Georgetown, Guyana Report of what it's like to live there - 06/12/22
Personal Experiences from Georgetown, Guyana
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Not my first expat experience. I have lived in Dublin, Ireland and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Portland, Oregon is home. It is about 15-18 hours depending on connections.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
Two and a half years.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
My house is about 1800 sq ft on two levels, 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Most houses have the bedrooms upstairs in case of flooding. I also have a wall, guard shack, and guard bathroom outside.
My commute time is about 25-30 minutes to and from work. Traffic seems to have gotten worse over time.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you aren't particular about brands, you can get most things here. You may have to visit several grocery stores and a market, but it can be done. However, you will pay 5x as much as the East coast of the U.S. or possible more. $15 cereal and $75/kg steak aren't uncommon. Everyone has a story about accidentally spending $40 on ice cream or something similar.
Local cleaning and household supplies are heavily-scented so if that bothers you, budget for the American or French brands.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
I have food allergies so I don't usually eat out. Customer service seems to be a new concept. People report ordering restaurant food for delivery and receiving it the next day.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I had ants all over my house, even where there wasn't food present. It took spraying, ant hotels, and physically killing everyone that I saw to make any kind of difference.
Cockroaches float in with the water when my entryway floods.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I receive mail at the Embassy. I have never used the local postal facilities.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
My housekeeper charges G$5,000/day. She is very quick and thorough. She can get two houses done in a day. Other people have nannies and/or gardeners.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I haven't used any of them so I don't know. I brought exercise equipment with me.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
This is definitely a cash society. I have used my credit card at one of the fancier hotels and at one grocery store. Otherwise, I use cash.
Some people use ATMs. I wouldn't use one unless it were inside a hotel or bank. In my opinion, there is too much violent crime to risk using one on the street.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
English is the official language. A variety of religious services are available.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is the official language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, the roads are broken up and there are rarely sidewalks. The public transportation is mini buses without lifts, etc. Most houses are two levels due to flooding.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No trams, buses, or trains. Local public transport is mini buses. They are quite dangerous and often get in accidents. We aren't allowed to use them. The big tax companies are safe and affordable. Negotiate the rate before you get in because there won't be a meter.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You drive on the left side of the road here so a right hand drive vehicle is handy. Also, a high-clearance is nice for the potholes. Parts can take a while to get regardless of the make. I wouldn't bring anything too expensive due to bad or drunk drivers. There are lots of accidents. There are carjackings after dark and on the road to the airport.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet that is fast enough to stream movies is available. I never need faster than that so I don't know what else is available. It was installed within a few days of my arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I have a local phone provided by my work so I don't have any experience with this.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are qualified vets. No quarantine. I haven't heard of any kennels. It is hard to get high quality pet supplies so consider bringing a supply with you.
It is hard to take dogs for a walk due to packs of stray dogs that will attack at times. Most walkers carry a large stick to scare them off.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most expatriate spouses work at the international school or the Embassy. I haven't heard of anyone working on the local economy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Due to COVID, opportunities are limited. As the restrictions are lifted, there will probably be more options.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The dress code at work tends to be fairly formal. A suit, dress, or blouse/skirt for women. A dress shirt/slacks for men. Ties only for more formal occasions.
Outside of work, anything goes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are lots of armed robberies/assaults in public places during daylight hours. It gets more dangerous after dark.
Drive everywhere. Park as close to the door as possible. Stay in groups. If robbed, do not resist.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No particular health concerns. The healthcare equipment appears to be about 50 years behind the U.S. The medical personnel are a toss up. Some are very well trained and some aren't. My employer evacuates for anything that would require a hospital stay.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Beautiful air quality. AQI is often under 10. Georgetown is on the ocean so there are lovely ocean breezes.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Options for people with allergies are not available. Substitutions for menu items do not exist. Even trying to order a burger without a bun is difficult and usually unsuccessful. Bring anything that you would like that it out of the ordinary.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Cabin fever tends to get a lot of people. The street crime is so high that people end of staying home more than they expect.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It is 84-88* with 85-95% humidity 365 days per year. Some days have rain. Some days have thunderstorms. Every day is still hot and humid.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expatriate community is small. With limited travel out during the last two years, the morale has been fairly low. In my opinion, it is hard to live in a place where you can't even walk outside for fear of being robbed at gun or machete point.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
People tend to throw parties in their homes. Some homes have nice outdoor areas.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This city is pretty tough on everyone.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I think it is about average for making friends with locals. Georgetown is a very diverse city.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. Intolerance is pretty high. Some people have reported harassment.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are six races and all religions in Georgetown. Neighborhoods are often single race. The political parties are by race so government action is often seen as benefitting or excluding a race.
It is acceptable for men to cat call women. Women report casual harassment.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting Kaiteur was amazing. The falls are okay. The flight low over the rain forest canopy was great. It is best to try to fill your flight with friends if you want to trip to go. If there are twelve seats in the plane, the tour company will cancel if they only have eleven people.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Some of the eco-lodges look nice. I wasn't able to visit any of them because I couldn't get anyone to answer my food allergy questions in a timely manner, but my friends had fun.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No, it is so expensive here that we try not to even buy food.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You get to see horses and cows during your daily commute.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known how much of the local diet was made up of fried bread and that gluten-free options would not be available any where.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No, this was a level of boring that even I couldn't handle.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Fall, winter, and spring clothes. Water sports gear.
4. But don't forget your: