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 rolling highlands; low coastal plain; savanna in south
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 to name a few, 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 (read Guyana History. 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.
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 only 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.
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.
The Timehri international airport (Timehri means "Rock Painting") named in honor of the indigineous displaced peoples of Guyana was renamed Cheddi Jagan International Airport. There are daily international flights into and out of Cheddi Jagan International Airport 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 Airlines and 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
Delta Airlines will start weekly service to Guyana from JFK to Jagan starting in June 2008.
There are no international railway services to Guyana.
Guyana has road access to Suriname to the East and Brazil to the south. In Suriname enquire 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 travelling 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 ID card or a valid drivers licence 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. Buses leave Georgetown for the Surinamese border daily. Ask at the bus park near Stabroek Market.
The bus ride from Georgetown to Lethem, at the Brazilian border takes about 10 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 Interserv Bus Office located on Charlotte Street in downtown 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.
There are no road links between Venezuela and Guyana. Travel to Venezuela may be done by air via Trinidad or overland through Roraima State in Brazil.
Minibuses travel throughout Guyana and are the cheapest way to travel. Minibus fares range from $60 GYD - $1,000GYD ($1 USD =$ 200 GYD) depending on the length of the journey. Travel in this mode at night could be risky.
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 $2.50 (Guyanese $500) for travel within the city and most fares should be around GD$400. All taxis license plates begin with 'H.'
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 enquire 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.
There are set prices for taxis for different destinations, e.g. from the airport to town costs GD$4000, from the airport to Moleson Creek is GD$24,000, etc...
Eco-Tourism is a booming industry in Guyana.
With an exchange rate of ~200 Guyana Dollars per US Dollar, Guyana's has great shopping with amazing bargains. 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. It is the largest in Georgetown.
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.
Guyana is also noted for its exceptional gold jewelry.
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 litre, 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.
There are many fast foods and restaurants around Georgetown that one can go to eat. They serve Indian cusines like duck curry, chicken curry and many other things to try. There exists a large Hindu community in Guyana, most of whom do not eat beef because cows are considered holy in Hinduism.
The most popular national drink is Caribbean-style dark rum. Some national favorites are XM "10" Year OLD, produced by local beverage giant BANKS DIH Limited, and El Dorado and X-tra Mature which both offer 5, 10, 12 and 25 year varieties. El Dorado also offers a 15 year old variety which has won the "Best Rum in the World" award since 1999. Mix the cheaper ones with Coke or coconut water if you please. All are quality enough to drink neat or by themselves with the 25 year-olds comparing with high-quality scotch.
Banks Beer produced by local beverage giant Banks DIH Limited is the National beer. It comes in a lager and a stout (Milk Stout)The beverage giant also bottles and distributes Heineken Beer and Guiness Stout under license. Also available are the lighter Carib (Trinidad and Tobago) and darker Mackeson's. 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 posher bars in Georgetown.
There are several hotels in Guyana, all are equipped with great amenities. There are some which are suitable for budget travel
Education is free in Guyana. The public school system is under a lot of criticism. There are some private schools. There is one University, with two campuses (Tain and Turkeyen), the University of Guyana . Some of the teachers in Guyana are from overseas, and manage to use their time here to travel around while the job gives an opportunity to meet people.
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) 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, in particular, Albouystown and Ruimveldt are traditionally known as high crime areas but one can be relatively safe if going through these areas in groups and with native escorts. Venturing into the covered area of the Stabroek Market can pose some dangers but if you need to visit it then do so with a group or with Guyanese whom you know well and with whom you feel comfortable. Police are unlikely to help you unless they see the crime in action. Be sensible about wearing jewelry. Even cosmetic jewelry which is gaudy is likely to attract the wrong attention.
It is advised to exercise common sense.
You might have heard of or read about the village Buxton. Visits to Buxton ought to be brokered carefully with someone who knows the area well and who is well accepted in the village. If your visit to this village is perceived to be anything other than casual then there could be unwarranted problems. There are a lot of gangs and drug dealers there. Many Indo-Guyanese villages such as Cane Grove, Annadale, and lusignan, are notorious for violence, petty crimes, racism and kidnappings. It is advisable for tourists or people who are not of Indo-Guyanese origin travelling through these areas should also be accompanied by someone known in these areas.
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. There is a lot of prostitution that happens in Georgetown.
Homosexuality is illegal in Guyana and carries a sentence of life in prison. However, no one has been charged under the laws. 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. Homosexuals who are openly gay are generally left alone providing they are circumspect about their behavior. Public displays of affection among gay people are frowned upon and can make you the target of overt discrimination, attacks and taunts. There are no hotels, resorts or bars anywhere in the country which cater exclusively to gays and lesbian visitors or locals for that matter. Homophobia is sustained primarily through the influx of music which contains homophobic messages in their lyrics. The gay traveler is wise to be very cautious and conservative in his/her behaviour.
It is however worthy to note of late, that homosexuality is more readily displayed and accepted in the Afro-Guyanese communities. Many gays openly display their lifestyle with little apprehension, or fear of persecution.
The police response varies depending on the location and time of the crime. Some tourists have reported positive responses.
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 - as absurd as that sounds - so guard your tongue.
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 centre. Disposal of 'sharps' (needles, etc.) is improving but needs to get better, given country's growing 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
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.
Do not drink the tap water, unless you want to spend a great part of you vacation in the toilet! Bottled water is readily available in a variety of brands.
Be vigilant to avoid criminals.
Avoid walking around with large sums of cash, even in the local currency.
Avoid the sun between 1PM and 3PM. It tends to be at its hottest during those hours. Wear sunscreen.