Georgetown, Guyana Report of what it's like to live there - 09/10/20
Personal Experiences from Georgetown, Guyana
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
My family and I have lived in various overseas in South America, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Midwest, USA- it's about 8 hours. With the advent of the oil boom in Guyana, American Airlines, JetBlue, Eastern Airlines and Caribbean Airlines offer direct service from Georgetown to JFK and Miami. Other common destinations with direct flights departing from Georgetown are Barbados, Cuba, Port of Spain and Panama.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over one year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is mission-provided and is very comfortable. We have a yard with fruit trees, so it's been great to have access to fresh coconuts, guavas, limes and mangoes. Everywhere in the capital area is about 15 minutes away. There are two airports: the main international airport is located 1 hour away (CJIA) and the smaller airport (OGL) is only a short drive away. This makes it great for planning quick getaways domestically or to Barbados.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local fruit, veggies, fish, shrimp and meats are reasonable. Imported groceries come with a higher price tag, but the variety of items available seems to grow everyday. Just about everything can be found lately, although it does often require more than one stop to get everything you need. Guyana is multi-cultural- so you'll find plenty of ethnic food offerings- to include Chinese and Indian spices.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Rum is plentiful, but economical wine is harder to source
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Pizza Hut delivers, and HeroCart is now available for delivery of either groceries or restaurant takeout.
Popeyes, Dairy Queen, Pollo Tropical (chicken), KFC are all here. Our favorite restaurants include a Middle-eastern place with shwarma, the Backyard Cafe (for foodies), The Oasis cafe (brunch), there are plenty of decent Chinese and Indian restaurants. the Hard Rock Cafe for ribs/burgers (not cheap but good quality). The Wine Bistro has decent sushi/appetizers. There are options!
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The occasional large spider or cockroach but nothing unmanageable.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I have access to a diplomatic pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Our housekeeper prefers weekly payments. She runs errands for us and buys groceries, cleans house, does laundry, irons, cooks. Her salary ranges at about US $125/week for an average of 35-40 hours work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Marriott has a gym and pool membership. There is a national aquatics center for swimmers. Tennis clubs exist. My son plays soccer with an academy, other families have their kids enrolled in karate. There is one golf course.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are used in select stores and restaurants. Guyana is transitioning but is still largely a cash economy. ATMs can be used, but crime is high. Extreme caution should be exercised where to use one and to assess who is around when doing so.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Anglican, Lutheran, and Catholic services are available.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is the national language but some individuals will need to ease into understanding the accent more than others.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Depends on the disability but I think a wheelchair would be impossible here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Only taxis would be recommended. Then if you live here long-term, you develop a list of reliable drivers you can call and make private arrangements for taxi rides.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Off-road, higher-clearance vehicles do well in the rainy season. Smaller is easier to park though in many venues in Georgetown.
Toyotas are popular. Both left and right hand drive work here. I would advise not to bring any car with a low clearance due to speed bumps and pot holes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, two providers offer internet, and GTT Blaze is certainly the fastest. Our service installation took a little longer for our neighborhood, but now that it's installed, it's comparable quality and consistency to many US providers.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use a local provider: Digicell and GTT are the two options.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There's a good Vet that all the pet owners use. He's able to provide vaccinations.
We've not found any kennel services. We rely on friends to watch our pet while we're away. We had a diplomatic exemption so no quarantine upon arrival; just inspection with Vet at the airport and all the necessary documents as per the website.
Street dogs are aggressive and I've heard of a few attacks that have resulted in mission member's pets being badly hurt- so when walking your dog carry a stick or some other defensive item for protection.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Teleworking is possible for an external organization outside of Guyana. I also know many spouses that work in the diplomatic mission.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Shelters and other service and faith-based organizations.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Guyanese dress formally for government meetings. You can be refused admission to the cultural center or a government building if you are not wearing closed-toe shoes or if you are wearing shorts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The Department of State ranks Guyana has high for violent crime. It is a concern here and expatriates need to be very cautious when out/about.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Guyana has limited medical infrastructure. Private clinics and hospitals will offer a slightly higher standard of care, but most people who have complicated injuries or illnesses leave Guyana and seek treatment in the United States.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is great! Every day there is a breeze off the ocean.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
As we are closer to the equator, the sun rises and sets about the same time year round. You can expect about 12 hours of sunlight daily and a steady 84-85 F. Bring your sun hats, sun shirts and sun block!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Georgetown International Academy is the "American school". It's pretty small currently with 220-ish students counting pre-K going all the way up to grade 12 with a US curriculum. Enrollment is growing exponentially and the school is actively searching for a new location as they plan to expand up to a Tier 1 international school. At present, classes are quite small as are the school grounds. The students receive a lot of attention and gain that experience that comes with a small school that allows interacting with all age ranges up/down. It's been a solid educational experience for my middle school age child. After school activities exist- but may be considered to be more limited when compared to those expats used to much larger school with more amenities.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Karate, swimming, and soccer. Soccer is growing in popularity, but not the national sport (so not on par with other South American countries).
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Growing in diversity due to the oil boom and all the multi-national subcontractors coming into the country to work.
As with most hardship posts, morale is high and the expat community is small but tight-knit.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of house parties, or gatherings at restaurants. Socializing with locales is done at bars or through community service events.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It depends on your attitude and your interests really. Singles may be a bit more bored here as the night light and cultural opportunities are more limited.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
This can be a challenging place for LGBT expats. Same sex relations are still criminalized in Guyana.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Guyanese are super friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Guyana prides itself on it's multi-ethnic diversity and calls itself the land of seven peoples.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Kaiteur Falls is the world's largest single drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it. it's located on the Potaro River in the Kaieteur National Park, it sits in a section of the Amazon rainforest included in the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana. it's very impressive as you fly over it in a tiny plane. You have to be comfortable with smaller 12 passenger, 5 passenger, and 30 passenger planes to enjoy travel domestically throughout Guyana.
Besides Kaieteur there are quite a number of eco-resorts- such as Sloth Island, Baganara- that offer kayaking, blackwater swimming, birding, and wildlife watching. Further south there is Iwokrama- a rainforest conservation center.
Guyana has plenty of wildlife. So, if you like rainforests and large rivers, this is the place.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
My favorite trip was a day trip: birding and wildlife watching on the Mahaica river. i saw river otters, monkeys, and tons of birds.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Ameri-indian baskets are quite popular, as are word carvings. The hands down favorite gift is Demarara Rum or Sugar.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's a capital but the air quality is great, and everything is within a short distance. Direct flights to Miami and Barbados are a plus!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
To stock up more on wine before coming.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, overall it's been a great experience.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Kayak, sunscreen, binoculars, bird book and mosquito repellent!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
There is a great podcast about Jonestown to understand the tragic event. Guyanese don't like to talk about it because that was a horrific tragedy perpetrated by Americans against Americans. I would recommend following the visit Guyana Instagram page; I've learned many things about Guyana by following that.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Guyana has been one of the better hardship posts that we've served in.