Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Caracas, Venezuela: A Dangerous New Year's Eve

The best thing about Caracas is leaving. Sounds trite, but it is only by taking a bus somewhere else that you find yourself high on the mountains surrounding Caracas and able to get a view of the spectacular natural location of the city. It is in a long valley in steep jungle-covered mountains, but it is so built up with skyscrapers that you get no sense of this from the streets of Caracas.

I stayed in the heart of the historic part of Caracas, overlooking the central Plaza Bolivar. Unfortunately the historic centre consisted of 6 or so historic buildings and lots of tall and modern buildings that are completely unnoteworthy. Every now and then you get a glimpse through the buildings of the mountains and realise the grand location of the city.

I was in Caracas for New Year and expected the streets to be filled with Latin revellers, especially in Plaza Bolivar. But Caracas has a reputation amongst its citizens as very dangerous, and so nobody goes out at night. I was repeatedly getting warned by locals in the street, on the metro, and around that it was "muy peligroso" or very dangerous.

My girlfriend and I ventured out on the street at 11pm, hoping to find at least some place interesting to see in the New Year. Every bar and restaurant was shut - and had been since 6pm - and only a few people were on the street, who continued to warn us that it was "muy peligroso".

The only life we found was from a group of security guards on our street who I guess had to work that night and had brought their families with them so that they could celebrate together. They eagerly invited us to join them, gave us some drinks, then attempted to get us to dance with them. They laughed a lot watching these clumsy gringos dance, but it was good natured. When midnight came, they all gave us a hug and a kiss, then warned us again that it was "muy peligroso" as we went back to our hotel for the night,

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am actually from venezuela I am 20 years old and now I am living in USA. What happened to you is that you are not used to be with the family. Venezuelans are really family type people. The rather enjoy with their families than waste their time at bars drinking. We like to party and we do it good. We are happy people, friendly but at the same time we love our family. I don't know if you have seen any italian family but that is how we are because we come from italians, the majority of the people including myself, sorry nobody warned you but I felt the same way in USA. No parties and people went to bed at 12? that was crazy I felt so depressed that I wanted to go back to my native country. People drink outside of home with people that don't really care about others but themselves. My husband is northamerican but he got used to the family way so now he wants to spend christmas in venezuela or with the family in here!!!

Anonymous said...

I love being venezuelan by the way, I love the fact that we are so happy, not complicated, and we care so much about families!!! I love USA too, is my country since I left Venezuela but I can't deny that sometimes I wish that people were more friendly in here that when they see you they'll give you a hug, or say hi just because. It feels good believe me, you should try it. Just sing and dance outside and be yourself but care about others too. Care and protect your family because that is who you are..... a venezuelan woman.

Anonymous said...

Dude you DO NOT hang out around Plaza Bolivar at night that late. That is not just what rich people think, everyone knows that. The reason no one was there was because they were all SOMEWHERE ELSE partying, maybe their homes, or maybe somewhere east of there.

Manos said...

I'm pretty sure that lots of people were celebrating outside their homes, most of them in Altamira, La Castellana, Los Palos Grandes, El Rosal or-and las Mercedes.

Check it out next time you visit this extraordinary capital

Manos

Anonymous said...

