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Los Roques, Las Aves, Bonaire & Curacao: Latest Updates

By Sue Richards last modified Mar 19, 2018 05:05 PM

Published: 2018-02-21 19:15:00
Countries: Bonaire , Curacao , Venezuela

Los Roques Update
Reported by Glen Tuttle from the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s HF Radio Service - February 21st, 2018

Hello Cruisers,
As part of the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s HF Radio Service, I have been in radio contact with a cruising vessel recently in Los Roques, Venezuela.
They graciously consented to allowing me to post the following information from their recent visit.  They caution that things are changing rapidly, even day to day, so what you read today may not be valid tomorrow.  As a good friend says, “Your mileage may vary”.
If anyone had specific questions for the cruisers, let me know and I will be glad to forward the question to them.

The Roques situation changes daily.
We decided to come when I read a German blog.  He paid 40 US$ Jan 29th 2018.
At the moment the black market exchange rate is 1$= 200 000 Bolivar . Just to give you an idea of the Inflation:
When we left Martinique 3 days earlier it was 160 000. The rates are published on a Venezuelan website : "Dollar today"

Feb 1st the Governor of the island changed everything . She wanted us to pay 1 million per foot. But when a few people that depend on yachts started to shout, she lowered it to 0.5 million per foot. This came to a total of 31 million (Immigration and National Park) for 2 adults and a 43ft boat. The total was 230 US$. If you are over 55 years old, Immigration charges are at 2.5 million Bolivar/person (about 14 US$)
otherwise it's 5 million (28$). Children are less.
Americans pay an extra 25 US$ for a Transit visa per person.

All this is for 15 days. After 15 days it gets 10 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE !!!

They print 100 000 and bigger notes, but they are worthless after a few weeks. At this moment it's very difficult to find cash on the island. You cannot pay the Gov. in dollars .The solution is : you find a Venezuelan that has a Venezuelan debit card. He/she pays with that card and you give them dollars. For this you pay about 20% commission, this is illegal but the only way to do it . The debit card person should speak English to help you through the madness of clearance. Only a handful speak English.

To get Diesel at local rates for foreigners is illegal, unless you pay 1$/liter . However it's possible to talk them to death for 3 days and then you get it for almost nothing.

On Saturday the fruits and veggies arrive at the store. You wait in line for 2 hours and then you get 3 huge bags of fresh food for 12 US $. They like the dollar in that store and everywhere else, but it's illegal. Locals all pay with their debit card. I read that somebody used a European Mastercard to pay for a sandwich and got a 1800€ bill at home, because the banks still use the official exchange rate of 1$=10 Bolivar.
The rest of the week the stores have empty shelves ,"just like Cuba " the locals joke.

If you have a local job (12-25$ PER MONTH!!!!) and get you're monthly wages, they are worthless a few weeks later. To get dollars is the only way to protect your money.

Every 2 hours the power is out or the web is dead . Then no transactions work . That's why to clear in with 6 different departments took us 1.5 days.

The islands are still the same as when I sailed through 16 years ago. Many islands used to have small restaurants up until 2015, but were closed down by the National Parks. The people are extremely happy to see foreigners. A very friendly island.

The Coast Guard told to me to anchor in Aves de Sotavento on my way to Bonaire.  There is a Coast Guard station 1.5 miles south of the lighthouse. It's safe, they say!! Barlovento is not recommended because the Government is not present there.

We have seen 4 foreign yachts here, but more Venezuelan yachts especially at weekends. Anchorages are perfect, miles of space.


AnchSailor says:
Nov 27, 2017 10:54 PM

Los Roques and Los Aves - November 12-24, 2017

We had a great time in these islands. We had absolutely no security issues. All the immigration officials were extremely friendly as was everyone else we met. Although we had 6 stops to check in I would much rather do that then check into Antigua. With the current currency situation a 42 foot boat with 2 people cost $50. I was dinged for another $40 got get a transit visa since I'm American. The rules were that I was required to have a visa before I got to Venezuela so this was their work around. A Canadian traveling with me did not have to pay extra. 

I checked on the exchange rate on before I got there to know roughly where the unofficial exchange rate was currently. It was 50,000 bolivars to $1 but the best we could do was 30,000 bolivars to $1 but even with that rate everything was an incredible bargain. Beers at real nice beach bars were $.50 and a three course meal was $6 - think excellent cerviche for $1. 

Free wifi was available in the main town square and in the same building as immigration by the airport. If you have long range antenna you can get it on your boat. 

While we were there we only saw two other cruisers and had all the anchorages we stayed at completely to ourselves. It is just like the Bahamas without the people - endless white sand beaches, good snorkeling, good holding and great sailing. 

Los Aves were equally spectacular and equally void of cruisers. 

Based on some comments here and elsewhere I was a little concerned about stopping but it turns out we stumbled into paradise. I only wished I had time to stay longer


June 2017: Report from Jean-Pierre Germain of SY Eleuthera about Los Roques:

We were in Los Roques in June 2017.

The isles appear to be on their own, or at least distancing themselves from the mainland Venezuela policies.

We were always safe but had to put up with minor "irregularities".  It took 6 hours to complete the port, immigration, customs and cruising permit and more than 6 kms walking.

The currency is as bad as ever and for $USD206 (Cruising permits) for 2 boats, I brought back nearly Bolivar 2,000,000.  (The Pharmacy is still the point for currency exchange but we managed to get about 15% more Bolivars than the pharmacist was willing to give initially.  Bargaining seems acceptable.) The bundle of cash fitted well into my 2 backpacks but weighed nearly 50 pounds.  A mate commented that the Bolivar was cheaper than toilet paper thus....

November 2011: Report from Mary Stone of MS. ASTOR

Los Roques:

See 2011 Noonsite news item

Chavez is on the path to expropriating yachts to use a ferry boats to move average Venezuelans to and from the Roques for a holiday. He has targeted private property on the islands as well as some of the small upscale hotels. If you go to Los Roques avoid Holidays. Don't stay too long, you are likely to be reported, run off, or fined.

Because the Los Roques waters are pretty much fished out.. Los Roques fishermen are showing up in Las Aves to fish.

(Editor's Note: You are not allowed to stay too long in Los Roques (see formalities information here. It is a National park and the Guardia has rules, 2 weeks max., plus you have to pay to visit the park. However many people do anchor in the outer islands for weeks and even months, taking the risk of being caught and fined.)

Las Aves:

The Guardia will no longer allow yachts to stay more than a few days. All yachts must go to Puerto Cabello to check in before arriving in the Aves. If you show up in the Aves before going to Puerto Cabello, you be be run off. That includes Sotavento and Barlovento. The Guardia has been making regular trips recently to Barlovento twice a week or more to clear it out.

Yachts must go to Puerto Cabello first and check in. The Lieutenant that heads the Guardia Station of Las Aves de Sotavento has indicated that he will accept you going to Cabello, doing a three day check in and check out with Carlos the agent there, and then come back to the Aves, but only for a few weeks not a few months. That includes any and all yachts that have been "regulars" in the Aves regardless of the food and water gifts made to the Station Crew when the Venezuelan Navy fails to pick up crew and deliver supplies about once per months. In other words... no more sailing from Bonaire or Curacao to the Aves and returning with out checking into Puerto Cabello first. The military bosses also have expensive sport fishers and come to the Aves for their fun. When they see too many yachts or fishermen populating their "territory", the command structure lights up for the next few months and things start changing.

Conditions at the marina in Puerto Cabello are unknown now. Also unknown is what Carlos the Agent is charging for check in check out services.... Additionally it is uncertain of the time required to get a Cruising Permit from the port captain – is it still in the neighborhood of a month to 6 weeks? It is still possible to do all of the checking in out leg work yourself, but it is quite a time consuming task requiring many many copies of every document in every office. If you speak some Spanish it is helpful.

Bonaire and Curacao:

In other news, Bonaire has tightened up their practice only allowing 90 days in any 180 day rolling period. They have started asking for a Zarpe when arriving from Venezuela. So far they have accepted the Safety Inspection that you get at Las Aves Sotavento issued by the Guardia. You have to have a way to copy the safety report on board or furnish the Guardia carbon paper for your copy. As far as the boat, the practice is still 6 months in Bonaire with the possibility of one extension, otherwise you need to import the boat at high tax rates.

Curacao has tightened their practice of allowing only 90 days stay in a calendar year. You must have a anchor permit issued by the Harbor Master for USD 10 and it requires you to file a float plan upon check out - that out of each anchorage you visit. As for the boat, you can get 6 months and a possible extension for another six months after which you must import the boat at a high tax rate. A few months ago they chained 40 boats to the dock or the ground until their status could be sorted, and sent the big black scarey rubber dinghy filled with armed Coasties to board all boats and check papers etc etc etc. On some days in Curacao and in Bonaire the anchorages were visited and boardings conducted by the black rubber dink twice per day. On other days the Frigate cruises by in Bonaire, or the Helecopter hovers taking pictures of boats... then the black rubber dink shows up a day or so later. Occasionally you be buzzed by the USA AWACS plane out doing who knows what.

In Curacao there is a special status granted to yachts in storage. Any local Marina or Shipyard will have the details and fees associated with that.

Motor Yacht MS. ASTOR
Living between Venezuela, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba


Our thanks to Phil Chapman of SV Chaser 2 who has clarified required formalities for clearing into Venezuela

When you clear into Venezuela, you go to the port captain, you have to have bought 2 stamps from a maybe near or not so near office, these are 1 Unit Tributaria (UT) each, a UT is 75 Bolivares, so the 2 stamps cost about 2 US$. If you don't speak Spanish, don't know where to go or don't want the hassle, you can pay an agent to do it for you. That can be up to 200US$, for 18 months, though it has to be renewed every 6 months, at a cost of 2 dollars (do it yourself) or up to 100$ if you pay an agent. They can charge what they like, maybe it depends on the look of your boat.