3 Guianas - Which way?
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Dec 19, 2012 10:12 AM Last Post By: cj007
Jul 22, 2012 1:12 AM
3 Guianas - Which way?G'day Fellow Travellers,
I'm heading to South America at the end of the year for 6 months, and my fiance and I have planned to see the 3 Guianas around Feb/March next year.
I've read many threads here on all 3 countries and am planning our road trip.
I have lots of information so far, so I won't waste people's time regarding places to stay, visas etc - I'm not lazy.
However, one question that I do have is which way is best?
Most comments have been from people who have left Venezuela, crossed into Brazil, then headed in to Guyana. Then onwards to Suriname and French Guiana.
Both of us have done a bit of travelling over the years, so we can rough it.
Just interested to see if one way is more rewarding than the other?
We are looking to be in Brazil prior to this part of our trip, and I have read that crossing from Brazil into French Guiana for instance is quite painful.
Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Jul 22, 2012 1:47 PM
1I went counter clockwise, but I can't imagine any way one direction would be "more rewarding" than the other (except that you can stock up on euros in French Guiana, and they draw a premium in Suriname).
I also don't know what you mean by "quite painful." In fact, I hear rumors the new bridge finally opened in Oiapaque, which would make it even less painful than when I was there a few years back. In any case, it wasn't particularly remarkable.
Worth knowing if you haven't already come across this information elsewhere: if you're bringing a vehicle, insurance is sometimes very difficult to buy and always very expensive in French Guiana. Carrying a (real or photoshopped) European green card has been useful for some folks.
Hope that's helpful.
Jul 23, 2012 12:54 AM
If you bring a car then you may find one way easier than the other, but I could not tell you which one. Apart from that there should be few reasons to favor one direction. I would simply make it dependent on where you are before - close to Lethem or close to Oiapaque. You probably know that these are the only overland ways in and out of the Guianas , at least the only ones that are easy to cross.
One reason to go clock-wise: It is fairly easy and fast to get a Suriname visa in Guyana, probably easier than in Cayenne.
Jul 23, 2012 4:00 AM
Thanks heaps for the feedback. Yes agree I should have been a bit more descriptive - by painful I was getting at border crossings, visas, that sort of thing.
markharf - I have read about the new bridge at Oiapoque border crossing, but have yet to find an article that confirms its completion (if in fact it has been completed - some articles have stated 2013?)
kostenetz - Great info about the Suriname visa in Guyana. Suspect I'll have to get a visa for French Guiana from the French Embassy here in Australia before I leave....
Other travellers here have recommended a hire car for French Guiana as local transport (taxis, buses) are limited and expensive.
Thanks again guys,
Jul 23, 2012 10:13 AM
4I got my Suriname visa in Cayenne. Took a couple of hours, but was expensive. No particular problems there.
The bridge was supposed to be finished in 2009, more or less. When I was there in 2010 it consisted of some half-finished abutments. Rumors of its completion are just rumors, but it's easy and cheap to hire a boat across the river.
Do you need a visa for EU countries? If not, you shouldn't need one for French Guiana, which is a department of France. If so, you're probably right and should get one at home.
Jul 24, 2012 12:40 AM
Mark is right, as an AUS citizen you should not need a visa for French Guyana, but better double check. You will most likely need one for Suriname though. I have not been to the FG / BR border, but the bridge in Lethem is open (I crossed it a few times).
Renting a car in French Guyana is a very good idea. We did the same. Public transport is rare and not cheap. You should try to rent one one way from Cayenne to St Laurent du Maroni (or vv), and maybe you can even get one at the border with BR. Forget about crossing borders with a rented car, but there is plenty of local transport in Suriname and Guyana.
Jul 27, 2012 3:27 AM
6I don't think it matters much. The best way might depend on wherever you happen to be before and where you are going. Or if there's some specific event you want to attend in any of the countries. For example, if it interests you, you might want to try to be in French Guiana at the time there's a launch from the space center. That happens every couple of months or so. Even if you miss the launch, the space center has a great free tour (French only when I was there).
I too rented a car in FG, and that was a fantastic experience. Do NOT miss out on Cacao, one of my favorite small cities in the world. Keep in mind that there's NO gas station east of Cayenne, at least I didn't find any, so fill up with gas every chance you get.
I too do not know what you refer to with painful to cross the border. I took a little canoe at Oiapoque, took 10 minutes and cost a few euro. Just stamp out at the immigration office in downtown Oiapoque (Brazilian side) before, it's a ways from the river.
