Suriname is a challenging destination for people with impaired mobility or who face other obstacles to getting around independently. While Paramaribo is quite straightforward, trips to the interior are likely to be tough unless you are able to contact hotels or travel agencies in good time to let them know exactly what physical challenges you face. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Bargaining is not customary at shops in Suriname, but may be undertaken at markets and street stalls.
The most popular book on Suriname is Mark Plotkin's Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, which also includes information on Brazil, Venezuela and the other Guianas.
Willoughbyland: England's Lost Colony, by Matthew Parker, covers the country's European history via the rise and fall of the British in Suriname.
How Dear Was the Sugar? by Cynthia McLeod, perhaps Suriname's most important historical novelist, explores the sugarcane industry of the 18th century.
The major rainy season is from late April to July, with a shorter one in December and January. Suriname's dry seasons – February to late April and August to early December – are the best times for a visit.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Some urban areas, such as markets, are subject to petty crime (mainly pickpockets); ask locally for places to avoid.
- Unlike in the other two Guianas, theft in the interior has been increasing and traveling alone is not advised.
Plugs are standard European with two round prongs. Currents are 110/220V, 60Hz.
Embassies & Consulates
Most embassies and consulates are in Paramaribo, although many countries have no embassy at all in Suriname. The UK and Canada cover their citizens from their embassy in Guyana, while Australia and Germany cover their citizens from Trinidad & Tobago and New Zealand covers its citizens from Brazil.
US Embassy Also responsible for US citizens in French Guiana.
Emergency & Important Numbers
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Entry & Exit Formalities
There are no unusual restrictions on items that can be brought into or out of Suriname.
Tourist cards (€35) are valid for 90 days and available at any Surinamese Embassy or on arrival at either airport in Paramaribo.
Visitors from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the EU need a tourist card. Longer stays or multiple entries will require a visa. For up-to-date info and embassy locations check www.surinameembassy.org. Allow approximately four weeks for a postal visa or tourist card application.
The Surinamese consulates in Georgetown (Guyana) and Cayenne (French Guiana) can issue tourist cards on the spot or within a couple of hours, but visas can take up to five working days. Bring a passport-size photo and your ticket out of South America. Visitors planning to stay in Suriname for more than 30 days should register at the Vreemdelingenpolitie in Paramaribo within eight days of their arrival.
Suriname is an easygoing, laid-back and multicultural country, where you don''t have to worry too much about rules of behavior.
- Language Nearly all locals will address a foreigner in Dutch first, which is the official language of Suriname, despite not being the first language most locals use with each other. A simple 'I don't speak Dutch' will move the language into English.
- Multiculturalism Be aware that there are dozens of cultures, languages, religions and ethnicities in Suriname, and so what might be appropriate in one place may be highly appropriate in another.
- Photography Always ask before you take photographs of people, especially in the interior of the country, where there can be suspicion of photography.
Most restaurants serve lunch from around 11am to 2:30pm, and dinner from about 6pm to 10pm. A small number of places open for breakfast at 8am.
Homosexuality is legal in Suriname, and LGBT people are visible in society, although they do not yet enjoy legal protections against discrimination or the right to marriage or civil partnerships. There is a very small gay scene in Paramaribo, though currently no dedicated gay bars or clubs. LGBT travelers have nothing to worry about in Suriname, and it should be no problem to request a double room at hotels anywhere in the country.
Most guesthouses, hotels and some cafes offer free wi-fi.
Suriname's legal system is based on that in the Netherlands. There is a presumption of innocence, and courts are independent of the government. Corruption is a significant problem in the country, but foreigners are unlikely to be asked for a bribe unless they're doing business here.
The Hotel Torarica gift shop in Paramaribo stocks the excellent Hebri BV toeristenkaart (€10).
- Newspapers De Wes and the Times of Suriname are the biggest daily newspapers. Both are in Dutch, though they also contain some articles in English.
- TV & radio TV and radio stations broadcast in Dutch, Sranan Tongo, English, Hindustani and Javanese.
Although the official unit of currency is the Surinamese dollar (SR$), some businesses quote prices in euros or US dollars. Most banks will accept major foreign currencies, but you may run into difficulty trying to change Guyanese dollars and Brazilian reals. Republic Bank ATMs are the most reliable at accepting foreign cards. You can get credit card advances at some banks and some hotels. Most hotels, better restaurants and travel agencies – but hardly anywhere else – accept credit cards, usually for a fee.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Restaurants Customers are expected to leave a tip of around 10% on restaurant bills, though check to see if it has already been added to the bill before you do so.
- Bars Tipping is not expected in bars.
- Taxis Rounding up with cabs is appreciated, though not always expected.
General business hours are 7:30am to 3pm weekdays, with perhaps a few hours on Saturday. Most restaurants serve lunch from around 11am to 2:30pm, and dinner from about 6pm to 10pm. A small number of places open for breakfast at 8am. Opening hours are not listed in reviews unless they vary widely from these.
Postal services in Paramaribo are reliable but may be less so in other parts of Suriname.
New Year's Day January 1; the biggest celebration of the year
Day of the Revolution February 25
Phagwah/Holi (Hindu New Year) March/April
Good Friday/Easter Monday March/April
Labor Day May 1
National Union Day/Abolition of Slavery Day July 1
Independence Day November 25
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Eid ul-Fitr (Lebaran or Bodo in Indonesian) end of Ramadan; dates vary
Smoking is banned in all indoor public spaces, including bars, hotels and restaurants.
Taxes & Refunds
Non-residents can't claim VAT back on purchases in Suriname.
Suriname has a decent landline system. There are no area codes. Landlines have six digits, while cell phones have seven.
The national telephone company is TeleSur, which sells SIM cards, although service is considerably better at Digicel and the cost is the same (SR$20, which includes SR$5 worth of credit).
Suriname is GMT/UTC minus three hours year round. The 24-hour clock is sometimes used. When it's midday in London and 7am in New York it's 8am in Paramaribo.
Toilets in Suriname are nearly always sit-down in style. Public toilets are rare and worth avoiding.
Travel with Children
Older kids will love the excitement of a jungle trip, wildlife watching and boat trips on one of the country's wide rivers. In Paramaribo the state of sidewalks varies enormously, which can make walking with a stroller tricky, but given the size of the city, the heat and the transport chaos, most visitors with children will use taxis to move around.
Most volunteering opportunities in Suriname are longer term in nature, and working holiday volunteer opportunities are fairly thin on the ground. One organization to contact is Green Fund Suriname, which runs various programs supporting dolphin and sloth populations in the country.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Suriname uses the metric system.
Female travelers, especially if traveling alone, may encounter harassment from local men, but they are rarely physically threatening. Constant 'hissing' and 'sucking' noises can be annoying, if not truly disconcerting – ignore them if you can.
There are very few job prospects for foreigners in Suriname, given that Dutch is the working language of the country, its small size and small economy. Anyone who gets a job in Suriname will need to have their employer apply for a work permit in their name.