Colombia vs. Venezuela (Travel)

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?

8 Responses to “Colombia vs. Venezuela (Travel)”

  1. Juli Jaramillo on March 3rd, 2008 at 12:51 am

    There’s a reason Colombia’s tourism rates pale in comparison to Venezuela. Venezuela has nicer beaches (sorry you’re wrong) is easier to get to and less expensive overall. The tourist areas in both Colombia and Venezuela are relatively safe with Venezuela having a slight edge. Why bring up kidnapping in your argument supporting Colombia? Regardless of the overall kidnapping numbers of the entire country (who’s travelling to the jungle, anyone?) more tourists get kidnapped in tourist areas in Colombia than in tourist areas in Venezuela. Politics? Hot girls? I am Colombian and you are not doing us a service with your article as what you have outlined is tenuous at best. You would have done better to just highlight my country instead of staging a “who’s better” contest.

  2. Juli:

    Colombia’s Tourism rates don’t “pale in comparison” compared to Venezuela. Colombia actually has more international visitors - the last reliable stats I have are from 2005, when Venezuela experienced 841,000 international arrivals compared to Colombia’s 933,000 internationa arrivals (source - World Tourism Market “Tourism Market Trends” 2006 edition). I believe I’m right in saying that the gap has grown even more recently - Colombia’s tourist arrivals are growing faster than almost any other country in South America.

    “Venezuela has nicer beaches” - any opinion will be subjective of course.

    Venezuela “is easier to get to” - why do you think that? Flights wise, Colombia has far better connections to everywhere in the Americas, though admittedly there are more airlines that fly from Europe to Venezuela.

    I raise the kidnapping stats to attempt to dispel the myth that Colombia is a dangerous country to visit - sadly this his how most foreigners view Colombia.

    I raise politics as on this site I try to promote responsible travel. Political considerations should be considered if one is to travel responsibly, whether you’re visiting North Korea, Burma, or even Venezuela (though you can’t really compare venezuela to the previous two I know). It’s something to bear in mind.

    “what you have outlined is tenuous at best” - why? Which bits are tenous?

    “You would have done better to just highlight my country” - I do plenty of that also. Browse this site, or have a look at paisatours.com, another site of mine.

  3. this is so wrong about this article, is no doubt that this article is written by a Colombian, that never ever been in Venezuela, only guide by some media that always criticize the same, i would like to point several things.

    1.- all kidnapped are arrange by COLOMBIAN guerrilla and all people is taken to Colombia. what do you think about this?, is this something that begins on Venezuela or In Colombia?.

    2.- Big cities are dangerous, in different ways, if you go to Caracas to the most difficult inner-cities, of course like any other city will be dangerous. don’t you think?

    3.-Do you really want to visit Venezuela when Colombia has so much more to offer? well if you make this irresponsible article about untruth things about Venezuela maybe people will be agree with you.

    but let me arrange this question, which is more accurate for both. therefore people are not dummy, they believe what they see, not what people said.

    search on Google and visit some hotels web page, visit their hospitality and their accommodations, then you will see, who is right and who is wrong.

  4. Hi Josef,

    thanks for your comments. Of course we all have differing opinions about this. I’ll point out that I’m not Colombian - I’m British, and I have been to various parts of both Venezuela and Colombia. As for the points you raise:

    1. Where did you get this idea? Many of the guerilla safe havens are on the Ecuadorean or Venezuelan sides of the borders, as recently shown by the attack on the camp of FARC leader Raul Reyes who was found in a jungle camp in Ecuador. Given the fact that Chavez has said he’d “invade” Colombia if a similar raid were carried out on Venezuela, where do you think is the safest place for the guerillas to hide out? The answer is probably over the border in Venezuela, where, sadly, your government lends support to the terrorists.
    2. Of course you are right.
    3. Which bits are “untruths” exactly? Point one out… I hope people do agree with me.

  5. I would like to say something about this matter. I do respect opinions and even though I am Venezuelan, I might agreed with some of the comments made on this article. One of them is Colombia having more colonial sites and probably the maintenance of them. Some other people might like Colombian girls better than Venezuelan, but most of the topics on this article are very subjective. Look at beauty contests and that might give you an idea of which country produces more beauty, (many people don’t even like models, that is why this is very subjective). I also believe the Caribbean is very well known worldwide for their beaches and all the beaches from Venezuela are in the Caribbean. I could go on for ages about things I like about my country Venezuela and the ones I dislike and the ones I highly recommend from Colombia and the ones I don’t. My main point is that people giving advices for travel might show some preferences but your article lies a little bit to the ridiculous side. You might as well write in bold you dislike Venezuela for whatever reason and that is it. You keep comparing Venezuela not only with Colombia but you seem to place it bellow any country in South America in general. The article should be called do not travel to Venezuela and not “Colombia vs Venezuela”, which isa little provocative already.
    I do advise anyone reading this article to do your own research carefully before making a choice and not let this type of articles influence your decision. If you know anyone that already visit any of these two countries, talk to them, as they could help you understand better the reality of each one of these countries and help you decide.
    I could also say that London is quite overprice and based on finfacts from 2007 it is the most dangerous city in the European Union, those are facts, the reality is that if anyone has a chance, should visit it, it is a very cosmopolitan city where you can find pretty much anything you want.

