If you’re like the average backpacker you’ll be racing out of Cayenne’s expensive digs as quickly as possible.  One of the most popular escapes is the nearby town of Kourou.  Although this town does not offer much in terms of fancy architecture of historical museums to allow you to dive into the local culture, it does offer a nice base to a number of hidden gems and interesting places to visit.  The nearby space center is what draws the economy in town so don’t expect to find yourself immersed in South American culture.  Kourou is hardly a diamond in the rough but if given a chance it does have a little to offer.

Photo by Arria Belli

Time Needed: 2 days
Budget: 50-65 USD$ a day

Things to Do in Kourou

You’ll find your self stretched for things to do if you plan on spending your time walking through the streets of town here.  The town of only around 20,000 people seem to revolve around work at the space center and catering to everything it needs.

  • Centre Spatial Guyanas: The perfect location for space satellite launches due to its location near the equator and open shoreline this space center is the hub of France’s space program.  If you’re interested in space aviation this is a must see as there are less than 20 of its kind in the world. A tour will cost about 10US$ but you’ll want to book ahead.  If you want to go on your own it is possible as well, as long there is no launch in progress of course.
  • Iles du Salut: The “Islands of Health” are a very interesting day trip, although the trip is made more impressive if done over night.  Some tours do an overnight stay at Devil’s Island, a famous prison island.  The islands have an impressive bird life and some other animals including monkeys.

Where to Eat in Kourou

As is the case in Cayenne one of the best ways to go in French Guiana is to do your eating directly from supermarkets since the prices at restaurants are relatively high.  Also, if you have been in South America for as long as I had you’ll be excited by the site of European cheese, wine, beer and chocolate.  There are some other places to eat in town and Chinese is always a popular and cheap way to get by the high prices of restaurant food.

  • Pizza: On Martin Luther King Street there is a great family run pizza place that does pizzas for as cheap as about 7 Euros.  You can also get dishes of pasta their for about 5 Euros.
  • General de Gaulle: For a nice variety of cheap food with a wide international range head done to Avenue General de Gaulle where you can find everything from Creole to Indian food.

Where to Stay in Kourou

As is the case in Cayenne you won’t find readily available cheap accommodation in Kourou.  Moreover, it is going to be even more difficult for you to try and find a couch to surf on if  you want that type of stay.  Try staying at the Hotel Ballahou where you can get a single bed for around 30 Euros a night.

Getting out of Town

Since there are no public cross country buses in French Guiana you’ll basically have two options for getting out of town: taxi colectif or hitchhiking.  Personally I hitchhiked the country because the price of the taxis was absolutely absurd.  Getting to Cayenne is about 10 Euros in taxi colectif (shared taxi vans), and to get to the Surinamese border town of St Laurent will cost about 30 Euros for the 2 and a half hour drive.  When I hitchhiked I was not alone as a number of others were waiting along side me on the road outside of Kourou.  I caught my ride, to the border of Suriname, in a matter of about 15 minutes of waiting.

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