Venezuelan Currency is in Free Fall

Venezuela will start issuing five new bills on December 15th (one day before vacation begins here). My friends and I spent most of the afternoon talking about the implications of the larger denomination bills being printed. They are saying that 100 bolivar bills (currently the largest denomination worth about 2 cents) will need to be traded in for new bills or spent within the next 72 hours. This seems kind of simple: take your old bills to the bank and then get new bills. Except this is Venezuela.

Every time I’ve been to the bank I’ve had to wait for at least an hour to do any transaction. In the five years that I’ve been here, I have only ever been able to successfully use an ATM on four occasions (they are almost always out of cash or offline). Because of this, I try to do most of my transactions in cash. Now I have soon-to-be-obsolete bills on hand and I need to do something about it.

Hyperinflation has arrived in Venezuela. The currency has lost more than HALF of its value in November alone. Currently, we are all feeling kind of lost and unsure of what must be done. It seems like it is not a good idea to have cash bolivares on hand. As far as I can tell our options are: take the bolivares to the bank to be deposited (I don’t know how to do this), buy non-perishable goods, donate it, or use it for an art project.

If Venezuela is going to follow in Zimbabwe’s footsteps then having non-perishable goods will be essential if I need to start bartering. I’m not sure if I am being ridiculous or not. Apparently, people are weighing the piles of money in grocery stores. Nothing seems too farfetched.

I will be going to Cuba this Saturday for three weeks and I’m not sure what Venezuela will look like when I get back. Wish me luck.

Update 12/12 at 12:38PM: Our bank accounts with Bancaribe (the one the school set up for teachers) are showing $0.00 bolivares! I had enough cash to last me a month in there last night!!

Please comment: have you lived in a country with hyperinflation? What is the best way to deal with this situation?

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5 responses to “Venezuelan Currency is in Free Fall

  1. That’s frightening! The Chinese yuan is Losing value to the dollar it seems every day, but it’s nowhere near the mess you’re experiencing. Do you get paid inUSD at least?!
    On a bright note, I’m looking forward to your posts about Cuba. Hoping to visit this summer.

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    • At the end of the day they added all of our money to our accounts but it was very frightening at the time. They do pay us mostly in dollars so at least the majority of my salary is stable.

      I am really looking forward to Cuba, but I wont be online much while I’m there because the internet is super slow and expensive in Cuba.

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      • Cuba is great! I’m about to post a few more things on my site about my time there over the summer, not all of it positive, albeit most, and after that I’m done. I have spent too many hours pondering that perplexing country. I definitely caught Cuba fever, and I’m super curious to know what’s been happening there since American flights have been traveling & since Fidel’s death! I left on August 1st and all I can advise is– spend lots of time in Vedado in Habana, and try to make it east for a bit! I found the cities of Guanatanamo and Bayamo to have great vibes and very welcoming people! I’d say Baracoa, as well, but call first because the hurricane hit them very hard. Get ready for some cheap and amazing rum. 🙂

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  2. Hello! I am looking into working at a school in Caracas. Do you think that payment might be a huge issue? How hard is it really to get basic things like coffee, eggs, etc? Thanks!

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    • Hi Brian,

      Most of the international schools here in Venezuela (from what I’ve heard through the grapevine) are now paying the majority of the salary in USD so you shouldn’t have a problem. I don’t know what it is like for teachers in Caracas in regards to finding basic staples, but my students say that they always go to Caracas when they can’t find something here in Valencia. I think you will be fine once you know where to look.

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