A guide to the Guianas (Dreamstime)
Article Words : Mark Stratton | 09 June 2019

The ultimate Wanderlust guide to the 3 Guianas

What's the weather like? When's the best time to go? And where can you stay while you're there? Here's everything you need to know about Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana...

A map of the Guianas 

When is the best time to visit the Guianas? 

An participant in French Guiana's annual carnival (Dreamstime)

An participant in French Guiana's annual carnival (Dreamstime)

April to November: July onwards is a moderately rainy season with drier spells of warm sunshine; year-round temperatures hover at around 25ºC.

December to March: Expect a short ‘dry’ season and festivals. Indian Holi (March) and Mashramani (Republic Day; February) are big in Guyana, while Pagara Estafette marks New Year’s Eve in Suriname. In French Guiana, Mardi Gras (the world’s longest) runs January to March.

Is it safe to travel to the Guianas? 

There's a lot of jungle in the Guianas — which means it pays to arm yourself against Malaria (Shutterstock)

There's a lot of jungle in the Guianas — which means it pays to arm yourself against Malaria (Shutterstock)

All three nations are pretty crime free, but it pays to be up to date on your jabs. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required at Suriname immigration; and while malaria is not widespread, it is present.

How do you get to the Guianas? 

A view of jungle-covered Suriname from an aeroplane (Shutterstock)

A view of jungle-covered Suriname from an aeroplane (Shutterstock)

The author flew into Suriname, took a light aircraft to Guyana, then overlanded to French Guiana for a flight back to the UK.

An openjaw ticket from London to Suriname on KLM, returning on Air France from Cayenne to London and costs from £833 return; one-way travel takes around 22.5 hours. KLM has four weekly flights via Amsterdam to Paramaribo; Air France operates daily flights from Cayenne via Paris.

What are the best ways to travel around the Guianas? 

A minibus taking passengers from the capital of Guyana to the border (Dreamstime)

A minibus taking passengers from the capital of Guyana to the border (Dreamstime)

The author used shared taxis, private transfers, buses, charters and scheduled light aircraft flights. In Guyana, the author reached Surama via a charter flight, which is expensive; it’s cheaper to use Trans Guyana Airways’ scheduled one-hour flights from Georgetown to Lethem, which cost US$30 (£23) for a one-way ticket.

It’s possible to reach Surama by minibus, but expect a 12-to-14-hour journey. To get from Georgetown to Paramaribo, a minibus-taxi with Oswald Transportation (+592 662 2627) costs US$30 (£23). In Suriname, head to Ajonti, where a flotilla of boats travel upriver daily.

In French Guiana, a shared taxi from St Laurent to Cayenne costs around £38. Trips to the Îles du Salut by catamaran can be booked via La Hulotte and cost from around £44 return.

How much money do you need to take to the Guianas? 

A daytrip to Kaituer Falls can be very expensive so make sure you budget your trips in  (Dreamstime)

A daytrip to Kaituer Falls can be very expensive so make sure you budget your trips in (Dreamstime)

Of the three countries, French Guiana is the priciest, with above-European costs for accommodation; budget for £50 to £125 for a double. Main courses there are from £15 to £25, but South-East Asian market fare is much better value.

Guyana is more competitively priced; cheaper accommodation options range from £20 to £30 per night, with great local street food. Likewise, Suriname is well-priced around Paramaribo, with clean guesthouses like TwenTy4 (+597 420751) from €15 (£14) per night.

It’s when you start adding jungle lodges and excursions that prices add up. For instance, a day trip to Kaieteur Falls, including flights, will cost from US$290pp (£219) if booked with local operators like the excellent Wilderness Explorers (wilderness-explorers.com).

Where are the best places to stay in the Guianas? 

Where to stay in French Guiana 

 

(palmistes.com)

(palmistes.com)

In French Guiana, the author was based in Hotel des Palmistes (Cayenne). It has a dozen elegantly decorated rooms set in a century-old property above Cayenne’s liveliest bar; B&B doubles from €125pn (£107).

Where to stay in Suriname

Danpaati River Lodge (Suriname) lies mid-river in the Amazon. Minimum three-night all-inclusive packages (excursions, meals and Paramaribo transfers) from €335 (£287) per person.

