Ever heard of French Guiana? Most people haven’t I’m sure. But this is a piece of France that sits in South America, just above Brazil. The capital city (or should I say town) of French Guiana is Cayenne.
This guide to Cayenne will tell you more about how I got there and where to stay. If you have time and money to kill you can easily spend a week or two and you could see all the sights in French Guiana. Though if you still want to check out this very local piece of the world a visit to Cayenne is great to show you what life in French Guiana is like.
It’s for sure not on the Gingo trail and you won’t see many other travellers in this part of South America. But it was an interesting trip that’s no doubt! I backpacked around South America for 6 months and travelled to all the countries. It wasn’t the easiest country to get to at all, but I had such a local experience.
Guide to Cayenne, French Guiana
French Guiana is actually a tropical overseas region of France. One of the least known places in South America. French Guiana is divided into 10% coastal area and then 90% dense wild rainforests! Which is pretty crazy!
Also, don’t confuse French Guiana with Guyana (used to be British Guiana). All of the Guiana’s including surname used to be made up of a slave society who came from Africa. The Guiana’s were colonized by different European countries over time.
After slavery was abolished, France took part of the Guiana’s and turned it into French Guiana, turning it into a French department in 1797.
How to Get to Cayenne?
French Guiana is not the simplest place to get to. This guide to Cayenne should help you understand the options of getting to French Guiana and out again. You can either fly in but there are not many flights that go there. Or you can go overland via Brazil or Suriname. I went in via Brazil which seemed to be the easiest (kind of)
From the Brazilian border of Oiapoque, you have to either taxi to the French Guiana side or take a water taxi across the border. Then you can reach Cayenne from St Georges with a shared taxi, which is around €30-40 each for a 4-hour journey. There is no bus currently.
I made a friend in Oiapoque bus station who offered me a lift to Cayenne as her husband was picking her up. Result! This saved me a lot of money and the stress of trying to reach my Airbnb which wasn’t in the centre of Cayenne. It was such a blessing to meet them as they actually took their time to show me around Cayenne for the days I was there. I felt so welcomed by them and they said next time I can stay with them.
Overland travel is expensive and kinda impossible In French Guiana. If you can, it may be worth hiring a car to make it actually possible to get around. You could also try to hitchhike, which I think is fine. Not sure how common it is but people seem welcoming do they might.
Travelling around Cayenne
If you are staying in Cayenne City centre it will be easier to get around. Though as I stayed closer to the beaches area and where the nature trails were in Montjoly, It was more difficult. There is a bus which runs from Cayenne to this area, though it doesn’t run very often.
Luckily the friends I made became my guide to Cayenne, they took me to dinner with their friends & to the beach. Instead of me taking taxis or trying to wait for the bus. They also dropped me at the taxi station when I left to go to Suriname.
Cayenne is flooding with cars, as half of the population of French Guiana live in this area. I hope one day they will organise a better and more frequent bus service to cut down on cars. As the region is mostly made up of wild nature they should be encouraging this and introducing more ways to promote eco-friendly ways of living alongside their untouched rainforest.
There’s also hardly any pavements especially in the residential areas out of the city, so you may find yourself walking on the road… Someone offered me a ride while I was in Cayenne as they were confused why I was walking in the road and they dropped me off at the beach I wanted to go to. So people may be open to hitchhiking there too!
Where to Stay in Cayenne?
You might have guessed Cayenne and French Guiana, in general, are not cheap to stay in at all! As there is not the demand for backpackers there are not many hostels or cheaper accommodation on offer.
I would recommend staying in the residential area of Montjoly (about 8km from the city). Which is close to the hiking trails and popular local beach. But you will need to catch the bus or try to hitchhike if you do a trip into town.
The cheapest option is renting someone’s house on Airbnb or Booking.com. I got a small studio apartment for €35 a night. Right next to a supermarket so I could cook my own food and again save money!
If you are looking to stay right in Cayenne city centre there are a few hotel options. But they are a little bit more expensive. You can obviously splash out if you want and book some luxury place for €100+ a night instead…
I read previously on my trip that there are Carbet-stays, where you can bring a hammock and sleep there. Not sure what the price is but if you are brave enough you could show up in town and ask around. Remember everyone speaks French!
Things to Do in Cayenne
There are some lovely trails to explore near Cayenne, and great food to eat in the city centre. Check out my blog post here for things to do in Cayenne.
Leaving Cayenne Overland
After my trip, I was travelling to Suriname. Minibuses/ Taxis leave from a bus stop on Chaussée Laussat next to the Canal Laussat. Minibuses leave here for St Laurent du Maroni, Kourou and back to St Georges for the Brazilian border. I think you can also use the minibuses say if you wanted to be dropped in Sinnamary you can take the St Laurent bus and the driver would drop you on the way, you can negotiate the price. If not here they will be on the other side of the Canal on Avenue de la Liberté.
I took a 4-hour minibus to St Laurent du Maroni there were only 4 people on the bus and it cost me €35, ouch.. it was a nice journey although and the roads are smooth. The driver also took me to passport control and back to the riverside to catch the boat to cross the border to Suriname.
Ultimate Guide to Cayenne
Although travelling in French Guiana isn’t the cheapest it can still be done on a budget.
I hope this guide to Cayenne has helped you if you are thinking of travelling to Cayenne or French Guiana in general. I had such a local experience in this part of France, and made a great friend! My trip through the three Guianas was a completely different experience from the rest of my trip in South America.