Guyana, , is a country in north-eastern South America. It has an Atlantic Ocean coastline in the northeast, and lies between Suriname to the east and Venezuela to the west, with Brazil to the south.
It is now the third-smallest country in South America after Suriname and Uruguay. The name Guyana (from Arawak Wayana) means "Land of many waters." It is related to the name Uruguay: River of the colorful birds, another country in South America.
Tropical; hot, humid, moderated by northeast trade winds; two rainy seasons (May to mid-August, mid-November to mid-January); Natural hazards: Flash floods are a constant threat during rainy seasons.
Mostly rainforest; low coastal plain; low savanna in south west, high savanna in central south west, leading to tepui mountainous area around Kamarang and Imbaimadai
Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to the purchase of some villages such as Victoria and Anns Grove, as well as black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. Chinese were also imported to work on plantations but were found to be unsuitable. The Colonial powers employed a system of "divide and rule" among the freed Africans and the other ethnic groups which were brought and encouraged to settle in the then colony. The policy was employed even during slavery when indigenous "Amerindians" were used to hunt runaway slaves. The result was an ethno-cultural divide, significant elements of which have persisted to this day and has led to turbulent politics, dissolution of attempts at nationalistic cultural development and the non-existence of anything resembling a "National Identity".
Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, but until the early 1990s it was ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments. In 1992, Cheddi Jagan was elected president, in what is considered the country's first free and fair election since independence. Upon his death five years later, he was succeeded by his wife Janet, who resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat Jagdeo, was reelected in 2001 and again in 2006. The current President is Donald Ramotar.
Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to visit Guyana: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Luxembourg, Montserrat, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States .
When applying for a visa, you will need the application form, a passport valid for at least 6 months, 3 passport size photographs, and proof that shows you have the funds to cover your entire trip to Guyana.
If your intent is to work or live in Guyana, you will need to obtain a letter of approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and include a copy of it in your submission.
The general way to submit your visa is through the mail. Submissions must be made to the Guyanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or, if there is a Guyanese consulate in your country, you can submit it there, too. You can apply for the visa in the Guyanese Embassy in neighboring Suriname, the processing time is 1 day.
A tourist visa costs USD$30, single entry business visa costs USD$40, a multiple entry 3 month business visa costs USD$50, and a multiple entry 1 year business visa costs USD$75.
Once in Guyana, if you want or need to extend your visa, you can do so at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown.
Cheddi Jagan International Airport
(IATA: GEO,ICAO: SYCJ) Originally called Timehri International Airport in honor of the indigenous displaced peoples of Guyana (Timehri means "Rock Painting"), it was re-named Cheddi Jagan International Airport. There are daily international flights into and out of Cheddi Jagan International Airport (airport code GEO) about 40km south of Georgetown. International flights include flights to the US, Canada, UK and The Caribbean with Caribbean Airlines(formerly BWIA). Caribbean Airlines is a state owned airline run by Trinidad & Tobago. Flights to the Caribbean with Caribbean Star and LIAT. North American Xtra Airways, which are non- stop flights, on the New York and Guyana route. Primaris Airlines, non- stop flights, flies to Guyana from JFK- New York and FLL.-Florida
(IATA: OGL, ICAO: SYGO) A small airfield located slightly closer to Georgetown (~6 mi) which is for a few private charter companies, primarily used for domestic/local flights. The following companies have a few daily flights from/to Zorg-en-Hoop Airfield in Paramaribo:
There are no international railway services to Guyana nor are there any domestic services. This is due to the fact that the entire system, the first in all of South America, was scrapped during the Burnham regime.
Guyana has road access to Suriname to the east and Brazil to the south. In Suriname, inquire in Paramaribo for mini-buses traveling to Guyana. Note that entering Guyana by water travel from Nieuw Nickerie in Suriname is illegal. (Even though there is nobody to stop you). The worst case scenario is that you could be sent back or made to pay for a visa. When traveling from Nieuw-Nickerie to Paramaribo over land you will most likely run into a military police roadblock near Totness, but these guys are really after gun and drug smugglers, not tourists. Show your European or U.S. ID card or a valid drivers license and they won't even ask for your passport to check if you have the right visa stamps. It appears they don't mind you entering the country as long as you don't cause trouble and spend your money in their country.