An hour outside Paramaribo lies the atmospheric Frederiksdorp Plantage Resort (Suriname), a former 18th-century plantation converted into cabanas. Doubles from €180pn (£155), including all meals.

Where to stay in Guyana

Guyana’s most famous heritage hotel is the 1840s-built Cara Lodge (Georgetown). It has been graced by everybody from President Jimmy Carter to Mick Jagger. Doubles in its more economical ‘Executive rooms’ are from $130pn (£98).

The Amerindian community’s Surama Eco-Lodge (Guyana) offers two-day packages, including meals and excursions, from US$209 (£158) per person, cash only.

What is there to eat and drink in the Guianas? 

Try a tasty nasi goreng when in the Guyanas (Shutterstock)

Try a tasty nasi goreng when in the Guyanas (Shutterstock)

Guyana

A mixed cultural legacy equates to diverse tastes and dishes.

Guyana is the pick thanks to its Indian heritage; try a tandoori meat or veg platter at Georgetown’s famous Aagman restaurant.

Another capital favourite is the Caribbean-style cooking at Backyard Café (+592 663 5104), which is served in chef Delven Adams’ own garden.

Suriname

Paramaribo has a similar array of multicultural influences, with Indonesian warung-style eateries dishing up tasty nasi goreng, while you’ll also find plenty of African-inspired dishes, such as the local moksi alesi (rice, fish and chicken).

French Guiana

French Guiana is more Eurocentric although its markets have lots of authentic Asian dishes.

Try the local beers (Banks’s and Parbo) and rums (El Dorado and Borgoe), too.

Highlights of the Guianas: What not to miss

1. Iwokrama Canopy Walkway (Guyana) 

The 3,710 sq km Iwokrama rainforest reserve has exceptional biodiversity. Among its accommodation options is Atta Rainforest Lodge – a base for a 30m-high aerial canopy walkway that allows close communion with the forest’s birds and monkeys. 

More information

2. Space Centre (French Guiana)

France maintains a European Spaceport in French Guiana that is used by other nations, including the Russians, to deliver satellite payloads. Daily tours around this jungle complex take three-hours but are in French, so you may need to being your own interpreter along. 

More information

3. Hmong Market (French Guiana) 

Some 60km out of French Guiana’s capital, Cayenne, lies Cacao, which is home to a local population of ethnic South-East Asian Hmong. They were granted refugee status post-Vietnam War, and now they host a popular Sunday market, featuring delicious food from their homeland.

4. Frederiksdorp Plantation (Suriname)

Now a resort, this 18th-century cocoa and coffee plantation was built from the perspiration of slaves by its first German owner. Besides exploring the attractive heritage plantation houses of that era, visitors can also tour swampland that is especially rich in birdlife.

Useful Guianas travel information

A small village in French Guiana (Shutterstock)

A small village in French Guiana (Shutterstock)

Capitals: Georgetown (Guyana), Paramaribo (Suriname) and Cayenne (French Guiana)

Population: 778,000 (Guyana), 563,000 (Suriname) and 274,000 (French Guiana)

Languages: English (Guyana), Dutch (Suriname) and French (French Guiana); all three also have creole dialects

Time: GMT-3 (Suriname and French Guiana); GMT-4 (Guyana)

International dialling code: +592 (Guyana); +597 (Suriname); +594 (French Guiana)

Visas: UK nationals don’t require visas for Guyana or French Guiana (EU); tourist cards (€35) for Suriname can be bought on arrival

Money: Guyanese Dollar (GYD), Suriname Dollar (SRD) and French Guiana Euro (EUR); GYD270, SRD9.63 and €1.17 to the UK£.

Discover more about the Guianas:

Consider purchasing Guyana (Bradt Guides, 2018) or Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge (Profile Books, 2012) by John Gimlette before visiting.

If you're looking for online information, visit Guyana's Tourism Board, Suriname's Tourism Board and French Guiana's Tourism Board.

If in doubt, visit the Latin American Travel Association, too.

Wanderlust's illustrated maps are designed by Scott Jessop

Explore the Guianas further : 

Here's what happened when Mark Stratton visited The Guianas

Here's the very best things to do in Guyana

What to do when you're in French Guiana

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