A rainbow over Kaieteur Falls, Guyana.

Guyana Travel Guide

Date of visit: January 2015 &  October 2015

Introduction

Guyana is the fourth-smallest country in South America (after Uruguay, Suriname and French Guiana). It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Suriname to the east and Venezuela to the west. It’s capital and largest city is Georgetown.

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History

Originally inhabited by several indigenous groups, Guyana was settled by the Dutch before coming under British control in the late 18th century. It was governed as the plantation economy of British Guiana until independence in 1966.

The legacy of British rule is reflected in the country’s diverse population, which includes Indian, African, Chinese, Portuguese, Amerindian, and European groups.

Guyana also has the distinction of being the only South American nation in which English is the official language. The majority of the population, however, speak Guyanese Creole, an English-based creole language with slight Dutch, Arawakan and Caribbean influences.

Guyana is called the ‘Bread Basket’ of the Caribbean. Major crops include rice, sugar, coffee, cocoa, coconuts, edible oils, copra, fruit, vegetables, and tobacco. Livestock include cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens.

In addition to being part of the Anglophone Caribbean, Guyana is one of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island in the West Indies.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member, is headquartered in Georgetown.

Guyana Travel Guide: Fashion Parade in Georgetown

Fashion Parade in Georgetown

Guyana or Guiana

Map of the Guyana Shield. Source: Wikpedia

Map of the Guyana Shield. Source: Wikpedia

‘Guyana’ is derived from an Amerindian language and means “land of many waters”. The region comprised the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River.

In colonial times, there were five Guiana’s, these were (in geographical order along the coast):

  • Spanish Guiana – now the Guayana region of Venezuela
  • British Guiana – now the sovereign nation of Guyana
  • Dutch Guiana – now the sovereign nation of Suriname
  • French Guiana – now a French department known in French as ‘Guyane’
  • Portuguese Guiana – now the Brazilian state of Amapa

When Guyana declared independence, it changed its name from British Guiana to Guyana.

An historical map showing the five Guyanas.

An historical map showing the five Guyanas.

Georgetown

Georgetown is Guyana’s largest city (population: 250,000) and its capital. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the mouth of the Demerara River and it was nicknamed ‘Garden City of the Caribbean’.

Through the years, Georgetown has been governed by the Dutch, the French, the Dutch again and finally the English until independence.

Georgetown was named in 1812 in honour of King George III.

The city is located on a flat coastal plain. The elevation of the land is one metre below the high tide level. This low elevation is protected by a retaining wall known as the seawall (originally constructed by the Dutch) to keep the ocean out and an innovative network of canals with kokers to drain the city of excess water.

Most of the sites of interest are conveniently located in the compact city centre and can be seen on foot within a day. The streets of the city are arranged on a grid format so orientation is easy. The best way to explore the city is to meander the tree-lined streets, exploring the beautiful wooden colonial buildings and churches.

Christ Church in Georgetown, Guyana.

Christ Church in Georgetown, Guyana.

The centre of the city is dominated by the large Stabroek Market (1792) containing the prominent cast-iron clock tower. Stabroek was the name the Dutch gave to the city the 2nd time they took control. The market is interesting but you should be extra vigilant with your personal belongings here. Likewise in the immediate neighbourhood where the streets are chaotic, crowded, rough and edgy.

The iconic wrought-iron clock tower of Stabroek Market in Georgetown.

The iconic wrought-iron clock tower of Stabroek Market in Georgetown.

For the best coffee in town (not to mention great food and good WiFi), you can not beat Oasis cafe. It’s located downtown on Carmichael street.

Kaieteur Falls

The majestic and awe-inspiring, Kaieteur Falls - a truly spectacular sight.

The majestic and awe-inspiring, Kaieteur Falls – a truly spectacular sight.

If there is one ‘must see’ attraction in Guyana then without a doubt it is the majestic and incredible Kaieteur falls. This is a site that must be seen to be believed and there is no better way of approaching it than from the air.

The falls are not accessible by road so they have largely escaped commercialism and development. On the day I visited there were just 8 other visitors – my fellow passengers on the Air Services flight.

Kaieteur Falls is the world's widest single drop waterfall. The falls plunge 226 metres in a single drop.

Kaieteur Falls is the world’s widest single drop waterfall. The falls plunge 226 metres in a single drop.

The falls are located in the middle of a huge, remote forest. It is four times higher than Niagara Falls and about twice the height of Victoria Falls. It is a very impressive single drop waterfall.

Depending on the season, Kaieteur falls vary in width from 76 metres (250 ft) to 122 metres (400 ft).

Depending on the season, Kaieteur falls vary in width from 76 metres (250 ft) to 122 metres (400 ft).

The 6 km trail approaching the falls is home to a variety of birds, and the minuscule golden poison frog, which produces a potentially fatal poison. The frogs live inside the leaves of the Giant Tank Bromeliads, which act as natural cisterns.

Giant-tank Bromeliads provide the perfect habitat for the Golden poison frog.

Giant-tank Bromeliads provide the perfect habitat for the Golden poison frog.

 

A Golden poison frog, a member of the Poison Dart Frog family at Kaieteur Falls.

A Golden poison frog, a member of the Poison Dart Frog family at Kaieteur Falls.

The golden poison frog’s skin is densely coated in an alkaloid toxin, one of a number of poisons common to dart frogs. This poison prevents its victim’s nerves from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction. This can lead to heart failure or fibrillation. Some native people use this poison to hunt by coating darts with the frog’s poison.

A Golden poison frog inside a Giant-tank Bromeliads at Kaieteur falls.

A Golden poison frog inside a Giant-tank Bromeliads at Kaieteur falls.

Getting There

You can reach the falls either by boat along the lower reaches of the Potaro river, or the easy – and most popular way – by one hour flight in a small aircraft from Georgetown.

Flights from Ogle Airport are currently offered by Air Services Limited. Refer to their website for schedule and pricing.

Flights leave Georgetown at 1 pm and return at 5 pm. Included in the cost is a two-hour guided nature walk conducted by a local Amerindian guide.

There are two ways to purchase your ticket:

Local way: book direct with the airline for $145.

Tourist way: book with your hotel or a downtown travel agent and pay about $190. This includes return airport transfers plus lunch at the airport.

Iwokrama Forest

A Parrot Snake at Iwokrama Forest.

A Parrot Snake at Iwokrama Forest.

Covering 3710 square kilometres of central Guyana, the Iwokrama Forest is one of the four last pristine tropical forests in the world.

Access to the forest is either via private vehicle or one of the micro buses running from Georgetown to Lethem.

A curious Spider Monkey nearby the Atta Lodge in the heart of the Iwokrama Forest.

A curious Spider Monkey nearby the Atta Lodge in the heart of the Iwokrama Forest.

I stayed at Atta Lodge, which is located at the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, Guyana’s only canopy walk. The walkway is suspended 30 m above the forest floor and provides an excellent viewing platform for birds, primates etc.

All lodge reservations plus transport arrangements must be booked and paid for in advance in Georgetown. I made my arrangements through Wilderness Explorers.

The 'highway' connecting Guyana and Brazil passes through the Iwokrama forest

The ‘highway’ connecting Guyana and Brazil passes through the Iwokrama Forest

Note: There are no transport options out here unless you hire an (expensive) private 4WD. You could try your luck hitching a ride on the Georgetown – Lethem road

Lethem

Lethem lies on the Takutu River, which forms the border with Brazil, opposite the Brazilian town of Bonfim. It’s a sleepy transit town. If you get stuck here there are a couple of hotel options.

For more on crossing the border, see the ‘Getting There‘ section below.

Accommodation

Like the other countries in the Guiana’s, accommodation in Guyana is limited. It’s best to book in advance using an online agent such as booking.com

In Georgetown I have stayed at Herdmanston Lodge, which is a well known favourite and the more centrally located Halito Hotel & Residence (my preference).

Eating Out

Food in Guyana is influenced by the different ethnic groups and is typical of other Anglo Caribbean countries. Curry and Chinese are popular.

Visa Requirements

Some nationalities require visas for Guyana – check your visa requirements prior to arrival.

Getting There

By Air

International flights arrive at Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The airport is located 41 kilometres (25 mi) south of Guyana’s capital, Georgetown.

The following airlines provide international flights to Timehri:

Ogle International Airport is primarily used for domestic flights and is located on the Atlantic Ocean coast 10 km from Georgetown. Flights to Kaieteur Falls depart from this airport.

The following airlines provide international flights to Ogle:

  • LIAT – flies to/from Barbados
  • Trans Guyana Airways – flies to/from Paramaribo (Zorg en Hoop) plus domestic destinations in Guyana.

From either airport you can get downtown via taxi.

By Road/ River

To/ From Suriname

The ferry service between Guyana (Molson Creek – Corentyne) and Suriname (South Drain) is operated by the Canawaima Ferry Company.

Services are either once a day or twice a day in each direction, depending on season. There is usually a ferry from Guyana at 1 pm.

South Drain is located 32 km south of Nieuw Nickerie on a fast paved road.

On either side you will find taxis and shared buses to transport you to Georgetown (3 hours), Paramaribo (5 hours) or Nieuw Nickerie (30 mins). Roads are paved and in excellent condition on both sides, although the driving is erratic and risky.

Most nationalities require either a tourist card or a visa for Suriname – check your requirements prior to arrival.

To/ From Brazil

The border between Brazil and Guyana is the bridge over the Takutu river between the Brazilian town of Bonfim and the Guyanese town of Lethem. The bridge includes a neat lane-changing design to get you from the left side of the road onto the right side.

Formalities are conducted on the respective sides of the river. There are local taxis, which will ferry you between the two posts.

On the Brazilian side you have shared taxis or buses which will take you to the city of Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state.

On the Guyanese side you have micro buses that will transport you to Georgetown (20 hours) via the Iwokrama Rain forest (6 hours).

Note: Do not cross the border into Brazil with Guyanese dollars – they are impossible to change outside of Guyana.

Some nationalities require visas for Brazil – check your visa requirements prior to arrival.

Getting Around

There are frequent mini buses connecting all of the main centres in Guyana. Most buses from Georgetown commence their journey on the crowded, chaotic streets outside Stabroek market.

All taxis are registered under the term “Hackney Carriage” and carry the letter H at the beginning of their number plates. You can flag these in the street.

 

Further Reading

Other travel reports from the region include:

Safe Travels!

Darren

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Author: Darren McLean

Owner of taste2travel.com – an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer and adventurer.

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Guyana Travel Guide
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Guyana Travel Guide
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A Guyana Travel Guide by Darren McLean - covering history, sights, accommodation, restaurants, visa requirements, getting there & around.
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I absolutely love your review on Guyana. I do hope that you visit us again.Your website is very informative and educational.
    Continue to write and share your experiences !

    • Thank you for your kind words Valisha.

      Guyana is a fascinating destination and I have become a big fan. Can not wait for my next adventure there.

  • útil información y hermosas fotos! la naturaleza es fascinantemente perfecta y nos invita a la introspección y al encuentro con uno mismo.
    felicitaciones por emprender este blog! sigue adelante!

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