Paramaribo

Paramaribo, often called Par'bo, is the lively capital and only city of the sparsely inhabited country of Suriname. Home to about 250,000 people, or over half of the country's population, this laid-back South American gem lies just 15km from the Atlantic Ocean. It's the country's main harbour, governmental seat and centre for business and learning. Many visitors to Suriname come by here, spending some time to take in the city's pretty UNESCO World Heritage listed colonial centre. Paramaribo leads by example in Surinam's efforts to expand its tourist economy, with a strong focus on eco-friendly travel.

To get a feel of this friendly city, take a pick from the large stacks of fruits at its bustling central market and wander around town to admire its colonial heritage. Then, head to the Waterkant (or water side) to join the locals for Djogo (local beer) and salty fish while gazing at the boats on the Suriname river.

Understand

Once a symbol of Dutch colonial power, the monumental former Governor's mansion on Independence Square now serves as the Presidential Palace of Suriname

The name Paramaribo is probably a corruption of the name of an Indian village called Parmirbo (or Parmurbo or Parmarbo). The Dutch settled a trading post in 1631 which fell into English hands when the Dutch abandoned it. The British built a fort called Fort Willoughby. In 1667 the area was conquered by a Zeeland expedition. They called the fort Zeelandia and re-named Paramaribo to New Middelburg, a name that never caught on. Paramaribo grew after the abolition of slavery in 1863 as it attracted many former slaves to the city.

These days 48% of the population of Paramaribo is Christian, 14% Hindu, Muslim 9%, 4% have a different religion, 4% have no religion and 21% did not answer this question in the last census.

In two-thirds of the households, Dutch is the most spoken language and in most other households it is spoken as a second language. Other commonly spoken languages are Sranantongo, Sarnami Hindustani and Javanese. About 2% use English as their first language; however English is widely spoken by many inhabitants.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 30 30 31 31 30 30 31 32 33 33 32 31
Nightly lows (°C) 23 23 23 24 23 23 23 24 24 24 23 23
Precipitation (mm) 195 125 120 170 280 320 225 175 100 105 115 190

check Paramaribo's 7 day forecast

Paramaribo has a tropical rainy climate, hot and humid. It has two rainy seasons per year. The long rainy season runs from late April to mid-August. The short rainy season runs from mid-December to mid-February. Usually it does not rain all day but there are heavy tropical showers mainly in the afternoon. The temperature is about 30°C but in the dry period from mid-August to mid-December it can rise to 35-40°C. Humidity is year-round about 80% and can exacerbate temperature extremes. It feels clammy and sticky.

Get in

By plane

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has three weekly direct flights from Amsterdam. Surinam Airways (Surinaamse Luchtvaart Maatschappij) also has three weekly direct flights from Amsterdam. If you are coming from Europe, another alternative is to fly with Air France from Paris to Cayenne (in French Guiana) and travel from there, either by plane or overland.

From the United States, airline service is available from Miami and New York (JFK) via Caribbean Airlines, which stops in Trinidad and Tobago en route to Suriname. It's also possible to fly with Surinam Airways to and from Miami with a stop in Aruba.

From Brazil, there is a twice a week flight by Suriname Airways from Belém to Paramaribo and vice versa. The flight takes an hour and a half and only drinks are served.

You can change money inside the airport terminal while you wait for your baggage.

From the Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, also known as Paramaribo-Zanderij International Airport, into Paramaribo there is a bus running. It takes about an hour. There are also taxis available. The situation outside the airport is a bit chaotic, with many taxi drivers hustling for clients.

In January 2009, a one-way taxi fare to the city centre was SRD100 while the bus would cost SRD45. A transit minibus will take you to any hotel in Paramaribo for SRD40 (€10) however it can happen that the driver waits until all seats are occupied.

