Officially known as the Cooperative Republic of Suriname, this cultural melting pot is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. It is known to be among one of the smallest countries in South America and has a very ethnically diverse population. Most of its people are descendants from African slaves and Javanese indentured labourers and while its official language is Dutch, English is also spoken by many
While preparing for our trip I was surprised to read blogs about how little is known of Suriname, but it reminded me of how often Guyana is mistaken for Ghana. Even so, with just some money and my backpack, I was ready to explore the Dutch territory.
Getting There: If you’re in Guyana, you can travel to Suriname by air or land. Travelling by land entails a 9-hour drive and 1-hour boat ride. On the other hand, it’s 45 minutes soaring. The return fare is $88usd by land and approximately $300usd by air per person.
Tip: Scheduling your trip with a transportation service eases the hassle of pickup and drop-off altogether.
Accommodation: Let’s just say, four months post-return we can’t get over our home in Suriname. As first-time users of Airbnb, we were ecstatic about our trip and our hosts Sara and Monique were equally hospitable. We stayed in Nieuw Weergevondenweg Kweeklustweg; a 15-minutes bus ride from downtown Paramaribo. This included a private room, bathroom, shared kitchen and living room, upstairs book corner, balcony and wooden outdoor deck for $14usd per night. Our experience was ‘amaaaazing’. However, if this isn’t your cup of tea, there are many hotels and bed and breakfast options.
Food and Drinks: You must drink a Parbo bier if you’re in Suriname. Even if it’s during your hot day of exploring or in the evening while you’re reminiscing, a cold Parbo bier will marinade your experience. Also, if you’re hungry for meat, rice, pasta or all of them at once; there is an endless list of restaurants and pubs to savour the sweet or spicy flavours of the land. And when you run into the food carts on the street that has the Surinamese version of Guyanese black and white pudding and snow cone, buy and try! The average cost for food in Suriname is $10usd. Our favourite stops were:
- Mighty Racks is a cosy dino-themed restaurant with juicy foods served on large wooden boards. In one word, it screams “Flintstones!”
- Sidewalk café ‘t Vat is in central Paramaribo along Kleine Waterstraat. It’s an ideal spot to hang out with old friends, meet new people or simply unwind. Comparatively, you’ll pay a few more SRD’s for their food but their exceptional customer service will make up for this.
- Bodega & Grill “de Waag” can be easy to miss if you don’t know the exact location, so it was very nice to stumble upon this breezy riverside gem. The restaurant is a monumental building from the first half of the nineteenth century that served as a weigh house with history now on every wall.
- Casinos– If you’re into the type of fun casinos offer, then you can do casino-hopping (if such a thing even exists). However, I like my money where I can see it, so this girl didn’t indulge.
- Shopping– There are many stores; mostly Chinese and malls where you can absolutely enjoy a shopping spree. Whether you’re shopping for clothes, shoes, electronics or souvenirs, there are many places to do this. Also, there is a craft market at the Waterfront that’s perfect for locally, hand-made craft at irresistible offers.
- Site Seeing – Site seeing is a must-do if you’re ever in Suriname and all you need is a map (although a tour company is a bonus). You’ll find that much of the country’s history has been preserved; especially in their architecture. If you have a city map, you’ll be able to easily identify the tourist sites. Coming from Guyana- which was also once under Dutch rule- I felt a strong relationship to a lot.
- Nature Tours– Getting out and about the city is one thing but there are other activities that nature lovers, like myself, can enjoy. Arranging your tours with a local tour company may be the easiest alternative and you get to explore your options. We used Orange Travel to book a day tour to Bergendal Resort for $98usd per person which included a tour of an old sugar plantation, kayaking, and zip lining across the Suriname River. There are other one-day and multi-day tours available. I wish our group was larger so we could have taken the party bus; which speaks for itself is a party on a bus around town. Side note: I don’t know what’s the cost difference if the tour is booked directly with the resort but it’s an option, we later learned.
Getting Around: Getting around the city or from your point of stay is not a hard task. There are metered taxis and there is a cheaper alternative for public transportation. It just depends where you are and where you’re headed. The people are generally warm and friendly; even if they can’t speak English and will try to assist you.
The highlight of my trip was the experience at Bergendal Resort. During our tour of the old sugar plantation, we saw houses that were used by the slaves, recovered possessions and burial spots. I could tell how proud they were to share their history in the way they showcased it. Through this, I was able to get a visual understanding of our own history during the Colonization period and some of our Dutch culture (the famous Silk Cotton tree being one). More than that, gliding through dense forest and over the Suriname River reassured a sense of fearlessness and appreciation for God’s Grandeur.
Go see Suriname for yourself and when you do, post a photo or comment below.