Georgetown is the largest city in and capital of Guyana. Georgetown is primarily the business and governmental seat of the country but its fascinating wooden colonial buildings also provide a different experience for tourists. Most tourists visit Georgetown as a launching point to the rainforests of the interior.
Founded as a small Dutch settlement in the 18th century, Georgetown has changed hands between the British, Dutch and French many times - not unusual for places in or near the Caribbean. The influence of several colonial powers is visible in place names. The city got its current name after the British King George III in 1812.
Georgetown is home to about 200,000 inhabitants, around one in four Guyanese, and by far the commercial and administrative centre of the country, as well as an important entry point and transport hub. Sitting on the shore of the Atlantic, the city is one metre below sea level and protected by a seawall from the ocean. The city with its surroundings has a notable network of canals.
A few degrees north of the Equator, Georgetown has a tropical rainforest climate with stable temperatures around the year; daytime highs at +30°C and nighttime lows at +23°C. There is no true dry season, but February-March and September-October are the driest periods. May-July is mostly the wettest time of the year, and a less intense rain season is in December-January.
- 1 Cheddi Jagan Temeri International Airport (GEO IATA). The main airport serving Georgetown is mainly served by Caribbean Airlines from New York City and Port of Spain. American Airlines flies from Miami and New York-JFK. Delta Air Lines (twice-weekly), Eastern Airlines, and JetBlue fly from New York. Copa Airlines flies from Panama City and Surinam Airways flies from Miami and Paramaribo year-round and Orlando/Sanford during the peak season. Make sure you have some currency when you arrive because there is no ATM in the airport. Also, in town the only bank that your card will work at is Scotiabank. US dollars can be used for almost any transaction and you can easily stay in Georgetown without using the local currency. Immigration processing is appallingly slow. Arriving tired on one of the late-night flights is an exercise in considerable patience.
- Once out of the airport, a taxi is about US$25 or G$5000 and takes 45-60 minutes to get to Georgetown, depending on traffic. The cheaper, slightly slower option is to take minibus #42 to Timeri bus park which is behind the parliament building near Stabroek Market. The minibus costs G$260. The minibuses run at all hours of night and day, however taxi drivers will try to get you as a fare as soon as you come out of departures. They will say it's not safe to walk around in Georgetown at night, which is true. However, a taxi from the minibus station to your hotel will be about G$400.
- 2 Ogle Airport (Eugene F. Correira International Airport OGL IATA). A small airport slightly closer to Georgetown (~6 mi) that is for a few private charter companies, primarily used for domestic/local flights. They are served by Gum Air and Trans Guyana Airways. See below.
- Gum Air, Doekhieweg 03, Zorg-en-Hoop Airport, Paramaribo, Suriname, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Daily. Gum Air and Trans Guyana Airways provide daily scheduled flights between Paramaribo (Suriname) and Georgetown. 1 hr 15 min.
- Trans Guyana Airways (TGA), Ogle Aerodome, Ogle, East Coast Demerara, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa.
- Roraima Airways, ☏ , fax: .
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 hrs and costs ~US$15. From there, you will go through customs on the Suriname side. Then take the 11:00 daily ferry across the river to South Drain. The ferry journey takes about 30 minutes, but you'll need more time for going through customs on the Guyanese side. On the Guyanese side, you will be in Molson Creek and can take minibus #63a to the minibus station near Stabroek Market in Georgetown. The trip takes at least 3 hrs and costs ~US$10. From there you can get a minibus for G$60/pp to where you are staying in Georgetown or a taxi for G$400.
When people in Guyana refer to buses, they mean minibuses. Minibuses (known as route taxis elsewhere) are the most common way to get around town. Minibus fares range from G$60-G$1000 depending on the length of the journey. Within the city, minibuses cost G$60 per person. Travel in this mode at night could be risky, however if the minibus does not get you to your exact location, the taxis are very cheap to complete the last leg of your trip.
There are numerous taxi services which are listed in the telephone directory and are not expensive. Fares should never be more than G$500 for travel within the city and most fares should be around G$400, regardless of the number of people. All taxis licence plates begin with 'H.' There are set prices for taxis for different destinations, e.g. from the airport to town costs GD$5000, from the airport to Molson Creek is GD$24000, etc. It is wise to ask at your hotel to recommend a driver. The "Yellow" taxis have the best reputation. Once you have found a driver that you trust, ask for his or her mobile phone number. A small tip will ensure that you get prompt service.