    An advice from me is: “Do not leave by the experience of others, experience it yourself.”

    Rgds

  6. I read the whole article and I came to several conclusions and of course my opinion.

    I am Venezuelan and I know both countries I have been in both and I know what places to go and what places to avoid. Colombia for a long time has not been a very safe place to visit due to so serious kidnapping. Now a days, even when kidnapping still exist in Colombia, we have to admit that president Uribe did an excellent job. It has been reduced significantly and this bad apples has probably moved to Venezuela now. Let’s be objective, in terms of places to visit, Venezuela and Colombia has great ones, no doubt. The problem with Venezuela now a days is that there is a combination of kidnapping and other type of violent crimes that according to statistics have increased significantly. Violent crimes or murders in Venezuela have doubled the number shown for Colombia, on top of this you must add that there is also kiddnapping. This is distributed along the entire Venezuela, which makes it the real trouble. This is not only happening in Caracas. Colombia now a days, is safer in terms of violent crimes compared to Venezuela, but still I believe that holds a higher rate of kidnapping than Venezuela. However, I must admit that this last type of crimes occur more among politics than regular population.

    Both Countries and people, and girls are beautiful, and both countries are still unsafe for visiting purposes. Sorry if I dissapointed someone.

  7. Daniel thanks for the comments. I think it’s a very unfair to suggest that both countries are unsafe to visit. I know that Colombia is perfectly safe to visit, but just like in all Latin American countries care should be taken in certain parts. I won’t pass comment on Venezuela, but when my fiancee recently visited (she is dual Colombian-Venezuelan) she said she was petrified most of the time and couldn’t wait to get out of Venezuela and back to Colombia!

    Shame what Chavez is doing to your country - creating a climate of fear and training militias and generally acting like is Arab friend dictators Gaddafi (and Assad). I hope the Venezuelans soon see through the Chavez propaganda and have their own revolution - it will be a bloody one I fear! Shame you have let him get away with so much already.

    For authoritative advice on where is safe to visit see

    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/

  8. Im Venezuelan and i study Tourism, and i think its true that we have some problems in the country in some ways living in there has become a little bit more difficult than before and a little bit more dangerous too, but every south american country have the same problem, some more that others but i could really give you amazing reasons to visit Venezuela:
    A major air route connecting South America with the rest of the world, Venezuela remains one of the most easily accessible countries in South America from points in the USA or Europe.

    For the price, Venezuela features verdant plains and arid desert, spectacular vistas from the Andes mountains, and no less than stunning white sand beaches kissed by the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic waters.

    Caracas, ironically, is not on anyone’s top ten list of capital cities to visit, due to its jungle of concrete and urban blight, but by all means see the cathedral, the sprawling National Capitol building, and the historic birthplace of “the George Washington of South America,” Simon Bolivar.

    More memorable - by far - is the country’s stunning natural beauty beginning with a visit up north to the Gran Sabana, featuring unusual flat top mountains (”Tepuy”) and spectacular Angel Falls (the world’s highest) in Canaima National Park. For the grandest vista in all of Venezuela, take the taller and longest cable car ride up to Bolivar Peak, the country’s highest mountain.

    For prime coastal attractions, see world famous beaches due east at Playa Colorada, or up north in crystal clear Caribbean waters at Archipelago of Los Roques which is a bit more exclusive and virgin that any other island in the Caribbean.

    and just to not let it pass mix all the whether that you experience in England during the hole year and find it all there at the same time in different places!!

    so please if you want to promote your fiancés real country Colombia then do it but don’t try to make my country look bad because you have a Colombian girlfriend. And maybe yes she has both of the nationalities because she needed to get it in order to be able to travel without a schengen visa around the world and as a Venezuelan citizen she can do it because we are in general more trust able in every other country.i really don’t have anything against Colombian people in fact lots of my best friends are from there i met them in England studying and any time we plan a holiday to see each other again they always try to come to Venezuela because they find it more interesting.

    i recommend to everybody who wants to travel to South America to definitely go thought a travel agency and plan really well the holidays and just enjoy the beauty that we have to offer for you!
    some places will be a bit more expensive and exclusive that others but it will depend on the amount of money that you want to spend! and the quality of the holidays that you want to get!

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