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Prison of St-Laurent-du-Maroni

10 days weird French Guiana to Suriname

For the trip to French Guiana, I had to go via Paris.

Flight to Paris went fine and was one time. Att CDG airport, first you need to go to an Air France counter to get a ticket for the bus – maybe my mistake,but i thought i just had to show my flight ticket – this is not the case so lost valuable (didnt realize at the time) minutes.

Found the bus and off we went towards Orly for the connecting flight. This is when problems started. Traffic was horrendous – trip was supposed to take approx 1 hour 15 minutes but ended up taken 2 hours. With the ticketing issue at CDG I was now running seriously late. Orly is quite crappy – security poorly manned but eventually got through (staff from the boarding gate came running and shouting for passenger for the Cayenne flight) and arrived at gate minutes prior to scheduled departure. Got onboard, then push back, then safety announcement and then – nothing.

Sat on the tarmac for about 1 hour with no announcement!! Then water and snacks were handed out, and now you should know, you’re seriously delayed.  After 3 hours finally ready for take off, but by now i’m thinking compensation hehe.

All the way across i kept looking at the flight stats – 3 hours is the magical number and it looked like we would be incredibly close – all the way, we were scheduled to to land 2 hr 55 mins late – in other words no compensation.

When we landed, i checked my watch and saw that the delay was 2 hrs 55 minutes, however once i get to mu hotel and checked the official arrival of my flight, it was 3 hrs 2 minutes late !! Arrival time is the time the plane is at the gate – not when it touches down.

I filed a compensation claim with Air France and have to give them credit. There were no arguments, no excuses and when i returned home from my trip, the compensation was in my account.

On arrival I expected to have my yellow fever card (mandatory) inspected but this never happened. So even though its supposed to be mandatory, nobody checks if you have one.

I didnt really want to go to Cayenne, but would have preferred to head to Kourou instead, but I had not been able to find any kind of transport from the airport. I had contacted a couple of hotels/lodgings in Kourou but none could provide any help with regards to transport. Only option was to get a (expensive) taxi, so I went to Cayenne instead for the first few nights.

Cayenne itself doesn’t really have anything to offer, but from home, I had booked a trip with Tropic Alizes to visit the famous islands off the coast from Kourou. I got a good deal which included transport to/from Cayenne to Kourou (about 1 hour each way). The catamaran was located by Les Roches Resort, but be warned that if you are in a wheelchair or otherwise not completely mobile, you might not be able to get onboard as there is no dock as such. Instead you go out on some rocks and the  get into a very small dinghy which will then take you out to the catamaran.

There are only 2-3 catamarans that does these trips so space is limited and should be booked in advance.

The catamaran first stops at Ile Royale (there is a proper dock here) and you are let loose to explore the island for 3 hours or so. There are no guides available and information about the buildings and history is a bit limited (and some is in french only) so reading up a bit on the islands and their history is recommended. The catamaran crew did hand out maps though.

There is a restaurant on the island with some great views, and although they do not have much to offer, it was a nice place to sit and cool down a bit on a very hot day.

Approaching Ile Royale

Back onboard, we went across to the next island (Saint Joseph). No docking facilities here, so get in the dinghy or swim to get ashore. Walking around the entire island takes about half an hour or so.

Inside a cell

The last islands, Devils Island is closed to the public so landing here is not possible.

Devils Island – no public access

All in all, it was a great trip – lots of history – and besides, I like to sail !!

The crew where nice, i got picked up on time, catamaran was nice and clean and the price was very fair so would recommend to anyone visiting Cayenne or Kourou.

Getting from Cayenne to St Laurent du Maroni was easy. Bus terminal is just 100 meters or so from Central Hotel. I went there one afternoon, and was told the bus would leave at 8 am – and even though not full, it did. The drive is about 250 km and takes about 3,5 hour with a stop somewhere in the middle.

St Laurent is only worth visiting because of the transportation camp – 2 days here is more than enough. There are guided tours daily but you can also just wander around at your own pace.

St Laurent du Maroni
Prison camp

Cayenne to Paramaribo was a bit of a disaster for me. With hardly no tourists around, i couldn’t find anybody to join me, so I knew that probably, it would be somewhat expensive. When i got to the ferry, there was not a single person around other than a bunch of guys who would be more than happy to take me across (for a fee of course) to Suriname. However, first you need to clear immigration and this is when I realized a massive blunder of mine.

Most Europeans are granted a visa into Suriname upon arrival – however this is only true if you arrive in an international airport – not if you cross the river from French Guiana. So there I was, with no visa, and consulate in St Laurent was closed for 2 days.

Only options were to stay another 2 nights in St Laurent or have a go at some old fashioned bribery. The latter worked but ended up costing me 75 euro, just for the visa. In addition i ended up having to hire a private taxi.

With not a single fellow tourist in sight you are really screwed so good advise would be to try to organise some kind of travel arrangement in advance.

The drive from Albina to Paramaribo is approx 140 km and will take 2 hours or so.

Paramaribo turned out a bit disappointing. There was a lot of rain during the few days i spent, and when it rains, the streets are completely flooded making walking around a bit of a challenge. The food hall by the waterfront is quite colorful though and worth a visit.

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