Geography & Climate
Located on the northern coast of South America, Venezuela is a large country with a population of approximately 28 million. The land is larger than that of California, Oregon, and Washington combined (over 352,000 square miles). It is divided into 20 states, the Federal District around Caracas, two territories, and 72 islands. Its borders are the Atlantic Ocean and Guyana on the east, Brazil to the south, Colombia in the west and the Caribbean to the north. The geography varies from the coastal region, to the Andean region of snow-capped peaks and temperate forests, to the tropical Maracaibo region, to the southern “Guyana Shield” and area of savanna and rain forest. The rain forests shelter Venezuela’s most exotic animals as well as some untouched tribes.
The coastal capital city of Caracas, with a population of almost four million, has a higher standard of living than any other Latin American city. Venezuela is quite demographically diverse, with about 58% of mixed race, 29% of European descent, 11% of African descent and 2% native Indians Russian Trains. Approximately 75,000 Americans currently live in Venezuela.
The climate varies little, with an average temperature around 80 degrees. The only seasonal variations are a rainy season and a dry season. It rains almost every evening during the rainy season.
Venezuela has its own style and flavor of food with many regional specialties. Most traditional dishes have been adapted from Spanish foods with tangy sauces that are generally not as hot as Mexican cuisine. Typical Venezuelan dishes you can expect to find include tequeños, a small bite-size appetizer made of white cheese wrapped in dough and deep-fried; and hallacas, a kind of boiled tamale with ground corn, filled with beef or chicken, and wrapped in banana leaves.
To eat an hallaca, just unwrap it and discard the leaves. Two dishes made with corn are bolos de maiz, spiced corn puffs (deep fried); and arepas, flat white corn flour pancakes filled with butter, meat, or cheese. The Venezuelan national dish is called pabellon criollo. It is served in three separate dishes: black beans with white rice; shredded beef mixed with tomatoes, onions and green peppers; and fried platanos (plantains, or cooking bananas).
Spanish is the language of Venezuela, but in some outlying areas ancient Indian languages are still spoken. You may be able to use English in the markets and airports, but communicating in English may be more of a challenge in bus terminals and train stations. Generally, non-native speakers are well received in Venezuela if they attempt to speak Spanish.
Good morning/day Buenos días
How are you? ¿Como está usted?
My name is Me llamo
Please Por favor
Do you speak English? ¿Habla usted inglés?
You have been very kind Ha sido muy amable
Thank you Gracias
Too much Demasiado
You’re welcome De nada
I beg your pardon Perdón
I don’t understand No entiendo
Venezuelans are very patient with foreigners who try to speak their language. They appreciate an attempt at the language and would never correct your pronunciation or grammar unless you specifically asked them to, or if they cannot understand what you want to say. Always use the usted verb from when speaking with Venezuelans. The tú form is rarely used.
There are several ways you can choose to travel within Venezuela. Mini-buses are very popular among students, and the cost is approximately 25–30 cents. Mini-buses are usually plain, unmarked vans that are privately owned; van owners contract to service particular routes. You may also want to share a taxi with friends when going out, as this turns out to be rather inexpensive.
For travel over greater distances, you can choose bus, air travel, or make arrangements to hire a taxi with a group of students. Renting cars in Venezuela is strongly discouraged. The accident rate in Venezuela is very high, and after you have been there for a while you will understand why.