I never like traveling to Venezuela, especially since the country has turned into the red headed step child of South America. For those of you that didn’t know I was born in a small city in the country called Merida, near the border of Colombia. The last time I traveled to Venezuela was when I was 16 to visit all my relatives.
This uneventful trip is credited to the wedding of my Aunt.
I took some precautions like not checking any luggage and trying to put on a fake tan to not look so white. Even though I was born in Venezuela, I look more gringo than a pasty white cracker. Not only did I put dollars inside of my underwear so they couldn’t find it, I also had wedding gifts. Nothing like carrying precious antique Bavarian glass in your backpack on your travels!
The kidnapping in Venezuela started when I walked off the plane, this wasn’t the Venezuela I remembered. The second I walked through customs there were several individuals that walked up to me to exchange money. Of course I said! Who wouldn’t like to exchange money with a non official random person in a back alley of the airport in the most dangerous city in South America?
The joke was on him since I had my cash in my underwear, there is no way he could snatch it! I promptly said no and whipped out my Venezuelan slang so they all would realize that I wasn’t American. Lucky for me I had plenty of Venezuelan slang on my white skin and green eyes which promptly sent every other hustler directly in my direction.
I was already a little grumpy since my favorite Venezuelan airline was the most efficient in the country. My flight from Miami to Caracas was not only delayed the plane was non existent. The company had to rent a plane from a cargo company to get the passengers from Miami to Caracas. On a side note I would like to vote the labyrinth in the Miami International as the worse airport in the United States, but I digress.
The flight wasn’t too bad it was only 4 hours late
I was very worried that I would have missed my next connection to Merida. I couldn’t find my way around since the international airport in Caracas has gone through more changes than the Oprah Winfrey’s body weight. Love you Oprah!
After I bamboozled my way through the crafty currency exchangers, I sat down to refocus and see where the nearest sushi bar was. Why would I be looking for a sushi bar at this time you ask? Because I like sushi.
I sat down to catch my breathe and just relax a little when it hit me, I needed to make sure I wasn’t late for my next flight. Since there is no corruption in South America I realized that I could trust any person in uniform.
I mistakenly yelled at the first armed guard with an AK-47 in my direction. After looking at how cool the AK was I asked him which direction was the national airport.Like most other capitals in South America, the national and international airports are separate.
Now you have the convenience of walking inside a safe air conditioned terminal that connects the two. The connection was under construction at the time, I was fortunate enough to get there the old fashioned way; walking outside, alone, right next to a major highway.
When I finally figured out the direction I needed to walk I realized my next connection was delayed by another 4 hours. Promptly headed in the right direction I encountered the taxi mafia. I am sure you are familiar with locals trying to pressure you to take a taxis when you exit the terminal in many cities in South America. After ducking, diving, shimmy-ing, and checking my hair in the mirror, I finally made it outside. I was finally free. Wrong.
Once I walked roughly half way to the national terminal, I felt a wonderful square object on the lower right side of my back. Shortly after, the soothing voice of what seemed like the guy in the movie trailers said, “Metete en el carro chamo” (Get in the car my friend).
I found a new friend, I was so excited.
Once he shoved me in the car I started to look outside the windows to try and locate where they were heading. “Looking outside is not allowed” he said to which I replied “well can you just drop me off at the national airport then”. As we were driving he asked me for my camera and my cell phone. For a split second I almost asked for my memory card back.
Yes I had THOSE kinds of pictures. Afterwards, he was very disappointed to find out that there was no money in my wallet. What he did find was my Venezuelan ID card (which they call a Cedula). I thought I was safe now since he realized I was his brethren.
He immediately started looking for cash in my pockets. The fool didn’t know that I had the cash in my fruit of the looms! Ha Ha! I win! Shortly after he asked me to unbuckle my belt, I of course refused. While he was a good looking man he just wasn’t my type but more importantly, I don’t do those things on the first date.
I mean, what kind of man does this guy think I am?
I prefer my men with a much more feminine voice and a “go f** yourself” attitude once a month. If you didn’t get that last joke then you are hopeless. He unbuckled my belt and found the cash, blasphemy! He was upset when he realized I was only carrying $50 dollars. After he started going through my back pack he found the Bavarian glass.
I was afraid that he would realize how expensive it was and would take that too. As luck would have it they were only interested in the electronics and the money. After he realized there was nothing else to take he was talking to me about how he was going to drop me off at the national airport. He gave me strict instructions to just walk inside and don’t look back. He had my wallet in his hand with my ATM cards, credit cards, and Id’s.
In most Latin American countries you have to pay the airport taxes separately. This means that once you check in you have pay the taxes in a separate counter. Realizing this, I tried to get my wallet back so they wouldn’t be able to get any money out of my accounts. I also realized that even if my flight left without me, I wouldn’t even be able to enter the terminal without paying the taxes. You did just read that this man fondled my knickers to get all the cash I had right?
We were going back and forth when the man finally gave the wallet back. I also was able to convince them to give me just enough money to pay the taxes at the airport so I could go home. I was a debate champion in college. Yes, even with a gun in my face.
Once they dropped me off I tried to look back and get the license plate number, curiosity killed the cat right. They did let off a few rounds once they saw me which was awesome. They just shot the ground below me to scare me a bit. It honestly wouldn’t have made a difference, who was I going to speak to? Airport police?
Once I got back back to the airport the next flight was delayed even longer which meant I was just on time to sit and wait a bit more. Fortunately, my robbers gave me a tip for being robbed. Once I paid the taxes I entered the terminal and was on my merry way? You think that that’s the end of the story don’t you.
The city that I am from is in a valley in the Andes mountains. When I was born the country of Venezuela was booming and there were massive Boeing 747 jets landing on the smallest landing strips possible. If the pilots made one wrong turn or landed a few inches farther than where they were supposed to, there would be a few 100 feet of cliff to have fun in.
There was actually an accident recently which meant that no large planes were allowed to land in Merida. I had to land in a city 1 hour away from Merida and then hop a taxi to the city. Luckily I didn’t have any problems and my Aunt got her wedding gift. Good Times.
