In today’s post, a fellow budget traveller and adventurer, Will Hatton of The Broke Backpacker, will be sharing his top tips on how to spend a week in Venezuela for $50! Who’s Will? He is a writer, photographer and a real vagabond, master of the handstand pushup. He is also a conqueror of mountains, a survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will is currently hitchhiking from England to Papua New Guinea, a journey which will take over three years. Will blogs over at The Broke Backpacker about his adventures in some of the world’s least visited countries and his journey to creating an online income, you can follow him on Facebook and on Instagram. For real-time adventure, check him out on Snapchat at WTHATTON.
Let’s get things started!
Why visit Venezuela?
Venezuela is a truly awesome country, this is a land of steaming jungles, jagged peaks and gorgeous beaches.
Venezuela is very different to the rest of South America, for starters; it’s the cheapest country in the world if you have foreign currency to change on the black market. Backpacking in Venezuela is a hell of an adventure. One thing that is absolutely certain is that 25 bucks a day is waaaay too much cash in Venezuela, you can pick up sixty beers for a dollar, and it’s actually possible to get by on in Venezuela on around 50 dollars a week!
First Things First
Now, things are cheap in Venezuela, but you will still need to change your money on the black market. Once you have changed your cash, you will likely have a huge wad of bolivars to cart around, keep it low-key and do not flaunt your pillowcase of money. Venezuela is currently experiencing a financial meltdown and the country is indeed in strife.
The generous conversion rate is a blessing for the strapped traveller, and can take a bit of getting used to… with great power comes responsibility! Now is your chance to pay off favours, buy a few rounds, and hell, even treat your mates to an empanada, because Venezuela is dirt cheap. Some people argue that backpackers shouldn’t visit Venezuela; that travelling there is somehow taking advantage of the economic disaster there, but in reality, backpackers are currently some of the only people bringing in foreign currency to the country. Tourism is, at the end of the day, one of Venezuela’s best chances of building a stable economy. I met many Venezuelans and had the privilege of befriending a few: all were happy if a little concerned, that I was visiting their country.
I spent $320 for the entire month I was there – and you could easily stretch that to $200 per month if you needed to, I was partying pretty hard. It’s hard to imagine if you’re not used to how cheap life can be, but I hope to give you guys a sense of the cost of this country, and desperately hope it tempts a few of you braver souls into this glorious, controversial and mega-cheap country.
There’s one thing that all Venezuelans can agree on – cheap petrol is a birthright. It’s hard to comprehend just how cheap it is if you’re used to the outrageous fuel costs of America, UK, Australia and so on – but you could literally drive from one side of the country to the other on just a few cents. When most people hear this, they pull the facial equivalent to brain-freeze. For travellers, this obviously means huge freedom to travel while in the country, if you do choose to drive across the region’s scenic cross-country routes. And if you don’t fancy driving, the low fuel cost means internal flights will only set you back between $5 – $8!
Venezuelan cuisine is as varied as its culture – taking influences from the Caribbean, European, African and other South American cultures to create an exciting palette of flavours. And the best news is you can sample some of the best food that the country has to offer in Mérida, the backpacker capital, for pennies.
Alternatively, you can get a sense of the richness of the food on offer here at the Mercado Principal where traders man stands of all kinds and are more than happy to explain the delicacies on offer.
Mérida is cultural, urbane, and crawling with interesting people – especially given its proximity to the prestigious University of the Andes. And the best part is – accommodation is just as cheap as everything else in this crazy country: I was routinely forking out a little over a dollar for a comfortable room. Most travellers end up staying at the Guamanche Posada, a cheap local hostel which I would highly recommend.
There’s another good reason for recommending Mérida: it has a reputation as the undisputed party town of Venezuela! The proximity of the University means the place is thriving with fun-loving students, and the town accommodates them – there is so much to do here for any kind of traveller. The bars are always buzzing, and the nightlife here is some of the best in South America, in my experience. Oh, and did I mention… Venezuelans are some of the most beautiful people on earth?
The bars are always buzzing, and the nightlife here is some of the best in South America, in my experience. Oh, and did I mention… Venezuelans are some of the most beautiful people on earth?
Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada
Mérida is nestled in a little valley in the Andes, and staying here allows easy access to some of the most stunning scenery in South America.
Just a few hours’ hike takes you into the Sierra Nevada national park, with its huge drops and granite mountains. Coming here really makes you feel like you’re really following in the footsteps of legendary explorers, and is what travelling is all about. Best of all, this natural beauty is completely free!
With all this beautiful terrain, I knew I had to somehow get a better view. For you more adventurous types – I’d whole-heartedly recommend a paragliding excursion. It’s a short half an hour drive from the city to the launch site and will set you back $4 for a flight of 30 – 45 minutes. The views across the Andes are literally breathtaking, and there’s something so thrilling about soaring over warm thermals.
There is a real danger that the low prices you encounter in Venezuela will kind of spoil you, you may never want to leave. And to be honest, I didn’t either. If you choose to visit Venezuela; be warned, this is a place unlike any other in South America and it helps to have a local friend on the ground, Couchsurfing can be a godsend. The country is beautiful, rich and diverse; the people are kind, welcoming (most of the time) and enjoy a beer… Venezuela is far from everything it is made out to be on the news.