"Semi-Tropics in the Andes"

Most guide books suggest a visit to Caracas on the last leg of your Venezuela vacation.  Caracas suffers from the same “self-destruction” commonly found in other fast growing capitals of the world: over crowding, traffic,  pollution, and crime. 

 By contrast, Mérida has a reputation for very high personal safety, and is one of the least polluted cities in the hemisphere.  Mérida, however, has been discovered, and  the traffic, at certain times of the day, and especially during the four "high seasons" can move slowly. ANDESHOLIDAYS.COM offers this "tip": take advantage of our four "low seasons", which for many positive reasons, we refer to as our: Special SeasonsClick to learn more!

Arriving by Air- 
If your entering Venezuela, from anywhere, you will probably touch down at the Maiquetia Airport, also called: The Simón Bolivar International Airport. 

Clear through  Immigration (Imigración), and then collect your baggage, proceeding on to Customs (Aduana), which is usually fast and painless.  If you have nothing to declare, press the large red button.  If a bell sounds, (currently, the chances are about 1 in 12) you will directed to a baggage inspection table.  If all is in order, the inspector will be fast and courteous. 

If you need some local currency try the Italcambio booth for quick service (NOTE: the banks, and government regulators which control foreign currency could take a lesson in how to make it easy for tourists to get and spend money, from this company!) at a commission of about 2%.  The local currency is called the Bolivar, named after the colonial war hero Simón Bolivar.  For short, the currency is referred to as the "B".  On May 1, 2001, the U.S. dollar was exchanged for about 715 B´s. (Economic Note: There are many seniors who can remember when the ratio was: $1 dollar = 4 B´s!  In countries, world-wide, it is more common for government financial offices to report to the people, that the "dollar is up" instead of a more accurate: "the value of our local currency is down").      

Also, consider buying a telephone debit card (public phones do not accept coins) called a "tarjeta" (tar het ah). Buy your tarjeta in terminal stores, which display an outside sign that says: "CANTV". This is the abbreviation of the national telephone company.  Tarjeta´s  are sold in denominations of 3, 5 and 10  thousand (sometimes referred to as "mil") "B’s", or about $4.35, $7.25 and $14.50.  Inexpensive local calls are subsidized by very expensive commercial lines and international calls.  The lowest priced tarjeta will probably be fine for all local calls you may make.  Mérida´s popularity as an international tourist destination means that a majority of the public phones permit overseas calling.  However, for now,  better rates may be had, using your international telephone credit card?  All telephones display, in real time,  the declining value of your tarjeta.  They also display an English language prompt.  If your call is to the U.S., why not try a cyber cafe.  The quality is not nearly as good, but a savings of up to 80% can minimize the poor quality!  Currently there are about 85 cyber cafes in Mérida & the nearby towns. 

If your baggage is easy to handle, go outside, feel the heat, (your gonna love Mérida´s great year around climate!) turn left, and walk one block to the Domestic Terminal.  Or catch the free shuttle bus.  If you use a porter, with his handcart, expect to tip $1 per bag.  (Prices in Caracas are high.)

Once in the Domestic Terminal, proceed to the "Mérida" ticket window of of any of the four carriers that serve Mérida.  See AIRLINE SCHEDULES below.  A fifth airline (Aeropostal) uses the El Vigia Airport, which is a little over an hour by bus, from Mérida.  From the El Vigia airport you can taxi to Mérida for about $22. U.S. or taxi to the El Vigia Bus Terminal for about one dollar and catch the bus to Mérida for another dollar.  Given the option, most persons with a Mérida destination prefer to fly from Caracas, directly into the downtown Mérida Airport.   

Arriving at the Mérida Airport. 
The flight from Caracas to Mérida will take about 75 minutes.   If the clouds permit, the views of the mountains and the City of Mérida will  be rewarding.  Mérida is a mile high,  nestled in a semi-tropical valley between snow capped mountain ranges that are the Northern terminus of the Andes Mountains.  The Andes are the longest mountain chain in the world.  They begin thousands of miles to the south, in Argentina.  The highest peaks in Venezuela are almost 3 miles high, and tower majestically over the City of Mérida. The final approach to the airport is both beautiful, and serenely breathtaking. Relax, enjoy, and if you have a camera,  take a photo or two.

The Mérida Airport (Alberto Carnevalli) is conveniently located in the middle of the city, and taxis will take you most anywhere in town for US $3-5.  While you are waiting for your bags to be placed on the conveyer (about 20 minutes or so) you can pick up: the keys to your rental car, or confirm your tours, which you may have reserved via e-mail on www.ANDESHOLIDAYS.COM.  Or, stretch your legs, walk out of the terminal, turn to the right, and proceed to the large building next to the airport.  This is our government tourist office: CORMETUR, where they will present you with  a welcome bag of maps and other tourist information. 

