Traveling Guyana on a Budget
by Txconnection on November 4, 2010
English-speaking, untamed and not yet ready for tourism, Guyana is a backpacker's paradise yet rarely visited by backpackers. A natural route from Venezuela to the northern coast of Brazil, Guyana is the perfect candidate for anyone who enjoys surprising family members and friends with an unlikely choice of destinations.
It seems sticker price shock deters most travelers from ever even entering Guyana or the Guianas for that matter. Based on the information we gathered from our recent trip, Guyana can be done for less than USD$65/day with research and planning.
The following are our general cost-saving tips and advice (lessons learned the hard way).
Organize your own tours. If you do the research, you won't need to use a travel agency or tour operator for most excursions into the interior. By organizing your own transportation and lodging, you will be able to save, literally, hundreds of dollars.
Use public transportation. Public transportation on the Intraserv, the only major bus company operating in Guyana, is the only option for backpackers. The cost from Georgetown (North) to Lethem (South) is USD$50 for a one-way ticket and takes about 12 - 16 hours if you are traveling during the dry season and the bus doesn't break down. The bus does not run daily so check the schedule first. If you want to be dropped off along the highway (known stops include Mabura Hill, Kurupukari pontoon crossing and Iwokrama Rainforest), we recommend purchasing an open-ended ticket. This will ensure you have a ticket and can catch the next Intraserv bus that passes through.
The bus will not take you all the way to your lodge. This is a separate cost and can be exorbitant. If you stay at an all-inclusive lodge, this cost is generally included in the total package price. Walking may be an option; check with your lodge first.
Although we did not look into it, I would advise renting a car, motorcycle, or bicycle. In addition to saving costs, having your own transportation will allow you to see Guyana at your own pace.
Bring a hammock. Many lodges and camp sites offer cheaper accommodations if you have your own hammock. Even if you bring your own "bed," expect to pay roughly USD$25/night per person.
Bring cash. As unlikely as it may seem, there is only one ATM in the entire country that will accept international cards, and it is in Georgetown. RBT Bank closes at 12:00pm on Saturday and is not open on Sunday so plan ahead. To be safe, we recommend bringing lots of cash! USD, BRL and, of course, GYD are accepted in Lethem.
Be flexible. Because of the small number of tourists in Guyana at any given time, it can be difficult to find enough people to make a tour or flight worth the operator's time. Scheduled tours and flights can and will be canceled at the last minute with make-up dates often days in the future. Be flexible and you will be one of the lucky few to see Kaiteur Falls, the largest (in terms of height and volume) single-drop waterfall in the world.
Exhange GYD for SRD at Corriverton. From what we gathered, it is difficult to near impossible to exchange Guyanese dollars for Surinamese dollars once you cross into Suriname. Despite our instincts, we were forced to exchange everything we had on the black market just outside the Guyanese customs office. The Surinamese dollars we received were authentic, and we did not have trouble using them in Suriname.