Totally agree - I was there for 4 months of work. The place is horrible, disgusting and corrupt. All of South America is a shithole and Caracas is the capital.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can only imagine an ugly-American calling all of South America a shithole & CCS its capital. If you cannot and do not connect with the locals no door will open for you and all will seem alien and strange, and you will spend your time in the wrong places cursing under your breath. It's true Caracas is a beast, but with friends to show and help you will have an entirely different experience. Vzla & SouthA has many wonderful, friendly and exciting places & things to see and do, but not for a lunk-head like you, Mr. Horrible.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my fellow American from his/her comment. I understand you may have had a negative experience during your stay in Caracas but that should in now way reflect your opinion of Caracas nor South America as a whole. Nevermind the fact that you can offend your own people. I am a PROUD Irish-American that is fortunate to have found a beautiful Venezuelan wife. Therefore, I am offended by your comments as well. You can have a bad experience anywhere my friend.
So to all native Venezuelans reading this, please disregard the comments that are negative towards your country. I look forward to visiting Caracas and my new family there! (Imagine that-putting the Irish and Venezuelans together? God save Caracas! :) ) Hasta Pronto Chamos!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow i am so shocked that some people do not properly research a country or city before visiting. I am venezuelan first of all and I will say caracas is dangerous but a lot of places are. I mean if you stay in plaza bolivar looking for a bar in the middle of the night shows me that u didnt research your trip at all. When i went to california did I go stay in south central or compton no I stayed in Beverly hills (yes expensive) but let me tell you even the nicest place in caracas and safest does not cost anywhere near 200 US a night the most 60 US that is the same as most places that are non hostels in europe. Here is the truth about caracas, it is dangerous because of kidnappings and gang violence. Yet the gang violence is mainly in the barrios like petare and catia. Robbery occurs in places all over caracas but that is only if you are stupid and show your money off. Never take out more then you need and dont go walking around at night alone in places you dont know. Get a car man dont worry about driving right nobody in venezuela drives well. About police dont use them for directions or anything yet if you get in serious trouble most will help but I still wouldnt use them. Taxi, best advice is use official cabs, tele taxi and taxi tour are the best, expensive yes but safe. Get a taxi number from your hotel. Bars depends were you are but I recommend san ignacio mall, tolon and merecedes but take more caution in the merecdes because it is more like a line of bars and restaurants and some dark corners. For clubbing I recommend find someone to get you into Le club venezuela members only. If not I recommend San ignacio clubs like suka and vintage. I lived in 8 different countries 4 different continents and 8 different cities and caracas is dangerous. I never had anything bad happen to me there, I have been robbed in london and miami. Yet I still feel caracas is more dangerous but that doesnt mean it is not worth to go. Best advice I can give is go to caracas with a venezuelan friend. Caracas has some interesting sights, Art museums, Plaza bolivar and altamira. Yet the best venezuela has to offer the beaches, angel falls are all outside caracas. I still love my city and will live there still i die. Just dont be stupid and to everybody that think that americans are in greater danger there then most others is not true. The greatest people in danger there are rich venezuelans, people wont know your american unless you say it. And more importantly If something very bad happened to americans in caracas Chavez is going to have serious problems and he is all talk.

Anonymous said...

My wife is Venezuelan. She and her family and friends - all wonderful, educated, loving people.
This country is beautiful when you get away from the cities... just as any place in the world.

I would post a travel warning however to anyone who comes across this blog. Caracas is not a safe place. Not even in broad daylight...

I was taken from an apartment in July 2009, in one of the safer areas of Caracas (Las Palmas), staying in a "secured" building with many gates and locks and even a concierge. It was 1 pm on a Saturday. I simply walked out the door of the apartment I was staying in and was shoved into an elevator with a gun to my head. After being taken to a strange place and being bound at the hands and feet, face down into the floor and listening to and feeling the chaos of the three gunmen who took me - I thought I was one DEAD American from Illinois who never should have been there in the first place!!! I hate this, because I do not want to be afraid of going back, but I am. It petrifies me. I realize that it isn't just about tourists or finding fair skinned prey like myself... homegrown Venezuelans are in danger themselves... albeit, maybe not as despised as a whitebred North American. I did not believe I would see home again. Noone should ever have to experience what I did. I could not have been kept more safe by my guests, but they could not have imagined what happened regardless of the measures they took to watch over me. Please, NO-ONE have any illusions that you think you KNOW how to be safe in Caracas. That is not reality and you are risking your life. I barely got out alive.

Anonymous said...

I'm 34 yrs. old and spent 4.5 months in Venezuela when i was 19. The experience has so resenated within me that I dream of saving up and going back, but for longer, if the opportunity presents itself. The people are friendly and family oriented, poor, and will give you the shirt off of their backs. I can't imagine a more beautiful or romantic culture.

The person who refered to S. America as a shit-hole. How ignorant and ethnocentric you are. Your dark predjudice heart is an ugly stink-hole and you are a blind sub-human shell of a person. You make me sick to my stomach.

Jason, Calgary, AB, CAN said...

