By Rayner Peña and Genesis Carrero Soto
Caracas, Aug 2 (EFE).- Venezuela, a nation until recently was suffering under a de facto ban international tourism ban as a result its domestic socio-political and economic crisis, lack of security and hyperinflation, is once again emerging as a viable and attractive destination for foreign adventurers and globetrotters who are traversing the country in a wide range of ways ranging from bicycles to camper vans and motorhomes.
Alone, as couples, in groups and even accompanied by pets, travelers who get enjoyment from traveling the world and exploring different countries as a lifestyle are once again visiting Venezuela after the country has been showing a slight economic improvement over the past two years and has been working to promote its tourism sector.
For instance, Argentine motorist Sebastian Villanueva and Dutch cyclist Rutger Hanssens told EFE of their experiences visiting Venezuela for the first time, noting that – although it seemed “expensive” to the two travelers – the country and its people put on their “friendliest” face.
Villanueva has been traveling through South America on a motorcycle for the past two-and-a-half years. While touring Colombia, he found out that Bogota and Caracas had decided to open their mutual border, so he decided to include Venezuela as part of his journey, despite warnings of the potential risk of traveling there he had received from several people.
He entered Venezuela in early June, making it the last country he intends to visit on his travels through South America before proceeding on to Panama en route to his ultimate destination: the US state of Alaska.
Since then, he said he had verified first-hand that “Venezuela has fixed itself,” as he had been told by friends and others who had invited him to visit the country, although others had said it would be dangerous to travel by motorcycle through the oil-producing nation “So far, I’ve had an amazing experience in all the places I’ve gone. People have been super-friendly, they’ve opened the doors of their homes to me, they’ve helped me. They’ve collaborated with (me on) everything, so the truth is I have nothing to say against the people themselves, which is the most important thing for me,” Villanueva told EFE.
The young man traveled through some of the key regions of Venezuela and, although he noted that he found kindness and empathy everywhere, he also acknowledged that it has been the “most expensive” destination that he’s visited in South America.
“The only thing I can criticize is that it’s very expensive. … And it’s even shortening my stay in Venezuela, because it’s very expensive for me and for anyone who has entered” the country, he said.
On his social network accounts, he has recounted some of the complications that he has encountered, including finding gasoline due to the fuel shortage the nation is experiencing, a situation that is accentuated in the interior.
Rutger Hanssens, meanwhile, was looking to get out of Europe for a while and visit Latin America to fulfill his dream of touring the region by bicycle. So, he included Caracas on his itinerary as a possible option.
Like Villanueva, friends and even the Dutch authorities warned Hanssens about “the dangers of Venezuela” and the possibility of “being robbed or kidnapped,” even during the hour-long road trip from the country’s main airport to Caracas.
“Nothing happened, I traveled around and the people were very nice and very friendly, very welcoming. But yes, before my trip, I read many bad things about Venezuela,” he told EFE, adding that it was because of the recommendation of Venezuelans that he decided to visit their country, arriving in April 2023 and hoping to remain there until September.
Although he admitted that the streets are not adapted for bicycling and there are no spaces for outdoor camping, he has visited several tourist sites and has received the hospitality of local residents, so much so that now a dog that was given to him by a farming couple in western Venezuela is his traveling companion.
Hanssens agreed with Villanueva that lodging and food costs make it somewhat difficult travel around in Venezuela, but he noted that the people’s “kindness,” even to someone like him who does not speak Spanish well, makes Venezuela “a great destination.”
Thus, in postings by travelers such as these on the social networks, there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence about both the good and the not-so-good things about traveling in Venezuela, which is making a big effort to make tourism into one of its economic engines.