Packing for Venezuela 2015… and $755 condoms

 

You will be lucky to find these in Venezuela! photo cred https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/15102035685/in/photolist-p1vT4B-3i4V6a-oJ2nAf-p1vSGV-oJ2Jft-oJ23XH-4fFbcy-4fFaR9-bvR8eA-2sgfT2-e8ZybD-8cfomA-kZjak-3vfFcY-6Dii5R-46Rf16-5Rgdr-3vbcQF-8RXmab-8GSASe-3vbcot-3vbbhZ-ekU49e-4fFb2m-3vfEVW-5YydqG-gDp6j-pLZRtj-91aSi4-8RUdJT-cEoQ8W-qTS2u7-qBocEY-5bpbUL-68tV9i-umJa1-cHV5C-oVa1sC-6g96H-8Ld7B3-3vbcDi-6Q4rQC-skRQL-7zFfR-4fBbEM-4fFbnj-d9AUts-R5VRT-g9wn-8GSAg8

You will be lucky to find these in Venezuela! photo cred 

Recently this article came out about the $755 condoms in Venezuela. While that number is large, the biggest news is that CONDOMS ARE HARD TO FIND. This makes me think of my annual packing list, which is especially important in Venezuela, where so many items are very difficult to find.

 

If you have been teaching abroad for a while you know that you should pack a professional wardrobe, whatever tools and books you can’t live without in your classroom, and whatever makes your apartment feel like home to you. When it comes to packing for Venezuela you need to consider packing several other items as well!

 

Remember, if you are lucky enough to find these items in Venezuela there is no such thing as brand loyalty. As I tell my students, “you get what you get, don’t have a fit.” If you need to use a certain brand it is highly unlikely that you will find it in Venezuela, so just bring it with you. For example, I like Crest toothpaste but in the 2.5 years I’ve been here I’ve never seen it in stores, so I now use Colgate.

 

This stash wouldn't last two seconds in Venezuela. Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/jacek_nl/8745040203/in/photolist-ejLBMe-8eddxL-aR4qeX-hEyTc2-6HMW1w-4psrJY-Ceps-9kDhmd-aXcyKt-95rzUV-bVJXrF-eZDMZv-6EjDqR-MViUM-r4FP2V-5NTFp7-nyFV4v-nwBYCT-c29qYd-8Ln1PS-a5djh5-95YLJa-7yNytX-hxpSKo-9iSULs-bx9wzN-ornPLF-9hSvp6-3u1CEx-73Nv2C-4t8KYT-p63AS-gphjd7-8xfSL9-gpw2Wv-is8br-pxVygb-tVhmo-5z1Dor-7zmfgh-saJjn-8TcC9c-5BkXVq-8edeqE-7hpdcM-gpvDgc-bweBRx-gpvWNV-gpxwuy-ormGDu

This stash wouldn’t last two seconds in Venezuela. Photo 

Toiletries

While the following items are considered basic to many people, they are very difficult to find in Venezuela. You either have to wait hours in line for these products or find a black market and pay someone two or three times the amount to wait in the line for you…if you are lucky and they don’t sell out right away too.

If you think I am exaggerating or that you will get lucky I would hedge your bets and bring enough for a couple of months, otherwise consider bringing or mailing yourself enough for at least six months.

  1. Shampoo & Conditioner– I have not been able to buy shampoo in a regular store for more than 6 months. You can find deep conditioners and hair masks that might do the trick, but if you want something you can use daily then you should bring it yourself.
  2. Deodorant– In the past six months I have only seen this available on one day.
  3. Razors– Many people have started getting waxed or lazered because you can’t find razors here.
  4. Face Wash– Becoming more and more difficult to find. If you do find it, it will most likely be imported and very expensive.
  5. Bar Soap/Body Wash– I haven’t seen any body wash in the past six months and now bar soap is also becoming hard to find.
  6. Toilet paper– For the first six months of the school year you could find this easily, but ALL of the last school year and this month I have not seen toilet paper in stores. Consider taking four rolls (remove the cardboard to save space) just in case and if you see it in stores here buy 12 or more rolls at a time.
  7. Tampons– I suggest you get a DivaCup unless you like thick pads.
  8. Condoms– while you can find some condoms with brands I’ve never heard of, they are not easy to find and they are not cheap.
  9. Birth Control– you can get a pill version of birth control, but you should hope your body likes the generic version, because there is not much choice. Nobody has heard of the NuvaRing. I usually get a year’s supply and bring it with me.
  10. Hair Gel/Hairspray- I don’t usually bother with hair products, but most of the stuff I see is made for getting your hair as straight as possible. If you have curly or wavy hair you might want to bring your own supplies.
  11. Mosquito Repellant– Mosquitos are everywhere in tropical Venezuela and they also carry Chikungunya which is similar to Dengue.
  12. Makeup– Most makeup is imported and is therefore hard to find. You might be ale to find some local brands, but in my experience they are not good quality and are mostly made for people with olive to tan complexions.
  13. Nail polish remover– not as necessary as some of the other things, but very hard to find.
  14. Shaving Cream– I have found this exactly twice this school year. I like to get a couple bottles of shaving oil as backup (but perhaps since my water doesn’t get very hot, the oil clogs my precious razors).