If you have a day or two to spend in Georgetown, check out the markets listed below, take a walk down 1 Regent Street, or through one of the markets and have a look at the Umana Yama Church (Amerindian cultural center) or some of the older colonial buildings around town, especially on Main Street. Historical buildings along High Street and Avenue of the Republic include the City Hall, City Engineer's Office, Victoria Law Courts, Magistrates' Courts, Saint Andrew Church (Georgetown's oldest church), State House (residence of the prime minister).
The local seawall may be unimpressive, but it protects a city that lies 1 metre below high-tide level. The sea wall, which helps prevent flooding and drainage is aided by canals protected by sluices, was built by the Dutch and later the British.
Georgetown has an abundance of tree-lined streets and avenues and contains many wooden colonial buildings and markets. Most of the main buildings are found around the western region of the town near Independence Square and Promenade Gardens. Interesting buildings include the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, the National Library, the Bank of Guyana, the National Museum of Guyana, State House and St. George's Anglican Cathedral.
- 2 National Museum of Guyana, On North Rd & Hinks St, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4:30PM, Sa 9-Noon. Two separate areas give a brief glance in the history of Guyana as well as the entire Guianas area. The museum has its roots in a collection opened in 1868, extended with a library in the 1930s. After a fire in 1945, the collection was rebuilt. In the front of the building there's a war memorial, the Guayana Centograph, finished in 1923. free.
- 3 Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, 61 Main St (between Middle St & New Market St), ☏ . M-F 8am-4:30pm. A museum with two floors showing the Amerindian heritage of Guyana. You can see artifacts, costumes, photos and archaeological founds. Free.
- 4 Castellani house (National Art Collection), southwestern corner of the Botanical Gardens. M-F 10-17, Sa 14-18. Castelliani House, named after its architect. This building served as the residence of the prime minister in 1965-85, was rebuilt in 1993 and since it houses the national gallery, showcasing paintings and sculptures of Guyanese artists. free, donations accepted.
- 5 Cheddi Jagan Research Center, ☏ . 09:00-16:00 M-F. Offers exhibits on the past president and first lady of Guyana and the country's history.
- 6 Guyana Heritage Museum Demerara (Museum of African Heritage), ☏ . A museum on the history of Guyana and its people.
- 7 Botanical Gardens. Open during daylight hours.. A large free garden where families and people hangout. The Guyana zoo is located within the grounds of the gardens and south of the zoo there are Victoria Lilies - Guyana's national flower, they are huge lilies. The park is a place to see birds, Victorian-era bridges (sometimes called kissing bridges in reference to newlyweds getting photos taken there), manatees, and palms. Castellani House is also next to the park. Free.
- 8 Guyana Zoo (inside the Botanical Gardens). A very small zoo with DIY cages for the animals. A lot of the cages are too small for the animal(s) they house. However, the zoo is a cheap way to spend an hour or two while in Georgetown. You can see parakeets, toucans, birds of prey, agoutis, caymans, monkeys, tapirs, pumas, jaguars and sealife in its aquarium. G$200/adults, G$100/children.
- 9 National Park (between Thomas Rd. and Carifesta Ave). A park retaining some of Guyana's old colonial flair, adjacent to the Everest Cricket Club.
- 10 Promenade Gardens, Middle street. A garden with tropical plants.
- 11 St George's Cathedral, ☏ . One of the world's tallest wooden structures, this cathedral is as attractive inside as out. The church is built of tropical hardwood between 1892 and 1899, and the tower is 45 m high.
- 12 Stabroek Market. Dating back to 1881, the interesting design of this iron structure and clock tower certainly make it the most recognisable of buildings.
- 13 Parliament Building, Hadfield St. Dates back to 1829.
- 14 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Hadfield & Camp Streets). Prominent Catholic church, built in 1920, with an altar bequeathed by Pope Pius XI.
- 15 Georgetown Lighthouse. Originally built by the Dutch in 1817 and then rebuilt in 1830, this beacon has a colorful pattern of red and white stripes.
- 16 St. Andrew's Kirk. Completed in 1818, has been a Dutch Reformed Church in Georgetown for some time.
- 17 Parliament Building. Dates to 1834 and is home to the National Assembly of Guyana.
