What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana?

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When I knew I was traveling to Guyana, I had no idea what to expect. Even for the girl who grew up constantly reading about other countries, I knew very little about Guyana and never really had a desire to visit.

Then in November, I received an opportunity to visit Guyana on one of the Guyana Tourism Authority’s very first press trips. At the time, I was in Kenya on another press trip. One of the writers with me was Guyanese-American, and I excitedly told her I got invited to her home country.

“Why?” she said. “There’s nothing there.”

There’s nothing there. Quite the endorsement!

The trip was an instant yes for me, though. Lately I’ve been craving trips to lesser-known destinations. My mission this year and beyond is to visit and write about emerging destinations that don’t get a lot of tourism yet. Even when I go to Italy, I’m planning to visit cities that don’t get a lot of attention.

Guyana, I learned, would be all about waterfalls and wildlife and traveling in a way. It would be an adventure.

And BOY, did Guyana deliver. There is QUITE a bit there.

I know nothing about Guyana. What’s it like?

When I said I was traveling to Guyana, I was surprised at how many of my friends — even some very well-traveled friends — told me, “Have fun in Africa!”

Not quite! It’s Guyana — not Ghana or Guinea or Gabon — and it’s located in the northeast of South America, bordering Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname.

Guyana is unique among South American countries in that it’s an anglophone country, thanks to its years as a British colony. Guyana gained independence in 1966. Guyanese tend to consider themselves a Caribbean country rather than a Latin American country and they’re part of CARICOM, the Caribbean country organization. The interior is defined by its Amerindian culture. English is the primary language, but Guyanese Creole is spoken on the coast and a variety of Amerindian languages are spoken in the interior.

Guyana has six distinct ethnic groups. As of 2012, 40% are of East Indian descent, 30% are of African descent, 20% are of mixed ethnicity, 10.5% are Amerindian, 0.3% are white, and 0.2% are Chinese. The East Indians came to Guyana as indentured laborers; the Africans came to Guyana as slaves. After multiple slave rebellions, slavery was abolished in 1838.

East Indian culture dominates. Even when out in the most isolated parts of Guyana, Amerindian families listen to Hindi music as their children throw colored powders at each other to celebrate Holi (called Phagwa in Guyana).

I was surprised to learn that the Guyanese are the fifth largest immigrant group in New York City. The heart of the Guyanese community is in Richmond Hill, Queens. I once ended up in the neighborhood by accident and assumed I was in an Indian neighborhood — little did I know it was actually Indo-Caribbean!

In Guyana, you’ll be traveling extremely off the beaten path.

When I traveled in Guyana, I felt like I was experiencing travel in a way I hadn’t for years. Zero reliance on technology, because there was none. Few countries having flights to Guyana added to the feeling of being cut off from the world (though you can fly direct from New York and Miami). One of the properties where I stayed, Saddle Mountain Ranch, was so remote that it didn’t even have a website.

Guyana is, without a doubt, the most off the beaten path destination I’ve ever visited. While Antarctica or Hawaii or Easter Island may technically be more geographically isolated, each receives loads of tourists — far more than what Guyana gets. (It’s hard to isolate tourism numbers because most Guyana visitors are business travelers.)

Anecdotally, among my travel blogger friends, I can name well over two dozen who have been to Antarctica or Hawaii or Easter Island. I can name only two who have been to Guyana — neither of whom have been to the Rupununi.

I saw very few tourists in Guyana — less than half a dozen in the interior and about a dozen at Kaieteur Falls. At this point in time, many of Guyana’s tourists come for wildlife and birdwatching in particular. According to Brian Mullis, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, Guyana’s tourists tend to be affluent, North American or European, and age 35-60.

This utter lack of tourism added to Guyana’s charm for me. Multiple times I heard people in the Rupununi say something along the lines of, “We don’t care if you come to our lodge or another lodge, we’re just happy people are coming here.” Imagine hearing that in Venice or Barcelona.

You will eat well in Georgetown — and everywhere.

I’ll be honest — the capital of Georgetown is a necessary landing pad, and that’s about it. It’s not a terrible city, but it has little in terms of attractions, and the true beauty of Guyana is in the interior. That being said, you’ll probably arrive early on an overnight flight, and it’s smart to give yourself a little buffer of time before your plans begin, just in case your flight is delayed or canceled.

The vast majority of Guyanese live in Georgetown and its environs. This city is a crash course on contemporary Guyanese culture.

And so there is one activity that I highly recommend in Georgetown: a food tour with Backyard Cafe. Run by Delven Adams and Mailini Jaikarran, this is quite literally a backyard cafe in the heart of a residential neighborhood in Georgetown. They run market tours where they take you around the market, then bring you back to the cafe to cook lunch with the food you picked out!

Bourda Market is colorful, organized chaos. Delven weaves us in and out of the stalls, treating us to samples of fruits. Delven spent most of his life in New York but felt the pull to come home to Guyana. At one point he beckons for us to follow and we’re in a rum shop — a bar — at 9:30 in the morning, surrounded by locals in various levels of intoxication.

Would we like a beer? Why not?!

After securing our provisions, we go back to the Backyard Cafe itself, hidden within a residential neighborhood. We drink passionfruit juice and sit back, listening to the music, and it’s hard to think of a place that could be more chilled out than this.

The piece de resistance is a giant fish called a snook — enormous and impossibly delicious. When the fish is that fresh and delicious, all you need to do is put some garlic and salt on it and let it cook away. One of the best fish I have ever tasted.

With it we had those long green beans, called bora, beef curry, and bitter melon.

While that was just the first showcase of Guyanese food, plenty more awaited over the next week.

Guyanese food is delicious. It has a lot of Indian, Chinese, British, and Caribbean influences. And the Guyanese love their hot sauces, ranging from roughly “Wow, that’s got a kick to it” to “This could strip the paint off a car.”

Some of the most popular dishes? Curry is the standard home cooking dish. Chow Mein is surprisingly popular — you’ll find it on tons of menus. Pepper pot is a delicious Amerindian dish of stewed meat with spices. I couldn’t get enough of bakes — the giant fried pieces of bread.

Most of the nicer hotels in Guyana tend to favor international cuisine over Guyanese specialties; I suspect this is related to Guyana catering to business travelers rather than leisure travelers.

You’ll Have to Pack Light

If you’re flying domestically within Guyana, you will be flying on a tiny plane and limited to 20 lbs/9 kg of luggage per person. That’s a REALLY small amount of luggage, especially if you’re carrying photography equipment.

You’ll have to pack extremely light — and forget hard-sided bags, which add a lot of weight. You’ll have to pack only the essentials. (You also have the option of leaving your excess luggage at your hotel in Georgetown while you fly into the interior.)

Alternatively, it’s possible to travel from Georgetown to Lethem by bus. The journey takes about 13 hours and costs around $75 USD.

What to Pack for Guyana’s Interior

  • Sun protection — sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, light long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Insect repellent (ideally insect repellent for clothing) — especially when you’re near water
  • Closed-toe shoes for the outdoors. A hiking shoe/sneaker hybrid is ideal.
  • Photography equipment, including long lenses if you’re photographing wildlife
  • Portable charger and power strip (you might be sharing a single outlet with everyone at the lodge)
  • Kindle Paperwhite (you’ll have downtime for reading in the afternoons, and this is much lighter than bringing books)
  • All the toiletries you’ll need, including menstrual products (I recommend a DivaCup)
  • Extra underwear, because you will sweat A LOT
  • Bathing suit, just in case there’s a creek to swim in!

The Rupununi is Isolated and Breathtaking

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve never heard of the Rupununi before. This part of southwest Guyana is home to savannah — endless plains mixed in with forested areas called bush islands, mountains in the distance, the Rupununi River winding throughout the region.

This is where the magic begins in Guyana.

We arrived on a dirt airstrip near Karanambu. Waiting there to pick us up were three aged SUVs caked in dirt. They took us on a dirt road — and occasionally drove through burning sections of forest!

By the time we arrived in Yupukari, my phone, my luggage, and I were covered in dirt that didn’t leave for days.

The people who come to the Rupununi tend to be “the generation that grew up with David Attenborough,” according to Melanie McTurk, Director of Karanambu Lodge. Attenborough wrote extensively about Guyana and Karanambu Lodge featured heavily in his books.

One of the nice things about staying at Caiman House is that it’s right in the town of Yupukari — you get to experience Amerindian life here in a way you don’t at more isolated lodges. I loved getting to visit the school, seeing the local library (with a HUGE collection of Baby-Sitters Club books!!) and learn about how locals are building a local enterprise where they design housewares for IKEA!

Guyana’s Wildlife Will Thrill You

Forget lions, elephants and giraffes — you can see those all over Africa. You come to Guyana to see the weird wildlife.

Ever heard of the Giants of Guyana? Guyana is home to several giant species. Giant river otters, giant anteaters, giant lilies, and the world’s largest spider, the South American Goliath Birdeater (BOY, AM I GLAD I MISSED THAT GUY).

At Caiman House, they’ve been running a long-term scientific study about the black caimans that dwell in the nearby Rupununi River. For nearly a decade, they’ve been capturing the lizards, recording their measurements, and releasing them.

In fact, if you stay at Caiman House, you can join in the project! Just before sunset, you head down to the river, and you spend the next few hours cruising along as the naturalists look for the lizards. It can be a bit tedious (it took us a few hours to see anything), but once they captured them, it was worth every minute of waiting.

This black caiman, which looked much more like a crocodile, was about six feet long — but he was considered rather puny as far as caimans go! The team measured it, weighed it, checked for the sex (“It’s a boy!”) and tagged it before letting it run back into the river.

And then there are the giant otters. This is the major project of Karanambu Lodge. The late Diane McTurk, affectionately known as “Auntie D” by locals, was known as the Jane Goodall of giant river otters. She devoted her life to the conservation of these creatures in the Rupununi and earned international recognition for her efforts.

See that picture above? Those are Sandy and Dwayne, two six-month old river otters. The adults can grow to be over six feet long!

You can join the otters for their noon feeding. It’s remarkable how much like dogs they are — they get out of their pen and trot along down to the water in excitement, flashing their teeth and awaiting that delicious fish! Never has something so adorable been so ferocious.

The babies don’t live in confinement forever — they are eventually released.

I got to see a few full-sized giant river otters, albeit from a great distance.

For me, one of the biggest highlights was seeing an anteater. Anteaters are so funny — not only do they look completely ridiculous, from their long nose to their bushy tail, but when they run they bounce up and down!

Jaguars can often be seen in Guyana, sometimes near Karanambu and often in the Iwokrama Rainforest; capybara are more elusive. Sadly, I didn’t get to see either on our trip.

And believe it or not, one of the craziest wildlife sightings was in Georgetown! There’s a national park in the middle of the city, and they have a little lake that’s home to manatees. If you grab some of the nearby straw and put it on the surface, the manatees will come up to nibble it.

You will be cut off from the internet — and that’s a good thing.

The internet is fine in Georgetown, if not at the excellent speeds of Romania or Hong Kong. But once you get into the interior, most places are subsisting on satellite wifi, which is both painfully slow and expensive. Other places have no internet at all, the nearest connection a 90-minute drive away.

How slow is satellite internet? It took me 15 minutes and five attempts to send my sister a single text. (The message? “This internet isn’t worth it. Tell Mom and Dad I’m alive and I’ll email them Sunday night.”)

However, some lodges including Caiman House and Karanambu Lodge offer faster wifi from 11:00 PM until 5:00 AM. While it’s not fast, my friend described it as “night and day” compared to the daytime wifi.

My advice? Plan to be completely offline. Don’t plan to do work. Tell your office you’ll be unreachable. Tell your family you’ll email them as soon as you get back to Georgetown.

And the added bonus is that a digital detox is SO good for your brain. When I go completely offline, I realize that I have a constant tic directing me to my phone. That tic is gone within 24 hours.

You will have moments of discomfort.

When you’re traveling as far off the beaten path as Guyana, you’ve got to be ready for discomforting moments. Traveling in Guyana’s interior is extremely basic. Sometimes the water will stop running and you’ll need to tell the staff so they can pump from a well. You might be dealing with toilets that refuse to flush or showers where the shutters don’t completely close (I had to wedge my toiletries underneath it to keep the whole lodge from seeing me naked).

One time, we got on our tiny plane and an alarm kept sounding as we began to taxi, so we had to get off and wait for the crew to fix it. “We’d get you another plane, but there is no other plane, so we’ll just fix it,” one of the employees told us with a smile. Not exactly reassuring when you’re already nervous about flying in tiny planes in developing countries. (It turned out to be fine. The flights were excellent and the pilots were incredibly professional.)

But the worst instance happened in the Rupununi. On our last night at Caiman House, I came back to my room and spotted a small spider on the toilet seat and a tiny frog on the shower curtain. I giggled at the frog and swept the spider away. Then I got to the sink and saw a three-inch cockroach inside it.

Gross. But not the worst. I swept it aside, smiling at the memory of doing the same thing in Laos eight years ago. So many of my friends would freak out at that. Not me.

But then it got worse. I suddenly realized that part of the bathroom was COVERED in mouse droppings — droppings that surely I would have noticed the day before. Then a mouse dropping suddenly fell onto my foot from above. I looked up and saw a mouse on one of the beams, sticking its tiny foot out and KICKING ITS TINY POOPS ONTO ME FROM ABOVE.

And that moment, my friends, was when I nearly lost my temper. I’m usually easygoing on my travels (yo, I took my first steps in a tent!) but that just set me off.

Luckily, the bathroom and the bedroom had different kinds of ceilings, and there were no beams where the mice could push their droppings onto me while I was sleeping. Plus, the beds had mosquito nets. You could hear the mice scurrying in the roof, but there was no risk of droppings falling onto you in the middle of the night.

I slept fine — but the next morning, I lifted up my jeans and realized a cockroach had hatched her babies underneath them. GROSS, GROSS, GROSS.

Is this indicative of what Guyana is like? Not necessarily; I think I had bad luck. Additionally, Saddle Mountain Ranch was immaculate and had no pest issues; though I didn’t stay overnight at Karanambu Lodge, it seemed to be a few levels nicer than Caiman House.

The important thing is that you shouldn’t travel to Guyana unless you can handle a little discomfort now and then. I look back now and laugh, but at the time, it wasn’t funny.

You will be even more cut off in the South Rupununi.

The Rupununi is isolated and fairly new to tourism — but most lodges are in the northern part of the region, including Karanambu Lodge and Caiman House. If you want to be even more isolated, head to the South Rupununi.

