Caracas Travel Guide
Getting Here & Around
Caracas is served by Aeropuerto Internacional Simón Bolívar (CCS), about 25 km (16 mi) from downtown in the coastal area of Maiquetía. The trip into town from the airport is via a busy four-lane highway and takes between 30 and 45 minutes, depending upon your destination in Caracas. Cab fare to downtown Caracas costs about Bs.F150. The official fare is posted next to the taxi stand outside the international terminal.
Robberies of tourists by drivers of unofficial cabs are all too common. To be on the safe side, take a taxi from the dispatcher outside the international terminal.
There are two inconveniently located and exceedingly unsavory public bus terminals serving Caracas. For travel to destinations west of the city, buses leave from Terminal La Bandera. The Terminal del Oriente serves destinations to the eastern part of the country. Far more convenient—and much safer—is the servicio especial (special service) offered by Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos. All buses depart from the company's own clean, quiet terminal in the Bello Campo district. Two other reliable private companies are Expresos del Oriente and Expresos Alianza.
Clean, air-conditioned buses called MetroBus leave all Metro stops for areas outside the reach of the subway system. The cost is Bs.F0.70. If used within four hours of purchase, a ticket is also valid for a one-way ride on the Metro. Smaller public buses called carritos or por puestos connect all parts of the city, but they are no quicker in heavy traffic.
Heavy traffic, a lack of parking, and the city's baffling layout combine to render Caracas a driving challenge for residents, let alone visitors. If you can avoid it, do not rent a car to explore the city. However, if you're here for a long visit, and you want to explore, driving to the west or east of Caracas can be an incredibly memorable experience. Note, though, that nonadventurous types need not apply!
Avoid using the Metro as much as possible. It just isn't safe. If you must use it, do so only during the day. The speedy trains traverse the city between Palo Verde in the east and Propatria in the west, with connecting north-south lines from Capitolio and Plaza Venezuela. One-way tickets, which can be purchased in all stations, are Bs.F0.50, depending on distance traveled. Save your ticket; you'll need it to exit the turnstile out of the station. If you plan to use the Metro frequently, opt for the convenience of a multi abono card (Bs.F4.50), valid for 10 rides anywhere on the system. These cards save you the hassle of waiting in long lines for individual tickets. (The stations' automated ticket-vending machines are frequently out of order.) Route maps are posted at ticket booths and inside each car, but not on the platforms. The Metro operates daily 4:30 am-11 pm. Cars get very crowded during the 6-9 and 5-8 rush hours.
Licensed taxis have yellow license plates and carry secured signs that say libre (free) on the roof, while pirata (pirate) varieties have signs that are obviously detachable. When selecting a taxi off the street, settle only on official cars—tales of robbery by pirata drivers are legion—and agree on the rate before you depart. Unless you are traveling only a couple of blocks, Bs.F8 is a standard fare anywhere in the central city area between Capitolio and Altamira. Note that fares increase by as much as 50% at night and on weekends. Once en route, don't be surprised if your driver cuts corners and ignores stop signs and red lights as he maneuvers through downtown traffic. Many larger hotels have their own taxi companies. Ask your hotel or restaurant to call you a taxi if you go out at night.
Safety & Precautions
Pickpocketers and muggers, often violent, are serious problems for residents and visitors alike. Most downtown areas, including those popular with tourists, are usually safe during the day, though you should be careful absolutely everywhere you go. Note that even residents do not go out alone on foot in most neighborhoods after dark. Use taxis at night, even if you are traveling a short distance.
When visiting the city, never wear expensive clothing or flashy jewelry, and don't handle money in public. It's a good idea to keep your money in a pocket or a hidden money belt rather than a wallet, which is easier to steal. On buses, in the subway, and in crowded areas, hold purses or camera bags close to your body (or, better yet, leave most belongings in the hotel lock box when you are out exploring); thieves use knives to slice the bottom of a bag and catch the contents as they fall out.
Avoid all political demonstrations. They're quite common in Caracas and occasionally result in clashes between demonstrators and police.
Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos (0212/266–2321 or 0212/263–3266. www.aeroexpresos.com.ve.)
Avis (0212/959–5822; 0212/355–1190 at airport. www.avis.com.ve/.)
Budget (0212/603–1300; 0212/355–2799 at airport. www.budget.com.ve/.)
Hertz (0212/905–0430; 0212/614–5623 at airport.)
Italcambio (Edificio Belmont, Av. Luis Roche, Altamira, Caracas. 0212/562–9555. www.italcambio.com. Centro Comercial Sambil, Av. Libertador, Chacao. 0212/265–5087. www.italcambio.com/. Aeropuerto Internacional Simón Bolívar, Maiquetía. 0212/355–1080. www.italcambio.com/.)
Clínica El Ávila (Av. San Juan Bosco at 6a Transversal, Altamira, Caracas. 0212/276–1111. www.clinicaelavila.com/.)