- 18 Georgetown City Hall. Gothic Revival building dating from 1889 said to be "the most picturesque structure" in Georgetown.
Monuments and memorials
- 19 Independence Arch. This monument celebrates Guyana's independence from the British Empire in 1966, interestingly it was a gift by the British Queen.
- 20 Umana Yana, Water St.. Memorial to the liberation of the slaves. The cultural centre forms a huge traditional Wai-Wai (native American tribe) hut.
- 21 1763 Monument. Monument commemorating 1763 slave revolt.
- 22 Non-Aligned Monument.
- 23 Demerara Harbour Bridge. Pontoon bridge built in 1978 that is the only connection between Georgetown and West Demerara.
- American actor Pauly Shore has a party mansion called the Class Act after his 1992 movie of the same name. The mansion is situated on the outskirts of town in a former mangrove that was drained in order to build the property. During January and February when Shore is in residence, there are many "invite only" parties to attend with B-list semi-celebrities such as Matt Dillon, Carrot Top and Seth Green. However, there are also some open parties for the locals to attend if you can get a ticket. These tickets are even more sought after than one-day-international cricket tickets.
- 1 Victoria (20 km east). This was the first village bought by slaves. Its a place that you will never forget. The Holy Communion Lutheran Church was the first church in the country.
- 2 Demerara Rum Distillery, East Bank Public Road (15min minibus ride). Tours are offered. G$30.
- 3 Providence Stadium, East Bank Public Rd (south of town). The national stadium, with frequent cricket games.
- 4 National Cultural Center, Homestretch Avenue. Performance art center.
- Rum Guyana is famous for its rum (see Drink). El Dorado has a good store in Departures at the airport but bear in mind that you cannot take a connecting flight carrying liquids unless they are in your suitcase. There are several places in town where you can buy the best brands.
- The best place for buying souvenirs is The Hibiscus Plaza located outside the General Post office.
- Buy wood carvings from the artists outside the Hotel Tower.
The central shopping area is bounded by Hadfield Street on the South of the city, Water Street to the West, Albert Street to the East and Middle Street to the North. Most of the city's stores, supermarkets, boutiques and restaurants can be found within this zone.
- 1 Stabroek Market. A major market in the city centre. Keep an eye on your wallet.
- 2 City Mall, 38 Regent St. The City Mall on Regent Street is the most modern of its kind in Georgetown and many tourist stores are located here.
- 3 Fogarty's Department Store, 34-37 Water St. (behind the Nationalmuseum). Wonderful old-style supermarket on the first floor, other products on the second.
Ask around too about designs by local and internationally acclaimed fashion designers, Michelle Cole, Pat Coates and Roger Gary.
There are several well known places where you can get high quality handcrafted gold pieces, some of them being:
- 4 Royal Jewel House, 137 Regent St.
- 7 Fine Jewellery by Niko's, Church Street.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Georgetown City, Guyana is very high. For example approximate prices (as of Jan 2010) of petrol US$5 per litre, electricity is US$0.33/unit, a domestic gas cylinder is slightly over US$20. Rent for average family accommodation may exceed 750 US$ per month in central (safe) locations and personal income tax, which is 33.33% of total taxable income makes the living further difficult. Employee's salaries are normally paid in Guyanese dollars and the income tax is deducted at source by employer.
- 1 Demico House, Lombard St. Pastries, cakes etc.
- 2 JR Burgers (A Unique Guyanese Experience), 62 Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, ☏ . 09:00 - 23:00. Flame-grilled beef burgers, rotisserie chicken, Jamaican patties, ice coffees, milk shakes, smoothies, doughnuts in the morning. Other locations at City Mall (Camp & Regent Streets) and Robb Street.
- Stabroek Market cookshops. The best for local foods, day time only.
American fast-food chains present include Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut and Popeyes.
- 3 Brasil Churrascaria & Pizzaria, 208 Alexander Street. A Churrascaria that offers good food and service, and excellent caipirinhas.
- 4 New Thriving, 32 Main St. Chinese restaurant. Also has a buffet menu.
- 5 Oasis Cafe, 125 Carmichael St. And in Cheddi Jagan airport departure lounge. A nice range of cakes and pastries, together with coffee, cappuccino and the rest. Free wireless.
- 6 Shanta's Puri Shop (Shanta's Restaurant), Camp & New Market street. Good local food such as curries for vegetarian and non-vegetarian, as well as roti, dhalpuri and other Indian food.
