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    Flag, Coat of Arms, and Tourist Board

    Guyana (pronounced gī-a-nuh) [not to be confused with The Guianas, French Guiana, or Guinea] is officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America. Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean; a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has its secretariat's headquarters in Guyana's capital, Georgetown; and is one of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island.

    There are nine Native American tribes residing in Guyana: the Wai Wai, Machushi, Patamona, Arawak, Carib, Wapishana, Arecuna, Akawaio, and Warrau. Historically the Arawak and Carib tribes dominated Guyana. Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana during his third voyage (in 1498), the Dutch were the first to establish colonies: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752). After the British assumed control in the late 18th century, the Dutch formally ceded the area in 1814. In 1831 the three separate colonies became a single British colony known as British Guiana. It remained a British colony for over 200 years until achieving its independence from the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic; and in 2008 joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.

    Historically, the region known as "Guiana" or "Guyana" comprised the large landmass area north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the "Land of many waters". Historical Guyana consisted of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east, by Brazil to the south and southwest, by Venezuela to the west, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north. At 215,000 square km (83,000 square mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname.

    More than 80% of Guyana is still covered by forests, ranging from dry evergreen and seasonal forests to montane and lowland evergreen rain forests. These forests are home to more than a thousand species of trees. Guyana's tropical climate, unique geology, and relatively pristine ecosystems support extensive areas of species-rich rain forests and natural habitats with high levels of endemism. Approximately eight thousand species of plants occur in Guyana, half of which are found nowhere else.

    The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though it is moderated by northeast trade winds along the coast. There are two rainy seasons, the first from May to mid-August; the second from mid-November to mid-January.

    Guyana has a population of approximately 730,000, with about one-third (230,000) living in the Capital, Georgetown. 90% of the population resides on the narrow coastal strip of Guyana that represents approximately 10% of the total land area of the country. This coastal strip ranges from 10 to 40 miles (16 to 64 km) in width.

    The present population of Guyana is racially and ethnically diverse, with ethnic groups originating from India, Africa, Europe, and China, as well as indigenous or aboriginal peoples. Despite their diverse ethnic backgrounds, these groups share two common languages: English and Creole.

    The largest ethnic group is the Indo-Guyanese (also known as East Indians), the descendants of indentured laborers from India, who make up 43.5% of the population, according to the 2002 census; followed by the Afro-Guyanese, the descendants of slaves from Africa, who comprise 30.2%; mixed heritage comprising 16.7%; and the remaining 9.1% made up of indigenous peoples (known locally as Amerindians), which include the Arawaks, the Wai Wai, the Caribs, the Akawaio, the Arecuna, the Patamona, the Wapixana, the Macushi and the Warao.

    Most Indo-Guyanese are descended from Bhojpuri-speaking Bihari and Uttar Pradesh migrants from India. Many Indo-Guyanese are also Tamil speaking Tamils from Tamil Nadu, and Telugus of Andhra Pradesh in South India.

    The number of Portuguese (4.3% of the population in 1891) has been declining constantly over the decades.

    Environment and Biodiversity
    Guyana has one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, parts of which are virtually inaccessible by humans. The rich natural history of Guyana was described by early explorers Sir Walter Raleigh and Charles Waterton and later by naturalists Sir David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell. In 2008, the BBC ran a three-part program on Guyana called Lost Land of the Jaguar which highlighted the huge diversity of wildlife, including undiscovered and rare animal species such as the giant otter and harpy eagle.

    Guyana has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. Guyana, with 1,168 species of vertebrate; 1,600 species of birds; and one of the richest mammalian fauna assemblages of any comparably sized area in the world. The Guiana Shield region is little known and extremely rich biologically. Unlike other areas of South America, over 70% of Guyana’s natural habitat remains pristine. These habitats have been categorized as: coastal, marine, littoral, estuarine palustrine, mangrove, riverine, lacustrine, swamp, savanna, white sand forest, brown sand forest, montane, cloud forest, moist lowland and dry evergreen scrub forests. The clean, unpolluted waters of the Essequibo watershed support a remarkable diversity of fish and aquatic invertebrates, and are home to giant river otters, capybaras, and several species of caimans.

    On land, large mammals, such as jaguars, tapirs, bush dogs, giant anteaters, and saki monkeys are common. The Konashen COCA forests are also home to countless species of insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates, many of which are still undiscovered and unnamed.

    The Konashen COCA is relatively unique in that it contains a high level of biological diversity and richness that remains in nearly pristine condition; such places have become rare on earth. This fact has given rise to various non-exploitative, environmentally sustainable industries such as ecotourism, successfully capitalizing on the biological wealth of the Konashen COCA with comparatively little enduring impact.

