Hardy travellers undeterred by tales – real and exaggerated – of crime and shortages are finding Venezuela an absurdly cheap destination. Thanks to exchange controls skewing the economy in favour of anyone with foreign currency, you could...
...hire a boat to a Caribbean island for less than £10 ($15) a day...
...trek through Andean mountains or Amazon jungle for a whole week, with porters, for just over £80...
...go paragliding for about a tenner...
...stay in a decent hostel at a popular beach for about £3 a night...
...or have a three-course meal with wine for about £6.50.
"It's crazy! This beer is costing me just a few pennies," said British tourist Matthew Napier, 35, indicating a local Polar beer while sitting on a stunning white sand beach in the Los Roques archipelago in the Caribbean. Even at a bumped-up 90 bolivars due to the exclusive island location, a beer here costs just 15 pence at the black market currency exchange rate obtained by canny foreigners.
Many tourists look for not-so-surreptitious money-changers as soon as they land in Venezuela, or make arrangements ahead.
The official exchange rate is about six bolivars to one US dollar, but Venezuela's spiralling inflation makes locals desperate to get rid of their bolivars; rates of 400 to one are not unheard of.
Venezuela's largest denomination note is 100 bolivars (officially valued at about $15, but worth as little as 25 cents on the black market).
Amazed at the sheer quantity of notes they receive, visitors find where to keep them the biggest problem. "You simply can't carry enough cash with you, that's the main restriction to spending!" said Napier, adding he "felt like a drug-dealer" after wiring money in advance to Panama in order to be given bolivars by a contact in Venezuela.
In contrast with tourists, Venezuelans' purchasing power has fallen. Wage rises cannot match the inflation rate, which was 68% in 2014. It is widely forecast to hit triple digits this year.
Shopping for basic food and goods has become a daily struggle for many locals – let alone the sort of exotic holidays foreigners enjoy in their country.
Unsurprisingly, there is a buzz about Venezuela on the backpackers' circuit. Young budget travellers recommend it as one of the world's cheapest spots – and post photos of themselves with huge wads of cash to prove it.
Will Hatton, 26, who runs a blog called The Broke Backpacker, criss-crossed Venezuela for a month earlier this year, spending about $300 (£196) in total as he visited some of its most exotic places like the table-topped Roraima mountain.
Changing money on dodgy corners, and once counting hundreds of bills in a bathroom, Hatton's itinerary included three internal flights and two guided trekking tours for his $300.
"You pay $1 and you get a really nice meal. If you shell out $20, you're paragliding in the morning and kayaking in the afternoon," said Hatton.
Despite the currency bonanza, tourists are hardly flocking to Venezuela. There were just under one million arrivals last year, four times fewer than neighbouring Colombia which is successfully marketing itself despite decades of drug wars and a Marxist insurgency.
In Venezuela, it's the frightening level of crime that puts people off, plus the acute shortages of basic products. "You're bombarded with this idea you can't go out on the street," said Juan Suso from Argentina, who ignored advice and spent a few days walking round Caracas before going to Los Roques.
"People should come. It's so cheap, it's ridiculous. Even with our devalued currency in Argentina, it still works out such good value," he said, adding that meals out in Caracas were a quarter of the cost in Buenos Aires.
Back at Los Roques, a group of Argentinian pensioners were off to snorkel in the shallows with a local guide, after a boat-ride across azure waters from the island where they were staying. Including breakfast and some mid-morning drinks in a cooler, their total layout that morning was minimal.
"We're in paradise for $20!" shouted one, before ducking under the water.