Suriname: The Best Country Nobody Ever Visits

map of south america with suriname highlighted

The jungle city

When I stepped off the plane in Suriname at midnight 2 Saturdays ago, I was hit by the most intense jungle smell and warm, humid air I’ve ever experienced. And I hadn’t even taken my socks off yet.

The airport is an hour’s drive from the capital, Paramaribo, and set in thick Amazon jungle. Perhaps it was the transition from the barren Caribbean island of Curacao that made it such a powerful moment. But you can literally stick your tongue out and taste plants on the air. It’s a wonderful welcome to a truly stunning country.

I knew Suriname had a lot of green, but I hadn’t realised the country is 95% jungle and forest, with some land cleared here and there to make space for the small population of just half a million.

Even in the capital you get a sense that the jungle is keeping a watchful eye, with a staggering range of plants, trees and wildlife on every street. Several times I saw houses lacking a bit of gardening and rapidly being re-claimed by the creeping vines to the point where they would no longer be visible in a couple of weeks.

In a world where we worry about deforestation and man’s destructive impact on the environment, Suriname is an uplifting reminder that the earth is still very much alive and kicking in places.

suriname trees
The beautiful Palm tree garden in the center of town.

One day I was chatting with a typically friendly taxi driver, and asked him what his favourite thing was about his country.

“The nature,” he replied without thinking twice.

“And what’s the worst thing?” I asked.

“There is no worst thing.”

I’m not sure I agree with him, because Suriname does have one or two serious problems (check out the news about the president and his son for a juicy example). Nevertheless, his patriotic and positive attitude brings me to another of my favourite things about the country.


The Surinamese people

Sometimes when travelling you find a hidden gem of a place where the locals aren’t yet jaded by endless streams of tourists and are genuinely happy that you’re visiting, curious about you and keen to ensure you leave with a good impression.

And other times you find places where the people are just genuinely friendly, welcoming and kind by nature. Suriname is one of the rare countries where the majority of the people seem to be both.

Everywhere I went people smiled, welcomed me, tried to help, wanted to know why I was there and if I liked it. To the point where random people who wouldn’t normally strike up conversation back home did so time and time again.

From casino security guards to hotel cleaning staff, restaurant owners to beggars on the street, everyone, it seems, enjoys the opportunity to talk to foreigners.

One of my favourite moments was passing a guy in the street one evening who looked more than a little bit dodgy – the type I usually do my best to avoid in South America, especially at night.

When I was a couple of meters away and doing my usual trick of looking like I knew where I was going, walking fast with my chest puffed out and a face that says “don’t *&%$ with me, mate…” he stopped walking, looked me in the eyes, smiled and made me feel like an idiot with one simple word:


And that was that.

suriname street
A typical street in the center of Paramaribo with old Dutch colonial architecture


James, George and the fairy-godmother

I’ve now spent a lot of time in Latin America over the last few years, and much as I enjoy talking to just about anyone who can tolerate chatting to a gringo who’s dripping in sweat, it’s another matter altogether to actually forge meaningful relationships with locals when you’re only there for a short while.

And once again, luck – or destiny as the Surinamese would believe – brought me together with some wonderful people. In the hotel I stayed at (I’d had enough of cheap hostels in Curacao and fancied something a bit nicer), I was adopted by a lady who was visiting her sisters and mum in Paramaribo.

I then spent the best part of 4 days with her family, being driven around sight-seeing, visiting the jungle, trying local food, generally hanging out as if I were part of the family, and spending a great Saturday night getting drunk for free while playing fruit machines in the casino.

All I had to do in return for this amazing kindness was occasionally speak like Hugh Grant – with an emphasis on using the word ‘darling’ – and agree to be called James or George. A fair trade I think.

It was decided at some point that she was in fact my fairy-godmother for making my wish to spend time with locals come true. And she, along with her brilliant sisters, ensured that my memory of Suriname will be a beautiful and happy one.

my friends in suriname

The mosque and the synagogue

After my first 24 hours in Suriname I declared it a crazy place. And even though I did start to understand it better over the 10 days I was there, I still think it’s a crazy place.