Holy crap!! What an experience. I don’t know how u managed to keep your cool throughout it……and looking back on it with such humour!! You have guts…..i would still be scared thinking about it to this day!!!!
funny to read though! 🙂
I am just amazed that I actually hustled the money for the taxes.. I couldn’t believe it after the fact! lol
Hiding your cash in your “fruit of the looms”. what a powerful use of your sixth sense! Thank God they only scarred you. I use to love telenovelas from Venezuela. My planned visit is cancelled for ever!!!!!
anything to share about Roatan, Honduras?
I wouldn’t visit Honduras until things got better in the country… Roatan is okay though.
This makes me never want to travel to South America ! Yikes
Funny as hell man!!! Great writing and I guess it explains why you haven’t been back. I seriously want to go there some day but everyone (including locals) says the same thing to me “Don’t go, it’s sh*t!” Your post doesn’t help the case much as I know my butt would have been taken for the grand tour! lol
There are a few gems Troy, Margarita is a must and while I wouldn’t actually say Merida is all that. Its kinda cool to say you have been to the longest cable line in the world. Other than that its just the Angel falls and thats it
Wow, seems like a far cry from the place my Mom vacationed at in the late 80’s.
When I was born there in the 80’s the country was in the middle of its downturn, its like Colombia and Venezuela have switched places now. I only want to go back for the Angel falls but thats it
What a terrifying experience! We have Chavez and his president mates to thank for this terrible situation in Latin America.
While Chavez has made it worse the country was already very bad before he stepped into office. Unfortunately I dont see him stepping down any time soon ;-(
We can only hope…
lmao!! Im just amazed I got the money back for the taxes!
Crazy adventure. Way to talk them out of the money for the taxes. You should make it easier to find the comments section. Justin
I should have asked for coffee too right? lol
Oh, my! Why do I keep reading scary stories like this one? Makes me second guess the safety of traveling alone.Yikes! But seriously, I’m glad you survived the ordeal and lived to laugh about it. I don’t know if I could’ve been as clever as you in that scenario. You may have taken the long way home, but at least your aunt got her Bavarian glasses and you got a fantastic story to tell.
Yikes! What a crazy experience. If you were born in Venezuela, speak perfect Spanish and this happened to you, it doesn’t bode well for the average traveler.
Venzuela is DAAAANGEROUS, although now they did build a connection now between the two airports thats inside that will bode well for not getting kidnapped. lol thanks for the comment!
I went through the Caracas airport once, but I was with a group of college students, so I guess there is safety in numbers. Pretty crazy experience and not a good endorsement for the Venezuelan tourism.
Worse thing about it Ted is that I was born in the country! I mean I would love to represent but i wouldn’t recommend anyone visiting other than margarita or even the city of Merida which is pretty nice
Unfortunately, bad situations can happen just about anywhere. I’ve always heard of Colombia as being the most dangerous place in South America, not Venezuela so this post was interesting to me. I was mugged when I was in Paris once. It was a sucky experience but it could have been a lot worse. Glad they released you 🙂
I wouldn’t even recommend Americans to travel to Venezuela any more. Colombia unfortunately still lives in the stigma of the past, while you can’t let your guard down, its a lot better than it used to be. Venezuela is the new Colombia. Argentina is close to next on the list but only the city of Buenos Aires
Is Argentina bad also? I was planning on going to Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Venezuela so I guess I should rethink both then?
Rethink Venezuela… Argentina just keep an eye open as you travel.
Mike man.. i hate to say it but the country is a complete mess. My grandmother and aunt live in the country still and you know how they travel from city to city? In a bullet proof van that doesn’t stop for over 20 hours because of safety. just isn’t worth it anymore
Wow. Crazy story!
One of the craziest in my arsenal Kelsey.. thank god I made it okay
Its such a shame Leigh because the city at one point was one of the most visited cities in all of Latin America.. it doesn’t surprise me to hear about your husband and issues with business. The island of Margarita is the only place I would recommend you visit, other than that as the ppl in NYC say.. fugge about it! lol Thanks for the comment
Did they take off your shoes? Maybe money in your shoes is a better idea?
Or some money in your wallet so they don’t go looking for more?
they actually had my wallet but gave it back to me with all my credit cards.. they did search me (all my pockets and so forth). i honestly think that if I didn’t have anything that he prob would have tried the shoes. Im gonna put them inside my underwear next time! lol
HYSTERICAL post. Found this via your Is Colombia Dangerous post. Curious as to why you say BsAs is dangerous? I felt very safe there, but I was only there 3 weeks. It’s sad about Caracas and what has become of Venezuela.
What area of town did you stay in? I was able to tour the entire country and I have heard a significant amount of stories of the city as well. It is safer if you stay on the tourist trail but things are getting worse!
Wow Suzy Im so sorry to hear that.. I am curious to know what you look like? Are you typical american looking.. very white skin and blonde hair or are you more latin looking (brunette or black hair). I’m only curious because I wonder if they are targeting everyone know or just ppl that look like tourists
Omg you sound so calm and collected! I would’ve been a quivering wreck:(
Well it did help since I got money back for the taxes at the airport right? lol
Yikes man! How did you remain calm? I would have freaked. And yea, I hate when those stupid taxi drivers are always pressuring. I feel like creating a shirt that just specifically spells out “don’t f-ing ask me if I need a ride” .. haha. Glad you were okay!
I just thought to myself that there was no reason to panic because what were they really going to do to me? I honestly thought they wanted money and my electronics.. they even gave me change! lol
Chrystal… I have may more where that came from!! I still need to write about getting arrested & detained in South Sudan and also when a buddy of mine got “taken for a ride” in Colombia
My favorite part was you hustling those thugs for your money back. Glad to hear you made it out alive!
LOL… well I had to make it on the plane! lol thanks for the comment
I would be curious to know what city you visit I have family that lives throughout the country and it is extremely dangerous I was kidnapped I want to say roughly 5 years ago six years ago maybe?safest places right now in the country are Margarita Island Merida Venezuela in the region surrounding the West dear Merida
This story is isane and glad you shared. I’m sure we’ll cross paths one day and look forward to hearing some other stories that don’t make the blog. Safe travels & trading.
Def man! Weren’t you going to Medellin, Colombia?
What a terrifying experience. I’m amazed that you managed to get money back for the airport taxes! I don’t think I’d have had the guts to ask. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?! Awesome story and a good reminder that we should never let our guard down.
