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While planning our family trip to Guyana, I had a difficult time finding any kid-specific information. And by “difficult”, I mean it was next to impossible to find anything other than Lonely Planet saying there’s nothing to do in Guyana with Kids…so far from the truth!
This wasn’t the first time I’d been in this situation (i.e. West Africa and Central Asia), so I wasn’t too concerned about it. However, it definitely made me want to put together this guide to help out others, even if there aren’t many people out there traveling to Guyana with kids.
Should You Visit Guyana With Kids?
The answer to this depends on what your kids like. If they need to find kid-centered activities like science museums and Kidzania to stay, then Guyana probably isn’t for you. However, if your kids love running wild in the outdoors, learning about different cultures firsthand and incredible animal encounters…look no further than Guyana.
60% of the country is covered in primary rainforest (compare that to 23% in Costa Rica!), and the rainforest is actually a part of the Amazon. What kid (or adult) hasn’t dreamed of visiting the Amazon?!
Side note– I was initially a bit confused about the whole “Amazon vs non-Amazon” thing. The rivers in Guyana don’t feed into the Amazon river, so it’s not technically part of the Amazon basin. However, the rainforest extends all the way through Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana to meet up with the rest of the Amazon in Brazil. Plus, the flora and fauna in Guyana is identical…apparently the animals don’t care what the name of the river is below them!
If your kids are able to be a little uncomfortable (both with transportation and accommodation!) Guyana is definitely a country worth visiting. There’s lots to see, but at a pace that kids can keep up with. Because of the afternoon siesta, the days are experience-rich but relaxed.
We quickly got into an easy routine of breakfast followed by a morning adventure. Then we’d return to the lodge for lunch and an afternoon nap, games or schoolwork, and the usual cold shower to cool off! Late afternoon would bring another activity followed by dinner and finally reading or a family game before bed. It was an easy routine, and our days were incredibly enjoyable.
Know Before You Visit Guyana
Guyana is a small country found in the North East corner of South America. It’s bordered by Venezuela to the West, Brazil to the South & West, and Suriname to the East. The main language is English (yeah!!), making communication easier compared to the rest of the Guyanas.
History of Guyana For Kids
Guyana has a strong history of harsh colonialization, the effects of which are still very evident today. It was inhabited by Carib and Arawak tribes living off the land until the arrival of the Dutch in the late 16thcentury. In 1796 it changed hands to the British and officially became British Guiana in 1831.
The economy of British Guiana, like much of the Caribbean, was largely dependent on African slavery. Upon the abolition of slavery in 1834, many of the slaves refused to work on the plantations, moving into the jungles and establishing their own Maroon villages. Indentured labourers were brought in, mainly from China and India, to continue work on the plantations. Guyana became an independent republic, with a properly elected president, Cheddi Jagan, in 1970.
Unlike in Trinidad, where everyone considers themselves Trinidadian regardless of their ethnic background, Guyana is still very much split by race. People consider themselves Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese or AmerIndian (among others). This fuels racial tension, mainly at the political level, although tolerance is becoming more common amongst the younger generation. We arrived in Guyana after spending the weekend in Trinidad. This difference sparked some interesting and insightful conversations with our kids.
When To Visit Guyana
The best time to visit is during the dry season, generally from September to April. You may experience occasional rains in the interior from November to January, but they don’t tend to last long and they do a lovely job of cooling things down (a bit). Our girls’ took the opportunity one afternoon to put on their bathing suits and dance in the rain…it was a welcome respite from the heat.
Money In Guyana
The currency is the Guyanese dollar (GYD), and while USD are widely accepted, you’ll typically get a better price with GYD. The only good place to take cash out of an ATM is at the 2 Scotiabanks in Georgetown. The transaction limit was ….. when we visited in late 2019, but we were able to take out enough $$ using multiple transactions. Be aware that the ATM’s do occasionally run out of money, so if one doesn’t seem to be working for you try a different one!