As for money, I used my ATM card in all three countries (with some difficulty in Guyana -- no working ATM at the international airport which almost made me miss my outbound flight since I didn't have enough money to pay the departure fee; in a quite humiliating episode I had to stand there and beg strangers for money -- always, ALWAYS, carry plenty of small bills of a hard currency like usd or euro with you).
For me it worked out best to visit Suriname first, then FG, and finally Guyana. I got my Surinamese visa before arrival. As an Australian, you will need a visa for Suriname only.
Aug 20, 2012 8:19 AM
7Been in Oiapoque end of July. The bridge is still not open, but it looks like that the work will be finished soon. Neverthless, the boat - and there is always a boat - brings you direct in the center of Oiapoque, the bridge is a bit outside of town, as the rodoviaria is.
The work startet to pave the complet road between Macapa and Oiapoque. It breaks my heart to see how many trees they cut down only for such a little road. Why the forest aisle must be such large?
However the paved part from Calcoene to Macapa is deteriorating. Some parts suffer under heavy pothholes.
Sep 16, 2012 9:20 AM
I am currently in Suriname, came from Belém (actually, with some help from Mark above) and it is pretty straight-forward really to get here.
From Belém to Macapá you have to take a boat, 24 to 28 hours. Only challenge here is really to make sure to find a hammock spot (which we didn't, Brazilians can be pretty pushy), but even if you don't you will be fine for the night, you can hang your hammock in the bar when people go to sleep. Otherwise trip is pretty uneventful, scenery not much to write home about for the most part, so it is all about people watching. Keep in mind that the boat is only twice a week (currently on Saturdays and Wednesdays noon).
Macapá is a pretty dull city, which in a way makes it a bit special... You can have your equatorial moment at least. And from here onwards it is getting hot.
If you don't have your own car, then you have to rely on the bus. You have only night us options so you won't see much unfortunately. Road is pretty bad so it will be bumpy. Very likely you will arrive to Oiapoque very early morning, around 4-5. From the bus terminal taxi in to the village to get your exit stamp from Brazil. Currently the Brazilian federal police is on strike, so you have a window between 8 and 12 to get your stamp, this you'll have to wait.
There's a lot of talk about the bridge. It is ready, so it should be opened any day now, there's no more work on it. But really, if you are not coming by own car or bike the bridge is secondary. Crossing into "Europe" is ten minutes by boat, makes it a bit more fun. And it's 2 Euros only.
French Guiana is pretty special. Sleepy for sure, but pretty sweet nonetheless. People keep saying it is expensive, and yes, it is not cheap, but it won't break you. Food is excellent: from Vietnamese soups to baguettes to Chinese etc. Ad someone mentioned, Cacao is a must, you can go hiking in the jungle on your own and overnight right out there, the Space Centre great, if you can time it around a launch, it's at least one per month. Cayenne is decent, but a night more than enough. As it was said, there's almost no public transportation here. For instance, if you want to go from Kuorou to St Laurent count on having to leave at 4 am... Otherwise next day, or do your best with hitch hiking (it worked from Cacao to Kourou, but we were very lucky).
From St Laurent (which is btw quite lively when the market is on and the prison is quite special) it is easy to cross the river to Suriname. To get your visa in Cayenne is easy, we got it in an hour. 42 Euros though.
Suriname is pretty nice. Accommodation cheaper than Guiana and Paramaribo pretty pleasant. Given the heat it is easy to get stuck and just do nothing (like me now). Trips into the jungle are expensive, almost on the ridiculous side. Just working on figuring out a plan to do some of it independently by taking regular boat up on the river and stay in lodges. Will know more in a week.
Guyana makes me a bit weary for now. I've heard of some conflicts in a village there, armed rubberises etc, so for now will just wait commenting on it. Probably slightly exaggerated, as it tend to be, but good to be on your toes I guess.
If you wonder about anything else, just let me know.
Sep 16, 2012 9:57 AM
I have been there two times. Guyana is another story. It is the most vibrant of the three Guyanas but also more dangerous than the others. The problem is, that there are many guns around and a lot of desperate people. Shootings happens in poor suburbs or in the interior. In Georgetown, simply use common sense - I never had serious problems.
