Caracas is a popular place to talk about, although few people think of it as an ideal travel destination these days.

Political tensions with Venezuela have made travel difficult for U.S. citizens. In late 2015, the 16-year Chavismo camp ushered in by Hugo Chavez and continued by Nicolas Maduro finally was defeated at the polls. However, the opposition party is a fragmented coalition at best, and has not yet been able to address the majority of Maduro's policies. Maduro's presidency does not end until 2018, and there is much work to be done before the effects of his party's actions can be redressed.

Popular areas such as Plaza Bolivar are hot spots for ongoing political demonstrations, although these are now of a more subdued nature. On a hopeful note, the opposition has announced that it intends to welcome all visitors and promote tourism as it once did, with additional emphasis on adventure and ecotourism.

When stability returns to the country, we hope to see Caracas' tourism industry bounce back. We like the city's futuristic skyscrapers, fine restaurants, and museums displaying works by Picasso and Matisse—all frequented by residents who sometimes look as if they're ready to pose for Vogue or GQ.

Caracas is also a city where poverty is widespread and highly visible, in large part a consequence of Chavismo's draconian style of management. More than a third of its inhabitants live in shanties in hills around the city, and street crime is common. With that in mind, Caracas is worth a look, if only to experience a major South American city and its congenial, multiethnic population.

Although travelers who speak fluent Spanish may feel comfortable tackling the city on their own, it's recommended that visitors stick to guided tours, especially for the historic central zone and cultural areas of Bellas Artes.

In the safer and more upscale areas such as Las Mercedes, Los Palos Grandes, Altamira, La Castellana, Chacaito and El Hatillo, tourists can feel more comfortable exploring on foot, although navigation can be difficult if you don't speak Spanish.

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