Destination guide: Caracas, Venezuela
Caracas is the capital of Venezuela and is on the shore of the Caribbean. Strolling through its streets, you can see its beautiful colonial architecture, especially in its historic center.
Fly to Caracas and discover its boulevards, the El Avila National Park, the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, the Miraflores, Municipal and Federal palaces and the village of El Hatillo, which reflects the traditional way of life of the Venezuelan people.
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Caracas - Practical Information
Nestled in a long, narrow valley, the city spreads at least 20km from west to east. To the north looms the steep, verdant wall of Parque Nacional El Ávila, refreshingly free of human dwellings. To the south, by contrast, the city is devouring the hillsides, with modern urbanizaciones (suburbs) and derelict barrios invading every reasonably flat piece of land.
Extending eastward from El Silencio to Chacao, the central downtown area is packed with commercial centers, offices and hotels. The metro’s main line (No 1) goes right along this axis. At the west end is the historic quarter, recognizable on the map by the colonial chessboard layout of the streets. About 1.5km to the east of Plaza Bolívar is Parque Central, noted for its museums and theaters. Another 2km east is Sabana Grande, centered on a busy pedestrian mall that has grown ever dangerous over the years. Continuing east, you come to Chacao, a commercial district good for upmarket shopping, and then to hip Altamira, which boasts scores of sophisticated restaurants and nightspots. El Rosal and Las Mercedes, south of Chacao, also cater to gourmands and night-trippers.
Weights & Measures
Nationals of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK and most of Western and Scandinavian Europe don’t need a visa to enter Venezuela; a free Tarjeta de Ingreso (Tourist Card, officially denominated DEX-2) is all that is required. The card is normally valid for 90 days (unless immigration officers note on the card a shorter period). Extensions beyond this had been discontinued at the time of research. Airlines flying into Venezuela provide these cards to passengers while on the plane. Overland visitors bearing passports of the countries listed above can obtain the card from the immigration official at the border crossing (it’s best to check this beforehand at the nearest consulate). Of course, visa requirements are particularly subject to change.
On entering Venezuela, your passport and tourist card will be stamped (make sure this happens) by Dirección de Identificación y Extranjería (DIEX or DEX) border officials. Keep the yellow copy of the tourist card while traveling in Venezuela (you may be asked for it during passport controls), and return it to immigration officials when leaving the country.
Customs regulations don’t differ much from those in other South American countries (namely, 25 cigars and 200 cigarettes, two bottles of alcohol, four bottles of perfume and gifts to the value of US$1000). You are allowed to bring in personal belongings and presents you intend to give to Venezuelan residents, as well as personal and professional camera gear, camping equipment, sports accessories, a personal computer and the like.
According to Venezuelan law, possession, trafficking and consumption of drugs are all serious offenses subject to heavy penalties.
The working day is eight hours, from 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday, but many businesses work shorter hours. Almost all offices, including tourist offices, are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Usual shopping hours are 9am to 6pm or 7pm weekdays, and a half-day on Saturday (9am to 1pm). Many shops close for lunch but some work without a lunchtime break. Restaurants normally open from around noon to 9pm or 11pm, but many are closed on Sunday.
Most museums are open on Sunday but closed on Monday.
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