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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Suriname 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Suriname. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Suriname country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Suriname at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Limited law enforcement presence in Suriname’s interior and border regions, gaps in training, and inadequate resources (to include lack of state-owned aircraft and an insufficient number of patrol vessels) limit the government’s capacity to fully control immigration and illicit activity on much of its territory. Residential crime poses an ongoing challenge for law enforcement in urban areas.

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paramaribo as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Government of Suriname statistics indicated a modest decrease in personal and property crime in 2019, while open-source reporting indicated a steady increase in violent crime since 2018. Media also reported an increased number of crimes involving firearms over the past year, with perpetrators more frequently using deadly force against victims resisting robbery. In most street crimes, perpetrators targeted lone individuals for backpacks or purses, cell phones, jewelry (particularly necklaces), or sums of cash. In many instances, suspects fled on motorbike, moped, or bicycle, and typically evaded capture by police.

Around tourist areas, to include major international hotels, visitors are occasionally targets of crimes of opportunity. In February 2019, a masked assailant robbed an individual at gunpoint in front of a prominent hotel in Paramaribo with the help of accomplices. A recent trend has criminals select a victim, discreetly slash a tire on the victim’s vehicle, follow the target a distance on the road until the tire runs flat, and then approach the victim with an offer of assistance before committing an armed robbery. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

While some areas of Paramaribo experience less violent crime than others, home burglary remains an issue in all districts. Criminals may move without restriction into and out of most neighborhoods, to include those where expatriates live, despite the presence of neighborhood security guard services. Assailants have physically assaulted or robbed guards attempting to deny subjects access to neighborhoods and residences. Criminals typically employ firearms or other weapons such as knives, machetes, or axes when conducting residential crimes. It is difficult to obtain a firearms permit (or an illegal weapon) in Suriname, but police report that people frequently purchase illegal firearms in neighboring French Guiana, then transport them over the border. There have been several cases reported of firearms being stolen from police officers’ residences or vehicles. Armed robberies frequently involve illegal or stolen weapons.

Several private security companies operating in Paramaribo specialize in mobile patrols by uniformed guards with marked vehicles or bicycles. Neighborhoods and local businesses often share the costs of services. Static security guard posts are less common than neighborhood patrols, with only some residences employing 24/7 fixed-position guard services. Cost remains the primary consideration in the decision to employ residential security guards, and the most professional services are generally only affordable to large institutions and corporations or wealthy individual clients. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

Traditional organized crime is not a factor in incidents of armed robbery, theft, or burglary in Paramaribo. However, well-armed regional/transnational gangs engage in criminal threats against industrial sites in Suriname’s interior, with small-scale gold miners particularly at risk. Accounts of gang activity in mining areas near the French Guiana border surface periodically in the media and by way of independent reporting.

Avoid walking after dark in Paramaribo’s downtown-waterfront area and the Palmentuin (Palm Garden). Attempted thefts, robberies, and pickpocketing incidents have also occurred at the Combe Markt complex and around the Central Market.

Those venturing into Suriname’s interior should travel with a seasoned guide and backup communications. Services offered through major hotels and tourist agencies are generally reliable. There have been reports of tourists robbed while traveling in the countryside, along with occasional reports of armed bandits on rural roads. Criminals attacked and robbed a group of Dutch tourists in April 2018 on the road to Langatabiki, in Sipaliwini district. In June 2018, criminals used a pickup truck in Para district to cut off an approaching vehicle carrying employees of a gold-mining company, demanding gold, and opening fire on the passengers, leaving one fatally wounded. In January 2019, five armed robbers overpowered security guards at a vacation site in Brokopondo district, stealing cash from a safe. In a December 2019 incident, criminals robbed a group of Dutch tourists at gunpoint while attempting to cross by boat from French Guiana to Suriname.

Credit cards are not in wide acceptance outside the major hotels and upscale restaurants. While several banks accept U.S. ATM cards, avoid using debit and credit cards because of identity theft concerns. Always keep your debit or credit card in your sight while it is processing. Consider using prepaid credit cards with limited funds when traveling. You can exchange currency at banks, hotels, and official exchange houses (cambios). Exchanging money outside of these locations is illegal and can be dangerous. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Cybersecurity Issues

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicle accidents are a considerable risk. In addition to driving on the left side, road conditions differ substantially from those in most U.S. cities. Drivers should be very cognizant of mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles especially when making left turns. According to local law, two-wheeled vehicles have the right-of-way and are equivalent to pedestrians.

Police sporadically enforce local traffic laws. Driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal and may attract more stringent enforcement. On the other hand, drivers might openly consume alcohol from labeled containers, particularly during the holidays, without police enforcement. The government installed several hundred new security cameras around the city following the December 2018 launch of Paramaribo’s Safe City Project. The digital network, monitored centrally from a command center in Wanica district, consists of police, firefighters, and national security officers. Strategically positioned throughout Paramaribo, the cameras employ license plate-reader technology and infrared video capability.