By bus

From Georgetown, Guyana, take minibus #63a to Molson Creek in eastern Guyana just across the river from Suriname. The trip takes at least 3 hr and costs c. USD10. From there, you will go through customs on the Guyanese side. Then take the 11:00 daily ferry across the river to the South Drain. The actual ferry ride takes about 30 minutes.
Contact Canawaima ferry, telephone: +597 212331 or +597 212332 for more information.
From there you can get a minibus into Paramaribo. Again the trip takes at least 3 hr and costs c. USD15.

From Georgetown, there are also private companies and minibuses that will cover the cost of the minibus to the river, the ferry, and the cost of the minibus on the other side.

By boat

Boat taxis can take you over the Suriname River to the Commewijne district. You can find boat taxis in downtown Paramaribo at the platte brug (between Central Market and Waterkant) to Meerzorg across the Suriname River, or at Leonsberg, North Paramaribo, to take you to New Amsterdam. You can take your bike on these boats.

Get around

The old colonial centre mostly lies directly behind the Waterkant and most of the main sights, including the fort, the palm garden, colonial officers' houses and the central market are easily explored on foot.

By car

There are several car hire services based in Paramaribo. Because of its neighbours and the historical accident of the first imported vehicles being from Britain, Suriname drives on the left with steering wheels on the right. (Alternative explanations are that the Netherlands, at the time of its colonisation of Surinam, still drove on the natural left-hand side of the road or that Surinam's first colonial settlement was English.

By bus

In Suriname, the buses are private. The drivers, however, follow collectively determined routes. The buses are somewhere between private taxis and public transportation and leave the bus station only when they are totally full, meaning there are not specific schedules. If you do see a bus, take note that the buses are hand painted.

A central bus station can found in the Knuffelgracht near the Waterkant.

By bike

Renting a bike is a good alternative to get around and also to explore the outskirts of town. Keep in mind that you have no shelter from the sun and that you can be surprised by torrential rain. Most drivers take notice of you but if there is little traffic than people often drive too fast.

See

Old officer houses near fort Zeelandia
Neve Shalom Synagogue at 82-84 Keizerstraat

Do

Neveh Shalom Synagogue next to the Keizerstraat Mosque

Goslar

Just in the middle of Suriname River you'll see a rusty little island. No, this is not an island but a ship wreck. At the beginning of the second world war the Goslar, a German steamship, was sunk by its own crew in an attempt to block the harbour. They succeeded in sinking the ship but they failed in blocking the harbour which was important for transporting alum sand for the production of bauxite. For decades a controversy has been going on about whether it has to be preserved as a tourist attraction or should be removed.

Events

Buy

A butcher stall near the market.

Paramaribo is packed with small shops, boutiques and markets stalls, selling anything from Western brand clothing (plus at least as many fake versions) to cheap daily amenities, great hammocks, illegal DVD copies and Chinese jewellery. It remains a fairly cheap place for foreign visitors, which makes shopping for souvenirs a fun way to spend an afternoon.

The Centrale Markt, on the far east side of the Waterkant, is in many ways the beating heart of the city. A colourful range of street stalls and sellers mark the entrance of the covered market area, supposedly the largest one of its kind in the Caribbean. It's a two story market tucked away in a massive warehouse, with stalls selling anything from fresh vegetables and meats (on the ground floor) to t-shirts and hair extensions (on the second floor). A visit to town is hardly complete without a quick visit to this bustling place and if you're not interested in any of their goods, you might be in one of the many tasty snacks for sale. Open for business daily except Sunday, from early morning until 15:00, but coming early is advised. The Flower Market around the Kleine Waterstraat is another colourful experience, and set nicely against a colonial background.

The Maagdenstraat is your best bet when you're interested in Chinese jewellery. Most of the jewellers are specialized in labour-intensive handmade jewels. You can also have your own jewels cleaned, returning the glow they used to have, or have them repaired. These services are typically cheap, but make sure to agree on a price beforehand. On the corner of Maagdenstraat and Steenbakkerijstraat, Ready Tex is a highly popular place for souvenir shopping, with a broad collection including postcards and T-shirts as well as Suriname ceramics and art works. The Domineestraat is another main shopping street, with a number of quality clothing shops, some mobile phone shops and several book stores. You might be approached by souvenir sellers at the Waterkant, with a small selection of necklaces or leather works. Use your negotiation skills to settle for a reasonable price.