 

I love peanut butter and always remember to pack this first! photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14546687275/in/photolist-yZSpq-3XjdnB-52csDi-6dBkuq-9B4Pgp-6vBbbD-89nJGd-dixp6x-7tvdQR-62cEEm-hwxEvU-7pu2GG-dm7dn-oarzk2-4Sdo5a-4AHvaa-2rvwU7-7kW9eM-e1KnAq-4zBxzd-eADAG5-7zehGa-3XouLm-59TUnL-6287ki-o67ktS-4AXD2E-fRNWA6-oa9aD4-bsjWdU-9Zjc6X-bFePPi-bFePRM-bFeP9V-Li7TB-52csSk-5HXSMk-6FQngv-52ct6r-6pj729-hHiRt5-hHincC-hHiQfy-bVjoRH-bVjnG2-hHioSm-nSWY4h-c8VNY-9xtnzt-6c24Ay

I love peanut butter and always remember to pack this first! photo 

Food Items

I love food and some things are nearly impossible to find so I just bring them with me:

  1. Peanut butter
  2. Quinoa
  3. Miso paste
  4. Dried seaweed
  5. Curry pastes/powders (you can only find the basic yellow/brown indian curry here)
  6. Sriracha hot sauce
  7. Coconut oil
  8. Any hot spices/chilies
  9. Taco seasoning
  10. Favorite spices (even local packaged spices are becoming hard to find but you can still find fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, and thyme in the markets)
  11. Dried shitake mushrooms– you can only find basic white mushrooms and occasionally portabella mushrooms
  12. Cheddar cheese– most of the cheese is hard, white and salty
  13. Granola bars
  14. Green tea– if you see it here it is usually flavored with lemon or honey
  15. Baking powder
  16. Baking soda
  17. Chocolate– If you like good quality chocolate you should bring it with you. While you can find bars of great quality plain chocolate made by El Rey de Chocolate, you cannot find bars with fancy flavors or with nuts.
  18. Also know that flour and sugar are hard to find, let alone any boxed items you might see in the baking isle back home.
  19. Coffee– even though Venezuela produces coffee, I rarely see it in the stores here. I have never seen flavored coffee so if that is something you like you should mail some to yourself.
  20. Cranberry– if you like anything with cranberries in it you should bring it. Cranberry sauce for thanksgiving will not happen unless you bring it.
Good knives are essential in my kitchen. Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijnnieuwendijk/15235778025/in/photolist-5YFzSk-rRueB-9Ki5B4-fstqc9-9quRcR-mjrqz-pwkNzA-2MjPp-5sD4Q6-5sD4N8-5sHsmU-5sD4Mz-5sD4PD-5sHskJ-kmLU-2Yvy9-tQYg-46Hfv-2HAnk-5XAyr-5sHsiS-5sD4NK-5sHskf-LsGxT-eqj4L-eWb7vT-5R12E7-8qXFXB-5SzGLP-5cNP62-pdkm12-5LYs9A-7grFEn-3Y75F-5TsT2C-83yiFf-2K34p-2K33c-2K32a-cqVbZq-4xedqk-5neT9U-eMjtH-9gfAHT-6dcta-7oKjrB-gziG-mt1kpV-bHaP8t-bug1rE

Good knives are essential in my kitchen. Photo 

 

Household items

Ask your school what they provide for your house and kitchen. Quality items are hard to find and basic items are expensive.

  1. Sharp knives
  2. Good pots & pans– my school gave me one tiny pot and one tiny pan
  3. Can opener
  4. Vegetable peeler
  5. Wine opener
  6. Blender– this is big and heavy so only bring it if you regularly use one. My friend searched a month for hers in Valencia.
  7. Kitchen thermometer– my oven only has pictures of flames on it to tell how hot the temperature is…and I’m not even sure that that is accurate.
  8. French press/coffee pot- you can find a cheesecloth cone thing that you can dangle over your mug, but I prefer my French press that I brought with me

Getting Your Stuff Here 

I suggest that you try to pay for extra luggage. This might be impossible depending on the airport you are flying out of, because there is usually a luggage embargo during the summer months, which only allows you two pieces of checked luggage. Call your airport/airline to get the specifics.

 

I have had great luck (no missing boxes nor items and everything arrived within three weeks from the date they left my house) using a courier service called Garkan. You simply ship your boxes to their office in Miami, and they somehow get it safely to your school in Venezuela. My school reimburses me for shipping costs up to a certain amount (with receipts) so ask about that.