If you’re going to exchange USD for GYD, the best place to do this is at one of the cambios. Ask your accommodation or taxi driver for a suggestion, and they may even exchange for you because they’ll likely get an even better rate as a local. The cambios typically offer the best exchange rate (far better than the bank), just be sure to count your GYD before handing over your USD. The going rate is 200GYD/USD, but you may be able to get 210 or even 220 at the cambios.
Credit Cards are not widely accepted, and outside of GT it’s difficult to find an ATM that will accept foreign cards. We were able to find one in Lethem, the GBTI ATM. The Republic Bank Guyana Ltd was also supposed to accept foreign cards, but I couldn’t get it to work!
*expert tip– try to pay for as much as possible with your credit card before you leave home! We pre-paid for Iwokrama River Lodge, Atta Lodge and our Kaiteur Falls Tour. This greatly reduced the amount of cash we needed to carry around with us.
Food In Guyana
The food in Guyana is a mix of many cultures, and was easy eating for the kids. In the interior, meals are very starch heavy (think pasta, bread AND potatoes at many meals), with cooked veggies, a variety of fruits, and chicken or fish. Refrigeration is minimal, and food has to come a long way from Georgetown to the interior.
If you’re worried about your kid’s food intake, it may be worth packing some non-perishable snacks, such as granola bars or fruit leathers. Just make sure they’re well sealed in a bag…you don’t want to attract creepy-crawlies with them!
Getting To & From Guyana
You’ll most likely enter/exit/both by airplane into the Cheddi Jagan international airport, 41km/1hr drive from central GT. There is a bus (the Timeri bus) that runs into central Georgetown, but I’d suggest pre-arranging pickup with your accommodation. We paid $50USD for pick up via the Armoury hostel.
There are only 2 legal border crossing; Bonfim (Brazil) and Nieuw Nickerie (Suriname). We crossed both of these without any issues!
Entering Guyana from Brazil – If you’re coming from the interior of Brazil you’ll likely catch a bus from Boa Vista to Bonfim. From here you can hail a taxi to the Brazil border. You’ll stamp out of Brazil in the big building on the North side of the road, then pick up a different taxi to take you through the Guyanese border to Lethem. Once you’ve crossed the Takutu river, and switched from driving on the right to driving on the left you’ll head into the building on the South side of the road to collect your entry stamp for Guyana. Fill out a bit of paperwork then hop back in the taxi and drive the 5min or so into town.
Onward to Brazil – pick up a taxi in Lethem and have them take you to the Brazilian border. You’ll have to stamp out of Guyana, then drive (or walk) across the river to Brazil. It’s an easy stamp-in process (in an air conditioned building) on the right hand side of the road once you’re across the river. Then head across the street to the taxis and negotiate a ride into Bonfim. Most of the taxi drivers will take GYD, although not at the most favourable exchange rate.
*expert tip– It’s worth paying a little extra for them to drive all the way to the Brazil border. We thought the driver was trying to rip us off, so we only paid the lesser fair to the Guyana border. It was then a 1km, VERY HOT walk, without any shade, across to the Brazil border. Luckily we were just visiting for the afternoon so we didn’t have any luggage with us!
Onward to Suriname – The border between Guyana and Suriname is Moleson Creek, which of course is only crossed using the ferry from Corriverton (no bridge!). I highly recommend booking with Justin (Whats App 592-678-6556, Guyana Phone 592-613-6556, Suriname Phone 597-880-4197) as his service runs from your hotel in Georgetown to your hotel in Paramaribo. Door to door service! Many of the other operators drop you off at the ferry on one side, then have someone else on the other side pick you up to carry on to Paramaribo. This seemed like way too much hassle, especially with kids.
Entering Guyana from Suriname – I’d recommend the same thing in reverse if you’re heading from Paramaribo to Georgetown (or anywhere in Guyana). Give Justin a call and he’ll arrange door-to-door transportation from one country to the next. If he’s not available, your accommodation will easily be able to arrange transportation between the two countries for you.
Side Note: I should also note that you can fly from Georgetown to Paramaribo. This would be the easiest option with kiddos. We try to travel overland, and in a group, whenever possible to reduce our carbon footprint (we travel so much I figure whatever we can do to decrease it is a good thing). I do have my limits though…and a return ~18hr bus ride from Lethem to Georgetown was easily traded in for a one hour flight. I was making up for this by taking the bus from Georgetown to Paramaribo!
*expert tip – Suriname is an hour ahead of Guyana!! This really threw us off as we were unprepared for it…not sure how I missed that in ALL my planning!
What To Budget For A Family Trip To Guyana
Guyana is NOT a budget destination. Expect to spend a fair amount of money, and then expect to spend a little more! Sure, it’s possible to travel somewhat inexpensively, but you’ll have a hard time doing this with a family. Plus, you’ll miss out on many of the incredible nature lodges and community-based tourism experiences available if you haven’t budgeted enough.
What We Spent
464,192 GYD ($2996 CAD) + $3172 USD ($4245 CAD) = $7241 CAD for 11 days.
I would suggest budgeting around $700 CAD/day for a family of 4.
This is well above our typical $200-250/day budget when we travel, but it was worth budgeting more to ensure we maximized our experiences. I should also add that much of the travel was rustic…at one point I started calling it “rustic-chic” because it was expensive, but basic. This is all part of the experience, but it’s good to know to reset your expectations for what you’re getting for your $$.
What To Do In Guyana With Kids
Georgetown Guyana With Kids
Honestly, my best advice for Georgetown is to get out! It wasn’t my favourite city, and it’s not at all easy to navigate with kids. The sidewalks are few and far between, traffic is hectic, and there are open, and VERY dirty gutters along many of the streets just waiting for the kids to fall in. (I had nightmares about my girls falling into the open gutters, they were just SO disgusting.)
That being said, you’ll likely pass through Georgetown on your way into and/or out of the country. If you do find yourself with time to pass in this city, there are a few things to keep yourselves and your littles occupied.
Botanical Gardens – This is one of the few places in GT where I wasn’t constantly worried about my kids getting run over! It’s a little oasis in the middle of the city, with walking paths and tons of different birds. There is a small zoo just inside the entrance (to the left), but it looked so abysmal and the animals looked so sad, I couldn’t bring myself to visit.
*kid tip– look for the tiny frogs in the grass along the canals throughout the park. This honestly is HOURS of fun for the kiddos!
National Museum – Alright, so the museum is a little creepy with all the old, stuffed, dead animals upstairs, but the kids loved seeing the various animals up close. They learned about each species and were able to spot the various things they’d seen in the wild. The girls also thought the “surprise” in the basement was super cool. I won’t spoil it, but it’s definitely worth a visit (even if only because it’s air conditioned and offered a few minutes of being cool!). Hours: 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-noon Sat. Cost: Free
Stabroek Market – If you’re like us and love a good market when you travel, Stabroek market should be on your list. The building itself is worth seeing! It was built in 1880 and has a giant clock tower out front keeping watch over the busy square. The market is incredibly busy, both inside and outside, so keep your kids close. Also, leave all your valuables behind and ensure what you do carry with you is strapped on in an anti-theft bag (like one of these) or out of sight. Hours: 7am-6pm 7 days a week.
Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology – We didn’t visit because we ran out of time, but it was on my list! This museum houses items from Guyana’s 9 Amerindian tribes. I think it would’ve been interesting to do prior to heading inland and visiting a few of the villages ourselves. Hours: 8am-4:30pm Mon to Fri. Cost: Free
Playgrounds – There’s a small “park” with swings, a teeter-totter and a few slides at Oronoque St, in the strip of grass running between North Rd and Church Street. If you can ignore the garbage scattered all over the ground, and give in to your kid’s excessive pleading to play at the park, it’s worth about a 5min stop to quell the asking.
If they REALLY want a playground, and you don’t want to hang out at the garbage-laden park, head to the Popeyes restaurant just North of the Botanical Gardens (no joke!). The outdoor playground here was by far the best we saw in all of Guyana!
