Suriname is a small country on the north-eastern coast of South America. It's defined by vast swaths of tropical rainforest, Dutch colonial architecture and a melting-pot culture. Suriname is a warm, dense convergence of rivers that thumps with the lively rhythm of ethnic diversity.
Dutch is still taught in schools here and when you drive by the streets the houses have Dutch looking exteriors. It is not unusual to see monkeys swinging on the trees and boa constrictors crossing the well-travelled roads in Suriname where over eighty percent of the land is rainforests and where the Amazonian interior is pristine and sparsely inhabited.
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SURINAME QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Paramaribo
- Currency: Surinamese Dollar(SRD)
- Area: total: 163,270 km2
- Population: 575 991 (2018)
- Language: Dutch (official), English (widely spoken)
- Religion: Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2%
- Electricity: 110-127V/60HZ (Europe & USA plug)
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SURINAME PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1 January, New Year’s Day
- 25 February, Day of Liberation and Innovation
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 1 July, Liberation Day (Abolition of Slavery Day)
- 1 August, Indigenous Peoples Day
- 10 October, Maroons Day
- 25 November, Independence Day
- 25–26 December, Christmas
Also, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Easter, Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Good Friday
FESTIVALS IN SURINAME
BEST TIME TO VISIT SURINAME
Suriname experiences two wet seasons:
- Major wet season between May and July when most of the country receives 250-400 mm per month
- Minor wet season from November to January which brings around 150-200 mm of rainfall per month.
Suriname also experiences two dry seasons:
- Short dry season from February to April with mean monthly rainfall of 100 mm.
- Long dry season from August to December with less than 100 mm of rainfall per month.
Suriname’s geographical location just 2-6° north of the equator gives it a warm and moist tropical climate. Mean temperature is 25-27.5°C throughout the year in the north, and a little cooler, at around 23-25°C, in the southern regions. The average daily temperature can vary from 26°C in January to 31°C in October. Suriname is south of the hurricane belt and therefore evades this threat.
February to April - The first dry season is slightly cooler than the second, and is the best time to visit.
August to November - The second dry season is busier and hotter than the first.
December to January - Paramaribo is known for its explosive New Year’s Eve celebrations.
SURINAME WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Suriname’s geographical location just 2-6° north of the equator gives it a warm and moist tropical climate. Mean temperature is 25-27.5°C throughout the year in the north, and a little cooler, at around 23-25°C, in the southern regions. The average daily temperature can vary from 26°C in January to 31°C in October. Inter-annual variations in climate are caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño episodes bring dry conditions throughout the year, and bring warmer temperatures between June and August, while La Niña episodes bring wetter conditions throughout the year and cooler temperatures between June and August. The observed mean in relative humidity is 81%. Average annual rainfall is 2,200 mm; however, localized rainfall varies over the terrain where the coastal plains receive on average 1,500-1,750 mm and the central region receives 2,500-3,000 mm. Suriname experiences two wet seasons: a major wet season between May and July when most of the country receives 250-400 mm per month, and a minor wet season from November to January which brings around 150-200 mm of rainfall per month. The country also experiences two short dry seasons: a short dry season from February-April with mean monthly rainfall of 100 mm and a long dry season from August to December with less than 100 mm of rainfall per month. Suriname is south of the hurricane belt and therefore evades this threat.
SURINAME 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 SURINAME
HIKING & CYCLING IN SURINAME
Suriname has plenty of good hiking opportunities, but these are best explored together with a local guide due to the terrain and lack of infrastructure outside Paramaribo. The dry season runs from around mid August to late November or early December.
BEACH OPTIONS IN SURINAME
Suriname's beaches might be beautiful, but they are rarely easy to reach. They are primarily the breeding grounds for turtles, making the country one of the best places in the world to see this endangered underwater marvel in the wild.
SURFING IN SURINAME
KITESURF IN SURINAME
Kitesurfing spot details and weather
HEALTH RISKS IN SURINAME
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.
