Caracas is Venezuela's capital and its largest city, with a population around 4.8 million (as of 2009). The city is located in a valley in the northern part of the country, and is separated from the Caribbean Coast by the mountain range of El Ávila National Park. There are also hills and mountains to the south of the city.
Because of its proximity to the equator, Venezuela experiences few climatic changes. There are only two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season lasts from December to April, and the rainy season from May to November. The average temperature across the country is about 27° C (80° F). The altitude of Caracas makes the temperature cooler than cities along the coast.
Primarily, shared services and administrative work are conducted in the Caracas office. As of 2010, approximately 130 nationals and 20 expatriates work in the Caracas office.
The Caracas office has meeting and conference rooms, and lunch rooms equipped with coffee machines, refrigerators, microwaves and a sink to wash dishes.
Regular working hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Access to the office is not restricted on weekends or national holidays. In the past, there have been national electricity shortages, in which case some services (such as water and air-conditioning) have been restricted. Regular working hours have also been adjusted accordingly.
Venezuelan law requires expatriates working in the country to hold a Working Visa and a Cédula de Identidad - the Venezuelan ID card. Immediate family members of expatriates should also hold these same documents. The process for obtaining these required documents depends on Venezuelan governmental authorities, and can be lengthy. More information about obtaining required documents to work in Venezuela is available through Expatriate Services.
All apartment buildings have assigned and visitor parking areas, and several have swimming pools. Furnished apartments are rare in Caracas; therefore, most expatriates ship household items to their Caracas apartment.
Chevron pays the rent for employees on expatriate assignment in Venezuela, but the employee is partly responsible through a housing deduction. Chevron expatriate services can provide more information on housing deductions.
Three companies offer mobile phone services in Venezuela: Digitel, Movistar and Movilnet. Calling procedures inside and outside the networks vary according to the company. Chevron-issued phones are serviced through Movistar.
Electricity: Electricity is paid by the expatriate and then reimbursed by the company. Electrical outlets in Venezuela are generally 110 Volts. The plugs and sockets are the same as in the United States. Caracas has experienced occasional electricity rationing/shortages in the past.
The following utilities are the responsibility of the employee and are not reimbursed:
Telephone: Compañía Anónima Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela (CANTV) is the Venezuelan State-owned telephone company that provides landline phone service. It is local policy that employees are responsible for setting up their own telephone service. To establish service, employees need to provide their address, passport number, and landlord's name. All expatriates must have a landline phone, as landline service is required for the residential security alarm to operate.
CANTV has several different rate plans from which to choose. Charges are based on the amount of time spent on the phone. Billing is monthly and payment can be made at any bank (partial payments are not accepted). Payments can also be linked to a credit card, with an automatic charge each month.
Rate plan information and promotions are available by visiting the CANTV website.
Internet: In general, apartments have Internet service capabilities. Internet service is available through a number of providers, such as CANTV, Movistar, Intercable and Supercable and is fairly reliable with good bandwidth. Expatriates are generally able to connect to the company's intranet from home. Employees establish and pay for their own Internet service. Payments can be linked to a credit card, with an automatic charge each month.
Cable: Cable television offers a range of international channels, including HBO, Fox, CNN and many others. Cable service is available through a number of providers, such as DirecTV, Intercable and Supercable. Some providers have very few channels in English, so it is important to confirm programming before signing up for service. Some companies offer packages that include cable, high-speed Internet and telephone service. Payments can be linked to a credit card, with an automatic charge each month. To establish service, employees need to provide a credit card and a copy of their passport.
In Venezuela, expatriates are required to pay for medical care out-of-pocket (either with cash or a credit card) and then request reimbursement from their company-provided insurance provider. Home country insurance cards are not accepted in clinics and hospitals in Venezuela. However, life-threatening labor-related emergencies are fully paid by Chevron.
Chevron has a medical retainer agreement with a bilingual local physician who can:
- Provide telephone medical advice, including referrals, to employees and visitors.
- Assist Chevron with emergency response planning.
- Assist Chevron with medical evacuations.
- Coordinates admission and care of expatriates and their family members into hospitals and clinics in emergency situations.
All other expenses related to routine medical checkups, hospitalization in emergency situations, other treatments provided must be paid directly by the expatriate and can later be claimed under the employee's home country medical care plan, if appropriate.
The "Domestic Help" section of Chevron Venezuela's policy handbook includes information regarding labor laws and domestic employees' rights.
