|Still current at: 05 May 2011
Updated: 11 April 2011
Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See our Terrorism abroad page.
Safety and Security - Crime
You are advised to exercise caution when travelling in Guyana. Crime levels in Guyana are high and police capacity is weak. There are regular armed robberies against businesses and individuals in which the perpetrators use violence. There is a danger of passers-by being caught up in such incidents - the Police tend to respond with firearms if shot at or threatened.
There was an upsurge in violent criminal activity in the first half of 2008 with multiple killings in two separate incidents. Many of the perpetrators were captured or killed. But similar attacks in the future cannot be ruled out. In 2009 there were two serious unexplained incidents in central Georgetown: In July the Ministry of Health was burnt down in an apparent arson attack; and in November a group of armed men attacked a police station and attempted two arson attacks.
In Guyana there were 103 murders in the first nine months of 2010 (in a population of just over 750,000). This is a 20% increase on the same period in 2009. The increase has been particularly marked in the interior of the country. Visitors should exercise due care when travelling to interior locations. Travel in convoy is recommended.
Many of the crime risks in Guyana are common to countries with wide disparities in wealth and where the perception is that all foreigners are wealthy. Exercise due care and common sense.
Burglary and theft from cars are commonplace. Take extra precautions to protect your passports, money, tickets, mobile phones and other valuables. Even if staying with family, do not leave valuables in view. Keep them somewhere less obvious than your baggage. If staying in a hotel, make use of hotel safes. You should be particularly vigilant when leaving local banks to ensure that you are not being followed.
In Georgetown, avoid the Tiger Bay and Albouystown areas and exercise caution in Sophia, all of south Georgetown, Buxton and Agricola Exercise particular caution in the Stabroek Market area where robberies are a daily occurrence and where in January 2011 there was a small explosion which killed one person.
Avoid walking alone around Georgetown, even in the main areas. Do not dress ostentatiously. Do not carry valuables, large quantities of money, video cameras, laptops, iPods, expensive jewellery or other obvious signs of wealth. There have been a number of muggings of expatriates, some of them violent, and some in broad daylight. Avoid walking anywhere at night. Although some taxis have been the target for robbers, they remain the safest means of getting about town for visitors. Only use taxis from reputable companies (see the Local Travel section of this Travel Advice). Exercise constant vigilance.
If you walk along the sea wall avoid the more deserted stretches and walk at times when other walkers are most likely to be about, e.g. around 17:00 to 18:00 hours. Avoid the sea wall after dark. Carry nothing to draw attention to yourself and do not carry valuables.
There have been armed attacks against boats in and around the waters of Guyana. Mariners are advised to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.
See our Victims of crime abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel
Guyana is very vulnerable to flooding. The coast of Guyana is below sea level and protected by a sea defence and dam system. Guyana also experiences heavy rainfall. The main rainy seasons are generally May/June and December/January. Poorly maintained infrastructure, including drainage systems, adds to the country's vulnerability. In 2005/6, there was widespread flooding in Georgetown, East Coast Demerara and several coastal regions affecting some 30% of the population. The rainy season in early 2009 saw heavy rainfall with flooding in some areas in East Coast Demerara. Visitors should be aware, take precautions and follow local advice.
Avoid using minibuses. They are driven extremely dangerously and are responsible for the majority of road accidents in Guyana. Only use taxis from reputable companies. Do not hail taxis from the roadside.
There remains an historical border dispute between Suriname and Guyana over land in the New River Triangle area in the South East of Guyana. Also, Venezuela does not formally recognise the legitimacy of its current border with Guyana. These issues are on the back burner, and these border areas are remote, but if you are near the border areas keep this in mind. Only scheduled ferry services should be used when crossing the Corentyne River between Guyana and Suriname. Use of water taxis (backtracking) from Suriname to Guyana can lead to arrest, imprisonment and then deportation.
If travelling on Guyana’s rivers use registered boat services equipped with lifejackets. Do not travel by boat after dark.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
Driving in Guyana can be dangerous because of poor road sense of road-users, frequent hazards, poor lighting and poor road conditions in some areas. You should exercise caution at all times while driving. Drive defensively. Driving at night should be restricted as much as possible.