Large potholes are common, especially during the rainy season. Roads often do not contain traffic lines. Many main roads do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles to share the same space. Many roads flood, and cars with low clearance may have problems. The East-West Highway stretches from Nieuw Nickerie in the west to Albina in the east; parts lack maintenance, and sinkholes develop along the road during the rainy season. Watch for slow-moving traffic or animals. Exercise caution at night due to poor lighting and sharp road turns without adequate warning signs. There are few service stations along the road, and Western-style rest stops are non-existent. Check with the police station in Albina for the latest safety information regarding travel between Paramaribo and Albina. Roads in the interior are sporadically maintained dirt roads passing through sparsely populated rain forest. Bridges are in poor condition. Conditions deteriorate rapidly during the rainy season. There are no lights, service stations, or emergency call boxes along the roads.

Consult with your hotel or tour provider regarding road conditions. For minor vehicle accidents, when there is only material damage and the vehicles can move on their own without great effort, both parties must fill out insurance forms and take photos of the scene and damages. If involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, drivers must leave the vehicle exactly where the accident occurred and stay on-scene until the police arrive to make a report. Police will respond to collisions in which vehicles are seriously damaged and cannot move, as well as in cases of grievous bodily harm, driving without a driver’s license, or driving under the influence of alcohol or intoxicants. Wait time depends on the distance from the nearest police precinct, but wait times in Paramaribo vary from 15-30 minutes, according to insurance officials. If the driver leaves the scene before police arrive and fails to report to the police within 4 hours, police may charge them with leaving the scene of an accident and fault them with criminal intent.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Visitors unfamiliar with Suriname should carefully consider the risks of using public transportation, such as minibuses, especially outside Paramaribo. Serious speeding accidents often involving buses or vans are common along the three highways leading out of Paramaribo. Reputable taxis services are reliable for travel to the international airport and between towns. Not all taxis are clearly marked, and some may not have a meter. Verify the price or meter before entering the taxi. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation Security

The U.S. Embassy prohibits its employees from using Fly All Ways for official travel due to safety concerns. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Suriname’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Suriname’s air carrier operations.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paramaribo as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Media reported the 2017 arrest by Surinamese law enforcement of two individuals for ties with ISIS. The suspects attended a hearing in November 2018, and authorities released one of the suspects in May 2019. In June 2019, the other suspect received a two-year sentence for links to ISIS. Authorities released him immediately, having already spent two years in custody, and deported him to the Netherlands, where authorities immediately arrested him on unrelated charges. The other suspect, his brother, departed for the Netherlands voluntarily in July 2019 after Suriname declared both persona non grata on grounds of national security. The Ministry of Justice and Police permanently banned both suspects from reentering the country.

There are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in Suriname. As a non-aligned country, Suriname is not the target of any known radical groups.

While there have been criminal threats against U.S. private-sector organizations in Suriname, none were terror related.

Political, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paramaribo as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Protests organized by pro and anti-government groups as well as labor unions occur occasionally, and are generally neither disruptive nor well-attended. However, demonstrations are increasing in both frequency and number as the May 2020 national elections approach. In January 2020, a demonstration in support of the President of Suriname attracted at least 3,000 participants, and an opposition rally earlier in the month also attracted several thousand supporters, according to media reports. While these are significant numbers for Suriname, no injuries to persons or damages to property occurred in the two incidents. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Religious and ethnic violence in Paramaribo is rare. Surinamers are known to express pride in national socio-cultural and confessional harmony.

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Flooding occurs regularly in Paramaribo during the rainy seasons (May-August, November-February). Driving can be difficult or dangerous in some areas, and Paramaribo’s canals occasionally flood past street-level, leaving some drivers unable to determine where the road ends and canals begin. Due to poor drainage, floodwater can last several days.

Over 80% of the country is uninhabited rainforest. Hazards such as toxic flora, venomous fauna, vector-borne diseases, and gun traps, paired with insufficient medical infrastructure and challenging extraction/rescue conditions increase the risk of travel in the interior.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

There is concern among some media professionals that the government may monitor telecommunications and personal movement. State-owned entities administer the major telecommunications systems. Telephone and internet service can be problematic, especially during periods of heavy rain. Parts of the country’s interior do not have reliable cell phone reception.

Personal Identity Concerns

Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Suriname. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Sidewalks throughout Suriname do not accommodate persons with disabilities adequately. Taxis and other public transportation do not provide proper assistance to individuals with disabilities. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

The Department of State’s 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report recognizes Suriname as a transit zone for cocaine en route primarily to Europe and Africa. There are reported sporadic instances of violence, to include murders and drive-by shootings, between associates of competing drug trafficking syndicates. Drug-trafficking activity and violence associated with criminal enterprises engaged in illegal gold mining also increase risks in the field.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnapping is not a common occurrence. Of the instances known, many are related to personal or business conflicts. No kidnappings involving non-Surinamese nationals in Suriname have been reported to the U.S. Embassy. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

The emergency line in Suriname is 115. Operators may not speak English. Police officials frequently cite lack of basic equipment and resources, shortage of trained staff, and low morale as reasons for highly inconsistent emergency response times and the high percentage of unsolved crimes in Suriname. Police response particularly during nighttime hours may be delayed for incidents that do not involve serious injury, death, or narcotics.

