French Guiana – official name – Guiana

French Guiana

French Guiana or French Guiana is the largest French overseas region, located in the northeast of South America. It shares a border with Suriname (510 km) in the west, with Brazil (673 km) in the south and east. On the north and north-east it is washed by the Atlantic Ocean. The administrative center is the city of Cayenne. The area is 86504 km².

Its official name is simply Guiana, the French name harks back to the days when there were three colonies called Guiana: British (now Guyana), Dutch (now Surinam) and French.

The coastline of Guiana is 378 km long. The coastline is low-lying and marshy, about 20 km wide along the Atlantic Ocean, occupying about 6% of the territory. The rest of Guiana is a forested plateau, with heights up to 850 m. The highest point of the country is Bellevue de l’Inini at 851 m.

Climate in French Guiana

The climate in French Guiana is tropical, humid and hot, with almost constant temperatures, ranging from +25 to +28°C. Rainfall is about 2500 to 4000 mm per year, mostly from January to May to June.

The humidity of the air is extremely high all year round, even in the dry period from July-August to December it can reach 100%. On the Atlantic coast of Guiana the humidity is not as oppressive as inland areas, but still quite hard to bear for the European.

The best period to visit is from July to August to December.

The population of French Guiana

The population of French Guiana is 290,691 (2020). More than half of the population is mulatto (Creole). They are followed by whites (about 12%, mostly French), then Indians, Chinese, blacks, and Indians.

The population is concentrated in a narrow coastal strip; the interior is almost unpopulated.

About 48% of the population is Catholic, 15% Protestant, 1.3% Jewish, and 4.5% Muslim. Indians practice their own religious cults.

Official language: French, with several varieties of Creole widely used in oral communication.Official language: French, with several varieties of Creole widely used in oral communication.

Money and currency of French Guiana

The unit of currency in French Guiana is the euro (€ or EUR), with 1 euro representing 100 cents. Bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros and coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents are in circulation.

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Banks are open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 12 noon and 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are usually off. Currency exchange offices are open daily, except Saturday, from 9.00 to 18.00.

It is possible to change currency in banks and exchange offices, but many of them have a markedly lower U.S. dollar exchange rate than the official one, so it is better to bring euros with you. It is not recommended to change currency in the street (risk of fraud is high), as well as in hotels, where the rate is usually much lower than in exchange offices or banks.

Credit cards are accepted in most restaurants, almost in all hotels and many stores. ATMs are widespread.

Traveler’s checks can be cashed in Cayenne and Kourou, where they are accepted in most hotels and large stores. In other cities they are somewhat difficult to use. To avoid the extra expense of exchange rate fluctuations, it is recommended to take checks in euros.

Communication in French Guiana

Phone Code: 594

Telephone area codes

Long distance codes are not used, all numbers are six digits.

How to call

To call from Russia to French Guiana you have to dial: 8 – dial tone – 10 – 594 – caller’s number.

To call from French Guiana to Russia you have to dial: 00 – 7 – city code – telephone number.

Shopping in French Guiana

Stores are usually open Monday through Saturday from 08.00 to 13.00 and from 16.00 to 18.30, on Sundays – from 09.00 to 12.30. On Wednesdays and Fridays many stores have reduced opening hours, and during Carnival and other national holidays almost all stores are closed.

The most popular souvenirs are local rum and wood crafts.

Security in French Guiana

The security situation in French Guiana is quite ambiguous. The capital and other major cities are quite high crime rates (mainly at night), while in rural areas you can travel quite safely due to the small population and the special mentality of the locals. Around Kuru is also created a kind of “security zone”, under the close attention of law enforcement.

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Serious crimes are extremely rare here, but the number of petty thefts and fraud is slowly but steadily increasing. Do not use ATMs at night, carry large amounts of cash, it is wise to use traveler’s checks or bank cards instead.

It is quite safe in Cayenne during the day, but at night it is not recommended to visit the coastal area, especially near the port and Vieux Bourg. It is advisable to use only licensed cabs and not to get into cars of locals.

Recommendations and Tips for French Guiana

Tap water in major cities is usually chlorinated and safe to drink, but bottled water is recommended. Drinking water outside of major population centers is mostly contaminated and not recommended.

Characteristic local hazards include very high levels of solar radiation (protective creams, wide-brimmed hats and light clothing in natural fabrics are recommended).

French Guiana is home to a large number of dangerous animals and insects, so hiking in the woods and jungle is strongly recommended to be accompanied by an experienced guide.

How to get to French Guiana

There are no direct flights between Russia and French Guiana.

To get here from Russia is most convenient via Paris.

From Paris to French Guiana fly airlines Air Caraibes and Air France.

Flight time: Moscow (Sheremetyevo) – Paris (Charles de Gaulle) – about 4 hours.

Flight time: Paris (Orly)-Cayenne (Rochambeau) about 9 hours.

Flight cost by route “Moscow – Paris – Cayenne”, on the average, is about 1200 – 1400 Euro (round trip).

French Guiana

Guiana (often called French Guiana, French Guyane Française) is the largest overseas region and also an overseas department (département d’outre-mer, or DOM) of France, located in the northeast of South America. The administrative center is the city of Cayenne. It shares a border with Suriname to the west, Brazil to the south and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and northeast.

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Its official name is simply Guiana (French for “Guyane”), a reference to when there were three colonies called “Guiana”: British (now Guyana), Dutch (now Suriname) and French.



Guiana was discovered by the Spaniards in 1499, but did not attract their interest. In 1604 the first French colonists settled in Guyana. In XVII-XVIII centuries the Dutch and English repeatedly tried to occupy this territory. The power of France over Guiana was finally established in 1817.

Since the end of XVII century the French developed plantation economy in Guiana. Because Indians refused to work on the plantations, the French began importing negro slaves from Africa.