Where To Stay in Georgetown
If you’re on a budget, the Armory Hostel offers comfortable accommodation for a very reasonable price. We had a family room with private bathroom, and lots of space to spread out in the big house. The owners are a couple of buddies who were incredibly friendly and helpful during our stay. We had a family room (4 single beds) with a private bathroom. It was air conditioned and comfortable, although the bathroom wasn’t overly clean. All-in-all, I’d stay here again if I needed a budget accommodation. Cost: $50US/night
After 10 days sweating in the interior of the country, we were desperate for a pool. Our room was dated, but had all the amenities we needed, and the pool was definitely worth it! There are newer rooms near the pool, but we didn’t see the need for the added expense.
Our room included breakfast, which was a buffet with lots of options. We also ended up eating dinner at our hotel both nights. It was tasty, reasonably priced, and we could eat it in our bathing-suits by the pool! Cost: $90US/night
This is where I wanted to stay, but it was booked up long before I got my act together to actually make any bookings. The Windjammer, with it’s pool, was a great alternative.
Where To Eat in Georgetown
Shanta’s – If your kids like roti and curry, Shanta’s is a great very reasonably priced restaurant for Indian food. Meals are either a set menu or a la carte. The roti was delicious, and the curry was mild enough that the kiddos had no problem enjoying it.
Oasis Café – I was desperate for a GOOD coffee, and the girls wanted a cool place to sit and get out of the sun for a bit. Oasis Cafe was the best coffee we found in GT, and the bathrooms were clean.
Java Coffee Bar & Bistro – Another good option for real coffee in Georgetown is Java Coffee Bar & Bistro. This cute little café is air conditioned, and the cupcakes were a hit with the girls.
Around The Essequibo River
If you don’t want to venture too far into the country, there are plenty of opportunities for incredible adventures close to Georgetown along the Essequibo River. Disclaimer: We didn’t do any of these, so this is just based on my obsessive pre-trip research as opposed to actual experience!
Fort Island – the original location of the Dutch Colony where you’ll find a museum as well as the well-preserved Fort Zeelandia. Can be visited as a day-trip from Georgetown.
Lake Mainstay Resort – Since there’s really no sandy beaches along the Guyanese coastline, Lake Mainstay is likely your best bet for a sandy beach! It’s a lake (obviously) and the water looks like Coca Cola, but it’s reportedly quite clean.
Around Bartica (1hr bus from Georgetown to Parika, then 1hr boat to Bartica)
Baganara Island Resort – One of the more upscale resorts in Guyana, yet still maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. The beach along the river is beautiful, and there’s a bunch of activities available to keep the kiddos entertained. They can also coordinate a day-trip to swim in Marshall Falls.
Aruwai White H2O Resort – Another one of the nicer resorts in Guyana, Aruwai takes it up another level with a pool! They cater to families with plenty of activities for the kiddos. My only negative is the mini-zoo as it appears the animals are kept in too-small cages. It’s better to see them in the wild!
Sloth Island Resort – Great for nature walks, bird watching, and of course…sloths! If we had longer, I would’ve spent a few days between Aruwai Resort and Sloth Island.
Optional Side trips – Plan an evening trip to Parrot Island (Mamarikuru Island) north of Bartica, or see the Caimans at Gluck Island south of Bartica.
Kaiteur Falls With Kids – The Ultimate Day Trip From Georgetown
Kaiteur Falls may have been our favourite thing in all of Guyana. The day (really half-day) trip was crazy expensive, but oh so worth it! You can read all about our trip to Kaiteur Falls here, including info on how to book your own trip and tips for visiting with kids. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of this gorgeous waterfall!
The Guyanese Amazon With Kids
Iwokrama River Lodge
This was the first stop on our interior tour of Guyana, and is definitely worth visiting with kids. Sankur, the giant black Caiman, is the star of the show here. He’s wild, and lives in the river beside the lodge, but has been trained to come for food (usually a chunk of beef) when someone throws rocks into the water!
