Footprint Handbook: Guyana, Guyane & Suriname, by Ben Box
One of the consequences of Suriname not being a particularly popular place to visit is that there are not many guidebooks for the country. And, it should be noted, many of the guidebooks that exist are not particularly detailed. This book is a case in point. Coming in at about 120 pages of pocket-sized text, the book tries to cover Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. I am no stranger to such combo travel guides , but even by those standards this book seemed a bit short. Even so, although this book is by no means complete or exhaustive, it does at least provide a bit of insight and is of particular use if a reader is interested in entertainment and shopping in the larger cities of the Guianas. And, it should be noted, I am not a picky reader when it comes to reading background information on a place where my knowledge is pretty negligible. Considering that my family wants to travel to all three countries in this book, it is by no means a bad thing that this book gives a pleasant if somewhat superficial look at travel within these three countries.
In terms of its contents, the book is a pretty simple one. It opens with a short section on planning your trip including routes and schedules and a look at some of the most notable tourist locations in the three countries. After that there are about 30 pages on Guyana, consisting of a short discussion of Georgetown, a bit more on the area outside of the capital, and then some listings for accommodations, food, and locations. After that there is the same for Suriname with a focus on the capital of Paramaribo, in about twenty pages, and then the same for French Guiana with a focus on Cayenne in less than fifteen pages. After these there is a very short discussion of the history, people, land and environment, music, and books of the Guianas, all of which provide some interesting and even somewhat troubling discussion of the issues that they face. The last part of the book is focused on practicalities like getting there, getting around, some essentials, as well as an index, acknowledgements, and credits. The photos in the book are gorgeous and there are a lot of advertisements ,although whether this is a good thing or a not will depend on the reader and their own approach to travel.
Ultimately, this is not a book to go to as one’s definitive guide to travel in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, but rather is a worthwhile book to encourage you to research more and dig a bit deeper into these areas for more insight and understanding. The guides note, helpfully, that the infrastructure of all of these areas is highly limited and focused on the capitals, which ought to give one pause, although the book also provides enough glorious photographs to encourage travel of the deeper interior even if the going is not necessarily easy. As someone who comes from a fairly adventuresome family of travelers, and who certainly lives up to that reputation myself, I find it somewhat disappointing that the author did not really put his expertise on the pages of this book. If the author truly is an expert traveler who has traveled extensively throughout the country, it is a bit lamentable that so little should be said about the details of the countries’ history and culture and what would be necessary to travel there as a thoughtful and aware tourist. Still, these are somewhat minor quibbles, and mainly a result of expecting more from the book than it delivers.
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