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By Plane -- Because distances are relatively long and land travel time consuming, Venezuela has an excellent network of commuter airlines servicing the entire country and all major tourist destinations. Fares run around BsF150 to BsF600 each way, depending on destination, distance, availability, and demand. On any internal flight, you have to pay an airport tax of BsF10 to BsF38, depending on the local airport you are using.

By Bus -- Regular and inexpensive buses service all of terrestrial Venezuela. Most popular destinations are also serviced by expreso (express), ejecutivo (executive), and/or de lujo (luxury) buses. In most cases, it's worth the few extra dollars for these options. Two reputable luxury lines are Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos (tel. 0212/266-2321; www.aeroexpresos.com.ve) and Rodovías (tel. 0212/577-6622). There are two principal bus terminals in Caracas, Terminal La Bandera and Terminal del Oriente, although depending on the route, destination, and bus line, you may embark from either of these or a private terminal.

By Car -- I do not recommend a rental car as a means of exploring Venezuela. Many of the top destinations -- Los Roques, Canaima, and Angel Falls, for example -- are inaccessible by car. (Note: The only two destinations included where a car would come in handy are Isla de Margarita and Mérida. In both cases, you'd be better off flying to the destination and renting a car there for the duration of your stay.) Venezuelan drivers are aggressive and ignore most common traffic laws and general rules of road safety. Moreover, roads are not well marked, distances between destinations are considerable, and you run the risk of becoming a target for one of many robbery schemes. If you do decide to rent a car, many of the major international agencies operate in Venezuela, with offices in Caracas (often with a branch at the airport) and in most major cities and tourist destinations. Rates run BsF150 to BsF300 per day.

Your best bet for renting a car, both in terms of rates and reliability, is to choose one of the major international agencies and book in advance from your home country. Avis (tel. 800/331-1084 in the U.S., or 0800/227-7600 in Venezuela; www.avis.com), Budget (tel. 800/472-3325 in the U.S., or 0800/283-4381 in Venezuela; www.budget.com.ve), Dollar (tel. 800/800-3665 in the U.S., or 0212/993-8259 in Venezuela; www.dollar.com), Hertz (tel. 800/654-3001 in the U.S., or 0800/800-0000 in Venezuela; www.hertz.com), and Thrifty (tel. 800/847-4389 in the U.S., or 0800/250-8453 in Venezuela; www.thrifty.com) all have offices both in Caracas and at Simón Bolívar International Airport.

One upside of driving around Venezuela is that gas is amazingly cheap, around BsF .09 per liter, or BsF.35 per gallon.

By Organized Tour -- Considering the current state of affairs, organized tours are a reasonable way to go in Venezuela. The country is still a bit inhospitable and unused to freewheeling independent exploration. The tourism industry here was built top down, with lots of big hotels and big operations that almost seem to not want to waste their time on independent travelers. In many cases, tour operators and wholesalers are able to get better rates on rooms, tours, and transfers than you'd be able to find on your own. Many of them use the hotels and local tour operators recommended in this book.

Akanan Travel & Adventure (tel. 0212/715-5433 or 0414/116-0107; www.akanan.com) is one of my favorite operators on the ground in Caracas. It offers a wide range of tour options. Lost World Adventures (tel. 800/999-0558 in the U.S., or 0212/577-0303 in Caracas; www.lostworldadventures.com) is an excellent operator and a pioneer in Venezuelan travel. It offers a wide range of tour options and can customize a trip to your needs and specifications.

Geodyssey (tel. 020/7281-7788; www.geodyssey.co.uk) is a British operator with a good amount of experience in Venezuela. Journey Latin America (tel. 020/8747-3108; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk) is a large British operator specializing in Latin American travel, that often has excellent deals on airfare.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.