Cayenne

If there is a more confused city in the world I have yet to visit it.  Cayenne, French Guyana finds itself somehow confused between the Caribbean and Europe.  Colonial houses washed in the colours of the Caribbean hold fort on the narrow streets of the city while patrons of all skin colours sit at the restaurants below chatting in perfect french, or a mix of creole.  Looking at the police officers and infrastructure of the city it would be easy for one to feel as if they have somehow rolled from South American into France.  However, the heat, humidity and colourful people won’t easily let you forget where you are.  Because of extraordinarily high prices Cayenne is well off the tourist radar.  Everything in town is expensive.  In fact, in comparison it may be more expensive than France itself.  That being said, when I travelled French Guyana I managed to skim by on a budget of about 25 dollars a day.  I made huge sacrifices to do that, but it is possible.

 

Time Needed: 2 days
Budget: 75-100USD a day

Things to Do

Cayenne gets a hard time among travellers that visit the city as a place where there is hardly anything to do.  Most tourists are right in that estimation, however, short excursions outside of town will lead you to a number of interesting sites and activities.

  • Botanical Gardens: Away from the downtown, but within walking distance, the gardens are a nice place to get away for a little bit.  It’s a nice place for a picnic or just a morning stroll.
  • The Fort: Up from the main plaza there is a trail that leads between the houses and up to the remains of an old fort.  Although the fort itself isn’t very impressive the views from the top over the city are worth the short hike.
  • Museum of Guyanese Culture: A nice cross section of the country’s natural and human history is featured at this museum.
  • Devil’s Island: Although most people prefer to spend the night on the island, or at least in Kourou, it is possible to do a day trip to this famous prison island.
  • The Space Center: French Guiana’s importance to France rests no farther than it’s space center.  Dozens of satelites are launched from this spot every single year.  On days that aren’t launch days it makes for a nice tour, and can be done in conjuction with a tour to Devil’s Island.
  • Sea Turtles: If you’re in the area at the right time of year you can visit Tresor and Kaw National Reserve where giant nesting sea turtles have their hatchery.

Where to Eat

The food selection in Cayenne is good, and the food, partly thanks to its French background, is very good.  If you’re trying to stick to a budget you might want to try and stick to one of the many chinese food restaurants which serves food at resonable prices.  Do to my budget constraints I only ate out twice.  Both times I was very satisfied with the food, although the bill hurt my heart.

  • Le Cafe Creme: Near the plaza there is a little cafe with seat out onto the sidewalk that sells reasonably priced sandwiches and soups.  They also do breakfast.  I had a soup and sandwich along with a soda and my bill came to 12 euros.
  • Le Kaz Kreol: If you want the Caribbean style dinner this is the place to get it.  The creole food here is delicious but quite pricey.  My meal and a glass of wine came to 23 Euros.
  • Supermarkets: If you’re on a budget you’ll live in the supermarkets in town.  You’ll be treated as well as the prices of things like imported European cheese and wine is quite low in comparison to the rest of South America.

Where to Stay

You might want to consider couch surfing. There are no backpacker’s hostels in town and the budget hotels are still very expensive.  The value of hotels in Cayenne may be the worst in the entire world.  There is no where in town, at the writing of this article, that offers either dorms or hammock space.  If you want to save money on accommodation you’ll need to stay out of town in somewhere like Montjoy.  However, even if you stay out of town you’ll pay a high price for transport.

  • Best Western: The Best Western in Cayenne is one of the cheapest places to stay, and the location is good.  However, the quality of the hotel is well below the standard you’d expect from one of the large hotel chains. About 70$ for a room.
  • Hotel Les Amandiers: Nice location and some rooms have nice views.  Rooms are bout 80$ a night.

 

Getting to Cayenne

If you’re arriving from the airport you’ll need to catch a taxi collectif which is basically like a small bus.  These taxis are not cheap, and you’ll likely pay around 30 Euros to get into town.  Heading to other destinations in French Guyana are as follows in Taxi collectifs: Kourou (10 Euros), St Georges/border with Brazil (30 Euros), St Laurent/border with Suriname (50 Euros).   There are no buses that run between destinations in French Guiana
Luckily, hitchhiking French Guiana can be done quite easily and I never had to pay any of these prices.  Head to the main highway with your thumb out and a ride wont be too far off.

 

Getting Around Cayenne

Cayenne does have a transport system but the buses only run every hour or so and on limited routes.  Most people in town walk, ride bikes, or hitchhike through town.

Back to the French Guiana travel guide 

6 Comments

  1. It’s so hard to find specific info on French Guiana. Thanks, Brendan!

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    • No Problem Cody. If you have any questions feel free to shoot them my way. Guides on Guyana and Suriname are also on their way soon.

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  2. Thanks for the good info Brendan. Do you know the cheapest way to get to the French Guiana? I’m sure that there is cheaper ways than what I have seen so far???

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    • Getting to French Guiana from where? From France there are direct flights. From North America the best way is to fly to somewhere in Brazil and then bus probably. I came overland, so I can’t really answer that very well.

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      • Brazil and French Guiana are linked by only one bridge and it is closed due to bureaucracy. And because of that there is no buses crossing the border. So, I would say the best way to reach French Guiana is by plane.

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        • Well, you can also take the boat across. So it’s not really a stress.

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