|Currency||Surinamese dollar (SRD)|
|Electricity||110-127V/60HZ (Europe & USA plug)|
Suriname (pronounced in English like the common English spelling of its name: surinam) is a small republic on the northeast coast of South America. It prides itself on its thoroughly multi-ethnic culture, a colourful blend of indigenous Indian traditions and those of its former Dutch colonisers and the African, Javanese and Hindustan workers they once brought with them. It's a country with a fabulous and largely untouched Amazon inland, slowly discovering its chances as an eco-tourism destination. International visitors are steadily following Dutch travellers who have long been drawn to this friendly, tropical country to explore its spectacular nature, captivating cultural heritage and meet its ever smiling people.
Formerly called Dutch Guiana, Suriname is tucked in between French Guiana in the east and Guyana (formerly British Guiana) in the west. In the south the country is bordered by Brazil and in the north by the Atlantic Ocean. At just under 165,000 km², Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. It has 530,000 inhabitants, half of whom live in the exuberant capital, Paramaribo.
Home to almost half of the country's population, the capital city Paramaribo and its direct surroundings is as bustling as it gets here. Listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, it has a delightful historic centre while its many cafés and restaurants cater to every traveller's needs. It's also an excellent starting point for trips to every other part of the country.
The west coast is celebrated for its bird life, and the Bigi Pan Nature Reserve can be an absolute highlight in any Suriname travels. There are a few towns and some choices as far as accommodation goes, but this is a place away from the crowds and often overlooked by visitors.
The eastern region offers some of the best examples of former colonial plantations, some still in use, others deserted and largely ruined. Along the coast you'll find some of the most prominent nesting beaches for sea turtles in all of the West-Atlantic.
The inland areas of Suriname are part of the vast Amazon region and almost entirely covered with tropical rainforest. In the southwest is the Sipaliwini savanna area. In the centre and south are mountain ranges, but the highest peak, the Julianatop, is only 1280m high. Most Amerindians and Maroons live in this region, many of them in a primitive way. The Brokopondo Reservoir is one of the largest reservoirs in the world.
- Paramaribo - The capital and only city of the country
- Albina - Hub to French Guiana
- Apoera - Indian village in West Suriname
- Domburg - Sunday's meeting point for Paramaribo people
- Groningen - Relaxed place on the Saramacca River
- Lelydorp - The second largest city of Suriname
- Moengo - The former bauxite mining centre
- Nieuw Amsterdam - Best known for it's fort
- Nieuw Nickerie - Most western city protected by a sea wall
- Santigron - A Maroon village along the Saramacca river
- Bigi Pan Nature Reserve - A large area of open water, mudflats and mangrove forest
- Brownsberg Nature Park - A nature park close to Paramaribo
- Central Suriname Nature Reserve - one of the most remote, ancient, and pristine wildernesses on Earth
- Colakreek - A Cola colored swimming place in the midst of the savannah
- Galibi nature reserve - Beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs
- Jodensavanne - A ruined, historic settlement of Sephardic Jews
- Nature Resort Kabalebo - Flora and fauna in the untouched nature of the splendid Amazon rain forest
- Old plantations in Commewijne - Best place to visit plantations as they were once
- Raleighvallen Nature Reserve - An extensive set of rapids in the upper Coppename River
- Upper Suriname - Authentic Maroon villages along the Upper Suriname River
Dutch from the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands colonized Suriname in the 17th century but periods of British administration did not finally cease until 1816. The colony was mainly used for sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations where many African slaves were worked to death.
In 1863 slavery came to an end and contract workers were recruited from British India (until 1916) and Java (until 1936). Many stayed after their contract had ended.
Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975 and to retain their Dutch nationality many Surinamese left for the Netherlands. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic characterized by a high level of government corruption and the summary executions of political opponents. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election. In 1989, the military overthrew the civilian government again, but a democratically-elected government returned to power in 1991.