Saddle Mountain Ranch was an intriguing stop in the South Rupununi — and for me, it ended up being one of the highlights of the whole trip. This lodge was a mystery to us all — it was extremely isolated, it didn’t have a website, and even our well-traveled guide Leon had never been there.

On the journey from Lethem, we had to stop as the engines overheated. That Rupununi crust of sweat and dirt settled over us again as the men worked to get the cars working. Soon enough, we were on the road again, and a little oasis appeared in the savannah. Two green creeks. Blue mountains in the background. Golden plains as far as the eye could see.

Saddle Mountain is a working ranch. You can watch the cowboys carry out their duties, including the branding of cattle (difficult to watch, but a legal requirement in Guyana). We were offered the chance to watch castrations done by knife and all of the guys promptly noped out of there.

Here we were free to do whatever we wanted. Ride an ATV? Sure. Climb a mountain? Yep, but you’ll be scooting down on your butt for much of it. Horseback riding? Of course!

This was the most basic place of all. There were two lightbulbs hanging in the building, one in the kitchen and one in the main room, and the bedrooms were in darkness. There was a single electrical outlet for guests. (Thankfully, our guide Leon wisely packed a power strip.) Absolutely no internet, not even slow satellite internet. And doing a supply run meant a three-hour round-trip journey to Lethem.

Life was simple and beautiful here. We slept with the doors wide open to catch the breeze. We played Scrabble by the light of that single bulb. And we spent a glorious afternoon in the creek.

Kate in the creek. Drone image by David DiGregorio.

You will have the best time ever in the creek.

With its equatorial location, Guyana is sweltering year-round. It’s wise to do your activities in the Rupununi just after sunrise and before sunset, when temperatures are milder.

So at Saddle Mountain, that means horseback riding and ATV-riding just before sunset, when the colors turn shades of violet. And that means going on an anteater safari and climbing Saddle Mountain in the early hours when the landscape reverberates in shades of gold.

That leaves a lot of extra time in the afternoon, though. And so we went to the creek.

The creek is near the entrance to the property — green and glassy, filled with tiny fish, and surrounded by slabs of rock.

The water was warm, but it was SO nice that we got in and stayed in for two hours nonstop, pruniness be damned.

The staff drove by us on their return from the Lethem supply run, and we started yelling, “Beeeeeeer!” as a joke. Well, our guy heard us and stopped to give us beers to drink in the creek.

Oh, except that nobody has a bottle opener. Nor anything that could do the trick.

“Wait a second,” I tell my friends. “Didn’t Leon open beers with a plastic water bottle?”

He did. The guys tried their hand at his method and sure enough, it worked!

And back into the creek we went, now with Banks beers in hand. A perfect afternoon.

You will gawk at Kaieteur Falls.

Kaieteur Falls should be up there with Niagara and Victoria and Iguazu — but Guyana is so untouristed, few people have heard of it. It’s the highest single-drop waterfall in the world and the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.

Kaieteur Falls is incredibly isolated — you need to arrive by plane directly at the falls, and that’s literally all that is around — no hotel or anything, just a simple lodge with bathrooms and a shop. (You can also do a seven-day jungle trek to the falls.)

I marveled at the fact that there was nothing around. Most national parks are chock full of tours, trails, and places where you can spend your money. Not here. There are a few different viewing platforms…and that’s literally it. In a twisted way, Kaieteur Falls is functioning like an Instagram hotspot!

Keep in mind that we visited during the dry season, when the waterfall is at its weakest. In the rainy season, the falls will be much bigger and more robust.

Mount Roraima from Air. Image by David DiGregorio.

If you’re EXTREMELY lucky, you’ll see Roraima on a scenic flight.

I’ve heard of Mount Roraima before — but I thought it was part of Venezuela and it never occurred to me that I’d be able to see it on this trip. Well, Roraima is actually on the Venezuela-Guyana border, though if you’re hiking it, you’ll need to start in Venezuela.

I’ve seen so many images of Roraima online — the table mountain rising above layers of clouds — and thought I knew what to expect. And then as we flew closer and closer, Roraima began to take shape.

My jaw fell open. It was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined. Nothing I had seen online was even close.

Does this image above compare to seeing it in real life? HELL NO. I feel bad that this picture doesn’t show you JUST HOW AMAZING it is.

How special was this? The pilot was literally taking photos to send to his pilot friends. “You’re very lucky,” he told us. “Most Guyanese pilots fly across the country for decades and never get the opportunity to see Roraima.”

Hearing that from him, I knew we were incredibly fortunate.

Things You Must Know Before Traveling to Guyana

Guyana is not a place where you can book a last-minute flight and wing it. You can get away with that in Colombia or Brazil, but a trip to Guyana should be planned meticulously in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.

First off, do not even think of visiting during the rainy season of May through July. Rainy season in Guyana doesn’t simply mean it will be rainier — it means key roads will be impassible, lodges will shut down, and you won’t be able to do many of the things that make Guyana special.