Well… they were trying to take anything else that I had so I decided to give it a go and it worked out in my favor.. thanks for the comment
Great story! Sounds like you held it all together perfectly, very impressive. I’ve started carrying a “dummy” wallet in risky spots, everybody ends up happy!
Thats brilliant!! Everyone used to do that in Brazil as well.. I am going to make a little pocket inside my jeans and shorts so I have that for extra cash as well
I also had problems when I visited Venezuela…but with the army. I was pulled out of the bus (only one, foreign passport) and they wanted me to get rid of my clothes and undergo a cavity check for drugs (yeah right). I was arguing with the pack leader at gunpoint when an officer came in and I managed to get away. Merida was OK, Maracaibo sucked, and I continued on to Colombia. Oh, the cable car is no longer working because of lack of maintenance, fyi
Thanks Federico.. they were planning to have it up and running soon but you know what that means with latin time…. lol
I spent two months in Colombia, one in Cartagena and one in Medellin. I found it to be pretty safe except for one occasion. While I was in Cartagena at a party with some other Americans, I along with the host and guests heard the gunshots from a failed assassination attempt next door. Apparently, 2 assassins on a motorcycle had tried to shoot and kill a man but failed. One of our guests was knocked to the ground and saw it as it was happening. Apparently, you can hire an assassin for about the equivalent of $100 US. Serious.
Having said that, I would never go to Venezuela even though my parents went in the early ’80s and even though Venezuela may hold claim to having the most beautiful women in South America. It just isn’t worth it to risk your life to go down there. This is only reinforced by Marcello’s experience. It seems that Venezuela and Brazil are probably the no. 1 and 2 most dangerous countries in South America, in that order.
Marcello, I think you were extremely lucky.
Not only luck Pete but it was also that I was a citizen.. they just wanted cash and electronics that was it. Venezuela is an extremely dangerous place and I would recommend that people stay away until things get better. Last time I went I even had a very rough time getting there.
great lol! I’m so scared now… I’m going to Margarita on Wednesday…. and I’m so nervous – thanks for sharing! Going to try to be hyper aware…!
Interesting! We have 3 off road trucks (5 people) headed into Venezuela from Colombia, in July this year. Are we crazy? Plan to cross at Cucuta, south of Meridia; up to & along the coast; south towards Angel Falls, crossing the border at Santa Elena de Uairen. From there, we drop down to Manaus. Any advice or information would be welcome. We are totally self sufficient.
Elizabeth I would definitely love to hear about your trip.. shoot me an email via the contact page and I will be happy to help.
Well, the things are like the people experienced it. I dont know why a liitle part, not the most, of the venezuelan people thinks that gringo is equal to money, and have the “celestial” right to take it all of them. The high violence rate is true, a 50 people assasained each week probe it. But the most part of the venezuelan people is kindable and lovely too. In not other country take care of you like an old friend, in not other country you can find the Oldest Macizo Guayanes with the Angel’s Waterfalls, thousands of kilometers of virgin beaches and the paradise on earth in Los Roques Islands, the tranquility of the Andean Mountains, the hot of the venezuelan girls, the crazy thing of pay 0,08USD for a full tank of gasoline, the unique experience on the Venezuelan Landscapes and its llaneros, can you imagine a afrovenezuelan drums party on a beach at night? My recommendation: find a local friend or a foreigner that have experience traveling in Venezuela, if you travel alone and looks like the typical tourist, make a favor yourself and dont come here. Sorry my bad english, i’m a venezuelan and said sorry to people who had troubles here, from the bottom of my national identity.
Just shared your article to my FB page. I was just mugged in Cebu about a week ago by 3 guys. Fortunately in my case they weren’t armed. I managed to knock one out (accidentally, after caving his nutz into his lower intestines).. so I got my stuff back and left. But it coulda been a lot worse had they been armed. Still, I’ll take my chances in the Philippines rather than Mexico frontiera or South America. And I’m Hispanic. I spent years visiting Mexico since my ex/wife was Mexican and.. damn, horror events like you wouldn’t believe. My basic mantra; “Desperate people do desperate things.” And me living doesn’t register on their radar, not a bit. Glad you came out without any lead poisoning. As for the photos.. got one word; ‘Truecrypt’. It encrypts that stuff like mad. Just never forget the password. ha!
The joys of travel Henry! Thanks for the comment and the share my man
Oh my gosh, what a scary story. At least you got back out of the car alive! Whilst travelling in South America I heard scary stories like yours, and others of bag snatching, however we were lucky not to encounter any of this and are planning to return in the not so distant future.
cracking story man, pity he didn’t find some soil when he was going through your under duds, or maybe your hard as nails….. Good story man!
I’m venezuelan and I don’t recommend people to come here alone, it’s sad that I say this but we’ve been living in a very dangerous country for more than 10 years now, and we do have beautiful places but if foreing people want to come visit, they should pair up with a local of thrust.
Great blog and I’m looking forward to read more about your cool life =). Mucho exito.
Gracias Gene… there you have it folks
Another crazy story here mate, class stuff! I was in Venezuela in 2011 and hated it – horrible country. Out of all the places I have been it was by far the most dangerous and dodgy. Had a bag slashing, an attempted mugging, a visa declined twice, got ripped off, locked out of my hotel room and a whole load more. However if you were born there, somehow it’s home. Safe travels, Jonny
I wouldn’t consider it home because I have been on the road for so long but I would agree that it is very dangerous country to be in.
That is quite a story! Again, as a woman, I may have tried to ask what he wanted rather than getting in the car, but most wouldn’t. Though I have never had a gun in my back, so I can’t be sure what I would do in that situation, I was smiling through your negotiations, as I can relate and see myself doing just that. My first thoughts were I hope he took his memory card out of the camera before handing it over, and then you mentioned thinking about it. I was also thinking, I bet if you asked for your SIM card and told them they would only have to throw it away anyway to avoid being tracked by GPS if they would have given it back to you. We can buy new cameras and phones, but losing the data would kill me. I also would have asked to give all my cash if I could keep my wallet. This assumes I was in a situation where there was time, which you had it seems.
