Your Complete Travel Guide to Suriname in South America
Read on to find out why Suriname is also referred to as the 'Earth's Greenest Treasure'.
I bet you guys probably know that we are having a year-long honeymoon and one of the highlights or our honeymoon, or maybe our entire travel lives were our Antarctica expedition. But of course, we are not stopping because, after our freezing adventure, we went back to South America to experience some of this extraordinary continent’s raw beauty and exotic charm.
After exploring Argentina, we went to Venezuela and finally ended our trip in what might be the least-traveled area of South America - the Guyana and Suriname!
We only stayed a couple of days in the Guyana, but it proved to be a country which has a lot of potentials when it comes to being a travel destination. This small country is located on South America’s North Atlantic coast with Georgetown as its capital. In here you can find buildings of both British and Dutch colonial architecture. And just so you know, Guyana is the only South American nation which uses English as their primary language
After seeing Guyana, we decided to spend more of our time in Suriname as we heard so much about the “Earth's Greenest Treasure.”
Suriname, formerly the colony of Netherlands Guiana, is a sovereign state located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is culturally considered as a Caribbean country with Dutch as the official language used for their government, education and other ‘formal’ discussions. But before it was colonized, the country was occupied by various indigenous peoples. One of these groups were called Surinen, most likely where the name of the country was derived. The story of Suriname actually reminded me of the Philippines history before it was colonized by the Spanish for more than 300 years. In here you can find a lot of reserves, rainforest and other untouched wonders of nature. If you want to take a break from the city life and all the buildings and noisy cars, then I strongly encourage you to visit Suriname.
Since we know that many travelers, ourselves included, may not have heard much about Suriname before, here are some of the most-asked questions about the country.
Where is Suriname?
Suriname is located on the Northeastern coast of South America. To be more specific, Suriname is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.
What is unique about Suriname?
Maybe you have already been traveling around the rest of South America, and you’re wondering if it’s really worth making the trip over to the north-eastern corner of the continent for ‘just another South American country.' Well, Suriname is certainly not, ‘just another South American country!’
Suriname may be one of the smallest countries in South America, but it has something big to offer to all types of travelers. It is different mainly because of its Dutch colonial history which is evident in the language that they use until now. I tried greeting one of the locals in Spanish only to find out that they speak Dutch. They also speak English, Sranang Tongo, and Sarnami Hindustani.
What is the culture of Suriname?
Ah, this one is interesting because even though the country is small, it holds various traditions, culture, beliefs and religions. Let’s talk about few of these.
To begin with, the culture of Suriname has very prominent Asian and African influences. The reason for this is that many of the country’s inhabitants came from different parts of the world such as India, Africa, China and Indonesia.
Regarding Music, they are popular for kaseko. It’s a mix of different styles derived from various parts of the world and is usually accompanied by massive drums.
As for the religion, the highest number of people in Suriname follow Christianity followed by Hinduism and Islam. The rest are believers of Indigenous religions, Winti, Javanism, Obeah and Judaism.
What is fascinating about Suriname apart from the wonderful surroundings, is that even with such diverse culture and beliefs, they harmoniously live together – and happily I might add. It’s something that the country is extremely proud of and well-known for as an example of tolerance and acceptance. If they could just share their secret to the entire civilization, then this planet would be a better place to live in.
What is the geography of Suriname?
Suriname has two main geographic regions. One is the coastal lowlands of the north, and the other is the tropical rainforest and savannas of the west and south. It is the home of one of the largest reservoir lakes on the planet, WJ van Bloomenstein Lake. This country is also known as the land of rivers and mostly rolling hills with narrow coastal plain with mangrove swamps. Suriname is also called the greenest country on Earth, as it has the largest area by percentage of the virgin rainforest of any other country.
Is it safe to travel in Suriname?
Based on our experience, it is generally safe to travel in Suriname, and this goes for most kinds of travelers. Suriname was identified as an affected area of the Zika outbreak, but we heard nothing of this, and it didn't seem to have any effect on travel there. Just make sure to take necessary precautions when you travel. In addition, petty crimes are common in the capital (as much as they are in any other), and you just have to be cautious when going out at night. But in a nutshell, it is safe to visit Suriname.
How to travel to Suriname via plane?
From Miami – The best option would be taking Surinam Airlines from Miami, Florida. There’s also Caribbean Airlines if you want an alternative.
- 6h 0m+ - Surinam Airways –via Georgetown
- 6h 30m+ - Surinam Airways - via Aruba
- 7h 20m+ - Caribbean Airlines - via Port of Spain
From the UK – There are multiple airlines from London, Heathrow Airport that fly to Paramaribo, Suriname. Take KLM or Surinam Airlines with 1 or 2 stops in Amsterdam and/or in France. Below are some sample flights.