The accommodation here was the nicest of anywhere we stayed in Guyana (although still rustic), and the activities were a combination of rainforest walks and boat trips. Mixing in the boat trips was great for reducing the amount of complaining the girls did about walking in the heat!
Located across the river from Iwokrama River Lodge, Michelle’s Island is a laid back, cheaper alternative to the River Lodge. Michelle also runs the little food shop at the Kurupkari ferry, so you can likely just show up and stay if you’ve been unable to get ahold of her otherwise. Alternatively, you can find her info (and up to date phone number) on facebook.
Atta Lodge & Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
Atta Lodge is home to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. Although we didn’t end up seeing a ton of wildlife from the walkway, just being up in the trees was an experience in itself. Atta Lodge is tucked deep within the jungle and felt a world away from everything. We were the only guests during our stay, and it was so quiet and peaceful we didn’t want to leave. The girls asked if we could come back another time and stay longer…the highest review they can offer!
The Rupununi With Kids
One of the pioneers of the community-based tourism movement in Guyana, Surama is an incredible lodge that now supports 80% of the adjacent Amerindian village. Our Benab (hut) was adorable, and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. We went on a forest walk and boat ride, visited the village school (which the kiddos loved) and watched a cultural performance put on by the Wildlife Club.
When planning our trip, I debated between Surama and Rewa. Ultimately Surama won because it seemed a bit easier to get to from the main road. If you have more time, Rewa looks beautiful. It’s deep within the rainforest and located beside a river famous for the giant arapaima fish.
Initially a caiman research center, Caiman house now utilizes tourism to support it’s research. It’s located in the Amerindian village of Yupikari where you can experience cultural activities as well as jungle walks, river trips and participate in caiman tagging (in the dry season).
Also on my original list (because of the pool!) was Rock View Lodge in Annai. The location beside the airstrip is what put me off, although having now seen the airstrips it’s definitely not something that would keep a person up at night!! If I were to plan our trip over again, I’d book a night or two here on the way through, even if all we did was hang out in the pool!
If you’re on a tight budget, you can find cheaper accommodation nearby at Oasis, which is also owned by Annai.
Once home to the famous Diane McTurk, Karanambu Ranch is devoted to the care and research of the Giant Otter. Although it’s not a community based tourism lodge (it’s privately owned), the money supports research so it’s still for a good cause.
Getting to and from the ranch is a bit of a trek, so it’s only worth adding to a longer itinerary (in my opinion), especially with kids.
Note: There are many other community based tourism lodges in the interior of Guyana, however these are the ones I short-listed for our trip and feel are worth considering. Many of the others are new, and can also likely use whatever support (tourists) they can get as well!
Lethem With Kids – The End Of The Road
Whether or not you visit Lethem will likely depend on your budget! If money isn’t an issue, the most reasonable option is to fly back to Georgetown from one of the small landing strips at the interior lodges. These tend to be small (or charter) flights and the cost can add up quickly! But, it’s the way to go if your budget allows.
If you’re trying to stick to a budget, my suggestion is to make your way to Lethem to catch a commercial flight back to Georgetown. We traveled overland from Georgetown to Lethem, via a combination of mini-bus and private 4×4, and decided it was worth spending a little bit extra to save MANY hours by flying back to Georgetown. This would be my recommendation…it’s worth budgeting for!
There’s really not much to do in Lethem itself, but there are a few great lodges relatively close by. I had my eye on the Manari Ranch and Guest House, but we decided to cross the border to Brazil for the day instead! With kids, my top pick was Manari Ranch because of it’s proximity to Lethem (only about 15min drive) and the swimming hole. They also offer horseback riding, nature walks and canoe trips!
A few other (researched but not experienced) options are; Saddle Mountain for horseback riding trips in the Rupununi, and Dadanawa Ranch (Rupununi Trails) for horseback riding trips and trekking into the mountains.
