Stay Safe in Guyana
Georgetown is notorious for its petty street crime. Do not walk alone at night or even during the day unless you know the area well. Areas such as Tiger Bay, east of Main Street, and the entire south-eastern part of the city, including Albouystown and Ruimveldt, are traditionally high-crime areas, but you can be relatively safe in groups and with local escorts. The police are unlikely to help you unless they see crime in action. Be careful when wearing jewellery. Use common sense in your approach.
Inland areas with stunning waterfalls, beautiful rainforests and mountains are safe. Many rural areas of the country are filled with a friendly atmosphere and are safe. Crime rarely targets tourists, so don’t feel intimidated. Just be sensible about who you see, where you go and how you behave.
Sodomy’ carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. A local NGO reported that there were some prosecutions, but neither the NGO nor the courts could provide figures. Police are reported to use the law more frequently to intimidate suspected same-sex male partners. There is no law dealing with sexual activity between women of the same sex. The Minister of Health stated in a speech to a regional HIV/AIDS conference that he “must be guided by the reality of public health”, that “sexual relations between consenting adults in private fall into the category of personal freedom” and that the law “conflicts with this expression of personal freedom”. Following the 2009 incident in which a judge fined several transgender persons G$7,500, a non-governmental organisation and four of the transgender persons filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court challenging the law criminalising cross-dressing; the case was still pending at year’s end.
The SASOD organisation organises events to promote the fight against homophobia. There is no local gay ‘scene’, as most homosexuals keep to themselves. There are known private meetings to which one must be invited. Public displays of affection between homosexuals are frowned upon and can make a person the target of discrimination, attacks and open mockery.
Discussions on current issues of ethnic relations between the two major races, politics and socio-economic issues in the country should be conducted with great tact and patience. Be aware that this type of discourse can sometimes lead to very heated and intense debates, or even to something much worse. Guyanese are generally very open to discussion on most issues, but as a foreigner you may be seen as part of the problem, so keep your mouth shut.
Stay Healthy in Guyana
Do not drink tap water unless you plan to spend a large part of your holiday in the toilet. Bottled water is readily available in a variety of brands.
Before travelling to French Guiana, you should obtain anti-malarial medication from your doctor, as malaria is rife in most of the country.
Yellow fever is endemic in this region; monkeys are the reservoir, but you can also catch it in the cities. Make sure you get vaccinated before you leave and take mosquito repellent with you. Also watch out for malaria and dengue fever in the interior.
Although it is not mandatory, it is recommended that travellers get vaccinated against typhoid fever within 2-4 weeks of arrival in Guyana.
The largest hospital in the country is the Georgetown Public Hospital, located in the capital. The facilities here are basic, although it is a tertiary referral centre. Sharps disposal (needles, etc.) is improving, but needs to be improved in view of the increasing prevalence of AIDS/HIV in the country, which is currently 2.5% of adults, or 1 in 40. Also practice safe sex.
It is best to use the private facilities at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, near the US Embassy, or the Medical Arts Centre on Thomas Street. These facilities, while not first class, are far superior to the GPH, have basic hygiene standards and the rooms are not overcrowded. There are also other private hospitals
For the latest travel health information for Guyana, including tips and recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Guyanawebsite.