Getting Around, Merida Travel, Transport and Car Rental
(Merida, The Andes, Venezuela)
The charming Old Quarter of Merida can easily be explored on foot and for other city destinations, bus transport and taxis provide a convenient way to travel around, with both being plentiful. Getting to the city from Caracas, the gateway to the country, is by plane to Merida's Alberto Carnevalli Airport, by a long bus trip, or by taking a self-drive hire car journey through superb Andean scenery.
If self-drive around the region isn't on the agenda, taxis can be hired by the day, while local buses travel regularly. Merida is well served by its network of small local buses, but it should be noted that most bus transport finishes for the day by 21:00. There are no passenger trains operating in the region, although a freight service runs through the valley.
Alberto Carnevalli Airport (MRD) / Arriving by Air
Address: Avenida Urdaneta / Avenida 16 de Septiembre, Merida, Venezuela, VE
Merida's airport (the Aeropuerto Alberto Carnevalli) is located within the city itself, just 2 km / 1.5 miles to the south-west of the Plaza Bolivar. The topography and mountainous nature of this region prevents night operation. Landing in bad weather or fog can prove difficult, with the Andean mountains surrounding the runway, and since this airport has experienced a number of plane crashes in recent years, most flights now use the next nearest airport at El Vigia.
Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso Airport (VIG) is a popular alternative, located in El Vigia and approximately one hour and 15 minutes away from Merida (60 km / 37 miles to the west). Known locally as the Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, El Vigia's airport is well connected to Merida by 'por puesto' taxi buses. If you are flying into El Vigia, you will find that tour companies will be able to arrange the necessary transportation into the city.
Car rental is easily available both at the El Vigia airport and in the city centre, with Budget the best-known provider. The city is well supported by link roads to Caracas
, Valera and other Venezuelan towns and cities, although the distances involved can be somewhat daunting. Notable highways include the Trans-Andes Highway (Troncal 7) and the Carretera La Variante, which ultimately leads on to the Pan-American Highway, San Cristobal and Maracaibo
. Driving around the outer areas and suburbs of the city often proves confusing, and if the plan is to explore within the historic old district, on foot is the best, easiest and most pleasant way to travel around.
Those with a hire car will find that driving is the perfect way to reach the surrounding national parks, such as the Parque Nacional Chorro El Indio (south-west), the Parque Nacional Sierra La Culata
(west), the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada
(east) and the Parque Nacional Tapo Caparo (south-east).
Buses and Coaches
The most practical and economic way to travel around Venezuela
, including the Andean regions, is by using bus transport. Luxury buses provided by several companies leave the La Bandera terminal at Caracas several times a day for Merida, arriving at the city's bus station (the Terminal de Pasajeros), near the Avenida las Americas. From there, it is a short taxi ride to downtown, which lies approximately 3 km / 2 miles to the north-east. Local buses depart for nearby towns, such as both Apartaderos and Jaji, but are often uncomfortable and may be crowded.
Long-distance bus transport is readily available and connects destinations such as Barinas, Barquisimeto, Ciudad Bolivar, Coro, Maracaibo, Punto Fijo, San Cristobal, Valencia
Taxis in Merida are in good supply and cheap, although the same rules apply here as in any other Latin American city. Agree the fare before you start your journey, pick up a cab on main roads only - not in back streets, and be careful of your belongings, especially in non-tourist areas at night or in nightlife areas even later.