Due to its colonial past, the country has an ethnically diverse population with Hindus whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent comprising the largest percentage at 27%, followed by Creoles with 18%, and Maroons and Javanese each with 15%. The remaining 25% consist of Moksi (people of mixed ethnicity), Chinese, Jews, Lebanese, Brazilians and white Europeans. Suriname is known for its tolerance between different ethnic groups and this is illustrated in the Keizerstraat in Paramaribo where a mosque and a synagogue are built right beside each other.
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check Paramaribo's 7 day forecast
Suriname has a tropical rainy climate, hot and humid. It has two rainy seasons per year. The long rainy season runs from late April to mid-August. The short rainy season runs from mid-December to mid-February. Usually it does not rain all day but there are heavy tropical showers mainly in the afternoon. The temperature is about 30°C but in the dry period from mid-August to mid-December it can rise to 35-40°C. Humidity is about 80% year-round and can exacerbate temperature extremes. It feels clammy and sticky.
Mostly rolling hills, rising towards a maximum of around 1,000 m in the south; narrow coastal plain with mangrove swamps. Mostly tropical rain forest with a great diversity of flora and fauna that is in excellent condition, although increasingly threatened by new development, logging and gold mining. Suriname is crossed by numerous rivers. Major rivers are the Maroni (border river with French Guiana), Suriname, the Commewijne (running from east to west), the Coppename, the Tapanahony (tributary of the Maroni), the Saramacca and the Corentyne, which forms the border with Guyana. By heavy rainfall rivers burst their banks which can result in heavy floodings. In southern Suriname are mountain ranges. These include the Oranjegebergte, Van Asch van Wijckgebergte, Wilhelminagebergte, Eilerts de Haangebergte, Grensgebergte and the Toemoek-Hoemakgebergte. With 1,280 m, Julianatop is the highest point of Suriname.
Flora and fauna
Suriname has a vast variety of flora and fauna. Most of Suriname, about 80%, is covered with jungle. This forest is part of the largest tropical rainforest on earth, the Amazon rainforest, which is mostly on Brazilian territory. A large number of species of birds, reptiles and mammals inhabit these forests and the coast area. Leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach at Galibi. Other species in Suriname include the endangered and protected jaguar, sloth, giant anteater, cayman, squirrel and howler monkeys, tapirs and the scarlet ibis (especially in Bigi Pan in the Nickerie district. In 2005 Suriname hit world news when 25 new species were discovered in Eastern Suriname (Nassau and Lely Mountains).
Suriname is well known for its kaseko music in the Indo-Caribbean tradition. Kaseko's a fusion of many styles and folklore from Europe, Africa, and the Americas that is rhythmically complex. Percussion instruments include the skratji (big drum) and trap drums. Saxophones, trumpets and the occasional trombone join with solo or chorus voices with the songs typically structured to "say and answer" in a similar styles to the natives of the region, as winti and kawina. The Kaseko evolved in the thirties during festivities that used large bands, particularly bands of wind instruments, and were called Bigi Pokoe (big drum music). Following World War II, jazz, calypso, and other important genres became popular, while the rock music of the US soon left its own influence in the form of electric instruments. You will much enjoy the entertainment there like music and watching Association Football. Surinamese songs are called "pokoes" in Sranang Tongo. They have a great variety of music, because of the different cultures.
If you want to visit Suriname and you are not a citizen of one of the following countries, you have to ensure that your visa papers are in order. If you want to apply for a visa please contact one of the Suriname Consulates listed in Contact. Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Suriname:
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica (for holders of diplomatic and official passports only), Colombia (for holders of diplomatic and official passports only), Cuba (for holders of diplomatic and official passports only), Dominica, Philippines, Gambia, Guyana, Grenada, Hong Kong, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela (for holders of diplomatic and official passports only), South Korea.
In most cases you will receive a single-entry visa. So you only will be able to enter Suriname one time with that visa. In most cases this is no issue, but it can become an issue if you want to combine your trip to Suriname with a visit to for instance Guyana or French-Guiana. As of December 2010 single entry was USD45 and multiple entry USD50 in Georgetown for EU citizens.
