Saturday, February 16, 2008


Money is quite an interesting topic here in Venezuela. The official exchange rate is about 2 Bolivares to the dollar. That is the rate you will get with your ATM card, credit card, or if you go to the money exchange joints. But on the street people will pay 4 to 1 or more for dollars. It is technically illegal to exchange dollars in this manner (aint it great when government gets in the way?) but does not seemed to be enforced (shockingly). I first swapped out $20 at 3 to 1 at the airport with some scammer. Knew I would regret that later but wanted to have some local money to pay the cab driver. Ended up paying the cabbie in dollars anyway as the rate he gave was about 4 to 1 (150 bolivars or the $35 that I payed him...obviously did not realize ahead of time that he would take dollars...and yes, cabs are expensive here, which seems very odd since gas is basically free (another great idea from the government...and I thought ours was bad) should see the traffic...more on that later). I am going to use him tomorrow to swap out a couple hundred at 4.7 to one. No worries, I will find a safe spot to do the transaction. All this was a little confusing at first (the fact that they recently knocked 3 zeros off the currency adds to the confusion since both new and old bolivares are still used) but I am getting used to it now. Obviously, the idea is to bring as many dollars into the country as you are going to need and leave your debit and credit cards in the hotel. Knew this ahead of time and brought a good number of dollars. Hope I brought enough as it would pain be deeply to have to use my ATM card to get more cash since I would essentially be getting half the value. The country is pretty expensive at the official rate, but reasonably cheap at the unofficial rate.

Seems like there ought to be a way to take advantage of this ridiculousness but I have not thought it through well enough yet to figure out how I would do it.

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