Is French Guiana safe? Are there some extra precautions I should take when visiting? While traveling to French Guiana is completely safe and an exciting adventure, there are still a few things to consider when preparing your journey there. In this blog post I’m going to dive into the most searched safety topics you should be aware of when planning to visit French Guiana.
The crime level has fluctuated between 16 and 13 over the last 10 years (number of crimes for 100.000 inhabitants). In comparison: Tokyo is the safest city with the lowest rate 0,7 while Tijuana is the most dangerous with 138. With that said there is a very little violent crime towards tourists. And you will be safe, as long as you don’t wander alone (or even as a couple) at night. Especially in darkened and isolated areas.
On the other hand, pickpocketing and purse snatching are pretty common especially in urban areas. Don’t forget to leave all your jewelry at home especially chains and earrings, as you could be the easy target of kids on bikes or motorcycles. Ensure that your documents are always safe as well and keep copies.
In the same fashion you should not leave objects visible and unattended in vehicles. To find your car with broken glasses can be pretty common especially if you have left things visible inside.
Expeditions in the Amazonian Forest
Exploring the Amazonian Forest can be such an incredible experience!
And you shouldn’t absolutely deprive you from doing that. As long as you stay on the track, and you don’t try to find the Eldorado by yourself. Exploring the deep forest should only be done with expert guides. The risk of getting lost if you are exploring by yourself is very high.
If you want inspiration for some excursions you can do while visiting, check out my blog posts about the exploration of the Amazonian Forest.
On the side dangerous animals and poisonous spiders and insects you shouldn’t worry.
French Guiana is home to amazing felines like the jaguar and the puma. As they are afraid of humans, they will avoid getting close to you. Also bathing in the rivers is safe and an experience to try. You can even bath among the caimans in Kaw Natural reserve. You heard it right! In fact, French Guiana’s rivers are full of fishes and the caimans prefer more fat preys than humans. I know this may sound scary, but the numbers will help me: in the last 20 years there are no reported deadly attacks of caimans in French Guiana. Alligators and crocodiles are way more dangerous (and geographically far away)!
In addition to the great mammals and reptilians, you should not worry of poisonous snakes and insects. No poison will be able to kill a human in less than 24 hours. And of course, we have GPS, satellite phones, and helicopters for fast rescue.
By the way! If you are interested in animal observation you should definitely check French Guiana’s zoo. A respectful zoo that hosts animals in their natural habitat, and only native from the region.
French Guiana has one main road called RN1 (Route Nationale 1) that cross the coastal cities from Sant Laurent to Saint Georges de l’Oiapoque. RN1 is paved and well maintained. Besides that, smaller roads can be disseminated with potholes and the risk of a wheel-hole is real if you don’t drive cautiosly.
Driving at night is not particularly dangerous even if the lighting is very poor. But you should be careful to animals crossing. Capibaras can take you by surprise and they are bigger than they seem. If you hit one, you will damage your car. Also make sure to drive in area that have phone’s network or invest in a satellite phone. The roads are pretty isolated, and the distances can be long.
Know what vaccinations you need
The only mandatory vaccine you need to cross the border is yellow fever. And it will be checked!
The first time I came in French Guiana I had to get vaccinated for yellow fever. I remember the doctor trying to force me to get hepatitis A, typhoid fever and rabies as well. Unless you want to, you don’t need all these vaccinations. I have read a lot about French Guiana before moving here and from the outside you could believe that it’s plagued with cholera, meningitis and dysentery on common basis.
That’s simply not true!
Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria
Don’t let their cute names fool you, because Dengue, Chikungunya, and Malaria (known locally as Paludisme) are viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Luckily for us their propagation is not really broad. Except for sporadic epidemics of Dengue virus.
The best solution for avoiding their bite? Using insects’ repellents, specific to mosquitoes is better. Wearing long clothes with light colors. But above all avoid places nearby stagnant bodies of water and in general nearby the lush vegetation at nightfall, usually between 6.30 and 8.00 PM. This is when nocturnal mosquitoes get out to feed.
What if I get infected?
Luckily for you unless you are visiting in the middle of a rare dengue epidemics, and you are not exploring the deep Amazonia Forest (internal region which is more difficult to reach), it is very unlikely you will get one of these infections. BUT even if you get them, it is nothing a doctor and some rest will not fix.
This is one of the questions I get asked a lot, especially since I have been pregnant in French Guiana. Is Zika virus dangerous and should it prevent me from visiting? Absolutely not! In fact, Zika virus is less dangerous than the above mentioned. Zika became notorious when birth defects were reported in Brazil. These included microcephaly, a medical condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads. Even if these cases are extremely rare in French Guiana, if you are pregnant maybe you should consider delaying your trip.
In 2017 French Guiana froze. The day before an Ariane 5 take off, a strike started from the Guiana Space Center and spread all over the region. Even if this strike blocked everything (the airport was blocked as well as the connections between each city), this is still a pretty unique case in French Guiana history. And although France is famous for its strikes, episodes like this in French Guiana are more unique than rare.
That’s why you shouldn’t worry about ending up blocked by a raging protest. And in case you didn’t know, the 2017 strike, which lasted 5 weeks, was a peaceful protest. It’s main purpose? People’s safety and unemployment in French Guiana.
Are you willing to visit French Guiana? Then maybe you should dust off your French books. Let me explain. It is well known that French people are the worst when it comes to speaking English (I hope my French friends won’t hate me too much after reading this!). For this reason, you should consider learning some basics when visiting. Otherwise, you will soon find out that communications may be quite difficult!
Of course, there are exceptions to this 🙂
In conclusion is French Guiana safe?
By now I hope you have realized that traveling to French Guiana is safe as soon as you keep these precautions in mind. I think that it’s a region to discover for its incredibly rich habitat and story. If you have more questions about traveling to French Guiana, feel free to ask me directly, I’ll be glad to help. Would you like to know more about the activities you can do there? Check the French Guiana section.
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