When you arrive in Suriname it is important that you inform the authorities where you are staying. Therefore you must go to the foreigners registration office in the 'Nieuwe Haven' within a week after your arrival. The customs-official will remind you of this.
As of November 2011 citizens of the following countries can obtain a single entry 90 day tourist card for USD25 or €20 (cash) at The Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport: Netherlands, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela. See the Suriname Embassy in The Hague website for more details.
Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport
(IATA:PBM) Formerly called Zanderij International Airport, it is located 45 km south of Paramaribo.
From Amsterdam you can get the daily KLM flight. Surinam Airways also offers flights from Amsterdam and various parts of the Caribbean destinations.
From the United States, airline service is available via Surinam Airways and Caribbean Airlines, with a stopover in Trinidad. Besides the daily connection to the Netherlands, there are weekly direct flights to Suriname from Trinidad, Brazil (Belem), and Curacao.
From Johan Adolf Pengel International you can take the taxi or bus into town. A taxi (if private one) will cost around SRD80. However, prices will vary between drivers. Make sure to arrange and set a price with the driver before going anywhere.
(IATA: ORG) A small airfield located further from Paramaribo which has a few private charter companies and primarily local and domestic flights. The following companies have a few daily flights from/to Ogle Aerodome in Georgetown (Guyana):
- Gum Air, Doekhieweg 03, Zorg-en-Hoop Airport, Paramaribo, ☎ , fax: +597 491740, e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa.
- Trans Guyana Airways (TGA), Ogle Aerodome, Ogle, East Coast Demerara, Guyana, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa.
There are no trains in Suriname.
Guyana has road access to Suriname. In Guyana, Georgetown inquire in for mini-buses travelling to Suriname. Note that entering Suriname, Nieuw Nickerie by water travel from in Guyana is illegal. Buses leave Georgetown for the Surinamese border daily. Ask for Berbice car park. In the west (Guyana-Suriname border) there's a regular river ferry between Guyana and Suriname.
There's a possibility of travelling from French Guiana by car (there a small car ferry between Suriname and Guyana). In the east there are small boats and small ferry between Albina (Suriname) and St. Laurent (French Guiana) The price is usually around SRD10 or €5 p.p.
From Georgetown, Guyana, take mini bus #63a to Molson Creek in eastern Guyana just across the river from Suriname. The trip takes at least 3h. From there, you will go through customs on the Guyanese side. Then take the 11:00 daily ferry across the river to South Drain. The actual ferry ride takes about 30 minutes.
In the east there are small boats and small ferry between Albina (Suriname) and St. Laurent (French Guiana). The price is usually around SRD10 or €5 per passenger.
In the west there's a regular river ferry between Guyana and Suriname. The ferry from Guyana is USD10 and runs only once a day at 11:00. The ferry departs the Suriname side for Guyana also at 11:00 (Suriname is one hour ahead of Guyana). As of December 2010 there's an additional ferry two hours later. Check for details.
Since not many tourists visit Suriname yet and the inner-land is not within easy reach, the expenses of travel are higher than you might expect. Tourist attractions can be more expensive than in Europe or the United States. It is expected that this will change in the near future since there is an annual increase visible in foreign tourists, creating the necessity of working on better roads as well as other ways of cheaper transportation.
If you’re not intending to go deep inland, rent a car but on dirt roads, always rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. The rental company will ask you where you are heading. Some don't allow you to go into the forest with their cars unless you rent a SUV.
- Suriname traffic drives on the left side of the road.
- There are a lot of speed bumps which are signed as drempel. These can be very high to force you to reduce your speed to nearly zero. Most bumps are constructed as twins at the entrance and exit of communities and junctions.
- Most roads are not marked with traffic lines.
- There are few bridges but those that you encounter may be in bad condition. Drive slowly. If you want to drive to Jodensavanne keep in mind that the bridge across the Suriname River at Carolina is closed as it is partly collapsed. There is a car ferry for about six vehicles.
