aerial view of guyana rainforest landscape

13 things you need to know about traveling to Guyana

If you are planning your next big adventure, take a look at Guyana: South America’s hidden gem. With lush, healthy rainforests, friendly locals, and English as the official language, the country is an accessible and exciting place to visit. Offering opportunities for conservation, adventure, and unique wildlife spotting, Guyana is for travelers looking to step out of their comfort zone and into the muddy waters of the Amazon in search of rare wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. This blog will tell you the top things you need to know about traveling to Guyana. 

Guyana sees fewer visitors in a year than many cities see in a day. This situation creates many opportunities, and some challenges, for travelers making their way to Guyana. There are no luxury resorts or high speed transportation systems, so you can expect eclectic, locally-owned accommodations and journeys that are part of the adventure. The locals will tell you that the best of the country can be found in the truly wild, rural areas, where you can surround yourself with verdant forests, flowing waterfalls, and vibrant culture. For those ready to dive back into their international adventures, here is a handy list of things to know before traveling to Guyana. 

unique coffee experiences are possible in Guyana

1. Prepare for the unexpected

Guyana is an off the beaten path destination in every sense of the word. With only 315,000 visitors in 2019, Guyana is still an uncrowded and largely unknown destination. Compare that to Machu Picchu, which sees 1.5 million visitors annually. The main attractions in Guyana are its remote forests, savannas, and villages. While coastal towns like Georgetown might have some more familiar amenities, if you head into the jungle, you are going to have to get comfortable with the dust and dirt that come with truly wild adventures. 

aerial view of guyana rainforest landscape

There is nothing more rewarding than stepping away from more typical destinations and creating a truly unforgettable experience for yourself. Guyana is the perfect place to start. Getting off the beaten path means bumpy roads, small planes, and boat rides to make your way around the country, and you can expect incredibly scenic views along the way. When traveling in remote areas, travel delays due to weather (or even sometimes wild animals that block roads and waterways) are common, so come with a positive attitude and be ready to make the journey (and whatever comes with it), part of your adventure. 

2. It is safe to travel to Guyana!

Despite common beliefs about the safety of travel in South America, most visits to Guyana are trouble-free. That being said, it is always best to exercise caution and keep an eye out for petty theft, especially in Georgetown or other cities. Remember that most theft is a crime of opportunity and non-violent, so don’t give people a chance to see you as a target. For the best experience, travel in groups, or book a tour and get away to more remote areas. 

Recent COVID-19 news also suggests Guyana is moving back to normal travel regulations, while still encouraging residents and guests to use precautions. Current regulations require tourists to be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure. Incoming passengers are also subject to a temperature screening on arrival. After setting strong regulations at the beginning of the pandemic, the country is ready to safely welcome tourists back into their country. 

3. Guyana is culturally diverse

One of Guyana’s most notable features is a largely harmonious mix of cultures that dates back to its colonial history. As you make your way around the country, you will see influences from British, French, Chinese, Indigenous, East Indian, African, and Portuguese cultures. From the British colonial buildings in New Amsterdam to the spicy Indian cuisine in Georgetown and the country’s policy on freedom of religion, Guyana is an impressive mix of at least six cultures. 

Among this blend of cultures are the nine indigenous groups, including; Akawaio, Arawaks, Arecuna, Caribs, Macushi, Patamona, Wai Wai, Wapixana, and Warau. Primarily located in the interior of the country, the indigenous communities have an immense knowledge of the ecosystems that they live in. As compared with the rest of South America, Guyana does a good job prioritizing the protection of this traditional knowledge and aims to empower these communities with development opportunities. Travelers can do the same by visiting rural villages, supporting local businesses and by respecting indigenous traditions. 

4. The food reflects the diversity of culture

Guyana’s cuisine represents the diversity of its cultures and has produced some truly unique dishes. A blend of Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, African, British and indigenous cuisines has created uniquely Guyanese dishes that can be found nowhere else. Be sure to try everything you are offered, but be careful; the country is known for its spicy food with a Caribbean twist.  Welcoming a mix of Indian and Caribbean techniques, Guyana’s most popular dishes are curry and pepperpot.

For those ready to dive into the new and uncommon, Guyanese food will be one of the best ways to do so. One food available at almost every meal is cassava bread, made from cassava roots. Uncooked, cassava roots contain significant amounts of cyanide, but local communities extrude and cook this out to create a black sauce called ‘kasreep,’ used to flavor pepper pot (totally safe by the time it’s cooked!). Since many communities still depend on rainforests for subsistence, it is also common to find wild meats like labba (acouchi)  and peccary, served in rural areas. While it might be strange to think of these wild animals as food, this subsistence level hunting actually makes it possible for communities to derive direct benefit from standing forests and incentivizes their protection.

5. Guyana is an English-speaking country.

Guyana is the only country in South America with English as the official language. This fact can take away a significant amount of stress for travelers as it makes meeting locals and getting to know your guides much easier.  Most indigenous communities in Guyana also speak English, as well as traditional indigenous languages. The lack of language barrier means  can build deeper connections with residents as you learn about their cultural heritage and how tourism can help protect it. A common language allows for more authentic interactions and can lead to more meaningful travel experiences. 

6. Prepare to disconnect

While Guyana’s telecommunications infrastructure reaches almost every part of the country, you will probably have less frequent, or less accessible, Internet access than you are used to, especially in rural areas. Sometimes in remote communities, data signal only reaches you at the tops of small hills (including in Warapoka!) so you can get in touch for urgent matters, but otherwise disconnect.