Secondly, Guyana is very tough for planning a DIY trip; you need to rely on tourism companies here. Even eating at the Backyard Cafe must be booked in advance. While in most destinations you can just rent a car and drive if you want to, you can’t do that in Guyana because there isn’t a single agency renting cars that are outfitted to drive the road from Georgetown to Lethem, the center of the Rupununi. The cars literally don’t exist. Your only options are to fly or take the bus.

Additionally, keep in mind that lodges in the Rupununi and isolated parts of Guyana have extremely poor satellite internet. Others have no internet at all. You won’t receive timely responses to your inquiries — some places wait several days between checking emails. For that reason I recommend reserving your accommodation as far in advance as possible.

Finally, there are so few lodges and they have limited capacity. Saddle Mountain Ranch barely had enough room to sleep eight of us, and we all doubled up. Book early to make sure there will be a spot for you.

Solo Female Travel in Guyana

Women can absolutely travel solo in Guyana and stay safe. I did not travel solo on this trip to Guyana, but I did keep my eyes out for what I would look for as a solo traveler and how I would evaluate the destination.

There are no special precautions that women need to take in Guyana beyond the precautions you would take elsewhere. I would recommend not walking around Georgetown at night.

So is Guyana a good destination for solo female travelers? It depends what kind of traveler you are. Frankly, I don’t think I would rank it highly for solo female travelers in general, only the kinds of travelers who enjoy doing isolated wildlife trips solo. For me personally, this is the kind of trip I’d prefer to do with others rather than by myself. But that’s just me.

Another issue — once you get into the Rupununi, the pricey transfers between lodges and the airport in Lethem can quickly drive up the cost of a trip for a solo traveler. Costs can vary quite a bit, so contact the lodge and make sure you have accurate pricing information.

But if everything you’ve read in this post so far has excited you about doing this alone, it sounds like solo female travel in Guyana could be right for you! In fact, I would recommend Karanambu Lodge in particular. Speaking to Director Melanie McTurk, she told me that they love hosting solo female travelers, they’ll make sure you always have a member of the senior team with you, and all meals are communal, so you’ll get to know the other guests.

If you’re interested in traveling Guyana with a guide, I highly recommend my guide, Leon Moore. You can see more about him in the “Essential Info” section at the bottom.


Top Ten Travel Safety Tips for Women 

Planning a Guyana Travel Itinerary

I felt like my Guyana itinerary was excellent — a weeklong stay bookended with nights in Georgetown, and two-night stays both in the North Rupununi (Caiman House with a day trip to Karanambu Lodge) and the South Rupununi (Saddle Mountain Ranch) with a scenic flight over Roraima and several waterfalls, plus two hours on the ground at Kaieteur Falls.

I do wish that I had had the chance to see more rainforest, especially since Guyana is 80% rainforest. I’ve heard that Rewa Lodge is a great place to experience the rainforest in the Rupununi, and it’s not obscenely far from Lethem and the other Rupununi lodges. If I went back to Guyana, I would definitely stay there.

I’ve never said this for any other country, but the Guyana Tourism Authority’s website is an excellent place for researching and booking your trip. So many vendors in Guyana are offline that the GTA acts as a travel agent.

The Takeaway

I had a blast in Guyana and highly recommend it for adventure travelers who can go with the flow, function without internet, and tolerate a little discomfort now and then. If you’re able to put up with the challenges from traveling in a country new to tourism, you’ll find it extremely rewarding.

Guyana is on the verge of exploding in recognition. Everyone is always looking for the next big thing in travel, and I think Guyana is going to be it. In fact, I would bet my monthly rent that Guyana is going to be on many of the major publications’ “Where to Go in 2020” posts at the end of this year. Guyana Tourism is investing in bloggers and writers, and that’s what happens — we create the initial buzz that snowballs into wide-ranging coverage.

So what do I say? The same thing I always say — go now. It’s not always going to be like this. It’s not always going to be so beautiful, so remote, so cut off from mainstream tourism. Once money and investment finds its way to tourism in Guyana, the best interests of the Guyanese and their environment will no longer be prioritized.

Go now, and enjoy a truly special and unusual destination.

Essential Info: The Guyana Tourism Authority’s website is a good place to book accommodation and packages, especially places that have little to no internet.

In Georgetown I stayed in three different hotels: King’s Hotel (rates from $145), Duke Lodge (rates from $120), and Cara Lodge (rates from $142). All are good hotels and you’d be fine staying in any of them — they’re all fairly equal. I found King’s Hotel had the best internet and food, Duke Lodge had the nicest rooms, and Cara Lodge had a gorgeous courtyard that was perfect for working.

The Backyard Cafe does market tours and serves meals, but they’re open by appointment only. Contact them through their Facebook page.

Caiman House in Yupukari in the North Rupununi has an all-inclusive rate of $115 that includes three meals a day and activities including joining the caiman research team in the river at night.