Tips for Visiting Guyana With Kids
- Spend Time in Nature – A trip to Guyana is all about experiencing it’s unspoiled nature. It’s almost impossible to find such pure, untouched wilderness anywhere on the planet these days, and it’s worth it to travel to the edge of world to find it. Given how quickly the world is changing, and how much has changed in the past generation, I want my children to have seen what little is left of our original planet before it’s gone.
- Prepare for the heat and humidity – Guyana is HOT!!! It transitions from the jungle to the open Savannah, both trying to compete to see which one can be more stifling. Pack appropriately, with lots of loose, light clothing, and prep the kids so they’re at least somewhat prepared for the heat. If your kids are like mine, they turn into whining, lethargic blobs when it gets too hot (which is how I feel in my head I just don’t express it), and I find everything is more enjoyable if they’re expecting the heat.
- Drink lots of water – Because it’s so hot it’s important to ensure everyone is staying hydrated. Some of the lodges had filtered water available, whereas others only had small plastic bottles. We try to avoid plastic whenever possible, so we bought our Grayl water purifier with us. We “pressed” our drinking water whenever we couldn’t fill it up from a large cooler.
- Pack (and use) Rehydration salts – I always bring rehydration salts with me when we travel. When it’s hot and humid, and we’re constantly sweating, we refuel most evenings with a cup of water and a rehydration tablet.
- Bring toys for afternoon siesta – It gets so hot and humid that everything (and everyone) shuts down for an afternoon siesta from after lunch until around 4pm. Some days we slept, but most days we just took it easy inside our accommodation. It’s worth having toys, books and games to play during the siesta.
- Find a pool whenever possible – if I haven’t already mentioned it…Guyana is HOT!!! It’s the kind of heat that instantly zaps you of all energy and motivation to do anything. A pool, or anywhere to swim and cool off, is a welcome relief during afternoon siesta (not that I would know from Guyana…but we did stay at a lodge in Suriname with a pool and it was heavenly!!).
- In lieu of a pool, I highly recommend multiple showers a day! We often had a quick rinse 2-3 times per day (and by quick rinse, I mean we got wet then got out so as to not waste water), then let ourselves air dry in the room…with the blinds closed of course! Most of the lodges have cold water only (Iwokrama had one cabin with a solar water heater), but in all honesty I’m not sure why anyone would want anything other than a cold shower.
- The roads outside of Georgetown are AWFUL – The main road that traverses the country from Georgetown to the Brazil border is a dirt road. It’s decently well maintained in the dry season, but impossible to maintain during the wet season.
- Travel by Private 4×4 vehicle – This may seem a bit luxurious, and over the top, but it’s one of the only reasonable ways to get around the country. It’s also not actually that much more expensive than the bus (when you’re paying for 4+ people). The private transfer does cost a bit more, but will save a fair amount of time, and some very early mornings.
- Bring Gravol for driving – I may have already mentioned that the roads outside of Georgetown are pretty horrendous!!??!! What I didn’t mention was that the minibuses/vans drive down the horrendous road at an alarming speed. If you’re sticking to a 4×4 vehicle you may not need anti-nausea medications…but if you’re taking any type of public transit, I’d highly recommend it, both for yourself and your littles.
- Meet Sankur the Alligator (at Iwokrama) – How many times in your life will you be able to feed an alligator in the wild? Although Sankur is a wild alligator, he’s pretty accustomed to humans. I don’t think I’d want to pet him, but it was pretty cool to see him up close and personal (well, as close as we felt comfortable anyways).
- Pack a headlamp for night time – Many of the interior lodges run off solar power with a back-up generator available for emergencies (and laundry!). A such, there’s not a lot of electricity available at night. We had 2 headlamps with us, one for each kid to use if they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper – The jungle is noisy! If you’re a light sleeper it’s definitely worth bringing earplugs to keep out the chorus of frogs and insects that come out to play at night.
- Wake up/stay up late one night to stargaze – the majority of the interior has almost no light pollution, meaning stargazing here is incredible! It’s worth either staying up late, or getting up one night to look at the stars in a way that just isn’t possible at home.