I am on a mission to travel to all 193 UN-recognized countries in the world (but not in a race, more like slowly and steadily) and so far have traveled to 86 countries on 7 continents. But while I was in Surinam, I decided to do something different. Visit nearby French Guiana which is not an independent country but a region of France and I am glad I did because even in a day, I learned so much about their history and food. So if you are considering the same, read on as I share how the day trip to French Guiana tour went.

Suriname To French Guiana Day Trip

Where is French Guiana located? 

French Guiana is located on the northeastern coast of South America. It shares borders with Brazil to the south and east, Suriname to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. As an overseas department of France, French Guiana is an integral part of the French Republic.

As part of France, it offers a unique blend of French and Creole influences, creating a captivating destination for travelers seeking both adventure and cultural immersion.

Historical Significance

French Guiana’s history is deeply intertwined with its past as a penal colony. From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, the infamous Devil’s Island housed political prisoners, including Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Today, remnants of this era can be explored, offering a glimpse into a tumultuous chapter of French Guiana’s past.

Attractions and Day Trips

Despite its dark history, French Guiana has emerged as a destination teeming with attractions for day-trippers. The capital city of Cayenne boasts a blend of colonial architecture and vibrant markets, offering a taste of local life and history.

For nature enthusiasts, the region is a paradise. The pristine rainforests are home to diverse wildlife, including monkeys, jaguars, and vibrant bird species. The Maroni River, which forms the border with Suriname, offers a glimpse into indigenous cultures and traditions, with opportunities to visit remote villages and experience their way of life.

Best French Guiana tour on a day trip

French Guiana has a lot to offer despite its small size. However, during a day trip, you are limited in terms of what you can see.

If you plan to travel as far as Cayenne which is the capital city of French Guiana, be aware that flights are limited and expensive. There are no longer commercial flights between Suriname and French Guiana, with only one expensive flight per week to Belem, Brazil. The only regular flights are either from Martinique or Paris, both of which are pricey.

Another option is to take a day trip from Paramaribo to Saint Laurent Du Moroni which is a border town in north-west French Guiana.

Option A: Several companies offer day tours for €85-€110. However, if you are traveling solo, you may be expected to pay for two people, making it quite expensive.

Option B: If you have the time and energy you could visit on your own. But note, you will have to stamp out of Surinam, stamp in F.G. then repeat the same when coming back, and deal with the boat, taxi, etc yourself.  Might be doable for €40-50 but probably you will have to wait longer for a boat or shared taxi to fill up so if you have to be at the airport for example, this is probably risky. 

With all that considered, I went on a day trip for ease and convenience it was priced at €103 and this is how it went. 

Day Trip to St. Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana

After researching several French Guiana tours offering day trips, I ultimately chose to go with Impressive Suriname. I wasn’t sure what to expect but meeting two fellow travelers on a tour and our guide who was also an excellent driver made my day. We all spoke English and I have to say our guide filled the day trip with laughter, interesting food, history, and stories. Plus not having to deal with boats, shared taxis, immigration, etc was such a relief. It is worth the money and recommend the tour company because of it. So, If you book the same tour, if it is possible ask for Giovani as a guide.

1. Departure from Paramaribo

  • – Giovani picked me up from my hotel in Paramaribo around 08:00 am then we went around to pick up the other 2 guests.
  • – We then drove to Albina, a journey of approximately 3 hours.
  • – On the way we stopped for Salt fish bake (sandwich) which was a first for me and was pretty good
  • – We also tried an Acai drink sold by a local on the road (a bag of antioxidants with 0 sugar so that was a first for me too) Check out the “French Guyana” highlight on Instagram for videos.

2. Crossing the Maroni River

  • – Departed from Albina to St. Laurent du Maroni by dugout canoe.
  • – Giovani bought a sim with data to use in case we need it in FG 
  • – St. Laurent du Maroni is famous for its association with the book “Papillon.”
  • – We learned about the brutal history of the penal colony as the first 6000 prisoners from France were shipped here in 1852, including the well-known Papillon.
  • – Explored the former prison, now a museum, with guided tours provided daily from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm.
  • – French Guiana was situated in an ideal location with fertile soil, but it was plagued by a harsh and unforgiving climate. From 1852 to 1938, more than 56,000 primarily male prisoners were sent to Devil’s Island, or Ile du Diable. Tragically, 90 percent of these prisoners perished on the island due to disease and mistreatment. The inmates, who were often malnourished and clothed only in rags, were frequently compelled to toil in water up to their waists.
  • – The tour started sad then went downright depressing. I was shocked hearing all the stories of how these people were treated. At first, I said maybe their crimes were so bad they fit the punishment but then I learned there were also small-time petty pick-pocketing type criminals who also got the same harsh treatment as others. So unfair… but I was pleased to hear Papillon made it out alive in the end and even wrote a book! There’s hope even in the darkest hours.
  • – Don’t forget to check out The transportation prison camp (€5 to enter the museum, but can walk around for free – buy tickets at the tourist office 100m to the right of the prison entrance).

3. Discovering St. Laurent du Maroni

  • – After the museum tour, we walked past shops and visited the local market where various communities were selling their products. It was lively and busy a good change after the prison scene. 
  • – If you want to buy something, there was an ATM nearby for withdrawing Euros.
  • – We then stopped for a coffee and some tasty baked goods. It was probably one of the best fish quiches I ever had. The owner of the cafe was so nice, he gifted us 2 extra quiches! 
  • – Explored the old buildings in St. Laurent, known for their colonial architectural style.
  • – Saint-Laurent is nicknamed “Le Petit Paris” because of its architecture.
  • – FYI If you want to see the rocket launch/base in the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, perhaps plan with the tour company prior as it takes a further 2-3 hours to drive north. This facility is located at 5.239°N 52.768°W and covers an area of 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi)
  • – After a day full of exploring. St. Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana it was time to go back to Surinam.

4. Return to Paramaribo

  • – We then returned to Albina by boat, crossing the Maroni River. (Ps: If you are reading this Bram, hope your head is ok!)
  • – Drove to a restaurant to have our massive big lunch! Giovanni provided some options for us if we wanted to have Chinese, Indonesian, etc. We went with Indo and wow the food was delicious! 
  • – Travelled back to Paramaribo, concluding this fun and memorable day trip.

Additional Notes:

  • – The tour provides insights into the history and culture of St. Laurent du Maroni, offering a unique experience for visitors.
  • – The trip includes transportation, guided tours, meals, and a boat ride, providing a comprehensive day-trip experience.

How safe is French Guiana?

French Guiana, like any destination, has its safety considerations. While it offers many attractions and experiences, it’s important to be aware of certain aspects:

  1. Crime: Petty crime can occur, especially in urban areas and tourist locations. It’s advisable to take precautions such as avoiding displaying valuables and being aware of your surroundings.
  2. Health: French Guiana is in a tropical region, and there may be risks of diseases like dengue fever or malaria. It’s wise to consult a healthcare provider before traveling and take necessary precautions.
  3. Natural Hazards: The region is prone to occasional natural disasters like floods and storms, particularly during the rainy season. Staying informed about weather conditions is important.
  4. Remote Areas: Some areas, especially along the Maroni River and in the interior, are remote and may lack infrastructure and emergency services. It’s essential to plan and prepare accordingly.

Overall, French Guiana can be safe for visitors who take necessary precautions and stay informed. Using common sense, respecting local customs, and staying aware of your surroundings can contribute to a safe and enjoyable visit.

I hope you found this French Guiana tour on a day trip insightful.

Let me know in the comments:

If you have any questions about this French Guiana tour on a day trip
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French Guiana Tour Day Trip

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