No Planes, No Trains, No Automobiles: Maracaibo on the Verge of Transport Collapse

It’s hard to find tickets to travel domestically in Venezuela, probably because a breakfast for two is more expensive than the plane ride.

Original art by @modográfico

Earlier this month, I wanted to take my baby to Maracaibo for the first time. After getting in touch with several travel agencies, airlines and “plane-ticket bachaqueros” since early January, I found one-way tickets. Just one-way. Not being able to return home on time with a 7-month-old girl is particularly worrisome, because we know it’s almost impossible to find diapers and infant formula there, even with bachaqueros.

The day before the trip, one of my colleagues suggested that I should ask in a travel agency near our office, and so I found my return tickets, a peculiar process after which we were told we had to pay Bs. 475,630.90 for the tickets.

In other words, travelling from Caracas to Maracaibo, a flight of approximately 800 km, costs as much as a subway ticket in Madrid.

When we arrived the next day to Maiquetía, we bought two arepas, a cup of coffee and juice for breakfast: Bs. 640,000. 1.35 times the price of the return tickets.

When we took a cab from the airport to the hotel, a 15 km ride, the price was Bs. 600,000. 1.26 times the price of the return tickets.

It’s increasingly common to see marabinos walking under the scorching sun to reach their workplaces or their homes.

The situation with domestic flights is both a tragedy and a comedy. The cab driver who took us to the hotel told us that not so long ago, 15 national flights arrived to Maracaibo every day. Now the number dropped to three.

And, by the way, finding a taxi in Maracaibo is a daunting task, because taxi lines have no drivers. Many of them have left the country. One of them told us that he only works when he needs to find some cash, and he’s leaving to Madrid in a few months. In a taxi line with 200 registered drivers, now there are only 30.

There are no other alternatives either: public transport in Maracaibo is about to collapse. The Maracaibo Metro (commonly known as “el centímetro de Maracaibo”) only covers a few blocks and operational costs forced transport lines in Maracaibo to restrict their working days to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (for real).

It’s increasingly common to see marabinos walking under the scorching sun to reach their workplaces or their homes. And walking in Maracaibo — famous for being the hottest city in the country — is not particularly comfortable.

Maracuchos are known for exaggerating, but this isn’t the case: when I tell you that in a few months, we’ll only be able to visit Maracaibo by car or by donkey, believe me. Soon there won’t be any taxis there and something tells me that it’s not going to be much different in the rest of the country.