Boasting a colonial Dutch past, incredible ethnic diversity, and a myriad of religions from all around the world, Suriname is one of the most unique nations anywhere in South America. This tiny country on the northeastern tip of the continent is also home to incredible sites both natural and manmade, making it a prime destination for that next family vacation.
But just what can you expect from this quaint nation? In this guide, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of Suriname, getting you up to speed on all the important information you need before you go, as well as covering ten of the best family spots for safe travel.
Where is Suriname Located?
Suriname is located in South American and borders Guyana in the west, French Guiana in the east, Brazil in the South, and the North Atlantic Ocean in the north. It was formerly known as Dutch Guiana and officially known as the Republic of Suriname. It is considered to be on Northeastern Atlantic coast of Souther American.
Even if you know where it is, you may still have trouble finding Suriname on a map. That’s because, at square feet, the nation is the smallest in all of South America. A look at a map of Suriname shows that it’s to the east of Guyana, the west of French Guiana, and the north of Brazil as discussed.
The flag of Suriname contains five red, white, and green stripes and a yellow star, each holding symbolic meaning for the country. Respectively, the green stands for fertility and hope, the white for peace and justice, and the red for love and progress, with the yellow star representing the unity of all ethnic groups. The Suriname flat is easy to recognize anywhere due to its distinct design.
Time in Suriname
Suriname follows no daylight savings time. Rather, it observes Suriname Time (SRT) all year. SRT runs three hours behind Universal Coordinated Time.
What is the Capital of Suriname?
No trip to Suriname would be right without visiting Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, a riverside city that boasts nearly half of the nation’s population of 575,000. Specifically, Paramaribo Suriname (nicknamed Par’bo) is home to roughly 241,000 individuals, making it the largest and most active city anywhere in the nation. No other city in the nation even comes close to this Suriname capital, Paramaribo in terms of size, with the second largest city, Lelydrop being about 18,000 people.
Suriname is a small country relative to other South American countries. Its total population is about 565,000 and most of these Suriname people live in the Northern Coast where conditions are more favorable.
What Language Is Spoken in Suriname?
Suriname is unique in that it is the only South American nation to speak Dutch as its official language, a result of the nation’s colonial past – Dutch Suriname. Formerly, the nation was part of a group of overseas Dutch colonies known as Dutch Guiana, with independence officially coming in 1954. In total, around 60% of the population of Suriname speaks Dutch as their mother tongue, with the rest of the population largely fluent in it as a second language. So Suriname language unlike most other South American countries is Dutch rather than Spanish. English is also widely spoken in the country so if you speak English, you should be okay visiting without too much language barrier.
What is the Meaning of Suriname
Suriname was derived from the name of the natives – Surinen – who lived here when it was an European colony. The British who were the first to colonize the country and lived along Suriname river spelled “Surinen” as “Surinam” and the name stuck as part of the name of the country. So the meaning of Suriname also known as Republiek Suriname or Republic of Suriname was derived from the history of the country.
How to Pronounce Suriname
No, it’s not pronounced as it just as it looks. Instead, Suriname is pronounced like SURA-NA-MA or SUR-UH-NAHM. But the best ways to know what Suriname’s pronunciation sounds like is to ask the locals when you arrive.
How to get to Suriname
Knowing this, what’s the best way to get to Suriname? The answer depends on where you are. If you happen to be in bordering nations such as Guyana and French Guiana, getting to Suriname is as easy as catching a bus and a ferry. Those in Guyana, for instance, simply need to catch a ferry and a bus to get to Paramaribo (though flights are also available).
For those wishing to fly into the nation, most international flights are serviced by Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, located just 20km away from the capital of Paramaribo. Most US travelers reach Suriname by taking Surinam Airlines or Caribbean Airlines from Miami, Florida, with the former offering flights via Georgetown and Aruba and the latter going through the Port of Spain. Travelers can expect their flights to take between six and seven-and-a-half hours.
British travelers can take Surinam Airlines or KLM to reach Paramaribo, Suriname. Flights typically go through Amsterdam or France, typically taking between eleven and fourteen hours.
How to get around Suriname
Of course, it won’t do to just know how to get to Suriname—you’ll also want to determine the best mode of transportation when you are in the country. Generally speaking, you’ll likely need to take multiple forms of transportation while there, especially if you plan on traveling to remote destinations.
If you plan on going to secluded nature reserves or other natural areas, small planes are generally the best (and sometimes only) form of transportation. That being said, there are ferry services that shuttle travelers down the Suriname and Coppename Rivers into the interior of the nation.
You may also opt for bus routes (both government and private), but keep in mind that bus routes into the interior of the nation cost significantly more than coastal routes, and not all the roads in Suriname are up to date.
Driving in Suriname isn’t always recommended; in order to do so, you’ll need to have an international driver’s license and will be restricted to coastal routes only unless driving a 4WD.
What Is the Currency Used in Suriname?
Since 2004, the official currency of Suriname has been the Surinamese dollar (SRD). Currently, the SRD has the following approximate exchange rates with major worldwide currencies:
- The USD-SRD exchange rate currently rests at about 7 SRD for every 1 USD.
- The pound-SRD exchange rate currently rests at about 9 SRD for every 1 pound.
- The euro-SRD exchange rate currently rests at about 8 SRD for every 1 euro.
- The CAD-SRD exchange rate currently rests at about 5 SRD for every 1 CAD.
In the capital of Paramaribo, major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are widely accepted, with both the US dollar and the euro being accepted as currency throughout the nation. This means you should have few issues when shopping in Suriname—though that doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a few SRD on hand just in case since this is the money used in Suriname.