    Travel and Tourism
    Guyana is very definitely a raw travel and tourism destination that has yet to emerge in any significant way. It is a densely forested country with a reputation for political instability and interethnic tension. While politics aren’t making things much better, beneath the headlines of corruption and economic mismanagement is an interesting and motivated mix of people who are trying to open up the spectacular natural resources and diversity of this land to its full ecotourism potential. Georgetown, Guyana’s crumbling colonial capital, is distinctly Caribbean with a rocking nightlife, plenty of great places to eat and an edgy market; the interior of the country is more Amazonian with its struggling Amer-Indian communities and unparalleled wildlife-viewing opportunities that all feel safely removed from the political turmoil. This is not a place for the faint-hearted, but a destination for those who revel in adventure and exploring the new and unknown parts of the world.

    Useful Links
    Visit the Guyana Tourism Authority website for more information about this Caribbean destination.

    Information provided on this page were derived from a combination of internal research and readily-available outside sources, such as destination tourism offices, official press releases and marketing media kits.

    Fast Facts

    Capital: Georgetown

    Size: 83,000 square miles

    Population: 730,000 (2012)

    Location: Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east, by Brazil to the south and southwest, by Venezuela to the west, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north.

    Motto: "One People, One Nation, One Destiny"

    Anthem: "Dear Land of Guyana, of Rivers and Plains"

    Language: English, Guyanese Creole and 11 recognized regional languages. English is the official language of Guyana and is spoken by all. Creole and Amerindian dialects as well as Spanish and Portuguese are also spoken in various parts of the country.

    Government: Representative democratic republic with a National Assembly formed from a multi-party system; the President of Guyana is the head of the government.


    Climate: local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though it is moderated by northeast trade winds along the coast, with an average temperature in the mid 70°F year-round. There are two rainy seasons, the first from May to mid-August; the second from mid-November to mid-January.

    Electricity: The voltage is 110/240 volts, 50-60 cycles. Transformers can be used to step-up/step-down the voltage. Electrical appliances are widely available in Guyana.

    Currency: Guyanese dollar (GYD) with a fluctuating exchange rate of  

    GYD $200.00 to USD $1.00

    GYD $365.00 to Pounds $1.00

    GYD $265.00 to Euro $1.00

    GYD $200.00 to CDN $1.00

    Credit Cards / ATMs: Major credit cards and travelers’ checks are accepted by most hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, car rental agencies and tour operators. Credit cards with CIRRUS and/or PLUS mark can be used at any Scotia Bank ATM machines in Guyana. ATMs can be found in many convenient locations throughout the island and at the airport.

    Time Zone: GYT (Guyana Time) GMT-4

    Water: It is safer to drink purified bottled water. There are several brands that are inexpensive and widely available. You can purchase water at supermarkets, shops, roadside shops and vendors throughout Guyana.

    Driving: Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, and a valid driver’s license is required.

    Calling Code:: +592

    Health: Check with your local health agency before travel and be sure to get immunized for any diseases recommended by them. For the latest in traveler's health information pertaining to Guyana, including advisories and recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Guyana website

    Immunization  There is a risk of malaria in certain parts of the interior. Consult a doctor for the required precautions if you intend to travel. Georgetown and the coastal areas are malaria-free. Georgetown has the Public Hospital and there are several other hospitals around where advice can be seek. Further information can be obtained from the Vaccination Division of the Ministry of Health by calling (592)226 7338 or (592) 226 1366.

    Footwear Custom: Guyanese people do not wear shoes in their homes and expect visitors to do the same.

    Security: Exercise the same safety precautions as you would in any city or unfamiliar environment. Most areas are safe on foot by day or taxis at night. Please check with your Hotel front desk for current advice. Exercise common sense; and be sensible about wearing jewelry or expensive looking clothing.

    Crime in Guyana is rarely directed at tourists, so visitors should not feel unduly concerned or intimidated. On the other hand, crime does exist everywhere, so be sensible about the where you go and how you behave. Georgetown is notorious for petty street crime, so unless you know the area well, you should avoid walking alone and at night. As a general rule the interior regions, rainforests, mountains, and rural areas maintain a friendly atmosphere and are safe.

    Shopping: There are numerous markets and most recently malls for shopping in Guyana. Stabroek Market is a quaint market located in Georgetown. Trips to the market for tourists are best done in groups or with a local with whom you feel comfortable. Guyana is also noted for its exceptional gold jewelry, which can be bought at Starbroek Market. Ask around to find other craft and gift shops as well as art galleries. There is a market full of local African style carvers, artists and clothes sellers, all made locally on Main Street.

    Cost of Living: The cost of living in Guyana is relatively high because most of the items used in daily life are imported and carry high transportation costs. Monopolies also dominate the business sector resulting in high prices as well.

    Food & Drink: Guyanese food is a reflection of the diverse population and its creole and India heritage.

    Local dishes include curries, especially chicken, pork, beef, pumpkin and eggplant; roti shops, pepperpot; and because of Guyana’s seaside location, shrimp, crab and other seafood. Chinese restaurants are also common, with noodle dishes such as chow mein and lo mein along with meat and rice dishes; as well as a growing number of Brazilian outdoor BBQ restaurants and churrascarias.