In Caracas, some housekeepers wear uniforms, which are provided by the expatriate (not by Chevron). Also, most daily maids are provided their main meal on the job. Housekeeping services are available at reasonable prices.
Some families prefer to draw up informal agreements between the two parties, starting salaries, schedules, and bonuses. Such agreements must always be in compliance with labor law.
The most common and perhaps safest way of finding household help is through word of mouth from other expatriates. Always request and verify references before hiring domestic help. Background checks for household help are provided by the Chevron Security department upon request at no personal cost to the employee.
Giving priority and thinking about the safety and protection of its workforce, Chevron installed an ATM from Banco Venezolano de Crédito in the Caracas office. For security reasons, expatriates should always use the ATM located inside the Chevron office. Nevertheless, Caracas, as well as most major cities in Venezuela, has ATMs with 24-hour service where users can withdraw local currency, the bolívar fuerte. However, many of these ATMs will not accept foreign bank debit cards.
Expatriates must exercise great caution when using ATMs located outside of the Chevron office. More information on ATM safety is included in the security briefing provided to those who travel to Venezuela (visitors, expatriates, family members) upon arrival.
Visitors are given pre-travel security information. It is important to read it. A security reminder CD will be played for all visitors when being transported to the city from the airport. Visitors are also required to attend a security information briefing. Newly arrived expatriates and their families are given a thorough overview on security, including company guidelines, necessary precautions, as well as other important topics applicable to the location. The orientation includes an explanation of which areas of the city are considered safer, and which parts of the city are out of bounds for security reasons. All expatriates and their family members must coordinate with security if leaving the urban area of Caracas.
Expatriates may only use the means of transportation provided by the company. Remember to always protect briefcases and handbags when in the car, and always keep the windows of the vehicle closed. It is prohibited to use light emitting electronic devices, such as cell phones, Blackberry phones, and iPod devices in company vehicles when traveling below 40 kilometers per hour.
To keep employees and families safe while living and working in Caracas, Chevron provides bilingual emergency communications and response services 24/7 through the company's security department. Two company sponsored 24/7 patrol units operate in the residence and work areas of the city.
Specific precautions regarding home safety are described in greater detail in the "Housing" section of the local expatriate policy. All expatriates must have a landline phone, as landline service is required for the residential security alarm to operate.
Chuao, the neighborhood where the Chevron Caracas office is located, is considered safer but crime can occur anywhere. Apartments are inspected and approved for security before rental. Required upgrades must be installed before occupancy. An Expatriate Security Policy and Warden Handbook will be issued to all newly-arrived expatriate staff.
More information on security in Venezuela, and other LABU locations can be accessed via the Chevron Venezuela intranet, or directly with local security staff.
ECA is a private, non -profit English language school, designed primarily to serve the needs of children from the ages of three through eighteen. Founded in 1937, ECA was established to provide a North American education to students in Venezuela. ECA emphasizes academic achievement, athleticism, and recreational and multicultural opportunities designed to prepare students for university studies and the unique challenges of the future as a global citizen.
The school is organized into three divisions, each with its own principal, faculty and staff:
- Elementary School (nursery school and pre-kindergarten through fifth grade)
- Middle School (sixth through eighth grade)
- High School (ninth through twelfth grade)
Students in the last two years of high school may also enroll in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
A list of sports and extracurricular activities is available on the school's website.
The British School provides a quality British-style education based on the framework of the national Curriculum for England. The curriculum is enhanced and adapted to meet the varied needs of an international school community, and highlights the richness and diversity of Venezuelan culture and history.
The curriculum is divided into three stages:
- Stage 1 (preschool, kindergarten, year one and year two)
- Stage 2 (years three through six)
- Stage 3 (year seven)
By the end of year seven, students are academically prepared to transfer to an international school or a Venezuelan high school.
A list of sports and extracurricular activities offered through The British School is available on the school's website.
CIC offers an American-style, international curriculum for pre-nursery through fifth grade, and the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) for sixth through tenth grade. The IBMYP leads students into the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program for eleventh and twelfth grades.
Two-thirds of the students are from countries outside of Venezuela. Most of the faculty and the students are multilingual. CIC has a faculty-student ratio of approximately one to six.
School facilities include a cafeteria, soccer field, theater, library, basketball courts, as well as an arts, music and computer lab. A complete list of sports and extracurricular activities is available on the school's website.
Supermarkets in Caracas carry many familiar brands and products, even though the packaging may look different compared to other countries. Fresh fruit (particularly tropical) is often available and reasonably priced. It is common to have sporadic shortages of certain items (dairy, sugar and so forth.).
