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Five Days in Venezuela, December 1999

Day Zero: Landing in Caracas

December 10, 1999

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I'm increasingly intimidated in my old age on landing in cities with known crime problems. Somehow I never worry when I'm in New York City, though that's one of the worst. I managed Rio OK but had started out with a booking in a secure hotel. I got around Johannesburg by renting a car and driving away from it. I haven't been robbed when traveling since my early days in Mexico, but reading the Lonely Planet on the plane over to Caracas, it seemed that violent crime was a distinct possibility here.

So how to cope? On arrival I got a phone card at the airport and called a hotel. Altamira district had been recommended in LP as a relatively safe place to walk around at night, and the recommended hotel there, the Monsarat, had rooms and would hold one for me until 7. Next thing was to get a cab. One of the scams warned of in the LP was the taxi that picks up a passenger en route from the airport and takes you to a slum where you are relieved of all you own. Therefore I was careful to use the taxi rank outside where it seemed there was at least some control (where was it where they recorded each departure by taxi ... that was a good idea). The price was fixed at 18,000 - I double checked that with tourist information inside. The only odd thing about the taxi ride was the driver decided to beat the traffic by driving for a while on the wrong side of the freeway. This raised the ire of oncoming drivers who deliberately tried to hit him. But we survived it and the rest of the traffic nightmares getting into Caracas, and eventually I was dropped outside the correct hotel.

The guy who showed me to my room spoke some English but I never saw him after that, and from then on at the hotel, it was all in Spanish. The room was shabby with a noisy a/c (just the way I like it). At least it was quiet. I was to find later that almost all accommodation in Venezuela comes with music or tv playing incessantly somewhere, and loud conversation into the night.

It was raining in Altamira so I didn't walk the streets much. I just went across the street to the Maracaibo restaurant and ran taste tests on Polar and Solera beer (Solera preferred). I had a tasty meal of spicy food and after a short walk (the rain had let up) I succumbed to jet lag and went to my room to sleep it off.

The next part of the story -
Day 1: Around Caracas

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Last updated: December 23, 1999