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Guyana holidays : introduction

Guyana (formerly British Guiana) lies on the north-eastern shoulder of South America, bordered by Venezuela to the west, Brazil in the south, and Suriname to the east. The name comes from an Amerindian word meaning ‘land of many waters’, which is certainly appropriate as major rivers include the Essequibo, Demerara and the Berbice.

Guyana is a wonderful nature and wildlife destination in its infancy, and if you feel the need for more comfortable accommodation and a sandy beach then it can be combined with Venezuela or one of the Caribbean islands such as Tobago or St Lucia.

“First, thank you to all at Last Frontiers for organising everything. It all ran incredibly smoothly, even with the last minute changes in flights and the impromptu overnight in Trinidad. There was nothing, it would seem, left to chance and we very much appreciate all your hard work. Karanambu is one of the best places I have ever stayed in, it was absolutely enchanting. So again ... a big thank you from the both of us. A fantastic trip. And we'll definitely have to do something with Last Frontiers again!” - ML

Please follow the links to individual regions to see more detail, including images and hotel listings (many of which include reviews by our clients). Just click the Regions tab at the top of the page to return to this index at any time.

The Atlantic coast

The coastal belt is a narrow strip up to 40 miles wide, much of which is below sea level. 90% of the population lives here and the main crop is sugar cane, used both for sugar production (the Demerara process originated in Guyana) and rum. The Dutch settlers built the first dams and dykes so that they could take advantage of the rich alluvial soils. The combination of silt-laden waters from the Essequibo and Demerara, plus the mighty Orinoco, means that the beaches are muddy.

Georgetown

Georgetown image

Georgetown, the capital, is a pleasant city of mainly wooden buildings and tree-lined streets on the edge of the Demerara river. St George’s Cathedral is one of the tallest wooden building in the world (the previous stone one was too heavy for its foundations). The city is also proud to have the longest floating pontoon bridge in the world (2km). As Georgetown is 2 metres below the high tide level, an elaborate system of sluice gates has been built to protect the city from flooding. Further details on Georgetown »

The central forest zone

The central forest zone image

Covering 80% of the country, yet with only 2% of the population, Guyana’s rainforest is some of the best-preserved in the world. There is a real chance of seeing wildlife that would be endangered elsewhere, such as jaguar, eight monkey species, armadillos, tapirs and red-rumped agoutis. Further details on The central forest zone »

Kaieteur and Orinduik

Kaieteur and Orinduik image

The Kaieteur and Orinduik falls, the former with an awesome 741 foot single drop, while the latter, on the border with Brazil, tumbles over pure jasper. Further details on Kaieteur and Orinduik »

Iwokrama Forest Reserve

Iwokrama Forest Reserve image

In the forest zone the Iwokrama reserve is home to South America’s largest fish (the Arapaima), eagle (the harpy) and cat (the jaguar). Further details on Iwokrama Forest Reserve »

The Rupununi savannas

The Rupununi savannas image

Stretching southwards from the Pakaraima mountains, the Rupununi is an endless savanna interspersed with rivers, whose banks are lined with gallery forest. There are some large ranches whose homesteads provide an ideal base for exploration of the history and wildlife of the south. Further details on The Rupununi savannas »

Surama and Annai

Surama and Annai image

Several of the small Amerindian villages are discovering how small-scale tourism can benefit local people and provide a real interchange between cultures, one of the best examples of which is the Makushi community of SuramaFurther details on Surama and Annai »

Lethem and the south-west

Lethem and the south-west image

West of the Kanuku mountains, a densely-forested range of hills near Lethem, the savanna is still wild as far as the Brazilian border (on the other side of which ‘progress’ has sadly arrived in the shape of cultivated fields of soya). Further details on Lethem and the south-west »

“It was the holiday of a lifetime. Kaieteur Falls were magnificent and our visit to the Canopy Walkway was spectacular. However, the time at Karanambu stood out - we were welcomed and treated as one of the family. Even so far from civilisation, Diane serves coffee in demi-tasse.” - PC

Travel information

Practical facts and figures on Guyana

Capital

Georgetown

Area

214,970 km˛

Population

745,000

Time zone

GMT-4

Voltage

Mainly 110V

Language

Official language is English but several Amerindian languages (there are nine distinct ethnic groups in Guyana) and Creole (which is a pidgin English) are widely spoken. The National flower is the Victoria Amazonia (formerly known as Victoria Regia), and the National bird is the Hoatzin, locally known as Canje pheasant.

Health

Yellow fever recommended, and Malaria highly recommended. You should be up-to-date on tetanus, typhoid and polio.

Visas

Not required for most nationalities (including all Commonwealth countries).

Money

The official currency is the Guyanese dollar. There are $1,000, $500, $100 and $20 notes and $10, $5 and $1 coins. Most Georgetown hotels will change sterling, US dollars or Euros in either cash or travellers cheques, in the interior it can be hard to find places willing to change money. Credit cards can be used in larger hotels but charges may be made.

Gastronomy

The blend of different ethnic influences in Guyana – Indian, African, Chinese, Creole, English, Portuguese, Amerindian, North American – gives a distinctive flavour to Guyanese cuisine. Try dishes such as Pepper Pot, meat cooked in casareep (bitter cassava) juice with peppers and herbs. Garlic Pork is a speciality at Christmas. Curry and Roti is popular everywhere. Seafood is plentiful and varied (especially shrimps), as is the wide variety of tropical fruit and vegetables (cassava and yams are particularly prevelant). Rum is the most popular drink, the quality of which is world class (Guyanese rum regularly wins prizes).

Telephones

Few and far between (local communication with the interior is mainly by radio, although satellite internet is changing things quite rapidly). You can use a BT chargecard - dial 0169 (169 Georgetown) for the operator.

The mobile networks are still analogue so most UK mobiles will not work.

Driving

Traffic drives on the left, and while the main highways are in reasonable condition minor roads are often bumpy and dusty.