Joanne Castillo

Is Venezuela Safe?

When choosing a vacation destination, many travelers ask is Venezuela safe enough to visit? While it’s true that the country has one of the highest crime rates in the world, it is very possible to have a fun, safe trip. Prior to embarking on your journey you must learn how to be a savvy tourist and how to protect yourself, your family and your belongings.

Flying into the Country

When asking the question, “is Venezuela safe?” many travelers don’t think twice about the risks they may face at the airport, as this isn’t typically a high crime spot in most places of the world. However, the main airport in the country, Simon Bolivar International Airport, otherwise known as Maiquetía International Airport, isn’t a place to let your guard down. The U.S. Department of State says travel to and from the airport can be dangerous. The U.S. Embassy has received many reports of crimes completed by individuals in what appear to be official looking uniforms or credentials involved in these crimes, which have included “express kidnapping,” extorting money from travelers, or unjust searches for illegal drugs or money.

Places to Avoid

The Canadian government warns any travelers who are wondering “is Venezuela safe?” to stay away from the following areas of the country at all times:

  • Near the Columbian Border: Avoid areas 80 miles within the Columbian border, due to a high threat of kidnapping. The most dangerous areas include remote areas, including the states of Zulia, Táchira, Barinas, Bolívar, Apure, Amazonas, Anzoátegui and Sucre.
  • Sabana Grande and Plaza Venezuela: These areas in central Caracas are known for violent robberies.

Pickpockets are a huge problem in subway stations and crowded buses, so it’s not advisable to use these methods of transportation. Avoid displaying any signs of wealth, including wearing flashy jewelry or carrying a mobile phone. If you need to go to an ABM (automatic banking machine), only do so during the daytime and in shopping malls or busy residential areas.

Transportation

Many travelers choose to rent a car upon arrival in Venezuela. If you take this option, it’s important to avoid traveling at night, as it’s not safe for many reasons, including crime, road damage, and wandering livestock. During your journey you may pass through a Bolivarian National Guard or police checkpoint, where you will be required to stop. There have been reports of illegal roadblocks set up by bandits who stop and rob vehicles.

If traveling by taxi, always use a licensed taxi and never an unlicensed one. Although crimes have been reported from both, licensed taxis are generally safe. Criminals often pose as unlicensed taxi drivers, and then rob passengers when they get in the car.

So the answer to the “is Venezuela safe,” question is yes, if proper precautions are taken prior to embarking on your journey.

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Travel Tips Leave a comment

Canaima National Park: A Geological Wonderland

Located in southeastern Venezuela’s Bolivar State, Canaima National Park borders Brazil and Guyana. This massive geological wonderland covers 12,000 square miles, making it the sixth largest national park in the world. Roughly 65 percent of the park is covered in tepuis or tabletop mountains, a type of plateau with vertical walls and nearly flat tops, making for stunning scenic views. The park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, by UNESCO, because of its tepuis.

Top Sites in Canaima National Park

  • Angel Falls: Indisputably the most popular site in the park, Angel Falls is the world’s tallest waterfall, standing 3,287 feet high. It is actually 16 times taller than Niagara Falls.
  • Mount Roraima: Another very popular tepuis in the park, as this is the tallest and easiest to climb. Visitors enjoy exploring its black rocks, pools, gorges, and wildflower gardens.
  • La Gran Sabana: This terrain offers breathtaking views of wide open plains filled with tepuis.
  • Salto Aponguao: Considered one of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls, Salto Aponguao has a drop of more than 300 feet. This site is challenging to reach, but visitors say the stunning sites are worth the difficult trek.
  • Mt. Auyantepui: One of the largest mountains in the Guiana Range, the waters of Angel Falls flow from the cliffs of Mt. Auyantepui.
  • Kavak: A remote village run by the Pemon Indians. While reaching the site isn’t the easiest, travelers who make the trip are always glad they did so.
  • Salto el Sapo: Adventure seeking travelers enjoy the opportunity to cross a waterfall by foot offered by Salto el Sapo.

Canaima National Park Wildlife

The park is home to a diverse assortment of plant and animal species not found anywhere else in the world. One-third of the plants in Canaima National Park are not found anywhere else in the world. According to UNESCO, 118 mammals, 550 birds, 72 reptiles, and 55 amphibians have been recorded in the park. Six species of mammals are of conservation concern, including the giant anteater, giant armadillo, giant otter, bush dog, little spotted cat, and margay.

Where to Stay

Camping in Canaima National Park is not permitted. Although the rule is enforced throughout the park, officials monitor the Angel Falls area extra closely, as it is the most popular site for visitors. Travelers stay at the inns, hostels, lodges, and official campgrounds in the park. Some of these include:

  • Campamento Canaima
  • Barquilla de Fresa
  • Waku Lodge
  • Jungle Rudy’s Ucaima Camp
  • Tapuy Lodge
  • Campamento Parakaupa
  • Excursiones Kavac
  • Arekuna Lodge
  • Campamento Morichal Canaima
  • Camp Tiuna & Tours

Enjoy your trip to Canaima National Park, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. You’re sure to see sites and take in experiences that you’ve never even dreamed possible!

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Travel fails: mistakes, mishaps and embarrassment on the road

At lunch today I was discussing with a colleague travel mistakes, mishaps and/or embarrassments while on the road. One that I can vividly remember is staying at a hotel in Venezuela and confusing the owner for the restaurant waiter. Later that evening, when the owner clarified he was the “owner not the waiter” I laughed thinking it was a joke. When I saw it was not a joke I felt so embarrassed and apologized for my mistake.

What travel mishaps have you experienced? The Lonely Planet published a funny article about this topic. You can read more about it at: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/2013/06/22/lonely-planets-travel-fails-mistakes-mishaps-and-embarrassment-on-the-road/#ixzz2cXMIgsxt

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Santiago Metro: An underground museum

If you are visiting Santiago, the Chilean capital, take sometime to use it’s underground metro.  The Chilean government implemented the MetroArte project which consists of 33 art pieces spread over different terminals. Through them the Santiago Metro has acquired its own identity which in turn has earned a spot in the Lonely Planet (placing the Universidad de Chile Metro station as one of ten ‘must see’ stations to visit in the world). The Universidad de Chile station is an authentic museum which gives the feeling of being in an art gallery with works of different styles, from Soviet art to murals. The “Memoria Visual de una nación” mural is the work of national artist Mario Toral and reviews the history of Chile. In addition to the Universidad de Chile station, stop by the Santa Lucia station which features traditional Portuguese mosaics as well as The Parque Bustamante station which features the “Vida y Trabajo” (Life and Work) mural by renowned Chilean artist Alejandro González.

Source: Turismo Chile Newsletter.

 

 

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Curiosities, Latest News, Recommendations, Travel Tips 2 Comments

Top waterfalls in Latin America

The Spanish newspaper “El Pais” highlights several amazing waterfalls in the world. In particular it highlights Latin American waterfalls found in Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Guyana and Brazil.

Guyana: Kaieteur Falls, located in Potaro-Siparuni forests in Guyana, double in height Victoria Falls, and it is five times higher than Niagara Falls. It’s drop reaches nearly 230 meters.

Venezuela: Angel Falls in Canaima National Park. The water falls is 979 meters from the edge of one of the geological formations, the plateaus known as tepuis – oldest in the world. It is named after Jimmy Angel, the American aviator who in 1937 managed to land on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brazil: The Devil’s Throat is the largest of the 250 waterfalls spread over 2.5 kilometers, which exist in the Iguazu Falls located between Argentina and Brazil.

Chile: Hanging Glacier suspended between two mountains at the Queulat National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

Peru: Salto de Gocta also known as La Chorrera, in the Amazon region of Peru. Its fall 540 meters making it the fifth highest waterfall in the world.

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Chilean Wineries

Are you a wine lover? Will you be visiting Chile soon? Chile has unique and indisputable condition for growing grapes due to its mild climate. Here are a list of places to consider visiting:

North / Limarí Valley
Viña Tabalí
Winery tours and visits to the Valley of Enchantment. Tastings.
www.tabali.cl

Central zone / Aconcagua Valley
Viña Errázuriz
Guided tours. Tastings. Wines and related products store. Sight views of the Aconcagua Valley.
www.errazuriz.com

Viña Sánchez de Loria
Guided tours of the old wineries dated back to 1890. Tastings. Grape harvest programme. Small-scale winery with traditional processes.
www.sanchezdeloria.cl

Seña
Visit to biodynamic vineyards. Ultra-premium wine tasting. Gourmet lunch at the Vineyard viewpoint (previous request and booking).
www.sena.cl

Central zone / Leyda Valley
Matetic
Tastings, Equilibrio restaurant, winery visits and bike rides. Exclusive guest house. Wine Shop.
www.matetic.cl

Casa Marín
It counts on the only wine bed & breakfast in Chile. Four types of tasting tours. Bicycle Tours by the Vineyard. It counts on a snow and wine programme in winter time in Valle Nevado. Picnic in places of their own vineyard. Wine Shop.
www.casamarin.cl

Central zone / Maipo Valley
Concha y Toro
A classic. Great store with wines that are no longer in the market. Wine Bar with first class cuisine.
www.conchaytoro.com

Santa Rita
This vineyard owns the Andino Museum, which is a 1,500 m2 modern style building located in Alto Jahuel, with 1,800 pieces of pre-Columbian art. The restaurant Doña Paula, and the Hotel Casa Real have a more classic architecture. Wine store, vineyard tour and tastings.
www.santarita.cl

Alto Maipo Wine Route.
This route considers the following vineyards: Domus, Haras de Pirque, El Principal, Portal del Alto, Huelquén, Pérez Cruz, and La Montaña. Hacienda Chada.
www.maipoalto.com

Cousiño Macul.
Tour by the vineyard, tastings and wine shop. Old harvests for sale.
www.cousinomacul.com

Central Zone / Cachapoal Valley
Viña Gracia
Guided tours by the vineyard with a wine expert, with tastings and lunch at the “kitchen-restaurant ” where a chef prepares a special menu for visitors.
www.gracia.cl

Viña Anakena
Tastings, winery visits, horseback riding and picnic in the vineyards.
www.anakenawines.cl

Central Zone / Casablanca Valley
Indómita
Restaurant. Wine Shop. Great view of the Casablanca Valley.
www.indomita.cl

Casas del Bosque
Tanino Restaurant. Horseback riding by the Vineyard. Tastings. Wine Shop. Harvesting Experience, (activity during the harvest period in which visitors can harvest the grapes).
www.casasdelbosque.cl

Emiliana Organic Vineyards
Organic and Biodynamic Tour. Picnic and tastings.
www.emiliana.cl

South Zone / Colchagua Valley
Viña La Playa
The hotel is a manor house with games room, tennis court, restaurant, pool and spa.
www.hotelvinalaplaya.cl

Casa Lapostolle
Clos Apalta Lodge. It is four luxury “cabins” and a guest house. Swimming pool. Trekking circuits. Horseback riding and biking.
www.lapostolle.com

Viña La Posada
Veta Bistro Restaurant.
www.vinalaposada.cl

Viña Casa Silva
Small hotel with seven rooms. Restaurant. Clothing boutique and gourmet products Store. Wine bar. Rodeo arena. Carriage rides.
www.casasilva.cl

Viña Viu Manent
Restaurant. Wine shop and tastings. Equestrian Club and carriage rides.
www.viumanent.cl

Viña Santa Cruz
Traditional Mapuche dwelling or Ruca. Cable car facility. Astronomical Center. local wines shop at the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza.
www.vinasantacruz.cl
www.hotelsantacruzplaza.cl

Viña Neyén
Three types of tours. Horseback ride to a waterfall. Winery visit and tasting day or night (in summer).
www.neyen.cl

South zone / Curico Valley
Viña Miguel Torres
Restaurant, tasting, vineyard tour and wine shop.
www.migueltorres.cl

Viña San Pedro
Tour, tastings, sales room and tour around the largest vineyard in South America.
www.sanpedro.cl

Curico Wine Route
Curico Valleys, Wine Route is called the association that brings together 14 wineries, most of them family businesses.
www.rutadelvinocurico.cl

South Zone / Maule Valley
Casa Donoso
Wine Picnic. Horseback riding. Tastings. Guest house with four deluxe rooms.
www.casadonoso.com

Tabonkö (Viña Gillmore)
Guest house. Chapel and small zoo. Spa and wine therapy. Tastings and wine-derived cosmetic products store.
www.gillmore.cl
www.tabonko.cl

Maule Wine Route
15 vineyards associated.
www.valledelmaule.cl

Do not forget to taste the Carmenère! Even though this variety has been considered extinct for many years, in 1995 a French ampelographer rediscovered it in a vineyard located in the central valley.

We are more than happy to help you arrange one of these trips. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Latest News Leave a comment

Pack for a Purpose and put your luggage to work for a good cause

Interested in putting your luggage to work for a good cause? Why not positively impact communities in South America by bringing meaningful contributions to the destinations you visit?  All it takes is extra room in your luggage (2.27 kilograms) and a willingness to bring in what’s needed. PackForaPurpose.org. is a brilliant organization that pairs travelers with destinations that need supplies. “You can make a big impact on children around the world.”

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Latest News, Travel Tips 5 Comments

Easter Island is among the world’s 10 most popular islands

Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice’ 2013 names Easter Island as one of the world’s 10 most popular islands and I couldn’t agree more. Rapa Nui is just mesmerizing. As the New York Time states The most remote of all places on earth, Easter Island has changed little since Thor Heyerdahl described it in “Aku-Aku,” an account of his 1955-56 voyage. See Mois – giant stones 30 to 40 feet tall and weighing up to 70 tons – that have tantalized scientists for decades! See an extraordinary collection of archaeological sites, visit Rano Kau (the ‘nursery’ of the moais), Orongo ceremonial village, Rano Raraku, Anakena Beach, Costa Oeste – Ahu te Peu, and Terevaka. It is a fascinating cultural and archaeological paradise which combines the ancient traditions of a society that, until its discovery in 1722, was unknown to the West for more than a millennium.

Learn more about our trips by visiting: Easter Island Mysteries or our Independent Rapa Nui

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Latest News 1 Comment

New specie discovered in Venezuela by a BBC team

New species were discovered in a cave system of a remote Venezuelan table-top mountain in the Gran Sabana region which included a swimming cave cricket, a no-eyed harvestman and a cave catfish.  Although members of the BBC team believe that they are new species, the three creatures have not been formally described.

To read more on this story in English click on the following link: ‘New’ swimming cave cricket species filmed

To read more on this story in Spanish click on the following link: Equipo de la BBC descubre “nuevas especies” en Venezuela

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Curiosities, Latest News 4 Comments

Travel tips: essential gear for camping and hiking

Getting ready for your next camping and/or hiking adventure? The Lonely Planet published an article on essential travel gear for camping and hiking.  For those who enjoy the outdoor adventures, I thought this article would be interesting to read. Enjoy!

Posted on by Joanne Castillo in Curiosities, Latest News 4 Comments