Guyana literally means “the land of many rivers” and they couldn’t have found a more apt name. About the size of Britain, Guyana is blessed with rivers, waterfalls, savannas highlands and rain forests.
English-speaking, with cricket and calypso music, it's culturally connected to the Caribbean region. Its capital, Georgetown, is known for British colonial architecture, including the tall painted-timber St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. The interior of the country is more Amazonian, with its Amerindian communities and unparalleled wildlife-viewing opportunities tucked quietly away from the capital’s noise and bustle.
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GUYANA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Georgetown
- Currency: Guyanese dollar (GYD)
- Area: total: 214,970 km2
- Population: 779 004 (2018)
- Language: English, Amerindian dialects, Creole,
- Religion: Christian 50%, Hindu 35%, Muslim 10%, other 5%
- Electricity: 110-240V/60Hz (USA plug)
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GUYANA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 23 February, Republic Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 5 May, Arrival Day
- 26 May, Independence Day
- 1st Monday in July, CARICOM Day
- 1st Monday in August, Emancipation Day
- 26 December, Boxing Day
Also, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Holi, Deepavali (Diwali), Maulid an-Nabi, and Eid al-Adha.
FESTIVALS IN GUYANA
- Lethem Rodeo - (March) In Lethem, Easter weekend means good fun at the rodeo. Some 10,000 visitors come to watch the blend of Wild West meets indigenous traditions. There’s roping, saddle- and bareback riding (broncos, bulls) and a beauty pageant
BEST TIME TO VISIT GUYANA
Guyana experiences two ‘wet’ seasons; most of the country receives 250‐450 mm of rain per month between May and July, and the second wet season affects mainly the northern, coastal regions which receive around 150‐300 mm per month in November to January. Mean temperature in Guyana is 25‐27.5°C throughout the year in most regions except the upland regions in the west, where mean temperature is 20‐23°C.
- Mid-November to mid-January - Coastal rainy season and the height of tourism for expat Guyanese.
- May to August - Interior and a second coastal rainy season. Road travel becomes difficult.
- Late December - ‘Cashew rains’ in the interior – light showers often provide a welcome temperature drop.
GUYANA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Mean temperature in Guyana is 25‐27.5°C throughout the year in most regions except the upland regions in the west, where mean temperature is 20‐23°C. Guyana experiences two ‘wet’ seasons; most of the country receives 250‐450 mm per month between May and July, and the second wet season affects mainly the northern, coastal regions which receive around 150‐300 mm per month in November to January. El Niño episodes lead to dry conditions throughout the year, and bring warmer temperatures between June and August.
GUYANA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN GUYANA
HIKING & CYCLING IN GUYANA
The Best Time For Hiking in Guyana is during the dry months from February to April and again from September to November. The biggest challenge when hiking in Guyana is the heat, which is unavoidable!
BEACH OPTIONS IN GUYANA
The weather is most pleasant in Guyana in the months of February, March, April and September, October and November. There are not many beaches along the coast, with the exception of Shell Beach and 63 Beach Berbice, but there are a few lovely river beaches along the Essequibo River such as Bartica Beach, Saxacalli Beach and Hamburg Beach. Each year between March and August, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs at Shell Beach.
SURFING IN GUYANA
KITESURF IN GUYANA
It is possible to kitesurf at the Essequibo River Mouth in Guyana, but the wind is not consistently very strong, thus not making it a particularly popular kitesurfing destination. The best months are January to April and October to December.
For more details on kite surfing in Guyana expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN GUYANA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
GUYANA TRAVEL COSTS
Guyana can be VERY expensive to travel and can not be considered a budget destination. This has a lot to do with the fact that it's tourist industry is poorly developed as well as the sheer remoteness of locations. Also a lot of the existing tourist infrastructure is entirely set up to cater for the uber wealthy at exclusive lodges. Private transport options are terribly expensive and the only way to make some savings is by travelling with others - just make sure to book accommodation in advance if you are in a large group as often there just wont be adequate options available.
Overall, it's a bit of a mixed bag, where food, accommodation and drinks are not 'too' expensive, tours and trips can really crank up your budget. Especially compared to other destinations in South America.
Beer GYD 600 (US$ 3)
Standard meal of chicken, rice and salad GYD 1100 (US$ 5). Eating local, fresh food out is relatively cheap and you can eat at a local place for around US$ 5-7 dollars with a small drink.
Taxi cost for 20 minute ride US$ 10. Or short 5 minute rides US$ 2.
Trip to Shell Beach (2-day stay and turtle-spotting, including a 1-hour small aircraft flight, transfers via taxi and boat, accommodation and food) US$ 450 per person.
Kaieteur Falls Trip – US$150 (A 4-hour trip, 2 hours flight time return and 2 hours at the falls.) If you make it there on a one-way trip, the government lodge at the falls charge US$ 15 to string up a hammock and you need to take everything you need with you.
