Georgetown, Guyana Report of what it's like to live there - 04/25/24

Personal Experiences from Georgetown, Guyana

Georgetown, Guyana 04/25/24


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have lived in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

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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?

It's a 4.5 hour flight to Miami and it's more difficult than one would think. At the time of writing this, daily flights leave and arrive in the middle of the night and the drive to and from the airport is dangerous from a common sense perspective. It can take anywhere from 45 min to 2 hours depending on traffic. Poor roads with random sand piles, pot holes and speeding/passing industrial vehicles with careless drivers make it a gripping experience just to get to and from the airport.
There is a new flight that connects through Houston so options are opening up for flights to the U.S. but basically, everyone going to the U.S. goes through Miami, Houston or JFK. To get anywhere in South America, you have to transfer through Panama and there are only 2 or 3 flights there per week.

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3. What years did you live here?


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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

It's quaint enough here that just mentioning that could make this no longer anonymous. I will keep it general by saying I followed my spouse in their profession.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Spacious common rooms, very small bathrooms and bedrooms. Two living rooms seems to be the norm. Small yard with a lot of brick around the house...basically, it's a brick yard. Housing however, is very expensive and limited. Read on for more about the economy and oil industry issues.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive, minimal, unreliable and poor quality in the grocery stores. "Fresh" items and dairy are left on shelves well past expiry dates, often into rotten stages. Frozen and chilled items have been allowed to melt and refreeze, likely a number of times if they are imported. All of these items are extremely expensive as well which is an extra kick in the gut. Items will be in stock for months and then suddenly disappear without reason at all of the grocery stores. There is no common sense in the ordering and stocking of grocery stores that the expats use.

Recommend bringing as many regular pantry items from home as you can and plan to buy fresh/seasonally at the local markets. Beer and wine here is atrocious.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Beer and wine. Anything that you want on a regular basis especially if you care about the QUALITY of an item. I mean, you can find things but the quality isn't great. It also seems as if they have been trying more and more to stock regional brands and import less of the brands Americans might use. Soup and crackers really aren't a thing here. Chips, peanut butter and jams, pickles, olives are all available but low quality.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

We no longer get food delivery, as we find ourselves disappointed for the price. There are options like Pizza Hut (they often forget the pizza sauce) or Aagmans (it's usually about $200 for a family and can be a great hit or a huge disappointment, no consistency) a lot of people have drivers that will pick up from restaurants but it's a cash society which is really inconvenient if you want more than one or two things.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No. Mosquitos are probably the main insect issue here just because you have the entire buffet of associated illnesses to consider every time you get sick.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through work channels. The local post situation is completely inadequate. There are some services that you can work out container shipments with but in general, expats will use whatever their work provides.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The cost is subjective. You get what you pay for. The economy is overheated. Exxon is able to and does pay far more than everyone else. If you want quality, full time staff, you will be competing with oil money.

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3. Do you feel that it is safe to walk, run or hike outside? Are there areas where bike riding is possible? What is the availability and safety of outdoor space for exercising? Are these easily accessible?

No and No.

Women are relentlessly sexually harassed. Even walking into the grocery store from the parking lot can be a challenge. There is "security" everywhere but they are often the perpetrators as well. Stray dogs are also a huge issue. You can not walk your dog unless you are in a gated community. The strays will attack. I tried walking when I first arrived, having served in many austere locations I felt confident it would not be an issue. I stopped after being followed by a group of men in my (affluent) neighborhood and a number of close calls with dogs.

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4. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Space gym which is owned by China and takes biometrics. I highly discourage this although you may be able to negotiate around it. The Marriott also has a gym. Yes, it's expensive. Everything here is expensive. Extremely expensive.

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5. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No, even some places at the "malls" only take cash. The ATM at the Marriott is really the only one I would recommend. Pegasus and MAYBE the one at Movietown are ok but only during the day. The one at Giftland is tucked away and not safe unless you have a lookout.

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6. What English-language religious services are available locally?


