TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP TO MARGARITA ISLAND, VENEZUELA
ARRIVAL IN CARACAS
If you are flying in, you will land at the Simon Bolivar International Airport that serves the city of Caracas. It is located in Maiquetía (Vargas State) about 45 m from Caracas. This airport has both International and National Terminals which are not connected internally. In fact, an overpass is being built at present but will not be ready for the CLAIB.
All passengers arriving on international flights must clear customs at the International Terminal, and transfer their luggage to the National Terminal to be checked in by the airline taking them to the “General Santiago Mariño” International Airport in Porlamar, Margarita Island. If you are making the connection to Margarita the same day, you must then go down to the lower level and take a short walk on your left (5 min, 300 meters open air) to the National Terminal.
If you are staying overnight to make the connection to Margarita the following day, we recommend according to your possibilities the following hotels in the neighborhood of the airport: Hotel Eurobuilding Express Maiquetía
, Tlf. +58-212-700.0792. 5-star hotel, very good but very expensive (US$ 215). It has a free airport-hotel shuttle. Hotel Catimar
, Tlf. +58-212-351.9097; +58-212-351.7906. 3-star hotel, cheap (US$ 45). The airport-hotel shuttle must be requested when booking.
Hotel La Parada, Tlf. +58-212-351.0212; +58-212-351.2148. 3-star hotel, somewhat expensive (US$ 88). The airport-hotel shuttle is included.
If you arrive in the early morning and prefer to wait at the airport for your connection, we recommend you to so in the International Terminal until your check-in time.
If you plan to leave Caracas for Margarita by road, the easiest way is to take a bus to the cities of Puerto La Cruz or Cumaná from which you must then take a ferry to Punta de Piedras, Margarita. There are several bus lines to these towns from different terminals in Caracas. A convenient one is Peli Express with its own terminal (Tlf. +58-212-239.4910; +58-212-239.9058) in Parque del Este (next door to the Museo del Transporte), Metro Los Dos Caminos. Departures from Caracas - Puerto La Cruz at 12:30 am, 6:30 am, 8:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:45 pm, 2:45 pm, 5:30 pm y 7:30 pm. Detailed ferry timetables may be obtained directly from Conferry and Gran Cacique.
ARRIVAL IN MARGARITA ISLAND
If you are flying in, you will land at the “General Santiago Mariño” International Airport, Porlamar, which is around 35 minutes from Hotel Hesperia Isla de Margarita where the CLAIB will take place. You will be received at the airport by well identified conference personnel (Tuesday and Wednesday from 8h until 22h). If you do not make contact, we suggest you take a cab (US$ 25-40), but do make sure to negotiate the fare before getting on.
If you arrive by ferry at Punta de Piedras, we recommend you take a cab to the Hotel Hesperia Isla de Margarita.
The local currency is the Bolívar (Bs). The official exchange rate is US$ 1 = Bs. 2150, and with respect to the Euro, it floats according to the US$ parity of the latter. Buying/selling of foreign currency in Venezuela is regulated by government. In practice, this means you will not be able to exchange Bs. for US$ or Euros at the end of your visit, and that you should acquire Bs. from official dealers or banks. If you bring US$ (or Euros) in cash, we recommend you get some Bs. from one of the foreign currency exchange booths in the Arrival Hall. You can also obtain Bs. with your debit/credit cards from several ATMs around the place. Please avoid exchange offers from third parties. Margarita has also a good currency exchange infrastructure, but it may not be entirely available during weekends.
Paper bills come in denominations from 1000 to 50,000 bolívares. There are coins from 10 to 1,000 Bolívares. Often taxis, small shops, and restaurants are unable to change bills of larger denomination, so it's always good to keep a few 1,000 and 2,000 notes on hand.
Furthermore, as from January 2008, the Bolívar will be replaced by the new Bolívar Fuerte (Bs.F). One Bolívar Fuerte is equivalent to 1.000 Bolívares (Bs.F. 1 = Bs. 1000). During the CLAIB, the Bolívar will still be the prevailing currency, but products and services may be endorsed with both currencies. Thus, do be cautious if somebody offers to exchange your US$ at 2.15 arguing that you are getting Bs.F. The latter will not be in use at all during the event.
CONDITIONS IN MAGARITA
Margarita is a tropical island with beautiful beaches, year-round temperatures of 30-40C and plenty of possibilities for tourism. Do bring appropriate clothing: T-shirts, shorts, sandals, bathing suit, a cap or a hat, sunglasses, etc. Sun screening and skin moisturizing lotions are a must. A light cardigan or jacket is recommended in air-conditioned rooms or windy evenings. If you want to scuba dive, do not forget your certificate. Always ask for bottled mineral water. Locals in Margarita are renown for their hospitality and honesty, but tourism has brought all kinds of operators to the Island who you should always be cautious with.
HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES
Venezuela has both public and private health care services. The public health service is run by the government and offers free treatment. Private hospitals offer a higher standard of treatment but these require large deposits or a credit card, even for emergencies, and can be very expensive. For minor illnesses or health problems, Venezuela has many good pharmacies which stock almost all brand-name medicines. Minor illnesses can be easily avoided if the right precautions are taken. Always drink bottled water and check that ice in drinks is made from purified water, which is usually the case. Generally, you should not have any problems with Venezuelan food.
Venezuela operates on a 110 volt, 60-cycle system; US-type two-pin plugs.
TAXES AND TIPS
Venezuela has a non-refundable 9% sales tax, known as IVA, which is added to the price of all articles except basic foodstuffs and medicines. At hotels, foreigners must pay a 10% tourist tax. You will find it added to your bill.
Tips are discretionary but in the majority of bars and restaurants 10 per cent service charge is added to the bill; in addition, and it is customary to leave another 10 per cent on the table. Bellboys and chambermaids should be tipped, taxi drivers are not tipped unless they carry suitcases. Gas pump attendants expect a tip.