From Suriname, there are minibuses from Paramaribo to South Drain in western Suriname, just across the river from Guyana. The trip takes at least 3 hrs and costs ~US$15. From there, you will go through customs on the Suriname side. Then take the 11am daily ferry across the river to South Drain. The actual ferry ride takes about 30 minutes, but you'll need more time for going through customs on the Guyanese side.
The bus ride from Lethem, at the Brazilian border, to Georgetown takes about 16 hours through rainforest and southern savannah. The ride can be much longer in the rainy season. Sections of the roadway are known to become impassable in heavy rainy weather and extreme care must be taken.
Inquire about buses to Brazil at the Guybraz located on Sheriff in central west Georgetown. Buses usually leave very late at night and it is recommended that you take a taxi to the bus station as the area around there is unsafe at night. For buses from Brazil travel to Bonfim on the border and walk across the border. Find a minibus or taxi to take you to Lethem city center and inquire about buses traveling to Georgetown.
When people in Guyana refer to buses, they mean minibuses. Minibuses travel throughout Guyana and are the cheapest way to travel. Minibus fares range from G$60-G$10,000 (US$1 = G$200) depending on the length of the journey. Travel in this mode at night could be risky. It costs G$10,000 between Lethem (on the Brazil border) and Georgetown. Buses leave from Lethem in the late afternoon (various times) and stop just a couple of hours later at about 8:30 or 9pm either near Annai, or a little further along the road. Bring a hammock, or pay G$500 to rent one for the night. They resume the journey at approximately 3am the next morning, and take until 1 or 2pm that afternoon to reach Georgetown, a trip that includes a river ferry crossing, and several police (the nice kind) checkpoints. A lot of sandy, bumpy, divety road.
Many parts of Guyana are separated by large rivers. These areas can be traversed by way of river taxi. Go to the port village and ask from where the speedboats launch. Ask other passengers what the fare is while traveling as boat operators tend to seek higher fees from tourists. Do not take "specials" without first negotiating the price.
Taxis are a good way to get around in Georgetown. Fares should never be more than G$500 for travel within the city and most fares should be around G$400. All taxis license plates begin with 'H.' There are set prices for taxis for different destinations, e.g. from the airport to town costs GD$5,000, from the airport to Molson Creek is GD$24,000, etc.
One can also rent cars or 4x4s; check the local telephone listings for car rentals. Consult more than one rental agency as prices can vary. You might also be able to negotiate the prices charged to some extent. Deposits are usually required. If renting a vehicle, be sure to inquire whether your driver's license will be acceptable. Violations of traffic laws can result in much time wasted and possible trips to the local courts.
The official language is English and is spoken by all. Creole and Amerindian languages are also spoken, along with Spanish and Portuguese in various parts of the country.
Eco-Tourism is a booming industry in Guyana.
There are numerous markets and recently, shopping malls, in Guyana. Stabroek Market is a quaint market located in Georgetown. Trips to the market for tourists are best done in groups or with a local with whom you feel comfortable. Muggings are possible but not frequent.
Lots of locally made and beautiful crafts ranging from paintings; to sculpture; to leather purses, satchels, wallets; hand-painted, tie-dyed and batik(ed) fabrics, pressed flowers, sun hats; semi-precious stones and hand-crafted costume jewelry using indigenous materials, can be purchased at an esplanade outside the Central Post-Office near the National Museum in downtown Georgetown. Ask around and you'll find out about the craft and gift shoppe as well as galleries.
Main street now features a market full of local African style carvers, artists and clothes sellers, all made locally.
Guyana is also noted for its exceptional gold jewelry, which can be bought at Starbroek Market. Be careful not to draw attention to it in public.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Guyana is relatively very high, because most of the items used in daily life are imported with high transportation costs involved. Monopoly in some business sectors also causes higher profit booking and further raising of prices. For example (as of January, 2010) the approximate prices of Gasoline (Petrol) is US$5 per imperial gallon, electricity price is US$0.33 per unit. A domestic gas bottle (gas cylinder) is over US$ 20. Rent for average family accommodation is US$500 per month in safer urban locations and personal income tax, which is 33.33% (one third) of total taxable income makes the cost of living further higher.