- There are plenty of gas stations but fill up your tank if you leave the paved roads.
At every riverbank you can charter boats at reasonable prices. It is wise to always travel with a tour guide.
Languages Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes referred to as Taki-Taki in French Guiana, is the native language of Creoles and much of the younger population. It's English-based (since slaves were forbidden from speaking Dutch) and used as a lingua franca between all the different ethnic groups and, since 1986 has an official spelling), Sarnami (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese, Chinese (Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese) and Portuguese
Sranang Tongo was suppressed by the Dutch for many years but it is now the most widely used language in Suriname. It was previously called nengre or negerengels (Dutch, "Negro English"). Suriname has a large immigrant population, many of whom do not speak Dutch or English, but everyone is expected to know Sranang Tongo. There is very little written material in Srannang Tongo but, if you know English, it will not be hard to learn.
With almost a third of the country being declared national reserves, Suriname's main tourist attraction are its vast natural lands and the diversity of flora and fauna in them. Head to the beaches of Galibi and Albina to witness the impressive breeding process of large Leatherback sea turtles, or book a helicopter ride to one of the more remote beaches to see the same, with fewer people around. Spot river dolphins on the way and see the typical mangrove forests between the ocean and the rain forests. The Amazon rain forests cover most of the Surinam surface and is home to thousands of birds, reptiles, monkeys and even a handful of jaguars. As tourism develops, guided tours and resorts in the heart of the jungle are popping up and make a comfortable option if you want to spend a few days spotting wildlife or plants, including the rubber tree, spike-footed palms, plenty of orchids and cactuses. Day trips are an option too. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is the most popular of the reserves and is home to the Raleigh waterfalls and mount Voltzberg. Brownsberg Nature Park is home to one of the largest man-made lakes in the world: the Brokopondo Reservoir. Visit Tonka Island to see the eco-tourism project that Saramaccaner Maroons have set up there.
Maroon and Amerindian villages are found deep in the forests, but many of them also lie on the riverbanks. A boat trip down the Marowijne river, with French Guyana just on the other side, is a great way to see the best of the forest, visit some villages and do some border hopping on the go. For a less adventurous day, try swimming in Cola Creek, a black water (Blaka Watra) recreational park some 50 km from Paramaribo and popular with Suriname families. On the way back, make sure to stop at the Jodensavanne (Jews savanna), where the Jews were allowed to settle in the 17th century. Now, only the ruins at this important historic place remind of those days.
Paramaribo itself is a pleasant place and its historic inner centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The capital has many characteristics of a large village community and although there are few real landmarks and sights, is a nice place to spend some time. Linger on the Waterkant, the water side street with its old wooden, colonial houses and grab a bite from one of the food stands there. Go shopping at the Central Market and gaze at the Jules Wijdenboschbrug. Stroll to Fort Zeelandia, through the Palm tree garden and the Independence square. Make sure to include the Roman Catholic Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in your walk, since it is the largest wooden building in South America.
Former plantations will take you back to colonial times, when coffee and sugar where produced here. Some of the plantation houses have been renovated, and a few are even in use to make coffee and dry shrimp. Bike through the quiet and green area, between the banana plants, to visit former plantations with names like Einde Rust (End of Rest), Worsteling Jacobs (Struggle Jacobs), Zorgvliet and Zeldenrust (Rarely Rest).
Although most if not all visitors will probably visit Paramaribo it is well worth getting out to explore other regions that are all in great contrast with the capital.
This can be arranged by a tour operator so you do not have to worry about transportation and accommodations. For the more adventurous Suriname is challenging but certainly not with insurmountable obstacles.
- 1 January - New Year's Day
- 25 February - Revolution Day
- 1 May - Workers' Day
- 5 June - Indian Arrival Day
- 1 July - Keti-koti (Sranantongo creole for "the chains are cut"). This day is also known as (Prisiri) Maspasi, meaning "Emancipation (Festival)".
