Suriname Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Suriname, nestled on the northeastern coast of South America, offers a unique and diverse tourism experience. Known for its rich cultural tapestry, lush rainforests, and vibrant history, Suriname beckons travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. The capital, Paramaribo, boasts a UNESCO-listed historic district with colonial architecture, while the interior reveals pristine natural wonders, including the Amazon rainforest and the mesmerizing Brownsberg Nature Park. With a mix of indigenous, African, Indian, and Dutch influences, Suriname invites visitors to explore its cultural festivals, traditional foods, and the harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups. The country’s commitment to ecotourism and its wealth of biodiversity make Suriname a captivating destination for those seeking an immersive and authentic travel experience.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Suriname as a tourist is during the dry season, which typically spans from late August to mid-November and from mid-December to mid-February. This period offers more predictable weather with lower chances of rainfall, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and exploring the diverse landscapes.

However, it’s important to note that Suriname has a tropical climate, and temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the year. The wet season, from mid-November to mid-December and from mid-February to late August, brings higher humidity and more frequent rainfall. While the rainforest and nature reserves flourish during this time, some areas may be challenging to access due to heavy rains.

Consider your specific interests when planning your visit. If you’re keen on wildlife and lush landscapes, the wet season might provide a more vibrant natural experience. For those focused on outdoor adventures and cultural exploration, the dry season is generally more favorable.

As always, it’s advisable to check current weather conditions and any travel advisories before planning your trip. Suriname’s climate offers opportunities for exploration year-round, and the choice of when to visit depends on your preferences and the type of experience you seek.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

In Suriname, various transportation options are available for tourists to explore the diverse landscapes and cultural attractions. Here are some common ways to get around:

  1. Public Transportation:
    • Paramaribo, the capital, has a public bus system that serves the city and its outskirts. While it may not cover all tourist destinations, buses are an affordable option for local travel.
  2. Taxis:
    • Taxis are available in Paramaribo and other urban areas. Negotiate fares before starting the journey, as meters are not always used. Taxis are convenient for short distances within the city.
  3. Car Rentals:
    • Renting a car provides flexibility, especially for exploring more remote areas and natural attractions. Major car rental companies operate in Paramaribo, and driving is on the left side of the road.
  4. Bicycles:
    • Some areas in Paramaribo are bicycle-friendly, and bike rentals are available for exploring the city and its surroundings. It’s a eco-friendly and leisurely way to experience the local atmosphere.
  5. Boats and Ferries:
    • Suriname has numerous rivers, and boat travel is common, especially in the interior. River taxis and ferries are used to reach remote villages and natural reserves like Brownsberg Nature Park and the Upper Suriname River.
  6. Domestic Flights:
    • While not the most common mode of transportation within the country, domestic flights are available for reaching more remote regions. However, these flights may be limited, and schedules can vary.
  7. Guided Tours:
    • Opting for guided tours is a convenient way to explore Suriname’s attractions, especially in the interior. Tour operators organize trips to rainforests, wildlife reserves, and cultural sites, providing transportation and guidance.
  8. Minibuses and Shared Taxis:
    • Minibuses and shared taxis operate on established routes between towns and cities. They are a common mode of transportation for both locals and tourists, offering a budget-friendly option for getting around.

Before choosing a mode of transportation, consider your itinerary and the destinations you plan to visit. Some areas may require specific types of transport, such as boats for river travel. Additionally, be aware of the travel conditions and plan accordingly, especially during the wet season when certain routes may be more challenging.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Suriname is Dutch. However, due to the country’s diverse ethnic makeup, several other languages are widely spoken, including Sranan Tongo, Hindustani, and Javanese. English is also commonly understood, especially in urban areas and tourist destinations. Here are some basic words and phrases in Dutch and Sranan Tongo that might be useful for tourists:

Dutch:

  1. Hello – Hallo
  2. Goodbye – Tot ziens
  3. Please – Alsjeblieft (informal) / Alstublieft (formal)
  4. Thank you – Dank je (informal) / Dank u (formal)
  5. Yes – Ja
  6. No – Nee
  7. Excuse me / Sorry – Excuseer / Sorry
  8. Good morning – Goedemorgen
  9. Good afternoon – Goedemiddag
  10. Good evening – Goedenavond
  11. Good night – Goedenacht
  12. How are you? – Hoe gaat het met u? (formal) / Hoe gaat het met jou? (informal)
  13. What is your name? – Wat is jouw naam? (informal) / Wat is uw naam? (formal)
  14. My name is… – Mijn naam is…

Sranan Tongo:

