What makes Suriname a unique country to travel to?
The Republic of Suriname is a developing country located on the northern coast of South America. Tourist facilities are available in the capital city of Paramaribo, but are less developed and in some cases non-existent in the country's rugged jungle interior. Dutch is the national language, but most Surinamese in Paramaribo speak English; accordingly most tourist arrangements can be made in English. Tourist arrangements for the interior should be made ahead of time.
Criminal activity throughout the country has shown a slight increase since September 2010 and travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be viewed as targets of opportunity. Burglary, armed robbery, and violent crime occur with some frequency in Paramaribo and in outlying areas. Pick-pocketing and robbery are common in the major business and shopping districts of the capital. Visitors should avoid wearing expensive or flashy jewelry and should not display large amounts of money in public.
There have been several reports of criminal incidents in the vicinity of the major tourist hotels. Night walks, outside the immediate vicinity of the hotels, are not recommended, especially if you are alone. Visitors should specifically avoid the Palm Garden area (“Palmentuin” in Dutch) after dark, as there is no police presence and it is commonly the site of criminal activity.
Theft from vehicles is infrequent, but does occur, especially in areas near the business district. Drivers are cautioned not to leave packages and other belongings in plain view in their vehicles. There have been a few reports of carjackings within Paramaribo, mainly in residential areas. When driving, car windows should be closed and doors locked. The use of public minibuses is discouraged, due to widespread unsafe driving and poor maintenance. Taxis in Suriname are not clearly identified; they do not display the “Taxi” sign. As there are no meters in the taxis, you should verify the price before entering the taxi. The Embassy recommends that you use hotel concierge taxis.
Travel to the interior is usually trouble-free, but there have been reports of tourists being robbed. Police presence outside Paramaribo is minimal, and banditry and lawlessness are occasionally of concern in the cities of Albina and Moengo, and the district of Brokopondo, as well as along the East-West Highway between Paramaribo and Albina, and the Afobakka Highway in the district of Para. There have been reports of attempted and actual carjackings committed by gangs along the East-West Highway. If you plan on traveling to the interior, you are advised to make use of well-established tour companies for a safer experience.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Suriname, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In Suriname you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings, particularly government buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If suspected of driving under the influence and caught in an accident, the Surinamese Police may not be able to measure the alcohol level on the scene; they will take you to the nearest medical center to measure blood alcohol content. You will be held by the police for up to six hours until the results of your blood alcohol content are determined.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in Suriname is a crime, which is also prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Suriname, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Suriname, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. Embassy, which for Suriname is located in the capital city, Paramaribo.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care, including emergency medical care, is limited in many areas and does not meet U.S. standards. There is one public emergency room in Paramaribo, and only a small ambulance fleet providing emergency transport with limited first response capabilities. The emergency room has no neurosurgeon, and other medical specialists may not always be available. In general, hospital facilities are not air conditioned, although private rooms with individual air conditioning are available at extra cost and on a space-available basis. Emergency medical care outside Paramaribo is limited, and is virtually non-existent in the interior of the country.
The yellow fever vaccine is recommended for all travelers over 9 months of age. Rabies risk is present; all dog and bat bites or scratches should be taken seriously and post-exposure prophylaxis sought. Insect precautions are recommended. Due to the presence of Schistosomiasis in some of the freshwater bodies, avoidance of freshwater exposure is recommended.
Safety and Security
Demonstrations are not common in Suriname. If they occur, they will take place primarily in the capital or secondary cities, and are usually peaceful, but U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Suriname should take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings or other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. Travelers proceeding to the interior may encounter difficulties due to limited infrastructure and limited presence of government authority. Limited transportation and communications may hamper the ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist in an emergency situation.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Suriname, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Traffic moves on the left in Suriname; left-hand-drive (U.S. style) vehicles also are allowed on the road. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits by both vehicles and motorcyclists/bicycles, unusual right of way patterns, poorly maintained roads, and a lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Surinamese roads. Seatbelts have been required for all automobile passengers since January 2007, and drivers must use a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving; driving while talking on cell phones is illegal in Suriname. Visitors are encouraged to use automobiles equipped with seatbelts and to avoid the use of motorcycles or scooters. An international driver's license is necessary to rent a car. Visitors renting a car in Suriname should be aware that child seats are required by law.
The major roads in Paramaribo are usually paved, but are not always well maintained. Large potholes are common on city streets, especially during the rainy season, which lasts from approximately mid-November to January, and from April to July (rainy seasons can differ from year to year by as much as six weeks). Roads often are not marked with traffic lines. Many main thoroughfares do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians, motorcycles and bicycle traffic to share the same space.
The East-West Highway, a paved road that stretches from Nieuw Nickerie in the west to Albina in the east, runs through extensive agricultural areas; it is not uncommon to encounter slow-moving farm traffic or animals on the road. Travelers should exercise caution when driving to and from Nieuw Nickerie at night due to poor lighting and sharp road turns without adequate warning signs. There are few service stations along the road, and western-style rest stops are non-existent. The road is not always well maintained, and during the rainy season, large and sometimes impassable sinkholes develop along the road. Police recommend that you check with the police station in Albina for the latest safety information regarding travel between Paramaribo and Albina.
Roads in the interior are sporadically maintained dirt roads that pass through rugged, sparsely populated rain forest. Some roads are passable for sedans in the dry season, but deteriorate rapidly during the rainy season. Interior roads are not lit and there are no service stations or emergency call boxes. Bridges in the interior are in various states of repair. You are advised to consult with local sources, including The Foundation for Nature Conservation in Suriname, or STINASU, at telephone (597) 421-683 or 476-579, or with their hotels regarding interior road conditions before proceeding.
For specific information concerning Surinamese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Embassy of Suriname in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami.