My cousin and I visited Isla Margarita in March 2010. We live in Los Angeles and although we could fly to the Mexican beaches in less than a few hours, we decided to be adventurous and go to a different place, where we have not gone before!
Venezuela was definitely different than the luxurious and service-oriented Mexican resorts, beaches and hotels. However, some Venezuelans are definitely not as service-oriented, do not like to speak English as much, but they do the best they can under the tough economic and political situation they deal with everyday. The Margarita Island is nice and semi romantic, the food is okay and the people are mostly nice.
After a few hurdles upon arrival (mainly the lay-over for 8 hours at the Caracas airport to catch a flight to Margarita and dealing with annoying money exchangers), when we reached Margarita Island we were lucky enough to meet a wonderful, educated, honest and friendly person who quickly became our friend.
He went above and beyond to help us, guide us, protect our interest and make sure that we have a great time and experience while there. He took us everywhere in his taxi and charged us very reasonable rates I would highly recommend visiting tourists to email or call him ahead of time and secure his time while there, since he is one of very few who speaks perfect English. To make a long story short, mainly because of him, we had a great time and made a good friend there. His name is Nestor, his number is 04121968400 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Unfortunately our trip back ended on a bad note because of Conviasa airline's flight to Caracas being 3 hours late, forcing us to miss our international flight. I absolutely do not recommend taking Conviasa flights to the island, try Laser or others. They were so rude and did not even lift a finger to apologize, pay for our hotel or offer a coupon to pay the penalty Avianca was charging us for missing the flight and re-scheduling. Because of them, we had to get a $150 hotel room, pay $500 each penalty to Avianca and get back to L.A. via Bogotá, 1 day later, which screwed up my other flight to San Francisco, costing me another $230!!
I do not think that tourism is generally valued very much in Venezuela compared to Columbia, Dominican, Chile and of course Mexico and if I ever go back there, it would mainly be to visit the friend we found there, Nestor :-)
Fondest memory: Lucky enough to meet a wonderful local who guided us and showed us around:
His name is Nestor, his number is 04121968400 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
It's surprisingly expensive in Margarita so make sure you take plenty of money with you to spend. Food is probably equivalent to prices in England, perhaps a little cheaper, so you can understand why people generally do not leave their all inclusive hotels.
Souveniers are also marked up (obviously). If you take a trip to the Orinoco or Canaima National Park try to buy your souveniers their e.g. hammocks, baskets etc. These are usually made locally. If you wait until you get back to Margarita you'll find the prices twice as expensive!
You have to keep in mind that they are absolutely no ATM machine on playa el agua. You can certainly pay at some costal restaurant like 'el pacifico' with your visa card but can't withdraw any money.
As it was said, take cash from home. Keep it in different safe pockets, socks or underwear... as you like.
The internet café/call center next to the supermarket (you can't miss it) - there are lots of hippies selling jewlery right in front of it-, change dollars and euros at the black market rate. Take 20$ bills as they changed our lower bills at the official exchange rate!!! They do it right there for you which will make your general expenses cheaper than paying at the official rate.
I remember the prices to be quite expensive for what it was (pretty much the same as in europe)
Fondest memory: The Beach in Playa el Agua is wonderful!
I still just have a dream about visitin Isla Margarita. So I set up a free photo album and invite everyone to publish there imagens from the paraise!
Se more in the web:
/Sören, cold Sweden...
To give you the story of a particular mountain, is that of the one that looks like a face. You can see it realy clear when you are visiting the mangroves (see other tip)
Locals telling the story of an old Indian that resurrect in that mountain protecting this island from major disasters. During history few earthquakes in the area made no damage on the island at all, in contradiction to other islands, even this place is near hurricane territory but it never got hit as they all diverted (that is what the story tells, I am not a meteorologist ;-) … this is all the work of that Indian which looks after the island. (see if you can find him)
Know that when you are on the beach, lots of vendors will cross it to sell you stuff! However in contradiction of some places, these where very friendly and if you said "NO" once, they will not ask you twice.
Know also that these people are living in poverty and this is there way of making money, sometimes the things they make or do are indeed nice and worth buying... a henna tatoo for instance.
Favorite thing: Allmost all the houses on Isla Margarita looks the same. It´s like a box and only the front is paintet in a nice bright colour. I heard that the reason why the houses is paintet in different colours is.........in the old days when the fishermen came home drunk, they could easier find their house if every house had a different colour.
Favorite thing: On most Margarita beaches there are many salespeople. They will offer you glasses, clothing, towels, hats, drinks (like cocnut milkshakes, which are DELICIOUS by the way), oysters, ice creams, and light airplane trips. Fortunately if you don't want anything just say no. Chances are they will not bother you.
The people there were very friendly.
Like all ciuntries in centeral and south america, knowing some spanish will help, it is kind of nice to be able to say some basic things in there language as most no how to speak english.
Margarita has some nice features and some great snorkling. Going over to angel falls is a must see trip, while not the cheapest it is one of the 7 natural wonders....
Fondest memory: The friendly people.....
No! if your from Europe, don't change your travel money to dollars! In all exchange offices they accept euro's!
My seccond time to the island, I extract the day of my departure some money (euros) and at the airport in Isla i changed it to Bolivars! You dont lose the exchange-"cost" in dollars at home AND afteral you get more money from euros than dollar!?
Fondest memory: The only exchange office i advize is in the airport, you'll get more money than form exchange offices in the street and you'll know you are save ;)
Favorite thing: On the island Isla Margarita there are many exotic animals and if you are afraid of spiders like i am then you get to test your selfcontrol :o)
There is nothing nicer then driving with a car tru the island. You can go where nobody has gone before ;)
If you want to go out for dinner at the evening or watch the sunset on a beach alone...
Favorite thing: Even the official currency is very weak, you can pay wit US $! But, I advise you to change your dollars into Bolivars because you'll pay upto 25% more in US $ ...