Guyana

Overview

Introduction

Guyana is an amazing combination of the Caribbean and South America. A former British colony, it has the distinction of being the only country on the continent of South America with English as its official language. This explains why today it is culturally aligned with the British West Indies but almost isolated from its Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese-speaking neighbors. Guyana's population can trace its roots back to Africa, India, Portugal and China.

The country also boasts the largest community of the region's first settlers, the Amerindians. There are currently more than 120 Amerindian communities living mostly in remote areas of Guyana. The name Guyana is Amerindian for "land of many waters," which pays homage to the country's many waterways.

Guyana has its share of tropical assets: pristine rain forests, towering waterfalls and clean rivers. However, you often have to travel very far and be prepared to give up a few creature comforts to enjoy these attractions. In the height of the dry season (August-October), it's hot and muggy, although this is relieved by frequent coastal breezes.

Many of the roads in Guyana need repairs, and the country's picturesque capital, Georgetown, has a relatively high crime rate. But for those who love nature and don't mind roughing it, Guyana offers some rare attractions and adventures you often only experience through TV documentaries.

The country's tourism industry is still relatively young. Unlike its Caribbean neighbors, it is not geared up to deal with large numbers of tourists on a regular basis.

Some interesting holiday resorts have sprung up in the hinterlands. These offer a variety of relaxing ecotourism and adventure activities along with fairly high-standard accommodations and facilities that can easily compete with those on offer in other countries. These holidays will cost you, but are worth the trip.

Journeying up its rivers or into its jungles, you'll encounter traditional Amerindian villages and a variety of wildlife. You'll see dozens of waterfalls: Flying over the dramatic Kaieteur Falls in the heart of the rain forest is truly memorable. And when you arrive at the falls, you won't see billboards, food stands or tourists—just sky, water and rain forest.

English is the national language of education, commerce and government; however, you will hear most people conversing in creolese, also referred to as Guyanese or patois. This is an English-based Creole with influences from Amerindian, African, Dutch and Indian languages. It has no official status but is often regarded as the first language.

Hindu, Urdu and Arabic are used by Hindus and Muslims as part of religious ceremonies, and the nine Amerindian communities speak several dialects including Arawak, Macushi, Patamona and Warao.

Portuguese is also spoken near the Brazilian border, but do not visit Guyana in order to practice your Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch.

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