Take this time away from your daily routine to focus on the stunning landscapes instead.  This gentle disconnection makes Guyana the best place to step away from your electronics and the speed of everyday life to spend some quality time exploring your surroundings. Spend your day canoeing down the river, birdwatching, or playing soccer with the locals. Connect with your local hosts and guides, and gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day life of Guyana locals. Get ready to get off the grid and experience a true wilderness adventure.

Take a unique boat trip down a Guyanese river

7. You will encounter plenty of insects 

In any wild, tropical place, insects are part of the package. To protect yourself against the mosquitoes and kabouras wear long sleeve shirts and pants, as well as plenty of insect repellent (ideally natural). Furthermore, a Yellow Fever vaccine is required for some travelers to enter the country, and many people may choose to bring malaria pills. On the plus side, the abundance of insects will never leave you bored. Searching for bugs is a great way to spend an afternoon. Look under rocks, on leaves or on plants to meet all sorts of little wonders. Keep an eye out for butterflies, dragonflies, and mantids. If you are concerned about the insects or becoming ill during travel, consult with a travel medic before you come to Guyana (or any tropical country!). 

8. There is no shortage of water

One of the most impressive features of Guyana is the flowing rivers covering the entire country. In fact, Guyana means “Land of Many Waters” and some of the coastal cities would be underwater if it weren’t for Dutch canal and seawall infrastructure, a leftover from Guyana’s colonial past. It’s nearly impossible to make it through the country without traveling on or over one of the eight main rivers, but if possible, you should also make an additional stop at a waterfall. The Guyanese rainforest is scattered with rapids, rushing rivers and over 300 major waterfalls. Home to the world’s largest single drop waterfall in the world, Kaieteur Falls, is just a glimpse of the area’s impressive falls. Other impressive waterfalls include Oshi Falls and Kamarang Great Falls. Guyana is the land of many waters for the rivers and waterfalls

9. You are going to see rare wildlife and can play a part in protecting it

Home to 800 species of birds, 225 mammals and over 2,000 species of fish, the lush rainforests of Guyana are some of the best places in the world to spot rare wildlife. Even within a few days, you might spot upward of 200 bird species, and mammals like giant otters and wedge-capped capuchin monkeys. The abundance of wildlife and countless species makes Guyana one of the best destinations for wildlife photographers. While you’re never guaranteed to spot wild animals in their natural habitats, Guyana is one of the best places to try, as wildlife is abundant and human influence is still scarce.

When you book a wildlife tour with a local operator, you directly contribute to the local economy and to the preservation of native species. On these tours you can volunteer to conduct research and lend a hand to further protect Guyana’s wildlife. Gain hands-on experience in conservation as you venture into the jungle alongside scientists, indigenous communities and other adventure seekers. Even if you don’t join a conservation tour, visiting Guyana’s remote forests brings critical income to the communities that manage and protect these wilderness areas.

rare frog wilderness guyana

10. Your trip can make a real impact on local communities.

With a small but burgeoning tourism industry, most of Guyana’s hotels and operators are still locally-owned, meaning your dollars can stay in the country. The Guyanese people are proud of their country and want to show you everything it has to offer. From local guides who grew up in the forest to conservationists protecting endangered species, traveling through Guyana is best done with local experts. Visiting or volunteering in Guyana has the potential to make profound improvements on local communities and surrounding areas. Any funds spent in Guyana’s remote communities will be used to empower local development and land stewardship.  Indigenous communities protect 90% of Guyana’s rainforests and act as environmental stewards in the region. When you travel to Guyana you are actively working to spread the economic benefits of tourism to local communities.  

11. You are going to meet incredible locals. 

Guyana’s residents make guests feel like they are part of the community. Luke Johnson, the Friends of Wallacea Guyana Country Manager, believes this is especially true in indigenous villages where locals are, “really keen to show people their way of life, and they take great joy and pride in doing it.” The welcoming attitude of the Guyanese people goes hand in hand with their openness to tourism. Tourism today is the second-largest contributor to GDP and the Guyanese government has continued to invest in growing the sector. Travelers to Guyana frequently note the friendliness of the Guyana people, often demonstrated with home cooked meals, invitations to events, a visit to their farm or sharing their favorite spot in town. 12. Travelers who keep an open mind have the best experience

Guyana is not your average destination. It is a rugged place that is still developing and refining its tourism products. Visiting Guyana is not for everyone, but it is an opportunity for the daring to try something new. Keeping an open mind when you travel will enable you to take in all the experiences – good and unfamiliar – and learn more about yourself and your hosts throughout your trip. 

13. Most nationalities can enter Guyana visa-free

Guyana does not require visas for people to travel from most countries, which can help keep costs and planning efforts low.  Visa-exempt travelers are welcome to stay up to thirty days and need to make sure their passports are valid for another 6 months. This should be plenty of time to enjoy a wild trip in the forest, and you can apply for a longer visa (or come back later!) if you don’t get enough in your first month. 

Guyana is a unique emerging destination. It’s just rough enough to scare away your average visitor, but perfect for adventurers, wildlife photographers, and intrepid backpackers looking to make a difference, see wildlife, and have a couple of wild travel stories to tell when they get home. Reaching its prime just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Guyana is now ready to welcome new visitors again. Prepare for a unique experience filled with long and beautiful travel days, kind people and some impressive wildlife. Most importantly, when you visit Guyana, be ready to be welcomed by genuine smiles. Take a step out of your comfort zone and dive into the unknown. The friendly faces of Guyana will be there to show you the way. 

Interested in visiting Guyana? Consider joining one of our indigenous led tours this August!

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