If planning to drive in Guyana, an International Driving Permit is recommended. Alternatively, a local driving permit, valid for one month can be obtained from the Licence and Revenue Office in Georgetown on submission of a valid British driving licence.
See our Driving abroad page.
Safety and Security - Political Situation
Guyana Country Profile
A general election is due to be held in 2011. As yet no date has yet been set, but preparations are beginning. Although the last election passed off peacefully, earlier elections have led to civil disturbances. You should exercise caution by avoiding large crowds, demonstrations and political gatherings.
Drug trafficking is a serious problem. Possession and trafficking in drugs leads to lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines. The minimum jail sentence for illegal drug offences is three years. Prison conditions in Guyana are tough. Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry any items that do not belong to you.
People are regularly offered free air tickets to Guyana. On arrival the same people find their "sponsors" will only allow them to leave Guyana if they carry a "package" (usually cocaine). The Guyana anti-drug authorities at the airport will routinely stop or search foreigners fitting a certain profile. There are a number of British citizens in prison in Guyana for drug offences.
For more general information for different types of travellers see Your trip.
Entry Requirements - Visas
British visitors do not need visas to enter Guyana. Visitors are generally given 30 days to remain in Guyana, but extensions can usually be obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown. The Guyanese authorities are very severe on visitors who overstay or abuse the conditions of their visa. Conviction for overstaying will result in one year imprisonment, a fine of up to GYD 50,000 and deportation on release. Before travel you should check entry requirements with the Guyana High Commission in London.
Entry Requirements - Departure Tax
All passengers leaving Guyana must pay a compulsory departure tax/security levy. The current fee is G$4,000/£13/US$20 and must be paid in cash (Guyana dollars, Sterling or US dollars).
Medical facilities are severely limited, even in Georgetown and non-existent in remote areas. Standards are low. You are advised to ensure that your insurance covers the costs of medical evacuation which is recommended for any serious or invasive treatment.
Typhoid, malaria and dengue fever are common to Guyana (although Georgetown itself is malaria-free).
The Ministry of Health in Guyana has announced that Guyana faces a possible dengue outbreak. Visitors to Guyana are therefore urged to take every precaution to avoid contracting dengue fever.
Dengue fever is endemic and can occur throughout the year. It is a mosquito borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness (1000 cases in the first seven months of 2010), and sometimes a potentially lethal complication called dengue haemorrhagic fever (one so far this year). Global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades and current reports indicate a dramatic increase in reported cases across many parts of the Caribbean. There is no specific treatment for dengue, but appropriate medical care frequently saves the lives of patients with the more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever. The only way to prevent Dengue virus transmission is to avoid being bitten by the disease carrying mosquitoes. For more information on prevention, see the National Health website pages: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/Pages/Introduction.aspx
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 12,000 adults aged 15 or over in Guyana were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 2.5% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see our HIV/AIDS page.
Seek medical advice before travelling to Guyana and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
See our Travel health page.
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel insurance page.
If things do go wrong when you are overseas, see our When Things go Wrong page.
General - Registering with the British High Commission
Long-term visitors are advised to register their presence with the British High Commission in Georgetown. You can register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
General - Mobile phones
The following UK mobiles work with roaming services - tri-band or quad phones; Vodafone and O2.A 3G data service is also available.
General - Money
Credit card use is growing in the retail and hospitality sectors but Guyana is still a largely cash-based economy. The Bank of Nova Scotia’s ATMs accept international bankcards (Visa/Master Cards). Some UK credit card companies have been known to block credit cards once they are used in Guyana. To avoid this, you may wish to inform your credit card company before departure of your intention to travel to Guyana. You may wish to consider bringing sufficient currency or travellers' cheques to cover your anticipated expenditure. American Dollars are more widely accepted than other foreign currencies (it is advisable that you carry some small denomination notes).
General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Most visits to Guyana are trouble-free. Twelve British nationals required consular assistance in Guyana in the period 01 April 2010 – 31 December 2010. Half of these were six arrests, for various offences. During this same period assistance was also requested with regard to lost, damaged or stolen passports (3 cases).