The Venezuelan currency is the Bolivar, named, like many things in the country, after the liberator Simon Bolivar. The Bolivar fluctuates around 2000 to one US dollar, but has been known to rise sharply during major strikes, coups and social discontent. Whatever you think of Venezuela’s ranting socialist president, there is no denying the relative stability the country is enjoying under his strong-armed leadership, including a stabilisation of the national currency. If he were to go (and he wouldn’t go willingly), there would be massive social unrest, strikes, riots, shootings and economic paralysis, and maybe even the birth of a Bolivarian guerrilla movement, guaranteed to send the Bolivar through the roof.
Until recently there was a huge demand for dollars and euros, because the government had placed strict controls on the legal sale of foreign currency. This had the effect of generating a booming black market, where dollars and euros would sell for up to double the official rate, but this is no longer the case. Black market trading is now discouraged by the threat of hefty fines, and the increased provision of legally available dollars has quelled demand. If you have friends or know anybody who is willing to pay above the official rate, change money with them instead of Italcambio. But be wary of buying from strangers who approach you in the street offering competitive rates, as you will in effect be telling a stranger, who may well be armed, how much money you have on you. Just ask yourself, how does zero bolivares per dollar sound, compared to the official rate?
It’s easy to find work teaching English in Venezuela, but wages vary greatly. If you are fully qualified and well presented you can expect to earn two or three times as much as the average gringo looking to make ends meet. The average wage doing evening classes at the Universidad Central de Venezuela is 8.000bs per hour, about $4, although this has been falling steadily for about 4 years now, whilst the cost of living has soared. In theory a work visa is necessary to teach English, but in reality nobody seems bothered if you have one or not. If English is your first language, you’ll probably get the job.
If you can’t find a job but need some cash, advertise your services in all the local colleges and any universities for English conversation lessons. As a native speaker you are almost guaranteed clients and can charge around 20,000bs per hour (but find out the going rate before advertising).
If you do need to obtain a work visa, it requires the employer to provide a work contract to the Ministerio de Trabajo, which should ratify the contract and send it back. It must then be sent to the Ministerio de Imigracion. Full details can be found on the Venezuelan Embassy’s website.