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The French Overseas Department of French Guiana has the benefit of an ideal geographical situation, set between the Caribbean and the Amazon. Little wonder, then, that its environment is so rich. Visitors may have the privilege of observing a great many protected species in carefully preserved areas.
French Guiana is also home to a colorful blend of different cultural backgrounds. A native land, a land of exploration and a land of enslavement. French Guiana is also a land of social progress and a symbol of modernity as is demonstrated in Kourou, the main European Space Center.
From encounters with authentic cultures, to watching the birth of the leatherback turtles, from life as a convict in a penal colony to traveling by canoe down majestic rivers, from panning for gold to watching toucans fly or following the vapor trail of Ariane, French Guiana has a lot to offer.
French Guiana is a French overseas department located just north of Ecuador, in the northern part of South America, and it is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, bounded on the west by Suriname, and south and east by Brazil. Cayenne, the capital and only city in the country, is located along the Atlantic Ocean.

Suriname is to the west along the rivers Maroni-Itani and to the north is the Atlantic coastline. Along the coast runs a belt of flat marshy land behind which the land rises to higher slopes and plains or savannah. The interior is comprised of equatorial jungle. Off the rugged coast lie the Îles du Salut and Devil’s Island. Cayenne, the capital and chief port, is on the island of the same name at the mouth of the Cayenne River.
Flora & Fauna
From north to south, from east to west, covering 90% of the territory, the natural area stretches out of sight: 5500 plant species including over a thousand trees, 700 species of birds, 177 mammal's species, 430 species of fish and 109 species of amphibians.
The native flora of French Guiana includes species like the Chlorocardium, which is even referred to as sipiri, beeberu and bibiru. Another dry-season deciduous tree that can be sighted here is the Platonia tree, which has its close resemblance to a papaya.
The native fauna of French Guiana includes Silky Anteater, Weeper Capuchin, Jaguar, White-faced Saki, Brazilian Squirrel, White-tailed Deer, Lachesis muta, Neotropical Pygmy Squirrel, Black-tailed Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Dendrobates tinctorius, Corydoras geoffroy and many others.
During your tour you may bring binoculars and watch for the rustle of leaves that indicates the presence of a frugivorous or granivorous animal. Maybe you'll come across a pac or an agouti. If you encounter a terrier, it is probably that of an anteater or armadillo.
Lend an ear, some calls may be those of a howler monkey, a macaw or toucan.
Facts at a Glance
French Guiana's population is of 229,000 (January 2009 est.), most of whom live along the coast, and it is very ethnically diverse. Estimates of the percentages of French Guiana ethnic composition vary: Creoles (people of mixed African and French ancestry) are the largest ethnic group, followed by European descendants (French, Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese); the main Asian communities are the Chinese and Hmong from Laos, other Asian groups include East Indians, Lebanese and Vietnamese. The main groups living in the interior are the Maroons (formerly called "Bush Negroes") who are racially black African, and Amerindians.
Political System
French Guiana is an Overseas Department of France and, as such, is an integral part of the French Republic. The Head of State is President Nicolas Sarkozy since 2007, represented locally by Prefect Ange Mancini since 2002.
The official language is French, though most of the population speaks a Creole patois. English is also widely spoken
The dominant religion of French Guiana is Roman Catholicism; the Maroons and some Amerindian people maintain their own religions. The Hmong people are also mainly Catholic owing to the influence of missionaries who helped bring them to French Guiana.
French Guiana is one of the most expensive regions in South America, with prices comparable to metropolitan France (from where nearly everything is imported). Being a department of France, French Guiana’s local currency is the euro. It’s easy to change cash or traveler’s checks in US dollars or euros in Cayenne, yet the rates are about 5% lower than official rates. Credit cards are widely accepted, and you can get Visa or MasterCard cash advances at ATM's, which are on the Plus and Cirrus networks. Euro card and Carte Bleu are also widely accepted.
Visa & Documents
To enter the French Guiana as a visitor you must carry a valid passport; except nationals of France who are holders of national identity cards.
Visas are not required for touristic stays of up to three months providing the visitor holds a return ticket.
Travel Tips
Local Time
The time zone for French Guiana is -3 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in French Guiana would be 2:00 pm
220/127 volts AC, 50Hz.
Water & Food
There is a fairly good selection of restaurants and hotel dining rooms offering a number of different cuisines. The majority of them are in Cayenne, although French, Continental, Vietnamese, Chinese, Creole and Indonesian restaurants can be found elsewhere. A local specialty is the bouillon d'aoura, a dish of smoked fish, crab, prawns, vegetables and chicken, served with aoura, the fruit of savanna trees.
Main water is normally heavily chlorinated and, whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised for the first few weeks of the stay. Water outside main cities and towns is likely to be contaminated and sterilization is considered essential. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled.
Before visiting French Guiana, you may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG), Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and Rabies.
To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect and to start taking medicine to prevent malaria, if you need it.
Within the past few years, a great many new boutiques have opened offering a wide range of merchandise. Good buys are basketry, embroidery, hammocks, pottery, wood sculpture and gold jewelry.
Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 08:00-13:00, 16:00-18:30, Sun 09:00-12:30.
In hotels and restaurants, a 10% tip is usual. Taxi drivers are not tipped.
Valid driver's license
An International Driving Permit is recommended and it may be required at car hire agencies from holders of driving licenses, however it is not legally required.
Emergency numbers
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in French Guiana is 112.
Safety & Security
Petty street crime occurs throughout the major cities. Consequently, you should at all times take precautions to limit your vulnerability. Avoid isolated areas, including beaches, particularly after dark.  Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewelry. Valuables and travel documents should, if possible, be left in safety deposit boxes and hotel safes; make sure to keep valuables out of sight, especially if left unattended in an automobile. If travelling or walking around, especially after dark, try to avoid doing so alone.
Climate and Season
French Guiana has an equatorial climate. It is warm but very tolerable, especially since the trade wind blows constantly on the coast.
Average yearly temperature:
26 ° C with highs around 33 ° C.
For sun lovers, the best months are:
* Mid-July to late November, long dry season period,
* March to mid-April, the little "was in March."
For those whom rain does not frighten
* January and February (short rains, but Carnival period)
* Mid-April to late June, long rainy season (nesting season for leatherback turtles).
In short, you can go year-round touring in Guiana ... without  fear of a hurricane or an earthquake.
Country telephone code: 594.
Mobile Telephone: Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is limited to main towns. Handsets can be hired locally.
There are Internet cafés in Cayenne, Kourou, Saint Laurent. Libraries also provide access.
Postal services are reliable in Cayenne (where the central post office is located on route Baduel); post takes around seven days to reach western Europe.
Post office hours: (In Cayenne) Mon-Fri 07:00-18:00.
• The daily newspapers include France-Guyane and La Presse de Guyane.
• There are no English-language newspapers.