French Guiana, , (French: Guyane or Guyane française) is a French department in the Amazonia region of South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname. It is governed as an overseas province of France with same rights and privileges granted to all other French departments and benefits financially from the arrangement.
First settled by the French in 1604, French Guiana was the site of notorious penal prisons known as "le Bagne" which functioned from the mid 18th century until 1951. The most famous of which is Devil's Island. Henri Charrière wrote his tale "Papillon" about an escape from here. The European Space Agency also launches its communication satellites from Kourou. French Guyana is the only portion of mainland South America still governed by an overseas nation.
Tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation though it is a little cooler when the rainy season starts (from November/December through July, though there is usually a period called "the little summer" where there is less rain, usually in March).
Low-lying coastal plains rising to hills and small mountains, mostly an unsettled wilderness. It also consists of hill plateaus and the Tumuc-humac mountains.
Concerning immigration, French Guiana has different laws. French Guiana is not part of the Schengen territory. For some neighboring countries (Brazil, Suriname, Dominican Republic etc.) it is easier to go to Paris than it is to reach Cayenne.
Cayenne-Rochambeau Airport (CAY)
From Brazil you can take a private barge across the Oiapoque River. Its owner can be contacted in St Georges or in Oiapoque. From Suriname, there is a ferry to cross the Maroni River.
Oyapock River Bridge
The Oyapock River Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge. It spans the Oyapock River to link the cities of Oiapoque in Brazil and Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock in French Guiana. Its construction was completed in August 2011, commissioning is scheduled for January 2013.
This is a cable-stayed bridge , the two towers rising to 83 meters high, its length is 378 meters, it has two lanes of 3.50 m wide. The vertical clearance under the bridge is 15 meters.
At the French side, the access will be through a border checkpoint (FCP) which will present three government control: the Border Police , the Customs and the Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Forestry.
The bridge over the Oyapock is a toll-free bridge (the booths are booths controls, not toll booths), which will be accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians.
From Brazil and Suriname, when you reach the border, you cross the river with a motorboat.
From Brazil and Suriname, to cross the rivers Oyapoque and Le Maroni, which takes 15 minutes, it's not very expensive, but you have to haggle. Crossing the Oyapoque from Brazil should cost you about 5 euros, no haggling. If you go a little upstream to Rona's lodge, you should pay 7 euros. Ask first to be sure but the boatmen are a Coop and the price is fixed for everyone.
3,400 km of French Guiana's waterways are navigable by native boats (pirogues); 460 km navigable by small oceangoing vessels and coastal and river steamers.
There is limited public transportation throughout the territory. Minibuses go between major towns but there may only be a few per day. Fares are fixed per route; if only going partial distance to Cayenne you may have to pay the full fare. Eg. St. Laurent du Maroni to Kourou you may have to pay the full fare to Cayenne. Fare for St. Laurent to Cayenne is €35. There is a bus that runs from the airport to the center of Cayenne, contact the people at the information desk at the airport to be sure the driver stops to pick you up.
French is the official language of French Guiana, although Creole is widely spoken. The majority of the population speaks French while few understand English. However, some officials, police, and gendarmes may speak English. Because of the presence of many Brazilians and Dominicans, lots of people understand basic Portuguese and basic Spanish. On the Maroni river, Taki-taki is often used
The Hmong Market at Cacao, the Kaw river by pirogue, a rocket liftoff from La Carapa, Kourou, le Bagne de Saint-Laurent, Les Iles du Salut/the Salvation Islands or Papillon's prison, sea turtles laying eggs on the beach at Remire-Montjoly, Awala-Yalimapo and the annual Kalinia games, etc.
The official currency is the euro just like in mainland France.
Tafia is a local hard liquor that is widely drunk and used as medical purpose. One can drink it with lime juice or with salt and it's used in a drink called Planter, excellent.
For European people coming from an EU country, working in French Guiana is allowed without problem. If you're from outside the EU, you will probably need a work permit - check with the French Embassy in your country. Do not forget though that the unemployment rate is high. But if you work in the health sector (doctor, nurse), it will be much easier.
Voluntary service: Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique (VCAT), . Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be over 18 and under 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.
It is advisable to pay extreme attention not to lose your passport: there are very few consulates in French Guiana as such services are provided by consulates in Paris, so you will be required to go to Paris in case you need your passport to be reissued if you are not an EU citizen.
Vaccination against yellow fever is necessary.