Thursday, February 15, 2018

Suriname Travel Tips

Hotels, restaurants, getting there and around. Insider travel tips for Suriname in South America.

View of Paramaribo from the Clock Tower - Suriname Travel Tips

GETTING THERE

KLM flies to Paramaribo from Amsterdam. Caribbean Airlines from Port of Spain. Fly All Way from Curaçao and Santiago de Cuba. Gol from Belem. Insel Air from Curaçao. Surinam Airways from Amsterdam, Aruba, Belém, Cayenne, Curaçao, Georgetown–Cheddi Jagan, Miami and Port of Spain.

GUYANA AND GUYANE EXTENSIONS

Combining Suriname with Guyana is a popular option and all the operators above offer bolt-on options. Alternatively, you might consider a visit to French Guiana. Although more expensive, there are the remarkable, and strangely beautiful, former penal settlements.

GETTING AROUND

In Paramaribo, you can hire a bicycle for about USD 10 a day. However, beyond the city, there are few roads (effectively, one along the coast and one into the interior). On these, minibuses (or 'wagis’) are plentiful and cheap (no more than USD 10). A taxi from Paramaribo to the border with French Guiana can arranged from around USD 50 (be prepared to bargain). All other transportation is by small plane.

Visits to the maroons are best arranged through an operator.

In the Saramaka’s territory, a stay at the Awarradam lodge, costs around USD 460 for three nights, including flights. This trip can be arranged locally through the government agency METS.

A trip up the River Marowijne (to Paramaccaner territory) can also be arranged locally through Blue Frog Travel. A four-day tour costs from USD 290, including transfer to the river at Albina and all food and accommodation at the Loka Loka resort.

WHEN TO GO

Suriname is tropical and has high temperatures year round (average temperature is 80F/27C). The heat is most intense from August to October. The main wet season is from late April to early August, with another from late December to late January.

THE INSIDE TRACK

Don’t miss Paramaribo’s Fort Zeelandia, which was begun by the British in the 1650s. For a more recent star fort, visit New Amsterdam in the river mouth. Admission to both costs a few pounds.
Nearby are the Commewijne plantations. In the 1700s, they were among the most prosperous agricultural lands in the world. Today, of the hundreds of great mansions, only a few survive.
Despite the ever-present reminders of slavery (only abolished here in 1870), it’s a beautiful world of mangrove, forest and lush farmland. For tours, consult METS (see “Getting Around”).

Best known for its turtles, Galibi is an Amerindian village at the mouth of the Marowijne river. It’s home to 750 Kalinja Amerindians, who live mainly by fishing. There’s also a beautiful sandy beach, and in the laying season (February-August) the sea-turtles come here to nest and lay their eggs.
The Brownsberg nature reserve, 80 miles (130km) from Paramaribo, can be reached either by tour bus or by plane. Set at a height of 1,640ft (500m), it’s a fabulous introduction to the flora and fauna of the Guianas. From the Mazaroni plateau there’s a remarkable view over a vast area of flooded forest, the Brokopondo Lake. At the far west end of the country, bordering Guyana, Nieuw Nickerie was developed by the British in the Napoleonic War.

Today, it’s a pleasing Dutch colonial town, criss-crossed with canals, and the centre of the rice industry. Nearby is Bigi Pan, a protected nature area and home to numerous coastal birds such as the delightful red Ibis.

WHAT TO BRING HOME

As with all the Guianas, there’s the usual array of skins and framed butterflies but exporting or importing these may be illegal (and Amerindian necklaces often contain jaguar teeth, which can land you in trouble). A better bet is the maroon art to be found in Paramaribo at Readytex, Maagdenstraat 44 (www.readytexartgallery.com).

FURTHER READING

The best guide is the South American Handbook 2010 (Footprint). There is also a local guidebook for business travellers, The Guide (Suriname Business Advisory), but it’s short on practical information for leisure visitors (USD 3). For a scene-setting read on the plane, try The Middle Passage by V S Naipaul.

THE BEST RESTAURANTS

A wide range of tastes are catered for, generally reflecting the country’s varied cultural heritage. Among the most popular local dishes are olie bollen (oily bread), pom (yam), bami kip (chicken noodles), and pinda soep with tom tom (peanut soup with plantain). The main alcoholic drink is beer (Parbo) which is excellent. The rum is also good but wine is expensive. In the maroon areas, the lodges tend to provide western food. The food of the maroons is simple forest fare, with cassava as its staple.

Jasmine: Good, reasonable Indian cuisine across from Hotel Torarica (85b Kleine Dwarsstraat; 473558).

The Sidewalk Café ’t Vat: Opposite the Torarica Hotel and popular with Dutch tourists; excellent bar food and beer.

De Waag: More upmarket establishment on the Waterkant. Nearby, the food stalls along the river wall are lively and picturesque, and serve good local dishes, freshly cooked, for only a few pounds a serving (474514).

THE MAROON TERRITORIES

Arrangements for staying at Awarradam and Loka Loka can be made through Wilderness Explorers (see “Packages”), or locally through METS. The accommodation at the resorts is picturesque but basic, and the food simple but good. Also, at Kajana, in the Saramaka area, there is a guesthouse, called Kosindo (884 1273).

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