This post explains why Venezuela has next to nothing to offer potential travellers in comparison to neighbouring Colombia. I’ll look at a range of issues and comparable travel highlights, including the beaches, colonial cities, adventure travel, the local girls, the local people and safety issues.
Colombia and Venezuela are, in many ways quite similar, but in other ways starkly different, as is represented by their current governments. I’ll rant about politics at the end, but for the moment I’ll explain why, in terms of tourism, Colombia’s travel attractions beat Venezuela’s in almost every single way. Essentially, the means of this article is to convince people who are considering travelling to Venezuela, to visit Colombia instead.
First, I’ll look at safety issues. For starters, Venezuela now has more kidnappings per person than Colombia - see the post on kidnapping rates for more information. Furthermore, Caracas is possibly the most dangerous city in South America, and considerably more dangerous than Colombia’s large cities that you might visit. Admittedly, parts of Colombia are not safe due to a guerilla presence, but most of the country is perfectly safe - and a lot safer than Venezuela.
Many associate travel to Venezuela with it’s lovely Caribbean beaches, such as those found on the archipelago of Los Roques. Bear in mind that Los Roques is extremely overpriced, though it is beautiful. Another popular island is Isla Margarita, though quite why this tacky package holiday island sees so many visitors I have no idea. In comparison, the beaches in Colombia are much more beautiful, and there’s many more of them. Colombia’s Park Tayrona has some of South America’s most amazingly beautiful beaches - and they’re almost all deserted. There are also fantastic beaches on the islands of Providencia and San Andres, in addition to those at Capurgana and La Guajira Peninsula. When it comes to beaches, Colombia is the clear winner over Venezuela.
Lets take a look at comparing the local people. Both Colombia and Venezuela have beautiful local girls, and in a previous post I decided that Colombia’s girls were hotter. In terms of the people generally, I’ve found the Venezuelans to often be rude, and the service in hotels in Venezuela to be the worst in all South America. In contrast, Colombians are invariably welcoming and friendly, and the service in Colombia is the best in all South America.
Next lets compare some more travel attractions in Colombia and Venezuela. Venezuela has the most amazing waterfall (Angel Falls) and also has the best wildlife viewing (in the Llanos region). In terms of everything else, Colombia’s travel attractions are far superior. Colombia has the more beautiful colonial cities by far - places such as Cartagena and Villa de Leiva to name a couple. I’ve already mentioned Colombia having the better beaches, but it also has the better scuba diving - Malpelo island is one of South America’s top diving spots, in addition to great diving near Cartagena, Taganga (one of the cheapest places to learn to dive in South America), Capuragana and Providencia Island. By contrast, in Venezuela the diving is good at Los Roques and that’s about it.
Venezuela has some good trekking and adventure travel options near Merida in the highlands, but these are nothing compared with Colombia’s potential. El Cocuy and Park Los Nevados offer some spectacular scenery and San Gil has some great adventure sports on offer.
I’m struggling to think of any more travel attractions or highlights in Venezuela, but can think of plenty of other reasons to visit Colombia: it’s a birdwatching dream (more species than any other country in the world); you can go on whale watching trips on the Pacific Coast, which is also great for surfing; there’s many archaeological ruins such as San Agustin, Tierradentro and the legendary Ciudad Perdida (Venezuela has no comparable archaeological sites); modern cities such as Medellin and Bogota are far more attractive than Venezuela’s equivalents (you’d be mad to spend any time in Caracas for example); plus there’s fascinating Wayuu Indian indigenous communities to visit in Colombia, plus the beautiful coffee growing region, rainforest tours in Leticia, the nightlife is also much better and the list could go on and on.
Venezuela is extremely overpriced for what one gets on a vacation, while in comparison Colombia is amazing value at this moment. I can only think of one reason to visit Venezuala rather than Colombia - to visit Angel Falls (the highest waterfall in the world). Venezuela does have great wildlife viewing in the Llanos region, but if you really like your wildlife you should visit Brazil’s Pantanal instead.
A final consideration might be politics. While my South America specialist travel credentials are quite high, my political ones aren’t so, as such I’ll let the Guardian newspaper explain to you how Venezuela might be considered a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (whatever that means - I hate the phrase). Read this article from the Guardian on how Venezuela’s president Chavez assists FARC’s drug trade, which in turn assists terrorists in Colombia to bomb and murder innocent people, recruit child soldiers, drive indigenous people from their homelands and generally brutalize the population.
Do you really want to visit Venezuela when Colombia has so much more to offer?