When I was in Guatemala, people were being robbed left and right (not me in the 5 months I was there, but I was prepared to be every day). At one point a group of us were sitting around and those who’d experienced it were comparing stories, two of which were robbed by the police. We decided we would all prefer to be robbed by police if it had to happen, as given their jobs they didn’t have to be so quick and dirty about it. They took cash and what was valuable, such as cameras and iPods before returning your bags to you with wallets, allowing you to keep your ID, personal effects, credit cards, etc., where as other robbers stuck a gun in your face, took your whole bag and ran, and you lost everything. We determined there were degrees to being robbed there and the police were definitely the best option if it had to happen. I feel very lucky to have been there for so long, and out and about every day, to have escaped such a fate. Of course they never would have gotten more than to $5 Guatemalan bag, a few dollars, a notebook and a pen when they snatched my bag.
My biggest fear would to be robbed when going to or coming from the airport, as you were, when I have everything! And as stupid as it sounds, and many have told me for a smart person I can be really dumb for these kinds of situations, I can imagine I would be trying to hold in to certain things, negotiate, trick them, or run in a zig zag (they say even mist police couldn’t hit a moving target gaining distance running in any pattern not in a straight line. I am not sure how fast you can run in a zig zag, but I am sure it would at least run through my head while calculating my options) trying to escape. Again, this is assuming the presence of an actual gun wouldn’t affect me so drastically that I would freeze solid and wet my pants, because you never know how you will react in such an extreme situation until you have been there yourself, and I hope never to find out.
The craziest I ever behaved in another country was when I found out the hotel I was staying in had charged me double the amount if the pickup in Danang and ride to Hoi An and for my room compared to every other guest in the hotel. When I demanded a manager it got ugly. The staff actually took my passport and locked it up. When they would t return it to me or call the manager, I warned them, they ignored me, so I called their bluff and stood outside the hotel telling everyone that even pause to consider they place they had cheated me and when I demanded a manager they had taken my passport from me and locked it where I had no access to it and was stuck there.
The ladies working in the lobby were annoyed, but figured I would give up. Imagine my luck, a huge bus pulled into the front park of the hotel. They had co tracts with bus companies that delivered people right to their door. I stood on a bench and shouted so they could all hear as they got off the bus, announcing they had not only cheated me, but stolen my passport so I can’t leave the city or book another hotel and won’t call the manager. Despite an employee running out frantically running out side begging for them to ignore me insisting it want true and I was a ‘crazy lady’ almost all of the passengers walked away to find other accommodations. Two couples had booked in advance and were in the lobby discussing whether to stay or go, and another American had approached me and asked for more details about me not being able to get my passport. We went back in, and she being much calmer than I was at this point, explained they can’t do that, as the passport is technically the property of the US government. She told them if they didn’t return it to me immediately we would have to call the American Embassy who would involve the local police and the hotel, and especially the people who stole my passport could be in big trouble. They wouldn’t return it, but called a manager, who came immediately and tres to get me into an elevator with him where we could go upstairs and talk. He still didn’t return my passport. I told him to do so or We would call the American Embassy and while we waited for them to resolve the issue, I would right back outside waiting for the next bus of Western tourists. At that point he picked up the phone and I took the opportunity, having realized he wasn’t the real manager/owner took the opportunity to manipulate his Asian male ego, by telling him he clearly wasn’t in charge and I wa going to call the embassy and warn off others looking for a good hotel. He insisted he was in charge, but had to make a call. I told him if he had to get someone else’s permission it was clear he ha no power and had no more authority than the girls who called him. To prove he had more authority than lobby girls, as I assumed he would, he gave me my passport to save face.
Once on the roof he said he was the owners brother and manager, admitted my charges were all double their rates and assured me he would come back that night with the total to be taken off my bill, and there he got me, as I believed him. I stayed there and when I returned to the hotel that night at our designated meeting time, he didn’t show, but rather left a message that only said, “no discount.” I was wild and went to bed ( gripping my passport) knowing I wasn’t going to pay it all no matter what. Years later, with more experience I know I should have packed everything and just left in the middle of the night, but at the time I got up early, made sure all was packed and nothing was left behind and went to check out.
I repeatedly stated he had confirmed I had been charged double and I wasn’t paying full price, I was furious, but also didn’t want to do this all day, so when she said I knew the charges and chose to stay (though I didn’t know they were doubled until the day before), I decided to eat most of it, but the fact that he said he would change the rate and didn’t tell me otherwise until I had already incurred that days rate, and the trip from Danang he had said would be only $6, I decided on principle I would only pay what we discussed for the trip and the room for the previous night.
That came to $7.50, and based in the principal, I wouldn’t give in or let it go. Without going into the all the details of this fight, which lasted a couple of hours, at one point I demanded they call the man who had made the promises. When I got on the phone he was screaming an yelling at me. I told him three times I was going to hang up if he continued to speak to me that way. He did, but the actual phone was not within my reach and none of the girls would be the one to take the phone and hang up on him, so I dropped it on the floor and went and sat on my luggage, arms crossed. They all wet nuts, squealing and rushing to pick up the phone at which point I assume try told him what I did, as not 3 minutes later he showed up absolutely wild, screaming at me like some kind of lunatic. He was in my face, with his hand balled into a fist, a big key protruding through his knuckles in the manner women are advised to carry their keys through dark parking lots in case they must use it as a weapon. The key was only centimeters from my eye as he threatened me. I stood up, and was bigger than him in height and mass. I grabbed his wrist and he was so shocked he went quiet. I told him very slowly that if Jesus not get his fist out of my face and put the keys down, I would rip his arm off at the elbow and stick it up his ass keys, first. I NEVER talk to anyone that way or make physical threats. Though my stubbornness was in high gear and I was emotionally and physically incapable of backing down at that point, I think it was a reaction to fear–to the completely different person he was today and the way he spoke to me with a fist in my face and a sharp key so close to my eye. Of course, where normal more rational people may see danger based on this behavior, and give up, I stuck my heels in and won’t give them the satisfaction of prevailing through threats an intimidation. It is like I am on auto-pilot at that point.
