Last week, after weighing up some options, I was figuring out how to get to Suriname before my visitors visa expires. I discovered early (thankfully) that I’ll need a visa to enter the country, and to get one I had to go to the Surinamese embassy here in Guyana. Here’s the funny thing though; you can only pay for the visa using US dollars (35 of them to be exact), a currency you can’t generally use anywhere else in the country. So once I’d exchanged some Guyanese dollars for US I head back to the embassy. It’s got to be the easiest visa process I’ve seen so far: said I want to visit Suriname, paid $35 and got a card to give over to Immigration at the border. That was it.
The trip itself was pretty straightforward too: bus from Georgetown to the ferry (6,000GYD), ferry to Suriname (4,000GYD return) and then another bus once you’re in Suriname to Paramaribo (included in the price of the bus from GT). It’s a fairly long(ish) trip though, at least 10 hours. My day started with a wake up call from the bus driver at 3.30am sayin he’s on his way and picked me up just after 4, with about 4 or 5 hours driving to the ferry. Then a few hours waiting around and going through immigration before getting on the ferry itself, which was just over an hour to get to Suriname. Next immigration check to enter the country and back onto a bus to get to Paramaribo. This is where it got long, because although Paramaribo is only a few hours from where you get the ferry, the driver drops you off where you need to be (hotel, house, etc) so on a minibus with 16 people that was 16 seperate drop offs… and mine was the last!
I’d been talking with someone from Paramaribo using Couchsurfing and she was willing to host me for a weekend, but as it turned out she wasn’t even in Suriname herself for this weekend because of work. She put me in touch with another friend of hers who could potentially host but unfortunately that didn’t work out either. We still met up, he’d invite me to a party they were having for one of his friends birthdays so my first night was at a filipino house party hetting drunk and doing karaoke in the living room. Everyone there was so friendly! It was a fun night and it felt good to be meeting new people swapping stories with other travellers again, it made me realise how settled I’d become already to my life in Guyana.
Being the weekend Suriname was celebrating its Independence Day as well most places to stay were also fully booked, but I found one spot with only one bed left. DeKleine Historie Guesthouse. It’s an old colonial building not too far from the historic city centre. 6 person dorm rooms, hot showers, breakfast included and the all important free wifi made this place an absolute bargain for the $12 US per night. The staff were pretty cool, helpful and happy to even go out of their way to help you.
My only drawback to the trip was that I only had Sunday to do anything but almost everywhere was closed. This left me to take a long and slightly uneventful walk around the town. Discovering a new city though is always interesting; you can’t be lost when you don’t know where anything is to begin with so that left me discovering (read: walking around in circles) and seeing the sights. The arcitechture was a little different from that in Guyana- old Dutch colonial buildings. Some had been renovated and modernised, some look like they hadn’t been touched for the last hundred years.
Somehow no matter where I go, I always manage to find my way back to the waters edge too.
And every few corners I turned I found a statue for something or other. The one below I thought was a little creepy!
So after my day of walking around an almost empty town I went back to my little gem of a hostel to rest since my next day began again at 4am with a long bus ride back to my home in Georgetown.
Immigration was a little more interesting this time as well. The female Immigration Officer spent a while examining my passport and asked me my back story. Turns out when I went to the Immigration Office in Georgetown to apply for an extension, they missed 6days backdating it, so when the officer at the border asked me where I was for those 6 days and I told her still in Guyana she looked me straight in the eye and said, “So you were in the country ilegally for almost a week!?”.
I thought I was going to be denied entry, maybe even detained there and then to be deported back to the UK (in winter no less) with half of my possessions being left in Guyana with the family I’ve been staying with. Somehow, I don’t even know how, not only was I allowed back into the country but she grant me 90days.
I have 3 months to make everything right…