Suriname Travel Information

Photo Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. The new colony--Dutch Guiana-- did not thrive. Historians cite several reasons for this, including Holland's preoccupation with its more extensive (and profitable) East Indian territories, violent conflict between whites and native tribes, and frequent uprisings by the imported slave population, which was often treated with extraordinary cruelty. Barely, if at all, assimilated into European society, many of the slaves fled to the interior, where they maintained a West African culture and established the five major Bush Negro tribes in existence today: the Djuka, Saramaccaner, Matuwari, Paramaccaner, and Quinti.
Plantations steadily declined in importance as labor costs rose. Rice, bananas, and citrus fruits replaced the traditional crops of sugar, coffee, and cocoa. Exports of gold rose beginning in 1900. The Dutch Government gave little financial support to the colony. Suriname's economy was transformed in the years following World War I when an American firm (ALCOA) began exploiting bauxite deposits in East Suriname. Bauxite processing and then alumina production began in 1941. During World War II more than 75% of U.S. bauxite imports came from Suriname.
Most Surinamers live in the narrow, northern coastal plain. The population is one of the most ethnically varied in the world. Each ethnic group preserves its own culture and many institutions, including political parties, tend to follow ethnic lines. Informal relationships vary: the upper classes of all ethnic backgrounds mix freely; outside of the elite, social relations tend to remain within ethnic groupings. All groups may be found in the schools and workplace.
Suriname elected a new government in May 2000, but until it was replaced, the Wijdenbosch government continued its loose fiscal and monetary policies. By the time it left office, the exchange rate in the parallel market had depreciated further, over 10% of GDP had been borrowed to finance the fiscal deficit, and there was a significant monetary overhang in the country. The new government dealt with these problems by devaluing the official exchange rate by 88%, eliminating all other exchange rates except the parallel market rate set by the banks and cambios, raising tariffs on water and electricity, and eliminating the subsidy on gasoline. The new administration also rationalized the extensive list of price controls to 12 basic food items. More important, the government ceased all financing from the Central Bank. It is attempting to broaden its economic base, establish better contacts with other nations and international financial institutions, and reduce its dependence on Dutch assistance.
Visitors can exchange currency at banks, hotels, and official exchange houses, which are called "cambios." Exchanging money outside of these locations is illegal and can be dangerous.
Dutch is the official language of Suriname, but English is widely used, and most tourist arrangements can be made in English. Many visitors find the water in Paramaribo to be potable; however, some travelers report that the water made them ill. Sealed bottled water is safe to drink and can be purchased in local hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores. Telephone service within Suriname can be problematic, especially during periods of heavy rains.
Credit cards are not widely accepted outside the major hotels in Surinam. Travelers should bring sufficient currency to cover their anticipated expenses.

Important: Travel to Suriname may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Suriname visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Suriname
Capital city: Paramaribo
Area: 163,820 sq km
Population: 560,157
Ethnic groups: Hindustani
Languages: Dutch
Religions: Hindu 27.4%, Protestant 25.2%
Government: constitutional democracy
Chief of State: President Desire Delano BOUTERSE
Head of Government: President Desire Delano BOUTERSE
GDP: 6.326 billion
GDP per captia: 11,800
Annual growth rate: 4.2%
Inflation: 17.7%
Agriculture: rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, peanuts
Major industries: bauxite and gold mining, alumina production
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore
Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana
Trade Partners - exports: US 23.9%, Canada 19.5%, Belgium 17.2%, UAE 8.9%, Norway 6.2%, Guyana 4.8%, France 4.1%
Trade Partners - imports: US 26.1%, Netherlands 15.6%, UAE 8.6%, China 8.2%, Antigua and Barbuda 7.4%, Netherlands Antilles 5.5%, Brazil 4.4%, Japan 4.1%