- 8 El Dorado, Seawall Public Rd (Le Meridien Pegasus). Italian-themed fine dining restaurant, specializing in seafood, meat and pasta dishes.
The most popular national drink is Caribbean-style dark rum. The two national favorites are El Dorado and X-tra Mature which both offer 5, 10, 12 and 25 year varieties. El Dorado also offers a 15 year old variety which has won the "Best Rum in the World" award since 1999. Mix the cheaper ones with Coke or coconut water if you please. All are quality enough to drink neat or by themselves with the 25 year-olds comparing with high-quality scotch whisky.
Banks is the national beer. It comes in a lager and a stout (Milk Stout). Also available are the lighter Carib (Trinidad and Tobago) and darker Mackisson's. Guinness is brewed locally under licence and is a bit sweeter than its Irish counterpart, but just as good. Polar (Venezuelan) and Skol (Brazilian) can be found randomly throughout the country. You can also find Heineken and Corona at posher bars in Georgetown.
Non-alcohol: Malta is a popular sweet soda that is worth a try. Drink only bottled water.
There are small rum shops and bars throughout the city, those of note are:
- 1 Latino Bar & Nightclub, 54 Lime St (corner Hatfield St). Despite the name, the club offers more Caribbean-style Music (Dancehall, Soca, Reggae, Dub, etc.) than Latin. A nice little patio outside serves good drinks and has ceiling fans to take cool-down breaks from the hot dance floor inside. Take cabs to and from this location at night as the surrounding areas can be a little dodgy.
- 2 Palm Court, Main St. Nice outside dancing and sometimes features live Brazilian Music.
- Local Rum Shops, Anywhere. 06:00. Located anywhere that you would not find a bar or club. It is mostly found in rural areas. 100.
Since tourism in Guyana is not much developed there are not many online resources. But asking taxi drivers, barkeepers and random locals you meet on the street will yield many contacts to private accommodations that are much more affordable than the ones listed online. Thus, when planning to stay for more than just a few days, it is advisable to only book a hotel for one or two nights upfront and then go hunting when there.
Some hotels post their rates without the 16% tax, and in those cases the price you have to pay is higher.
- 1 Tropicana Hotel. Check-out: Noon. Cheapest place to stay in Georgetown. It's just above a bar, so there's loud music till late at night. There's also no attempt to limit mosquitoes or other insects. No air-conditioning, fan only. G$4000-G$5000/double.
- 2 Rima guesthouse, 92 Middle Street, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Popular backpacker hostel. Clean and beautifully decorated rooms, shared bathroom, nice common area. Wi-Fi available. sgl 5500 G$/28 US$, dbl 6500 G$/33 US$, breakfast 1000 G$/5 US$.
- 3 Armoury Villa Hostel & Guest House, 62-63 Newhaven Belair, ☏ . Lodging with wifi, a/c, gym, kitchen, TV/games, cooking premises, balcony. G$7304.
- 4 El Dorado Inn, 295 Thomas & Quamina Streets, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Attractive eight-roomed inn in the middle of the old colonial area. US$95.
- 5 Ocean Spray International Hotel, 46 Stanley Place, Kitty (at the intersection of Vlissengen & Public Rd), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-out: Noon. Rooms are air conditioned and include a simple breakfast, wifi and refrigerators in the room. sgl: US$ 57, dbl: US$ 75 incl. tax.
- 6 Sleepin International Hotel, 24 Brickdam, Stabroek, ☏ . from $45 plus 16%.
- 7 Armoury Villa & Guesthouse, 62-63 Newhaven Belaire, ☏ .
- 8 Cara Lodge, 294 Quamina St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 12.00. An attractive wooden building with a newer part built in the same style as the earlier part that faces the street and goes back to the 1840s. Guests have included Jimmy Carter and Mick Jagger. Suffers a few of the problems of older buildings but a pleasant place to stay with a good restaurant. from US$125.
- 9 Pegasus, Seawall Rd, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. For many years this was Georgetown's main hotel. Now looking a bit shabby in places but still the first choice for most business visitors. from $150.
- 10 Le Grand Penthouse, 6 Commerce St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 11 Grand Coastal Suites, Le Ressouvenir (10 minutes out of town on the East Coast road.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A family run hotel built in a colonial style. Convenient for visitors to the headquarters of CARICOM.