Victims can report crimes in person or over the phone during business hours to any of the below police stations:

Within Paramaribo

Keizerstraat Station (Central Paramaribo): Keizerstraat 23, Tel: +597 471-111 / 477-777

Nieuwe Haven Station (Paramaribo South): Havenlaan, Tel: +597 403-101 / 402-535

Geyersvlijt Station (Paramaribo North): Basitostraat, Tel: +597 451-677 / 451-222

Latour Station: Indira Ghandiweg / Tamanoeastraat, Tel: +597 481-524 / 483-547

Livorno Station: Sir Winston Churchillweg, Tel: +597 481-941 / 483-400

Uitvlugt Station: Kasabaholoweg, Tel: +597 498-537 / 498-045


Outside Paramaribo

Lelydorp Station: Tel: +597 366-785 / 366-116

Zanderij Station : Tel: +597 325-222 / 325-144

Brokopondo Station: Tel: +597 880-4611 / 324-002

Coronie Station: Tel: +597 235-122 / 235-123

Nickerie Station: Tel: +597 231-530 / 231-222

Moengo Station: Tel: +597 341-321 / 341-280 (via Suralco)

Albina Station: Tel: +597 342-080 / 342-077

Victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault can also contact the Bureau Slachtofferzorg (Victim’s Assistance Office), Ministry of Justice and Police at Henck Arronstraat 61, phone: +597 888-7477. Opening hours are Monday-Friday, 0800 to 1430.

There are three major law enforcement/security entities in Suriname.

The largest is the Suriname Police Corps (KPS), the department responsible for all traditional policing efforts. The KPS has five branches: (1) the Paramaribo Region Police cover the city limits of Paramaribo; (2) the Western Region Police cover Saramacca, Coronie, and Nickerie Districts; (3) the Mid Region Police cover Para, Wanica, and Brokopondo Districts; (4) the East Region Police cover Commewijne, Marowijne, and Sipaliwini Districts; and (5) an investigative and special tasks section takes responsibility for forensics, fraud, and homicide investigations. Military personnel and prison guards routinely ride in KPS patrol vehicles throughout Suriname to provide additional support.

The second-largest law enforcement/security entity in Suriname is the Military Police, a branch of the Surinamese Armed Forces that polices all members of the military and oversees border control/immigration functions.

The third-largest law enforcement/security entity is the Directorate of National Security, responsible for the protection of the President and government ministers, as well as for coordinating internal security and intelligence efforts.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency line in Suriname is 115. Operators may not speak English proficiently. Medical standards, particularly for severe trauma, are below those expected in the U.S. Medical specialists may not always be available. In general, hospital facilities are not air conditioned. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

You can find prescription and over-the-counter medicines in pharmacies in Paramaribo, but U.S. brands may not be available, and the quality cannot be assured. There are frequent prescription medication shortages. You can bring medications for personal use. Suriname does not maintain a list of illegal medications. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

There is one public emergency room in Paramaribo and only a small ambulance fleet with limited first response capabilities. Ambulance dispatchers may be challenging to reach by phone. Do not rely upon ambulatory services in case of life-threatening emergencies. Typically, responding police officers will contact the Academic Hospital Emergency Room to send an ambulance, which may take a significant amount of time, depending on the location of the call. Emergency medical care outside Paramaribo is limited and is virtually non-existent in the interior of the country.

Hospitals generally require up-front payment in cash, up to the total of all anticipated charges, prior to services or treatment. Some international firms operating in Suriname provide their employees medical support, to include medical evacuation (medevac) services in case of serious vehicle accidents outside the city. Organize medevac and standard insurance plans in advance of travel. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Immigration authorities have asked some travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing them to enter Suriname.

Dengue fever is prevalent nationwide. Malaria is sporadic in the interior, but there is no malaria in Paramaribo. In recent years, outbreaks of Zika and Chikungunya have also occurred in Suriname.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Suriname.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Address: Kristalstraat 165, Paramaribo

Business Hours: Monday-Friday, 0730 to 1600

U.S. Embassy Operator: +597 556-700

Regional Security Office: extension 2066

American Citizen Services (emergencies only): extension 2236

U.S. Embassy Duty Officer (emergencies only – after hours): +597 710-1112

Website: https://sr.usembassy.gov/

OSAC Country Council Information

OSAC’s Suriname Country Council ratified its charter in 2019. The U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer serves as the public sector co-chair in partnership with a private sector co-chair. The Assistant Regional Security Officer serves as the Country Council administrator. The Regional Security Office routinely meets with U.S. private-sector security directors and business leaders in Suriname. The U.S. Embassy also maintains relationships with members of the American business community through the Economic Section, the Business and Educational Resource Center (BERC), the Surinamese Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), and the Rotary Clubs of Suriname. U.S. organizations should contact the Regional Security Office or OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation.

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

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