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The Republic of Suriname is situated north of South America and it is the smallest country on the continent. It was a Holland colony since 1667, but in 1799 the British occupied it for seventeen years before giving it back. It gained its independence until 1975.
The interior is home to the Maroons and Amerindians who have maintained their ancient traditions. You can visit the old plantations, which are memories of French culture, Portuguese, Dutch and Jewish. The history of Suriname, a melting pot of cultures, takes you through all parts of the world. Nature lovers admire its meandering rivers, extensive rapids and the wealth of flora and virgin fauna.
Suriname is located in northern South America and it is part of Caribbean South America, with Guyana to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. It is mostly covered by tropical rain forest, containing a great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, are increasingly threatened by new development. There is a relatively small population, most of which live along the coast.
Flora and Fauna
Suriname's Flora and Fauna are diversified and predominant because of the presence of the rainforest. Over six thousand species of plants have been reported from one square kilometer tract of forest, and there are close to a thousand species of birds spread around it.
The best-known of all Amazon trees is the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), known as seringuera in Suriname. Still a valuable export in Suriname today, a hundred years ago the rubber tree was the key to the Amazon’s initial exploitation. Also familiar is the Suriname nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), which grows to 30m and takes over ten years to reach nut-bearing maturity; once this is reached, a single specimen can produce over 450kg of nuts every year.
Facts at a glance
Approximately 425,000 inhabitants mainly of Amerindian, African, East-Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Dutch origin.
The Republic of Suriname is a constitutional democracy based on the 1987 constitution. The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a five-year term.
The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or, failing that, by a majority of the People s Assembly, for a five-year term.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is no state or dominant religion. According to government statistics, 45% of the population is Christian. Approximately 23% are Roman Catholic, 16% are Moravian, and 6% are of other denominations, including Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, and the Evangelical churches. Hindu is practiced by about 27% of the inhabitants and Islam by about 20%. Indigenous tribal religionists make up around 6% of the populace.
The official language of Suriname is Dutch. In the higher-end hotels English is widely spoken. The local dialect, Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki) is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population. East-Indians communicate in Sarnami Hindostani (a dialect of Hindi) and Indonesians speak Javanese.
The local currency is the Surinamese Dollar SRD, and money exchange facilities are readily available in Paramaribo and the district towns. For the latest on exchange rates:
www.xe.com/ucc/ or www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Visa & Documents
A passport, visa and a return ticket for U.S. and Canadian air travelers are required for travel to Suriname. There is a processing fee for business and tourist visas. A business visa requires a letter from the sponsoring company detailing the reason for the visit.
There is an airport departure charge and a terminal fee. Travelers arriving from Guyana, French Guiana and Brazil are required to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination.
Safety & Security
Street crime is common in Paramaribo particularly at night. Areas to be extremely careful are the Central Market and Palm Garden (reports of robberies and muggings during daylight hours in the Palm Garden). Try to avoid travelling alone (day or night) and take the usual precautions with money and valuables.
Two hours later than Eastern Standard Time (EST) in North America and three hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in Europe.
127 volts AC, 60 cycles. Outlets are generally 2-pin round European-type.
Water & Food
Suriname's food is good and diverse especially in Paramaribo; they have Creole, Javanese, Chinese, Hindu, Dutch and English, kitchens and fast food restaurants. Outside the city in most cases there are small shops (warungs), where you can buy Javanese and Creole food. If you are planning to eat outside Paramaribo avoid as much as possible food displayed in open windows and food heated in a microwave. Due to the tropical temperature fly eggs on food can bring you in a lot of trouble.
Drinking water supplied by the Surinam water company is good and pure, while the pipes are in a poor shape. So avoid drinking from a tap and when you buy a beverage make sure that the cap on the bottle is sealed.
When you go on a vacation to Suriname you must be vaccinated against certain tropics diseases like Yellow fever, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A.
Suriname and Paramaribo in particular, is a great place to shop. Great value and plenty of interesting shopping opportunities, including gold and silver jewelry, electronics, clothing and gifts. Shopping in Paramaribo's historic inner city will certainly enhance your experience of Suriname.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 07:30 - 16:30, Sat 07:30 - 13:00
American Express and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards; Diners Club has limited acceptance.
Restaurants may add 10% to the bill.
Valid driver's license
An international driver s license is necessary to rent a car.