- 12 Ramada Georgetown Princess, Providence, East Bank Demerara (south of town, along the road to the National Stadium), ☏ .
Georgetown is notorious for petty street crime. Do not walk alone at night, or even in the day, unless you know the area well. Areas such as the Tiger Bay area east of Main Street and the entire southeastern part of the city including, in particular, Albouystown and Ruimveldt are traditionally known as high crime areas but one can be relatively safe if going through these areas in groups and with native escorts. Venturing into the covered area of the Stabroek Market can pose some dangers but if you need to visit it then do so with a group or with Guyanese whom you know well and with whom you feel comfortable. Police are unlikely to help you unless they see the crime in action. Be sensible about wearing jewellery. Even cosmetic jewellery which is gaudy is likely to attract the wrong attention.
It is advised to exercise common sense.
You might have heard of or read about the village Buxton. It is a hotbed of Afro-Guyanese violence, comparable to the American neighbourhood Compton south of Los Angeles. Visits to Buxton ought to be brokered carefully with someone who knows the area well and who is well accepted in the village. If your visit to this village is perceived to be anything other than casual then there could be unwarranted problems. There are a lot of gangs and drug dealers there. Many Indo-Guyanese villages such as Cane Grove, Annadale, and lusignan, are notorious for violence, petty crimes, racism and kidnappings. It is advisable for tourists or people who are not of Indo-Guyanese origin travelling through these areas should also be accompanied by someone known in these areas.
The police response varies depending on the location and time of the crime. Some tourists have reported positive responses.
Discussions of the current affairs of ethnic relations between the two major races, politics and the socio-economic issues in the country ought to be undertaken with much tact and much patience. Be aware that these types of discourses can sometimes lead to very heated and intense debate, and possibly something much worse. Guyanese are generally very open to discussing most issues, but as an outsider, you could be seen as a part of the problem - as absurd as that sounds - so guard your tongue.
Crime is rarely directed at tourists, so don't feel intimidated. Just be sensible about the company you keep, where you go and how you behave.
Safety for gay visitors
Homosexuality is illegal in Guyana and carries a sentence of life in prison. However, no one has been charged under the laws. One organisation SASOD organises some events to promote anti-homophobic work. There is no local gay "scene" as most homosexuals remain rather closeted. Private gatherings are known to occur to which one must be invited. Homosexuals who are openly gay are generally left alone providing they are circumspect about their behaviour. Public displays of affection among gay people are frowned upon and can make you the target of overt discrimination, attacks and taunts. There are no hotels, resorts or bars anywhere in the country which cater exclusively to gays and lesbian visitors or locals for that matter. Homophobia is sustained primarily through the influx of music which contains homophobic messages in their lyrics. The gay visitor is wise to be very cautious and conservative in his/her behaviour.
Embassies and High Commissions
- Canada, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Brazil, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- China, Lot 2, Mandela Ave, Botanic Gardens, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Germany, ☏ , fax: .
- Suriname, 54 New Garden & Anira Street, ☏ , fax: .
- United Kingdom, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- United States, 100 Young and Duke Sts, Kingston, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Venezuela, ☏ , fax: .
As the capital of the country, Georgetown is a good place to start exploring the rest of Guyana.
- Kaieteur Falls. The falls is located on the Potaro river in Kaieteur National Park and is in the center of Guyana's rainforest. Its combination of great height and high water volume make it one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. There are frequent flights between Ogle Airport and Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown and the falls' airstrip. Day trips by airplane start from $150 per person (Air Services Limited). Book ahead to guarantee you don't miss out.
- Brazil There is bus service to Lethem where you can reach the border with Brazil. It is 14-18 hour journey primarily on a dirt road so be prepared. Pack water and snacks as breakdowns are notorious and you don't how long you might get stuck. From there you can catch a boat for about US$1.50, or you can walk across the bridge to enter Brazil. It is your responsibility to stamp out of Guyana and into Brazil (make sure you tell the taxi driver to stop at immigration) because it is not required for those who are not travelling inland and only go as far as the border town on the other side.
- Suriname: Mini-buses leave at 4am. Flights leave from Cheddi Jagan International airport later in the evening; from Ogle airport there at least two daily flights leaving, one early in the morning, the other at 1:30pm. Beware that one needs to obtain a tourist card from the embassy upfront.