In order to make the discovery of majestic rivers, exuberant flora, extraordinary fauna, a pole of technology of space Europe and endearing populations a real success, here are some advices to prepare your trip to French Guiana. From formalities to equipment to various practical information, this article gathers everything you need to know, whether you plan to spend your vacations in the coastal cities or in the heart of the Amazonian forest.
Preparing your trip to French Guiana means first gathering the papers you will need. French Guiana is a French department, so the territory is part of the European Union and the same entry formalities apply as in France. To travel to French Guiana, you will need
A simple identity card if you are a French citizen;
A valid passport for European Union citizens;
A valid passport and a visa for a stay of more than 3 months for other nationals.
However, there is an exception to the comparison with metropolitan France: for a trip to French Guiana, the yellow fever vaccine is mandatory: the vaccination booklet must therefore be added to your luggage. You will be asked for it at your departure airport.
Also remember to check the Guiana government website before you leave to keep up to date with the latest Covid-related formalities.
Knowing the time zone in French Guiana is essential so you don't feel lost when you arrive. French Guiana is a French department, but is nonetheless nearly 7,000 kilometers from the mainland. Therefore, the time zone that governs life in French Guiana is not the same as on the European continent. Depending on the season, count :
4 hours difference with Paris in winter time ;
5 hours difference in summer time.
Are you traveling to French Guiana from the West Indies? Then you need a one-hour time difference. In any case, the small hand of your watch will have to be moved back (it is earlier in Cayenne than in Paris). This way, you'll be in sync with the schedules of Europcar French Guiana's agencies and will be able to easily pick up your rental car as soon as you set foot on Guyanese soil.
Life in French Guiana doesn't quite follow the same rhythm as in mainland France. To properly prepare for your trip to French Guiana, be aware that:
Power is 220 V, but all outlets are compatible with European models ;
Stores are generally open from 9am to 12pm and from 4pm to 7pm;
Payments by credit card (Visa and Mastercard) are accepted on the coast where most of the big cities are located, but much less in the inland towns.
Public holidays are the same as in mainland France, with one additional date: June 10, when the abolition of slavery is celebrated in French Guiana.
Despite the radical change of landscape, the currency and the language do not change: everything is done in euros and in French. Bring cash if you plan to leave the big cities of the coast and venture into the Amazonian forest. Avoid relying on your checkbook: fewer and fewer establishments accept this method of payment. In French Guiana, it is better to book your services in advance, especially during certain periods of the year. From the beginning of January to the beginning of March, Guyana's carnival attracts crowds in particular, and accommodation and car rentals are taken by storm.
It all depends on the activities on your agenda in Guyana, as well as the season of your stay. To properly prepare for a trip to Guyana, however, you will need cotton clothing (avoid synthetic fibers!) and a bathing suit in any case. For adventurers who wish to visit the rainforest, travel up rivers such as the Maroni or explore the Kaw swamps, the following attire is recommended :
Water resistant shoes.
If you're planning a city trip to the coastal cities, you'll be able to dress more urban, with jeans, dresses or shorts. Flip-flops are sufficient in the city or on the beach, but it is better to opt for sports shoes as soon as you go away, especially if you come during the rainy season. The raincoat is then part of the essential clothing in French Guiana.
To prepare for your trip to French Guiana, you will also need to pack everything you need to protect yourself from the sun and mosquitoes, and to enjoy the many swimming spots. So add to your list right away:
An anti-mosquito product;
An anti-parasite lotion.
Especially if you plan to bivouac and sleep in hammocks, think of the headlamp to look for things or move at night in the middle of nature! Going up a river, bathing in the sea or in waterfalls, undergoing a rain shower... In French Guiana, water is never far away: bring a waterproof bag to keep your papers and precious objects dry whatever happens.
Indeed, do not forget your papers, they will be useful for your leisure as your health:
Identity card or passport ;
Driving license to rent a Europcar car;
Mutual insurance card (social security is as valid in French Guiana as in mainland France!
Medical prescription if necessary.
You are now equipped to enjoy your stay in French Guiana!
One last piece of advice: the camera is naturally part of the traveler's suitcase in French Guiana. So don't forget it and go discover Guyana !
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