The Banco Central de Venezuela is responsible for issuing the national currency of Venezuela, which is the bolivar fuerte. This is commonly known and referred to as the bolivar for short. The official language for the country is Spanish and ‘fuerte’ means ‘strong’ in this language. The reason for this name being given to the currency will become clear as you read on.
A single coin is known as a bolivar fuerte, whereas if you are talking about the currency in plural you will see it is referred to as bolivares fuertes.
The currency is a decimal one and it has 100 centimos as the subunits. The smallest coin value is the one centimo coin, although it isn’t very widely used. This is because most sellers like to round things up to the nearest 5 centimos. There is of course a five centimo coin, followed by the 10, 12½, 25 and 50 centimo coins. Yes you did read that correctly – there is a 12½ centimo coin! Aside from this you can also get a one bolivar coin.
There are a number of banknotes you will see too, which are denominated as the 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 bolivar notes.
The bolivar fuerte is actually an incredibly new currency. It has only been in use for a few short years since 1st January 2008. This was the day the bolivar fuerte replaced the old currency – known simply as the bolivar. The reason for the replacement was inflation. Even now Venezuela suffers from incredibly high inflation – in 2013 it was stated to be over 40%! As such we may well see yet another replacement for the currency in the near future. Who knows?
This particular replacement in 2008 replaced 1,000 of the old bolivares with just one of the new bolivares fuertes. Now you know that fuerte means strong, you can probably see why the new currency added this word on to the original name!
One thing you might want to be aware of is that US dollars are welcomed in the country as well as the local currency. Just be aware of the exchange rate sellers will apply to the transaction though, so you know exactly what you are paying at any time. Thus you might be happy to arrive in Venezuela with some US dollars along with your credit or debit cards.
However you should note that the bolivar is very expensive to get hold of in the country itself. It is illegal to get it on the black market and yet exchanging it in the normal way will mean you succumb to a dreadful exchange rate. This is a real problem, and since using credit cards also leads you to the same dreadful rates you need to try and get hold of some bolivares before you enter the country.
With that said though, the police seem to turn a blind eye to tourists exchanging money on the black market. Don’t be too transparent about it and stick out like the proverbial sore thumb if you do decide to do it, but just be careful and remember you are essentially breaking the law. It’s a real problem if you want to make a holiday in Venezuela a halfway decently affordable prospect!
While you can use your credit card it could be an expensive way to pay for things. Furthermore card cloning is pretty common in this country so you will always run the risk of someone stealing your details – even if your card doesn’t leave your sight. The more advanced scams can clone your details without even taking your card away from you.
You can find out the latest rates by using any decent currency converter. Be sure to find your own currency first so you can transfer it into the bolivar in a virtual sense. This will give you some idea of how far your own currency will go when you swap it for the bolivar. This country isn’t the cheapest one you could visit by any standard, but it can be made easier if you know where you stand and do some financial planning ahead of time.
If you would like to visit the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela you can do so online. The website is at http://embavenez.co.uk/.
It is a good idea to check the situation in Venezuela before you visit, no matter which part of the country you are going to. At the time of writing most of the country was relatively safe to visit, but the strip of land to the far west near the border with Colombia was problematic and the UK government is not currently recommending any travel to that region.
Don’t let this stop you from thinking about going to the country though, because the majority of tourists steer well clear of this area and have a great time while in the country. Street crime is the one thing you really need to be aware of. You can minimise the risks by taking proper precautions, such as by making sure you don’t wear expensive clothing or jewellery, or anything else that might mark you out as a good target. There have been instances where people have tried to stand up to robbers and been shot for their troubles – some have lost their lives as a result.
Make sure you don’t become a statistic and keep yourself as safe as possible, even when in popular tourist areas. Keep your mobile phone well out of sight too, as this can make you a target. It is also a good idea not to go out at night, especially not if you are alone. Going out at night has been seen to be riskier for tourists than being out during the day.
Venezuela is in South America, in the northern part of the country. The northern reaches of the country border the Caribbean Sea, and the capital of Caracas can be found along this edge. Starting in the east and moving round in a clockwise direction, the country shares borders with Guyana, Brazil and Colombia.
Caracas is well worth a closer look if you are in this part of the country. It has many notable landmarks including East Park, which is a green park featuring a zoo among other things. You can also visit Parque Central, which although it may sound like a park is actually a great place to go if you love museums. It is a cultural spot and one that many people love to visit.
You’ll no doubt want to see Angel Falls while you are in the country. This is the world’s highest single waterfall and you will find it in Bolivar State. You’ll need to take a river trip to get there, and that’s after flying to the nearest airport. It is a challenge to see the falls but one that is well worth meeting.
You should also think about seeing more of Canaima National Park while you are there, since this is where the falls are located. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you know you’re onto something good! Among the other attractions in the park are the La Maloca Indian village, the Mayupa Rapids and Roberto Beach. There is also a location called Jasper Creek that has its own set of mini waterfalls – although they are still very sweet and beautiful to see.
If you would rather benefit from a beach-based holiday, why not try Playa El Yaque on the Island of Margarita? This isn’t that far from the mainland and it lies just to the east of the capital of Caracas. It provides a lovely respite from exploring the mainland – or simply an excuse for a great beach holiday.
As you can see Venezuela has plenty to offer no matter what kind of holiday you are after. The information we’ve provided concerning petty (and not so petty) crime might put you off visiting there, but if you play it safe and don’t flaunt any wealth you shouldn’t be troubled. Most tourists are fine.
Decide in advance where you want to go and stay, as some trips (such as a trip to Angel Falls for example) are best to do when you book them in advance. The money might take some getting used to as well, but finding out as much as you can about what to expect will help you get to grips with the situation.
If you do ever pay a visit to Venezuela you might find you come to fall in love with it – whatever type of holiday you enjoy most.