In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #38: Guyana. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
My time in Guyana is one of my craziest travel experience ever. I ended stranded in the middle of the Amazon rainforest at 2 am at night. Little did I know that our van driver was actually a smuggler and he just got caught by the police.
VIDEO – Country #38: Guyana
Blog post on Guyana
- Stranded in the Middle of the Jungle at 2AM – Our Driver Gets Caught Smuggling in Guyana
- The Step-By-Step Guide to Overlanding the Guianas Starting from Brazil
- Complete French Guiana, Suriname, and Guyana Spending Breakdown
Guyana immigration at Lethem
My adventure in Guyana started in Boa Vista, Brazil where I took a shared taxi to cross over to Guyana. The immigration process was pretty straight forward. Actually, it’s one of the friendliest immigration experiences I’ve ever had.
The immigration officers even advised me on which taxi drivers outside the immigration is legitimate to hire.
At first, I was going to go with a specific company to take me to Georgetown. Getting to the capital of Guyana was going to be a long 24-hour drive. This is where I made my first mistake.
Lethem bus service
A van driver pulled up and said he can get me to Georgetown in less than 24-hours. I agreed with him and he took me to their office to make the payment of 10,000 Guyanese dollars.
As soon as the company had enough passengers, we departed Lethem towards our first stop which is the river crossing.
Drive from Lethem to the river crossing
After a long and bumpy drive on dirt and muddy roads, we made it on the first checkpoint. Here, we needed to present our ID or passport before proceeding to the river crossing.
Before long, we continued our trip to the river crossing where we waited for the last ferry to arrive and take us across the river.
The ferry crossing itself was short and sweet. But what happened next was the big problem.
Random restaurant in the middle of the Amazon rainforest
After the river crossing, there was a random restaurant in the middle of the jungle. We ate our dinner there while our driver disappeared.
Before we knew it, we see our driver loading the top of the van with sacks of alcohol. Something here doesn’t seem right.
Stranded in the middle of the jungle at 2 am
After a long wait for the driver, he finally started driving towards Georgetown. That’s when things took a turn for the worst. At another police checkpoint, they noticed the goods that the driver placed on top of the van.
The officer working said that these are illegal goods and he is hereby confiscating the van and the alcohol. Our driver tried bribing him but the officer is anti-corruption. We ended up being stranded in the middle of the Amazon rainforest with no place to sleep and no escape.
There were also mosquitoes here that when they bite you, they lay an egg inside your skin. If you don’t scratch the areas they bite you, the mosquitoes will hatch out of those eggs. If you do scratch it, you’ll have an open wound for one week.
One of the passengers had data on his mobile phone and because we were at a police checkpoint, there were cell phone towers in this area. He tethered his internet to me which gave me the chance to send my girlfriend a WhatsApp message. I told her that if she doesn’t hear from me in 24-hours, that she should contact the Canadian embassy in Guyana.
Then, the officer told me that I can sleep in the confiscated van and try hitchhiking the next morning.
Paid hitchhiking to Georgetown
The next morning at 8:30 AM, a pickup truck drove by. We began begging the driver to let us hitchhike to Georgetown. He said he would do it if we paid him 4200 Guyanese dollars each.
With no other choice, we accepted his offer. They decided to put me in the front of the pickup truck and I shared a one-seater with a big black guy. It was so cramped that one of my legs had to be lifted above the gearbox for 8 hours. It was one of the worst rides of my life.
Before long, we were now near the capital city. That’s when another problem arose. The ferry was undergoing construction and we would wait several hours before we can cross over.
This was one of the most brutal days of my life but I was thankful that I found a way out of the jungle.
Arrival in Georgetown
By the time I arrived in Georgetown, I was swarmed by aggressive taxi drivers. One of them just grabbed my backpack and shoved it in the trunk of his car. He then pointed at the backseat of his cab and told me “GET IN CHINA”.
I tried arguing with him about giving me a quote first before he drove off. But, the man just kept telling me “RELAX CHINA, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING”.
By the time we arrived at the guest house I was staying in, he tried charging me over 700 Guyanese dollars. I only had 500 in my pocket which he angrily accepted.
By the time I entered my room, I passed out from sheer exhaustion.
Best Chinese food in South America
Several hours later, I woke up and was greeted by my Russian friends who I met during my travel to Venezuela. I ended up going with them to eat at a local Chinese restaurant. This place had one of the best-fried rice I have ever eaten.
I also thought it was interesting that Guyana has an obvious Chinese presence. No wonder I never got stared at here. My Russian friends were constantly stared at; though, by the locals.
Getting a visa/tourist pass to Suriname
In two days, I was going to Suriname next and needed a visa/tourist pass to enter the country. I hired a taxi driver for 1000 Guyanese dollars to take me to a local bank to withdraw money. Then, he would take me to the Suriname embassy to get the visa. I was surprised to see a Scotiabank in Guyana because this is a Canadian bank.
After withdrawing some money, I ended up going to the Suriname embassy to apply for a tourist pass. I came prepared wearing jeans and shoes because I heard of the dress code.
Ironically, the guy in front of me in the lineup was wearing flip flops. The security guard looks down on his feet and tells him “I like your flip flops” and lets him in the office.
Rules don’t really exist in Guyana.
I did get lucky because the processing of the tourist card usually takes 24 hours. But, the friendly woman working in the immigration office managed to process it for me in 1 hour.
After returning back to my guesthouse, I met up with a fellow Canadian I know from Vancouver who was also travelling in Guyana. We decided to explore Georgetown together along with his son and daughter.
We got a chance to check out the local markets.
And the UNESCO sites within the city.
His 4-year-old daughter wanted her nails done. And so, my companion took her to a local shop to get it done for her.
Before long, it was time to wrap up my trip to Guyana because the next day, I would be going to Suriname next.
Georgetown to Courantyne River
I booked a long mini-bus ride from Georgetown to Paramaribo in Suriname the next day.
For the first half of the trip, we would be going to the river between countries. There, I would be taking a ferry over to Suriname which I’ll cover in the next article.
The mini-bus ride was rough. I was squished between big black people in a stuffy mini-bus with no ac or windows opened.
During the washroom stops, the black people would yell at me and say “HURRY UP CHINA”.
I didn’t take any offense to it, I actually thought it was funny.
After a grueling 6-hour drive, we made it to the immigration and ferry terminal.
Immigration and ferry
The immigration process was chaotic as everyone was just shoving their way to get to the immigration booth.
I managed to purchase a ticket to take the ferry and waited for quite some time before we were ready to board.
While waiting, I overheard the locals talking about going to Suriname on vacation. I think it’s because Suriname is cheaper than Guyana.
Long after, we began making our way to the ferry itself.
I got myself situated at one of the metal chairs as the ferry crossed the river over to the Suriname side.
Not too long after, we were now in Suriname where my mission to cross over to all the Guiana countries continue.
Guyana is not a travel destination for the faint of heart. It’s one of the roughest places I’ve travelled to in my life. If anything, Guyana feels more like you’re in Africa than South America. It’s full of black and Indian people. Everyone also speaks creole English which is hard to understand.
While my journey in the Guianas was rough, to this day, it’s been one of the grandest adventures of my life. I will never return to this place but I’m still glad I got a chance to visit it once in my life.