- Reviewed: 15 July 2019, 13:48 NZST
- Still current at: 18 January 2020
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Do not travel
Do not travel to Venezuela due to ongoing high levels of violent crime, the potential for violent civil unrest, political uncertainty and shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies.
There is a risk of kidnapping due to drug traffickers and illegal armed groups operating within 80 kilometres of the border with Colombia, particularly in the States of Zulia, Tachira and Apure.View Larger Map Close/Open map
There is a very high level of violent crime throughout Venezuela, including in national parks and tourist areas. Murder, armed robberies, kidnappings and carjackings are common, especially in the capital Caracas. Street crime, such as mugging and pickpocketing, is prevalent and often results in violence. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of crime as this could lead to an escalation in violence. Victims are often injured or killed when attempting to resist perpetrators. Sexual assault is also a significant concern.
Kidnapping is also of serious concern in Venezuela. In particular, express kidnappings occur, where criminals abduct a victim for a short amount of time and force them to withdraw funds from their bank account. Tourists may be specifically targeted. Express kidnappings have increased in Caracas and around the airport. To reduce the risk, we recommend you use ATMs which are located within bank branches and during daylight hours only.
The capital Caracas has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world and you should avoid ‘barrios’ (heavily populated slum areas) as violent crime is especially prevalent in these areas.
Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting spiked food and drink. Do not leave food or drink unattended or accept any food or drink from strangers. Criminals have also been known to pose as police officers or uniformed officials to harass and extort money from tourists.
New Zealanders are advised to exercise vigilance at all times, and maintain a low profile as crime in Venezuela can occur at any time. You should avoid walking or driving in isolated areas, especially at night and avoid wearing or displaying valuables such as cameras, phones or jewellery. When travelling by car, keep doors locked and windows up at all times and do not stop to assist with vehicle breakdowns, clear debris from the road or to pick up hitchhikers.
Along with criminal gangs, Colombian terrorist groups such as the ELN are active along Venezuela's border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana. Kidnapping for ransom in these areas has resulted in the death of hostages, including foreigners.
The area around Maiqueta Simon Bolivar Airport and the road between the airport and Caracas are particularly dangerous. Criminal groups operate at, and around, the airport and we advise particular vigilance while transiting the airport. Travel after dark on the road to Caracas should be avoided. We recommend staying in an airport hotel if your flight is arriving late at night or leaving early in the morning.
There have also been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers. New Zealanders are strongly advised to exercise caution when using taxis throughout Venezuela. Use radio-dispatched or pre-booked taxis and check the driver’s identification and company information before you enter the vehicle. Avoid all public transport. Seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.
Border closures with Colombia and Brazil occur frequently, often with little notice.
Civil unrest/political tension
Throughout 2017, 2018 and early 2019, political tensions increased resulting in violent demonstrations and protests causing deaths and injuries, especially in Caracas. Roads and highways are often blocked during demonstrations which can also disrupt public transport systems. Authorities are heavily armed and often use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Political demonstrations and protests regularly occur elsewhere in Venezuela and have increased due to economic issues and shortages of basic necessities and utilities. Protests have taken place in Caracas, Maracay Merida, San Cristobal, Valencia, and other cities. Further demonstrations are likely and there is the ongoing possibility of violence. The security situation could deteriorate with little warning.
New Zealanders in Venezuela are advised to avoid any protests, demonstrations or large public gatherings as even peaceful gatherings have the potential to turn violent. We advise paying close attention to personal security and monitoring local media for information. You should adhere to any instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities. If you are in an area where there is a demonstration, leave as soon as it is safe to do so.
The economic situation in Venezuela remains extremely fragile. Provision of basic food items and necessities, including water, electricity and medication can be unreliable, leading to shortages. These items may be difficult to obtain away from hotels and as precautionary measure, we recommend ensuring adequate supplies of food and water are on hand. Long queues for basic services can lead to riots, fighting and theft.
Incidents of piracy have occurred off the coast of Venezuela. Mariners are advised to take appropriate precautionary measures. For more information view the International Maritime Bureau's piracy report.
General travel advice
As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Venezuela, the ability of the New Zealand Government to provide assistance to New Zealand citizens is severely limited. We offer advice to New Zealanders about contingency planning that travellers to Venezuela should consider.
New Zealanders in Venezuela should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.
Photography of government buildings, airports, military bases or the Presidential palace is prohibited, and could result in detention. If in doubt, don’t take a picture.
New Zealanders in Venezuela are encouraged to register their details their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The New Zealand Embassy Mexico City, Mexico is accredited to Venezuela
Street Address Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510 Telephone +52 55 5283 9460 Fax +52 55 5283 9480 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/mexico Hours Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs
See our regional advice for Central/South America
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Accredited New Zealand Embassy Mexico
Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510
Telephone: +52 55 5283 9460
Fax: +52 55 5283 9480
Hours: Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs