A direct flight from Paramaribo, Suriname to Georgetown, Guyana is an easy task, but can be three or four times more expensive than taking the overland route. With enough time in my hands, I took the overland trip into Guyana to save money and experience what is like to be in the countryside.
Pickup from Niew Nickerie to Canaima Ferry Terminal
I don’t quite remember the name of the hotel that I stayed in Nieuw Nickerie, but I booked it through TripAdvisor and now, I cannot find it online any more. Strange.. I arrived around 5pm the night before at the hotel and there was a big Indian party at the pool with barbeque. I met a random guy at the hotel and he told me that his father arranges transportation to the ferry terminal and thus, booked with him. We had to get there early in the morning since there was only one ferry a day (I thought there were two, but there was only one that day) and the ferry broke down the day before, which meant that a lot of people were on course to Guyana the next day. As promised, the gentleman picked me up at 6am in the morning and we drove around town to pick up another 10 passengers or so. It was a short one hour drive to the Canaima Ferry Terminal. I paid three Euros for my ride and cued in line upon arrival.
Buying Tickets and Immigration
It was 7:30am and the cue already had around 50 people. I waited for around 10 minutes until the gate opened. Once the gate opens, the security person will let a bunch of people in, but not too many so that it gets overly crowded in front of the ticket booth. Don’t plan on this being a smooth process, since it took about 45 minutes to get my ferry tickets. When your turn comes, proceed to the window and pay the single or roundtrip journey in Surinamese, Guyanese or US dollars. My one way ticket was 12 USD. I waited patiently on the side for around 15 minutes until the passport information was processed and received my ticket from the ticket booth. You don’t have to stand next to the ticket window, since there was only one and they call out your name when the information was ready. You then proceed to immigration, which was nothing special and then head to the boat with your luggage. There was no luggage checkin and you will have to walk around 100 meters to the boat. On the way to the boat, there was a simple duty free shop (don’t expect a nice airport duty free shop and there were limited goods) and a snack window. I am not into fast food and if you are not as well, make sure you eat a hefty breakfast or bring something with you, since the options were only burgers, fries and sweets on that day.
The Ferry Ride
The ferry takes both vehicles and passengers. Don’t expect a ferry that you see in Europe or in the developed world. It’s a simple transport ferry that crosses the river. There were about 10 rows of passenger seats and it was very full that day. The rest of the passengers were in their vehicles, since it was raining heavily that day. I got pretty wet since all the seating was outside and there was a small roof to cover the passenger seating. The ride was pretty pleasant and took around 45 minutes. When the ferry was almost about to dock to the other side, a mob of people were getting ready to dash for immigration. I did not want to wait in line, so I joined the mob.
Immigration and Transport
When the ferry opened at Molsen Creek, everyone started running towards immigration. It was about a 100 meter walk to immigration but people were in a hurry. I ran as well. I was like the tenth person to arrive at immigration and to my surprise, there were two lines. One line was “foreigner” and excludes Guyanese & Surinamese. I was the only one on the “foreigner” line and everyone else to my right. FYI, I was not the only foreigner on the boat. I did see an Argentinian backpacker, but he was taking his time to disembark. Immigration was quick and upon getting the stamp, they checked my bag. There was one snack shop before the exit and I bought a pineapple tart for 30 cents, but it did not taste great. Once I got out of the terminal gate, a swarm of Guyanese flocked to me about transport to Georgetown. I had already pre-arranged my transport on the ferry. You will most likely be able to negotiate, but it cost me five USD for my shared van ride from the ferry terminal to my drop off point in Georgetown. I negotiated early on at the ferry terminal in Suriname with a tour group leader and he gave me a ticket for the van. Don’t lose this ticket though. Let me also make note that there was no need to be in a hurry to disembark. All of the transports, including vans and shared taxis were waiting for more passengers. Hence, it would have been better to take my time and relax and not having to run like a turkey with his head chopped off. I ended up waiting for another 20 minutes for the van to be full before heading out towards Georgetown. Just a side note, but the best seats were up front, which had more leg space. When feasible, always opt for the front seats. They stored luggage underneath the seats or piled them at the back of the van. There were no additional costs for luggage.
The Van Ride and Drop Off to Georgetown
The van ride took around three hours from Molesen Creek to the Marriott in Georgetown. On the way, the driver passed many small towns and there was stop for food and a toilet break for 10 minutes. The pit stop was not a full-fledged one, just a corner store that the driver frequents. The options were different kinds of curries and fried goods on display. I had curry chicken and liver, which were pretty good. The toilet was pretty disgusting, a communal one around the corner. The driver dropped several people off on the way and I was the last one to be dropped. I was staying in the city center and most of the locals lived outside of Georgetown. I was so happy to be at the Marriott again. This one was even better than the one in Paramaribo!
*photo courtesy of kaieteurnewsonline.