Paramaribo is the capital of the smallest state in South America, Suriname. Likewise French Guiana, its surface is covered by the amazonian rain forest (80%). Paramaribo has a very particular charm given by the different people that cohabits the city. Since the first dutch settlement in the early 1600, many cultures enlarged Paramaribo’s borders. In addition to its historical heritage, the city offers also a culinary experience thanks to all the different nationalities.
Best time to visit
Suriname is right above the equator. Its climate is marked by a rainy season going from December to July, and a dry season from July to December. Unless you don’t want the risk of being caught in torrential rains, the best time to visit is during dry season. September and October are the warmest and sunniest months. But sometimes the temperatures go very high. My advice is to go for August and November instead. The rainfall frequency is still low and temperatures are better.
Currency and prices
Suriname’s currency is the Surinamese dollar. Since the economical crisis in September 2020, the exchange rate has been very low. In the capital you can eat very good for a few dollars. Hotels prices also are low comparing to other capitals. You can stay at luxury hotels for under 200 €.
Where to stay
There are plenty of choices on Booking.com. We stayed at Royal Torarica which is very close to the centre and all the restaurants on the river. Fun facts about Suriname, the independent state has only one cinema, but in Paramaribo there are more than 30 casinos. Mostly are situated in the hotels. It’s quite surprising when you arrive, slots are everywhere. It’s South America’s Las Vegas.
How to get there and Visas
If you’re coming from French Guiana you’ll have to take the road to Saint Laurent du Maroni. Once there you can leave you car to one of the guarded parking. I recommend you to do this as your car may be damaged or stolen, even If you leave it for a short amount of time. Then you take the pirogue on the Maroni river to Albina, on the other side. You’re now up to the funniest part of your trip: taxi hunting. Everyday there are many taxi waiting for tourists or workers to go to Paramaribo. Only drawback is they will want to fill their taxi capacity, usually between 6 and 8 people. You have two choices: you wait, sometimes even an hour, or you book the taxi to yourself. You can also try to negotiate by adding the journey back. Once your driver is ready, you’ll have 2 more hours on the road to Paramaribo.
If you’re coming from another destination you can check the best flight to join Paramaribo airport. It is very well served, and close to the city.
You can get your visa to Suriname as a tourist that will allow you to stay up to 90 days. It’s useful If you want to visit other countries in South America.
Is it safe ?
Suriname is a very poor country and unfortunately there are many homeless in the streets. But the crime rate is very low. So yes It is safe, as long as you stay on the touristy path and don’t venture too much in the unsafe areas. And remember to mind your bag in crowded places.
The best things to do in Paramaribo : All the places you must visit
1. Fort Zeelandia
Some history : Paramaribo’s fort was originally a wood construction built in 1640 by the French. By 1667 the fort was taken by the Dutch and named Fort Zeelandia. Trough the years the fort became obsolete until 1972 when it became the home to the Surinaams Museum. During the military revolution in 1980 the museum was used as a prison for political opponents. Nowadays it hosts the Surinaams Museum and a permanent exhibit of reconstructions of an old apothecary shop, a cobbler shop and a prison cell in its original state.
Our experience : The museum is very interesting. It showcases Paramaribo and Suriname’s history. The view on the top is very nice both on the city and on Fort Zeelandia.
2. Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral
Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral is the largest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere. This Roman Catholic cathedral is 60 metres (194 ft) long and 44 metres (144 ft) high. The decoration on the inside is quite simple and pure, the carving work is impressive. But what will catch your eye is the use of different kind of woods which brings out the colours in an original way. It’s also one of the greenest cathedrals I have ever been to, so many plants decorate the hall.
3. Mama Sranan Statue and the Presidential Palace
One of the things that surprised me the most about Suriname was the multi-ethnicity. Starting from the 17th century Suriname’s first inhabitants, Arawak people, met many different colonisers. Slaves from Africa were also introduced to the country. And at last the Javanese people, who later became the most present ethnicity in the country. This wonderful mix of traditions and cultures is celebrated in Mama Sranan statue. Translation of Mother Suriname. This statue situated nearby the presidential palace, represents a mother embracing her children, each one of the children is one of the different ethnicity that inhabits Suriname.
The presidential palace which was built in the 18th century is the symbol of Surinamese independence in 1975. This building is also a beautiful showcase of colonial architecture.
4. Neveh Shalom Synagogue, Arya Dewaker and Mosque Keizerstraat
They are a symbol of Suriname’s multiculturalism. The Synagogue, the Hindu Temple and the Mosque represents some of the main religions that are practised there.
The Synagogue is the most ancient of the three buildings. The first construction goes back to the 18th century. It was completely rebuild in 1842 and it also hosts a small museum about the history of the Jews in Suriname. The Mosque was built in 1932 while Arya Dewaker in 2001.
5. Enjoy the food
Paramaribo is a food’s crossroad. You have the choice among many different cuisines. What we loved: Dutch meatballs, so delicious and tasty they are made of beef and pork meat. Fried or in the oven both versions are simply delicious! Javaneese cuisine, I know that’s really wide but we tried so many different tasty dishes (and also I forgot the names, sorry!). Still one of my favourites. But unless you’re used to Javanese, Mexican or Korean spicy food do NOT ask for spicy. It’s like fire. And you won’t even enjoy your lunch.
Dutch crepes, simply delicious and you can taste them with many different fillings. Podosiri, made from Acai palm fruit, it’s eaten with rice or cassava bread. Samosas were among the tastiest things I ate in Paramaribo. Coming from the Indian tradition, they’re mostly served as appetisers. And to go with almost every meal we had, Parbo. The Surinamese beer is the solo star among drinks controlling 80% of the beer market in Suriname.
6. Night out at Paramaribo Casinos
I don’t want to do a Casino advertisement and Please be careful, gambling is addicting. But you can have some fun at one of the many casinos in Paramaribo. We played a little at different games. We won and we lost and we had fun. And that’s all, a once in a decade experience that has it’s amount of fun. And you have free drinks and live music while playing.
Have I convinced you to visit ?
Paramaribo has a really unique charm. It’s rare to see such a mix of cultures and traditions in a small city of 300.000 souls. If you want to know about more cities you could add to your Paramaribo itinerary check our South America section. Or find inspiration worldwide in the destinations category. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned about all the new posts. We don’t spam, one email par month 😉