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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

People speak English country but the creole is heavy. Entire conversations happen in front of you with no understanding of what is being said but this is normal in places that have experienced colonization, if someone wants you to understand you will. If they don't, be prepared not to. Conversely, we speak too fast. Please slow down for local Guyanese to understand you before getting frustrated.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

People with physical disabilities should not even visit here. There are no sidewalks or safety measures in place for anything, anywhere.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

None of them are safe with the exception of some taxis. However, most taxis are unreliable and you will easily find yourself stranded unless you pay for your driver to stay and wait for you. I have called and waited for taxis that simply drive off without contacting you if they don't see you, even if you have been standing and waiting for them in the same place.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

An electric vehicle would be useless. A sturdy mid size SUV and extra tires (Run flats)

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, fairly quick and reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You need a local number if you want any delivery service despite the fact that everyone uses Whatsapp. There are no online payment options so for both internet and cell phone you have to go stand in line to pay on a regular basis. They will often tell you they have emailed your bill but I have never received one. You need to keep track of when your bill is due or they will disconnect your service at the end of the day whether you received a bill or not and there is no way to pay to get service back up after business hours.

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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 is one vet that is adequate and he is overwhelmed. He is good but the diseases here are out of control and nothing is sanitary. Pets are always battling skin conditions, scabbing, hair loss etc... I do not recommend bringing a pet that requires outdoor exercise to Guyana.

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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?

Most spouses do not work here. Local jobs and salaries are not competitive by any stretch of the imagination.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?


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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Women should plan to dress dowdy/business casual and cover up unless you want to be sexually harassed, that includes avoiding yoga pants. Don't bother bringing nice shoes but I do recommend closed toe. I have found light weight, full arm length button ups with tank tops underneath and capri or ankle length cotton pants to be the most functional and comfortable options. Flowing/long pants or anything that could potentially drag will get gross.

Anything goes in the way of clothing but if it's a matter of comfort, you will need to import. There is no adequate shopping here with the exception of formal/glittery dresses. There is a bizarre amount of availability for revealing formal dresses and club like outfits for women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. Guyana is critical for crime. I wear no jewelry or revealing clothing. For perspective, there is just a very simple disregard for human life here that I have not experienced anywhere else. I expected a more community-oriented feeling having lived elsewhere in the Caribbean and this was not my experience in Guyana. It is very individualistic, opportunistic and it was also made very clear to me (during a personal attack that occurred at the international airport in front of security and airport staff who did nothing to intervene) that "white people need to leave the black mans country".

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. If you are unhealthy, you should not come here. If you become unhealthy, you should leave to get care. I would evacuate for any medical condition beyond a cold. The medical practitioners are extremely patronizing and are not used to dealing with people that ask questions. I asked to have my hormones checked and was told "women have a lot of hormones, which hormones do you want checked?" in a snide and condescending way. So be aware, there is little to no female care here.

Sanitary issues are always a problem, primarily in food preparation but also just in general. Men urinate wherever they want, livestock and strays defecate all over the streets, driveways and yards. We treat the family regularly for parasites. Stomach problems are not uncommon. The international school has no process in place for school injuries. Children have suffered severe head injuries on a number of occasions that were not reported to parents.

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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?

Typically ok. It's been very dry for the last year so fires have been an issue though not any worse (or better) than many parts of the U.S.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

If you have severe food allergies you should not eat anything you have not prepared yourself. There is no local awareness or care to accommodate such things even if they give the pretense that it is accommodated at an establishment (see previous statement about basic disregard for human life). This is even true for the international school. Peanut products were sold to children with known peanut allergies this year. Peanut products are not restricted at all here.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

I'm not sure but I've questioned my own sanity and how on earth I ended up here on a number of occasions.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

85 and sunny every day. Sun rises and sets at 6.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is GIA which is PreK-12 and has improved significantly since the move to the new building. Before that, I was terrified to send my children to school on a daily basis. The new facility is much more safe and starting to be a bit more organized. Everything that was put on "hold until the new school" (which was essentially everything for a few years) is now starting to be implemented or addressed.

