'Paradise for $20': hardy tourists enjoy Venezuela cash bonanza
By Andrew Cawthorne
LOS ROQUES, Venezuela (Reuters) - Fears of being kidnapped or not finding toilet paper are not much of an incentive for a holiday in Venezuela.
Yet hardy travelers undeterred by the tales - real and exaggerated - of crime and shortages are finding the South American nation an absurdly cheap destination.
That is thanks to exchange controls skewing the economy in favor of anyone with foreign currency, meaning you can hire a boat to a Caribbean island for $15 a day, or trek through Andean mountains or Amazon jungle for a week, with porters, at $125.
A decent hostel at a popular beach may cost $5 a night, while two people can have a three-course meal with wine for $10.
"It's crazy! This beer is costing me just a few pennies," said British tourist Matthew Napier, 35, clad in sunglasses and clutching a local Polar beer on a stunning white-sand beach with his girlfriend at Los Roques archipelago in the Caribbean.
Even at a bumped-up 90 bolivars due to the exclusive island location, a beer here costs just $0.22 (or 15 pence for Britons like Napier) at the black market rate most foreigners change on.
Many are wise to the situation so they look for not so surreptitious money-changers as soon as they land in Venezuela, or make arrangements ahead.
Venezuela's largest denomination note is 100 bolivars - about 25 U.S. cents. Amazed at the sheer quantity of notes they receive, visitors find where to keep them the biggest problem. Continued...