Laws and Drug Crime in Venezuela: Know Before You Go

Venezuela has a harsh legal system, and its prisons are among the worst in the world. This is what you need to know about laws in Venezuela.

Two cars and a motorcycle pass through a tunnel on a street in Caracas, in the background you can see a skyline of buildings Photo © Getty Images/apomares

IMPORTANT: Venezuela is currently considered a "Do Not Travel" destination by several government travel advisories. For more information, check out our Venezuela travel alerts page.

Drugs in Venezuela

Drug trafficking is a serious problem in Venezuela, mainly due to its proximity to major drug-producing regions. Colombian cocaine and other drugs transit through Venezuela towards the United States and Europe.

Because of this Venezuela ranks fourth in the world for cocaine seizures, behind only Colombia, the United States, and Panama. Detection methods are sophisticated and drug traffickers should expect to be arrested. Travelers are screened for drug possession on arrival and departure and can also be screened while waiting in the airport.

Possession of small quantities of marijuana may lead to imprisonment. Conviction leads to severe penalties, including up to two years being held on remand prior to sentencing. Drug traffickers also receive lengthy prison sentences, usually eight to ten years.

Prisons in Venezuela

Conditions in Venezuelan jails are harsh and dangerous, and among the worst in the world.

There are no secure areas for visitors to meet with prisoners and all visits take place amongst the general prison population.

Believe it or not many prisoners carry firearms and violence is common.

Due to realistic concerns over staff safety, prison visits by consular staff in Venezuela may be limited to specific pressing issues e.g. first visit, emergency visits (including for medical purposes) and the signing of Prisoner Transfer Agreements.

So try not to go to prison.

Laws in Venezuela

Beware it is an offence to photograph military or strategic installations like military airports or the Presidential Palace.

Innocent pastimes such as plane spotting are not recognised as such in Venezuela and should be avoided.

"A final cultural note" - be aware there is no facility for changing Bolivars to US dollars, or any other currency, when leaving Venezuela. Travellers should consider only changing the required amount to avoid having leftover Bolivars.

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