Guyanaese food, like the entire country, is a creole fusion.
If there's a controlling cuisine, it is dishes influenced by the Indian subcontinent that have been localized. The most prominent of these are the curries, especially chicken, pork, beef, pumpkin and eggplant. Larger roti shops and those by the sea will have shrimp, crab and other seafoods. Curries are traditionally served with roti, an Indian bread, or rice. Other local dishes include pepperpot.
Chinese restaurants are also common, with noodle dishes such as chow mein and lo mein along with meat and rice dishes. The growing Brazilian population have led to several outdoor BBQ restaurants and churrascarias opening in the capital and near the border in Lethem.
Georgetown has a greater variety of food options than elsewhere in the country, which include a couple of steakhouses, upscale colonial dining, European fare and proper Indian food. In smaller towns, there may only be restaurants serving a creole menu of a few dishes, which almost always includes a curry or two and a noodle dish.
In jungle lodges, the food can be limited to tinned goods and rice, along with whatever can be caught or grown locally.
The most popular drink is dark rum. Some national favorites are XM 10 Year Old, El Dorado and X-tra Mature. El Dorado offers a 15 year old variety which has won the "Best Rum in the World" award since 1999. All are quality enough to drink neat or by themselves with the 25 year-old comparing with high-quality scotch.
Banks Beer is the national beer. It comes in a lager and a stout. Also available is the lighter Carib beer (Trinidadian), darker Mackeson's and Heineken
Guinness is brewed locally under license and is a bit sweeter than its Irish counterpart, but just as good.
Polar (Venezuelan) and Skol (Brazilian) can be found randomly throughout the country. You can also find Heineken and Corona at some bars in Georgetown.
For non-alcoholic drinks. Some of the local beverages can be found in the list below:
Quality of lodging in general is decent.
Georgetown, the capital, unsurprisingly has far and away the biggest range of options, but here there are a number of problems. None of the "luxury" options in the capital - primarily the Pegasus and the Princess, have anywhere near the polish or charm to justify the hundreds of dollars they charge. On the other end of the scale are a number of tiny guesthouses and pay-by-the-hour places with lower prices. There are some great options in Georgetown, especially at the three and four star level. Hopefully the rising Chinese and Brazilian populations in town will lead to better options here.
In the interior, there are some amazing jungle lodges and camps, including those at the ranches and the south and the community-supported ecolodges in the middle of the country. Other developing options are community supported huts in Amerindian towns on the Linden-Lethm road.
The adventurous could try to get by with a hammock and paying small fees to hang it up in a benab. This isn't an option in Georgetown and will involve some planning ahead, lots of bug spray and wiles to accomplish.
Some small towns have basic guesthouses, which may or may not have fans, mosquito nets or other amenities.
The official language of Guyana is English, so there won't be a language barrier problem with native speakers. That said, most people also speak Creole, which is difficult for native English speakers to understand sometimes, particularly the dialect spoken in the interior.
There is a limited number of education/learning opportunities in the country, mainly on the coast.
Higher education is very expensive for locals, limiting aspirations. Getting a legal education for 5 years is equivalent to 25,000 pounds per year, when the average wage is 1500 pounds per year, or 2500 dollars US. There is only one university, The University of Guyana, with two campuses at Tain and Turkeyen. 89% of all university graduates emigrate because of the cost of living and the low wages, leaving a generally badly educated population.
Levels of literacy have gone down by 10% since 1990, reflecting the crisis in education, both higher and lower.
There are opportunities for volunteer and paid teachers throughout the country. Pay, if there is any, will be low.
Guyana has a fair number of expatriates (Most of them are from developing or poor countries) working in different sectors across the country. Persons who are not Guyanese, have to get a work permit after employment is confirmed. Caribbean citizens might have some exemptions under the CSME scheme. There are a number of volunteer organizations like Project Trust, Peace Corps, VSO and CESO working in Guyana. Some people have come on short stints to volunteer with churches, and other non-governmental organizations. It is the responsibility of the host organizations (or employer) to arrange necessary travel/work permits from the concerned Ministry for prospective employee.
