Caracas is a hard city to write about. I spent way more time here than I expected to since I had such a good time with my friend Luis and since my volunteering opportunity in Eastern Venezuela fell through.
When I first arrived, I wasn’t nervous about being in a city with a bad reputation for being violent. I think paranoid would be a better way to put it. Everyone warned me, sincerely, to be careful. It wears on you after a while.
In most places I have gone on The Happy Nomad Tour so far, the people are happy I came to visit and tell their story – especially in the more remote places I’ve gone. But in Caracas, many people seemed to think I was crazy for visiting. In the beginning, that was a bad sign..
Unfortunately, I did most of my sightseeing my first two days in Caracas and was too paranoid to take out my camera to take many pictures. Still, this city is not at all touristy and there aren’t a ton of things to see.
The Two Faces Of Venezuela/Latin America
The only time I felt uncomfortable was when I went to Bellas Artes and attempted to walk to the National Theater. It’s a bad neighborhood and I could feel in my gut things weren’t right or good.
When I had kind of reached the point when I thought I shouldn’t go any farther, I went into a café to have a coffee and relax a bit after a lot of walking. After I had the coffee and paid, I asked the guy at the cash register where the theater was.
Pretty soon, after he yelled out I was looking for the theater, everyone was talking about it and everyone was more than willing to help me get there. They explained I could take a bus that passes by in front of the café, I could take a taxi (the best option in their opinion), I could walk six more blocks and take a left, and finally one guy even offered to drive me there himself.
And this is a perfect example of the two faces of Venezuela, maybe Latin America in general. Abundantly nice and wonderful people more than willing to go out of their way to help, just like the nicest guy in Guatemala City or my adopted El Salvadoran family, but then there’s also the crime and violence. There’s also the horrible customer service and what I perceive as pervasive rudeness, but I still need to think and figure out what that’s all about.
A Pity But A Plus
The mountains are extremely close to Caracas. I’ve never visited a city of similar size that is so close to mountains. It’s beautiful and it’s a shame I didn’t hike up Mount Aguila to see the city from up above. It was party laziness on my part, and partly the necessity to catch up.
In Venezuela I found myself back to not having a plan going forward after my volunteering opportunity fell through in Barcelona, Venezuela. But by the time I left Caracas, I was back up to a one-month buffer. It’s nice to know what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be in the coming month. Nothing is set in stone and things are always subject to change, but I’m pretty confident everything will work out going forward.
We went out one night and it turns out one of Luis’s friends/colleagues went to Ohio State! A Venezuelan friend of his and fellow Buckeye was in town visiting Luis’s friend/colleague. So it was really nice to have a random Ohio State connection in Caracas.
The food in Caracas was quite good. I have surprisingly few pictures to offer as evidence though! How unlike me!
This is a cacapaha. It’s basically a pancake made of masa (flour from corn) filled with a wide variety of goodness. You can get all different kinds of meat and vegetable options.
Arepas are pervasive and it’s basically a masa disc filled with whatever you want – meat, eggs, cheese, etc. Also amazing and besides hot dogs and hamburgers the only real street food you can find here.
I also had my fair share of guava bread here. It’s bread filled with guava jelly/jam/marmalade. Amazing. I think I liked the roscon in Colombia better, but it was still amazing.
Venezuela is one of the world’s major oil producers and it has, by far, the cheapest gas in the world. Below you’ll see a gas pump showing it cost 2.2 Bolivars ($0.24 using the black market exchange rate, $0.51 using the official government exchange rate) to pump 22.85 liters/6 gallons of 95-Octane gas. The government obviously takes a huge loss on selling gas domestically.
Similarly, you’ll see a ton of 1980’s gas guzzlers out on the road. They are comfortable and powerful. When gas is basically free, the cost of ownership isn’t as high as it would be elsewhere.
Thanks to Luis, I had an amazing time in Caracas. I met lots of his friends, we went to the beach for New Year’s, and just generally had fun hanging out. And that’s what I’ll remember most about Caracas.