Beat destination: Guyana

Bordered by Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname, Guyana is the only English- speaking country on the South American continent. This is a land of massive rivers and waterfalls, dense rainforest and mountains, an eco-traveller's paradise. And there's bargain shopping too: wicker furniture, gold jewellery, hardwood household articles and lots of collectible antique bottles

Courtesy The Tourism and Hospitality Association of GuyanaCity Hall, Georgetown. Photograph by Eric YoungCooling it. Photograph by Eric YoungElegantly decorative verandahs are a hallmark of City Hall. Photograph by Roxan KinasGolden eagle lectern in St George’s Cathedral. Photograph by Roxan KinasMajestic Kaieteur Falls, the largest single-drop waterfall in the world. Eric Young/Roxan KinasOrinduik Falls, Pakaraima. Photograph by Roxan KinasPhotograph by Roxan KinasPhotograph by Roxan KinasPhotograph courtesy the Tourism and Hospitality Association of GuyanaPhotograph courtesy the Tourism and Hospitality Association of GuyanaPhotograph courtesy the Tourism and Hospitality Association of GuyanaPrivate residence. Photograph by Eric YoungSt George’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Diocese, one of the world’s tallest free-standing wooden buildings. Photograph courtesy the Tourism and Hospitality Association of GuyanaTransport by ferry is the norm. Photograph by Eric YoungView of Georgetown from the 103-ft lighthouse near the mouth of the Demerara River, dominated by the steeple of St George’s Cathedral. Photograph by Roxan KinasWicker baskets and furniture can be had for a fraction of the cost elsewhere. Roxan Kinas

Land of many wonders

Guyana is the only English-speaking country on the South American continent. It is a land of tremendous waterfalls, dense rainforest, mountains and massive rivers. The capital, Georgetown, mixes Dutch and English influences in its own Caribbean style.

Travelling this vast Amazon region is an addictive experience. You can never get enough of Guyana — its varied terrain, exciting wildlife, awesome natural wonders and hospitable people. There is always another reason to visit.

 

Fact File

AIR TRAVEL

Guyana’s international airport, named after the late president Cheddi Jagan, is at Timehri, 25 miles/40 km south of Georgetown. Flights from Europe are routed through Antigua, Barbados or Trinidad. There are direct flights from Miami, New York, Toronto, Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, Barbados and Trinidad. Outward flights should be reconfirmed.

BANK HOURS

Banking hours at most banks are relatively short — from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with afternoon opening on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

CITIES AND TOWNS

The capital is Georgetown, at the mouth of the Demerara River, midway along the Atlantic coast, with a population of 200,000. Other commercial centres are Linden (pop. 60,000, a bauxite town on the Demerara river, 70 miles south of Georgetown), Corriverton (pop. 31,000, at the mouth of the Corentyne river), and New Amsterdam (pop. 25,000, on the Berbice river, 65 miles south-east of Georgetown).

CLIMATE

Guyana’s climate is equatorial: hot but pleasant for most of the year, with a mean shade temperature of 27°C and an average temperature range of 24 to 31°C (75 to 87°F). The heat is tempered by sea breezes on the coast. An umbrella is useful during the two wet seasons, extending roughly through May and June, and from December to the end of January. Rainfall averages 2,300mm a year in Georgetown.

CLOTHING

Lightweight, casual clothing can be worn throughout the year.

CURRENCY

The unit of currency is the Guyana dollar, which floats against the US dollar. (Exchange rate at press time: US$1=G$180 approximately. Check for daily rates.) US dollars are widely accepted. British, Canadian and some other bank notes may be accepted as well. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, finance houses, and cambios. Many hotels will also change money.

CREDIT CARDS

Major credit cards and traveller’s cheques are accepted by most hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and tour operators.

DEPARTURE TAX

There is an exit tax of G$2,500. (The US dollar equivalent for this exit tax may vary with exchange fluctuations.) It can be paid when reconfirming your ticket (at least 3 days before departure in Georgetown) or at the airport near the check-in counter.

DRIVING

Traffic drives on the left.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Police: 911

Fire: 912

Ambulance: 912

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

All visitors require a valid passport. Those arriving by air require an onward plane ticket. Visas are necessary for all visitors except nationals of the following countries: Commonwealth countries, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, USA. Visitors are advised to check with the nearest embassy, consulate or travel agent.

GEOGRAPHY

Guyana is 216,000 square kilometres in area (83,000 square miles). The country has three distinct geographical areas: the coastal belt, the forested area, and the savannah zone. Over 80% of the land area is still forested, and only 2.5% is cultivated. The country’s coastline lies 1 to 1.5 meters below sea level at high tide, necessitating an elaborate system of drainage canals. The most valuable mineral deposits are bauxite, gold and diamonds. The main rivers are the Demerara, Berbice, Essequibo and Corentyne.

LANGUAGE

The official language is English, often spoken with a Caribbean Creole flavour.

LOCATION

Guyana lies on the north-east corner of the South American continent between latitudes 1° and 9° N and longitudes 56° and 62° W. It borders Venezuela to the west, Brazil to the south, and Suriname to the east.

POPULATION

Approximately 750,000, mostly along the coastal strip.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Guyana’s country code is 592, followed by 22 for Georgetown.

TIME ZONE

Four hours behind GMT; one hour ahead of EST.

TRANSPORTATION

By Land

Guyana is well served with taxis and minibuses, which operate throughout the city and to other urban centres. Taxis are easy to find outside most hotels and throughout Georgetown (e.g. Stabroek Market and Avenue of the Republic). There are fixed fares for most distances; check in advance.

By River

Guyana has over 600 miles of navigable river, which provide an important means of communication. The Berbice, the Essequibo and the Demerara are crossed by ferries and by 6- and 4-seater river boats called balahoos and corials. River taxis can be chartered. For details, contact the Transport and Harbour Department, Water Street, Georgetown.

By Plane

Private charter companies operate flights into the interior from Ogle airport. Minibuses and taxis serve the airport from Stabroek Market in Georgetown.

VOLTAGE

110v in Georgetown; 220v in most other places, including parts of suburban Georgetown.