Sports programs have begun to take hold and teaching staff has become more internationally diverse and improved. I think there is an over reliance on testing and not enough focus on just standardizing basic classroom expectations, e.g., some teachers assign piles of homework, others none, many teachers contradict themselves and confuse the children with expectations, grading is available online but is often inaccurate until the very end of the grading period which makes staying on top of things impossible on a day to day basis.

In my opinion, there is a basic cultural undercurrent of chaos and disrespect that is evident in the more permanent student body and locally taught teachers. Any local teachers come from the same college and they are still taught archaic methods of teaching for instance, shame, public humiliation and threats for controlling unruly classrooms.

Finally, school communication is disorganized at the very least. There is almost always an issue with the first email that is sent out to everyone which requires more emails to fix. Thankfully, the school seems to be allowing fewer people to use their distribution lists but it's still a problem and a general lack of respect for parents limited time. You would need to quit your job to monitor email communication from the school effectively. There are still newsletters that come from all different areas of the school and often not a single one of them has all of the information required.

There is also QSI which is MUCH smaller and more appropriate for younger children.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I would not take a child with any special needs to Guyana.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I would not use a local day care. I also, in general, do not leave my children with nannies until they are able to communicate with me. There are after school activities every day at the school but no transport options outside of what you organize for your child.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. It is still no where near adequate but it is actively being prioritized. My guess is that by the 26-27 school year there may be a well established school team but really, the primary sport is going to be soccer. It's all in the works now and I'm fairly certain will start to roll out 24-25 school year.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a large oil industry expat community. I can't speak to the morale, I'm not really interested in socializing with the oil industry but if you are, this is your jam 100%. I might note that this industry is the one and ONLY reason that the school is now adequate so I'm certainly not down playing the value of their contribution to every day living here. I just don't have interest in keeping up with the Housewives of Houston.

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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?

People tend to socialize in their homes. I have found the groups to be quirky but predictable.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is subjective but I don't think this is a "good city" in general. It's critical for crime. Corruption is rampant, women are hyper sexualized, the culture embodies total chaos, the economy is literally on fire, food is mediocre, there are no effective social programs, when events do happen they are in no way safe. In general, one must never assume safety measures are ever taken here, whether it's vehicles traveling on the road or how things are prepared, built and maintained. Don't get me started on the tourism industry.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No and yes.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. It's illegal here.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Religious tolerance is the one exceptional thing here, it's the one thing that Guyana could show the world how to do. There is no gender equality, there are still extremely archaic ideas about what women in the work place with an undercurrent of disrespect. As for ethnicity, there is a huge divide in the indo and afro communities, it's very apparent and then even within the Indian communities there is left over caste stuff and also colonization leftovers on top of all of that, then the HUGE China influence as well. As I've mentioned before, the culture IS chaos. That's the culture here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Honestly, traveling out of the country. What money we manage to save has gone to some great vacations.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

No. Many people go to the interior or to the falls. I can't justify it from a financial and safety perspective. We took a few day trips but found them unremarkable and over priced.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No, none of it.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There is never a shortage of work to be done.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That despite what people may say or how brave you are, it is not walkable for white women or pets. That the food scene is lacking significantly. I really expected more of an Indian influence/culture.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I'm happy to be nearing the end of my time here. It is a journey of yourself, through yourself to yourself.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Consumerism. Expectation of order, consistency or procedures.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock and indoor bug zappers. Almost everyone I know has had one of the trifecta of mosquito borne illnesses.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Minimalism for Beginners. The Economics of Oil and Gas.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Guyana is changing at a rapid pace and it's a lot like I have imagined the wild wild west/gold rush. It is very much on the cusp of going either way in terms of safety and security...will it get worse or better? Hard to know at this point. The tourism and food industries are unregulated and over priced as is pretty much every industry here. Travel outside Georgetown is difficult, unpredictable and honestly, just kind of underwhelming for the trouble. Day to day living here is not easy. You will often go so long without basic things that you stop needing them. Is that a bad thing? Maybe. Maybe not.

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