He did look shocked and pulled his arm away and put his keys down, but the screaming continued. I don’t even remember what he was saying, but I do remember repeating one Lu e several times, “I will not let you profit from trickery!” Seriously. That is just how I said it. Several potential guests had come and gone du to the scene in the lobby, expressing good luck to me enforce leaving, which only increase his ire. Finally he threatened to call the police, and I said that was for the best, as they had defrauded me, admitted to it and still expected me to pay for the fraudulent charges. I tol him to make sure he requested an officer who speaks English, and he called the police. This turned I to another cycle of him screaming at the policeman, me telling the whole story, the policeman trying to reason with him, him screaming, the policeman trying to reason with me, to which I got frustrated and changed my pronunciation slightly, insisting, “We must not let them profit from trickery!” The policeman, acting more like a mediator was getting really frustrated and annoyed. At one point the ‘manager was screaming in the policeman’s face, and the policeman approached me with a slightly different manner asking to see my passport. The staff had tried to he it back from me the night before as they assume you will pay any amount to have it returned to you. I told the officer they had a copy of my passport and he had it in his hand with the bill I had marked up. They had provided that to him as soon as he came in. He insisted he needed to verify my original. I told him I would open the passport to the relevant page and he may compare it to the copy with his eyes only, which I did. I was sitting on a bench and there was another wooden bench facing my bench. He was standing between them. Once I had my passport open he insisted he needed to hold it himself. I told him it had already been stolen by hotel staff and after they had made another attempt I would not let it off my person within the walls of the hotel, and he only needed his eyes to verify it matched the copy, which had all the information he needed on it. To my surprise he mad a grab for it, but luckily given my strong distrust at that point I had a death grip on both the top and bottom. He grabbed the sides and I found myself in a tug of war over my passport with a policeman. I wasn’t letting go for anything! He didn’t have the grip I did, however, and we were in such a strong battle that when he lost his grip, he literally flew backwards landing in the floor and slamming his head in the seat of the bench behind him. OOPS!
He was furious, and I remember the relief I felt when he aimed that fury at the hotel guy, storming toward him screaming at this point. The hotel guy didn’t back down, screamed back and again the policeman approached me very flustered and upset. He informed me, due to the customers this was costing the hotel if I wanted to continue this, he needed to take me down to the station to work it out. At that point (at least according to friends an family who called me a lunatic following this tale, which is definitely NOT my proudest moment) I probably be should have started to come to my senses, given the threat of being taken into custody by a communist police force, but nope! Still in auto-pilot I called his bluff, saying, “OK.” The officer was shocked.
He asked me repeatedly, Ok? Ok? Just like that? You will come with me? To which I replied, “sure. I will come with you…if you think you can physically get me off this bench and carry me out of here, kicking, screaming and fighting you all the way, because tat is the only way YOU are getting me out of this God damn lobby.” I continued to say they were pushing customers away while continuing on insisting I pay the fraudulent amount where others who do t want to be cheated can hear us arguing. This time the cop went at the hotel guy like he was going to hit him, though he didn’t, but rather screamed not than before and then turned Nd strolled out the door, a the hotel guy chased him out yelling in a different tone, one more like pleading. I actually heard the cop’s tires squeal he pulled off so fast. The hotel guy composed himself and told me he would be back with others to drag me to the station, but I knew that wasn’t true, and surprised myself by bursting out in laughter before telling hotel guy confidently, “no he’s not! He is gone.” At that point he still looked pissed but defeated. He said just pay what you want an get out!
I did, but he had lost so many bookings, especially with over 50 people on a full bus the day before, and when traveling in Vietnam at that time anyway, that was the only hotel I had stayed in since my first night there, that I hadn’t gotten a recommendation and their contact information from a traveler going south (I was headed north). I never had another experience while traveling where word of mouth held so much power over where others heading in that direction would stay, eat, etc. and you better believe I told my story and passed out their cards as a place to avoid and spread the word for the rest if my trip through Vietnam.
Again, no guns involved, but biggest money I have ever been taken for, and an excellent example of just how stubborn (and foolish) I can be, which as I earlier had me relating to you and your negotiations in this crazy story you told. Stay safe out there!
Awesome story! Great you could wheel and deal with them and have them drop you off at the airport! Hilarious!
My worst experience was Latvia, Russia. The old people and the government is still communist and we had to speak Spanish or they would look mean at us. Got great pictures!
The best experience was Budapest, Hungary where the love music from Puerto Rico and Ricky Martin was having a concert that week. I was elated! American clothes expensive, gorgeous Hungarian clothes inexpensive!!! Had a blast! Every man should take their wife to the Blue Danube Tour at night and she will love you forever!!!
I was also treated like shit by Venezuelan army , they checked me allover for drugs, i had to take my pants off completely naked.
Margarita Island is not longer so safe, lots of people have been mugged and some killed too, so it’s safe only relatively to Caracas but not to other places.
Max they probably were checking for dollars and drugs. Definitely not the greatest place to be but I don’t think the army and the way they treated you are representative of the people there in the country. Most Venezuelans are very nice people
I lived in venezuela three years..place is georgeous but political system sucks..nice people but they think they can change the system with demonstrations,,bub..you all need a good civil war,,or a Pinochet type to get rid of all the commies..i will never go back
I agree with most of what you said there… country is in bad shape and it is a shame because it has so much potential
I am from India with brown skin. One of my friend invited me to visit Venezuela. is it dangerous for Indians also?
It isn’t the safest place for anyone Edwin.. I would just keep an eye out but if you look like a foreigner you will obviously be targeted
I am a Venezuelan-born guy of American upbringing (Kansas City) and I currently live in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela is unsafe in general, yet the smart traveler can enjoy the wonders of this beautiful land such as Los Roques or Canaima-Salto Angel, and even the vibe of my city Caracas. The trick is to prearrange your trip well. Avid travelers love to feel they know how to get around and they tend to wing it. Don’t do that here on the side. There are a few people here in the country that help travelers get around. I do that, mostly because I realized that there are travelers that MUST put Venezuela on their “been there” list. Those guys will not take no for an answer, so I don’t tell them “no”, I tell them “how.” There are a few misconceptions about coming here; one of them is race, highly mentioned by blogger Marcello. Venezuela has people of all types, from black to Arabic to Nordic white to Asians, with the biggest groups being the “mestizo” (brownish Hugo Chavez type), the Mediterranean white (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese) and black, in that order. In other words, everyone can blend in. Social classes are the thing here, not race so much as you would think. All you have to do is not look affluent, of the higher classes, although here the higher you go up in the class levels, the whiter it gets, but there are plenty of exceptions, so just being white doesn’t make you “affluent”. You can be white, even KKK Grand Wizard white like Marcello describes himself (although he looks very Latino from my Kansas City perspective, at least in that picture with the Cheetahs), but the trick is to not look affluent. You do that by dressing below the level of the common local (who normally use clothing as a status symbol, so they tend to floss) but above the level of a hippie-backpacker. My success rate in helping Norwegians, Swedes, Aussies, Brits, Danes, etc. is 100%. The only person that ever had an incident was a US Marine of all people (overconfident) that did not follow my arrival instructions and got fooled by a “pirate” cab driver that passed himself off as his pick-up and later robbed him, instead of coming up with my driver who follows a simple security confirmation procedure so you know he’s really my driver. My place is called Nelson’s Place by the way, and it’s truly my mission to help out those world travelers that want to come safely. As Marcello showed by his story, things can happen if you just go about being a “gocho” (what they call people from the Venezuelan Andes, such as Mérida). I you travel smart by getting the right advice from a KNOWING local, Venezuela will be one of the highlights of your world travels, and one of the biggest in bragging rights in the travel community. Cheers all! Great blog by the way…KUTGW!