  1. Hello – Fa waka
  2. Goodbye – Mi o waka (I’m walking)
  3. Please – Mek yu du mi
  4. Thank you – Tangi
  5. Yes – Yeh
  6. No – No
  7. Excuse me / Sorry – Sori
  8. Good morning – Gudu mawnin
  9. Good afternoon – Gudu aftenun
  10. Good evening – Gudu efening
  11. Good night – Gudu nyan
  12. How are you? – Fa yu de?
  13. What is your name? – Fa yu nen de?
  14. My name is… – Mi nen…

Learning a few basic phrases in the local languages can enhance your travel experience and help you connect with locals. While Dutch is the official language, using Sranan Tongo may add a cultural touch to your interactions. Most Surinamese people appreciate visitors making an effort to communicate in their languages.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Suriname offers a range of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some options for tourists:

  1. Paramaribo:
    • City Center: Paramaribo, the capital, has a variety of hotels, guesthouses, and boutique accommodations in and around the city center. This area is convenient for exploring historic sites, dining, and entertainment.
    • Waterkant: The Waterkant area, along the Suriname River, features picturesque views and a selection of hotels. It’s close to attractions like Independence Square and the Presidential Palace.
    • Zorg en Hoop: This area is near the Zorg en Hoop airport and offers a range of accommodations, including hotels and guesthouses.
  2. Resorts in the Interior:
    • For those seeking a more immersive experience in Suriname’s natural beauty, consider staying at resorts in the interior. Resorts like Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort or Awarradam provide opportunities to explore the rainforest and river landscapes.
  3. Commewijne District:
    • Located just east of Paramaribo, the Commewijne District offers tranquil settings along the Commewijne River. There are guesthouses and plantations that provide a peaceful retreat while being close to Paramaribo.
  4. Eco-Lodges:
    • Suriname’s eco-lodges offer a unique experience for nature lovers. Lodges like Danpaati River Lodge or Kabalebo Nature Resort provide access to the rainforest, wildlife, and indigenous cultures.
  5. White Beach (Witte Beach):
    • About an hour’s drive from Paramaribo, White Beach is known for its sandy shores. There are beachfront accommodations and resorts in this area, providing a relaxing atmosphere away from the city.
  6. Nieuw Nickerie:
    • Located in the western part of Suriname, Nieuw Nickerie offers accommodations for those exploring the Nickerie District, known for its rice fields and natural reserves.
  7. Galibi:
    • If you’re interested in turtle watching, consider staying in Galibi. This village on the northeast coast is known for its sea turtle nesting sites. Accommodations are limited, typically provided by local guesthouses.

Before booking, consider your travel itinerary and the activities you plan to undertake. Be sure to check online reviews, consult with travel agencies, and consider factors like proximity to attractions, amenities, and safety. Additionally, due to the country’s diverse landscapes, you may find accommodations tailored to specific interests, such as eco-tourism or cultural experiences.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Suriname’s cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors influenced by its diverse cultural heritage, including Indigenous, African, Javanese, Indian, and Dutch influences. Here are some must-try dishes for tourists in Suriname:

  1. Roti:
    • A popular dish inherited from the Indian community, roti consists of a soft flatbread served with curried vegetables, chicken, or goat. It’s often accompanied by a side of dhal (split pea soup) and various condiments.
  2. Pom:
    • A traditional Surinamese-Jewish dish, pom features cassava root baked with chicken, often flavored with citrus juices and a blend of spices. It’s hearty and flavorful, reflecting the country’s diverse culinary influences.
  3. Saoto Soup:
    • This Javanese-inspired soup consists of chicken broth, vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, and various condiments like fried garlic, green onions, and lime. It’s a popular comfort food in Suriname.
  4. Pastechi:
    • Pastechi are savory turnovers filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, chicken, or spiced ground meat. They are often enjoyed as a snack or light meal and showcase the Dutch influence on Surinamese cuisine.
  5. Bami Goreng:
    • Influenced by Chinese cuisine, bami goreng is a flavorful stir-fried noodle dish with vegetables, meat (usually chicken or pork), and Indonesian-style seasonings. It’s a favorite street food in Suriname.
  6. Pinda Soup:
    • Pinda soup is a peanut soup with a rich and creamy texture. It often includes chicken, vegetables, and a blend of spices, creating a delicious and hearty dish.
  7. Bara:
    • Bara are deep-fried lentil fritters that originated from the Indian community. They are often served with chutney and are a popular snack or appetizer.
  8. Herb-Infused Fish Dishes:
    • Given Suriname’s access to freshwater fish, many dishes feature local catches. Fish is often prepared with herbs and spices, reflecting the culinary traditions of Indigenous and Maroon communities.
  9. Bojo Cake:
    • Bojo is a traditional Surinamese cake made with grated cassava, coconut, sugar, and various spices. It’s often served during special occasions and celebrations.
  10. Sate:
    • Sate, inspired by Indonesian cuisine, features skewered and grilled meat (often chicken or pork) served with a flavorful peanut sauce. It’s a popular street food and party dish.
  11. Dutch-Style Pancakes:
    • Reflecting Suriname’s colonial history, Dutch-style pancakes are a common breakfast or dessert option, often served with various toppings such as syrup, fruit, or powdered sugar.

