Prior to my trip, I experienced a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement in terms of finally being able to visit a country on my bucket list and anxiety in terms, would it be as dangerous as people/mainstream media portrays it.
I did my research. I contacted folks on couchsurfing, asked my Airbnb host a lot of questions and asked friends to connect me with people they know in Venezuela. The result was awesome.
Day 1: Arrived at the airport, hassle free immigration process. Waited for my host to pick me up. No one harassed me. We arrived at host’s house and the neighborhood is pretty. Host’s house is beautiful as well in a secured building. Host shows me around neighborhood, apartment building is connected to a mall, two Metro stations are within walking distance. Several restaurants, bakery, Plaza and park are also nearby. Great!
Day 2: Host showed me how to use the Metro. Tickets are sooooo cheap 4Bolivares for one way (40cents). We went to a travel agent to see if I can book a trip to Los Roques. Sadly no availability:(. Host returned to work and I explored the area – Sabana Grande. The pedestrian only street was lined with shops, restaurants, bakery, and banks. I window shopped, people watched and explored the area before going to a plaza close to where I live to meet up with a couchsurfer.
Couchsurfer intended to show me around the area close to where I lived. However the park and art place in Altamira area were closed. So we went to the historical center. We walked around a lot – parque Bolivar and other historical places. We stopped at this cool café – Café Bolivar for Sugar Cane juice and chocolate cake. The sugar cane juice was really good. Once we were done, we got back on the Metro to meet up with a friend of the couchsurfer. We ran into another couchsurfer from the US and chatted all the way back. We mostly talked about how Venezuela is portrayed in the news and people’s reaction when you tell them you are going to Venezuela.
Later in the evening, we drove up to El Hatillo, a colonial town 30 minutes away from Caracas. The drive was beautiful (scenery I mean). We first went to this souvenir store that the couchsufer and her friend promised will blow my mind. This store is pretty big and almost like a museum. Yes, I was very impressed. We explored for a while before going to grab something to eat.
We arrived back in Caracas late.
Day 3: I woke up pretty early (well like 9am) because I would be meeting up with the brother of a friend (well, I am yet to meet this friend, we were connected by a mutual friend. She was going to be out of the country so she asked her brother to show me around). The brother came with a Venezuelan friend of his and we headed to the historic center. We had planned to see the National Pantheon (where Simon Bolivar was buried) and other museums. Sadly 😦 it was not opened due to the forthcoming holiday. So we headed to Simon Bolivar’s house and museum. The house and museum are two separate building. The house is massive and lot of space. The museum is equally impressive 🙂
After we were done at the downtown area, we went to El Avila via the metro cable (teleferico). The ride up there was enjoyable. Because it was rainy, we couldn’t see the view of Caracas from Avila. We stopped for the best hot chocolate I’ve tasted thus far :). We took a jeep to a place called Galipan. We could see the view way better from down there. We took our time appreciating nature before going back up to Avila.
There was an interesting puppet show at Avila when we returned so we stayed for the show. My Spanish must be great because I understood all the jokes told :).
To end the lovely day, we went to the best bar in Caracas – 360. 360 is awesome, it is a three story building with an open roof top terrace. The first floor is indoor, you can still see the view of Caracas, and it has a mini swimming pool and several hammocks. The décor is just beautiful. Second and third floor (especially third floor) gives you an amazing view of Caracas. The drinks are great especially the mojito.
Day 4: New Year’s Eve. I did some shopping because stuffs were ridiculously cheap (for tourists). I bought two sandals, an ankle boot, a purse and four items of clothing for equivalent of US$35.
I had lunch in a fancy (Caracas standard) place for USD$5. Then I checked out the art place close to where I lived. La Estancia is the name of the place – an impressive indoor and outdoor place to play games and chill. They even had a gym equipment outside to do some exercise. Me like.
My host was having a mini get together so I went to the supermarket to get stuff – Fruits and drinks. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much of a line. My first time at this supermarket, I was in line for an hour! The supermarket is very similar to that of Cuba in that the shelves are not filled with products…they are pretty much almost empty.
Back at the house, I helped my host in preparing for the party. Took a power nap before the party started. And spent an amazing New Year’s Eve with people I barely met. I went to bed early (about 2am) but the party continued on.
Day 5: Slept in and later went to the beach with a Venezuelan friend. We wanted to go a private beach – Marina Grande but on getting there we saw that they were closed until Jan 5th. So we went to a public beach nearby – Playa Vasito. Not bad, it was clean but slightly crowded. The water was cold! We spent most of the day at the beach.
We ended the night (my last night in Caracas) in another fancy restaurant – Las Palmas – housed inside the Hotel Altamira Suites. Dinner for two – USD$12!
Day 6: Woke up sort of early since I had to be at the airport by 10am. Again hassle free immigration process.
Overall, I am very glad I took this trip. Very glad I didn’t let people’s opinion discourage me from going. They say Caracas is very dangerous. I say it is comparable to big cities in developing country. The same precaution you use in Bogota is applicable to that in Caracas. Similar to Bogota, Colombia and Lagos, Nigeria, everyone knows someone that has been robbed.
I loved Caracas and the people are kind. The say people are desperate in Caracas. I say people have the same level of desperation in Caracas as people from other developing countries with volatile government. In Cuba, people will ask you for clothes, soap, shampoo and other things. Nobody asked me for anything in Caracas.
My two cents, there is nothing extraordinary dangerous about Caracas. It is one of those places that you will only enjoy if someone from there shows you around. Would I go back to Venezuela? Definitely YES!!! There are several places on my list to visit there such as Los Roques, Angel Falls, Merida and Isla Margarita to name a few.
So I say Hasta La Próxima Vez Venezuela!
P.s, school resumed today. I already had a miserable day. A parent cussed me out :(.