Personal Safety Advice
Personal safety is currently a huge issue in Venezuela and extends to its surrounding islands such as Margarita Island. While each country is different in regards to personal safety, the dangers in Venezuela are extreme! If you are street wise and completely aware of your surroundings, you stand a far better chance of not becoming a victim during your vacation. If you have no idea what is happening around you, then it´s just a matter of time before life goes pear-shaped for you!
Poverty, unemployment, inflation and other social factors have crippled Venezuela on a major scale. Due to the current situation, some parts of Venezuela are not ideal for tourism in 2015. Personal safety issues in Venezuela include, but are not limited to petty crime, armed assault, car jacking, sexual assault, kidnap and murder. The majority of these crimes take place in the capital city of Caracas, but you need to be vigilant everywhere and at all times. The last thing I want to do is scare you away from the beautiful island paradise of Margarita Island, however you DO need to be well informed in regards to your personal safety.
Use common sense, don´t go flaunting your jewelry in public places. If you want to withdraw money at an ATM, do so when there are other normal people around, sometime during the daytime. If you feel uneasy due to the presence of a suspicious character, leave straight away and return when it feels safe. Be wary of seedy individuals trying to get a glimpse of your PIN as you enter it when using the ATM keypad. The moment the ATM spits your money out, don´t stand there counting it! Place it in your wallet, purse or handbag immediately. The best places to use ATMs on Margarita Island are at quality shopping malls where there is a far less possibility of being robbed or assaulted.
– Don´t walk the streets flashing your jewelry
– Withdraw cash during the day at quality shopping malls with good lighting
– Conceal your PIN by using your other hand to cover your typing hand
– Limit your visits to ATMs, because more visits = more risk!
When walking the streets, listen to your gut. That uneasy feeling from your stomach is a signal something isn´t quite right. If you want to avoid personal safety issues always go with your gut feeling, especially when you´re a tourist in a foreign country. If it does not feel right, walk way! As a foreign tourist you will stand out like a sore thumb on the island, so be prepared for the rush of people offering you goods & services. They may seem innocent enough, but not everyone has good intentions.
A product that can affect your personal safety is a drug called ‘Burundanga’. It is highly toxic and has immediate effects. The drug is placed in powder form on a brochure (eg. nightclub ‘2 free drinks’) and offered to you as you walk by. Thinking ‘Wow, what a great deal’, you take the brochure from the guy or girl. After all, you´re only focused on 2 free drinks. As the criminal is handing over the brochure, he/she blows the dust towards your face and within seconds it is literally lights out! As a guy, you will most likely wake up somewhere without your money, watch, passport and any other items of value like running shoes. Females who fall for this criminal act, are sometimes sexually assaulted as well as being robbed of all their belongings. In rare cases, the tourist may be held in a captive situation (kidnapping) where a settlement is sought from the family by the criminals. Again, I don´t mean to alarm you, just be aware that criminal activity and its intensity is far greater in Venezuela than in other parts of the world. These are some of the real dangers which can affect the personal safety of ANY tourist in Venezuela.
When travelling by car on the island, there´s always the temptation to roll down the windows on a balmy afternoon. I recommend only doing so in non built-up areas where the traffic moves at greater speeds (country type roads). In more commercial zones leave the AC (air conditioning) on and your windows up.
One of the more modern personal safety issues in Venezuela is car-jacking. Delinquents will often attempt to car-jack their unwary victims when they least expect it. These criminals usually travel as a pair on 1 motorbike, the guy in front controlling the motorcycle & the guy at the rear with pistol in hand. Please keep your AC on full and ALL windows up!
Another common danger in Venezuela is beach robbery. As far as the Margarita Island beaches go, best to fly with the flock, so to speak. You know the saying, safety in numbers. Resist the thought of finding your own isolated beach, stick to the more populated beaches. If not, you´re only setting yourself up for trouble. Towards the end of the day, don´t hang around the beach too long. When you see people starting to leave, do the same. The criminals are looking for people who aren´t thinking about their own personal safety. They´re looking for easy victims, usually the last of the beach goers who have had too many alcoholic beverages and have let their guard down.
When it comes to nightlife be extremely vigilant, as danger usually presents itself during the night. Sure … go and enjoy yourself, but keep an eye on your drinks & belongings during the night. Always best to travel in a group to avoid being isolated. Remember, safety in numbers is KING!
Don´t let these security issues keep you away from this beautiful island paradise … just be vigilant and enjoy your stay!