SURINAME

Suriname

The Republic of Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in terms of area and population in South America. Situated on the Northern Atlantic coast of the peninsula, the country is sandwiched between French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. Geographically divided into two main areas: lower lying northern coastal areas, where the land is more cultivated and the majority of the population resides; and the southern tropical rainforests and almost uninhabited savannah area that share the border with Brazil.

Formerly a Dutch colony, Suriname received its complete independence in 1975. Dutch is still the country's official language, but a plethora of other languages are spoken, the most widespread of which is Sranang, which is essentially an English Creole with influences from Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. English is also spoken by the majority of people, especially in tourist areas, making navigating one's way around the country relatively uncomplicated.

  • Currency - Surinamese Dollar (SRD)
  • Time - GMT/UTC -3
  • Language - Dutch
  • Telephone Service - Calling code +597
  • Emergency Numbers - 115 for Police, Fire and Rescue

Climate

The climate in Suriname is tropical and characterized by high precipitation, humidity and hot temperatures. Luckily, the searing temperatures are kept within reasonable limits by trade winds blowing from the north-east.

Suriname experiences four seasons: two dry seasons from August to November and February to April, and two wet seasons from April to August and November to February. The seasons are of a very loose definition, as none are ever completely dry or wet; this is something to bear in mind when packing for your trip - always pack a good quality light raincoat, light clothing and finally, shades.

Situated just above the equator, Suriname experiences two kinds of weather, hot and wet - usually simultaneously. The high humidity levels can create quite oppressive conditions, particularly in the lowlands and coastal areas. Fortunately, temperatures never soar to especially dangerous levels, usually remaining around the 30C mark. Sunshine is always aplenty in Suriname.

Things to See and Do

Colonial architecture coupled with vibrant native cultural symbols and cuisine make Paramaribo a perfect point from which to begin exploring the country. The Surinamese capital city is a product of its multi-ethnic history, with striking Dutch colonial influences.

Taking a wander to the heart of the city you stumble upon Independence square or 'Onafhankelijkheidsplein'. In the centre of the square the statue of the former prime minister Johan 'Jopie' Pengel can be found, surrounded by 18th century Dutch colonial architecture, the most striking of which being the stately Presidential Palace.

The people of Suriname are proud of their multi-ethnicity and the city is a staggering melting-pot of sights, smells and flavours. One of the best places to begin sampling this bubbling culture is the central market, also known as Saramacastraat. All manner of exotic items are on show in the market that lies along the waterfront, from caged monkeys to strange and wonderful South American fruits. Close by is the outdoor bustling fish market, where you can watch the fisherman bring in the latest fresh catch.

However, you must get out of Paramaribo and into the rugged jungle interior to truly explore and appreciate the country's allure. In easy reaching distance of the capital is the popular Brownsberg Nature Reserve. The reserve is a stunning, rainforest covered, mountainous area riddled with trails for the intrepid walker. The reserve is set above the Brokopondo Reservoir.

In any trip to Suriname, the stunning Central Suriname Nature Reserve must not be missed. Encompassing the Raleighvallen, Tafelberg and Eilerts de Haan nature parks, the 1.6 million hectare (3.9 million acre) World Heritage Site covers in total, 12% of Suriname's total land surface. This area is an excellent opportunity to witness some of the biodiversity of plant and animal species that the Amazon rainforest can support. Any trip to Suriname should include at the very least, a brief exploration of this magnificent area of the world.

Within Raleighvallen Nature Reserve there are two features of stunning natural beauty. Firstly, Raleigh Falls are fed by the Coppename River and situated in a diverse area of jungle inhabited by numerous exotic species. Secondly, the imposing Voltzberg is quite a spectacular sight, especially at sunrise and sunset. It is a 240m dome-shaped geological upheaval, composed of granite and therefore ideal for rock-climbers and other such risk takers.

Above all, Suriname is an incredibly diverse and in many ways, untouched area of dense rainforest, rivers and mountains. If you are allured by exceptional natural surroundings then this is for you. Ensure that you research all the options before embarking on your trip to explore this wonderful country.

Travel

The majority of travellers visit Suriname through the months of July and August, which in fact are not the best months of the year to see the country; prices also slightly inflated during these high season months. It is much more advisable to go during the dry seasons, early February to late April and mid-August to early December. Between the months of March and July, species of sea turtles come ashore to nest at Wia Wia and Galibi reserves, an extraordinary sight to see, and something to consider when planning the timing of your trip.

There are flights twice a week from Amsterdam to Paramaribo. From America, most of the planes for Suriname fly from Miami or Atlanta. Surinam Airways flies from Miami and Amsterdam, and other carriers flying into Suriname include KLM, Air France and Caribbean Airlines.

Accomodation

In the capital city Paramaribo, there is a great deal of accommodation: hotels, hostels and private lodgings. Prices can range from extremely cheap (usually in hostels) $3-25 to very expensive (luxury hotels) $100+.

Venturing outside the capital, finding cheaper accommodation becomes slightly trickier. When travelling into the nature reserves in the rainforest interior of the country, there are two good options for backpackers. One is to find one of the comfortable tourist lodgings in the reserves; however, relying on this option could drain the funds of even the most moneyed backpacker. Many of the organised trips into the jungle include accommodation arrangements of some description in the package.

Health

Medical care is not as extensive as in the UK or many other European countries. For example, outside of Paramaribo emergency medical care is limited, and virtually non-existent when you reach the interior of the country. Medical insurance therefore comes highly recommended - especially to cover the possibility that medical evacuation is required. Consult your medical insurance company prior to travelling abroad in order to confirm what is covered by your policy.

Before travel, be sure you are up to date on all routine immunisations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP). See your doctor at least 46 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

Required Vaccinations

Yellow fever is present in Suriname and vaccination is recommended if you travel to the endemic zones. The interior of the country is a risk zone, except Paramaribo and coastal districts of Nickerie, Coronie, Saramacca, Wanica, Commewijne, and Marowijne north of latitude 5N.

Recommended Vaccinations:

Hepatitis A Hepatitis B Malaria Rabies Typhoid

Useful Links

Hospital Academisch Ziekenhuis Hospital (AZ) Flustraat Tel: 597 442222 (info)

This is the only hospital in Paramaribo for emergency services. There is excellent care available and practitioners speak perfect English. It's located about 2km (1.2miles) west of the city centre.

Tourist Information Centre
First Stop Waterkant 1 Tel: 597 479200 (info) Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00am-3:30pm Tourist Office website

Post Office
Korte Kerkstraat 1
Post Office website

UK Embassy in Suriname
British Honorary Consul
c/o VSH United Buildings Van't Hogerhuysstraat 9-11 P O Box 1860 Paramaribo Tel: (597) 402558 Email: britishconsulate@vshunited.com