For a more modern experience, follow Paramaribo's middle and upper class to the Hermitage Mall, Lalla roohkweg 229. It's the largest mall in the country with about 20 clothing stores, gift shops and a food corner. A mega theatre is currently under construction.

Learn

Paramaribo has its own university, which offers a few courses in English. Many of the country's ambitious young people head abroad however, to study at different universities or pursue different fields of study at universities in the Netherlands, in the United States or neighbouring South-American countries.

Eat

As Suriname gained independence, the bronze 1923 statue of Dutch Queen Wilhelmina was moved from what's now the Independence Square to this place next to Fort Zeelandia, where she now looks out over the river.

Paramaribo's many restaurants reflect its diverse culture and strong Chinese, Javanese and Hindustan influences. Small food stalls serve inexpensive traditional snacks at the markets and along the Waterkant. If you're looking for Javanese style food, consider driving out to the Blauwgrond area of town. This Javanese part of the city is known for its many small restaurants, typically unpolished places with simple plastic outdoor furniture but great food.

However, for the travel weary visitor there's a Kentucky Fried Chicken around and a few places that cater to the much less spiced Dutch taste. Food is typically cheap by western standards, with full 3 course meals anywhere between SRD25 and SRD60 and simple mains around SRD20. If you follow the locals to smaller places you'll be able to eat for SRD10. Most of the small restaurants are quite casual in style. For a somewhat more formal experience, the upmarket hotels in town usually have their own restaurants, serving both traditional and international cuisine for obviously higher prices.

Drink

On the Waterkant, between the street and the river, are a number of pavilions with simple, but atmospheric, terraces. There's no service and you have to get your drinks yourself. Music is everywhere and while adults pour out a djogo in cups, children play between the tables and teens hang out near the quay wall. There's always something happening on the Waterkant. Just next to the pavilions are 3 more upscale restaurants (JiJi, De Waag and Brotik - see the "Eat" section above) with good bars, followed by a 24/7 bar that also has a nice terrace that overlooks the river.

Sleep

Waterkant

As Paramaribo's tourist economy develops, hotels and guesthouses are popping up while older ones get restyled. There's plenty of choice now to fit your budget, from €15 dollar single rooms in a basic guesthouse to €100 and more for a stay in one of the upmarket resorts. If you're travelling with a family or group, apartments are a good option and often cheaper while more convenient than multiple rooms. VAT and service charges are typically included in hotel prices and almost all of them can arrange tours to other towns or the country's tight jungle backlands. Note that many hotels charge their prices in either US dollars or euros. Usually they will accept Surinamese dollars, but check in advance.

Budget

Midrange

Splurge

Connect

The country code for international calls to Suriname is 597. There are no trunk or area codes.

Many hotels and Bed and Breakfasts offer their guests a Wi-Fi connection - mostly for free. The number of internet cafés in the city is declining due to the usage of smart phones and tablets.

Cope

Embassies

Go next

The beaches near Galibi are one of the main nesting grounds for protected Leatherback sea turtles.

As nice as Paramaribo is, it would be an absolute pity to leave Suriname without at least one or two trips to its other destinations, jungle villages, remote resorts or sandy beaches. Getting around on your own can be challenging, especially when heading into the dense Amazon rain forest. Fortunately, tour operators seem to be available at every corner in Paramaribo, ready to make any arrangement you might dream of. Look around and negotiate, as there are fine trips to be found for every budget. Whether you're looking for a helicopter trip to a protected sea turtle nesting beach, a week-long boat trip down the Maroni river or just a day trip to the Jodensavanna - Paramaribo's tour operators will make it happen.

Organized tours

For more advice or arrangements to head out of town, ask local tour operators. There's a wide range of companies offering all kinds of services. A small selection is listed below, but make sure to shop around and bargain for the tour you'd like.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.