Karanambu Lodge in the North Rupununi has an all-inclusive rate of $200 that includes three meals a day and activities including otter feeding, wildlife safaris, and hikes.

Caiman House and Karanambu Lodge are very friendly with each other and happy to send you to do activities at the other place — for example, if you’re staying at Caiman House but want to see the otters, or if you’re staying at Karanambu Lodge but want to go on the caiman tagging excursion.

Saddle Mountain Ranch in the South Rupununi doesn’t have a website. They have an all-inclusive rate starting at $68 that includes three meals a day and activities including horseback riding, hiking, and ATV riding.

Properties in the Rupununi charge for transfers from Lethem and other airstrips, and these fees can be quite costly. Contact the properties for a quote.

Evergreen Adventures offers day trips to Kaieteur Falls from Georgetown. The trip to the falls including a scenic flight to Orinduik Falls is $285. Roraima is so difficult to see ordinarily that most scenic flights will not include it.

If you’re looking for a private guide in Guyana, I highly recommend our guide, Leon Moore. If you’re interested in wildlife or photography, he’s the guide for you, and if you’re interested in birds, his knowledge and enthusiasm is unparalleled. You can contact him through his Facebook page.

Guyana requires evidence of a yellow fever vaccine, though I was never asked for proof. I recommend getting the vaccine anyway even if you don’t have travel plans, as it’s good for life and a requirement for visiting many countries. Malaria is present in parts of Guyana. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should take anti-malarial pills.

Travel insurance is necessary for Guyana. If you trip and break an ankle in the Rupununi, or if you get appendicitis while in Georgetown, or if you have a death in the family and need to return home immediately, travel insurance can save your life and finances. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Guyana.

This post is brought to you by the Guyana Tourism Authority, who invited me on a media visit and covered all expenses. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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31 thoughts on “What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana?”

  1. Guyana doesn’t look very appealing in an instance. But, I really like the little mountains and the waterfall. The wildlife looks unique. I guess the idea is to explore something beyond the usual – offbeat adventures, slight discomfort and rare, hidden natural beauty.

  2. I’ve always known where Guyana was on the map since a childhood school chums’ dad was from there. However, I had no idea what it was like. Thank you for expanding our knowledge and getting fellow travellers excited to take a little risk to see such a beautiful and much unknown country! I’d love to go someday to see the wildlife and scenery as well as the interesting local culture. Great post!

  3. I think this review of her trip to Guyana was beautifully written and at times hilarious with her dry sense of humor. I am a Guyanese living in Toronto Canada, who like many Guyanese have not seen a lot of the interior of Guyana. Although I have seen some parts – mainly accessible by boat, because of the many rivers we have, and lack of infrastructure. But Guyana’s interior is beautiful and off the beaten track and the experience of dwelling in the rain forest is a great experience- with all the sounds of the various creatures, especially at night. Some of these interior places are on my bucket list to visit. Thanks

  4. Sounds like you had such an amazing trip! I’ve enjoyed following your adventure there. That waterfall especially looks incredible, and the wildlife! That’s amazing that you got that view from your flight, too! It makes me think of Up, haha. It’ll be interesting to see how Guyana tourism progresses.

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kate’s impressions of Guyana, the country where I was born.

      I have visited the interior on a few occasions and stayed at Karanambo. I am of Scots/Portuguese extraction. I left there some 17 years ago and have visited 3 times since then.

      “O beautiful Guiana, O my lovely native land”

  5. Was absolutely engrossed every bit of your post – great commentary about what was realistic to expect in terms of conditions at various locations, the drop dead gorgeous sights you visited and the photos. Thank you for opening up people’s eyes to what a trip to Guyana might be like – truly an adventure in every sense of the word.


  6. This is my kind of place. I always try to be 5-10 years ahead of the crowds before a place hits it’s tipping point. Appreciate your honesty that not everything was picture perfect but still worth the adventure. Yuck about the creatures.

  7. I visited Guyana back in 2017. A quick stop in Georgetown which I agree is a necessary but unchaining visit and then I went to Kaieteur Falls. It is the interior of Guyana where you find the beauty and the mystique of the country. I do hope more people will come there in the future too!

  8. 1. Kaieteur Falls – WOW
    2. I didn’t know where Guyana was until I knew about Suriname (thanks to living in Amsterdam). I somehow originally thought it was an island! For shame…
    3. And HOW, I mean HOW is this not a more visited place when it is predominantly English speaking.

    Looking forward to seeing how tourism to Guyana and the region progresses.

  9. Brrrrr, that mouse story! That would totally freak me out too. But that’s part of the fun, I guess? ^^

    I absolutely love how unusual of a destination this is, and I’ve definitely added it to my list of places to visit (hadn’t even heard of it before you went there, to be honest). It sounds like such an adventure! And the idea of going to a destination where life is so simple and beautiful really resonates with me. Would be so great to meet the people who live there and could probably use a digital detox from time to time, hah!