Caracas has many grocery stores, only some of which are listed below. Expatriates commonly use word of mouth from other expatriates to learn which supermarkets carry specific products perhaps not found in other stores. Caracas also has many bakeries and delicatessens carrying a variety of foods.
- Supermercados Santa Rosa De Lima: Located at Avenida Principal Santa Rosa de Lima, Caracas. This supermarket has a lot of imported items and a fish market. Accepts credit cards and checks. Open Sunday mornings.
- Supermercados Excelsior Gamma: These stores have some imported goods and have several locations throughout Caracas. Some stores also have a small nursery/child care facility.
- Supermercados Plaza's: This chain has branches located in the best areas of Caracas. They offer customers a variety of high-quality products, modern and spacious premises, competitive prices, attractive promotions (through the Plaza's card affiliation/loyalty program) and personalized attention from their staff.
There are also several shopping malls and retailers in Caracas.
- Centro Sambil: El Sambil is one of largest malls in South America. It has more than 500 shops, restaurants, theaters, and even amusement-park rides.
- Centro Ciudad Comercial Tamanaco (CCC): Conveniently located across the street from the Chevron offices, CCCT includes a vast array of shops, from small boutiques to larger chain stores. It has over 500 different stores, including a hotel, and several restaurants and fast food chains.
- Centro San Ignacio: Located in the La Castellana area (north east of city), this mall is a favorite shopping destination that has designer fashions, high-end jewelry and state-of-the-art electronics. At night, this area comes alive with its restaurants, bars, music and entertainment.
- Tolon Fashion Mall: This is one of the newest malls in Caracas, located in the Las Mercedes area. In addition to retail stores, Tolon Fashion Mall has a cinema and restaurants to provide shoppers with dining and entertainment options.
- Paseo El Hatillo La Lagunita: This high-end mall was designed to combine the colonial architecture of El Hatillo with the exclusive La Lagunita Country Club. It has a variety of stores that carry men's, women's and children's clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics and household goods. Piso 5 (5th floor) is reserved for exclusive restaurants and lounges.
A comprehensive list of stores, bakeries, dry cleaners and other merchants in the Caracas area is provided in the expatriate arrival packet.
The use of public transportation in and around Caracas is not permitted. Employees must use their company-provided drivers at all times. Expatriates may not drive company vehicles at any time under any condition or place, not even in gated residential communities.
For security reasons, expatriates and their families must ride in their company provided vehicle with the windows up at all times. Furthermore, the use of electronic devices (cell phone, iPhones, iPods and Blackberry) while riding in vehicles at speeds below 40 kph is not permitted.
recreation and entertainment
Moviegoers will find that films targeting a young audience are dubbed to Spanish. Films for an adult audience are usually shown in their original language with Spanish subtitles. Some of the big movie releases in the United States are often available one month later in Venezuela.
Employees and family members who play golf, tennis, swim, ride horses and so forth can do these activities at the private athletic and golf clubs in Caracas, however club membership is generally required.
- Valle Arriba Golf Club
- Valle Arriba Athletic Club
- Izcaragua Golf Club (website available for members only)
This buddy system is a reliable source for facts and useful information related to the location, as well as an opportunity for the integration of families into the expatriate community.
Venezuelans are generally friendly and helpful to tourists and foreigners, particularly to those willing to attempt to speak their language. Because not many locals are fluent in English, it is always helpful to have some basic vocabulary upon arrival. Chevron will pay and arrange for Spanish lessons for expatriate employees and their spouses/registered domestic partners.
The documents required for taking pets abroad include vaccination certificates, the international health certificate and an export permit. More information regarding these documents and importing and exporting animals to and from Venezuela in general is provided in the onboarding guide given to incoming expatriates.
Roman Catholicism is the overwhelmingly dominant religion in Venezuela; however, other religions are practiced. Below is a list of some the various places of worship in the Caracas area. More information on places of worship, including addresses and contact information can be provided by expatriate services in Venezuela.
- Destiny Church International
- Iglesia Bautista Emanuel
- The United Christian Church
- Santa Rosalía de El Hatillo
- Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
- La Santísima Trinidad
- San Juan Bosco
- San Antonio de Padua
- Sta. María Madre de Dios
- Mezquita Sheikh Ibrahim
- Union Israelita de Caracas
Listen to a few minutes of a conversation between expats about living in Caracas (intranet access).
Length: 17:10 minutes
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