Venezuelan towns and villages are not short of places to stay. Like many places in Latin America, you have to weigh up your wallet against your personal hygiene requirements – the harder up you are, the more cockroaches you will be flicking off your mattress every evening before you hit the sack.
Your cheapest option is always camping. Many of the beaches on the Caribbean coast are good places to camp, with no restrictions or anything to pay. Some have fresh water streams running nearby where you can wash, and shops selling basic supplies – Chihuahua, near Choroni, is a good place for those wanting to camp without lugging a 50kg rucksack containing a week’s supply of food.
But if its a solid roof you want to sleep under, but you don’t wan to break the bank, you can usually find a windowless cubicle in a dirt-cheap posada, where you wash under a dribble of water spattering into the back yard alongside other hard up gringos. You should never pay more than bs.10,000 (about $5) for such an experience, but in some dingy little towns, like those near Maiquetia airport, the owners of the hotels fix their prices to milk the tourists. If you find yourself stuck there for the night before an early flight, there’s not a lot you can do but cough up or sleep on the street.
Moving up the scale a notch and you get natural light and your own private dribble. These luxuries are probably worth the extra couple of dollars.
In the more popular tourist locations you will find prettier posadas where the owners have cottoned on to the novel idea of décor and furnishing. You may find hammocks, a dining area or even a pool. Classier still are the posadas that offer breakfast and a room cleaner, but even this heady level of decadence will rarely set you back more than bs.50,000 ($20) per person per night.
It’s when you start looking into proper hotels that the prices really start to rise. In Caracas and other cities you can spend as much as you want on a place to stay – your extra expenditure will get you a private Jacuzzi, room service and hundreds of TV channels showing baseball, soap operas and porn – decide for yourself if that’s worth the $100+ per night price tag.
There is a booming trade in sex hotels in Caracas, where randy couples hire rooms by the hour because they still live with their parents, or because they are being unfaithful to their other halves – or both. As you can well imagine, they tend to be pretty sleazy places with mirrors in unusual parts of the room, and prices tend to reflect this – rooms start from as little as bs.5,000 ($2.50) for half an hour – although if you’re going to risk incurring the wrath of your overly-possessive Latina wife you might as well enjoy yourself and not rush it. The road leading south of Plaza Venezuela has a whole row of sex hotels, which becomes clogged with customers queuing in their cars on Valentine’s day.
For long term lets in cities and large towns, you should start by checking the local and regional newspapers. Self-contained apartments are quite hard to find due to high demand, and prices can reach European levels for a small flat in a clean and safe part of town. But if you like living somewhere with a bit of character and don’t really need armed guards and razor wire protecting your shiny new Merc, then look for a centrally located residencia – a single room, bed-sit or outbuilding living with or next door to your landlord. You can expect to pay anything up to bs.400,000 ($200) per month for this kind of arrangement, but you can find residencias for as little as bs.100,000/month in the grottier urban outskirts. NB these are not to be confused with pay-per-night hotels or posadas which publicly advertise themselves as “Residencia Bolivar/Ayacucho/Esmeraldas” etc.