Venezuela’s currency is the Bolivar Fuerte (BsF), which replaced the previous bolivar on January 1, 2008, at a 1:1 BsF to 1000 old Bs exchange rate.
Bolivars are not readily convertible in or out of the nation due to stringent currency restrictions in place since 2003. The official rate is now 10 BsF per US dollar (provided by banks and a few bureaux de change), but there is a flourishing parallel market that trades at higher rates. These unofficial rates vary in response to general currency demand, inflation, and political unrest. There are three exchange rates on the “parallel market”: tourist, black market (a little higher but hazardous and unpleasant), and bonds brokerage (high amounts in government bonds, when on sale). The highest one, which appears as a reference on certain internet sites, is the government dollar bond rate, which is unavailable unless you purchase thousands of dollars in government bonds via a Venezuelan brokerage company. This is the one that determines the black market and tourist rates. The black market should be avoided unless you are confident in the honesty of the individuals changing your money. They may be con artists, criminals, or even police officers masquerading as merchants. The tourist rate, which is usually supplied by higher-level individuals in the tourism sector, is the safest parallel exchange (hotel managers, posada owners, etc.). Rates fluctuate across Venezuela and from week to week. The tourist rate is seldom variable over time. Once you’ve changed, you won’t be able to change back to euros or dollars unless the tourist operator that swapped it for you is kind enough to accept it back.
In January 2013, the tourist rate was approximately BsF16 to the dollar and BsF20 to the euro. On 27 January 2014, the SICAD exchange rate, which was established on December 24, 2013, was 11,29 BsF. per US dollar; by March 25, 2014, a new exchange rate known as the SICAD 2, had risen to a then-overwhelming 54,8 BsF. per US dollar. By late 2016, with the official exchange rate remaining at 10 BsF per US dollar, the currency was trading informally at 4000 BsF to the dollar and quickly declining, losing more than half its value in a single month. Food and basic commodities are in limited supply at stores, and many necessary medicines are becoming unavailable.
Current parallel market rates are available here. (Seems to be banned in Venezuela; use a proxy server or just search for “dolar paralelo”). Venezuelan currency is also sold on eBay outside of Venezuela at different price points between the parallel black market rate and the official government rate, and is promoted as a collector item rather as travel money. Purchasing before leaving will give you with some spending money until you can locate a trustworthy person to convert money in Venezuela. The gap between black market and official government currency rates is enormous.
|Because the government forbids discussing the black market or parallel market, individuals refer to it as the lettuce market, and foreign currencies as different types of lettuce: Dollars are referred to as green lettuce (lechuga verde), whereas Euros are referred to as European lettuce (lechuga Europea)|
Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted, whereas American Express and Diners Club are often accepted at premium restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls. Before processing a credit card purchase, merchants always request identification (a passport will suffice). ATMs may be found all throughout the nation. They only give out Bolivars at the official exchange rate of 4.3. Maestro Debit Cards are the most widely accepted, but Visa Debit Cards are frequently refused because they are a “fee-scam” for sellers (appearing as “Debit” for the buyer and “Credit” for the seller), and some ATMs also require the last two digits of Venezuelan ID numbers as an added security precaution, causing problems for foreigners who do not have an ID number linked to their bank account.
Because many merchants, particularly taxi drivers, seldom have change, it is better to carry little change rather than big notes. Tipping taxi drivers is unusual and may seem odd. Be cautious of taxi drivers, since nearly all of them prey on visitors, especially on the way from the airport to Caracas. Only use the official airport taxis (black Ford Explorers with a vending machine inside the airport). Purchase your ticket there, first verifying the cost based on the destination shown on the counter, rather than immediately asking the teller or taxi drivers. You may also arrange for airport pickup, but it will be more costly (mostly luxury hotels). You may utilize “Teletaxi” in Caracas for a secure taxi service, which you can schedule by phone (0212-9534040). Before ordering the service, please call and inquire about the cost.
Tipping is typically low in restaurants. If a 10% service fee is included, some additional small change may be left on top of the amount, or if not included, a 10% tip is usual.
Hammocks and dark wooden handicrafts, as well as garish painted statuettes of big-busted ladies, may be found across Venezuela. Some regions, such as Falcón state, have a long history of producing high-quality glazed ceramics.
Food and drink
At the airport, you may get fine Venezuelan rum, chocolate, and cigars.