Best Time to Travel to Suriname
The best time to travel to Suriname is generally dictated by the weather. Because the nation already lacks good infrastructure, traveling to Suriname during the wet months of May, June, July, and August can put travelers at even greater risk. For this reason, traveling to Suriname in February, March, and to mid-April or mid-Augus, Septemger, October, to mid-November/early December, the two respective dry periods, is generally considered optimal.
Is Suriname Safe to Travel?
According to the UL Safety Index, Suriname is generally safe to travel; the nation maintains a score of 56/100, making it comparable to Ukraine (56) and Venezuela (56). Travelers are advised to exercise precautions such as traveling only in the daytime, being vigilant at banks and ATMS, and being aware of their belongings in crowded areas. With this being said, safe family travel is definitely possible in Suriname!
10 Best Things to do in Suriname
Now that we’ve got the logistics out of the way, it’s time to examine the ten best things to do in Suriname with kids. You may be surprised at all there is to do in this tiny nation!
Taking up nearly 1% of the country’s total land mass, Brokpondo is among the largest reservoirs in the world. In total, the reservoir spans 1,560km2.
Here, people walk along the shoreline and wonder at the view and also take boats out onto the water. One thing’s for sure: you don’t want to miss out on a trip to this one-of-a-kind location yourself! And yes, as you can imagine, this tops our list of the best things to do in Suriname.
2) Central Suriname Nature Reserve
Few parts of the world are as beautiful or biodiverse as the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. This location spans over 1.5 million ha of west-central Suriname and is home various animals species and thousands of vascular plant species. A trip to the reserve takes visitors into the heart of nature itself, with a chance to see incredible animals such as jaguars, harpy eagles, and giant river otters. This alone is enough to have this Reserve on our list of top places to visit in Suriname.
Need another reason to visit this stunning location? The reserve is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must-see for travelers to Suriname.
3) Fort Zeelandia
Formerly known as Fort Willoughby, Fort Zeelandia was originally constructed by the French in 1640 before changing hands (and names) and going under British control. In 1667, the fort came under control of the Dutch, who renamed it Fort Zeelandia.
The fort remains a popular destination. Over time, it has housed military personnel and was once even used as a prison, though its chief purpose today is solely for tourism. Fort Zeelandia is located in the capital of Paramaribo and can be easily accessed from the main parts of the city.
4) Ston Island
Located in the Brokopondo reservoir, this peninsula makes for perfect swimming, fishing, and canoeing opportunities for you and your family. Here, families can come to relax and spend a day in the sun. To make things better, Ston Island rests near biodiverse rainforests and gorgeous waterfalls that you’ll want to see for yourself!
5) Brownsberg Nature Park
Located in the district of Brokopondo, Brownsberg Nature Park houses incredible natural sites such as the Leo Waterfall and a 500-meter high brownsberg from which it draws its name.
Once upon a time, gold mining was conducted in the area, though today the park is closely guarded and protected from damage. As such, it makes an incredible location for a quiet (and jaw-dropping) trip through nature.
6) Het Koto Museum
The Het Koto Museum may be small, but it’s a must-see for families looking to know more about the Surinamese culture. Learn the history of the koto and angisa and other forms of clothing worn by the Surinamese over time. The museum allows for a deep dive into Creole culture and shows exquisite clothing exhibits that you won’t want to miss. To make things even better, there’s a small garden at the back of the museum where you can enjoy the view and take a nice rest.
7) Centrale Markt
Don’t miss out on a chance to Centrale Markt, an open market where all Surinamese come together to sell fresh vegetables, fish, food, and goods. The sights and smells at this market are enough to make your mouth water.
Just as amazing, nearly every ethnic group in the nation frequents the market, giving you a chance to see Surinamese diversity in all its glory.
8) Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral
This incredible Roman Catholic cathedral rests at the heart of Paramaribo and is the largest wooden structure anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. Designated a minor basilica in 2014 by Pope Francis, the cathedral is a reverent place of worship that is a must-see for religious travelers. Construction on the cathedral was begun in 1882 and completed in 1901, with a major restoration being completed in 2010. See the incredible location for yourself when you visit Suriname with your family!
9) Presidential Palace
Perhaps no place in the inner city is as breathtaking as the Presidential Palace. Constructed in 1730, it rests at the heart of the historical district and serves as the house of the territory’s president.
The building is located across the street from Independence Square, which houses a variety of other government buildings such as the Court of Justice, Ministry of Finance, and the Congress.
Behind the palace rests the gorgeous Garden of Palms, a beautiful location well worth a visit in and of itself.
10) Historic Inner City of Paramaribo
This historic region of the capital city has earned distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its incredible old-time architecture, which has been expertly maintained by subsequent generations of Surinamese. Classical Dutch building techniques mixed with indigenous building materials create a stunning display that’s unique to the nation. Spent a quaint day with your family at this incredible location!
Expert Tips on Traveling Suriname
To close, let’s go over some expert tips on traveling Suriname that can help you be more prepared and spend your time there more worthwhile:
1) Don’t Be Afraid to Try the Food
As the least-traveled nation in South America, Suriname is keeping a pretty big secret: the food in the nation is some of the best in the world. Suriname’s cuisine mixes the high-powered spices of Indian culinary tradition with the pizazz of Caribbean food for a truly unique eating experience. Consider trying Surinamese roti to see what we mean.
2) Stock Up on Bug Spray
As you might imagine, Suriname is home to a diverse range of insects as well. For this reason, make sure to treat your clothes with appropriate bug spray before leaving, and be sure to have some on hand when you’re on Surinamese soil. You’ll thank yourself later!
Keeping these tips in mind can take your vacation to the next level! With that being said, make sure to use this as your ultimate guide for planning your family vacation to Suriname!