I mean, it’s a place where hundreds of young people line the streets with their cars at night at the weekend to drink and party out of their car boots, and later go race cars in the jungle.

It’s a place where the president is wanted for drug-trafficking and his son was arrested for terrorism and drug-trafficking last year.

It’s a place where you ask a taxi driver about the best bars in town and you get this reply:

“The best club is ______. It’s great there. The drinks aren’t too expensive. And they have beautiful girls from Brazil and Venezuela who come and take you upstairs for $30.”

No thanks.

But, on a more positive note it’s also one of the only places in the world where you’ll find this:

surinam mosque and synagogue

Religious hatred and intolerance is a huge source of conflict around the world, and has been for a very long time.

So when you see a mosque and a synagogue standing side-by-side you have to ask how that’s even possible. And not only that, but not far from this spot you’ll find a basilica and a Hindu temple.

Suriname has a fascinating mixture of ethnic groups, cultures, languages and religions. According to the 2004 census, the main groups were:

  • 27.4% East Indian
  • 17.7% Creole
  • 14.7% Maroons
  • 14.6% Javanese (Southeast Asians)
  • 12.5% Mixed descent
  • 3.7% Amerindian
  • 3% Chinese
  • 2% White

I think that’s probably changed over the years though, as there are a lot of Brazilians there now for example.

And in a country where planning permission doesn’t exist, you find buildings expressing the various cultures and religions standing side-by-side or in small clusters.

It’s definitely odd at times, but it’s undeniably fascinating to drive along and see mini mosques, temples and churches popping up everywhere.

Even as a devout atheist, I was impressed by the freedom of religious expression and the fact that on the whole, people just get along. It’s a refreshingly tolerant country which sets an example many other countries would do well to follow.

suriname temple

suriname church

So there you have it – my 3 favourite things about Suriname: the stunning nature, the friendly people, and the tolerance on many levels.

Someone once told me they aren’t a fan of blog post lists. And whilst I also don’t find them massively attractive, being the only person I know who’s visited Suriname, there are a few more random details I feel are worth sharing.

So here’s a list:

  • You can find amazing Chinese, Indonesian and Indian food. No MSG in sight.
  • The Suriname river is immense and inhabited by dolphins. There’s a creek where the water is like coca-cola. There are, of course, many amazing things to see in the jungle with various tour agencies in the center offering excursions.
  • You can eat and drink for free in the casinos. I played for 4 hours one night, losing 20 dollars, but made a net profit through drinking and eating 30 dollars.
  • You can pay for anything in US dollars or Suriname Dollars, and often in Euros too. Just don’t expect the ATMs to give you US dollars.
  • Most people speak Dutch and/or English as well as their ethnic Surinamese language.
  • It’s a relatively cheap country for westerners to visit.
  • Paramaribo, although you of course have to be careful at night, generally felt like one of the safest cities I’ve been to in South America.
  • Having now met many people from all 3 Guyanas, the consensus is that French Guyana is OK to visit, but British Guyana is extremely dangerous; tourists aren’t safe to walk alone even during the day. Suriname is considered by all 3 peoples to be the best to visit.
  • The local lager is called Parbo, and is great. Parbo Biri – dat na Biri!
  • The weather is very hot and very humid, and when it’s rainy season (like now) the roads flood in minutes.
  • The women are beautiful and dress very stylishly. The guys either look like gangsters or like they walked off the set of the Fast and the Furious.
  • The Surinamese I met have a great sense of humour and can easily match the British sarcasm and love of language-based comedy.

So, the verdict on Suriname is a glowingly positive one. I would definitely recommend visiting, especially if you’re a nature fan. And I have it firmly in mind to go back one day and see my adopted Surinamese family.



I’ve now been in Belem for 2 days, soaking up the Brazilian life and rain. It wasn’t part of the plan to come to Brazil right now, but it was the only way I could get out of Suriname without going back to the Caribbean or US first and spending 24 hours travelling.

I’ll be here for another few days and then it’s further south to Sao Paolo for a few days, before entering the burning summer inferno of Paraguay.

Maybe I’ll manage that lap of South America after all…


A few more weeks and the jungle will have it back…


And at the other end of the spectrum, one of the houses in a more upper class neighborhood.

