Volunteer in Venezuela
What to Know Before Volunteering in Colombia
Venezuela, officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a tropical country located towards the north coast of South America, it has many natural attractions. Its privileged geographical location allows a surprising variety of ecosystems and species of flora and fauna to originate in its territory, which is why it is considered one of the 17 mega-diverse countries on the planet, with an irregular geography that combines arid regions, jungle, extensive savannahs in Los Llanos and Los Andes. All these factors make possible its wide diversity of natural tourist destinations, among which are paradisiacal spots of beach, jungle and mountain.
Venezuela is considered a developing country, with an economy based primarily on the extraction and refining oil and other minerals, as well as agricultural and industrial activities. Also has the largest oil reserves in the world, it is the ninth largest natural gas reserves, and the sixteenth in terms of gold. In addition, it has the most extensive set of protected areas in Latin America, called Areas Under Special Administration Regime.
Its population is widely diverse, made up of mestizo and Europeans ethnic groups, and to a lesser extent African, indigenous and Asians. In general people are friendly, warm and always receive those who want to meet them with a smile and open arms.
Volunteerism in Venezuela
If you decide to volunteer in Venezuela you should mainly know that the country is going through a delicate social, economic and political situation, with deficits in many aspects considered for daily life, with serious deterioration in the supply of basic services around the country, such as the supply of water, electricity, telephony, transportation, among others; This situation is general throughout the country but it is seriously accentuated in the towns and some cities inside the country.
However you will always be well received by the locals and feel at home, you can also observe an incredible diversity of beautiful landscapes. Venezuelans like to help and you will always find someone who offers hospitality.
Below you will learn more details of the most important aspects that you should know and consider if you decide to travel to this beautiful country.
The official language in Venezuela is Spanish and it is their official language after Spanish conquest. In addition to Spanish language, there are also official indigenous languages used for indigenous peoples, such as Pemón, Warao, Guajiro, among others, there are at least 31 indigenous languages in Venezuela, which are spoken in few regions of the country.
Near the country’s borders, in addition to Spanish language, also is usually spoken language of the respective neighboring country, for example, many people who live near the border with Brazil speak Portuguese language, as is the case of Santa Elena de Uairén town, another example is in Colonia Tovar town, a German enclave dating from 1843, a German dialect called “coloniero” is spoken, and in the border area with Guyana its population speaks English language.
English language is the most widely used foreign language in Venezuela, and it is mainly spoken by professionals and academics in the country, and also by people who work with tourists (guides, hotel concierges, among others).
The currency of legal tender in Venezuela is the Bolívar, however and due to the difficult economic situation that the country is going through, there is a shortage of cash, there are some limits established by banks to withdraw money from ATMs.
Transactions in stores are mostly handled with debit cards, however, currently and due to rising inflation, the use of foreign currencies (Dolar and Euros) for payment products and services has become common. It is important to mention that in Venezuela there is exchange control, and dollarization of the economy is informal. Dollars and Euros are received in stores and supermarkets at rates higher than the official value established by the central bank of Venezuela.
Additionally, many people and stores are dabbling in the use of cryptocurrencies. Gradually, there are more stores that accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, in some cities of the country there are ATMs for the digital handling of cryptocurrencies
The offers of accommodation in Venezuela are very wide, the country has a strong hotel network that can range from 5-star hotels to simple lodgings in towns in the interior of the country.
Also you can find all kind of inns, hotels and hostal around the country. About inns, they offer a warm and friendly atmosphere characteristic of the Venezuelan people, which you will find commonly in any part of the country and is widely recognized in the world.
In the case of wanting to stay for a long season with friends, family or colleagues, there is a wide variety of offers to rent apartments or houses at good prices.
There is also the option of housing with families that offer accommodation for volunteers and non-profit organizations that also offer support with accommodation or maybe you can get the opportunity to include accommodation.
Transportation in Venezuela is generally automotive, air and partially maritime, the country does not have an extended rail system that interconnects the different cities of the country, currently the existing railroad connects Caracas city with another two cities in Miranda state. There is also a subway system in Caracas City, Valencia City and Maracaibo City.
Taxis exist in all cities, but for prevention and security it is recommended to take taxis from established legal lines.
Currently in several cities there are also “motorcycle taxis” which are not recommended because they are not legally established transportation lines and they are not governed by any traffic regulations and they neither supervised by any state entity.
In the country there are six (6) international airports and fourteen (14) national airports, the most important and with more regular flights are the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Vargas State and 30 minutes from Caracas, the La Chinita International Airport in the Maracaibo City, Zulia state and the Santiago Mariño International Caribbean Airport in the tourist Margarita Island.
It is important to note that in the last five (5) years, due to the economic and political sanctions imposed by other countries, the number of airlines traveling to Venezuela has decreased considerably.
Venezuela’s health system is integrated by the private and public sectors. In private health sector, the main cities have a good system of clinics, small clinics dedicated to specialities and large clinics that cover all specialties, in Caracas city they have important clinics such as Clinic Hospital Caracas, Metropolitan Clinic and La Trinidad Teaching Medical Center and many others.
Regarding the public health system, Venezuela has hospitals in all cities and towns, also has a system implemented by the current government of primary care in small health centers called “Centros de Diagnóstico Integral” (CDI).
It is not recommended to go to public health centers to attend serious or important health cases, because they are not well endowed with equipments or sufficient medications.
The following vaccines are recommended to go to Venezuela: Hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, rabies, yellow fever and varicella.
In Venezuela, precautions should be taken as in any other Latin American country, however there will be aspects, places and occasions in which caution should be increased, due to country’s own security characteristics.
The national police patrol the different cities, towns and areas in the country, however crime must be avoided and is important to maintain the necessary precautions.