 

I also try to divide my items so that in case someone at the airport has sticky fingers I will have backup items in my boxes I mailed, and the same goes for my boxes. I recommend getting luggage locks for your bags. Locals would also advise you to get your bags wrapped in plastic at the airport. Anything electronic or very expensive I try to carry onto the airplane with me.

 

Please comment: did I forget anything? What are some items that you always bring when you move abroad? 

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33 responses to “Packing for Venezuela 2015… and $755 condoms

  1. Can you tell a bit more about Garkan? I’ve looked at their website and set up an account, but I’m not sure I’m understanding all the addresses and which info they are asking for! (I tried changing the language to English to help, but to no avail.) I’m in Colombia. What were their prices on average to where you are in Venezuela? Thanks!

    Like

    • Hi Courtney. Thanks for visiting!

      Garkan is best understood in Spanish, but if you email them (envios@garkan.com) your questions in English, usually they respond in English. I send everything to their Miami address: 1565 NW 88th Ave.Suite B, Miami, FL 33172. Then they charge me per pound at a rate of about $6US. Good luck!

      Like

  2. You’re wonderful. We were just compiling our “to bring” list for Caracas and lo and behold…you’ve done it for me 🙂 THANK YOU!

    Like

    • You’re welcome! Before I move to a new country I like to see a packing list made by other expats.

      I might also add good shoes to the list because finding shoes that wont fall apart in two months AND are in your size can be very challenging. Also, if you are more than a size 4 for clothing you should plan on bringing everything you might need for the year too.

      Have fun packing!

      Like

      • I was figuring shoes and lingerie…what about bedding? Are you staying in VE for another year? The people at our school all say that for better or worse, our neighborhood is pretty insulated from the very worst of it all…

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      • I am staying for at least one more year (my goal is to last for three more years). Despite the difficulties, my life is pretty comfortable here, and when it gets tough I know that my school is still going to be there for me if I need help. I love my school!

        I mentioned bedding in my first version of the Venezuela packing list: https://teachingwanderlust.com/2014/05/21/venezuela-packing-list-for-international-teachers/ and forgot to add it to this one. While I have seen bedding available in Valencia since it is the third largest city, I think the bedding I bought in the states is more affordable AND higher quality.

        In Valencia last year some of the teacher apartments were right in the middle of it all. This year it has been pretty quiet so far. Are you moving to Caracas?

        Like

      • We are, yeah. We’ll be in Las Mercedes just a few minutes walk from school, and I definitely get the impression we have fantastic support from our school. Life can’t be too bad, day-to-day, with so many people choosing to stay! We are really looking forward to it…I’ve just spent my LAST WINTER EVER in the Pacific Northwest 🙂

        Like

      • I’m from Portland, Oregon so I know what you mean by PNW winters! I love being able to go home every summer and enjoy the best weather of the year.

        If you have access to dollars life is easy. If you are paid in bolivares (like all of the locals) life is pretty hard. I’ve visited Escuela Campo Alegre and Colegio Internacional de Caracas and both of them seem amazing! All of the teachers I’ve met who teach at those schools seem very satisfied. Here at CIC Valencia there are expat teachers who have stayed for 20+ years!

        I think it will be my itchy feet or the insecurity that convince me to leave one day. Meanwhile I travel on all of my vacations and rarely go out after dark and I’m content to stay here!

        Like

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A few weeks ago I wrote about all the (sometimes unexpected) things you might take on an overseas posting – http://expatpartnersurvival.com/2015/01/15/nappies-bread-makers-tampons-what-else-do-you-pack-when-you-move-overseas/. Then I came across this EPIC post about all the things one international school teacher took on her posting to Venezuela. I thought this was a great example of why it is always worth looking into what you can and can’t get in the country you’re moving to -in good time to buy and pack it all before you go….

    Like

  4. Hi – I have just re-blogged your post because it followed on so well from one I did a few weeks ago called Nappies, breadmakers, tampons…what else do you take on an overseas move – http://expatpartnersurvival.com/2015/01/15/nappies-bread-makers-tampons-what-else-do-you-pack-when-you-move-overseas/.

    PS I lived in Caracas back in the 1980’s and worked for a while at the British School there (as an assistant – I was very young!). Great country, but I suspect very different from when I was there 😉

    Like

    • I know, right?!

      I’ve thought about adding olive oil to the list because while you can find it places it has been getting more and more expensive. I just tell myself that since I live off of only $200 a month I can afford to pay more for olive oil.

      Like

  5. I love this list!! it makes me feel like we have it so good. Luckily, our one grocery store is pretty well stocked. Although I haven’t seen brown sugar all year, we can get most things. We often joke about the things we learn to make at home..I’m sure you have some to add to the list. We make our own tortillas, others make yogurt. It’s a great conversation starter!

    Like

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