80 thoughts on “Suriname: The Best Country Nobody Ever Visits

  1. Dear Malcolm.

    Thank’s for your honest, positive experience. I really appreciate it.
    You keep on surviving you hear! Be good and stay strong.

    C E MacDonald


      1. Your statement
        ( When I stepped off the plane in Suriname at midnight 2 Saturdays ago, I was hit by the most intense jungle smell and warm, humid air I’ve ever experienced. And I hadn’t even taken my socks off yet.
        The airport is an hour’s drive from the capital, Paramaribo, and set in thick Amazon jungle. Perhaps it was the transition from the barren Caribbean island of Curacao that made it such a powerful moment. But you can literally stick your tongue out and taste plants on the air. It’s a wonderful welcome to a truly stunning country.)

        about the feeling arriving in Suriname is exact how I felt when I landed there to attend my Grandmothers birthday almost 15 years ago. I was truly amazed by that statement, I never imagined I would come across anyone els that els the same way.


      2. Hi Sushie
        Thanks for your comment, and I’m pleased you found an affinity with my description. I imagine there will be many more people who have experienced exactly that feeling when first arriving:-)


  2. Thank you dear. For making me feel I live in a beautiful country. Your description is so accurate and as a teacher I feel no need to correct you at all but to hug you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nicole
      Thank you for your comment and compliment – it’s nice to know you think it’s an accurate article. You do live in a beautiful country! Next time I’m there you can give me that hug:-)


    2. I lived and left Suriname almost three years ago and miss it. Hopefully, I will be visiting again this year from Colombia.


      1. Hi William
        Thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy your next visit! I lived in Colombia for 6 months in 2012, and spent another month there this year and loved it. Great country full of great people!


  3. It’s an honor to read such good things about my country. I speak on behalf of my country when i say, Thank you! Enjoy your adventure my friend.


  4. Nice post! Thank you. There is a 4th reason though to like this country…you should celebrate NYE in Suriname and experience the Pagarra festival. Maybe next time when you visit. Until then…..adjossi


  5. Hello Malcolm, It seems like only last weekend that we shared red wine round our dining table. I checked and it;s been seven weeks.

    I read your emails at low points in the week to lift the spirits and stir the great rhythm that beats in all of us.

    I didn’t mind the Suriname list, maybe other people have told you they don’t like blog lists as well as me, but who cares? We all fib sometimes and its still true that If this post was titled ’10 things you must consume in the consumtionverse’ then I wouldn’t have read it.

    As it is you’re a soft touch with an interesting character and I would read your diaries if you didn’t change the password every 3 days.

    I miss you brother and the Malcolm that mentioned Utrera’s small town shortcomings has now taken lodgings in the mind. A move is on the cards.

    Don’t look back and keep dancing.

    Jonathan Cakes (the classroom next door)


    1. Jonathan!!
      It’s fantastic to hear from you my friend:-) Thanks for the comment, kind words and the encouragement to keep writing knowing that it’s getting read, presumably some time on a Tuesday;-)
      I miss you too, as I do many people I’ve loved and had to say goodbye to at least temporarily. 7 weeks? Wow…time flies…
      I might have to do a special top 10 list just for you, and one or two others haha.
      What did you mean about the password? Is there something I don’t know about with accessing the website? If you can let me know, that would be great.
      Any idea where you’re thinking of moving to? Maybe you guys can come visit me wherever I am in South America – you know you’d be very welcome.
      Take care and say hi to Emma for me.


  6. Great article! You’ve pretty much summed up the impression that I had of Suriname when I visited in 2014 with my husband. I was torn between wanting to spread the word about that great unknown place and wanting to keep it quiet. We also visited northern Brazil after Suriname. If you haven’t made plans to do so, I highly recommend that you visit the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. (BTW, my blog page is totally empty at the moment, I’ll get around to writing on it soon I hope). Happy travels!


    1. Hi there
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s a difficult decision sometimes to keep secrets secret. But I think you’ll see from the comments of various Surinamese people that they are happy with the word being spread that it’s a great place to visit.