Exploring the local markets and eateries in Suriname will provide an opportunity to sample the diverse flavors and culinary traditions that make Surinamese cuisine unique.

What to See? 🔍

Suriname, with its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, offers a variety of must-see places for tourists. Here are some notable destinations:

  1. Paramaribo:
    • Explore the capital city, Paramaribo, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved colonial architecture. Visit Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, and the iconic wooden Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral.
  2. Commewijne River:
    • Take a boat tour along the Commewijne River to explore former plantations, witness the confluence of the Suriname and Commewijne Rivers, and visit the Rust en Werk plantation.
  3. Brownsberg Nature Park:
    • Located in the Brokopondo District, Brownsberg Nature Park offers hiking trails, waterfalls, and stunning viewpoints overlooking Brokopondo Reservoir. It’s a great destination for nature lovers.
  4. Jodensavanne (Jewish Savannah):
    • Explore the historic Jewish settlement of Jodensavanne, home to remnants of a synagogue and cemetery dating back to the 17th century. Learn about the Jewish community’s impact on Surinamese history.
  5. Galibi Nature Reserve:
    • Located in the northeast, Galibi Nature Reserve is known for its sea turtle nesting sites. It’s a sanctuary for wildlife, and visitors can witness the nesting process during the nesting season.
  6. Marowijne River:
    • Take a trip to the Marowijne River, which forms the border between Suriname and French Guiana. Explore the scenic river landscapes and visit the border town of Albina.
  7. Nieuw Nickerie:
    • Discover Nieuw Nickerie, a town in western Suriname known for its rice fields and bird-watching opportunities. Explore the Bigi Pan nature reserve, a wetland habitat for various bird species.
  8. Peperpot Nature Park:
    • This nature reserve near Paramaribo is home to diverse flora and fauna. Walk through the historic Peperpot plantation ruins and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
  9. Central Suriname Nature Reserve:
    • Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, this vast nature reserve covers a significant portion of Suriname’s interior. It’s a haven for biodiversity, with opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and experiencing pristine rainforest.
  10. Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort:
    • Located along the Suriname River, this eco-resort offers a blend of adventure and cultural experiences. Activities include hiking, zip-lining, and exploring the surrounding rainforest.
  11. Awarradam:
    • Accessible by boat or plane, Awarradam is a riverside village in the interior, offering a serene escape. Experience the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous people, enjoy river activities, and explore the surrounding rainforest.

These are just a few highlights, and Suriname’s diverse landscapes, cultural communities, and natural wonders provide numerous opportunities for exploration and adventure. Always check local conditions and travel advisories before planning your itinerary.

What to Do? 📸

While in Suriname, there are several must-do activities that will allow you to immerse yourself in the country’s diverse culture, explore its natural beauty, and experience unique adventures. Here are some key activities for tourists in Suriname:

  1. City Tour of Paramaribo:
    • Explore the historic city of Paramaribo with a guided city tour. Visit Independence Square, the Waterkant (riverside), Fort Zeelandia, and the historic wooden architecture of the inner city.
  2. Culinary Exploration:
    • Sample the diverse cuisine of Suriname. Try local dishes such as roti, pom, saoto soup, and pastechi. Visit local markets, street vendors, and restaurants to savor the rich flavors of Surinamese food.
  3. River Tours:
    • Take a boat tour along Suriname’s rivers to explore remote villages, former plantations, and pristine natural landscapes. Consider tours on the Suriname River, Commewijne River, and Marowijne River.
  4. Wildlife Watching:
    • Embark on wildlife-watching excursions in Suriname’s rainforests and nature reserves. Look for diverse bird species, monkeys, reptiles, and other unique flora and fauna.
  5. Maroon Cultural Experience:
    • Immerse yourself in the culture of the Maroon communities. Learn about their traditions, music, dance, and history. Consider visiting villages like Pikin Slee or Danpaati for an authentic experience.
  6. Turtle Watching:
    • If visiting during the nesting season (typically April to August), consider turtle watching in places like Galibi Nature Reserve. Witnessing sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs is a unique and unforgettable experience.
  7. Hiking in Nature Reserves:
    • Explore Suriname’s nature reserves on guided hikes. Locations like Brownsberg Nature Park, Central Suriname Nature Reserve, and Peperpot Nature Park offer opportunities for trekking amidst lush greenery.
  8. Adventure at Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort:
    • Experience adventure activities such as zip-lining, hiking, and river trips at Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort. This eco-resort provides a mix of adrenaline-pumping activities and cultural experiences.
  9. Plantation Tours:
    • Take guided tours to former plantations to learn about Suriname’s colonial history and the impact of slavery. Plantations such as Rust en Werk and Peperpot offer insights into the country’s past.
  10. Attend Cultural Festivals:
    • If your visit coincides with local festivals, participate in the celebrations. Festivals often feature traditional music, dance, and cultural events that showcase the diversity of Surinamese culture.
  11. River Beach Relaxation:
    • Enjoy the natural beauty of Suriname’s river beaches. Relax by the water, swim, and soak in the serene atmosphere. White Beach and Colakreek are popular destinations for a peaceful retreat.
  12. Visit Nieuw Nickerie and Bigi Pan:
    • Explore Nieuw Nickerie, known for its rice fields, and take a boat tour to Bigi Pan, a nature reserve teeming with birdlife. Bird-watching enthusiasts will find this area particularly rewarding.