Dude, I am Venezuelan too… simply loved your sense of humor! As a good Venezuelan…”A tu mal tiempo le pusiste buena cara” ( At your disgrace you put a smiley face).
i have just booked myself a 2 week trip to caracass for april im going just to look for some adventure away from working a boring job im travelling alone my spanish is non exisitant and iv never been to south america am i in way over my head?
Danny… I would say yes. As long as you don’t look like a Gringo then I would say you may be okay but definitely keep an eye out. It isn’t the safest place in the world to be
Wow man that is a crazy adventure you had there in Venezuela. Fortunately, I was 1 month in Venezuela and nothing much happen except the normal tourist stuff around my travel. OMG! Good to know you’re OK now. Enjoy more of the World! keep safe, hug from Arequipa, Peru.
Hi Marcello, I am putting together a trip with my spouse within the year with a stop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. What’s the status there? I avoid the rough places such as Egypt at this time but have been there a 5 years ago and it was OK. We live a bit on the edge but haven’t yet had that happen only pickpockets.
Buenos Aires is an amazing city but right now it is in a bit of problems Betty. Just keep an eye out on things and make sure that you are very aware of your surroundings.
Its a great time for a Right Wing Dictatorship. You work hard and your not political you can leave your doors open. If you are like the guys that got you your DEAD!! NO MORE RANCHOS , GREAT ECONOMY ! AND SECURITY VIVA Pinochet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wow, What a story. It sure differs from the stories of my 72 year old friend who used to go there as a child with his geologist father who worked there quite often. I know he did say that their huge american car turned heads!
72 years ago it was a very different country but right now it is in pretty bad shape
Hi Marcello, crazy experience I’ve allways heard from Columbia as being a dangerous country and Brazil or Argentina but not Venezuela.Its really bad because I am sure its a beautiful country with friendly people but this its a shame ….if they have no tourist or very less they loose a lot of money …happy you are alive and thank you for share !!
Regards from Austria, , Isabela
Colombia and Brazil are nowhere near as dangerous as they used to be. Argentina however has gotten very bad recently and Venezuela I would not recommend visiting at this point in time.
I love Argentina and don’t think its dangerous. I travel throughout, but don’t go to big city’s anyway. Big cities are dangerous no matter where you go on earth.
Worst is looking as a tourist and not blending in.
When in Rom, do as the Romans.
I’m blond and blue eyed.
I fondly remember the good times I had in Venezuela in the late 90’s, like the 1st day I traveled there and saw a guy from Germany take two bullets in his chest only a few feet from me. He died. I remember when my friend got shot when they tried to steal his car. He is a paraplegic now. I remember when they stole my watch (haha, I bought a $5 watch from Walmart b/c I knew they would steal it) and when they stole my money. I’m glad that guy “got into my pants so easily” (although it was just my pocket. I wasn’t quite as violated as you). He had some weapon under his shirt, but I had on slacks and it was easy for him to grab and go. Fortunately, I didn’t get to see what he had. What good times! I remember when my sister-n-law’s “entrepreneur” boyfriend stole the family’s Toyota Landcruiser and there was “nothing” they could do about it. That was actually a good thing though. It was old, and the mechanics there were robbing them blind about every 3-4 months. Even with the cost of public transportation and the occasional muggings on the buses, they are still coming out ahead financially.
Still, I believe I have made 13 or 14 trips to Venezuela since 1995. I stole a couple things there myself, like a wife and some good memories. Actually, in spite of the crazy stuff, I have lots of good memories. The country is beautiful and the people are great (obviously not all of them). If the economy and job market didn’t suck, I don’t think people would steal so much. Although, that has become the culture. The government under Chavez pretty much has sanctioned the criminal behavior of the poor in the name of Socialism. Now Maduro has taken it to the next step. It looks like he may take Chavez’s soft dictatorship and turn it into a full blown dictatorship. There are many brave Venezuelans, heroes in my mind, that are standing up to Maduro’s government. I pray it works! If it doesn’t, we’ll have another 1960’s Cuba. I will have many family members and friends living in a prison without walls.
If you are thinking about traveling to Venezuela these days, don’t! Especially if you are from the US!! You won’t only have to worry about thieves, but a paranoid government that doesn’t want you there. Give it some time. These things have a way of repairing themselves, but it will take several years.
Glad you are fine, Marcello, I can only imagine how scary that must’ve been. I am a Northern American woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. My husband, who is Venezuelan, and I met in college (I’m from Mississippi) and we moved to Caracas 9 years ago. I LOVE this country and have NOT ONCE had anything remotely dangerous occur to me. People here are the friendliest and have never, ever once so much as given me a mean look. Do I recommend traveling to Venezuela at this very moment? Absolutely not because of the political tension. Praying that changes soon or unfortunately we will be moving. This country is just gorgeous and it is a shame to miss out on such beautiful, natural sites. For all of you who would like to visit, wait a bit (here’s hoping for change!!!) for things to cool down and come and see the beauty for yourselves. By the way, Marcello, you do look Latino so I wouldn’t have worried so much about tanning or looking like a ”gringo”! Haha! I am as ”white” as they come and have been shown nothing but respect in my years here. Caracas is like ANY city, there are places that you can go and places that you just can’t. It’s all about street smarts. My brother was held at gun point in a small town in Ms.at a small park during afternoon hours and my car was broken into twice in a college town in Alabama. What happened to you was highly unfortuante and gratefully you live to tell about it! Best regards from one world traveler to another. 🙂
Thanks for the note Lucy
Yes, it’s such a shame that there are so many problems. If things there ever get resolved it should be a place on the top of everyone’s travel list. So many things to see and do and of course the people love to party, have fun and treat you like their best mate.