  7. Hello from Suriname. Love your post. Also, love the requirements of the ladies — ‘darling’ 🙂 And by the way, always all street food has MSG, they just call it adjinomoto or just salt. 🙂


  8. I love your impression of what you saw, take the advice of the cab driver: there is nothing wrong with us…leave out the comments of the President ( or about his son) I wished you had dug a little deeper and wrote that the old slavemasters don’t like our Pres and that we chose for him a second time with a big majority…come visit again…. but leave your political opinions behind. ( nobody asked you how the biggest terrorist country (USA) is doing…right?


    1. Hi P.Sabajo
      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you mostly enjoyed the article! I’ll think about your suggestions about the political comments, but can’t promise I’ll remove them. However, if you have the time and inclination, feel free to come back and write another comment explaining the other side of the coin in more detail. I’m sure future readers will appreciate hearing a little more about the positive side of the president. And trust me, when I get around to visiting the US, I’ll be sure to remember your words;-)


  9. I have lived in Surinam in the eighties, and I moved back there last year.
    Society has become a lot more commercial and tough in the mean time, but the majority of the people are as you said; friendly, cheerful and proud of their country.
    Even though the beauty you describe is sometimes only skindeep, it still remains stunning. I do recommend everyone to get over here and enjoy our nature before politicians and other crooks will have sold, robbed and polluted the country in the next 20 years! That process is picking up the pace rather quickly, now that gold and oil is cheap, the countries national income is low, yet they still want their pockets to be filled… Airfare is expensive but (our national obsession;) food is not. You can find cheap apartments aplenty and travelling can be cheap if you are willing to search and barter.


    1. Hi Errol
      Thanks for your comment and interesting point of view. Let’s hope that the country doesn’t suffer too much from some of the tough economic times and potential pitfalls that can await a place with so many natural resources.


  10. Woww!! Very refreshing,objective honest and clearcut ….I am Surinamese and really am impressed by the way you captured the Essence of Suriname in a relatively short time……Much Thanx 4 sharing ..!! Wishing you Well & Good Fortune on your journey ongoing & ahead…Be Safe!…Peace*****


    1. Hi Kenneth
      Thank you for your comment, and your kind words. It’s great to hear that you feel I managed to portray your country in an accurate light. That means a lot, so thanks for saying so:-)
      Wishing you well too,


  11. Already want to go back soon after reading ur great marvoulous article. Nothing but the true. Tolerance. Yes i can say proud to be hindu and from suriname. Proud because our fusion food. Proud because having brothers and sisters from all continents. Proud because we developed negre tongo to understand our brother and sister from different continents. Proud because we realy are the role model of reintegration. So i run to the travel agency.


    1. Hi Djeno
      Thanks for your comment and compliment. You should very much be proud of your country and the wonderful mix of cultures found there. I hope you enjoy your next visit!


  12. Thank you for visit Suriname. Thank you, that you have wrote a wonderful article which I can share with my friends around the world so they maybe will visit Suriname. I think you are a wonderful person, good character whom is traveling and will met positive people. I am happy that you have survived the cancer.
    Wish All the Best, bosie and brasa’s. Pat


    1. Hi Pat
      Thank you for your comment and your kind words – I very much appreciate it. I’m glad you feel you can share the article, and hopefully it will help inspire them to make a great decision and visit you there!


  13. Wonderful! Never been to the country nor to south America. Have heard a lot about this beautiful country from my Indian friends who have some connections. And yes about the delicious fish too!

    Thanks for sharing.


  14. Dear God son it is a very nice and good blog about my beautiful country, and impressed me.
    I am very happy that you have enjoyed your holidays in Suriname. Have a good and safe trip
    during your journey


  15. Great post, Malcolm. I enjoyed reading it.

    Though I do have to comment on one thing, the no MSG in sight.

    While I’m sure it may not have been in sight, it definitely was in the food. Surinamese people love MSG and use it in just about everything. The MSG aisle at the supermarkets/Tokos are impressive.


