Venezuela — Shopping and Leisure
Venezuela is known for crafting high-quality hammocks. When the Spanish sailors first arrived in the 15th century after sleeping on wooden decks at sea for many months at a time they were so impressed with the hammocks that they adopted them. Indigenous people still use the hammocks to sleep on in the warm Caribbean nights, and you can purchase these chinchorros from local makers. There is a great craft market in Caracas called Centro Artesanal Los Goajiros west of Plaza Chacaito which offers woven hammocks, carved blowguns, musical instruments, and bags.
Another great souvenir is carved hardwood products. Ranging from functional items such as picture frames, boxes and bowls, to artwork such as miniature statues, Venezuelan dark wood is renowned for its quality. In Caracas there is a wide selection at Casa Caruba (Avenida Andres Bento), or you could head to Artesania Altamira (Avenida Altamira Sur). Many of these come from the Lara area, but to be sure they’re authentic, ask the storekeeper about their origin. For more crafts, including hammocks, papier-mâché devil masks, and stuffed piranhas, go to Hannsi in El Hatillo, which has a selection of products from all over Venezuela.
Venezuela is also a gold producing nation, so visitors can get a good bargain on jewelry. Some gold actually comes from individual miners, who then sell it to retailers to mold, so you can be assured a truly unique item. The Edificio de Francia in Caracas is the main shopping hub as the mall houses ten stories of jewelry stores, about 100 in total. As you approach the building you will hear cries of “compro oro, compro oro!” (“buy gold, buy gold!”) from traders rousing customers, which provides a fun and fascinating insight into the culture that has developed over the centuries.
Venezuela is also a great place for culinary delights such as rum and chocolate. The country is a major cocoa producer and exports rich chocolate all over the world. As with all Latin American countries, rum is the favorite alcoholic beverage and is locally made. Tobacco is also grown here, and in particular fine cigars. You can buy all of these throughout the country, and they are also available at the airport.