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Safety Travel Safety: Americas: Guyana

Guyana: Co-operative Republic of Guyana
Capital: Georgetown
Population: 698,209
Currency: Guyanese dollar (GYD)
Languages: English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu
Religions: Christian 50%, Hindu 35%, Muslim 10%, other 5%
Borders: Brazil 1,119 km, Suriname 600 km, Venezuela 743 km

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Guyana is a developing nation. Tourist facilities are not fully developed, except for hotels in the capital city of Georgetown and a limited number of eco-resorts.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Guyana continues to suffer from political and labor unrest. Following national elections in March 2001, demonstrations, assaults, road blockages, vandalism, looting and confrontations with law enforcement authorities occurred both in Georgetown and outlying areas. These events have continued on a sporadic and unpredictable basis. Although protests in the past have not been directed at U.S. citizens and violence against Americans in general is rare, visitors should nevertheless remain alert and take prudent personal security measures to deal with the unexpected while in Guyana. When protests occur, avoid areas where crowds have congregated, take common-sense precautions, monitor news broadcasts closely, and maintain a low profile.

On occasion, security concerns may temporarily prevent Embassy personnel from traveling to or through some areas and locations. In those situations, the Embassy will continue to be available by telephone to offer emergency services to U.S. citizens.

CRIME ^
Serious crime is concentrated in the more populated areas of the country, and the crime rate in urban centers continues to be a major problem. Georgetown in particular suffers from violent crime, including home invasions, kidnappings, carjackings and shootings. Criminals act with relative impunity, with police officers themselves frequently the victims of assaults and shootings. Vehicle occupants should keep their doors locked and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Robberies and thefts occur frequently in Georgetown and New Amsterdam. U.S. citizens should avoid stopping in or traveling to the village of Buxton, which lies along the road between Georgetown and New Amsterdam, as it is known to be a base for criminal activity.

There is also a threat of kidnapping for ransom, with random targeting of persons who are viewed as wealthy targets of opportunity. In April 2003, an American was the victim of an �express kidnapping� (a relatively short-term, profit-motivated, albeit violent crime) for ransom. The victim appeared to have been randomly selected.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, assaults and thefts occur in all areas of Georgetown. The areas adjacent to the sea wall and the National Park in Georgetown, although frequented by joggers, have been the scenes of crimes ranging from pickpocketing to armed assaults. The risk increases significantly after dusk. Travelers should exercise extra care in visiting these areas. Pickpockets and thieves also frequent Stabroek and Bourda, the two major markets, and great care should be taken to safeguard personal property.

The response of local law-enforcement authorities to the increase in violent crime has been largely ineffectual; the police are cooperative, but lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Nevertheless, Americans who are victims of crime are encouraged to contact the police as well as the American Citizens Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section.

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 United States 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 United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Guyana�s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Do not agree or attempt to smuggle illegal drugs, either internally (swallowing) or in luggage. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guyana are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical care is available for minor medical conditions. Emergency care and hospitalization for major medical illnesses or surgery is limited, due to a lack of appropriately trained specialists, outdated diagnostic equipment and poor sanitation. Ambulance service is substandard and may not routinely be available for emergencies. Visitors are advised to bring prescription medicine sufficient for their length of stay and should be aware that Guyana�s humid climate may affect some medicine. Some prescription medicines (mainly generic rather than name-brand) are available.

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 Guyana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: fair to poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: fair to poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor

The Traffic Division of Guyana�s National Police Force is responsible for road safety but is ill-trained and ill-equipped. Driving in Guyana is hazardous because of very poor road surfaces; an almost total lack of street lights; farm animals bedded down on or wandering by the roads; and poor driving habits including speeding, reckless driving, tailgating, quick stops without signaling, failure to dim headlights and weaving in and out of traffic. Visitors should exercise caution at all times while driving and limit driving at night as much as possible.

Penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death are severe, including life imprisonment. If involved in an accident, call 911 for police and 913 for an ambulance. Police may be slow to respond and an ambulance may not be immediately available.

Drivers use the left side of the road in Guyana. Seatbelt use is required by law, and is enforced; failure to use your seatbelt can result in a fine. There presently are no laws in Guyana concerning use of child car seats. Both drivers and passengers on motorcycles must wear protective helmets that meet certain specifications.

Mini-buses (small twelve to fifteen-passenger vans) ply various routes both within and between cities on no fixed schedule. Mini-bus drivers have come under severe criticism by the government, press and private citizens for speeding, aggressive and reckless driving, overloading of vehicles, poor vehicle maintenance and repair, and offensive remarks directed at passengers. Mini-buses have been involved in a number of fatal accidents.

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

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guyana�s civil aviation authority as Category 2 �- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Guyana�s air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Guyananese air carriers currently flying to the U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Guyana�s air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA�s Internet website 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, 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. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

December 18, 2003

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