  16. I enjoyed reading your experiences in Suriname. Happy that you had a great time there. I’ve been there couple of times and totally can relate to what you’re writing. Thanks 🙂


  17. Hi there, I have been in Suriname twice in one year and I could not have written a better report about THE country and iTS beautiful people. I also was taken in by a family that made me feel very much at home. And I kept wondering why nobody from THE netherlands visited. I love Suriname and Will go back😄


    1. Hi Karin
      Thanks for your comment and compliment. That’s great that you had a similar experience and also got to see the kindness and warmth of the people first hand. I guess the Dutch if they come to this part of the world perhaps think of the 3 islands more than Suriname. Their loss!


  18. Hi, I have not been back to my beautiful Suriname for over 35 years. I enjoyed reading your post which I have shared with my friends and colleagues in England. I now realize that I did not tell them much about my country . Your descriptions of it make me want to fly back home.


    1. Hi Yvonne
      Thank you for your comment, and I’m very pleased you enjoyed the article. I imagine it’s changed a lot in 35 years, so it would be fascinating and I imagine quite emotional going back. I hope you get the chance and that it’s a great experience.


  19. Dear Malcolm,
    thank you for your article. I enjoy reading it, with LOL.
    From a foreigner it is well written, a good observer.
    Keep up your good work and see you soon when we have our old year street Pagara Estafette.


  20. By far the best blog post I’ve read about Suriname, and I’ve read a fair amount of them. Or really, almost all of them. Though I admit I might be a bit biased. Just a little bit.
    Welcome to the family and happy travels!

    (AKA Rita and Ramon’s youngest)


    1. Hi Kristi
      Thank you for your comment and your very kind words. It means a lot to me to hear something like this:-) and how lovely to hear from another member of my Surinamese family!
      Warm wishes


  21. Malcom fa waka? What an inspiring read! Wow wow wow.. You deserve lots and lots of ‘brasas’, you know the kind off Surinamese-hugs I’m talking about right!? I never felt more at home in a description about my place of birth, the country I love. When reading your journey it feels like being a tourist in my own country, discovering it all over again, learning the importance of why it’s so sacred to me. You describe it so well, all the things I already know. But still, it’s the way you tell it. The love energy that’s flows into all words entering my heart. Your experience became my experience. From the airplane, those first steps into Suriname. MAN o MAN! Homecoming. You have written it so beautifully. It is as if Mother Earth herself whispered those profound words in your ear. There is this flow about it. Need I say, great article. A great declaration of a wonderful country written by a true gentleman. Thank you mi brada. Brasa.


    1. Hi Irwin
      I go! At least I think that’s the response to fa waka:-)
      Thanks for your comment and very nice words. It was really touching to hear that you felt that way when reading the article. I never really intended my blog to be read my so many people – it was more a personal thing to keep family and friends in touch. But when I read comments like yours and that of the other readers, it’s making me think hard about whether to make more of an effort to write about the places, and more importantly the people, I visit on my journey. So thank you for the inspiring and encouraging words. It’s appreciated more than you know:-)


  22. Hi Malcolm, you have really touched the hearts of many Surinam people all over the world with your article. It’s a wonderful discription.I can tell that your article has been shared over more than 500 people (I have count it), on the following countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, UK, North- and South America, and even in Asia. A thousand likes for you!!!! Thank you for sharing and have a save and wonderful yourney!!! And also a big hug from “Angie”.


  23. Dear Malcolm, what a great post on Suriname indeed! I can only agree with my fellow readers; your sharp observation of this country with all it’s lovable quirks is very accurate – but above all very funny.
    Keep up the good work, stay safe and have fun in South America!

    (the tea drinker)


    1. Hi Melanie
      Thanks for your comment, and nice to hear from you! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it funny. I’ll definitely be enjoying more of South America and doing my best to stay safe:-)


  24. Hi Malcolm

    As a Surinamer i am proud to read about your journey. It is the same feeling everytime.
    I live and work in Suriname and at times i step out of my bubble and become a tourist.

    Heel blij ben ik dat dat je ons ervaren hebt.

    Bossies and brassas( kisses and hugs)

    Have a great journey


    1. Hi Meliza
      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I think it’s great to remember to enjoy your own country from time to time. As you say, stepping out of your bubble is a refreshing thing to do!


  25. Loved this article…very well written! My dad is from Paramaribo, and my sister-in-law actually posted your article on facebook. I am so glad she did. I will visit Suriname one day. It’s on my short list.