- 11h 15m+ - KLM- via Amsterdam
- 11h 25m+ - British Airways, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 11h 30m+ - Cityjet, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 14h 15m+ - FlyBE, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 14h 25m+ - KLM, Surinam Airways - via Amsterdam
From Dubai – Similarly, you can go to Paramaribo Suriname from Dubai. Below are the suggested airlines.
- 17h 15m+ - Emirates, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 20h 15m+ - Turkish, KLM - via Istanbul, Amsterdam
- 20h 40m+ - Swiss, KLM - via Zürich, Amsterdam
- 21h 15m+ - Lufthansa, KLM - via Frankfurt, Amsterdam
- 21h 25m+ - KLM- via Amsterdam
From Singapore – And for those living in the South East Asia, here are some options from Singapore
- 1d 1h+ - Garuda Indonesia, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 1d 2h+ - KLM - via Amsterdam
- 1d 2h+ - Singapore Airlines, KLM - via Amsterdam
- 1d 3h+ - Finnair, KLM - via Helsinki, Amsterdam
- 1d 3h+ - Lufthansa, KLM - via Frankfurt, Amsterdam
Within South America – Below are few options if you wish to go to Suriname after exploring other South American countries
- 9h 30m+ - Gol, Surinam Airways - via Belém, Cayenne
- 10h 50m+ - Gol - via Belém
- 12h 35m+ - LATAM, Surinam Airways - via Belém, Cayenne
- 7h 35m+ - Avianca, Surinam Airways - via Aruba
- 12h 25m+ - Turkish, COPA, Caribbean Airlines - via Panama City, Port of Spain
- 13h 0m+ - COPA, Caribbean Airlines - via Panama City, Port of Spain
- 15h 5m+ - LATAM, Gol, Surinam Airways - via São Paulo, Belém, Cayenne
- 18h 10m+ - Gol- via São Paulo, Belém
There are three flights per week from Guyana to Paramaribo via Surinam Airways.
A quick note though, do you know that you can travel from Guyana to Suriname and even to French Guiana by land? From Guyana, you need to ride a ferry and bus to get to Paramaribo. It’s going to be a longer ride and has multiple transfers, but the adventure is something worth it.
What’s the food like in Suriname?
When you are eating in Suriname, it’s as if you are having a taste of different cultures. Thanks to the various inhabitants that came from different countries, you get to taste East Indian, African, Javanese, Chinese, Dutch, Jewish, and Portuguese food among many others. And sometimes, they will try to incorporate these into one dish! Now, how’s that for a feast?
What is the weather in Suriname?
Suriname generally has a hot and wet tropical climate. There are two wet seasons, from April to August and from November to February. The dry seasons are from August to November and February to April.
Important things to pack for a trip to Suriname?
By now you know that traveling to Suriname would involve a lot of nature tripping. Thus you need to prepare the following things inside your backpack before you go on an adventure.
- Waterproof but lightweight clothing
- Comfortable hiking boots
- Insect repellent
- Water and snacks
- Toilet paper
- Comfortable pants
- Dry bag or zip lock bags
- Sunglasses or safety glasses
- Small first aid kit
- Your smart phone with GPS
How to travel in Suriname - Transport in Suriname?
- Bus – Public buses would be the most practical choice if you want to stretch your budget in Suriname. You just need to know the pickup points and wait for the bus to be full.
- Minibuses – There are also minibuses which can pick you up from your accommodation and are more expensive that the public buses.
- Private Cars – If you are not driving a 4WD, you might as well not take the interior. Suriname’s roads are quite a challenge to navigate as well. If you can’t consider yourself a good driver, you might as well hire someone to do it for you.
- Taxis – The taxi fare in Suriname is way more expensive than the minibuses. But this is recommended if you want to reach your destination quickly, or just take a short ride around the city.
- Boats – For those who would really like to see the amazing interior of Suriname, the best and only option is to take boats.
Now that you have a better idea of what and where Suriname actually is, here are just a few of the best things to do in Suriname!
Speedboat Adventure on the Suriname River with Discover Suriname Tours
We were picked up from our hotel at 9 AM to tour around the Suriname River in Paramaribo and visit some old plantations. And what a way to start the day because while we were cruising, Jon held a huge catfish or Laulau as the locals call it. But don’t be too impressed, it wasn’t Jon who caught it. It was actually the local fishermen, and they called our boat to see their ‘catch of the day’!
