While you are no doubt more than familiar with the euro, the currency used by several different European countries, you may never have heard of French Guiana before. It isn’t a particularly well-known part of the world. It’s sometimes referred to as Guiana, and in fact this is its proper name. However as an overseas region of France, many refer to it as French Guiana.
Since Guiana is essentially a part of France, even though it is many hundreds of miles (and then some) away from it, it uses the euro as its official currency. The euro is split into 100 euro cents, although these are normally simply referred to as cents. There are a number of coins available that are denominated in cents. These go through the one cent coins up through the five, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. In addition you might also see and use the one euro coin along with the two euro coin.
There are a variety of banknotes available for this currency as well. However it is often the case that the smaller ones are far more commonly-used than the bigger ones. The less-common ones are the €100, €200 and €500 banknotes. As you can imagine some outlets don’t like to change these, and there is the potential these can be more commonly forged, so people do like to be careful. The more frequently-used notes are the €10, €20 and €50 euro notes.
French Guiana has used the euro ever since it came into use in France. While it goes by a different name it is essentially viewed as a part of France and therefore comes under the European Union as well.
This is pretty easy to do before you leave home, as you might well assume. The one thing you do have to focus on is getting a decent exchange rate. No two bureaux de change are likely to provide the same rate, and the rates might differ depending on how much you would like to convert. As such you should shop around and consider how much cash you would like to take with you. The good news is cash isn’t too hard to come by once you are in French Guiana. The main areas, including Kourou and Cayenne, will offer cash machines that are quite easy to find. Less well-populated areas might present problems but on the whole cash is easy to access when need be.
You can take traveller’s cheques with you to exchange once you are there, but they are not as easily cashed in as cash machines are to find. You’ll very likely only be able to do so in the main areas. If you do take traveller’s cheques make sure you keep a note of the serial numbers in case they should go missing and need to be replaced. Furthermore make sure you get them in euros to make them as easy as possible to exchange.
Finally you can use credit cards in French Guiana as well. Most regular and well-known cards will be accepted in many different places.
All you need here is a decent currency converter you can rely on. This is easy enough to find if you look around online and they’re all free to use. The better ones are updated every few minutes, so if you want a current rate look for one that does this. While it won’t be the same rate a bureau de change will offer you for exchanging your cash for the euro, it does at least give you a rough idea of how many euros you’ll get for your trouble.
Sometimes you might want to learn more about a particular area or country prior to going there. In this case the best site to visit is the UK government site, since this has updated travel information and advice on hundreds of countries and islands around the world. The link for French Guiana is at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/french-guiana.
You will be pleased to hear French Guiana is pretty safe to visit for the most part. It is not completely crime-free but it is far safer than many other parts of the world. Most of the advice we could provide here would be the same as we would give for travelling in general. Always make sure you keep a close watch on your valuables; most criminals will look for easy targets so you don’t want to draw attention to yourself for any reason. Keep your belongings and valuables to a minimum when walking around or exploring the country. Isolated places are not advisable to visit, particularly if you are on your own. Indeed, going out alone at night isn’t advisable wherever you are.
If you can book into a hotel that provides you with a safe in your room, so much the better. You can use this to store your passport and excess cash and traveller’s cheques safely while you are out and about.
While these warnings are worth reading and taking note of, you should remember that the vast majority of people who go to French Guiana enjoy a great trip and do not experience any crime at all.
Let’s begin by exploring where French Guiana can actually be found. It is located in South America, and it is a fairly small country. It has borders it shares with just two other countries. Suriname is to the west and the south and eastern borders face Brazil. Its northern border faces the Atlantic.
The capital of French Guiana is a city called Cayenne, which can be found at the mouth of a river of the same name. It is a coastal-based city which means it offers great sea views as well as a lively city to explore. For starters there is a cathedral here, not to mention a charming botanical garden and several museums. Popping into one of these (perhaps the municipal museum) is a great idea as it gives you a chance to learn more about French Guiana and its history. One of the more unusual things you can do in the city is to visit the Chou-Ai centre. This looks after sloths and aims to protect them and keep them healthy. It also provides visitors with the chance to meet them and learn more about them, and provides an experience quite unlike any other.
However, this country is not just for those who love nothing better than to explore city life. It also has a wealth of natural sights to see and enjoy. For example if you are a born hiker you will love the many great hiking trails the country has to offer. You should find something of a good length for you, regardless of the challenge you are looking for.
Elsewhere there is Devil’s Island and two of its neighbours, which you may take a boat trip out to see. You can land on Ile Royale (Royal Island) and walk right around the edge. This was the location where many political prisoners were held in years gone by. It is quite a sobering experience to see how prisoners would have lived – indeed only a quarter of those who ever went there returned. While the buildings are now in disrepair and are a shadow of what once was, they still have many stories to tell.
If you would love to have a chance to see sea turtles nesting while you are in French Guiana you should visit anytime from April onwards. From July onwards the eggs will hatch and the baby turtles will make their way out and head for the ocean. It is a truly amazing sight and surely one that few people would want to miss if they were in French Guiana at the time. Most of the activity takes place at night so you’ll need to be able to stay up, but with that said you can camp in the area in designated places if you like.
French Guiana may come as something of a surprise to you if you knew little to nothing about it before you started reading this. While it is a foreign part of France to all intents and purposes, it has its own unique character and doesn’t feel at all like France in any way. The plethora of great natural sights and attractions that exist in this fairly small country can come as a surprise too. It is almost as if nature knew it had very little space to work with and so decided to make the very best of it!
Wherever you go when you visit French Guiana, you are sure of experiencing a fascinating trip.