- 9 August - Day of Amerindians and Javanese Arrival Day
- 10 October - Day of the Marroons
- 25 November - Independence Day
- 25 December - Christmas Day
- 26 December - Boxing Day
- Owru Jari (New Year celebration) - Three days of festival to celebrate the old and new years with lots of fireworks.
- Carnival (Feb) - Colourful carnival parades.
- Avondvierdaagse (Apr) - Walking and dancing four days long in the streets of Paramaribo. The event starts at 17:00. The route varies and holds a different surprise every day. It meanders through the various neighbourhoods, each with its own characteristics.
- Bodo (End of the Javanese fasting period) - Bodo is the Javanese name of the Eid al-Fitr (Sugar Feast) festival in Suriname.
- Divali - This Hindu festival of light is a national day in Suriname since 2010
- Jaran Kepang - Jaran Kepang is a traditional Javanese dance accompanied by gamelan music. This spectacular folk-dance is very popular in Suriname.
- Keti Koti (Sranantongo creole for "the chains are cut") is marked on 1 July. This day is also known as (Prisiri) Maspasi, meaning "Emancipation (Festival)". (Although slavery had been abolished by the British during their early 1800's re-occupation, the Netherlands re-introduced it to Suriname in 1817, only to "abolish" it 46 years later in 1863. Slaves did not become fully free until 1873, after a mandatory 10 year transition period during which time slaves were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state sanctioned torture.)
- Winti Pré - This Creole worship is a dance ritual for gods and ghosts.
Accommodation and food is relatively cheap. Retail prices for clothing, gifts, etc, are similar to the US.
Things which are well worth buying are:
- Handcrafted jewellery
- handcrafted woodcarvings
- Tropical flowers
The local currency is the Suriname dollar and uses the notation SRD (which is also the ISO 4217 international currency code). The currency is freely convertible (but nearly impossible to get rid of outside Suriname except for the neighbouring countries and one exchange bureau in Amsterdam airport) and, as of September 2014, trades at approximately:
- USD1 = SRD3.25 (fixed rate)
- €1 = SRD4.20
- GBP1 = SRD5.28
- CHF1 =SRD3.48
- CAD1 = SRD2.94
- JPY100 = SRD3.03
- CNY1 = SRD0.529
- GYD100 = SRD1.63
You can exchange currency at all banks as well as most cambio's. Automatic teller machines (ATM) are available in Paramaribo and in the most larger municipalities in the north. The ATMs of the RBTT bank accept most international bank cards. Paying by credit card in shops, hotels and restaurants is not very common. Expect 2-6% extra charge.
The usual opening times of shops in Suriname are Mon-Thu 08:00-16:30. On Fridays there's usually late opening until 19:00 and on Saturday most establishments close at 14:00. Chinese supermarkets pop up throughout the country, even in the smallest hamlets. They are open until late in the evening.
Banks and post offices are opened Mon-Fri 07:30-14:00.
Government services are available Mon-Fri 07:00-14:00.
Because of the ethnic diversity there is a variety of exotic food available. Indian (specially roti with chicken), Chinese, Javanese (Indonesian), Creole.
Although Indonesian food might seem the appropriate name, the Indonesian people in Suriname are mostly if not all from the island of Java. And Java has its own cuisine, distinct from other styles of Indonesian food. Furthermore, the food has evolved to a more Surinamese culture and is thus very different from food you'd find in Java. Nevertheless it tastes great and you should try it. The most popular places where you would find such food is in 'warungs' in Lelydorp on your way from the airport to Paramaribo, or Blauwgrond in Paramaribo, and since recently near the bridge in Commewijne. Bami (noodles) and nasi (fried rice) can be ordered in every warung. It is accompanied with spicy chicken or satay with peanut sauce. Vegetarian dishes are baka bana (fried banana) and petjil (vegetables with peanut sauce). Telo is fried cassava with salt fish. Popular among Javanese people is soato, a stock with strips of chicken, bean sprouts, egg and sliced peppers.
