My Travels…

February 19, 2009

Leaving Venezuela

Filed under: South America — Tags: , , , — Glenn @ 2:25 am

So, you always wanted to know what it’s like to travel in Venezuela. Let me tell you a story…

A coworker and I were released from the job site on Friday, December 19th, to go home for Christmas. We went to the local airport named Las Piedras to arrange tickets to Aruba or Caracas so we could get home. No buying flight tickets on the Internet here. We were told that there were no available flights to Aruba which the best option out of Venezuela from where we work since it’s a 20 minute flight away so we were left with flying to Caracas. We were unable to arrange tickets before Sunday so we stayed in the hotel until about 5:30 PM. The earliest flight we could get was 8:20 PM. So we get to the airport the required 2 hours early (don’t ask me why but that‘s what they tell us we have to do). We get our boarding passes and all’s well. The flight was supposed to start boarding at 7:50 se we had plenty of time to get a meal at the airport restaurant. We head upstairs to where the restaurant is located and have a seat. The server comes over and we ask what they have. “Club sandwich” was the answer. Not much of a choice here. I figured maybe the cook was off because it was Sunday evening so club sandwich it is. There was a baseball game on, not the US major leagues but the Venezuelan league. The two people working in the restaurant were pretty into the game so it took a little while to get the sandwiches. When they come, they were basically a club “type” sandwich, double stacked with jamon (ham) and a fried egg. They drizzled mayonnaise and catsup over it, too. It actually wasn’t too bad.

So, with dinner out of the way we had about 30 minutes to kill. We sat outside the security checkpoint and watched the baseball game. Our boarding time came and went. I walked back to the ticket desk to ask what happened and the girl behind the desk told me the plane was delayed by one hour. This is normal in Venezuela. I don’t think I’ve had an on time flight here yet. That one hour turned into two and we still hadn’t even gone through security yet. Finally about 10:30 we went through security and sat in the holding area. The plane pulled up to the gate and an ambulance pulled up beside it. This was strange. We watched the EMTs take a gurney to the plane and waited to see what would happen. People began to get off the plane and walk into the terminal. Finally after everyone had gotten off the plane they wheeled the gurney out with someone on it. They put the person in the ambulance (which looked just like the ones you see in the USA) and took off.

I was charged for excess baggage weight, which had never happened here before. No problem, I expense it anyways. The problem was it took the girls behind the counter 2 hours to figure out how to give me a receipt. I don’t know if that means they don’t charge the fee that often or they don’t usually give a receipt for it. It took way too long but luckily, the fllight was late as well.

As usual, the flight was delayed. I never heard why but in Venezuela they don’t need an excuse. It’s expected. The problem was the flight was very late, almost 3 hours. I’ve never had one that late before. And, of course, we had an early flight the next day which meant a late arrival, maybe 3 hours sleep, then back to the airport for the outbound flight. It always happens this way no matter which way I’m going.

So we get to the airport in plenty of time the next morning only to find out that our flight was over booked. This was on santa Barbara Air. I’d flown them before but only in Venezuela. We ended up with business class tickets as that was all that showed up when we checked and it just so happened that business class was full and the two Americans got bumped. How convenient. The options were to fly in coach at the scheduled time or wait for 3 hours for the next flight. My coworker opted for the early coach flight. I wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction so I waited for the next flight. He had connections and I didn’t. All was well after that except there are no seats in the airport waiting area. I’m not sure why that is. I had breakfast at a little restaurant and sat there for a little while but got antsy and had to mov around some. I don’t like just sitting there for long. There’s nothing to do at the airport so I just wandered around until I could get my boarding pass to get out of there. Eventually I made it home but it was an adventure.

I never had to go back to that site. I was sent to a job in Saudi Arabia instead. Of course I got the call to go back after the job in SA was confirmed but it was late. Too bad. I’m now stuck with 1,300 BSF that I can’t exchange anywhere (around $300 at the black market prices I paid for them). I guess I’ll see if I can sell them on Ebay.

I doubt I would go back to Venezuela again unless I had to. I was in one of the safer areas and it sucked. There were jobs in worse areas and I heard the guys wouldn’t go out at all due to the danger involved. There is a job coming up near Margaretta Island that didn’t sound too bad but I’d have to think hard anout it if they wanted me to go there.

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