If you are flying to Margarita thru Caracas, here's some helpful information.
Getting thru Caracas is not difficult, it is just different than traveling in
the States. And forget all the news stories you read about Caracas, you are
NOT going to Caracas, you are going to the AIRPORT, which is like flying thru
JFK, you're not in NYC, you're somewhere out on Long Island! Caracas (the
city) is about a 45 minute ride on the other side of the mountains.
1. When you arrive in Caracas, follow the crowd to immigration where they will
stamp your passport and take a copy of your tourist visa. (Fill this out on
the flight) Don't lose your copy, you need it to get out of the country.
2. Continue on to the baggage claim area. You must claim your baggage here
and then recheck it on the flight to Margarita. Be advised, the luggage does
not always come out on the belt that the signs say, so check around on all the
luggage belts. (Do this in customs in Miami also, it is not always on the
belt that they say!)
3. After claiming your luggage, proceed out of the baggage claim area. If you
need help carrying your luggage, negogiate with one of the porters waiting
outside the claim area. It will cost about $5 US for them to take your
luggage to the National terminal, more if you are carrying windsurfing
equipment. Follow the porters closely, they move quickly and you don't want
to lose sight of your bags.
4. If you are carrying your own luggage, go outside the International terminal
and follow the sidewalk to the left until you arrive at the National terminal.
It is about a 5 minute walk. Once inside the National terminal, look for the
airline that you will be flying and check in. There is a small departure tax
that needs to be paid, plus a fee for more than 1 suitcase per person. (It is
a nominal fee, but they usually want bolivars, not $$$) They don't always
charge for the extra bags, but one time we had 7 bags, including windsurfing
gear, and they charged us about $10.
5. After checking in for your flight, proceed to the security check and go to
the gate. Be advised that they sometimes change gate numbers and do not
notify you, so ask at the information desk to be sure you are at the right
gate, and also check with other passengers at the gate. (You can't trust the
monitors to give you the current information.) Flights do not always leave on
time, in fact they sometimes leave early, so pay attention to what is going
on. Don't be afraid to ask questions, you can always find someone who speaks
English. I have always found the Venezuelan people very kind and very patient
with my gringo Spanish.
6. For your return flight, reverse the process. (Claim your luggage in the
National terminal, go outside and then walk to the right to the International
terminal.) When you arrive in the International terminal, first pay your
departure tax, then get in line to check in for your flight. Then head for
customs where they will stamp your passport and take your copy of the tourist
visa. (Remeber, I told you not to lose this!)
7. Always plan to check in at least 2 hours prior to an international flight,
one hour before a national flight. Flights to Margarita tend to be
overbooked, so arrive early to avoid being bumped. And ALWAYS reconfirm your
flight 72 hours prior to departure, or they WILL cancel your reservation.
(Unless you want a good excuse for a few extra days of sailing!)
8. A few other helpful hints: The Caracas airport is in Maiquetia (pronounced
Mike-a-tia). so if you hear this mentioned, you are in the right line. The
airport in Margarita is in Porlamar. Do not give your airline tickets to
anyone other than the agent at the desk. There are some "independent
entrepeuners" who work the airports, they speak English and will help you get
checked in, but I don't think you really need their help, and you will have to
pay them. You can change your money into bolivars in a Cambio (exhange house)
in the ariport but sometimes they will only take cash, not travelers checks.
In Margarita, all the Cambios take travelers checks.You may want to pick up a
few bolivars before you leave the States, but you won't get a very good
exchange rate so don't change too much. (Maybe $50 to get you started) The
Cafe Macchiato in the national terminal has awesome capuccinos. There is also
a restaurant on the second floor if you have a long layover.
If you are looking for a great place to stay in El Yaque, I have a couple of 2
bedroom 2 bath townhouses which are located about 50 meters from the beach.
Really one of the nicest places to stay in El Yaque, very spacious with every
amenity you would want. Call or e-mail if you want more information. Or check
out our ad in the Nov/Dec issue of Windsurfing Magazine, page 52.
Las Brisas del Yaque Townhouses
(888) 2-BRISAS (toll free in the US) PST
(760) 632-1209 tel/fax PST