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Suriname - Travel and visas
All visitors must produce a passport on arrival. Check well in advance that your passport hasn’t expired and will not do so within six months of your date of arrival, or you risk being refused entry to the country. Most visitors require either a visa or a tourist card, the only exceptions being nationals of Argentina, Aruba, Bonaire, Brazil, Curaçao, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saba, St Eustacius, St Maarten, South Korea and Singapore, who may enter the country freely (in some cases for up to 30 days only without a visa). Be aware that visa requirements frequently change, so it’s advisable to check for up-to-date information before you travel and the best source of clear and detailed current information (in English or Dutch) is the website of the Suriname Consulate in the Netherlands.
Most visitors to Suriname fly from Europe, the USA or the Caribbean. However, only four international carriers fly to Paramaribo, as detailed below, and while there are direct flights from Miami and Amsterdam, there are none from elsewhere in Europe. Flights from the UK tend to be quite costly, with Caribbean Airlines usually the cheapest option.
All international flights land at Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport (JAPI) about 45km south of Paramaribo. Usually referred to as Zanderij Airport, JAPI is serviced by a few unremarkable cafés and shops, most of which only kick into action to coincide with incoming or outgoing flights, and a branch of the DSB Bank which has a 24-hour ATM where local currency can be drawn against a Master or Maestro card. There is also a Digicell shop (where you can buy a local SIM card), and kiosks for the main car rental companies: Avis, Budget and Ross.
Most people arriving at JAPI book a shuttle transfer to the city through their hotel. This typically costs around SRD 35–50 per person in an air-conditioned bus, including drinking water, and takes up to two hours depending on traffic. If you don’t have a transfer booked, several kiosks in the airport lobby represent various shuttle companies.
By vehicular ferry
You can cross into Suriname from neighbouring Guyana and French Guiana (the latter actually a département of France and thus part of the European Union). In both cases, the border crossing is by boat or motor ferry. Both crossings are quite straightforward in terms of bureaucracy as long as your papers are in order. EU passport holders do not need a visa to cross into French Guiana. Visas for Guyana, if required, can be bought at the consulate in Nieuw Nickerie.
Paramaribo is the point of departure for all domestic flights, as well as being the hub for the country’s road network and most associated public transport. This road network is very limited, consisting as it does of around 4,000km of surfaced and unsurfaced roads. These include the surfaced east–west link running along the coastal belt east and west of Paramaribo to Albina (on the border with French Guiana) and Nieuw Nickerie (on the border with Guyana), a small grid of mostly surfaced roads through the plantations of Commewijne District, a network of surfaced roads running south from Paramaribo through Wanica and Para to Zanderij (site of Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport), a surfaced road running north from Zanderij to Brokopondo and the small port of Atjoni on the Upper Suriname, and a long rough dirt road running west through the interior from Zanderij to Apoera. Most other parts of the country are accessible only by boat or by light aircraft, or are effectively inaccessible to tourists.
This is an excellent way for flexible and confident travellers to explore the coastal districts and the vicinity of the Suriname River as far south as Brokopondo. Cars or 4x4s can be rented affordably through a few companies in Paramaribo and most sites of interest are within easy driving distance on well-maintained surfaced or dirt roads.
Most roads in Suriname are covered by some form of public transport. This includes the cheap, extensive and reliable bus network operated by the parastatal National Transport Company or Nationaal Vervoer Bedrijf. Current schedules can be checked online at www.nvbnvsuriname.com/Nvb/Fof/Rou/Rou001Php.php or at the Heiligen Weg depot in central Paramaribo.
Boat transport is a big part of travel in Suriname. Affordable waterborne public transport connects Paramaribo to several sites on the east bank of Commewijne, as well as servicing the Upper Suriname and Gran Rio from Atjoni south to Kajana, the Corantijn River from Nieuw Nickerie south to Apoera, and the Cottica River near Moengo. Ferries or taxi-boats are also the only way to cross between Suriname and its Guianan neighbours (Guiana and Guyana). Several other sites visited by organised tours are also most easily accessed by boat, ranging from the remote Raleigh Falls to the north bank plantations of Commewijne, the turtle-nesting beaches at Matapica and Galibi, and birding sites such as Bigi Pan.