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krisek Georgetown - A travel report by Krys
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Georgetown,  Guyana - flag Guyana -  Demerara-Mahaica
6230 readers

krisek's travel reports

British? Caribbean? South American? Georgetown.

  7 votes
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Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, is a fairly attractive place with a good collection of superb colonial wooden structures, which look as if they were picked up from a fairy-tale. The town is spaced out comfortably and there are many green areas.


The wooden townhall of Georgetown
The wooden townhall of Georgetown
Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, the former British colony, the only British colony on main land South America. It has great old town, packed with crumbling wooden colonial architecture, and incredible nightlife full of Caribbean vibe. In fact, Guyana is classified as 'Caribbean' and not 'Latin American', neither 'South American'. And perhaps it isn't.

The town has a poor reputation for safety. Or lack thereof. And it is, sadly, fully deserved. See below for more information.

Now, about my arrival... The Ogle International Airport, as it branded itself, was tiny and had no facilities. No bureau de change, no taxis. Nothing. The immigration passport control and the customs were swift. I was out of the building in no time. A guy offered me a ride to town for GYD1,500 (GBP5), which I accepted happily as there was no other option really. But he wanted to take another person as well, so it was more worth his while. That was fine with me, but he obviously gave the other guy a ride, which was in the suburbs, out of the way, so I had a chance, albeit unwillingly, to see some of Georgetown. Then, the driver tells me that all bureaus de change in town would be closed by now, as they try to finish business before 4pm, otherwise it was too dangerous to be around money later than that. He suggested I changed money in the street for better rates, but I refused. I said that the hotel should be able to help me. And they did.

I also told the hotel that I wanted to take a flight to the Kaieteur Fall the next day. They immediately picked up a phone to a travel agent, but found out that no such tour was available as no aircraft could be secured for the entire week. That sucked! Instead, I booked a different tour. On the river and to see a different waterfall, the Essequiho and Mazaruni, entire day, all inclusive for USD157. Not sure what to expect...

Favourite spots:
The Guyana Parliament building
The Guyana Parliament building
I think it was the Republic Avenue that was my favourite place in Guyana's capital. It was very animated and busy, and had almost all of the most important architectural sights of the city. It was almost straight, and not very long. It had the grand Public Library, the incredible Townhall, the Chamber of Engineering, the Palace of Justice, a really grand school, a lovely church, and the flamboyant Parliament complex, complemented by the troublesome but architecturally interesting Stabroek Market. Plus, there were also a couple of examples of buildings with intricate wrought iron balconies, one of which was an embassy.

The traffic was horrible around the avenue, but the central piece between the lanes was good enough to walk along and snap photos of the buildings. The Palace of Justice was being renovated and as a couple of guys working at the sight saw my big camera, they cried for their photos to be taken. I happily obliged!

What's really great:
The main market building. One has to be careful when venturing there.
The main market building. One has to be careful when venturing there.
And what is not great about Georgetown? Well, it was safety, or lack thereof, particularly at night. One taxi drivers told me that if I went to the Stabroek Market with my camera around my neck, the thugs would drop on their knees and start thanking the Lord for this superb opportunity to rob me, as if it was Christmas. Perhaps it was a slight exaggeration, but perhaps it was not. Walking in the city with anything valuable on you past 6pm the locals considered very unwise. Most businesses therefore closed well before 6pm, so the staff could get home safely. This sounds terrible, but sadly that was the reality. And not just for visitors and travellers, for the locals, too. When I mentioned that I was intending to walk bare 300 yards from a travel agent to my hotel, after I finish with the my booking even after the stroke of 6pm, the ladies at the office told me that I was irresponsible and perhaps crazy. So, they made sure that we finished our business before it started to get dark.

Sights:
The St George Cathedral
The St George Cathedral
Now, Georgetown brags a lot about its only sight - the St George's Cathedral, reportedly the tallest wooden building in the world. I have not verified this, and, to be honest, I did not think it actually looked this tall. Plus, the nearby Towhall looked almost as tall if not taller! And, since Guyana also claimed that its Kaieteur Falls was the tallest single drop waterfall in the world - in fact it is just barely a third of the Angel's Falls in Venezuela - what should one actually believe?

Yet, the capital had a few great wooden buildings. There were a few absolutely fabulous schools, great - and very photogenic - churches, the aforementioned Townhall, of course, too. Some of the buildings belonging to ministries, governmental agencies and hotels looked also rather great with their wooden shutters at this 'colonial tropical' angle.