Unless you sleep in a hammock you will find that even a basic guesthouse in Georgetown will start at US$ 40 and if you want a decent hotel you should budget at least US$ 120 and up! Once you make your way to Rupunini most lodges offer all inclusive rates ranging from US$ 130 up.
GUYANA TRAVEL TIPS
Base yourself in the Africa-like savanna of North Rupununi. You can stay in a rustic hut on a jungle island and visit indigenous villages, and go forest trekking, fishing and caiman-spotting.
Don’t miss Kaieteur Falls, the country’s undoubted highlight, and consider staying overnight there; a real adventure that allows you to have this magical place all to yourself once all the groups have departed.
Make sure to pack a travel hammock as this is how a lot of people in Guyana sleep and you will save a bundle by being able to string it up where you can.
BUS / MINIBUS
Economical, cramped and dangerously driven minibuses to destinations along the coast depart from Stabroek Market and have no fixed schedules (they leave when full). Even getting aboard them can be a harrowing experience as six touts harass you into choosing theirs. To travel into the interior by bus, you’re limited to overnight services to Lethem, which run the entire way along the country’s main road, a dirt track through the jungle. The long, loud, bumpy, dusty journey is not for the fainthearted and involves stopping to sleep at a hammock camp for a few hours, a 6am ferry at the Kurukupari Crossing and several police checkpoints; bring warm clothes, your passport and patience. The buses stop along the main road on demand and pick up as long as they have empty seats (which they often do not – ask your lodging to call and reserve a spot ahead of time for any stops besides Lethem and Georgetown).
With bad roads full of farm animals and crazy drivers, few people decide to drive themselves in Guyana. If you do decide to drive you will need a Driving Permit, available for free at Cheddi Jagan International Airport arrivals terminal.
If you’re not in a group, getting around by motorcycle is a much cheaper option. This entails finding a local willing to take you (lodges will help with this), having light enough luggage to strap on the back of a motorbike or wear on your back, and having a resilient posterior (expect extremely bumpy rides).
For simplicity and safety, taxis are the way to get around central Georgetown; trips around the center cost GYD300 to GYD500 or so, even at night. Have your hotel call a reliable cab company. If you need to flag down a taxi, use only registered ones painted yellow (all registered taxi license plates start with a ‘H’) and try to find ones with a company logo on the side.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF GUYANA
- Kaieteur Falls - Stand on the ledge of the world’s highest single-drop fall.
- Rupununi Savanna - Paddle past populations of giant river otters in these wildlife-rich grasslands.
- Dadanawa Ranch - Goon a cattle drive with vaqueros (cowboys) at this historic ranch.
- Iwokrama Rainforest - Watch birds and track animals deep in the virgin rainforests of this reserve.
- Shell Beach - Pass through rice-farming villages and cross rivers teeming with wildlife en route to Guyana’s best beach.
- Rewa Eco-Lodge - Catch a glimpse of the giant arapaima, the planet’s biggest freshwater scaled fish, at this remote river lodge.
- Saddle Mountain - Get on a horse search for giant anteaters at this beautiful corner of the South Rupununi.
Stay in Georgetown for a night then take a day trip by plane to the scenic Kaieteur Falls. From there, fly or travel overland into the interior to stay in the Amerindian village of Surama for two nights. Next take road and river to either Caiman House, to help with caiman research, or Lethem, from where you can explore the nearby mountains, waterfalls and villages. On your final day, fly back to Georgetown from Lethem, enjoying incredible views of the rainforest.
Next to where the Demerara River pours into the Atlantic, Georgetown is by far Guyana’s biggest city and a place all visitors will spend at least some of their time. With its dilapidated architecture, unkempt parks and vibrant street life, Georgetown has a laid-back feel and considerable charm in parts, even if there’s little to see beyond a smattering of museums, churches and colonial curiosities. Home today to the Caricom economic community, and thus a kind of Brussels of the Caribbean, Georgetown is no backwater, and its restaurants and nightlife reflect that, lending a distinctly cosmopolitan edge to the general chaos of a modern Guyanese city. Georgetown can be explored comfortably in a couple of days, with several interesting museums and attractive parks to explore. The best 19th-century buildings are along Main St and especially along Ave of the Republic, just east of the Demerara River.
KAIETEUR NATIONAL PARK
The 627-sq-km Kaieteur National Park is perhaps Guyana’s greatest drawcard, with the magnificent Kaieteur Falls its single biggest attraction, not to mention a national icon. As well as the stunning falls, the park is home to a tiny population of Amerindians and the endless biodiversity of the Guiana Shield, a massive geological formation covered in pristine rainforest, rushing rivers and vast savanna. This is the reason you came to Guyana.
The Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve is one of the most pristine rainforests left in the world. Its secluded location allows for a complete immersion in the rainforest experience. It is a unique living laboratory for tropical forest management and socioeconomic development for Amerindians. Overnight buses between Georgetown and Lethem go through the rainforest reserve, and so one of the lodges makes for an excellent stopover to break up the journey.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
The North Rupununi savannas are Africa like plains scattered with Amerindian villages, small islands of jungle and an exceptional diversity of wildlife. Rivers full of caimans and the world’s largest water lilies (Victoria amazonica) cut through plains of golden grasses and termite mounds, and a mind-boggling array of birds fly across the sky. In the background the Pakaraima Mountains loom, more verdant hillsides than vast peaks, but which nonetheless give the landscape a touch of drama. The heart of the North Rupununi is the village of Annai, a crossroads for Amerindian peoples with a few sleeping options and an airstrip.
South Rupununi is the wildest, most remote and least developed part of the vast Rupununi grasslands, and any trip here is a guaranteed adventure. Setting out under a vast sky along red dirt tracks through the savanna, with distant hills and bluish mountains in the distance, is an unforgettable experience. You’ll meet dozens of interesting local characters out here, from Amerindian village chiefs to authentic cowboys who make their living on the vast cattle ranches that still dot the landscape. Many of these have now turned to tourism and staying on one of these ranches is bound to be a highlight of your time in Guyana.
Guyana’s little-visited Northwest Coast, which begins on the western bank of the Demerara River across the water from Georgetown and extends beyond the Essequibo River all the way to the border with Venezuela, has a number of interesting sights, wildlife-watching opportunities and the odd natural wonder to keep you busy should you head out this way. Beyond the Essequibo River, this is wild and largely unpopulated land with no roads or infrastructure, so it’s best to travel with an experienced travel agency rather than attempt to strike out alone.
- Near Bartica, the Essequibo River meets the Mazaruni River and Marshall Falls, a series of rapids and jungle waterfall, reached via a hike through the rainforest.
- Heading west from the Essequibo, a coastal road passes quaint rice-mill and farming villages to the town of Charity, about 50km away.
- You will need a boat to go further from Charity – through bird-filled rivers, mangrove swamps and savannas – to Shell Beach, which extends for about 140km along the coast toward the Venezuelan border and is a nesting site for four of Guyana’s eight sea-turtle species.
- Waini Point, near the town of Mabaruma, is a popular sighting area for the scarlet ibis.
WHAT TO PACK FOR GUYANA
Take as little as possible because you’re going to have to carry it everywhere. Pack your bag once and then repack it with a third less stuff. Repeat until your pack is small enough to fit into the aircraft’s overhead locker. The smaller your pack the easier it will be to climb on and off public transportation (which doesn’t always come to a complete stop), the easier it will be to walk if taxi drivers are asking for too much money, and you’ll look like less of a target for touts and hustlers.
In general, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes will be the most comfortable options. Bring a jacket for cool highland temperatures and over-air-conditioned buses. Pants and long-sleeve shirts are handy insect protection for jungle hikes.
Rain gear (jacket, dry pack for electronics)
Hat (for sun and rain)
Good walking shoes
Flip-flops (for beaches and dodgy showers)
Unlocked GSM cell phone
Refillable water bottle & water filter
Tissues (for public toilets)
WHAT TO EAT IN GUYANA
The cuisine of Guyana has been greatly influenced by both its colonial history and its ethnic populations. As a result, the food of Guyana is incredibly diverse taking elements from Creole, East Indian, African, Portuguese, Amerindian, Chinese and European cuisines. Root vegetables like cassava and sweet potatoes are staples of the country’s diet. Seafood is also a major part of Guyanese cuisine as are fresh fruits. Green seasoning, a combination of herbs, onions, hot peppers and garlic are used to flavour many of Guyana’s dishes.
- Pepperpot - Stewed meat flavored with cinnamon and cassareep.
- Cook up rice - A one-pot meal, this is a rice based dish with beans or peas. Chicken is sometimes added, while other versions include fish or salted beef tripe.
- El Dorado rum - Considered one of the world’s best rums.
- Roti - Soft Indian flatbread.
- Cow heel soup - A soup made with split peas, vegetables, dumplings and cow heels.
- Metemgee - A dumpling dish that is made from cornflour, yams, plantains, eddos root and cassava that is cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with grated coconut.
LGBTQ IN GUYANA
Guyana is the only country in South America, and the only country in the Americas outside the Caribbean, where homosexual acts are still illegal and penalties are severe, with life sentences still potentially possible. Guyanese society tends to view homosexuality, transgender and non-binary people negatively, though attitudes are slowly changing and becoming more accepting. LGBTQ visitors to Guyana should be discreet, but not discouraged from visiting the country, though requesting a double room might be problematic in some hotels.
WHERE TO STAY IN GUYANA
There are two basic lodges near Kaieteur Falls, both of which need to be booked in advance through the National Parks Commission in Georgetown. You’ll need to bring your own hammock and bedding, but spending the night can be an incredible experience, and one that allows you to have the falls and the surrounding rainforest all to yourself.
Near the center of Iwokrama rainforest you will find the Iwokrama River Lodge (which offers multiple accommodation options) and the Atta Rainforest Lodge which is an easy walk away from their canopy walkway.