- Roraima and Pico Bolivar 2009

Tips (in general)

  • Use US$ in cash for exchange to local currency BsF (Bolivares Fuerte). To exchange in a local bank office will take some time, this because they first have to register you as a bank customer before exchange (can take 1 to 1.5 hours if many visitors). You will need your passport and be prepared to leave fingerprint on papers.
  • Exchange office at international airport is reliable and fast, but with poor rate. An alternative is to exchange with local dealers - they are all over the airport and offer better rate. But it's also a risk to exchange on the 'black market' - be careful. Exchange offices exist also in Caracas.
  • There is a lot of different taxis, but only ONE company is really recommended by the local authority. Make sure to agree on price and destination with driver before departure - if not, they will try to rip you off. Taxi from international airport to Altamira - 150 BsF.
  • There is a lot of noise in Caracas and many other (and smaller) towns. Don't count on a peaceful environment - car honk's, alarms went on and off, people who talk loud or scream, fireworks, sounds from airplane/helicopters, noise from old air conditioner, animal noise (dogs, cats, birds etc), loud music from cars/hotels /private houses, school yard speaker voice (common in Venezuela) etc is ongoing 24 hrs a day, all days, the whole year. Get use to it or bring ear protoctors for a better sleep.
  • If you go with the bus to Santa Elena, remember that it's needed to book the return ticket in advance (normally 3 days before departure). When checking in the luggage at the bus terminal, guards will search through and tag the luggage. This is valid both for hand luggage and luggage stored in the bus luggage space.
  • The airport in Merida downtown can without any notice be closed. The alternative airport is located in El Viga (65 km from Merida). Bus from El Viga to Merida is possible, but much more easy to take a taxi (cost 100-120 BsF). The taxi drivers normally stop at airport in Merida, and want extra money for going to your final destination - have that in mind when asking for price estimate.
  • The taxi's used had seatbelt but no lock, or the opposite (safety is not in focus). In one (1) taxi there was a seatbelt and lock in the front seat - if any want to try their luck you should go for the front seat.
  • Domestic flights: except ticket, you must pay a tax (tasas) before entering the departure area. This tax is different for domestic (25 BsF/person) and international (46 BsF + 115 BsF/person for return). You then scan the receipt to enter the departure area - not a normal way for european people. NOTE! you must pay with cash! No credit or VISA cards is accepted.
  • Caracas is an chaotic city with a lot of people on a small area. The city is devided into different areas, some are dangerous and some is less dangerous. Altamira is a good area for foreigner (located in the east) - but you must any way be 'street smart'.
  • International VISA cash card does not work in the cash dispensers (ATM's) except the one marked with 'Mercantil'. Only bigger stores and hotels can accept VISA. Of course, the rate in ATM's is not the best but it's better to use them often instead of walking around with 1000 US$ in your pockets.
  • Caracas is full of hustlers, and of course nice and polite people. But it's the hustlers you must be aware of. One thing worth mention here is the local employee at the international airport in Caracas, the ones who is taking care of the luggage. They walk around the huge queues to the checkin desks - and offer to take you directly to the desk without standing in line. For this 'service' they want 80 BsF. Our own opinion is to ignore these hustlers and instead follow the 'good charma' principle (even if it takes some time to stand in line).
  • Make sure you can speak some spanish, it's not certain that you can find any person that speak english - not even at the international airport in Caracas. Get use to it!
  • There is several bus terminals in Caracas. The official Terminal la Bandera is the biggest and really crowded during holidays. This can be an exposed area for a tourist and it's very chaotic sometimes. But there is also other alternatives, privately-owned companys with their own terminals. They are often located in a more nice area, not crowded and all the approach is much more worthy - recommended (even if price is a little bit higher). It's almost impossible to get a bus ticket during holidays (especially around christmas and new year) if you don't have a payed reservation.

Roraima tips (ca 2800 masl)
This trip was not completed and Marco went back togheter with a sick person day 2. Because of that the info is a little bit limited.
  • You must have a guide at Roraima. You can probably bribe some persons if you want to go by your self - but that will be a risk (no support if something went wrong).
  • Yoy can hire a personal guide in some of the tour agencys (to avoid large groups). Then you also should be prepared to carry all equipment (food, tent, stove etc) needed... or rent a porter.
  • Recommended agancy - Eric Buschbell and BackpackerTours in Santa Elena.
  • The small fly called puri-puris can be really annoying for tourists, the locals are immune to the bite of this insect. No mosquito repellant in the world (?) can protect you. The only thing you can do is to minimize the exposure (stay away from the wet sand at river bank) and have clothes on you. The flybite is focused around the elbow/arms. Some people says that an extra intake of C vitamin can protect you - not verified during this trip.
  • Many hours of walking, but there is lot of water (no need to carry a lot of water). Drink a lot!
  • Take some time to study all the amazing insects that can be found in the surroundings.
  • The swedish mosquito repellant named 'Mygga' is bottled in a glasjar (heavy, not for travel, not environmentally friendly) and had no affect on the mosquitos!
  • If you get sick in Santa Elena there is two (2) alternatives: the bigger hospital or the smaller one called "Medico de Cubano" (Centro Medico de Diagnostico integral). The later offer free medicines and had staff who talked english - recommended!