The middle of the 19th century was marked by three important events in French Guiana: the abolition of slavery (in 1848), the conversion of the territory to exile (from 1852), and the discovery of gold deposits (in 1855).

The abolition of slavery led to an acute shortage of labor in the plantation economy, forcing the French authorities to resort to a policy of encouraging immigration. In the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the colony’s population increased mainly due to the immigration of Creoles from the French Antilles and Indians and Chinese recruited to work on the plantations.

The discovery of gold deposits in French Guiana attracted thousands of people there. At the height of the “gold rush,” as many as 40,000 miners worked in the jungles of French Guiana, most of whom died of disease, snakes, wild animals, and other hardships.

By government decree, beginning in 1852 French Guiana became the place of exile for “undesirable political elements. The first exiles were members of the French Revolution of 1848. In all, from 1852 to 1939 about 70,000 were exiled. After World War II French Guiana ceased to be the place of exile.

Simultaneously with the gold rush came France’s territorial disputes with the Netherlands (the Franco-Dutch Territorial Dispute in Guiana) and Brazil (the Franco-Brazilian Territorial Dispute). For a time, the self-proclaimed republic of Kunani existed in the disputed territories in a climate of anarchy and powerlessness.

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In 1930-1946 the interior regions of Guiana were separated into a separate colony – Inini.

Since March 19, 1946 French Guiana became an overseas department of France.

In 1964 French Guiana, due to its proximity to the equator, was chosen by France as a place of construction of a space launch complex (see Kourou spaceport). The 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Foreign Legion is stationed there to protect it.

Geography of French Guiana

French Guiana coastline is low-lying and marshy, about 20 km wide and stretches along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, occupying about 6% of the territory. The rest of Guiana is a wooded plateau, with heights up to 850 m.

The climate is subequatorial, with almost constant temperatures, ranging from 25 to 28 degrees. Rainfall amounts to 2,500-4,000 mm per year.

Natural resources and economy

Reserves of gold, bauxite, oil, niobium, and tantalum. Only bauxite is mined, as well as tantalum and gold in small quantities (by individual miners). In addition, there are poorly explored deposits of copper, silver, platinum, manganese, diamonds and uranium in Guiana.

An important economic role in the country is played by the French National Center for Space Research, located on the Atlantic coast, near Kourou. Electric energy production averaged 450 million kWh (2000).

More than 90% of the territory is covered by forest (including valuable species – red, pink, teak, muscat, mora, etc.).

Cultivated sugar cane, almost all going for the production of rum. In addition bananas, citrus fruits, cassava, rice are cultivated. Livestock is poorly developed.

Shrimp fishery off the coast.

The basic export commodities are gold, timber, rum, and shrimps.

Political structure

The French president appoints a prefect to manage the department.

Guianans elect two deputies of the National Assembly, the French parliament, and a senator.

At the local level of government there are a General Council (19 members) and a Regional Council (34 members), elected by the people of French Guiana.

The main political parties are: Parti socialiste guiane (PCG), founded in 1956, leader M.C. Verdun; Forces démocratiques guianes (FDG), founded in 1989, leader J. Autley; Democratic Action guiane (ADG), leader A. Lecante; Rally for the Republic (RPR), local branches; Union des parties politiques de la french democratie (UDF).

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As a part of France, Guiana is the largest part of the European Union not located on an island outside Europe.

Administrative division

French Guiana is divided into 22 communes.

Communes (French) Communes (French) Area km² Population 2007
Apatou Apatou 2 020 6 581
Awala-Yalimapo Awala-Yalimapo 187,4 1 251
Camopi Camopi 10 030 1 469
Cayenne Cayenne 23,60 57 047
Grand-Santi Grand-Santi 2 123 3 427
Iracoubo Iracoubo 2 762 1 975
Kourou Kourou 2 160 25 514
Macouria Macouria 378 9 202
Mana Mana 6 333 10 276
Maripasoula Maripasoula 18 360 7 568
Matoury Matoury 137 26 639
Montsinéry-Tonnegrande Montsinéry-Tonnegrande 737 2 146
Ouanaroo Ouanary 1 080 85
Papaïchton Papaïchton 2 628 2 296
Régina Régina 12 130 826
Rémire-Montjoly Rémire-Montjoly 46 19 260
Roura Roura 3 903 2 657
Saint-Elie Saint-Élie 5 680 450
Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock 2 320 3 605
Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni 4 830 37 524
Saül Saül 4 475 158
Sinnamary Sinnamary 1 340 3 110
Total 83 683 223 066


Fast growth of population – 2 times in 20 years (in 2010 230 thousand people) is explained by the significant immigration, mostly from Brazil and Haiti. Birth rate is 21.7 per 1000, mortality 4.8, infant mortality 13.2 per 1000 (2002). Average life expectancy is 76.5 years, of which 80 women and 73 men (2002). Age structure: 0-14 years old – 30.2%, 15-64 years old – 64.2%, 65 years old and over – 5.6%. There are 96,500 men and 85,800 women. Migration of population is 8.8% (2002). Literate population older than 15 years old – 83%. Ethnic composition of the population: up to 70% – blacks and mulattoes (Creoles, immigrants from Haiti), 12% – Europeans (mainly French, but also Portuguese), 3% – Indians, 15% – Brazilians and descendants of those from different Asian countries (China, India, Laos, Vietnam, Lebanon). The official religion is Catholicism, only a small part of the population professes Hinduism and voodoo.

About 48% are Catholics, 15% are Protestants, 3.7% are Jehovah’s Witnesses (1% are Proclaimers), 1.3% are Jews, and 4.5% are Muslims.

The population is concentrated in a narrow coastal strip; the interior is almost unpopulated.

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