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At $395 plus a night, one night's sojourn was all this reporter was prepared spend at Caracas Tamanaco Hell...

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VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: John Cleese's long-lost sister is alive and working as a hotel manageress in Caracas ... if she isn't then she must be a clone for I'm about to re-name the once-proud La Floresta Hotel in Caracas as the Venezuelan version of Fawlty Towers!

In a recent review by a disgruntled La Floresta ex-guest complained: "Desk staff are unfriendly ...perhaps cos I'm a gringo? Room was cramped, scruffy & in need of serious refurbishment ... they tried to charge me for a coffee 10 mins after the end of the official breakfast time, despite not having a full breakfast on any of my 5 days stay ... noisy location, even from the 8th floor ... they tried to charge me an extra night, despite having receipts for the nights I paid ... I have now stayed in 4 hotels and none are value for money unless you bring US$ and exchange on the black market."

Even Lonely Planet has had to concede that "Service isn't a strong point here ... there are no public phones on the premises and the staff, though friendly enough, seem reluctant to answer questions." The diminutive manageress doubles as Fawlty Towers' Manuel when she goes into verbal lock-down over complaints that the establishment's much-heralded 'Internet connection in every room' is yet another absentee from the $150-a-night service manual. The porter eventually admitted that there are daily complaints from guests about the lack of in-room internet connections and, apart from a single wired computer laboring on Windows 97 in the noisy back lobby, the only suggestion is to steal an unsecured connection from PDVSA La Estancia in the park half-way across to the infamous Tourism Ministry at the back!

Quite frankly, La Floresta ex-guest's experience is NOT unusual ... hotels in Caracas are indeed a rip-off at both ends of the scale ... and while some twenty long years ago, Venezuela was strutting its stuff to the tourism world as "The best-kept Secret of the Caribbean", it's perhaps just as well that it remains under wraps!

While the former US Embassy building in La Floresta has been taken over by the Ministry responsible (?) for Tourism, there seems little attention given to tourism per se, apart from a few of the pricier luxury hotels like the Marriot and the Melia Caracas while the former Caracas Hilton (now the Hotel Alba) has really gone to the dogs.
The Caracas Hilton/Alba used to be one of the finest 4-star hotels in Caracas, facing east to the Teresa Carreno cultural complex (opera, theater, orchestra, ballet, cinema, coffee shop, restaurant, art gallery and bookstores) but the area has been taken over by buhoneros and is horrible, smells even worse and if filthy and very dangerous. Efforts have been made, but obviously failed by the local municipality administration ... and to think they were actually going to open a new Sambil Shopping Mall in La Candelaria, not a stone's throw away! President Hugo Chavez Frias' recent announcement that he wants to turn the latter mega-construction, in one of the most congested sections of downtown, into a much-needed public hospital makes much more sense!

What used to be one of Caracas' finest hotels, the Tamanaco, is no longer the star-studded experience it used to be ... NOT any more! Like the La Floresta (and many other establishments that make the boast!) they claim to have "high speed internet" in every room ... WRONG! ... but even where a connection may be established, the most one can coax out of thin air is a miserable 54k and not even a hint of an apology for the false advertising, never mind a reduction on the grossly exaggerated billing.

I wholeheartedly agree (from personal experience) with a reviewer who said "Dont get close! I can not describe how awful this hotel is especially for the price you pay. They charge for everything including drinking water! The rooms are very cold and stinky ... the elevator is so slow that I end up going up and down to my room at level 9 using the stairs ... and the staff are not friendly and not organized."

Another disgruntled Tamanaco ex-guest says: "The room is dark, dingy, and in total need of remodeling. A hamburger in the restaurant costs over $35. A pack of gum in the gift shop, $8. Robbery at its finest. The pool is very nice. Overall, this is the worst 5-star property I've ever stayed at, hands down."

At $395 a night plus all the add-ons they could imagine including an extra charge for a miserable buffet breakfast, one night's sojourn was all this reporter was prepared spend at Tamanaco Hell...

Roy S. Carson

PS: By comparison, an overnighter at a hotel close to Charles de Gaulle international airport in Paris -- with in-room internet connection and breakfast plus 20-minute shuttle service to CdeG included -- cost just Euros 63 (including VAT) = $90! And, importantly, the hotel staff were good natured, helpful and courteous -- what a contrast to 'best kept a secret' Caracas!

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Roy S. Carson is veteran foreign correspondent (45+ years in the business) currently editor & publisher of VHeadline Venezuela reporting on news & views from and about Venezuela in South America -- available for interviews -- call Houston (more...)
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