A Quick Guide to Northern Guyana
Why I Love Northern Guyana
This is an incredibly lush country, making it an eco-tourist’s dream come true. Unless you have deep pockets to pave your way, however, tackling this country may involve some sweat and tears in order to get from point A to B (thankfully, no blood, though). But wow, is it ever worth the effort! If you’re looking for a place where you can essentially feel like a National Geographic adventurer, this is the country for you; there are stunning landscapes ranging from rainforest to savannah and wild flora and fauna. Guyana is also worth a visit to experience the uniqueness of Caribbean vibes in a South American country. You can also get your culture fix by visiting an Amerindian community, many of whom retain their traditions. Or you can get your foodie on and try deliciously amazing dishes influenced by Guyana’s diverse population.
What to Do
There are many towns and communities to visit in Northern Guyana. Georgetown is the capital city and has interesting Dutch colonial architecture. Pakuri, the closest Amerindian village to Georgetown, is a community in which to experience a more traditional way of life . Or you can explore Berbice’s rural pace of life, set in a naturally rich landscape. Parika and Bartica are also worth a visit as they provide a glimpse into life along the mighty Essequibo River.
There are so many unique things you can learn in Northern Guyana. If you visit in February, you can learn about the annual carnival called Mashramani, a Lokono word meaning “the celebration after hard work”. Or you can dabble in colonial history and check out Fort Zeelandia. It is located on a small island in the vast Essequibo River. If you’re looking for something more tangible, why not pick up a skill such as learning to make coconut oil – the coconuts are organic!
Northern Guyana is an incredible place just waiting for you to discover all of its riches. You can spend the day sailing the vast Essequibo River, one of the largest rivers in South America. You could also explore the rainforests and discover a farm hidden among the dense trees. Or you can go for Northern Guyana’s ultimate treasure – the thunderous Kaieteur Falls. Whatever you choose to focus on in Guyana, you surely can’t go wrong!
What to Eat
Guyanese cuisine reflects its history and population – it’s a delicious mix of African, East Indian, Amerindian, and Chinese influences. Fresh fruit and root vegetables also feature heavily in Guyanese dishes. Popular meals include pepperpot (stewed meat), Guyanese-style fried rice or chow mein, roti and curry, and chicken done every which way.
How to Say
Guyana is the only country in South America to have English as its official language. But like any other English speaking country, English has its own local flavour. Guyanese Creole. It is similar to other English based creole languages in the Caribbean but it also has influences from African, East Indian, Amerindian, and Dutch languages. Here are a few words you may come across in Guyana:
Allyuh: You (plural)
Bacchanal: Any incident or time marked by drama, scandal, confusion, or conflict
Gaff: To chat
Gyal / Bai: Girl / Boy
Jus’ now: It can happen between now and tomorrow
Liming: Hanging out
Me: Used in place of “I” most times
Yacou / Kanima: The local boogey man that is a shapeshifter
How to Get There
International flights land at Georgetown’s main airport, Cheddi Jagan International. You may not be able to get a direct flight; connections are normally in the Caribbean, Central America, and a few other places. Georgetown proper is some distance from the airport so speak with your accommodations to arrange transportation to and from the airport.
Guyana is primarily a cash based economy. You should be able to use your bank cards to withdraw cash at an ATM in Georgetown. You’ll just have to adapt to having large amounts of bills on you! Nothing like being able to fan yourself with a giant wad of $1000 bills (just not in public, please).
When to Visit
Guyana is hot – it’s a tropical country, after all. November to January and May to August is the rainy season on the coast. The latter is also the rainy season in the interior. Remember that travel can be difficult then, especially away from paved roads. The likelihood of having to be flexible with your travel plans is high. But! It’s amazing to stand in a rainy rainforest!
Travelling solo in Guyana can be difficult due to cost: the tourism industry is small and getting around generally requires quite a bit of effort. So if there is no one with whom to split costs, Guyana can quickly become expensive, especially compared to traditional “South America” travel.
Speak with your travel doctor before travelling as there is a host of things you should take before coming. Paramount are malaria pills and the yellow fever shot. Also, learn the signs for malaria fever, dengue fever, and typhoid. Don’t drink tap water. Don’t even use it when you have to change your contact lenses (you may find the water burns your eyes and ruins your contacts).
Take the usual precautions with in the city of Georgetown – stay in populated areas, minimize the amount of travelling at night. When exploring Guyana’s abundant and wild nature, it is probably wiser to travel with a guide or a group. There are quite a few plants and animals that can hurt you.