SURINAME TRAVEL TIPS
Very few places accept credit cards.
Most budget hotels/guesthouses ) only take cash and prefer US dollars.
Places that accept US dollars (like guesthouses) will give you a terrible exchange rate
It’s very difficult to get US dollars anywhere in Suriname
GETTING AROUND PARAMARIBO
Arrange a pickup at the airport with your hotel if you’re arriving by air, as neither airport is well serviced by public transport and taxis are rarely waiting for customers. There's no ATM's at the airport.
To get a city taxi, call 1690. Operators speak English, and fares – which mostly use a meter system – are low. When you get in, you should ask if they have a meter. If they don’t, agree on a price at the beginning. Most rides will be US$ 3 - 5 .
Many people see Paramaribo and its environs, including the old plantations across the Suriname River, on bicycles. You can rent a bicycle for < US$ 2 per day.
GETTING AROUND SURINAME
Make contacts with travel agencies and/or jungle lodges well in advance of your planned travel dates as trips to remote camps involve precise start dates and transfers don’t always run every day.
Taxis are fast and many work on a share system. Most share taxis are minivans that hold up to eight people and if you leave town in the morning, they fill quickly. Expect to pay US$5 per person to Albina and US$7 per person to Nieuw Nickerie. Ask your hotel to contact a driver for you.
Minibuses to Brownsberg and Atjoni (US$3.50 - US$4, three hours) leave from the corner of Prinsenstraat and Saramacastraat.
Public buses to Nieuw Nickerie (US$1.50 - US$3, four hours) and other western destinations leave throughout the day from the corner of Dr Sophie Redmondstraat and Hofstraat.
To Albina, public buses (US$1, 140km, 3hours) leave hourly and private buses (US$2.50, 3½ hours) leave when full from Waterkant at the foot of Heiligenweg.
Public buses can fill up quickly and sometimes you have to show up several hours ahead of time to get a spot on a high-demand bus (e.g. to Albina and Nieuw Nickerie).
How To Stick to a Tight Budget:
Slow down - stick around and enjoy a place rather than rushing off to the next destination. The further and faster you go, the more you’ll have to pay.
Eat like a local at street stalls or markets.
Opt for dorm rooms or share a room with a buddy.
Stay in fan (non-air-con) rooms with shared bathroom.
Know how much local transportation should cost and bargain accordingly.
Don’t forget to factor in the costs of visas.
Track all of your daily expenses so you know your average costs.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SURINAME
- Upper Suriname River - Explore Maroon culture, swim in jungle rivers and relax along the epic waterways of this vast river.
- Central Suriname Nature Reserve - Drive through jungle and savanna, then canoe to Raleighvallen.
- Paramaribo - Stroll along the UNESCO-listed waterfront lined with Dutch colonial architecture and superb restaurants.
- Commewijne River - Discover historic riverside plantations by bicycle or on a boat tour, and (hopefully) spot pink river dolphins.
- Galibi Nature Reserve - Tread lightly on the beaches where giant leatherback turtles lay eggs.
- Brownsberg Nature Reserve & Brokopondo - Marvell at primate-filled forests surrounding an endless, eerie artificial lake in Suriname’s best nature reserve.
Spend three days exploring Paramaribo and the plantations of the Commewijne River by bike or on foot. Be sure to take a sunset dolphin-viewing tour one afternoon! If you’ve still have energy, get out on the town for a night of dancing, Suriname-style. For your remaining days, head to the interior – either the Upper Suriname River or the Brownsberg Nature Reserve – for some stellar wildlife-watching and an opportunity to meet locals.
Welcome to one of the more surprising cities in South America. Black-and-white colonial Dutch buildings line grassy squares, wafts of spices escape from Indian roti shops and mingle with the chaos of the city’s market, while Maroon artists sell colourful paintings outside sombre Dutch forts. The friendly, multilingual residents of the Surinamese capital, who call the city ‘Parbo,’ are proud of their staggering ethnic diversity and the fact that they live in a city where mosques, synagogues, churches and Hindu temples are happy neighbours. The historical inner city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a veritable treasure trove of traditional colonial architecture, and makes a great place to relax between jaunts to Suriname’s rainforest.