Salary in Guyana is normally paid in Guyanese Dollor (GYD), which is the local currency. The present exchange rate is 206 GYD for 1 USD (United States dollar). Income Tax (which is one third of total taxable income,minus $50,000.00 dollars GY per month) is usually deducted by employer. The overall cost of living is relatively very high, making an expatriate employee's life very difficult in Guyana.
Georgetown is notorious for petty street crime. Do not walk alone at night, or even in the day, unless you know the area well. Areas such as the Tiger Bay area east of Main Street and the entire southeastern part of the city including Albouystown and Ruimveldt are traditional high crime areas but one can be relatively safe in groups and with native escorts. Police are unlikely to help you unless they see the crime in action. Be sensible about wearing jewelry. Exercise common sense.
The interior regions with the breath-taking waterfalls and the beautiful rainforests and mountains are perfectly safe. Many rural areas around the country are filled with a friendly atmosphere and are perfectly safe. Crime is rarely directed at tourists, so don't feel intimidated. Just be sensible about the company you keep, where you go and how you behave.
Male homosexuality is illegal in Guyana and carries a sentence of life in prison. However, no one has been charged under the laws. Cross-dressing is also a criminal offence and has been prosecuted in court.
One organization SASOD  organizes some events to promote anti-homophobic work. There is no local gay "scene" as most homosexuals remain rather closeted. Private gatherings are known to occur to which one must be invited. Public displays of affection among gay people are frowned upon and can make you the target of overt discrimination, attacks and taunts.
Discussions of the current affairs of ethnic relations between the two major races, politics and the socio-economic issues in the country ought to be undertaken with much tact and much patience. Be aware that these types of discourses can sometimes lead to very heated and intense debate, and possibly something much worse. Guyanese are generally very open to discussing most issues, but as an outsider, you could be seen as a part of the problem, so guard your tongue.
Do not drink the tap water, unless you want to spend a great part of your vacation in the toilet! Bottled water is readily available in a variety of brands.
Before traveling to Guyana, it is a good idea to receive anti-malarial medications from your health care provider, as malaria is widespread throughout most of the country.
Yellow fever is endemic to this area; monkeys are a reservoir, but you can catch it even in cities. Be sure to get immunized before you leave, and take mosquito repellent with you. Also be careful of malaria and dengue fever in the interior.
Although not required, it is recommended that traveler's receive vaccination against Typhoid fever within 2-4 weeks prior to arriving in Guyana.
The country's largest hospital is the Georgetown Public Hospital and is in the capital. Facilities here are basic, even though it is a tertiary referral center. Disposal of 'sharps' (needles, etc.) is improving but needs to get better, given the country's growing AIDS/HIV prevalence, currently at 2.5% of adults or 1 in 40. Practice safe sex as well.
You are better off using the private facilities at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital near the US Embassy or the Medical Arts Centre on Thomas Street. While not first rate, these facilities are far superior to GPH and practices basic hygienic standards. Rooms are not overcrowded. There are also other private hospitals
Avoid the sun between 1PM and 3PM. It tends to be at its hottest during those hours. Wear sunscreen.
For the latest in traveler's health information pertaining to Guyana, including advisories and recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention destination Guyana website .
Guyanese people do not wear shoes in their homes and expect visitors to do the same.
Brazil - Access to Brazil is via Lethem. There are Interserv buses - get the schedule at the Interserv Bus Office located on Charlotte Street in downtown Georgetown. The buses typically leave late at night. Another option are minibuses that ply the Georgetown-Lethem road, although the lack of paved road beyond Linden means that the trip will probably need to be broken up overnight.
Suriname is reachable via minibuses & a ferry, or by a short flights from Cheddi Jagan Temeri International airport or Ogle airport.
Venezuela There is a walkable track from Venezuela from Kamarang if you walk with enough food, and there are boats that go up the Cuyuni past Ankoko Island and Ekiteringbang if you ask the petrol dealers in Bartica.