In regards to the ignoramous who refered to south america as a shit hole. Good job a-hole. No wonder the world despises Amercans. The states has had its foot on the neck of South America for how long now? Then spoiled pricks like you show up, throw some money around and complain that the place sucks and YOU are from such an enlightened culture. Fuck you. Why is it the jerk wads like you screw it up for everyone else. You think the US is the center of the world and all other cultures have a bone in their nose. Thats ok. Your beloved corner of the Americas in debt up the ass and will be 3rd world soon enough.

Anonymous said...

I agree that South America stinks. They have people with actual family values and value inter-personal relationships over money. Most of South America has (get this)... public health care. Most people are cultured with a world view bigger than the blind patriotism that the US breeds. Ya, crappy south america. Good thing we have the enlightened americans to remind the rest of us how much everywhere else sucks. Sometimes we forget.

Anonymous said...

I'm from venezuela, where I live for 30 years and then moved to geneve-switzerland for 10 years and then moved to south florida for business.
Even if some of the remarks from foreigners sound extreme, I wouldn't agree more about insecurity and anarchy all over my beloved venezuela. For those living in venezuela who never had the chance to travel/live to/in europe or asia and still believe venezuela is the best country of the world, think again and face reality. Our country has become a nation of anarchy, chaos and corruption. Currently, almost everything is evil, our beliefs, our subculture, our principles everything has gone to hell. The responsible are ourselves, our parents and our grandparents as well. We can't blame for our current situation(failure) to the monkey dictator in charge(HRCF). We made this country become the most dangerous place in earth. Our hopes for a better country will never cease however It won't happen in this generation. To the foreigners it wasn't always as this, we had a great country during 50's,60's and 70's.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am 15 years old and I myself am Veezuelan. However, I currently live very far away from Venezuela in Taiwan. I have lived in several states in the USA. Yes, there is no doubt that Caracas is a dangerous place and people will always tell you the same thing. This place is more dangerous nthan that one, don't go there, etc. Don't go out at night, in the day make sure you are in a place with a lot of people. Keep all valuables close. If you are like me and have an expensive phone such an iPhone or an HTC or anything along the lines of that, you shouldn't even bring it along, let alone take it out if you do have it. Don't bring any important documents with you (E.x passport, any lisence(S) you have, etc) Yes I don't live here but I do come frequently enough to understand how to get on over here. (I'm currently here at the moment) If there is anyone coming here I wish you a very safe trip here. DO A LOT OF RESEARCH AND KNOW YOUR STUFF. If you come here with little to no knowledge, I hope you make it out safely, let alone alive. Don't let Caracas put your stay in Venezuela down though! Venezuela itsel is a BEAUTIFUL and WONDERFUL country, visit other cities like Margarita or Moroccoy. I do hope this country gets better, I do miss living here and it's so hard to see my family whilst being in Taiwan. It's a real shame that Caracas has the reputation it has now. This city can be very rich and an overall better place. Fornow though we have to deal with it and just hope for the best in the future years. I love and miss Venzuela. Good luck travels, remeber, RESEARCH!

Anonymous said...

To the comment about how S. America is a shithole. You can kiss our asses. We Venezuelans have a lot of pride towards our country and you can kiss our asses! The Venzuelan people are so much better than you Americans overall. We're well educated people with MANNERS, we're family people, public health care, gas is basically free! I hope you're having fun paying $40 or $50 for gas! We pay 20 cents, only! Our women are more beautiful, and we're hell of a lot nicer than you guys! How do I know? I spent 13 years over there in the USA, from Florida, to Arizona, to California, to New York, to Atlanta, I'm pretty sure I would know. Hahaha, you probably had a bad experience when you went to Caracas, if you did, I'M FUCKING GLAD. And if you find yourself in Caracas again and make it unto the planduring your departure, you're goddamn lucky you made it out alive and should be grateful with your fucking life. Go to hell you American pig.

Anonymous said...

im from australia and i wanna go to caracas to visit. i've heard nothing but mixed comments bout this place and wanna take it in myself. what tips can you give a guy where the most violent thing around is two children fight over who got the biggest piece of cake