The Mérida Airport main terminal has an Italcambio for changing money.  There are some businesses and places of lodging who will also exchange currency at fair rates.  Check the Home Pages on ANDESHOLIDAYS.COM for these tourism oriented businesses. 

Mérida Banks- are not tourist oriented when it comes to currency exchange or travelers checks.  Some do, most don't.  Some will, on some days, and not on others.  Those that do, have a limit as to the amount, which can vary from time-to-time and day-to-day.  Visit a bank, only to experience, first hand,  the miserable service level that local people are forced to endure.  By international standards, Venezuela banks, are among the world's most inefficient.  If you must use them, they will eat away at your precious vacation time, decrease your vacation spending, and therefore, your fun!  However, things are slowly improving, so relax. Try hard, not to complain, but use your experience as "base data" from which to compare positive changes when you return.  Poco a poco-little by little. 

Most visitors learn to truly enjoy the rich and vibrant Latino Culture.  However, certain cultural traditions (such as little, or no regard for the value of time) conflict  head-on with many internationally accepted business practices!  But, even this, is slowly changing.  In the meantime, your a witness to history, and viva la difference! There are no more carefree people than Latinos.  Try to learn their "secret".


HOW’S YOUR SPANISH?  Bad (malo).  Don’t worry.  Here’s why: Mérida is slow, and delightfully so!  The people have time to help you.  You’ll find that when both parties WANT to understand each  other, they always find a way.  Your Mérida experience will be more enriching, however, if you practice a bit of Spanish before your trip.  Carry a small phrase book/dictionary, notepad and pencil. 

MÉRIDA HAS SOME EXCELLENT SPANISH SCHOOLS offering everything from a classroom environment, to one-on-one instruction. You can make prior arrangements (e-mail) with your school to live with a Mérida family, at very reasonable rates. Want to practice on line before tour trip to Mérida? Try this link for brushing up on your Spanish:

ALL VENEZUELANS TAKE ENGLISH IN SCHOOL  but as is always the case, when studying a second language, pronunciation and lack of use, cause difficulties.  Your keys to Spanish are simple: SMILE, TRY, ENJOY.  Mérida is tourism oriented.  You will find that most folks will try to assist the best they can. 

MÉRIDA IS SAFE so relax!  If you should become sick or have an accident, you will find the people to be observant, efficient and caring.  Mérida has one of the best teaching hospitals in South America-Hospital U.L.A., where you can always find English speaking medical assistance. Note: The gringo writing this was involved in a auto accident with minor head injuries and a broken nose.   I was undergoing treatment within 15 minutes of the accident. Aside from required medical items needed for my "repair", there was no cost! I sued the govt. owned electrical company who demolished my VW, at an upfront legal cost of $600.u.s. So far, nothing has happened, and that was three years ago!  Poco a poco.  I should live so long.

Mérida is a university town.  Traditionally, the city and university administrations jointly cooperate by allowing, permitted student demonstrations.  Burning tires in the roads, throwing rocks and bottles at the police, who fire tear gas back at the students, are common  occurances.  These "events" are orchestrated, and tolerated in the name of "free speech".  They disrupt traffic, and the peoples freedom to use the highways.  They hurt the economy, which reduces the students chances of getting work.  They cause a lack of respect for the Law.  They frighten un-informed tourists.  Fortunately, they seldom result in injury.  Maybe in the future, all people with problems will learn how to use: "the peaceful power of the net" to air their positions and suggest responsible solutions?      

MÉRIDA HAS ANDESHOLIDAYS.COM   Our website has more than 650 printed pages of promotional material-all about the andes.  Currently there are about 500 HOME PAGES appearing in Spanish and English, divided into: Lodging, Food and Businesses. Plus, maps and about 600 photos! We present the inside track, with moneysaving tips and suggestions on how to get the best out of your Mérida vacation. 

All Home Pages are fast loading with thumbnail photos. Each Home Page follows the same basic format permitting you to concentrate on the text and the photos, instead of "fluff".  Visitors to our site have E-mailed us to say: "We got a better vacation overview of Mérida than with any other website. Thanks, we had a great time!" 

Please support our progressive Home Page clients.  

Also, tell us about your Mérida experience.  Enter your comments in our Guest Book.    

YOU CAN HELP !  The "mission" of ANDESHOLIDAYS.COM is the promotion of Mérida Tourism, Businesses, Professionals, and Investment.  We seek your input as to how we can make this a better site for the purpose of encouraging you to vacation in Mérida, and then perhaps to invest in our area.  Any questions?  Drop us an e-mail!   Thanks

 Enjoy your holiday in beautiful Semi-Tropics of the Andes- Mérida, Venezuela.  BIENVENIDOS!

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