Chinese food tastes great in Suriname. Good restaurants can be found in Paramaribo. Also, try visiting the Chinese market on Sunday and many of the dim sum restaurants.
East Indian food is less spicy compared to original Indian food, but still a well appreciated meal. Very popular is roti, pancakes filled with chicken, potato and kouseband (long beans) prepared with masala. Bara is a fried cake of beans, like a donut, dripping from fat.
This type of food can be found everywhere in Suriname, with dishes like cassava soup, pom (an oven dish with milled tajer-tuber and salt meat), pastei (an oven dish in puff pastry) and brownbeans or peanut soup with tom tom (dumplings of cooked bananas).
International menus are available in the more expensive downtown restaurant and hotels in Paramaribo.
Suriname wouldn't be the tropical paradise it is without its wide variety of great fruit juices. Even the well known orange juice is a sensational taste, but do not hesitate to try great tropical fruits like passion fruit (known locally as 'markoesa') or soursap, better known as Guanábana (locally known as 'zuurzak'). Since locals have an appetite for sweetness, sugar is added to most juices you buy in bottles. For pure juice it is best to ask for fresh made juice.
In the city it's also possible to get shaved ice in different flavours from the local vendors, which is very refreshing in the tropical climate.
The Javanese have a pink (and occasionally green) coloured drink called dawet, which consists of coconut milk.
Try to get a local 'east-Indian' to make you a glass of lassi if you have the chance.
Beer: Try the local 'Parbo-beer', which, when it comes in one litre bottles, is called a 'djogo'. In 2008, Suriname finally got Parbo beer in a can, which was somewhat of a major event in the country. Guinness is a popular import beer, and for that reason Parbo also brews a very decent own stout variant: Parbo Stout and their own rums: Borgoe and Black Cat. Of course imported beers, whiskeys and rums are also available.
There are several good hostels and guest-houses available in Paramaribo and Nickerie. See the appropriate page for more information. When going into the rainforest it is best to buy a hammock in Paramaribo. Some guest houses in the forest provide hammocks, but these tend to be less hygienic, since washing machines are not that available in the forest. Bring mosquito repellent and sunblock when going into the forest.
Students wishing to obtain an education here must have a working knowledge of Dutch as classes are only instructed in Dutch.
Working as a foreigner in Suriname without a work permit is illegal, though granted, there is not much of a force to stop you. However, relations do exist between the Netherlands and Suriname for work exchange programs and extra labour, especially those of skilled classes.
If you are concerned about safety try to avoid venturing at night alone. Try using a bike when possible. When in Paramaribo at night, avoid the Palm Garden as this is a well known crime site where much drug trade is done. The police force is only so large and can only protect you to a certain extent. Therefore, stay where you know police protection is offered. So please, use common sense when venturing outside downtown, which in itself can have problems. Do NOT venture to the bush (binnenland) alone.
To enter Suriname there’s no need for any special kind of vaccination, though some are recommended (see below). If you plan a jungle-trip, which is highly recommended, it is possible that you may want to take precautions against malaria, depending on the area you are planning to visit (although since 2005 there have not been any cases of malaria reported in Suriname).
Be sure to check with BOG, or your local pharmacist or health clinic what prophylactic you should take. The bigger threat nowadays comes from dengue, also spread by mosquitoes, for which there is no prophylactic, nor any cure. Travellers diarrhoea can also potentially be a problem.
Yellow fever vaccination is recommended. (Required to get into Brazil afterwards!) Tetanus-diphtheria vaccination is recommended. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.
The Adult HIV/AIDS prevalence is reaching 2% or 1 in 50 adults, which is 3 times higher than the US and 9 times higher than the Netherlands. Be sure to practice safe sex.
Be respectful when taking photographs. Like everywhere else, one should respect the environment and the culture. For example the inland-people consider certain trees and spots holy and it is likely you need consent before taking a photograph. Your local guide will usually also indicate so. Ask for consent when you think it is appropriate as you would anywhere else.
- Emergencies:, ☎ 115.