Before engaging in any activities, it’s important to check local conditions, weather, and travel advisories. Consult with local guides, tour operators, and authorities to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Suriname.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture in Suriname:

  1. Diverse Heritage:
    • Suriname’s culture is a vibrant tapestry woven from the diverse ethnic groups that call the country home. Indigenous peoples, Maroons, Javanese, Hindustani, Chinese, Dutch, and others contribute to a rich cultural mosaic.
  2. Languages:
    • Dutch is the official language, but Sranan Tongo, Hindustani, Javanese, and various indigenous languages are widely spoken. English is also commonly understood.
  3. Religious Harmony:
    • Suriname is characterized by religious tolerance and harmony. Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and indigenous belief systems coexist peacefully, contributing to the cultural diversity.
  4. Maroon Culture:
    • The Maroon communities, descendants of African slaves who escaped from plantations, have preserved unique cultural traditions, including music, dance, and oral history. Visitors can experience Maroon culture in villages like Pikin Slee.
  5. Javanese and Hindustani Influences:
    • The Javanese and Hindustani communities have brought their cultural practices, including traditional music, dance, and festivals. Hindu and Islamic celebrations are observed alongside Christian holidays.
  6. Culinary Diversity:
    • Surinamese cuisine reflects the country’s multicultural identity. Influences from India, Indonesia, China, and Europe contribute to a diverse culinary scene. Local markets are excellent places to explore this rich gastronomic heritage.

Safety in Suriname:

  1. Political Stability:
    • Suriname generally experiences political stability, but it’s advisable to stay informed about the current situation. Check travel advisories from reliable sources before your trip.
  2. Health Precautions:
    • Take health precautions, including vaccinations and mosquito protection, as Suriname is in a region where mosquito-borne illnesses are a concern. Consult with a healthcare professional before traveling.
  3. Crime Awareness:
    • While Suriname is generally safe, exercise caution in urban areas, especially in Paramaribo. Be vigilant against petty theft, and avoid displaying valuable items in public. Stick to well-traveled areas, especially at night.
  4. River Safety:
    • If engaging in river activities, follow safety guidelines. Wear life jackets during boat trips, and be cautious of strong currents. Always use reputable tour operators for water-related activities.
  5. Local Customs and Etiquette:
    • Respect local customs and etiquette. When visiting villages or participating in cultural activities, seek guidance on appropriate behavior and dress modestly, especially in religious or traditional settings.
  6. Emergency Contacts:
    • Save emergency contact numbers, including local authorities, medical services, and your embassy or consulate. Be aware of your surroundings and report any concerns promptly.
  7. Transportation Safety:
    • Use reliable transportation options and exercise caution when crossing busy streets. Follow safety guidelines for activities such as hiking and adventure sports.
  8. Weather Awareness:
    • Suriname has a tropical climate, and weather conditions can change rapidly. Stay informed about the weather forecast, especially during the wet season, and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  9. Cultural Sensitivity:
    • Be culturally sensitive and seek permission before taking photographs, especially of individuals. Engage with local communities respectfully and learn about their customs and traditions.

By staying informed, respecting local customs, and practicing common-sense safety measures, travelers can enjoy the rich cultural experiences and natural wonders that Suriname has to offer. Always stay updated on travel advisories and follow the guidance of local authorities for a safe and enjoyable trip.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Suriname beckons tourists with a captivating blend of cultural diversity and natural wonders. From the UNESCO-listed streets of Paramaribo to the pristine rainforests and river landscapes, the country offers a unique and immersive experience. Visitors can savor the rich flavors of Surinamese cuisine, delve into the traditions of Maroon communities, and explore historic plantations. While enjoying the warm hospitality, it’s essential for tourists to stay informed about local customs, exercise safety precautions, and embrace the harmony of Suriname’s multicultural identity. With its vibrant culture and lush landscapes, Suriname invites travelers to discover a hidden gem in South America.