The emergency number 115 is used for police, fire and rescue.
Climate and Season
The climate in Suriname is tropical and characterized by high precipitation, humidity and hot temperatures, average about 27º C (81º F). Luckily, the soaring temperatures are kept within reasonable limits by trade winds blowing from the north-east.
Suriname experiences four seasons: Two dry seasons from August to November and February to April, and Two wet seasons from April to August and November to February plenty of sunshine in Suriname.
To consult the weather in Surinam Click here
The telephone system is reliable although it is expensive to make overseas calls. Suriname country code is (597) + 6 digit local number. There are no area codes. Outgoing international code: 00.
Mobile telephone: GSM 900 network. Main operator is Telesur GSM. Coverage is mainly limited to Paramaribo.
Fax: Faxes can be sent from the Telesur offices on Spanhoec Street, Paramaribo, and some hotels.
Internet: ISPs include SRNet (website: www.sr.net).
Post: Post office hours: 07h:00 to mid-afternoon. Airmail to and from Europe usually takes about one week to arrive.
Sports and Activities
An experience of Paramaribo by night includes a visit to one of the many international bars and nightclubs, or you can try your luck at one of the city s numerous casinos.
Fauna and Flora observation
Wildlife enthusiasts can observe numerous mammals (including jaguars, pumas and ocelots), birds (such as flamingos and eagles), and rare flowers (including orchids and ixora) as well as the black and blue morpho butterflies.
Galibi Nature Reserve in north eastern Suriname is home for thousands of nesting sea turtles. Four kinds of endangered sea turtles nest here, including the colossal 600 kg, 2m long Leatherback turtle, the Green Turtle, the Olive Ridley and occasionally the Hawksbill. In 2003, more than 45,000 nests were recorded. January through September are the best months to see these beautiful and protected creatures.
In Suriname, birders can catch sight of colorful forest birds, a wide range of waders and water birds, as well as some important South American raptors.
Visit to Indian Communities
One of the great opportunities in Suriname is to visit and stay in or close to traditional Amerindian or Maroon villages. Understand their special culture; discover how the indigenous villagers live their lives and listen to the local storytellers. Accompany local guides as they move through the jungle and along the rivers; live in simple village huts, and enjoy local dishes prepared from fresh ingredients grown in the villages. It is not uncommon to see several different tribes living peacefully in harmony in the same village with their different languages and cultural values.
You can't get closer to nature than by trekking along jungle paths, led by a local guide, who can describe the local trees and plants and how we use them, identify the colorful birds and animals for you, and bring you from village to village. Treks can range from a few hours to several days, and can range from easy to the strenuous (even to the top of Mount Kasikasima) …It is up to you!
From Nickerie and Paramaribo, boat trips along the Corantijn and Coppename Rivers, the Nickerie River and its tributaries the Marataka and Wayambo, and the Saramacca Rivers, take tourists right into the heart of West Suriname. The unfolding scenes along the riverbanks, visiting villages as you cruise further into the interior, and sighting giant otters in Kaburikreek are experiences not to be missed.
Kayaking & Rafting
For the enthusiast Suriname's rivers provide ideal kayaking and rafting waters, with a combination of white and still water, all in the magnificent setting of the Amazon Basin rainforest.
Adventure diving in the Van Blommenstein Lake in the Brokopondo District is unique, but only for experienced divers. Old rail tracks and other signs of civilization that disappeared when the man-made lake was created in 1964 can still be seen among the dead forests beneath the clear waters.
Fishing Suriname's rivers taking peacock bass, tukunari or piranha on the Van Blommenstein Lake (Brokopondo) give a new dimension to sport fishing, all the year round. Try traditional local techniques or use the latest equipment. Other exciting river fish include trapun, anyumara, kubi, and catfish. Swamp fishing with the local people can be a new challenge for even the most experienced fisherman.
Cycling opportunities in Suriname are many. Mountain biking trails can be found in the interior, but Paramaribo and other coastal towns are ideal for exploring by bike.
As a break from the city, day-trips can be made to the different recreational sites in the vicinity of Paramaribo, such as Santigron, Bersaba, Carolinakreek, Republiek, Colakreek, Blaka Watra, Sabana Park, Kinderboerderij, Camp Overbridge, Marinalex and White Beach Marina Resort. These are commercial recreational areas with leisure facilities which offer a range of fun activities.