    Georgetown has a greater variety of food options than elsewhere in the country, including steakhouses, upscale colonial dining, European fare and sophisticated Indian food. In the smaller towns, there are usually only a few restaurants; and these serve mostly a creole menu of a few dishes, which almost always includes a curry or two and a noodle dish.

    In the jungle lodges, the food is often limited to tinned goods and rice, along with whatever can be caught or grown locally.

    The most popular drink in Guyana is dark rum. National favorites are XM 10 Year Old, El Dorado and X-tra Mature. El Dorado offers a 15 year old variety which has won the "Best Rum in the World" award since 1999. Guyana rums are high quality rums that can be drunk neat or mixed in cocktails. Many of the older rums, 25 years old, are often compared to fine Scotch.

    Beers are also popular. Banks Beer is the national beer of Guyana and is available as a lager and a stout. Other popular beers include the light Carib beer from Trinidad, Polar from Venezuela, Skol from Brazil, dark Mackeson from England and Heineken from Holland. Guinness is brewed locally in Guyana under a special license and is a bit sweeter than its Irish counterpart, but just as good.

    Local non-alcoholic beverages include:

    > Mauby - a tree bark-based drink, similar to Root Beer, but with a more bitter aftertaste.

    > Coconut water and cane juice are other also popular local drinks.

    > Sorrel – a sweet dark pink beverage made from the Roselle plant.

    Lodging: The quality of lodging in general is decent. Georgetown, the capital, offers the best and largest range of options.

    Travel Information
    scattered clouds

    By Air
    Cheddi Jagan International Airport (airport code GEO) is the main airport and was originally called Timehri International Airport in honor of the indigenous displaced peoples of Guyana (Timehri means "Rock Painting"). Cheddi Jagan International Airport is about 40km south of Georgetown.

    There are daily international flights into and out of Cheddi Jagan International Airport. International flights include flights from the US, Canada, the UK and The Caribbean.

    Flights from the Caribbean include: Caribbean Airlines (formerly BWIA), a state owned airline run by Trinidad & Tobago; Caribbean Star; and LIAT, among others.

    North American flights include: Xtra Airways - non- stop flights from New York. Primaris Airlines - non- stop flights from JFK- New York and FLL - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Ogle Aerodome (airport code OGL) – is a small airfield located slightly closer to Georgetown (approximately 6 mi) used by a few private charter companies, and for domestic/local flights.

    Citizens of the US and the following countries do not need a visa to visit Guyana: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Luxembourg, Montserrat, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom.

    If you are not from one of these countries you will need: to fill out a visa application form; a passport valid for at least 6 months; 3 passport size photographs; and proof that shows you have the funds to cover your entire trip to Guyana.

    A tourist visa costs USD$30, single entry business visa costs USD$40, a multiple entry 3 month business visa costs USD$50, and a multiple entry 1 year business visa costs USD$75. Once in Guyana, if you want or need to extend your visa, you can do so at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown.

    If your intent is to work or live in Guyana, you will need to obtain a letter of approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and include a copy of it in your submission.

    The only way to submit your visa is through the mail. Submissions must be made to the Guyanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or, if there is a Guyanese consulate in your country, you can submit it there, too.

    Customs and Immigration
    All persons traveling to and from Guyana must clear Customs & Immigration. Visitors are advised to check with the nearest Guyana Embassy or Consulate or their travel agent,

    Departure Tax
    An exit tax of GYD$4000 (USD$20) is chargeable on departure at CJIA. This tax is purchased at the airport near the check-in counter. You should confirm your ticket at least 48 hours before departure.

    Travel by Car
    Georgetown is well served with taxis, which operate throughout the city and to other urban centres. Taxis are easy to find outside most hotels and throughout Georgetown. There are fixed fares for most distances; check in advance. Private taxis are easily arranged through your local hotel or by asking the front desk to locate one for you.

    Guyana does have road access from/to Suriname to the east and Brazil to the south. In Suriname, inquire in Paramaribo for mini-buses traveling to Guyana. There are no road links between Venezuela and Guyana. Travel to Venezuela may be done by air via Trinidad (Caribbean Airlines) or overland through Roraima state in Brazil.

    Travel by Bus
    Transportation around the city is provided by privately owned mini buses which operate in allocated zones for which there is a well-regulated fare structure. This arrangement extends to all mini bus routes throughout the country. Taxis have freer movement around the city. 

    From Suriname, there are minibuses from Paramaribo to South Drain in western Suriname, just across the river from Guyana. The trip takes at least 3 hours and costs ~US$15. From there, you will go through customs on the Suriname side. The actual ferry ride takes about 30 minutes, but you'll need more time for going through customs on the Guyanese side.

    The bus ride from Lethem, at the Brazilian border, to Georgetown takes about 16 hours through rainforest and southern savannah. The ride can be much longer in the rainy season. Sections of the roadway are known to become impassable in heavy rainy weather and extreme care must be taken.

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