First and foremost, DOLLAR CASH IS KING IN VENEZUELA. You are allowed to enter into the country with up to USD$ 10,000 per person without having to declare this cash to the authorities.

Venezuela is a very expensive country compared to Bolivia, Equador or Peru (but not to Argentina, Chile or Brazil) unless you change your money on the black market. This can be done by cash exchange (dollars or euros for Bolivars) or by international bank to bank transfer in Euros or dollars (usually online) either to a personal or business account outside Venezuela. You then receive the money inside Venezuela in Bolivars, either in cash, bankers cheque (if you trust the other person) or paid into your Venezuelan bank account if you have one. If the hotel or agency you are dealing with is foreign-owned, they may also have a Paypal account you can transfer funds into. Dollars are generally preferred over Euros, so if you intend to change cash on the black market, bring dollars in large denomination notes of 50 or 100.

EXCHANGING MONEY ON THE BLACK MARKET IS ILLEGAL, although in practice it seems to cause little concern to the authorities for the relatively small amounts that travellers want to change.The difference between the offical (government-determined) exchange rate and the black-market (cambio paralelo) is currently around 300-400%. The prices in the stores of almost all goods and services are based on the parallel exchange rate (because most things are imported and have been paid for with dollars or euros that the importer has bought on the black market). So a 32" TV is priced at 6500BFs (Bolivars Fuertes). At the offical dollar exchange rate of 6.3BFs = 1US$ this would be about USD$1000. In reality, using the current parallel exchange rate of about 25BFs the TV costs the equivalent of USD$260 - about the same as in the USA or Europe. If the official exchange rate was the same as the market (parallel) rate, the TV should only cost 260X 6.3 = 1638 BFs. Of course the average Venezualan doesn't have dollars or euros to exchange unless they have family abroad, so many things are simply unattainable because of this parallel pricing.

So remember that if you use foreign bank and credit cards or exchange officially, Venezuela becomes about twice as expensive.

The Venezuelan Bolivar is not freely convertible, and it is difficult to find a bank in your own country which will change Bolivars for you. And remember, when you change your Euros or Dollars for Bolivars inside Venezuela, you cannot change them back again, even if you did the exchange at an official, government licenced Cambio. Remember the black market is illegal so if you are caught you must deal with the local police (never fun and possibly expensive) and/or swallow your losses if your man doesn't hand over your money. The international arrivals terminal at Caracas airport is always full of people (sometimes even cops and soldiers) offering to change money for you at a black market rate. Be ultra-careful if you choose to do this. Better if you can find one of these people with a store or kiosk - at least they are less likely to disappear with your cash. Don´t keep all your cash stashed in the one place; don´t show anyone where you have stashed your money, and DO NOT change it all at once. If someone is offering you a ridiculously good exchange rate, there is a reasonable change that you are going to receive forged Bolivar notes (especially 50s - the green ones). And DO NOT follow someone out of the airport to change money - a quiet corner inside the terminal should be OK. If you don´t feel happy with the black market on the street, wait until you get to your hotel and ask there.

POINTS TO REMEMBER: drugs are big business in Venezuela. And many money changers are trying to launder/convert the bolivar profits of drug deals. So they are prepared to offer high rates of exchange. Be aware of the kind of people you are deiling with.

ATM's are readily available but most will not accept your international credit card, even when they have a Visa/Master card symbol. The banks which tend to give money are Spanish-owned: Mercantil, Provincial (BBVP Provicial) and Banesco (NONE of them are available at the Simon Bolivar airport). The procedure for entering you card is different to most countries, requiring you to swipe your card or partly insert and then remove it. Then you will be asked for your four digit PIN and then if this is accepted, for additional security the machine will ask you for either the last two digits or the first two digits of your Cedula (Venezuela identity card). This does not mean your passport number or PIN. If you don´t have a cedula, in most cases the machines will accept as a default number, double zero (0, 0). You only have seconds to enter this information before it cancels your entire transaction and you will have to start again. Please note that robbery is not uncommon even in day light and it is wise to keep one eye over your shoulder when withdrawing cash. Do not take out money at night or in dark or secluded streets. Put the cash in your pocket and count it elsewhere. Never let someone help you to use the machines. Be aware, card cloning is also common, as is ripping off your details by people who work in stores, bars and restaurants etc after you have completed a legitimate transaction.Best to try and use cash as much as you can and leave the cards for an emergency back-up.

The banks already mentioned are by far the safest (and most expensive way) to get a cash advance on a credit or debit card. Jump in one of the lengthy queues for a teller and bring your passport and card. If possible, it is recommended  to exchange with known and trusted persons or their friends or family if you already have Venezuelan contacts. They can probably help you make an exchange in advance.  A MUCH BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO CHANGE MONEY WITHOUT THE RISK OF BEING ROBBED OR HAVING TO ARRIVE IN VENEZUELA WITH A LOT OF EUROS OR DOLLARS is to ask at your hotel/posada when you are making the booking if they can help you change money by doing an international bank transfer (or a Paypal payment) to an account outside the country. They then give you bolivars at a ´parallel´rate. Normally this takes 2 or 3 working days depending on how quickly your bank follows your instruction to transfer. High-end hotels also offer the possibility to anticipate you a few Bolivares per day charging your room bill, always double-check rates and limits to the amount of money they can give you.