Accommodations:
A double room at the Ariantze Hotel
A double room at the Ariantze Hotel
For a long time, I could not decide in which hotel of Georgetown I should book my stay. I snoozed for a long time. I think over 2 months! Finally, I picked up a phone, and called the Ariantze Hotel on 176 Middle Street and made a reservation, confirming the rate of USD55 per night in a double room.

When I arrived, I had a very warm welcome (clearly I was expected!) and was given room no.311. It was a little like a small suite. There were two rooms. One, through which one entered, was like a lounge, with a very large armchair, sofa and a table. The other was the bedroom. The double bed was equipped with a large mosquito net. The room had a wardrobe, inside of which there was a safe. Very convenient. Bathroom was located at the end of the lounge.

Overall, not too shabby for this price and considering the hotel was based in a lovely wooden colonial building.

Nightlife:
The Jazz Club on the Middle Street
The Jazz Club on the Middle Street
I did not have a chance to check many night spots in the city. But I did go to a couple of the clubs. The first one, the city's famous Jazz Club, the Side Street Jazz Cafe, was just below my hotel, so that was very easy to find and it was safe to just walk down the stairs. The club does not have live jazz sessions on every night, and the best nights are on weekends; starting from Thursdays. But on the other nights, the proprietors put on some great tunes, with some funky Caribbean vide.

The next door Bistro was not too bad either. On the night when I checked it, it had a quiz night going on with a full house on it. It had two two rooms, one with the bar and the other with a bunch of tables. The atmosphere was very cool and the gentle lighting created an ambiance which is never associated with a bistro. Funny name - Bistro - for a pub/club. I think it might have a number after it - the Bistro 1763 or something like that.

Hangouts:
A nice building by the football field near Middle Street.
A nice building by the football field near Middle Street.
The hangouts in Georgetown in the traditional sense were rather hard to find. If there were parks to hang out in, they were not very safe to be there alone, except one - the Promenade Gardens by the Middle Street, just across the football pitch. It was just being re-open and it was in a very good condition. And it looked really great. The trouble was that this particular area in the city was not lit at night, it was considered the worst spot. No-one, absolutely no-one, no local, no tourist - anyone who was not looking for being mugged and robbed - walked there after 6pm.

As for the cafes and patisseries; there were a few in town, true. Not too many, considering the size of the population of the city. A couple were on Waterloo and on Camp Streets.

Restaurants:
Caribbean chicken dish at the Sidewalk Cafe, Middle Street.
Caribbean chicken dish at the Sidewalk Cafe, Middle Street.
I had a peek at the Mario's King of Pizza on the Middle Street (pizza slices starting from GYD350, and entire piazzas from c.GYD1000) and the local take on KFC chicken fast-food outlet across the street (meals from c.GYD650) but I could not force myself for this much unhealthy food. I sheepishly looked inside the Chinese restaurant across the road as well, but the set up and the interior of the dining area spooked me. So, I headed to the Sidewalk Cafe, also on Middle Street, just below my hotel, where I could have a proper conversation with the chef, explain what I liked and how spicy I wanted my food. And could charge the bill to my hotel room, as the place had the same management. Now, the last bit was of massive importance to me, as I did not have a lot of local currency on me.

The chef prepared nice, slightly curried, fish in the Guyanian style, which increased my hotel bill by GYD3,000. It was very tasty and nicely spicy a little, not to spoil all the tastes of the Caribbean.

Other recommendations:
Ginger Howling Monkey.
Ginger Howling Monkey.
Again a little about safety, not to get too paranoid about this somewhat attractive and friendly city. On my last day, I got up just after 07:00am and after breakfast headed towards the Republic Avenue to take some more photos. The sun was already high in the sky. I was a little careful with my camera at the beginning. However, later I just took the camera out completely and held it in my hand, which, as usual, resulted in invitations from the locals to take their pictures. One was a construction worker pulling buckets of cement on the site of the Palace of Justice, and the other was a man sitting at a gate of an NGO building. As the Guyanese told me, Georgetown was a dangerous place only during the hours of darkness, when most trouble happens. During daylight, the thugs, like vampires, hid and only small opportunistic thieves tended to operate in the Market. The same ladies from the travel agency told me that for my tour departure at 07:00am on the other day, it would be totally safe.

Published on Monday October 3th, 2011


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Wed, Oct 05 2011 - 03:09 PM rating by mistybleu

Great read; I quite like Guyana, it kind of the forgotten country.

Tue, Oct 04 2011 - 07:26 PM rating by basia

Krys, I see that many countries have already visited, I read all your reports with pleasure. Thank you very much!

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