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Santa Elena de Uairén

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La Gran Sabana : Santa Elena de Uairén
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Santa Elena de Uairén

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Santa Elena de Uairén is a small frontier town in La Gran Sabana in Venezuela.


It's home to several indigenous groups, and children are educated not only in Spanish but also Pemon, an indigenous language. It's proximity to the border with Brazil makes it busy trade town... mostly importing products from Brazil, and exporting oil from Venezuela.

Get in[edit]

Flights to and from the airport are operated with small Cessnas. Schedules change frequently.

There are very few flights to Santa Elena de Uairén. Rutaca is the only airline that services the town with any regularity from Ciudad Bolívar and Puerto Ordaz. You should contact the airline at the Ciudad Bolívar Airport (58-285) 632-4465 / 632-8426 to find out more information about the flights. They should direct you with information on how to book.

Night buses go to Santa Elena from Ciudad Bolivar, Puerto Ordaz, Maturin and Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela and morning 7am bus from Boa Vista (leaving from Terminal Coimbe; 22 Reals as of March 2015) in Brazil. There is one day bus Puerto Ordaz and Ciudad Bolivar. A few buses travel to/from Caracas (Oriente Terminal) stopping in Cuidad Bolivar. These are semi-cama buses, and take 22 hours to make the journey. Bus companies that do the route are Expresos Los Llanos, Expreso Occidente, and a state owned company with red buses. You can buy tickets only for the buses leaving the same day therefore arrive early morning (6-7am) as they are sold off very quickly. Bus to Puerto Ordaz (Ciudad Guayana) costs 450-600 Bf (2-3 USD as of March 2015 unofficial rate) leaves at 7.30am, 3.30pm, 6pm. The prices and schedules change frequently so double check at terminal (reached by taxi from the center - 150 Bf; 0.7 USD) If you take a bus please understand that the buses are cold and drivers refuse to raise the temperature. Bus temperatures average around 7ºC (45F).

If you want to get to the town from Brazilian border town Pacaraima you need to take both Brazilian and Venezuelan stamps in the immigration check points first and return to Pacaraima where you the shared taxis are waiting for passengers (0.7 usd at unofficial rate per person).

The Boa Vista route is the best connection for those coming from anywhere in Brazil.

UPDATE: The venezuelan airline CONVIASA ( has just begun service to Santa Elena de Uairén (SNV) on their newly acquired Embrear jets. Flights run three times a week between Santa Elena de Uairén and Puerto Ordaz (PZO)on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. From Puerto Ordaz (PZO) one can connect to any other major Venezuelan city including Caracas, Porlamar, and Canaima. Flight times are the same for the three days they fly and are as follows Puerto Ordaz (PZO) to Santa Elena de Uairén (SNV) Departing at 10:30am arriving at 11:05am. Santa Elena de Uairén (SNV) to Puerto Ordaz (PZO) Departing 11:55am arriving at 12:30pm.

For a complete schedule of CONVIASA flights:

Get around[edit]

Taxis do not cost more than 150 bsf (0.7 usd at unofficial rate) anywhere in town. To get to the border with Brazil and to border town Pacaraima you can take a shared taxi for 100 Bsf (0.5 usd) per person.



* Tours: Santa Elena is a good base for organising numerous trekks tours such as Roraima, Angel Falls, Gran Sabana through the agencies: Álvarez Trek Expedition, Backpacker Tours, Mystic Tours.

* Shopping: If you are crossing either from or to Brazil, Santa Elena is a good point for buying some essential items such as Colgate tooth paste, tooth brush, shampoo (mainly Pantene), razors, OFF mosquito spray, Nivea 30&50 sunscreen, body creams (all substantially cheaper than in Brazil) [March 2015]


  • Money Exchange: The unofficial exchange rate in town might be lower than at the border with Brazil. You can take a shared taxi for 0.7usd pp and take 10 - 15 mins ride to the border where you can find numerous money exchange operators (between venezuelan and brazilian check point).

In Pacaraima just behind brazilian control you can find Banco Bradesco and Banco do Brazil with ATMs for international VISA cards. If you don't have usd you might withdraw Reals there and exchange at the border at unofficial rate (as of March 2015 1real=65-69 BsF).




Posada Backpackers, Calle Urdaneta, 0289-995 14 15, [1]. Basic rooms, all with hot water. Wifi. Outdoor restaurant with great food. Professional, well organized trekking tours. The German owner, Eric, is extremely helpful (and not pushy about the tours). s/d/t 80/120/180BsF.  edit

Hotel Michelle, Calle Urdaneta (next door to Posada Backpackers), 0289-416 12 57. The cheapest option in town, extra charge for hot water. s/d/t 900/900/1350BsF (4.5/4.5/6.5usd). Also doubles as a travel agency.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

  • Angel Falls – the highest single-drop water fall in the world (807m)
  • Canaima National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for it's tepuis, or "table-top" mountains. It's the second largest park in Venezuela.
  • Brazil – the border is about 12 km away, and this is the last place that you can obtain a Brazilian visa, which usually takes 1-3 days. Update: the visa system is now going electronic. Unfortunately they have stopped the manual visa process before the new system is up and running. Until that happens, the only place to get a Brazil visa in Venezuela is in Caracas.
  • Cantarana is a small hamlet about 100 km west of Santa Elena. There are several 4WD collective taxi-jeeps going there every day on an unpaved track (BsF 60, 3 h). You can stay at: Campamento Cantarana, (), [2]. Very nice camp owned by a German-Venezuelan family, with a big park close to a waterfall and natural pool. Meals are made with fresh food and mostly home production. Nice hikes around in Gran Sabana. Possibility to work there as well. ~BsF 200 for full board accomodation.  edit

To get from Santa Elena to Boa Vista, you can take a bus at Pacaraima, however there is only one per day, at 3pm. To find the bus stop, just continue on the main road in the direction of Boa Vista. The bus stop is located on the last corner. Alternatively, you can just take a shared taxi from the same location.

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