    – At home, when we were little and lived in Amsterdam (my mom (Dutch) and my dad (from Suriname) met after WWII when my dad came to Holland to visit friends), we would play music on a Sat. night. My dad and my brothers would actually make their own unique music, using pots, pans and spoons…can you imagine that? And they were pretty good at it too. Harry Belafonte was their favorite singer/music and so we all danced to Calypso music for hours…so much fun. I remember so well. I also remember a typical Surinamese dish my mom would make for us from time to time (some ingredients had to come from Suriname), called “Pom”. Have you tried it? I loved it!

    Anyway, thank you so much Malcolm for this wonderful article…brought back so many fond memories.


    1. Hi Effie
      Thank you for your comment. I’m very happy you appreciated the article and it triggered some good memories. I have tried Pom and really liked it! But the Surinamese food is generally pretty awesome, so it doesn’t surprise me that you still remember it.


  26. Dear Malcolm,
    I’ve been back to Suriname two weeks ago for a family reunion after some years of absence. I reside in Aruba and the arrival around midnight at the airport in Suriname was exactly as you described. It was a great four days exactly like your article!! Thanks!!


    1. Hi Errol
      Thanks for your comment. I’m so pleased that others know exactly what I mean by the air hitting you at the airport! And by the way, I absolutely loved Aruba when I was there a couple of months ago. The motto of ‘one happy island’ is very appropriate, and it’s still my favourite passport stamp.


  27. Dear Malcolm,

    I was touched by your beautiful, warm comment/journey about Suriname where I also come from.

    Now living in the Netherlands/Europe. Just like how you experienced coming out of the aeroplane….here the same. My heart is still there and hopefully I can return to get old there with my hubby….:-).
    Take care….and again thank you!


    1. Hi Monique
      Thanks for your comment and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the article so much. And when you return one day with your husband, I hope you have an amazing time and enjoy those jungle aromas:-)


  28. Wow!

    I was born in Suriname and your post completes something I have tried for years to explain.
    I’ve shared it on Facebook because you have, as a foreigner, captured the essence of our wonderful country. People often bring their prejudices with them when traveling. You brought a warm, open heart and Surinamers responded.
    Thank you again, and if you ever visit the US, feel free to drop me a line. Bring your open heart and I’ll introduce you to the warm people of East Tennessee. And I make a mean nasi lol.
    P.S. You MUST do an Owru Yari in Suriname.



    1. Hi Tim
      Thanks for your comment and very kind words. It’s always nice to hear from a native Surinamese who feels the article has done their country justice. If I’m in the US I’ll pop in for that nasi one day;-)


    1. Hi Victoria
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I can imagine if I lived there and traveled regularly, I would look forward to that moment of returning to that moment!


  29. Hi Malcolm,

    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay. Very beautiful and well-written article, btw.
    As many others mentioned, Owru Yari is awesome here. Another awesome holiday is Phagwa (festival of colors). Every year there is a huge celebration at the Independence Square and the Palm Garden (Palmentuin). This holiday is celebrated somewhere in the last week of March. Put that in your diary too? 😛

    Hope you visit again soon!

    (it’s raining A LOT this week)



    1. Hi Stef
      Thanks for your comment and your compliment – it’s very much appreciated! I looked up Owru Yari on Youtube the other day after reading about it in a comment, and it does look like a lot of fun – and very crazy, which I thought was very fitting for Suriname haha. If I make it back there one day, I’ll definitely try and take in one of the festivals you and others have mentioned.


  30. Hi Malcolm
    Your story was amazing, I am the executive chef of hotel Torarica and i think i saw you somewhere at the hotel, not sure, but your face was very recognizing. Great job on the story. If you ever need a chef on the tour , let me know. always seeking new adventures.I love south america and enjoy traveling, speak many languages and i can cook..haha .
    take care and hopefully we see you soon again.


    1. Hi Sherwin
      Thanks for your comment and compliment. I didn’t go into the hotel, but did spend time in the casino opposite – maybe you saw me there! Thanks for the offer – I’m a long way away now though, all the way down in Paraguay! If I return to Suriname one day though, I’ll look you up.


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