Sunset and Dolphin Spotting Tour with Waterproof Tours Suriname
And in the afternoon, we were able to spot dolphins while watching the Sunset in Suriname. Yes, there can be dolphins in the fresh water, and you can see such in the Amazon. We’ve seen this before in Brazil and in Venezuela, but this was the first time we had been able to see them so close and so amazingly playful!
Explore a bittersweet history on The Sugar Trail tour with Waterproof Tours Suriname
We went on another amazing tour to explore Suriname and the area around the capital Paramaribo to explore the Sugar Trail. Aside from seeing how the sugar was traditionally produced, we also learned the slave trade that it relied on. So yes, that explains the bittersweet history.
On the way back with the boat, we ran out of fuel, so the final 30 minutes of our journey became much more tranquil and relaxing without the noise of the engine! We all took up paddles and anything else to hand - including plastic box and tupperware lids - to propel the narrow wooden boat up the river in the way it was truly designed. Everyone got involved, and it added a sense of comical adventure to the day!
And then off we went to another plantation where we met Soekardi Toekijan, an 83-year-old Japanese-Surinamese whose parents came to Suriname in the late 1800's to find work in the plantations, following the abolition of slavery. He worked in the factory his entire life until it shut down in 1994.
In the evening, we visited the Marriott Courtyard hotel to check out their garden view out onto the river and to have a private cooking demo by one of the hotel's best chefs!
Get wild in the jungle interior of Upper Suriname.
Just a quick trivia, locals call their jungle, 'the interior.' Of course, we wouldn’t miss it for the world! We stayed in a very relaxing lodge called Isadou. It’s so basic, but also really comfortable; you need to use the generator at night time. We also met the locals, and I must say, they are some of the kindest people we’ve met. We swam in the river and joined the locals singing with drums around the bonfire.
Explore the beautiful colonial capital city of Suriname - Paramaribo!
As you may have known, Paramaribo is the capital of Suriname. You can find a lot of Dutch colonial buildings in its center. When you are here, make sure to visit the Fort Zeelandia where you can find the Surinaams Museum. Also, don’t miss out The Central Bank, Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskathedraal and The Presidential Palace.
Go around and walk at Palmentuin
This is a nice park where you can find tall palm trees which give the area its unique ambiance. It’s very refreshing and advisable if you want to have a quick walk.
Watch turtles at Galibi Nature Reserve
It would be an incredible experience to watch sea turtles lay eggs. If you have kids with you, I bet that they will enjoy this unique adventure.
Get close to butterflies in Neotropical Butterfly Park
Even if you are not a fan of butterflies, I bet that it will change when you visit this place. It’s truly amazing to be surrounded by these beautiful and colorful creatures.
Check the medicinal herbs at Pikin Sranan
This is a small garden that is focused on medicinal herbs. Come to think of it; these are better than synthetic medicines, right?
Our accommodations in Suriname
For those who have been following us ever since you already know that we were backpackers and even stayed in the cheapest hostels to stretch our budget. It was just recently that we stayed in luxurious hotels with Jon’s bathrobes! In Suriname, we experienced staying in a very basic accommodation to a luxurious one, and it totally rocked!
Accommodation in Paramaribo, Suriname
Jacana Amazon Wellness Resort – If you want to experience an accommodation that perfectly matches modern lifestyle and the best of nature, then go ahead and check out Jacana Amazon Wellness Resort. Everything in this property is well – thought off to give you that amazing vacation you have always dreamed about.
Residence Inn – We slept here for just a night, and even though we just had a short stay, it was definitely sweet. The building is located in an area that was owned by the former Embassy of the Soviet Union. In here, you can find a peaceful sleep knowing that you are outside the city, but just short walk away from the center of Paramaribo.
Accommodation in Upper Suriname - "The Interior."
Isadou – The owner of Isadou is a descendant of the African slave migrants from the slave trade in the 1700's. A lot of slaves from Africa were brought to South America, including here in Suriname, (which at that time was a Dutch colony) to work in plantations. Some of these slaves escaped and ran away to the jungle!! Nowadays, there are around 20,000 of them in communities in the Surinamese rainforest!
While in Suriname, Jon and I were mostly away from the digital world. But it was fine, and it was a much-needed break for the both of us. So, folks, Suriname is definitely the next big travel destination in South America. I think we can both vouch for that. Please add to this to your bucket list.
Whew! This was indeed a long post. But believe me, this is just a small part of what you need to know about Suriname. It is always best to witness it first – hand.
Note: Our trip was arranged by Suriname Tourism Foundation. All opinions are based on our own experiences.
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