The United States has recently renewed its “Do not travel” warning for American citizens planning to visit Venezuela. In a statement issued by the Department of State, travelers are strongly urged to understand that the US government “has no ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens” who may encounter trouble while in the country. The severity of this warning, the highest level the department can issue, is attributed to several factors, including civil unrest, a dangerous “slide towards dictatorship,” ongoing threats of terrorism, and anti-American bias.

According to the Department of State, Venezuela has seen a significant rise in violent crimes such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking. These crimes have become disturbingly common throughout the country, posing a serious threat to the safety and well-being of visitors. Consequently, the US government advises travelers who choose to go despite the risks to first establish a “proof of life” protocol with their loved ones. This protocol involves ensuring that loved ones are aware of specific questions to ask hostage-takers in case of abduction to verify the individual’s safety and rule out any potential hoaxes.

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One of the main concerns highlighted by the Department of State is the high risk of wrongful detention of US nationals in Venezuela. It reveals that security forces have detained American citizens for extended periods, even up to five years, without proper notification or access by the US government. This alarming lack of transparency and cooperation severely hampers the ability of the American government to assist and protect its citizens in distress.

The repercussions of these dire warnings can already be seen in the declining number of American travelers to Venezuela. In the past, hundreds of thousands of Americans would visit the country annually, lured by its miles of largely undeveloped Caribbean coastline and pristine adjacent islands. However, since Nicolás Maduro rose to power in 2013 following the death of the iron-fisted Hugo Chávez, the inflow of American tourists has dwindled. Maduro’s controversial election, which the State Department deems illegitimate due to allegations of a rigged process, further fuels the concerns of a nation sliding toward dictatorship.

Similar to his predecessor, Maduro is actively cultivating alliances with foreign nations that are known for repressing their own people, including Cuba, Russia, Iran, and China. The strengthening of these associations has raised fears that Maduro’s actions would further suppress the Venezuelan population and exacerbate the country’s already precarious situation.

The recently reissued travel warning originally came into effect in 2019 when the US began withdrawing its personnel from Venezuela due to safety concerns. The decision to renew the warning on May 13 serves as a timely reminder for American citizens considering travel to Venezuela. With a crucial election scheduled for July, the fate of the South American nation hangs in the balance. The Department of State has cautioned that political rallies and demonstrations often occur with little notice, and anti-Maduro protests have been met with a strong police and security force response. Instances of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets being deployed against participants are not uncommon, and these events sometimes escalate into looting and vandalism, further undermining the country’s stability.

In addition to the political and security challenges, Venezuela is currently grappling with a severe crisis of shortages. Basic necessities such as water, gasoline, electricity, and medicine have become increasingly scarce, exacerbating the hardships faced by the Venezuelan people. This scarcity has further contributed to the deteriorating conditions and adds to the risks associated with travel to the country.

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Moreover, another troubling aspect of the Venezuelan situation is the presence of terror groups from neighboring Colombia. These groups are highly active in the border regions, posing a direct threat not only to the safety of Venezuelans but also potentially endangering foreign visitors.

The renewed “Do not travel” warning for Venezuela underscores the gravity of the situation and the risks involved for those contemplating a visit to the country. Given the ongoing political instability, rampant violent crimes, shortages, and the threat of terrorism, the US government strongly advises against travel to Venezuela to ensure the safety and well-being of American citizens.

You can read the full statement from the State Department’s Travel website below:

Venezuela Travel Advisory

Do not travel to Venezuela due to crimecivil unrest, kidnapping, and the arbitrary enforcement of local laws. Reconsider travel due to wrongful detentions, terrorism, and poor health infrastructure.

Country Summary:  In March 2019, the U.S. Department of State withdrew all diplomatic personnel from U.S. Embassy Caracas and suspended operations. All consular services, routine and emergency, remain suspended until further notice. The U.S. government has no ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela. U.S. citizens in Venezuela who require consular assistance should try to leave the country as soon as safely possible to do so and should contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in another country.

Violent crimes, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, are common in Venezuela. Political rallies and demonstrations occur, often with little notice. Anti-Maduro demonstrations have elicited a strong police and security force response, including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against participants, and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism. Shortages of gasoline, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies continue throughout much of Venezuela.

The Department has determined there is a high risk of wrongful detention of U.S. nationals in Venezuela. Security forces have detained U.S. citizens for up to five years. The U.S. government is not generally notified of the detention of U.S. citizens in Venezuela or granted access to U.S. citizen prisoners there.

Colombian terrorist groups operate in Venezuela’s border areas with Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana.

Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Venezuela.

If you decide to travel to Venezuela:

  • Avoid all land border crossings into Venezuela on the Colombian border.
  • Ensure you have a valid Venezuelan visa. Visas are not available upon arrival.
  • Be prepared for the high risk of indefinite detention without consular access.
  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Develop a communication plan with family and/or your employer or host organization. Establish a “proof of life” protocol with your loved ones, so that if you are taken hostage, your loved ones know specific questions (and answers) to ask the hostage-takers to be sure that you are alive (and to rule out a hoax).
  • Have a contingency plan in place that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.
  • Keep travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
  • Avoid travel between cities, or between Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas at night.
  • Do not take unregulated taxis from the Maiquetia “Simón Bolívar” International Airport and avoid ATMs in this area.
  • Consider hiring a professional security organization.
  • Bring a sufficient supply of over the counter and prescription medicines for the duration of travel.
  • Consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance.
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Venezuela.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
  • Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

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