Travel Guyana: Scams and Laws Travelers Need to Know

Before you pack your bags for Guyana, be aware of these laws and common tourist scams so you can avoid trouble on your trip.

Palm trees by the water in Georgetown, Guyana Photo © Getty Images/Tem Kuda / EyeEm

Searching for a variety of landscapes from desert to rainforest vibrant nightlife and meeting friendly people, all within the settings of a tropical climate and breathtaking terrain? Guyana doesn't typically come to mind, but this exotic South American country has it all.

But, find out how to stay safe and avoid trouble with the law (or con artists) with these tips from our travel safety expert.

Carry identification with you at all times

You must always carry your passport with you at all times. If you are stopped by law enforcement and do not have this document on you, it's highly likely that you will be taken in for questioning. And while there are certainly a lot of things to see in Guyana, the inside of a police station is probably not on your list.

Conversely, you should not carry with you any items that you did not personally purchase, or any baggage that you did not personally pack. Guyana has an ongoing problem with drug trafficking and in response, law enforcement strictly enforces any violations they may find. Many overseas travellers have reported finding narcotics planted in their luggage, both in bags they were asked to carry for another and in luggage that was registered to them. Make no mistake - if you are caught smuggling any sort of illegal substance in your baggage or on your person, you will be arrested and imprisoned for a long time.

To avoid the increased possibility of being stopped and searched, and having your baggage rifled through, you may want to consider carrying any medications you are required to take, as well as valuables and anything perishable on you rather than within your bags. It's also a good idea to carry a copy of your prescription for any medications as proof that they are not illegal substances and that you are required to take them per doctor's instruction. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Common scams in Guyana

Counterfeit currency is an ongoing problem in Guyana. Criminals often approach foreigners and offer to exchange money for them at much more attractive exchange rates but the money the victim receives is ultimately worthless. Visitors are strongly advised to use only legitimate sources such as banks, hotels and licensed exchange houses (known in Guyana as "cambios") to exchange money. You may pay a slightly higher rate but at least you won't be scammed out of your valuable money.

Another common scam involves people being offered free airline tickets to travel to Guyana. As much as this may fall under the "too good to be true" category for most of us, some folks fall for it. Those same unsuspecting victims will inevitably find themselves facing a dilemma when it's time to head home as their generous "sponsors" will not allow them to leave the country unless they agree to carry a package (usually cocaine) for them. Now a simple vacation has turned into a drug smuggling operation.

Law enforcement frequently stops foreigners to search them for illegal substances.

Guyana prisons currently house a number of foreign citizens who found themselves in this predicament and are now serving lengthy jail sentences as a result. The moral of the story is: there's no such thing as a free lunch, or free trip, as it were.

Photography laws in Guyana

Finally, it's important to take note of the fact that in Guyana it is illegal to photograph certain buildings, particularly government buildings. Keep in mind that when taking pictures around or in front of buildings your best bet is to check with a local before you snap any shots; otherwise you could end up with a lot more than a picture to remember your trip.

Regardless of the tumultuous and tarnished past Guyana has faced and still struggles with to some degree, the country remains rooted in natural beauty and vibrant culture.

Whether it's exhilarating outdoor adventure you seek, or the chance to explore a diverse countryside that is refreshingly unspoiled, you will find it all in this breathtaking place. Just be sure to obey the local laws and stay out of trouble's way so the only memories you leave with are pleasant ones.

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