Te following recommendations are important: at the airport, do not take taxis that are not properly identified, it is advisable to have previously agreed to transfer from the airport to the hotel or place of accommodation; not to transit or walk on public roads wearing jewelry, watches or swanky clothes; don’t walk down the streets talking on cell phone; avoiding walking at night on dimly lit streets or avenues; withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging currency at exchange house , you make sure to hide the money before leaving this place; always carry your passport or a copy when you go out.
The contemporary political situation in Venezuela or in the last 20 years is well know internationally for how controversial it has been. Since 1998, an emerging political party and different from traditional parties came to the government, since then and until today (2020) the same political party (PSUV) continues to govern. The main opposition parties to government are: Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular, Acción Democrática and Copei.
It is recommended for visitors to the country and for their safety, do not participate in conversations or political discussions on the streets or public areas.
The recent history of Venezuela is nuanced with a lot of, political changes, international politics, sporting events and geopolitical leadership in the energy area.
In 1999 Venezuela changed its constitution, wich cause many changes in the social, cultural and economics fields.
Since 2000, the Venezuelan government has promoted international cooperation to improve oil prices worldwide and achieve a fair price, becoming an important player in the world energy field and important economic and comercial alliance with other countries, including Russia and China.
Venezuela has also promoted national sports, also organized the Copa América 2007, for this competition were built six new high-level stadiums and three were remodeled and expanded. The Copa América 2007 was considered by Conmebol the best editions in the history of this cup.
Great advances have also been made in different sports disciplines to which the government has promoted, such as athletics, baseball, boxing and others sports discipline.
In recent years (2013-2020) the country’s economy has been affected by sanctions and political confrontations with other western countries, however its alliances and business with important Asian countries such as Russia and China keep its economy afloat.
Markets and bargaining
For a visitor is important to know where to shop for food, clothings, electronics and others.
In Venezuela there are all kinds of foods sales, such as: supermarkets, mini markets, and small food shops called “bodegas”, also visitors will find some markets streets. In the main cities are commons supermarkets and small food shops, but in small towns are more common the “bodegas”, wich are small and informal food shops.
Venezuela has a good infrastructure of Shopping Centers (Mall) where you will find a wide variety of stores of all categories: food, footwear, clothing, electronics, drugstore and others; therefore it is recommended that visitors go directly to the Malls or stores on the main avenues of the cities to buy clothing, electronics such as cell phone and others.
It is recommended not to buy from intermediary sellers called “bachaqueros” to avoid being scammed.
rom the colonial period to present Venezuela has been cradle of migrants from all over the world , which has generated a wide gastronomy, with the main European, African and, of course, indigenous influence.
One of the best-known traditional dishes is the Arepa, a kind of roasted corn dough bun in a circular shape that is eaten stuffed with other foods. Other dishes that represent Venezuelan cuisine are the Hallaca (typical Christmas dish), the “Pabellón” (meat, black beans, rice and banana fried), Cachapa (Thin tortilla made from ground and roasted corn on an iron plate), Empanadas (crescent-shaped dough filled with sweet or savory ingredients that is fried in plenty of oil or baked), Cazabe, “Hervido de Gallina” (chicken soup with vegetables) and many others.
There are also good restaurants with different specialties and a variety of street food options. On the street you can get any type of preparation, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, pepitos (bread based on wheat flour stuffed with meat or chicken, french fries, avocado and cheese), cachapas (accompanied with cheese, ham, pork or meat), empanadas and others.
Desserts are an important part of Venezuelan gastronomy and there is a great variety depending on the region of the country. Among the most common and well-known are the papaya candy, bread cake, mango jelly, quesillos (similar to flan), corn cake, rice pudding, guava and banana candies. Additionally, as it is a tropical country, you can find a great variety of tropical fruits such as: mango, pineapple, banana, papaya, soursop, parchita, watermelon, peaches, oranges, guava, among many others.
Venezuela’s climate is tropical, warm and rainy at the same time, because it is in the Intertropical Zone. Winter is called the rainy season (from May to November, with temperatures between 24 ° C and 27 ° C) and summer is dry season (from December to April, temperature can rise to 32 ° C). However, the greatest changes in temperature are due to the variation in altitude and not for season.
Venezuela’s climate allows to visit the country at any time of the year. Although during the dry season it is more pleasant and easy to travel.
Venezuela’s climate is generally warm, however, due to the territorial diversity, there is variation of the climate depending on the region of the country, therefore it is generally recommended to wear light clothing. At coastal areas and due to heat it is advisable to wear t-shirts and shorts, in Los Llanos wear shirts, t-shirts, and jeans, in Los Andes mountainous areas, jackets should be worn at night, in the cities you can wear formal and casual clothing.
Timings and weekends
The current time zone in Venezuela is UTC-4. The usual schedule for working day is 8 hours a day per 5 days a week, from Monday to Friday. However, this could vary depending on the type of work activity, because there are night jobs.
Government and private customer service offices, and banks operate Monday to Friday. Weekends are Saturdays and Sundays, which are used for leisure activities and home shopping.
In Venezuela there is complete freedom of religion and worship.
The official and most widespread religion in the country is Catholic Christian, however there are many types of religious organizations in the country, such as: Evangelical Christians (Protestants), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Orthodox and Jews.
Key phrases to know
If you decide to volunteer in Venezuela, you must know some words commonly used in the daily language of a Venezuelan, to refer to objects, people or situations. The use of them will depend on the region of the country. Examples:
Fino: something that is nice and has good quality.
Na’guara: Admiration for something incredible or extraordinary.
Chamo: Commonly used to refer to child or adolescent.
Mosca: Be careful.
Sí va: I agree with that