I’m heading back there for Christmas with my Venezuelan girlfriend, will definitely be keeping my eyes open. Funny you say about a fake tan as I remember trying to get as much as a tan as I could before going my first time so I didn’t look like some fresh gringo straight from Europe.
Hermano Maracaibo también está en su peor momento, yo quiero irme de aqui! Y todos los ministerios se ponen en tu contra para que no puedas salir del pais! Ejtoejhorrible
Hi, love the story 🙂
Do you -or anyone else here- know if it is safe to ship a package with clothes to Caracas by regular mail? Will it arrive at all? Shipping by DHL or FedEx or something is 3 x as expensive.
I would not send anything to Venezuela via regular mail.
Becca, I receive Fedex/UPS packages to my door (apartment building in Caracas) often and have yet to have a problem in over 9 years. Regular mail; however, does not work here.
SERIOUSLY? I mean holy sh*t! (great humor tho..)
I am planning on traveling to Venezuela in September with my friend to visit my friends family. Did I mention that I am light blonde and European. I think i might change my mind after reading this.
I will keep you in my prayers Misha lol
My girlfriend is offert a job in venezuela. She wants to go work there. She looks a bit like a spanish person but people can tell that´s she is not from there. Is it wise for her you think to go there? (she speaks perfect spanish)
For me is it wise to visit her, i am a typical dutch guy with blond hair and blue eyes.
My spanish is not great i understand everything but talking i do also using my hands.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone going to Venezuela right now Kevin. If you look like a foreigner you will find trouble very easily.
Oh no I am heading to venezuela on Thursday. But I hope I blend in with local as I am African .
Sorry Bro for that horrible experience. Even that you was prepared for a situation like that you never believe that is going to happening to you. They targeting people traveling SOLO, as a easy way to rob or to kidnap a person. Next time try to don’t going alone may help. GOD Blessing You my brother in every trip that you going to. And Thanks for share that story with us.
I know the Feeling Marcello! i was robbed in Rio in 1997. inside the Bus. that’s when the Pope was coming to Rio . security was so tight! every where, if you recalled the samba parade near the Favela. Inside a Tunnel. One guy in the front and another in the Back, so they had machine guns. they planned and they studied very well! It’s a nightmare. I think we agree that Left Wing in our countries. like Dilma, Chaves, Morales, Rafael Correa, musical , Kristina Kishner, all the South America dictators doesn’t work. well it’s our countries that Ha a beauty of people, cultures, and Kindness. It’s ashamed its bad politics
hey Marcello. I am 19 years old and from Canada. Im brown skinned though I know its not safe for anyone,I have to visit a friend that’s located in merida.
my friend told me that the domestic ariline to santa bara can only bring me to el vigia. From there i either go to merida by collective cabs( 1 1/2 overland ride) or directly by bus ( on 12 hours night trip). What would you recommend be the safest way for me to get to merida? Should i use domestic flight is there is? Find a local person to help or go with a tour bus to merida?
his plan is to meet me at the caracas airport restaurant or information counter of the bus terminal.
Would recommend flying into Cucuta, Colombia and then going by land. Would not trust airlines in Venezuela. Many international airlines stopped flying there because of all the financial problems.
That is quite the story, Marcello. I am planning a trip to Ecuador and Peru soon and there will be times I will be alone and not part of a tour. I do not think these places are as bad, right?? As a female with fair skin, I am crossing my fingers! Although these are great stories in retrospect, how do you even prepare for them and manage to wiggle out of them!
Hmm so my husband and I are in Chile at the moment and looking into doing a trip to Angels Falls and Mt Roraima trek with a tour company in Ciudad Bolivar in Nov/Dec 2014. We would need to fly into Caracas and then to Ciudad Bolivar. There will also be a flight to Canaima and an overnight bus to Santa Elena during the tour. Should we not even consider right now then? From the sounds of things, it hasn’t got any better since you wrote this post in 2011?
You can also go from Manaus in Brazil. It is pretty chaotic to get there but definitely worth it. If you find a good travel agent you should be alright.
This is unbelievable! First of all, love the humor! Second, this is what I was terrified of every single time I went to Venezuela. I am very, very lucky in that aspect but I know a lot of people who suffered similar circumstances. I actually did exchange my money in the dark corner of the airport terminal, but this was back in 2008 so I got a super duper 6:1 ratio. I can’t believe you negotiated with the criminals to get tax money.. you are so ballsy!
I like your sarcasm – and the story is not too bad, either! What have you learned from this? Will you take an “official” taxi next time?
Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time Andre.
Omg I’m so worried about you! Hope your okay?
Definitely okay Bianca
Love this story dude! Sounds like a hairy experience but it made me chuckle!
Sorry to hear, but glad there was a happy ending! I’ve been hearing the same thing about Venezuela on my recent travels while I was in Medellin. Gringos Beware!!!!
So glad you are ok. Your experience surpasses almost any other traveler on the web!! Take care.
I stumbled across your website because I was looking for things about Argentina (currently in Brazil, heading to Argentina for two-ish weeks in about a month), and decided to read one of your blogs. I chose this one and I’m so glad I did because it was thrilling and I love your style of writing! I wish we were friends becuase I love your sense of humor as well.
Although I’m only 22, I hope to be traveling as much as you are someday…hopefully sometime soon. haha I’ll probably be reading more, so thanks in advance!
What an incredible story and experience. I am glad it worked out okay in the end. Thank-you for sharing!
This is a crazy story, but I like how you have a sense of humour about it!
Wow, so I’m not really sure what I would have done in that situation but I’d say you played it very cool. I’m thinking if I’m not putting Venezuela on my countries to hold off right now, then I’d better getting to brushing up on my Spanish before venturing down there… Well that, or simply having a local alongside that would help steer us clear of that craziness! But then again, it’s all about the adventure right? What good would travel be without it!
