French Guiana travel guide

About French Guiana

French Guiana is a tropical backwater with intriguing highlights to satisfy the curious traveller: from rich wildlife encounters to cultural curiosities that sound like the setting for a Evelyn Waugh novel, including the launch site of the European Space Programme, chilling ruins of notorious penal colonies, and isolated indigenous communities.

Tucked between the Brazilian Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean, the sparsely populated country harbours an abundance of plants and animals, well protected in parks and reserves. As an overseas French département, French is the official language. With the Euro as its currency, prices are on a par with Europe, not cheap.

Despite its lack of beaches and swampy coastline, exploration of the jungle-clad interior reveals rewarding sights. St Laurent is the best gateway, an appealing colonial city and former penal transportation centre. Guided tours of the prison are available, and boats go down the Marowijne River, to visit Amerindian and Maroon villages. The welcoming locals have handicrafts for sale, and you can trek to beaches where leatherback turtles lay their eggs.

French Guiana’s most notorious penal camp was on the Iles du Salut, which include the infamous Devil's Island where political prisoners were held. Some 80,000 men died here from cruel hardship, disease and execution. Alfred Dreyfus was the most famous inmate, but it was Henri Charriere who recreated the camp’s horrors in his book, Papillon. Tours of the restored ruins relive this grim history, lightened up by the island’s rich wildlife, including parrots, monkeys and turtles.

By way of contrast, the other major attraction for visitors is the Ariane Space Station, Europe’s satellite launch centre. From the small coastal city of Kourou you can visit the centre, and watch rocket launches. Nearby are some decent beaches to lounge on afterwards, or visit the village of Sinnamary, where an Indonesian community sells handicrafts and art works.

Key facts


83,534 sq km (32,253 sq miles).


275,688 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

3 per sq km.




French Guiana is an Overseas Department of France and, as such, is an integral part of the French Republic.

Head of state:

President Emmanuel Macron since 2017, represented by prefect Antoine Poussier since 2023.

Head of government:

President Gabriel Serville since 2021.

Travel Advice

Before you travel 

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Travel insurance 

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency. 

About FCDO travel advice 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated. 

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel. 

French Guiana is an Overseas Department of France (‘Département d’Outre-Mer’). The authorities in French Guiana set and enforce entry requirements. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the French Consulate General in the UK

COVID-19 rules 

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering French Guiana. 

Passport validity requirements 

Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the date you plan to leave French Guiana. 

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.  

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 

Visa requirements 

French Guiana is an Overseas Department of France and is part of the EU.  

You can visit French Guiana without a visa for up to 90 days for tourism or business. To stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, check the visa application process and timelines on the French visa website.   

UK residents of French Guiana 

Carry your residence document, as well as your passport, when entering or exiting French Guiana. If you’ve applied but not yet received your document, carry your certificate of application. You will have received this as an email. 

Vaccine requirements 

To enter French Guiana, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination.  

You may need a yellow fever certificate for onward travel to some other countries, due to the risk of yellow fever in French Guiana. 

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s French Guiana guide

Customs rules 

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of French Guiana (in French). You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. 

Taking food into French Guiana 

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions such as powdered baby milk, baby food and special foods or pet feed required for medical reasons.  

Taking money into French Guiana  

Check what cash and valuables you need to declare to bring them into French Guiana. 


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.      

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

Terrorism in French Guiana 

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in French Guiana, attacks cannot be ruled out. 


Protecting yourself and your belongings 

Crime levels are low, but there is a risk of being robbed in some areas of Cayenne, especially after dark.  

To reduce your personal risk: 

  • avoid isolated areas including secluded beaches, particularly after dark  
  • take a licensed or pre-arranged taxi after visiting an ATM in case you are followed 
  • do not wear expensive-looking jewellery or watches 
  • go into a shop or café to use your mobile 
  • place most of your cash and your valuables and travel documents in a safety deposit box or hotel safe 

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism   

Swimming safety 

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society. 

Scuba diving 

Diving schools may have limited resources and do not always observe safety and maintenance standards. Always:    

  • check a dive operator’s credentials 
  • check the conditions on your insurance policy – some policies require dive instructors to have certain qualifications 
  • make sure safety equipment is available on the boat, particularly oxygen 
  • ask about safety precautions, including the ability to transfer divers to a hyperbaric chamber 

If you have not had any previous diving experience, check what to do if something goes wrong, including how to call for help while at sea. 

Transport risks  

Road travel  

If you are planning to drive in French Guiana, see information on driving abroad and check the rules of the road in the RAC’s France guide as French driving laws apply. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of. 

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in French Guiana. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.  

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP

Drink-driving is a serious offence in French Guiana. The blood alcohol limit (0.05%) is lower than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you are tested and found to be above the limit, you may get a fine and possible imprisonment. 

Extreme weather and natural disasters 

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards


There’s a risk of tropical storms during the rainy season from December to July.  

Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Organization and US National Hurricane Center weather reports for the region.    

Before you travel check that: 

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need 

  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation 

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant. 

Emergency medical number 

Call 15 or 112 and ask for an ambulance. 

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

See what health risks you’ll face in French Guiana, including:  

  • Zika virus 
  • dengue 
  • yellow fever  


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. 

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.  

Healthcare in French Guiana 

General health care facilities in French Guiana are very good. The standard of health service hospitals and GP practices is equivalent to mainland France.  

Health insurance cards  

To get medically necessary state healthcare in French Guiana, you need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  

The NHS’s getting healthcare abroad webpage has details about: 

  • how to apply for a GHIC 
  • how to get temporary cover if you lose your card or it does not arrive in time 
  • who qualifies for a new EHIC instead of a GHIC 
  • what treatment counts as medically necessary 

A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. You may have costs your GHIC or EHIC does not cover, including: 

  • changes to travel and accommodation bookings 
  • additional standard costs for treatment 
  • medical repatriation to the UK 
  • treatment that is ruled non-urgent  
  • private healthcare  
  • private clinics 

Healthcare for residents 

If you plan to live in French Guiana, consult the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about long-term entitlement to healthcare under the French national system.  

DWP Overseas Medical Benefits helpline: +44 (0)191 218 1999 

You can also get English-language information about French social security services online or on +33 (0)820 90 42 12. You can get French-language information online about state services in French Guiana.  

Travel and mental health 

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel. 

Emergency services in French Guiana  

Telephone: 112 (emergency switchboard) 


Ambulance: 15 

Fire: 18 

Police: 17 

Contact your travel provider and insurer 

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do. 

Refunds and changes to travel 

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first. 

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including: 

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider 
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim 

Support from FCDO 

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including: 

Contacting FCDO 

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated. 

You can also contact FCDO online.  

Help abroad in an emergency 

There is no British Embassy in French Guiana and the British Embassy in Paris, France, supports British nationals who need emergency help from the UK government. 

FCDO in London 

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad. 

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours) 

Find out about call charges 

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