caracas, Barquisimeto, Maracaibo, Merida, Valencia, San Cristobal and Maracay. Violent clashes regularly take place at these demonstrations, especially at night, and have resulted in over 40 deaths and numerous injuries. Avoid all demonstrations, large gatherings and public areas where disturbances or violent incidents could occur, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local developments. Do not participate in political discussions or activities in public, or appear to take sides on any local issue related to the current political situation. This may result in problems with local authorities, including arrest or even deportation. Curfews may also be in effect and should be respected.
Demonstrations often cause traffic jams in Caracas, especially in the historic centre of Plaza Bolívar (where most government institutions are located), in Plaza Venezuela, in Plaza Francia (Altamira), as well as in major centres throughout the country and on main highways. Do not attempt to cross blockades, even if they appear unattended. During major events, such as large demonstrations, network overload could interrupt local cellular and landline phone services. Other services could also be interrupted.
Venezuela has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. Violent crime, including murder and armed robbery, is prevalent throughout the country, including in national parks and tourist areas. The airport and the surrounding areas have seen an increase in violent crime recently. Violence against foreigners can occur in all regions, both urban and rural.
Petty crime is common, particularly in the central and poorer areas of all major cities and on Margarita Island. You should exercise caution in the areas of Sabana Grande and Plaza Venezuela in central Caracas, due to an increase in violent robberies. Pickpockets are active in crowded bus and subway stations. Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure, including on beaches, in parked vehicles and in hotel rooms. Do not show signs of affluence or display valuables. Thefts from hotel safes have been reported. Use automated banking machines (ABMs) during the day only, choose ABMs in shopping malls or busy residential areas, and stay alert to your surroundings.
Incidents of carjacking and kidnapping have increased. Victims are usually forced out of their vehicles at gunpoint or knifepoint and robbed of their money, jewellery and identification. Others have been forced into cars at gunpoint and driven out of the city. They may also be forced to withdraw funds at ABMs and, in some cases, held captive until their families pay a ransom. Victims have been injured, or even killed, for failing to cooperate. While foreigners are not specifically targeted, you should avoid walking or driving in isolated areas, particularly after dark.
Exercise caution in dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, and be especially careful about accepting rides or invitations. Incidents of drugging followed by robbery and assault, including sexual assault, have been reported.
Acquaintance rape is a serious problem. In some cases, hotel workers and taxi drivers have been implicated. Anyone who is a victim of a sexual assault should report it immediately to the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy and is strongly advised to file a report with Venezuelan authorities. Note that no criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Venezuelan authorities.
Criminals posing as police officers have harassed and extorted money from tourists. There have also been reports of Venezuelan officials at airports, immigration offices and police stations imposing excessive charges. If you experience a problem, you should pay the requested fine, ask for the officer’s name, badge number or patrol car number, and report the incident to the Embassy of Canada in Caracas.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in coastal areas and marinas, some involving a high degree of violence, including murder. Owners of small vessels, including private yachts, should be aware of the risk of attack and take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Reportpublished by the International Maritime Bureau.
In some areas of Caracas and elsewhere in the country, police presence and response are relatively poor.
Airlines have reduced the number of flights arriving and departing from Venezuela; therefore, flights may be difficult to book and more expensive than normal. You should plan your travel well in advance of your expected departure and contact your travel provider for assistance.
Traffic congestion is common in Caracas. Traffic laws are rarely observed due to the lack of police enforcement. You should keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed at all times. Night driving is not recommended due to security concerns, unmarked road damage or construction, and wandering livestock. Stopping at Bolivarian National Guard and police checkpoints is mandatory. Follow all instructions and have vehicle and insurance papers and passports readily available. Vehicles may be searched. There have been incidents of illegal roadblocks set up by armed bandits who stop and rob vehicles.
There have been incidents of stone throwing from highway overpasses and bridges near poorer neighbourhoods. Motorists are then robbed after stopping to assess the damage to their vehicle.
If an accident occurs, vehicles must not be moved until a traffic police officer fills out a report.
The road between Caracas and the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía is dangerous, and crime increases after dark. Plans for travel to and from all airports should be arranged in advance. Criminals are known to pose as taxi operators. Licensed, radio-dispatched taxis can be organized in advance by hotels or called from the airport. Follow the advice of local authorities regarding transportation and allow sufficient time to reach the airport.
You should only use licensed taxis in all areas of Venezuela. These taxis are generally safer than unlicensed taxis, although incidents of robbery and assault, often at gunpoint, have been reported for both licensed and unlicensed taxis. Never accept unsolicited offers of transportation or offers of help with luggage or passenger check-in.
Local buses and the subway in Caracas are not recommended due to the possibility of robbery. Incidents have also occurred on intercity buses.