    Great post, Kate. I always like your unusual destinations ones the best! They’re really inspiring 🙂

  10. Every time I hear of a place off the beaten path and undiscovered, I’m instantly interested. The simpler, the better. Really sounds like Guyana was an amazing adventure. The wildlife, so unusual is enough to make me want to go there. As I was reading I thought to myself, none of these moments of discomfort would really bother me, until I got to the mouse story. As someone with a rodent phobia, I think I would have lost my marbles 🙂

    It’s quite refreshing to hear locals being thrilled when people visit. It will be interesting to see how tourism in Guyana develops.

  11. Count me in on the Guyana train!! Like a lot of people, I knew the basics about Guyana without knowing any of the details – and what rich details they are!

    I’d love to sample the cuisine, even if it is skewed towards the business travel market, and see that countryside – the falls are stunning! And my boyfriend would love the otters and watching the cowboys!

    You’ve definitely got me intrigued, and Guyana deserves to be explored more. It’s certainly on my list now!

  12. My best friend actually went for some sort of ecosystem research internship in college and it’s never occurred to me. BUT NOW I MUST GO TO HERE BECAUSE GUYANA SEEMS RAD.
    The people seem really nice, too! How was that beer?!

  13. Hi Kate,
    First, let me say, I really admire that you do what YOU think is best and go where there is no path (or a lesser known one) and wander it. I admire that even though someone who has been there said, “Why are you going there, there’s nothing there.” You kept true to yourself and went to see what you could find. Unfortunately, in blogging, it feels like the best thing you can do is what everyone else is already doing, and you are consistently the ONE blogger I follow who does not. I’ve been in several situations where people try to dissuade me from visiting a place, but I forge ahead anyway, thanks for giving me the courage to keep doing that. I know you’ve mentioned it’s hard to do an in-depth DIY adventure, but I think I actually prefer the idea of doing most things through tour companies. After all, they are the experts on what to see in their country. Weirdly enough – even seeing photos of Guyana and having friends from there, I didn’t think of it as a place to see wildlife?! Now that I’m reading this post and looking at photos, it seems Guyana lends itself to that experience. Keeping in that thought process I think Guyana seems to offer a lot more than I would have expected. What’s more – the people seem to be genuinely friendly and helpful because they are new to welcome tourists. For those reasons, I’d definitely visit! Thanks for this post. It’s a HUGE breath of fresh air.
    – Stephanie

  14. Wow, I didn’t know anything about Guyana until I read this post – now I want to go! Thanks for providing so much information. It’s hard to find reliable info on less-visited places like this, so hearing about the experience from someone who has been there is always great 🙂

  15. Courtney Hoffman

    For me, it’s hard to think of Guyana without thinking of the horrors of Jonestown and the People’s Temple–that remoteness is exactly what drew Jim Jones to the country & ultimately led to the massacre of so many people, including the only US senator to be assassinated while serving as a senator (side note: contrary to popular belief it was more mass murder than mass suicide since most people were forced to drink at gunpoint or were out & out shot for refusing/trying to run away. Okay I’ll shut up now–I originally thought I wanted to get a PhD in sociology so I could go study cults but then I realized that I hated publish or perish and the politics of higher education so the end result is someone who knows WAY TOO MUCH about various cults haha). Obviously that’s not the Guyanese people’s fault nor a reflection on their culture but unfortunately that was their one “moment in the spotlight” so to speak. It is good to see people traveling there and sharing the good that exists there; maybe if enough people are inspired to go for the culture & nature, it’ll be like Waco and stop being just a place where a tragic cult thing happened and start being something more.

  16. Such a great post! I’m so happy you went to explore Guyana, my parents are from there but there’s no tourism there… I hope that I can visit one day soon and write about it too!
    Naomi 🙂

  17. OK, gotta admit… the photos are beautiful… but the lack of internet would be an absolute deal-breaker. Both my wife and I are addicted. It’s not about Facebook or whatever — just going off the radar for any length of time would feel like… disappearing or something…

  18. Travis Garnett

    Kate, thank-you so much for such an enlightening overview of your time in Guyana!! All of your tourist tips are VERY beneficial as well!! I’m looking forward to learning and understanding [even] more of Guyana’s heritage.

  19. Always good to hear about about people who find my home exciting and interesting for various reasons. Love the fact Kate that you did follow your mind and visit and your experience was one to behold. Its blogs like these that captivate and wins people’s interests. Thank you, and Visit Again sometime. And Kaisa that beer you must try. Add me on FB ‘Joe Wright’ from Guyana, an adventurous guyanese Guy. Cheers ladies and gents.

  20. Still worth a shot Chris Backs, no internet in the more remote locations but once you’re in or near a town or village you can have internet access, to upload and update your stuff.

  21. Hi Kate,
    This is the first detail blog post we have found on Guyana. There is very little info on this country on the internet. We live in Colombia and plan to see all the countries of South America hopefully Venezuela depending on its political situation.
    Your information is invaluable. Two big questions we have is what time of year did you go and did Leon Moore make all the arrangements for you in-country?

