Lethem is a border town of 3,000 in Guyana. It's right across the border from the Brazilian town of Bonfim.
At 73 m above sea level, Lethem is located in the Guyanese Highlands. The city was named after Sir Gordon James Lethem who was the governor of British Guyana between 1941-47. Next to the town flows the river Takutu, which also is the river to Brazil.
Being located north of the Equator, the rainy season in Lethem is from April to August. The temperature is constant around the year with daytime highs just above +30°C and nighttime lows ten degrees lower.
Entering from Brazil
Citizens of most first-world countries and a large part of the countries in the Western Hemisphere may enter Guyana without a visa. However your passport has to be valid for at least 6 months, and you must have had a yellow fever vaccination at least ten days before entering. Everyone, even Brazilians, need to obtain a Brazilian exit stamp from the Polícia Federal before you will be let into Guyana.
The dirt road from Georgetown through Linden to Lethem is being kept up despite the frequent need for repairs to bridges and hill slides; it's the only road link between the Brazilian state of Roraima and the sea coast. In particular during the rainy season the driving conditions are poor.
The Brazilian road coming from Boa Vista (125 km) to the south, is paved and in a much better shape. In 2008 the bridge from the Brazilian side of the river was completed, replacing the ferry.
From Georgetown, overnight minibuses depart every evening around 18:00 and they arrive in Lethem the next day around noon. Minibuses operate around the year, also in the rainy season — service with the full-size buses who could take up to 36 hours in the rainy period has been discontinued. From Linden onwards the road is a dirt road with a lot of potholes so don't expect to sleep well. Tickets are around GYD 9000-10000.
If you're coming from the south, there's at least a daily bus from the state capital Boa Vista to Bonfim, tickets are R$ 13 for the bus or R$ 35 for a minibus. From Bonfim, take a taxi or walk across the border.
Trans Guyana Airways has two daily flights between Georgetown and Lethem (no flights on Sundays). These flights leave from the small Georgetown-Ogle municipal airport closer to downtown (not the international airport) and are a comparatively comfortable way of getting Lethem from the capital. Luggage space is very limited so be sure to have the amount of allowable luggage clarified before arrival at the airport. Although this is a domestic flight, a passport is required for non-citizens. One-way tickets are GYD 30,000, round trip GYD 55,000.
From some major Brazilian cities, you simply can fly into Boa Vista and travel the last leg by bus.
Walk or drive. There's left-hand traffic in Guyana — watch out for cars that to you come from the "wrong direction".
There are many tourists attractions in Lethem area such as the Kanuku and the Moco Moco mountains and falls.
- 1 English colonial-style houses all over the town.
- 2 Mount Roraima (in the horizon). Mount Roraima is at a height of 2810 m the tallest mountain in Guyana and marks the tri-border between Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela. It can reportedly be seen from Lethem, despite being over 200 km away as the crow flies.
- 3 St. Ignatius. Walk across the wooden bridge in Lethem to visit the community of St. Ignatius. There are no businesses other than a cashew factory cooperative run by local women. You will, however, witness the daily lives of the Amerindian population.
- Rodeo. A rodeo takes place in Lethem around Easter time. It is a draws a large number of tourists from Guyana and from the bordering areas of Brazil.
- Waterfalls- There are two main waterfalls that people like to visit, Kumu falls, and Mocomoco falls.
There are two banks in Lethem — Guyana Bank for trade and Industry Ltd (GBTI) and Republic Bank — but cash is the better way to go. Besides the Guyanese dollar, some places might accept the US dollar. Brazilian currency is readily accepted.
Cash exchange rates in Lethem do not always reflect true exchange rates, so with enough cash in your hands in the right currency you can make some money off scalpers (cambistas in Portuguese). In December 2010, 1 BRL can be traded for 100 GYD (bought back at 110 GYD), and 1 USD can be traded for 195-200 GYD (bought back at 210 GYD), yet 1 USD is traded at 1.83 BRL (and bought back at 1.90 BRL). In Manaus or Boa Vista, buy USD to exchange for GYD in Lethem or Georgetown. If you are going to cross into Brazil from Guyana, make sure you have a lot of Guyanese dollars to buy Brazilian reais (which can be exchanged in Bonfim at the same rate as in Lethem, though there is no shortage of Brazilian reais on the Brazilian side of the border).
Next to the Takutu Hotel is a small establishment that sells Amerindian crafts. It has some unique items but business hours are very random. Other interesting things you may want to look after in the town are bicycles, design shoes, and home electronics.
Eating options are rather limited in Lethem; you may want to bring your own food. If you'll buy food in town, check the best before dates.
- 1 Restaurant T & M. Local basic eatery in the bus station. You can exchange currency here too. Betty's Creole corner- Local creole food and snacks.
Also the hotels have restaurants.
Bring mineral water. Takutu Hotel has a bar.
Malaria is a concern. Arrive with proper medication and insect repellent. Other diseases prevalent in the area are typhoid fever, cholera (some roadside food stands have bad hygiene) and botulism.
- 1 Rupununi Pharmacy and Variety Store, Block 'A', Airport Road. Pharmacy.
- 1 Takutu Hotel, Rupununi Rd. This is a friendly little establishment. The water may not be hot but the service is personal. There are a few rooms that have air conditioning. The restaurant serves good food but orders usually need to be placed in advance. A bar located on the grounds can get rather noisy, so it is wise to request a room that does not overlook the popular establishment.
- 2 Savannah Hotel (4 minutes walk away from the border.). Hotel with both room and air-conditioned cabin accommodation. The hotel has a general store too with both food and other goods, and they can arrange tours in the jungle as well. Friendly staff. from USD 15/night.
Alternatively you can sleep on the Brazilian side in Bonfim — while more expensive, it's a safer town.
- The 4 Kunuku Mountains can easily be visited as a day trip.
- Georgetown is accessible by minibus, as described in Get in, or you can take the plane.
- To the south, Bonfim in Brazil is just across the river.
- From Bonfim you can take a bus to the state capital Boa Vista and from there you can continue further into Brazil or up to Venezuela.
When crossing the border into Brazil, travellers will be asked to prove that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever. These shots can be obtained on the Brazilian side of the border. Visas are required before Canadian, US, Australian, Japanese, and Mexican citizens can enter Brazil. A visa cannot be obtained upon arrival so be sure to arrange one before stamping out of Lethem. It is possible to obtain a visa at the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, but this will require a few business days. There is a Brazilian consulate in Lethem where the visa can be obtained before crossing the border.