View of the Amazon jungle from the summit of Mt Volzburg in Suriname
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View of the Amazon jungle from the summit of Mt Volzburg in Suriname

© Creative Commons / Daveness_98

Surinam Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

163,265 sq km (63,037 sq miles).

Population

547,610 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

3.6 per sq km.

Capital

Paramaribo.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Dési Bouterse since 2010.

Head of government

President Dési Bouterse since 2010.

Electricity

127 volts AC, 60Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

The smallest of the Guyanas (the collective term for Guyana, French Guyana and Surinam), this diminutive destination may only have half a million odd inhabitants, but it’s the liveliest of these onetime colonial backwaters. It’s also often overlooked by travellers, which is their loss because Surinam has much to offer.

The country is culturally fascinating. Languages spoken include Dutch, Creole, Chinese and English, which reflects the vibrant ethnic mix of its people. It’s also extraordinarily beautiful: the capital city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its tropical forests are full of wildlife, with an impressive one third of the country protected in nature reserves.

The 17th-century UNESCO capital, Paramaribo, is a good starting point for any trip. Home to a sumptuous collection of wooden colonial buildings, which line the waterfront, the city also lays claim to Central Market, a high-energy bazaar selling everything from quack medicine to fresh fish. At night you can dine on fresh seafood in local restaurants and cut shapes in lively bars, which are far removed from the tranquillity of the rest of the country.

Surinam's main attraction is its tropical rainforest, which covers nearly 80% of the country and harbours a huge variety of wildlife. Ecotourism is well developed here and some of the best lodges in South America can be found in the country’s jungle. With its intricate lattice of rivers, boat is the best way to get around the rainforest and you can take tours to see nesting leatherback turtles or search for other exotic creatures, including Amazon river dolphins, monkeys and, if you’re really lucky, a jaguar.

The country’s diverse cultural roots have also been well preserved: communities of Amerindians and Maroons – descendants of former African slaves – lie deep in the jungle, offering visitors an insight into their lifestyle, harmoniously adapted to their environment. Back in the cities, the busy festival calendar covers an eclectic range of events including jazz jamborees, Easter Carnival and exuberant Christmas parties, which climax on New Year’s Eve with the legendary Surifesta. It’s a wild and wonderful celebration. It’s Surinam in a microcosm.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 13 March 2017

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Burglary, armed robbery and violent crime occur in Paramaribo and surrounding areas. Pick pocketing and robbery are increasingly common in the major business and shopping districts in the capital. You should avoid wearing expensive jewellery or displaying large amounts of money in public. Keep valuables like your passport, tickets, driving licence and travellers’ cheques secure and keep photocopies of these documents in a separate place.

Avoid remote and secluded areas, quiet streets and quiet parks. Avoid the Palm Garden (Palmentium) area in Paramaribo at night. Apart from the entertainment centre around the Torarica Hotel, you should avoid walking at night anywhere in the city.

Travel in the interior of the country is generally trouble-free, although there have been reports of tourists being robbed. Use a well-established tour company if you intend to travel to these parts of Suriname

Local travel

Small aircraft operate to a number of interior and regional destinations. If using these services you should be aware of the potential risks, especially from bad weather. 

Although the UN’s International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in 2007 ruled on the maritime border dispute between Suriname and Guyana, Suriname still claims an area of land (the New River Triangle) in the south-east of Guyana. Suriname also has a border dispute with French Guiana. Keep this in mind and take care in these border areas.

Air travel

In 2009 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Suriname.

You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

Blue Wing Airlines have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because the airline does not meet international safety standards. A full list of airlines banned from operating within the EU is available on the European Commission website. Refusal of permission to operate is often based on inspections of aircraft at EU airports. The fact that an airline is not included in the list doesn’t automatically mean that it meets the applicable safety standards.

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.

Sea travel

There have been reports of attacks against fishing boats in and around the waters of Suriname. Be vigilant and take suitable precautions.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.