    Thanks so much!
    Happy traveling!
    John and Susan
    Medellin, Colombia

    1. Hi John and Susan —

      This was a press trip — a work trip organized by Guyana Tourism. It took place in March 2019. I recommend contacting Leon directly to see what he has available for you.

  22. My response here will be different from other people here.

    I am not from the United State proper, but I am from the Caribbean, specifically, St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands a KNOWN, popular cruise, vacation and exotic destination. Many Caribbean people are not terribly familiar with Guyana unless from nearby countries like Barbados and Trinidad. Sure, we KNOW of it, but that is often the extent. It is not advertised to other Caribbean islands/nations as some tourist destination to visit. It does not have advertised appeal of Jamaica. There is no big draw like Trinidad’s Carnival or the resorts of the Dominican Republic. As a result, it’s “just there” to many Caribbean folks.

    Well, I, like many other Caribbean people, had little knowledge of Guyana. I mean, a geography buff, I knew where it was, knew its capital city and had some cursory knowledge of the place, but that was about it, but that all changed, starting in about late April of 2013 when, just by chance, on a Facebook page I started, I met the woman who would become my wife, who is Guyanese. More interestingly, I “met” her while she was living in Guyana.

    I eventually made it to Guyana in February of 2014 and I INSTANTLY fell in love with the place and even more, my girlfriend, at the time. What really drew me in was the old world charm of the place (there are places and areas that are VERY modern). You see, I grew up on the island of St. Kitts (my father’s home country) and, like Guyana, it was once a British colony. Parts of Guyana reminded me of those days of my innocence.

    I am also a person HEAVILY connected on the internet. I spend all day on social media when I can, but when I went to Guyana, and at the time, dealing with crappy internet back then, I barely paid attention to my phone or computer. Had NO interest. All I wanted to do was walk about the place or go see the place or spend time on the Seawall and this was just Georgetown.

    I went back n May of 2014 and got engaged and this time I went to Linden where my wife was born. Linden is about 60 miles south of Georgetown and more rural. I had the sweetest sleep there because of the usual heavy rains that fall there. Again, had no interest in the internet. Nature just engulfed me and captured all of my attention. Rain fell so hard, I even showered in it, not to mention walking about and seeing water just bubbling up from the ground.

    Got married in March of 2014 at the very first place she took me on a date – the Promenade Gardens. 11 months earlier, neither of us had ANY idea we would get married and that the choice of location to get married would be there.

    November of 2015 I went back to Guyana again and this time had the pleasure of going up the massive Essequibo River and then to Bartica so see my wife’s aunt. Was such a beautiful adventure, sitting on the confluence of three rivers. Again, had no interest in the internet as I enjoyed river life, seeing a sky full of stars at night and enjoying rain on galvanize roofs.

    I have been back to Guyana 4 times since and each time I enjoy my stay. I have yet to enter the deep interior, but I want to go. The place reminds me of the energy of Jamaica, as there is a strong sense of national pride. The city life is buzzing and LOVE people watching. The country is NOT known for beaches so the association with “Caribbean” usually throws people off when they go there and do not find blue waters. What is mind boggling though is, the ENTIRE Caribbean chain could almost fit in all of Guyana. It is 20 times larger than Jamaica and almost twice the size of Cuba. At its widest point, the Essequibo River has a width of TWENTY to TWENTY FIVE miles. You cannot see the other side. It has about 365 islands IN it, that if put together, would be the size of Barbados.

    I surely would recommend the place. I think about it every day. It won’t be for everyone. If you are impatient, love all the creature comforts, feel entitled, nature is not something you pay attention to, the simple things don’t impress you, well, Guyana will disappoint you. If you are free spirited, have a kindred spirit with the natural world around you, contemplative, don’t mind being unplugged here and there and not into being in a club or at a bar every day or weekend. I say you would fit right in in this beautiful country.

    By the way, this was me doing an impromptu video about PART of my experience in Guyana and what led me there.


  23. I love your account of your travels. I have been interested in Guyana for quite some time. What is it like from a cost perspective? For example, Costa Rica used to be cheap until it became popular. Now it is almost as expensive as a vacation within the US or Canada. How much was accommodation at the lodges? Food? Flights and/or other transportation inside of the country’s borders? Hotels in the big city?

    Do you know of any organized ecotours which involve paddling (canoeing/kayaking)? I canoed across Canada over a decade ago, and usually go on a long canoe trip in Canada for a month of every year. I love spending time paddling. Perhaps if there is nothing explicitly organized, there could be self guided opportunities.

    1. Hi Seth, glad you’re interested in Guyana. Did you read the whole post? The “Essential Info” section at the bottom has information and pricing on what I did and links that can take you to the companies I used (though keep in mind everything is in flux due to COVID right now).

  24. This was so enjoyable to read! You have great pictures and sounds like an incredible experience! Linking this to an upcoming post I have doing a fun Guyana-at-home experience for kids 🙂

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