Barriada in Caracas, Venezuela
A barriada (Photo credit: Ander Unibaso Villaverde)

Caracas Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The capital and largest city in Venezuela, with roughly 2 million inhabitants.
  • Officially known as Santiago de León de Caracas.
  • Nicknames: Sultan of the Ávila (the mountain that overlooks Caracas), Heaven’s Branch on Earth, and the City of Eternal Spring (this is completely off!)

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Venezuelan Bolívar (VEF)
  • Spoken languages: Spanish.
  • Best time To visit: from September to April (the dry season). The summer months (July and August) are just too hot, and Caracas is never inundated with tourists.
  • Arriving via airport: The Simón Bolívar Airport is about 40 minutes from downtown Caracas and taxis should cost BsG 270-330. Buses from the airport to Caracas cost BsF 18.

WHERE TO STAY

Caracas is lacking in terms of a backpacking district, and budget accommodations can be tough to come by. The Sabana Grande neighborhood in the city center has the largest concentration of hotels in Caracas, all in the mid to upscale range. Altamira and Las Mercedes are two beautiful, high-class neighborhoods with the most expensive accommodation options in town.

GETTING AROUND

  • The Caracas Metro system is the cheapest way of getting around town, with fares at BsF 1.50, round trips at 3.00 and a 10 trip ticket at 13.50. It goes everywhere a visitor would want to see, but the real cost is discomfort. The Metro is almost always overcrowded – you may have to let  3 trains pass by before you can fit into one.
  • Por puestos are minibuses that can be hailed from pretty much any street in town with fixed routes displayed in their windows. These are less crowded, more expensive (BsF 4.00) and slower than the Metro, as they stop wherever hailed.
  • Taxis are everywhere in Caracas but none of them have meters, so you’ll have to haggle with each driver before getting in – they are notorious for quoting outrageous prices at first. This is the norm here, but once you’ve agreed on a price, it will still be about 10 times the cost of the Metro. There is a big problem with unlicensed taxis in Caracas, so make sure to only ride those with yellow plates.
  • Mototaxis (motorcycle taxis) are only located in certain parts of town, but are cheaper than regular taxis. Be prepared for a hair-raising ride: traffic in Caracas is a complete mess!

CARACAS NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, last call varies – bars close between 4 AM and noon the next day.
  • Las Mercedes is the neighborhood to be in on the weekend, which unofficially starts on Tuesday in Caracas. Clubs here are top-notch, with dress codes and beautiful people.
  • Centro San Ignacio is a guarded nightlife and entertainment complex alive both day and night. It’s a hub for wealthy Caraqueños with tons of restaurants, bars and boutiques and probably the safest place to party in town.
  • El Rosal is a small upscale neighborhood in the city center with the glitziest nightlife options in all of Caracas.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • The Teleférico is a cable car that takes visitors to a peak in Ávila National Park where a network of hiking trails are located – the panoramic city views are reason enough to ride up!
  • Plaza Bolívar is a homage to the country’s hero, with a statue at its center surrounded by greenery and pedestrian-only promenades. This is a great spot for people-watching, reading in the shade of a tree or sightseeing the exceptional examples of colonial architecture surrounding the square.
  • Located at one end of the Parque Central complex, the Museum of Modern Art is one of the best in the entire continent, with a dozen halls showing off Caracas’ legendary cutting-edge arts scene.
  • The Botanical Garden of Caracas, near Sabana Grande, is a truly blissful escape from the hectic noise of Caracas and its wild traffic. The extensive gardens are as picturesque as they come, with local vegetation as well as plants from around the world represented.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Cerro El Ávila is located in the national park of the same name that borders Caracas from the Caribbean Sea. The Teleférico will take you there, where you can hike and camp.
  • Just off the Metro station Ciudad Universitaria are the impressive grounds of Central University of Caracas main campus, designed by the country’s most renowned architect, Carlos Raul Villanueva. A walk around the complex will reveal works of art blended in with the 1950’s and 60’s architecture – this is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • El Hatillo is a 16t century town that was eventually swallowed up by Caracas that still offers a scenic getaway from the city’s chaos. Expect a cluster of brightly-painted houses cascading along the mountainside filled with cafes and boutiques.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Complications related to the exchange rate mean that you can get up to 20 times more cash if you make the exchange on the black market. It is best to have a friend in Venezuela who can help you navigate this – otherwise, you’ll be losing a lot of money.
  • Traffic can sometimes seem impossible to navigate on foot, as many drivers completely ignore stoplights and don’t slow down for pedestrians. Limit your walks to specific neighborhoods and if you need to get to another part of town, take the Metro or a taxi.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: Caracas is renowned for its Spanish taverna-style tascas, which offer cheap and delicious lunches, and its steakhouses, of which there are many! Don’t forget that this is the birthplace of arepas, a savory pancake sometimes stuffed with cheese or meat – areparias can be found everywhere. The entire city is a foodie capital.
  • Dangerous areas: any neighbourhoods lining the hills that surround Caracas should be avoided at all times. Do not walk anywhere alone at night. Even if you’re in a group, take a taxi! You might want to take a backpack instead of a purse, and don’t carry all your important belongings in it at once.

RECOMMENDED CARACAS GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Caracas Travel Guide was last modified: September 23rd, 2016 by Nick
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