The road from Moleson Creek to Georgetwon is in perfect condition, means drivers drive fast. The bus to Lethem leaves from Tropicana Hotel in the center of Georgetown. When I took the bus, police escorted us through the town of Linden. If I am informed right, in that town were recently unrests. There were also flights to Lethem. Don't know if this is still offered.
Sep 16, 2012 10:26 AM
10So this with the danger is not just mentioned for the fun of it... When you say never had serious problems, what were the less serious problems :)?
This with Linden, how long ago was it that you took a bus across it? Also otherwise, is the road from Georgetown to Lethem interesting enough for taking the risk? I mean, everything can be interesting if you want it to be, but if it's let's say as interesting as going from Macapá to Oiapoque (which wasn't really) and there's a risk for ending up in trouble, not sure if I'm ready to risk it.
Slightly off topic, any of you with knowledge of Kaieteur, what is the best way of visiting it, both financially speaking but also which route to take?
Sep 17, 2012 10:46 AM
11Going from Georgetown to Lethem - it is an overnight bus. (Lethem to Georgetown is during daytime.) The road and the view is more or less the same than the first part from Oiapoque to Macapa. There is an interesting ferry crossing over the Essequibo-River. From that ferry point to Lethem - in my mind - it is a beautiful trip. The south of Guyana is safe and beautiful. I would try to get informations about safety of the bustrip in Tropicana Hotel or Oasis Cafe. I never heard that the bus (which is a quite new service) got in trouble - maybe others no more. Minibuses seems to be more likely a target.
I did the trip Dez. 2009 from Lethem to Georgetown.
Well, first of all, I walked day and night (staying 5 nights in GT) which is hardly not recommanded in Georgetown always on my guard and I took only mainstreet. I never entered an empty sideroad or entered Promenade Garden (as in Paramaribo Palmentuin). I walked fast, checking street first before entering, always a restaurant or a shop in sight, were I could go if I felt unsafe. I think, I was paranoid. The worst thing happened to me was offended verbal one time by a small guy in the crowd. I ignored him. All travellers I met had no troubles in Georgetown.
In Georgetown you see many desperate people sleeping in the street, I saw people selling guns at the market and all taxi-drivers warn you about safety (gave me a bad feeling) and they don't do it for no reason . I went two times to Sheriff-Street by taxi taking only recommanded places by taxi-drivers. The party was hold in other clubs I didn't risk to go there. Sheriff Street is quite dark for walking from one club to other. I walked around having no problems but people warned me. In my mind, there is no need to go to Sheriff street which is no longer "the hottest nightlife of the caribbean". The Bar in the Tropicana Hotel seems to be meeting point of Georgetownians. There is always a coming and going. I met there a lot of people, also other travellers.
I like Georgetown, it is a beautiful town, but for whatever reason, I never felt save like in Paramaribo or Cayenne.
hope that helps
Edited by: uulu10
Edited by: uulu10
Edited by: uulu10
Sep 23, 2012 5:10 AM
For those of you who have commented on safety in Guyana - is the concern with safety for only tourists or does it include locals? And are guided tours to the interior best ( Kaiteur Falls) or can independent travel be done?
Sep 24, 2012 4:21 PM
I'm actually in Georgetown right now. When it comes to safety I would almost say that daytime the biggest problem is to avoid falling into one of the holes along the streets. Jokes aside, I expected it to be a rough city, but it's not too bad really. Yes, it is poor, and yes, you see desperate people, but if you mind your business you should be fine. By night it is a bit different, but taxis are cheap and if you just use some precautions you can walk by night as well in areas you feel comfortable in daytime.
So with safety, to quote one of my cab drivers from here: "unless you are a drug dealer, gun trafficker or involved with gangs, you will be fine in Guyana". People are fun and friendly, but there are some characters with shifty eyes to keep an eye on: I think you will like it, I certainly do.
When it comes to Kaieteur, we were there yesterday. Doing it fully independently is doable, but from what I've heard and read, challenging, especially the time of the year you plan on coming. There's an old fun and lengthy thread here on the forum which gives you a taste of it. The five-days guided tours are probably less of a hassle since they take care of you, but it costs a bit. We flew in and out the same afternoon which I regret now. There is the possibility to stay overnight and I'm sure that is a nice experience, especially since few others stay behind and then the falls are really there for you. Problem is that the airlines and tour operators don't want to sell tickets with different return day. I think the way around is is to go to the Kaieteur National Park office in Georgetown first and arrange things there, and then sort out the flight based on what they say.
Dec 19, 2012 10:12 AM
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