Your sarcasm is hilarious but holy shit what a crazy experience
Yikes! Is this real?! Planning a trip to Caracas in 2016. 🙁
You need to rethink that. There are shortages of everything right now which means the population is even more desperate than in the last decade. Not to mention you may not even be able to purchase food.
Wow, I was actually considering a trip to Vzla, to either Los Cayos, Merida, or Margarita. But after reading that, and knowing that there are no direct flights to those places, that idea is fading.
Is this an Onion article?
No this is one of my personal articles.
Lol, yea it kind of smells of an onion article. Sorry but it just doesn’t seem real. They have a gun held to you but you decide to argue fire taxi money? And these guys, who certainly could care less about your welfare, are nice enough to give it back? Then shoot at your feet? Sorry but I call bull $$$. I didn’t doubt it’s dangerous there, but what I do doubt is the story. It’s just exactly that, a story.
Wow! Other than not going to Venezuela, what would you advise to others in order to avoid such excitement. Where would you store $? Where would you hide a separate credit card? Stay in airport? I’m always nervous with taxis, especially since I only speak English. I travel with camera equipment. Advice? Now I’m nervous! Glad you (and the Bavarian crystal) made it through ok.
Tengo un amigo de Merida que tiene pasaporte italiano y trabaja aqui u en Alemania – el siempre me dice que es mejor no ir a Venezuela ahora. Then again, I have many other friends who visited and yes, they say you really have to watch out and that the atmosphere is not the best, but they loved the country. I still would love to go, eventually… Good thing you at least got your wallet back!!
Glad you made it through. I live in California and my plan is to go to Columbia, as my first stop, to trade and learn Spanish.
Please stay careful,
This is an experience that many fear when travelling to a developing country, but is not likely to happen. But it did to you. Do you think it would have been safe to take a taxi to the domestic airport, rather than walk?
I am going soon to Guyana and was thinking of extending the trip to Venezuela and Columbia. Caracas is certifiably dangerous, but would it be safe to travel elsewhere? If so, where? How about wilderness travel, such as going to Angel Falls?
Ed… the only place I would say is probably semi safe is Merida. But would be quite difficult to get there. There are still trips to the Angel Falls but I just wouldn’t recommend visiting Venezuela until things get better.
Oh my I was laughimg so much readimg this.amd am always astoumded to read how dangerous it is knowimg I have been three times and travelled all aroumd that beautiful cou try, first time with my best friend, both blonde english womem thirty yrs old then, 2nd time eith sister and 10yr old nephew ((I wanted them to see it because I wanted to live there., 3rd time I went alone.i used taxis from airport buses no problem.all times people were lovely and kind.i actually ended up walking along the highway to the airport because a taxi I had booked didnt show, I flagged one down on the highway! Love Ven always.
Yes u right dear.
well..some people can go to some places 10-20 times and nothing really bad happen to them some can get a lot of shit travelling for the
first time…like we say bad time bad
place…. but the most depends how do you act and your experience..
l dont think in general than travelling is more dangerous than living in big city
anyway as the thing go visiting Venezuela in recent time is most stressfull than on average..
corruption,violent crime + frustrating money exchange ,transport problems make it more problematic travelling than in other countries…still if you like challenge and have ability to deal with it …
probably you find ok still you may encounter problems and difficulties
which are not really counted as a great travel experience.
by the way anybody knows how it is present situation of food shopping sector?
I just Booked flights to Caracas ( Literally 10 minutes ago) .. Im meeting my French/Venezuelan BF there.. Reading all these comments and stories have literally scared me so much, I’m about to call and cancel our flights. I feel so bad, bc he really wants to visit Caracas. I’m an American, and our skin color is very fair, so this means that we are the prime targets? Is it really that bad? He has family out there , so we are not taking Taxi’s , and we are gonna be around with family members (Venezuelan Residents).
If you are going to be with family members then you should be okay… otherwise you were warned lol
What an adventure, dude!
Lastimable que nosotros latinoamericanos tenemos que vivir así. Soy brasileño pero soy más blanco que vos y rubio com ojos azules, entonces incluso en mi país me convierto en extranjero.
Lucky man, that’s a bad airport… Sure you were one of a few victims that day!! I know Venezuela a little and tell people to avoid the place, run security courses and have a few horror stories from there!!
Friends in Merida say don’t visit, too dangerous.
Visited Merida in ’96 and about 10x since-last visit 8 years ago.
Most meridenos only leave home when absolutely necessary.
Been to Catia, Caracas 2x. The ultimate hell hole.
My goodness now you have Nicolas Maduro in power to make things better. Welcome to the Peoples Socialist Republic of Venezuela soon to be the Sixth official Communist country in the world. Supermarkets no meat, no milk, no fruit, no toilet paper , no soap or shampoo just nothing.at all.Hop over the border to Colombia for all that stuff. Caracas is now in a battle with San Pedro Sula Honduras in being the overall most dangerous violent city in the world. The consulates don’t even know what to tell you lead time for a visa for U.S.Citizens. I had read three working days, the Consulate staff tell me five weeks…..excuse me? The website tells you apply 30 days before arrival date in Venezuela. Five weeks is more then 30 days as far as I know. You must apply in person for a visa, no visa service, no friends delivering passport on your behalf, or mailing your application. A tourist visa the Embassy/Consulate want the last three months of bank statements among other things. Petrol in price is .05 U.S.Cents per liter. This country is like Cuba or Soviet Union during the 1970’s.economy wise.Afterwards throw in the violence of Colombia of the Early 1990’s, you’ll have today’s Venezuela. The city of Caracas should be named Crackass .
Hi Marcello…..Agosh !! Sorry for your troubles ameigo….but can truly understand. My sister & i traveled to Margarita Island with our spouses for many many years. Initially direct flight to the island on Viasa aka party airlines🚅🍹🍸🍾🍺🎉🎊🚅 !! In the 90’s we had to fly to Caracas 1st. Yeah, that DELIGHTFUL AIRPORT was where we were taken to the BASEMENT & detained by……yup….the policia…armed to the teeth. They threatened us with prison until Bett & i flashed a wad of US DOLLARS. They grabbed them & promptly released us, wishing us a beautiful holiday on the island !!
Looking back its a “funny” story, but it was a tad frightening at the time. However, our months on Margarita were the happiest of all our lives. SO wish it was safe to return. Everything we research says NOT TO GO! Any input?? Thanx.