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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Suriname

Suriname - Consular Information Sheet
January 5, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Suriname is a Dutch-speaking developing nation located on the northern coast of South America. Tourist facilities, ranging in price, are widely available in the capital city of Paramaribo, but they are less developed and, in some cases, non-existent in the rugged jungle interior. The Government of Suriname, which established one of the world's largest nature preserves in 1998, and private tourism companies encourage ecotourism and have expanded tourism to the interior by establishing guest houses and tour packages. Travelers should note that major credit cards are not widely accepted outside the major hotels, nor are ATM cash machines available. Travelers should contact their intended hotel or tour company to confirm that credit cards are accepted. Transportation, communications and other infrastructure elements, while better in Paramaribo than in other regions of the country, do not meet U.S. standards.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa and a return ticket for air travelers are required for travel to Suriname. There is a processing fee for business and tourist visas. A business visa requires a letter from the sponsoring company detailing the reason for the visit. There is an airport departure charge and a terminal fee. Travelers arriving from Guyana, French Guiana and Brazil are required to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Suriname, 4301 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 460, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-7488, email: embsur@erols.com, or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami, 7235 NW 19th Street, Suite A, Miami, Fl 33126, telephone (305) 593-2697.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: In the summer of 2000, tensions surfaced between Suriname and neighboring Guyana after Guyana granted a foreign company permission to drill in disputed territorial waters. A Surinamese navy vessel demanded that the foreign oil rig withdraw from the area, which it did. Talks between Guyana and Suriname regarding the maritime border issue are ongoing, and the parties hope to achieve a resolution sometime in the next two years.

Peaceful demonstrations took place throughout 1999 to protest economic instability. Although there were no significant protests in 2000, demonstrations can occur at any time. American citizens traveling to or residing in Suriname should take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings or other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.

Police presence outside Paramaribo is scarce. Banditry and lawlessness are on the rise in the cities of Albina and Moengo and along the East-West Highway between Paramaribo and Albina. In addition to these places, travelers proceeding to the interior should be aware that they may encounter difficulties due to a lack of government authority and inadequate or non-existent medical facilities. Limited transportation and communications may hamper the ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist in an emergency situation.

CRIME: Burglary, armed robbery and violent crime occur with some frequency in Paramaribo and in outlying areas. Pickpocketing and robbery are increasingly common in the major business and shopping districts in the capital, with pickpocketing being the most common. Visitors should avoid wearing expensive jewelry or displaying large amounts of money in public.

Although there are few reports of criminal incidents in the vicinity of the major tourist hotels, night walks outside the immediate vicinity of the hotels are not recommended. Visitors should avoid the Palm Garden area ('Palmentuin' in Dutch) after dark since there is no police presence, and it is commonly a site for illicit activity.

Theft from vehicles is infrequent, but it does occur, especially in areas near the business district. Drivers are cautioned not to leave packages and other belongings in plain view in their vehicle. When driving, car windows should be closed and doors locked. The use of public minibuses is highly discouraged.

Criminal activity throughout the country is on the rise. Foreigners, including Americans, are viewed as targets of opportunity. While travel to the interior is generally trouble-free, there have been reports of tourists being robbed. Travelers proceeding to the interior are advised to make use of well-established tour companies for a safer experience.

The emergency number 115 is used for police, fire and rescue. Fire and rescue services provide a relatively timely response, but police response, especially during nighttime hours, is a rarity for all but the most serious of crimes.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Central and South America, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care, including emergency medical care, is limited and does not meet U.S. standards. There is one public emergency room in Paramaribo with only a small ambulance fleet to provide emergency transport. As of December 2000, the emergency room is without a neurosurgeon, and other medical specialists may not always be available. Hospital facilities are not air conditioned, although private rooms with individual air conditioning are available at extra cost. Emergency medical care outside Paramaribo is limited, and it is virtually non-existent in the interior of the country.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: The U.S. Embassy encourages travelers to wear sunglasses, sunscreen and hats to reduce exposure to the sun. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Suriname is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

In Suriname, traffic moves on the left, although left-hand-drive cars are allowed on the road. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, poorly maintained roads and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Surinamese roads. Visitors are encouraged to use automobiles equipped with seat belts and to avoid the use of motorcycles or scooters.

The roads in Paramaribo are usually paved, although upkeep is often a problem. Large potholes are common on city streets, and this is especially true during the rainy seasons, approximately mid-November to January and April to June. Travelers should be aware that the rainy seasons can differ from year to year by as much as six weeks. Roads are often not marked with traffic lines. In addition, many main thoroughfares do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians, motorcycles and bicycle traffic to share the same space.

The East-West Highway, a paved road that stretches from Nieuw Nickerie in the west to Albina in the east, runs through extensive agriculture areas; it is not uncommon to have slow-moving farm traffic or animals on the road. Police recommend that travelers check with the police station in Albina for the latest safety information.

Roads in the interior are sporadically-maintained dirt roads that pass through rugged, sparsely-populated rain forest. Most roads are passable for sedans in the dry season. However, these roads deteriorate rapidly in the rainy season. Interior roads are not lit, nor are there service stations or emergency call boxes. Many bridges in the interior are in various states of repair. Travelers are advised to consult with local sources, including STINASU at telephone (597) 421-683 or 476-579, or their hotels regarding interior road conditions before proceeding.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Suriname driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Embassy of Suriname in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Suriname's civil aviation authority as Category 2 - not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Suriname's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Suriname's air carriers currently flying to the United States will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the United States by Suriname's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to be conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Surinamese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Suriname are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Visitors can exchange currency at banks, hotels and official exchange houses, which are called "cambios." Exchanging money outside of these locations is illegal and can be dangerous.

Dutch is the official language of Suriname, but English is widely used, and most tourist arrangements can be made in English. Many visitors find the water in Paramaribo to be potable; however, some travelers report that the water made them ill. Sealed bottled water is safe to drink and can be purchased in local hotels, restaurants and grocery stores.

Telephone service within Suriname can be problematic, especially during periods of heavy rains.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Suriname are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Suriname. The U.S. Embassy is located at Dr. Sophie Redmonstraat 129, telephone (011)(597) 472-900. The Consular Section hours of operation for American citizen services are Mondays and Wednesdays, except American and Surinamese holidays, 8:00 am - 10:00 am, or by appointment. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance evenings, weekends and holidays may contact an Embassy duty officer by pager at (011)(597) 088-0338. This Embassy is also responsible for U.S. citizens in French Guiana. For further information on French Guiana, please refer to the separate Consular Information Sheet on French Guiana.

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