Exploring this capital, with its colonial architecture and lively main streets, could fill two days. Southwest along Waterkant from Fort Zeelandia are some of the city’s most impressive colonial buildings, mostly merchants’ houses built after the fires of 1821 and 1832. The streets inland from here, particularly Lim-a-Postraat, have many old wooden buildings, some restored, others in picturesque decay.
Opposite Paramaribo, the banks of the Commewijne River are lined with old plantation properties divided by canals and strewn with the remains of coffee, cacao and sugarcane-processing facilities. The best way to explore is by renting a bike to spend a full day touring the well-defined routes past the plantations. This makes for a fascinating day trip and an impressive contrast to the chaos of the capital. Highlights include Peperpot Nature Park, Fort Nieuw Amsterdam and Matapica beach (see map for more detail).
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
UPPER SURINAME RIVER
This jungle-locked, chocolate-brown river plods through the sweaty wilderness of the Surinamese rainforest from the Eilerts de Haan Mountains in the country’s south towards the giant Brokopondo reservoir. Relatively accessible by air and boat, the Upper Suriname River is where most visitors to Suriname come to experience the wonders of the country’s raw nature, magnificent wildlife and the rich Maroon cultures.
CENTRAL SURINAME NATURE RESERVE
Cascading rapids rush past smooth boulders and forested islands lined with white-sand beaches. The sun-dappled jungle is hot and muggy, but the beauty of the foliage, birdsong and musky scents outweigh the discomforts. In Central Suriname Nature Reserve, one of Suriname’s largest reserves, you can trek to plateaus with views over never-ending pristine forest, then cool off in a waterfall at the end of the day. The most commonly visited place in the park is Raleighvallen (Raleigh Falls), a low, long staircase of cascading water on the upper Coppename River, about two hours upriver from the nearest Maroon village.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SURINAME
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)
- Medicine/first-aid kit
- Unlocked GSM cell phone
- Refillable water bottle & water filter
- Tissues (for public toilets)
WHAT TO EAT IN SURINAME
You’ll eat well in Suriname, where the mixture of cultures ensures a wide variety of cuisines, including plenty of spicy Indian and Southeast Asian influence.
There are some fantastic dining opportunities in Paramaribo. Avoid, if possible, the touristy strip across from Hotel Torarica at Rietbergplein 1. The cheapest city-center options are at the frenetic Central Market and the Indonesian stalls along Waterkant. Eating in Suriname is a useful website with information on restaurants in Paramaribo.
LOOK OUT FOR:
Bakabana - Delicious fried plantain dipped in peanut sauce.
Bojo cake - A thick, damp creation made from grated cassava and coconut.
Moksi-alesi - Literally ‘mixed rice’ cooked with salted meat, fish or shrimp.
Peanut soup - Don’t leave Suriname without trying this staple.
Roti - Grilled flatbread stuffed with spicy meats, potato or veg.
LGBTQ IN SURINAME
Homosexuality is legal in Suriname, and LGBT people are visible in society, although they do not yet enjoy legal protection against discrimination or the right to marriage or civil partnerships. There is a very small gay scene in Paramaribo, though currently no dedicated gay bars or clubs. LGBT travellers have nothing to worry about in Suriname, and it should be no problem to request a double room at hotels anywhere in the country.
WHERE TO STAY IN SURINAME
Fairly affordable hotels and guesthouses are readily found in Paramaribo. Sleeping in the interior can involve more rustic accommodations, although luxurious ecolodges are also available. Due to instability of the local currency, nearly all hotels quote prices in euros or dollars. Jungle lodges tend to offer all-inclusive packages on a per person per day basis.